The Power of the Dog (2021)
“Deliver my soul from the sword/My darling from the power of the dog” (Psalms, Preface to Thomas Savage’s novel The Power of the Dog (1967)).
The biggest mistake I probably made is reading the book ahead of the film. I read Thomas Savage’s novel The Power of the Dog awhile ago now and this reading experience definitely tampered with my experiencing Jane Campion’s film. The Power of the Dog centres on two very different brothers Phil and George Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons) living on a big ranch in Montana in 1925. If Phil is the very definition of a brutal force and “no-nonsense” attitude, his brother George is more subdued and caring. When George takes notice of a lonely widow Rose (Kirsten Dunst), falls in love her, and moves her and her alienated teenage son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) into Burbanks’ property, the gap between the brothers only grows and soon full psychological warfare is raging. Through the film’s atmosphere alone (including production, camerawork, score and setting), as well as Cumberbatch’s mesmerising-in-its-zealousness performance, The Power of the Dog is a film of uncanny beauty and subtle power, whose biggest asset is the curious interplay of contrasts of all kinds: physical power vs. powers of intellect, kindness vs. ruthlessness, refinement vs. roughness, innocence vs. corruption, hypocrisy vs. honesty, and love vs. hate.
Continue reading “BFI London Film Festival 2021: Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog”
I. Vertigo (1958)
Vertigo is probably the most “philosophical” of all Hitchcock films. Whatever angle you take (the detailed “stalking” scenes, the acting, the object symbolism, etc.), the beauty of Vertigo comes through, overwhelming the viewer. Set and shot on location in San Francisco, Vertigo is a story of obsession that focuses on Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart (Anatomy of Murder (1959)), a former detective suffering from acrophobia (an extreme fear of heights) who is tasked with following one woman by her husband – Madeleine (Kim Novak), because she might be a danger to herself. This film about mistaken identities, grief and seeking love at all costs is also a nuanced psychological thriller. I can’t say I enjoy the very slow pace of Vertigo, but it is an entrancing cinematic experience nevertheless and for a multitude of reasons deserves its number one spot.
II. Psycho (1960)
Psycho is my confident number two choice. This is a quintessential Hitchcock film with some unbelievable twists and deep psychology. Suspense is the word here. In this story, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) steals quite a lot of money from her employer’s client and hits the road. However, she needs to rest somewhere on her way to her “financial freedom” and chooses the Bates’ Motel. You need to watch the film to know what happens there. In my review, I talked about how “Hitchcock plays expertly with its audience’s imagination and formed beliefs” in this film, that was also ground-breaking in many ways upon its release. Psycho is a the film that stood the test of time.
Continue reading “Top 10 Films from Alfred Hitchcock”
Death of a Cyclist (Muerte de un ciclista) (1955)
Death of a Cyclist is a Spanish-language film that was the winner of the FIPRESCI Award at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Juan Antonio Bardem (Main Street (1956)), this social realist film tells of a couple of secret, privileged lovers residing in Madrid who are involved in a hit-and-run accident involving a cyclist. Afraid that their illicit affair will be known to everybody, María José de Castro (Lucia Bosè) and Juan Fernandez Soler (Alberto Closas) failed to stop and help a cyclist who they accidentally hit in their sports car. What follows is a dangerous game of trying to guess who knows what and who can use that information against whom. Parallel to this, Juan Soler, a university instructor, goes through some kind of an existential crisis which leads to surprising results. Death of a Cyclist is one intriguing thriller with Hitchcockian elements. There is plenty in the film on the topic of class divide and the faults of the upper class. Although frustrating at times with a questionable ending, Death of a Cyclist also benefits from nuanced directing which brings out the best in this story about crime and attempts at redemption.
Continue reading ““Death of a Cyclist” Review”
Everybody Knows (Todos lo saben) (2018)
This mystery-thriller comes from the acclaimed director Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman (2016)), and stars such big-time actors as Penelope Cruz (Volver (2006)), Javier Bardem (Mother! (2017)) and Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)). It seems therefore like this film can do no wrong, but, unfortunately, much does not go well in this latest by Farhadi. In this story, Laura (Cruz) travels from Argentina to Spain with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding. She arrives to a quiet Spanish village of her childhood and is happy to strengthen relationship with her large extended family. However, when Laura’s teenage daughter gets kidnapped, familial secrets come dangerously close to being revealed, and the pool of suspects thins to point to some family members. In Everybody Knows, the lead actors’ performances cannot be faulted, and the film has this one-of-a-kind ambiance of traditional rural Spain. The director also admirably tries to explore some curious familial situations. However, the problem with this film is that it does not become a clever mystery-thriller with tension surrounding the kidnapping and some twists to come. Instead, overlong Everybody Knows is all about tedious melodramatic scenes, with the feeling left that the script could have been considered for some local TV series. Even more unfortunately, what “everybody knows” in the story or the big reveal could easily be guessed in the first half of this well-meaning “mystery” movie. Continue reading ““Everybody Knows” Mini-Review”
The Birds (1963)
Maddy at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films hosts a second blogathon in honour of Alfred Hitchcock and his films, and I am writing, as they say, on his most terrifying film – “The Birds” (1963). The film takes inspiration from a story by Daphne Du Maurier (“Rebecca” (1940)) of the same name, and it is about a strange behaviour of birds in Bodega Bay, California. The centre of the story is Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), a wealthy socialite who romantically pursues a lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), whom she has just met. While we watch all the romantic tensions and a love triangle developing, the birds in the area start to attack people, and what initially looks like a light and intriguing romance story takes a sinister turn and we are confronted with unimaginable horrors. Complex and technical to film, “The Birds” represents one of Hitchcock’s most admirable accomplishments. Here, an intriguing romance story with thought-provoking elements meets an original take on horror and the result is a classic, “must-see” film.
Continue reading “The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: The Birds (1963)”
What happens when a street-smart, completely unemotional teen girl rekindles her childhood friendship with a doubtful, book-smart girl who can feel emotions, but who wants to get rid of one pressing problem in her life? This situation lies at the core of “Thoroughbreds”. Extremely talented rising stars Olivia Cooke (“The Limehouse Golem” (2017)) and Anya Taylor-Joy (“Split” (2016) and “The Witch” (2015)) star as Amanda and Lily respectively, two girls from a wealthy suburban neighbourhood in Connecticut who have the so-called “meeting of the minds” and join their forces to put aside their problems for good. Lily has a problem with her stepfather, while Amanda is curious how far she can go on her unemotional spectrum and commit acts she would otherwise not even consider. When the duo meets criminally-minded Tim (Anton Yelchin (“Green Room” (2015)) their sinister intentions take a step closer to reality.
Continue reading ““Thoroughbreds” Review”
The Limehouse Golem (2017)
This film, based on the novel by Peter Ackroyd “Dan Leno and The Limehouse Golem”, starts with Victorian London being shaken by a series of gruesome murders deemed to be perpetuated by an individual so mythical he is called Golem. Eccentric Inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) is assigned to the case, and begins to delve into the mind of a deranged individual, while, at the same time, a woman, one Elisabeth Cree (Olivia Cooke) is about to stand trial for the murder of her husband John Cree (Sam Reid). As Inspector discovers more information, he realises that the late John Cree may have been the London serial killer Golem, while other three men also equally come under suspicion, namely Karl Marx, Dan Leno and George Gissing. In content, this film is not just the recycling of the Jack the Ripper ideas. As “From Hell” (2001), “The Limehouse Golem” engulfs the viewer into the same gory atmosphere of Victorian England where cruelty and debauchery reign supreme, but it is probably the film’s unexpected twist at the end, as well as the superb acting of its cast, which make it distinguishable and memorable.
Continue reading ““The Limehouse Golem” Review”
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
It is no wonder that Agatha Christie chose the Orient Express, once the most luxurious train in the world, as the setting for one of her fictitious crime scenes. From Paris to Istanbul, a journey of some 1,920 miles, will take passengers around 1883 (the date of its first launch) through exquisite landscapes in the total comfort of their seats and beds. “Murder on the Orient Express” was also inspired by the real incident which happened in 1929 when the train was forced to a standstill for five days due to heavy snow. “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974), directed by Sidney Lumet (“Twelve Angry Men” (1957)), could be said to be the first truly successful adaptation of a Christie’s novel, and the last film viewed by Agatha Christie herself, who approved it. Boasting an unbelievably starry cast, including such names as Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins and Vanessa Redgrave, this adaptation is both true to the novel and very-well acted, deserving high praise.
Continue reading “Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Film Reviews”
It is that time of the year again: time for trick-or-treating, pumpkin-carving, witches-watching and party-going! To celebrate the tradition which may date back to some ancient rituals of Celts, here is my review of the film “Split” from one of the front-men of the modern horror/thriller genre – M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense” (1999), “Unbreakable” (2000), “The Village” (2004)). Also, to get you into the festive mood, you can check out my other reviews of horror films, all of them are listed here.
This film is M. Night Shyamalan’s latest creation, which exceeded everyone’s expectations. Here, a man Kevin (James McAvoy) abducts three girls and holds them hostage in a building. Kevin suffers from a multiple-personality disorder, one of the most serious and rarest of all psychiatric illnesses. He has twenty-three different personalities, who compete for attention in his head, and the captive girls must race against time to free themselves before the emergence of the most frightening and uncontrollable twenty-fourth personality called simply “The Beast”. “Split” is very well-made, with the outstanding acting, especially by McAvoy, and a fascinating plot and topic. What about Shyamalan’s penchant for unbelievable twists, one may ask? Well, there are simply no twists, in a traditional sense of this word, or none to concern oneself when watching the film.
Continue reading “Halloween Special: “Split” Review”
Maddy at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is hosting the Horrorathon, celebrating horror movies in the light of the forthcoming Halloween, and I have decided to contribute with a short review of one intelligent and highly influential film which some view to be one of the parents of the modern psychological horror/thriller genre:
Les Diaboliques (1955)
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s French-language film “Les Diaboliques” is the film which Alfred Hitchcock was dying to make, but never did (he ardently wanted to buy the rights to the book). The film is not a strictly horror movie, but, rather, a psychological thriller with suspense and horror elements combined. Here, two women, Christina and Nicole, the wife and the mistress of the oppressing director of a boarding school respectively, decide to kill their man and dispose of the body. Everything goes according to plan, but does it really? After the murder, the two women realise that the corpse of their victim is nowhere to be found and the mystery seems to deepen with each passing day.
Continue reading “The Horrorathon: Les Diaboliques (1955)”
Blade Runner (1982)
“A humanoid robot is like any other machine; it can fluctuate between being a benefit and a hazard very rapidly. As a benefit, it’s not our problem” (Rick Deckard in “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”).
Since its release in 1982, Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” has achieved a classic cult status, and is deemed by many to be the most influential science-fiction film ever made, just behind “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968). It is loosely based on a book by Philip K. Dick and stars Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young and Edward James Olmos. In the film, set in a distant future, Rick Deckard (Ford), an officer at the special police “Blade-Runner” unit is on the mission to hunt down and “retire” (kill) a number of replicants (or androids) who escaped newly-colonised Mars and now wreak havoc on Earth. The film’s superior attention to detail is undeniable; its visuals are original and mind-blowing; and its “minimalist”, “slow-burning” narrative is also admirable, with Ford and Hauer commanding the screen. However, when it comes to comparing the film to the book by Philip K. Dick, “Blade Runner” falls short of being a philosophical, character-focused and narratively-engaging film it aspires to be.
Continue reading ““Blade Runner” Review”
Maddy at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is hosting The Alfred Hitchcock blogathon, and this is my entry dissecting one of Hitchcock’s most claustrophobic and intriguing films: “Rope” (1948). Even thought this film may not be as ambitious as Hitchcock’s later “Psycho” (1960), it is still suspenseful, tense, cerebral and belongs to one of my favourite cinematic “genres”: “one location” setting films. This “genre” was later used by Lumet (“Twelve Angry Men” (1957)), Polanski (“Repulsion” (1965)) and Mangold (“Identity” (2003)), among others, to a great result. And, this is because in such films what the audience is usually left with is the fascinating psychological “game” among characters of scheming, guessing, suspecting or simply going crazy, without any outside “distractions” being present. Hitchcock’s “Rope” is no different.
Continue reading “The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Rope (1948)”
This will be my 100th film review and to celebrate the occasion I thought I would review one of my favourite of psychological horror films – Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. Adapted from a novel by Robert Bloch, this film is a real classic of psychological horror genre, which practically revolutionised the way horror films were shot ever since its premiere. Relatively innovative in how it presents the characters, story and the ending at that time, Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is as suspenseful and frightening as it is entertaining, and is definitely a “must-see” for anyone who has even a slightest interest in the genre.
Continue reading ““Psycho” Review”
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
After directing critically-acclaimed “A Single Man” back in 2009, Tom Ford has decided to try his hand in directing something darker and more complicated, an adaptation of the novel by Austin Wright “Tony and Susan”. “Nocturnal Animals” is a drama/thriller containing two stories running in parallel: one in which Susan (Amy Adams), an art gallery owner, receives a manuscript from her ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) and the impact that his forthcoming novel has on her; and another one in which the story in Edward’s manuscript is told. In that story, Edward and his family are fighting off the deadly advances of a gang on the way to their vacation, and the result of their on-the-road struggle is a horrific crime and a painful detective work.
Continue reading ““Nocturnal Animals” Review”
“…I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end” (Daphne Du Maurier “Rebecca” (1938)).
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, “Rebecca” is adapted from the best-selling novel by Dalphne Du Maurier, and tells of a mysterious widower, Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), the owner of a grand estate Manderley, who stumbles across a shy and awkward young girl (Joan Fontaine) while on a trip in Monte Carlo. De Winter hurriedly marries our heroine, but upon the arrival to his estate, the new Mrs de Winter feels like a trespasser. She realises that every corner of the house is permeated by the spirit of Maxim’s beautiful, charming and intelligent previous wife, Rebecca, and senses that her husband still re-lives the happy moments that he had with his former wife.
Continue reading “Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” Review”
“What if you had to tell someone the most important thing in the world, but you knew they’d never believe you?” (Doug Carlin)
In 2006, the now late Tony Scott directed a time-travel thriller “Déjà-vu”, starring Denzel Washington and Val Kilmer, presenting a story of A.T.F. agent Doug Carlin who starts to investigate the bombing of a ferry in New Orleans, but ends up embarking on a romantic time-travel mission to save the lives of many. Coming from a film director known for “True Romance” (1993) and “Enemy of the State” (1998), “Déjà-vu” plays all its cards right, and, despite perhaps failing to convince the audience of the plot’s technological advances, the movie still feels very “complete”, fun to watch and provides just the right amount of suspense to keep one intrigued until the very end. Continue reading ““Déjà-vu” Mini-Review”
The Infiltrator (2016)
The 1980s. A federal agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) works as an undercover in a notorious drug trafficking ring established by Pablo Escobar. Robert Mazur is now influential and charismatic Bob Musella who operates alongside two other undercover agents: his “fiancée” Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) and best friend Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo). However, in reality, Robert is also a devoted family man, raising two children with his wife Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey). This movie explores the unreal day-to-day life of an undercover agent who faces grave dangers every day, and all for the chance to secure convictions of the most notorious drug lords in the country. “The Infiltrator” is a engaging, well-acted movie that goes into some depth in its portrayal of an undercover life, and along the way, distinguishes itself from other drug trafficking/undercover cop movies by being “authentic” in its story progression and low-key when it comes to action sequences and special effects.
Continue reading ““The Infiltrator” Review”
Dead Ringers (1988)
“Am I really that different from Beverly?” – Elliot
“You really are…” – Claire
David Cronenberg’s 1988 feature “Dead Ringers” is the director’s “trademark” movie starring Jeremy Irons, and loosely based on a real-life story of identical twin brothers working as gynaecologists in New York. The movie closely follows Elliot and Beverly Mantle (both played by Jeremy Irons), who share their lives so closely that they not only divide their professional tasks among themselves, but also date the same women. However, their extreme closeness and obsessive working trends, as well as the appearance of a certain woman (Geneviève Bujold), soon results in their well thought-out life patters spinning out of control. The film’s story is fascinating and Cronenberg-style components are well presented, but what makes this movie irresistible is Irons’s brilliant performance. Continue reading ““Dead Ringers” Review”
Eastern Promises (2007)
“Eastern Promises” is David Cronenerg’s 18th big film starring Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel and Naomi Watts. The script is written by Steven Knight, better known for “Amazing Grace” (2006) and “Locke” (2013), and the movie starts with a young Eastern European girl dying during childbirth, leaving her baby girl and a diary behind, which is then taken into care/examination by a nurse called Anna (Watts) in a London hospital. Upon the diary’s examination, Anna discovers that it is very probable that the young girl has suffered badly at the hands of certain individuals, which takes her deep into the seat of a London-based Russian mafia and its operation.
Continue reading ““Eastern Promises” Review”
Queen of Katwe (2016)
“…in chess, the small one can become the big one…” (from the trailer “Queen of Katwe”).
Story: The movie is the upcoming Disney-produced drama based on the real story of Phiona Mutesi (played by newcomer Madina Nalwanga), a 10-year old Ugandan chess prodigy, who, against all odds, becomes a Woman Candidate Master after the World Chess Olympiads. Brought up in the slums of Katwe, an area in the city of Kampala, Uganda, young Phiona endures a daily routine of trying to survive when she discovers a game named “chess”, which turns her life upside down. Encouraged and supported by her mother (Lupita Nyong’o) and couch (David Oyelowo), Phiona quickly becomes a young chess sensation in her country, participating in international competitions abroad.
Continue reading “Previews: “Queen of Katwe”, “Sully” and “The Light between Oceans””