99 Homes (2014)
This film is set in the background of the 2008 housing crisis in the US when many Americans lost their homes. Andrew Garfield (Silence (2016)) is Dennis Nash, a single father, who loses his home to the bank and has a chance to get it back if he starts working for a real estate broker (Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water (2017)) who is “responsible” for his misfortune. Directed by Ramin Bahrani, who dedicated the movie to film critic Roger Ebert, the film is a great “housing” drama elevated by the performance from Michael Shannon. 99 Homes explores interesting moral dilemmas and issues, and is so powerful that could rightly be claimed as one of the best films of the year 2014.
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In 2012, a science-fiction film titled Antiviral hit both the Cannes Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival, and what everybody talked about was that this film is from David Cronenberg’s son – Brandon Cronenberg. People started to look for similarities between Antiviral and David Cronenberg’s films and trademarks, and they found plenty of those. One of the points of this review is that Antiviral is an impressive film debut from Brandon Cronenberg, irrespective of his link to his famous father. That film and that director should be recognised in their own right. Antiviral is not a perfect film, but it has many interesting ideas and a good execution. It also has a feel different from David Cronenberg’s filmography. In Antiviral, Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)) is an employee of Lucas Clinic, a place where the dream of obsessed fans to be closer to their celebrities may be realised by injecting them with a live virus from one of the sick big celebrities. This way, customers will experience a one-of-a-kind union with their idols. One such celebrity which has a link to the clinic is beautiful Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon (Indignation (2016)). When Hannah falls ill after a trip to China, Syd flouts company regulations and becomes a host to her virus, not even realising that Hannah is on the brink of death. Continue reading “Antiviral” Review
The Wife (2018)
There is a saying that behind every successful man there is a woman, and “The Wife” exemplifies this saying like no other film. More often than not, society concerns itself with appearances, and people often only see what the façade presents – be it in relation to a relationship or a family. What is going on behind closed doors or what people may feel inside may be another matter altogether. “The Wife” is just that thought-provoking film that deals with this and other issues. Based on a novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer, the movie is about a married couple Joe and Joan Castleman (Jonathan Pryce and Glenn Close) who receive rather exciting news – Joe is to be given a Nobel Prize for Literature. The duo, together with their son David, travel to Stockholm to receive this honour, and while there, both Jo and Joan experience a crisis of faith, and one big secret of their lives comes dangerously close to being unravelled. The film has its faults, but Glenn Close’s performance ensures that the film is sincere and convincing. If the first part of the film is this slightly mysterious story of whether there is something wrong in the happy marriage and the professional lives of Joe and Joan, than the second half is all about unsaid things emerging and letting themselves be known.
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Lady Macbeth (2017)
This limited budget production film takes the story of Russian Nicholas Lescov “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District” (1865) as its inspiration to set its own in rural England. Florence Pugh plays a vivacious girl Katherine who is forced into a loveless marriage of convenience with a middle-aged merchant Alexander Lester (Paul Hilton). Bored with her marriage and her duties, Katherine soon takes the liking to one of her husband’s employees, one Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), and the two have a forbidden affair in her husband’s absence. The drama unfolds when the lovers are called to account for their behaviour. Director William Oldroyd, relying on a praise-worthy script by Alice Birch, manages in this movie to convey the claustrophobia of a loveless marriage as well as the loneliness of a rural household which awake the feelings of rebellion in young Katherine. Florence Pugh gives an astoundingly good performance as the lady of the house, which could only be described as one of the very best of 2017.
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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.
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Still Alice (2014)
“Still Alice” is a film based on Lisa Genova’s 2007 best-selling novel of the same name and starring Julianne Moore in the role which landed her an Oscar for the best performance of the year. However, “Still Alice” is so much more than simply a demonstration of an interesting character study and Moore’s outstanding acting ability. It is a very important film, shedding light on a very misunderstood illness, and it was co-directed by the late Richard Glatzer, who was himself a sufferer of a motor neuron disease. The merit of the film lies in its ability to dramatise so well a story of one woman’s battle with an incurable illness, but do so so intelligently, delicately and movingly, the film becomes not only a powerful statement, but also an entertaining and totally engrossing watch.
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I am fully expecting some multiple “best performance” nominations by the Academy here, and even some wins, because the performances here seem really terrific. In fact, they are the best I have seen so far this year.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
“Everybody has a secret; some just hide it better than others” (Tommy in “The Autopsy of Jane Doe”).
André Øvredal, better known for well-received “Troll Hunter” (2010), here presents “The Autopsy of Jane Doe”, the kind of a horror film which provides one with an instant “horror” gratification. It has enough good scares, from hard-to-stomach surgical images to frightening otherworldly encounters, and an interesting story setting to keep things interesting until very end. Here, father Tommy and son Austin, medically-qualified pathologists, receive a new corpse at their family-run business to establish a cause of death. The corpse belongs to an unknown young woman who was found at a multiple murder crime scene. As she is unknown, she is assigned a name Jane Doe, and the two begin their work on her swiftly, only to discover later that Jane hides too many mysteries. As the weather outside of their home worsens, father and son soon realise that they got much more on their hands than they bargained for, and what, on the first glance, begins like a routine autopsy may actually result in something very different.
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12 Years a Slave (2013)
Coming from Steve McQueen (director of ‘Shame‘ (2011)), ‘12 Years a Slave’ can now be comfortably described as this year’s cinematic sensation. The film, based on a self-autobiographical novel by Solomon Northup, tells the story of a black free man, who lives a happy family life in Saratoga, New York in 1841. After he is tricked, kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South, his life turns up-side-down, and a once brilliant musician and an educated family man is now forced to endure an unjust hard life of a slave in Louisiana. The film is very truthful to Northump’s novel, and is filled with so much realism that when one of the characters at the end of the film starts talking about freedom and black people’s rights, the audience may find it hard to believe a word he says – so engrossed they have become in the political/social ideology of that time and in black people’s lives on a plantation in Louisiana.
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