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El reino (2018)
Political, realistic and absolutely thrilling
With a slightly shaky cam, a monotonous thumping techno score and some of the best performances of this year, we are introduced to a group of Spanish politicians with a serious fraudulent past. Their arrogance and naive feeling of invincibility is soon destroyed, when all their corrupt businesses are slowly brought to the attention of the press.
The gravity of the situation only hits the audience when it hits the characters: too late. In over their head with only a couple of options to save their own skin, they are put before several moral questions that will have you bite your finger nails the whole ride.
Manuel, the main character, seems a true human being that could have walked out of a real life politics debate for all we know. Antonio de la Torre's performance is out of this world! But not only he deserves credit for his amazing acting. No one ever misses a note and the result is a film full of conflicting personal relationships that are realistic in a rather scary way.
The music is a bit of a bummer though... The techno-beats never build up towards a finale, while the movie itself is a thrilling rollercoaster that ends in a frontal collision with a brick wall. This - as I already mentioned - monotonous score doesn't improve the movie one bit.
But the directing by Rodrigo Sorogoyen is compelling. He made a political scandal into a grand fight between rivals and friends. There is no violence. But I held my breath for the complete final hour. The ending was a bit too suden for my taste though.
Yet, I cannot stress this enough: it was rousing, it was absolutely riveting.
For those in love with Space, Terror and Cats
In a seemingly abandoned spaceship, the silence is interrupted by an incoming signal. An automatic program wakes the crew up from hibernation. Disoriented, they assume they're close to home: earth. But no, they're still only halfway there. The signal that was picked up by the ship comes from an unknown origin on an unknown planet and they, the unprepared crew of a simple cargo ship, must go out to investigate. And nothing can prepare them for what they will encounter...
This slow burn horror masterpiece gives you the chills, even today, and will keep doing it for years to come. It works because of the practical effects, because of the brilliant directing because of the acting, because of the music, because of the set pieces... should I continue?
The futuristic universe 'Alien' takes place in is put before us and is compellingly realistic. With several winks at Kubric's '2001: A Space Odyssey' (1968) in the design of the ship and the momentary hint of classical music, it creates a sense of familiarity, yet in the ships' largely industrial-gothic appearance it puts us on guard as well. Their technology is being explained, but only when the characters absolutely need to mention it. The rest stays unsaid, but is made clear by other aspects of the movie than dialogue.
If that alone is not enough to prove that Ridley Scott is a cinematic genius, we'll talk a bit more about him. He delivered his vision of a movie that's 'Jaws in space' the way he wanted it and the way we needed it. Scott makes movies the way no one has ever seen one: visually renewing, with a whole new believable world to tell a story in (also take a look at 'Blade Runner' (1982), 'Gladiator' (2000), 'The Martian' (2017) ...). This one in particular is one of my favourites in terms of style. Take the design of the hostile Alien creature (the Xenomorph). When shown the work of Swiss artist H.G. Giger by screenwriter O'Bannon, he saw the potential it possessed and had Giger design the creature. The result is as terrifying as it is artful. Appearing as vaguely human, but out of this world in all its aspects. The characters in the first drafts of the script were unisex and could be filled in by both men and women. The studio bosses, all white old males at the time, off course demanded the leading role to be an man. But, Scott said no. In his vision, the main character was a woman, simple as that. And let's be honest, without Sigourney Weaver, this movie would never have been as good as it is. She (the whole cast to be honest, but especially her) had me gasping for breath again and again. Her panic and determination are compelling. All this, and the way he ingeniously builds scenes where the tension gets unbearable and the way he added and cut scenes in order to tell the full story without interrupting the flow of the film, prove that he is one heck of a film maker.
This is also a feminist movie, although many will argue that it was never intended to be. But the result is a feminist movie nonetheless. Not only is the main character a woman, outstandingly brought to life by Sigourney Weaver, the underlying themes of the movie are feminist as well. Because actually, this is a movie about rape. And here, it's not only the women that can fear unwanted penetration, but also the men. This rape-theme, executed by the so-called 'Face-Huggers', is unsettling for all viewers. Also notice the phallus-like design of the Alien creatures.
The tension is guided by the subtle score of Jerry Goldsmith. The panting flutes, the wailing violins, the assaulting brass section and the beautiful main theme. It is a composition that is unmatched in the horror genre. And where modern scores for scary movies, mean nothing more than a scary addition to the film, this modernist score truly tells a story on its own.
'Alien' is, all snobbish intellectual analyses put aside, in the first place one of the best horror films ever made. It gives everyone the creeps, it lingers and it's pure art. And come on: there is a cat! How can you not like this movie? But what makes it truly great, is the fact that when you look a bit closer, there's more to it than meets the eye at first.
And remember, if you ever get to journey through our solar system or beyond... In space, no one can hear you scream.
C'era una volta il West (1968)
More Western than 'The Western' itself
In full silence, three mysterious men in long trench coats wait in a remote train station. Their faces have anticipation written all over them, even while the most interesting things they can find to do are toying with a fly, drinking water from a hat and cracking their fingers. A dog runs past. The windmill squeaks. The ticket vendor is locked away. The heath bounces off the wooden platform. The men sweat.
Are you bored yet? Then this movie is probably not for you.
But are you dying to know what the three men are waiting for? Does a light anxiety creep onto you whilst reading that description? Can't you wait for the tension to resolve? Then this movie is all you ever wanted.
The almost lawless world where outlaws and bandits roam the country with ease that is the setting of the story, is shown by Tonino Delli Colli (director of photography) in all its splendorous grandeur and it's uncountable little details. The set pieces, the costumes and the real life locations in Arizona and Utah make everything believable. And together with the characters and figurants, everything creates a vibrant and utterly believable Western civilisation.
Charles Bronson plays the man with the harmonica: a lone wolf looking for something that he chooses not to reveal to anyone until he gets it. A character with no name roaming the endless fields under the sun, announcing his presence at all times with the same melody he plays on his harmonica that echo's in an unsettling way. Bronson does this brilliantly, with a face that overflows with held back emotions and a determination that is downright scary.
In a tavern the man meets Manuel 'Cheyenne' Gutiérrez (Jason Robards), a bandit that recently escaped being hung by the neck, re-joining his band of outlaws. With already greying hair, he takes on the situation that arises in the area, trying his part to be the hero that saves the day. Robards portrays a character that, by only one look at him, we can see how the years have shaped him. His performance is outstanding; we want to grab a drink with Cheyenne, but we also get the feeling that being on your guard around him wouldn't be an overrated luxury.
The 'damsel in distress' (although she isn't in the original meaning of the word) Jill McBain (played by Claudia Cardinale) turns into a toy of Fate itself. Without any warning she gets involved in something quite over her head, but she handles it masterfully; she refuses to return to New Orleans with her tail between her legs and stays to face the difficulties put before her. Cardinale playing Jill is both an erotic marvel and a woman you wouldn't want to cross.
They are all opposed by Frank (Henry Fonda): the local gang leader with a heart of stone and a business proposal at the ready at all times. With his ruthless blue eyes and his gun at the ready he keeps the town quiet. Fonda gives you the creeps with just one gaze at the camera and every sentence leaves the bitter taste of malfeasance.
And finally, Gabriele Ferzetti finishes the line of main characters with his deliciously sickening portrayal of the crippled railroad baron Morton. A character that you'd like to slap in the face, but one you feel pity for as well. Outstandingly brought!
The soundtrack is composed by the never beaten maestro of film scoring himself: Ennio Morricone. His genius lies in the creation of themes and melodies that will haunt your dreams forever for better or worse. The melancholic main theme that is brought with a heavenly choir draws tears from your eyes after hearing only a couple of chords. The theme of the man with the harmonica is as unsettling as it is epic and Cheyennes' theme creates the lighter counter points in the movie. Morricone uses these motifs ingeniously, hinting at plot points, character motifs and feelings and giving you a sense of the world the movie takes place in. If I could give twelve out of ten stars for the score, I'd do it.
Sergio Leone was a masterful director, no need to prove that. He manages to turn even a scene of seven minutes, where three men are merely waiting for a train, into an epic storyline. Two hours and three quarters the tension builds and then resolves... partially, always building towards the end. And that finale! That finale! That finale chilled me to the bone! Throughout the film, question after question is raised, and when one question is answered, another one pops up. So when all pieces of the puzzle fall into place to the score of Ennio Morricone, how can one not be moved by it?
For Leone, there was no better way to reach the top of the Western genre. And for us, there never will be a film that is more Western than 'Once Upon a Time in the West'.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
If critics could be reasonable
What many critics wrote about 'If Beale Street Could Talk':
Cinema never gets better than this!
I'm sorry critics, I'm sure you know your business, but this movie is not worth a 10/10 and cinema can in fact get better than this. Hear me out:
This ís a beautiful film! De cinematography by James Laxton and the editing by McMillon and Sanders are pure Jazz: artfully impressionistic, yet always clear. Guided by the moving musical score by Nicholas Britell it distils the emotion of the scenes down to their essence. Emotion that is wonderfully expressed by the performances of Regina King, Colman Domingo and Michael Beach. I also would like to congratulate Brian Tyree Henry, with his deeply touching scene. The rest of the cast is surely award worthy, but are at several moments overshadowed by those I just mentioned. I also have to blame the script, though: phrases like 'unbow your head, sister' do not work convincingly in domestic conversations.
Then there is the story, that talks about the difficult life of black people in the 70's. The racist injustice they faced, is infuriating and makes you want to yell in the face of all those pretentious white males. It doesn't miss it's target. But the movie feels unfinished. The makers leave us with no conclusion, no relief of tension, no true ending. And I would like to have a satisfying ending after two hours of film.
Which brings me to the runtime of the film. Nothing seems wrong with it, but it was too long for what the story had to offer. The scenes on itself were often just a minute or three too long and one scene in particular should have been thrown overboard: When Fonnie and Tish are buying their own place to live, they are escorted by the Jewish landlord, played by Dave Franco who is terribly miscast. Nothing in the scene drives the story forward, and the acting here takes a deep dip. Nope, negative points for that. This movie should have been around an hour and a half. That would seem fair.
However, there was a part of the story, I found to be rather neglected. The white advocate that investigated Fonnie's case encountered some weird ignorance from his fellow white colleagues. This is only briefly mentioned and I thought his struggle to prove Fonnie innocent to be interesting enough to be talked about a bit more elaborately. This would make up for the lost runtime when all the dispensable parts are cut.
'If Beale Street Could Talk' is not bad! Not bad at all. I enjoyed it, it is really worth a watch and the expression of emotion - not only through acting, but also through camerawork, editing and scoring - should go down in history.
I give 8 to it
On the tones of 'I got 5 on it', the hip-hop classic by Luniz, we get to know the Wilson-Thomas-family while they're on holiday down in sunny Santa Cruz. Perfectly normal, almost cliché. But things turn dark quickly when at night they're being assaulted by another family just like themselves (literally). Only these people have red jumpsuits and scissors. Yikes...
The delicious soundtrack by Michael Abels grabs you by the neck from minute one. With experimental combinations of instruments, infectious beats and eerie harmonies he creates a unique pallet of sounds and themes that guide the audience, always putting them on guard, never failing to impress. And where Abels' musical score for 'Get Out' never truly stands out, this score surely demands your attention and makes the film all the better for it.
I know it's hard to act. I also know it's even harder to have a double role. And this cast nailed it. Especially Lupita Nyong'o had me sympathise with her 'normal' character one moment, but left me terrified with her doppelgänger the other. It was easy to forget these two characters were played by the same actress! Absolutely wonderful!
After the attack on the house and the slasher-part of the film, the scary parts are largely over and all that is left to do is watch how the plot is tied together. I can't say the twist at the end shocked me though. It felt like the logical conclusion of what had come before and that's fine.
But as much as I enjoyed the movie, the comic relief didn't always work for me. In 'Get Out' these occasional jokes are rather subtle, while in this one they truly broke with the tension of the scenes, pulling me out of the movie for a couple of seconds. Can't say I really enjoyed that.
But overall I think 'Us' is better acted, better edited and better scored than 'Get Out'. Jordan Peele delivered a great film that, without doubt, I'll watch again a couple of times in the (near) future.
Quite suddenly we're dropped in the middle of nowhere in the snow with Mads Mikkelsen. Several meaningless minutes later the plot starts to unravel. A chance of survival, a tough journey ahead, the promise of a good movie. And it's not bad. But it never quite exceeds the level of mediocrity it starts on.
To the background of the gorgeous panoramic views of a desolate ice-cold landscape, plays a story that is everything but innovative, guided by a dull musical score that might as well have been left behind. We feel no connection with the characters, for we never get to know who they are, but on the other hand it ís a relief to notice that the makers chose not to include another hour of dragging background info. Only, now it felt a bit empty. Just a human having a hard time.
But Mads Mikkelsen! You have treated us on the performance of a lifetime! With only a handful of lines you damn near had me crying out your pain with you. A middle aged woman seated just a couple stools to my right even really did! And for a second there I thought she was having a heart attack after a jump scare.
So it does reach the audience through Mikkelsen's incredible performance, but overall... it's just a nicely made movie that's easy to forget.
Made me angry
YES, I know it's an allegory! YES, I know it's social commentary! But I also know that just an idea behind something doesn't make it good! It doesn't make up for the plotholes and the lousy acting and the terrible CGI and the unbearable inconsistencies and the fact that the writers didn't even try to make their job worth our time. Bad setup, worse execution, worst wasted hours of my life.
Hollywood, have you no more selfrespect anymore? One of these days you're going to shoot in your own foot and that wound is going to fester. If you don't find new formula's, people are going to turn against you...
The Death of Stalin (2017)
Funny, but at times insulting
I allmost wet myself from laughter in several scenes, let me start by saying that. When it gets you, it gets you good.
But the greatest problem I had with this movie, is that every hillariously brilliant scene was followed by a scene that tried to invoke a laugh but wasn't funny at all. And as a result it kept losing me and winning me back and losing me over and over again, which was quite annoying.
Furthermore we have to talk about it's terrible runtime that is waaaay to long, or at least felt like that. Lots of scenes are just unnecessary or plainly stupid.
Also, as historically accurate the depiction of the battle for power between the characters after Stalin's death may be, some moments that are critical to the plot are plain lies! And although the writers probably did this for comedic reasons, the result is just very insulting towards the Russians. Which makes the cencorship on this film in Russia, that we all found so hillarious, that bit more understandable.
And to end, here are some things I loved about this movie: The cast is amazing! The music should be remembered forever! Thát's how you score a comedic movie properly, taking note of the time and place and characters, rather than of how to make the music sound stupidly funny. And certain scenes gave me belly aches from laughter.
So watch it, laugh, be aware of the true history behind it. For it isn't all too bad a movie, yet not as good as many give it credit for.
12 Angry Men (1957)
Best movie ever made
Twelve cosmically different men in one room deciding over the life and death of an accused... such a great premise. Tension builds constantly, but with resting points whenever needed and appropriate. Something interesting and new pops up whenever the story threatens to become tedious. Great acting, great story, great film.
More than once I found myself wanting to scream at the characters and tell them what I thought. Few movies can absorb me like this one did. A well deserved ten stars! Brilliant in every way!
Under the Silver Lake (2018)
Good, but unsattisfying as a whole
The main reason I watched this movie is because of the trailer and the over-enthousiastly written revieuws I read in a paper. It felt promissing.
So I went see it: first it feels like a comedic parody on old detective noir films, then suddenly it becomes a horror-thriller, then a scene full on comedy, then detective noir again - yet this time it doesn't feel like a parody, then it becomes horror again... and so on... To put it short: the picture seems not able to decide what it wants to be. Some might call it an experimental mix of genres, yet it felt more like indecisiveness to me.
The individual scenes are good, not great, but good. The complete film just couldn't win me over.
Furthermore I am kind of pissed of about the plot (don't worry, I'm not going to spoil anything). The movie introduces dozens of plot-points throughout the whole, but only ties together a couple of these in the end. So I felt like it needed more to have a satisfying end - despite its allready outrageous runtime!
Anyways, 4 stars nontheless. Love you Andrew...
Too easy, too bad
It's easy to fall for the temptation of liking an easy film like this. It has action, pseudo-valuable life lessons and the promise of a plot. Just a shame it didn't go further than the "pseudo" and the "promise". The whole sadly feels like it has been written over one night when someone had a seemingly excitening idea for a movie, but - in all their eager to deliver a blockbuster - ended up with just another cliché packed box of garbage.
I'm sorry. If I was just watching without thinking anything, I would have liked it. But that is exactly what makes it not good. The plotholes are bigger than the story itself and the acting... lets just say this is not why I watch films.
But, if an easy terrible action-adventure-movie is exactly is what you're looking for, this is for you. If on the other hand you want a good movie, na-ah... you'll be happier with something else.
I... I just don't know how to put what I'm feeling into words
I honestly don't know how to begin this review, because I'm having a hard time putting everything into place. Yet, I do feel the strong need to put something on here. So here it is:
This film is - in the strongest use of the word ever - disturbing. Everything. It messes with your head! It messes with your stomach! It messes with your feelings! Seriously, do NOT watch this if regular tension packed movies are already too strong for you. Like a drink. But if this movie were a drink, it would be a bottle of pure ethanol. Furthermore, the film shows some gore, but it doesn't always do so in horrific detail, but it's that suggestion that makes it even worse. It's probably the most terrifying movie I have seen in my life!
But enough of that, more about the nice aspects of "Mother!" We get to see terrific acting by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. Those two... it just works perfectly here! Furthermore, there is a brilliant Michelle Pfeiffer next to an even brilliant Ed Harris. The acting is great. Everyone really. The camera fantastically shows enough to not lose overview, but always too few as to always leave us as viewers in the dark (and to freak us out!). And the music! It's amazing! Why? Because there is almost none! This clever engineering of silence and the scarce moments of musical score is just wonderful!
I... I'm sorry. This is probably my most chaotic and unreadable review ever. But I just saw the film and... I just can't... I just don't know...
Just watch it (if you dare) and share my confused feeling of terror and amazement!
A delicious mystery thriller
I liked it. There's almost nothing more to say. This picture is ánd visually stunning ánd emotionally gripping ánd well-acted. It might look like a cross over of Stranger Things and Carrie from time to time. But the overall picture really is an original story! Furthermore, the music is wonderful!
It's one of those few movies where – after seeing it – you can say: wow, that was good. And the great part is there is no heavy flattery needed to express it to other people. It's a story that is perfectly round. Nothing too much, nothing too less. Clean. A great experience.
(Also, if you are held back by the description saying it's a horror movie... don't panic. It really isn't what you'd expect from a horror story in the original sense of the word. Of course, if hard core use of gore and jump scares ís what you're looking for, you'd probably be more satisfied with another movie.)
One of the must-sees of the year
Racism and hypocrisy boiled down to one town called Suburbicon. A "friendly" place where everyone is a (excuse me) jerk, where no one can be him-/herself and where fake facades hide the rotten truth underneath. Slowly the movie strips down this mask piece by piece until all is exposed.
It's an hilarious satire with an Hitchcockian tension.
After Clooney brought out 'Hail, Caesar!', I seriously doubted whether his next would be any better (because let's face it, that one was just not what it could have been), but this years "Suburbicon" really made my evening tonight. Not only did the Coen brothers do a great job with the screenplay, and not only did George excel in directing this one, but also we see Matt Damon and Julianne Moore at their best. And let's not forget to give some credit to the always brilliant Alexandre Desplat who took care of the music that - also this time - perfectly sets the tone for the scenes.
Go see it for yourself!
And yes, I know, why take my word for it. After all, there are many terribly negative reviews to be read. Just don't listen to them. First go see it for yourself and then you can judge. Come on... what are you waiting for? Get out of you lazy chair or bed or... wherever you're reading this review from. Go see it and just enjoy it.