Guillermo Del Toro is one of my favourite directors, so anything he comes out with is going to grab my attention. However this latest effort seemed to appear out of nowhere with little of the fan fair his movies usually attract. Bradley Cooper plays a guy seemingly drifting from place to place due to a troubled past, and gets taken in by a travelling carnival in the 1940s. There he develops a skill from conning audiences with fake psychic ability and chooses to take that skill to con the social elite out of thousands.
Del Toro’s style is once again showcased, even if it’s more subtle than say Hellboy or The Shape of Water. The movie is beautifully filmed, given an old fashioned, somewhat silent movie aesthetic. The carnival setting is perfectly freaky too. However this is very much a film-noir with a femme fatale in the shape of Cate Blanchett and a flawed hero in Cooper. Support is also decent, with appearances from Ron Perlman, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara and Toni Collette.
Due to the mentalist/grifter plot this can be hard to follow at times, and at 2 and a half hours, the movie drags slightly, especially in the first half. However with a clever final act that does make you wish you’d concentrated more early on … as the movie hints and lays bread crumbs to its twist – I felt this was one of those movies that may benefit from repeat viewings. As it stands, whilst not Del Toro at his best, this was still a well acted, stylish and cleverly-constructed movie. Worth a watch.
Writer / Director Charlie Kaufman has a reputation for off-beat, unusual movies but I’ll admit I’ve only seen one of his – Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (which he wrote) that I remember liking for its surreal themes and imaginative imagery. So checking out the trailer this looked like it had a similar quirky vibe. Lucy, a young woman is on a road trip with her boyfriend Jake to visit his parents. However she’s struggling with uncertain feelings about their relationship and is considering breaking up with him. However during their journey and stay at the parents farm, Lucy’s neurotic uncertainties cause various strange things to occur.
This was an odd experience. It’s initially a relationship drama but quickly tumbles down the rabbit hole of surreal imagery, time-jumps that seem to only be happening in Lucy’s head and plenty of pondering on life, mortality and relationships that gets a bit ‘much’. Occasionally the movie seems to hit pause for long inner monologues from Lucy that get rather pretentious, reciting poetry and insecurities that made me rather frustrated with her character. She came across utterly self-absorbed. Also occasionally the (admittedly clever) surreal moments seems to be there just to be odd and wacky (the dog that keeps shaking, disappearing and reappearing), which would have been fine if the movie had more of a sense of humour. Instead we get an overly pessimistic tone that doesn’t shift, and ultimately goes nowhere. David Thewlis and Toni Collette turn up as the patents, playing their characters at various ages, which did prove a highlight.
I’m sure theres plenty of meaning hidden amongst the oddness, and realise it’s all about life, ageing and the passage of time. However overall this lingered too much on the mundane and shy’d away from a potential to be more fun instead of just depressing. Disappointing.
Despite what my opinion may be of the choices made by director Rian Johnson with The Last Jedi, I remain a fan of his earlier movie ‘Looper’ and so sat down to this latest offering with optimism. The trailer certainly name dropped a few famous faces and add to this a Cluedo-esque murder mystery premise and positive word of mouth. A wealthy family are brought together following the apatent suicide of the eldest member, famed crime novelist Harlen Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). So enters renowned detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) who suspects there may be foul play at hand.
A strong cast and an immediately intriguing set up quickly drew me into this. It’s put together expertly by Johnson who free from the restraints of a franchise can really show off his directing chops – aided by eye-catching cinematography, great atmosphere and a tongue-in cheek tone. The story, initially a who-dunnit which gradually develops into a back stabbing family drama … is full of twists and turns, but with good use of flashbacks never felt confusing like similar movies can. Daniel Craig is great, camping it up as the Southern speaking slueth, but the real star here is Blade Runner 2049’s Ana de Armas, who delivers the most complex and layered performance as Harlen’s nurse, and carries the movie.
Support cast such as Jamie Lee Curtis and Don Johnson are a bit wasted, and because the movie doesn’t exactly play by the who-dunnit rule book, it loses a little bit of it’s momentum around the middle (but hits its stride again in the final act). Clever and highly entertaining. Check it out.
I think it can be agreed now that Netflix has become a force to be retconned with and now attracts Hollywood A-list talent to front it’s growing catalogue of original content. So we come to this rather strange horror thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and Toni Collette. Gyllenhaal plays an art critic who works with various art galleries to put on exhibits. However he is craving the latest big thing and after a mysterious elderly man dies, an undiscovered collection of weird paintings falls into his lap. However something is very wrong with these paintings, and the gallery owners, employees and critics are about to discover exactly what.
This was a strange one. Firstly Gyllenhaal is probably my favourite actor, and here he’s playing a rather camp, self-absorbed bi-sexual character who at times comes off like two separate people (when he’s in critic mode, he’s effeminate and flamboyant, otherwise he’s quite serious and masculine). However like many of Gyllenhaal’s characters – he makes it work. Russo is the rather bitchy gallery owner and not exactly a stretch from the last movie I saw her in, Nightcrawler, of which this is the same director. Collette is nothing special and an appearance from John Malcovich is forgettable also. Zawe Ashton as an ambitious gallery employee however, is just awful with robot-like line delivery making me think she was doped up on medication. However the core idea of cursed artwork and the mystery of the deceased painter is intriguing, just a shame it goes nowhere in favour of a series of (admittedly imaginative) deaths.
It may feel a bit lightweight and suffers from a TV movie-vibe but with quirky performances and a strong central idea I did have fun with this … but it’s far from essential viewing. That title has little reference to the movie either.
It’s easy to be skeptical these days when a horror movie gets a lot of hype. However this was getting some very good word of mouth and even Oscar buzz for its lead Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense). So I took a leap of faith and picked up the Blu-ray. This story follows a family coming to terms with the death of the grandmother which casts a matriarchal shadow who’s passing proves polarising to family members, especially Annie (Collette) and youngest daughter Charlie. However as grief and tragedy sinks its claws in, a disturbing past reveals itself.
The directorial debut of newcomer Ari Aster this carefully observed and eerie family drama-come-horror feels like the work of a seasoned pro, not a relative newcomer. The camera work, shot framing, set design and atmosphere is all first rate. It’s a fairly simple tale and may not exactly go places we haven’t seen before, but boasts several top-tier performances and brilliantly staged scares. Toni Collette may be a tad OTT at times and well, Alex Wolf can’t cry for toffee, but with a subtle, understated but convincing dynamic of a troubled, dysfunctional family’s descent into madness … I was left punch-drunk as the credits rolled.
It gets a little hokey at times what with some bizarre CGI and some plausibility going out the window in the final act. Yet the writing plays cleverly with expectation and cliché, leading this viewer in one direction with genre staples like creepy kids and miniature model houses, before sending expectations spiralling to a conclusion filled with nightmare-inducing imagery. It however failed to completely get under my skin and isn’t as scary as it thinks it is … but in all other aspects this was incredibly effective.
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