Every year there are a handful of top notch films that premiere at major film festivals that are so impressive it's hard to believe they're the first feature film made by the filmmakers behind them. Earlier this year it was Fresh slicing it up at Sundance, directed by Mimi Cave; and last year it was The Lost Daughter, directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal (she even won the DGA Award for Best First Feature). Watch these films and they seem to be made by exceptionally talented directors with years of experience directing many other films, as they know how to craft scenes and hone the narrative at the same level as the best filmmakers out there. At this year's Cannes Film Festival, Rodeo is one of the most impressive feature debuts - joining these others as a stand out film that feels like it was made by someone who has made plenty of films before. In reality, this really is French filmmaker Lola Quivoron's feature directorial debut - and it's a gripping & exhilarating film.
"It's not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves." –Sir Edmund Hillary. Mountains are mystical, magical, and extraordinary. Some people are born in the mountains, and they never leave, unable to step away from them. Some people are born in the mountains, and leave to find their place elsewhere, yet always longing to return. Those who are drawn to their poetic majesty never forget their grandeur and immensity no matter where they are on this planet. One of the best films from the 2022 Cannes Film Festival so far is The Eight Mountains, an Italian feature (originally Le Otto Montagne) co-directed by Belgian filmmakers Felix van Groeningen (director of The Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgica, and Beautiful Boy) and Charlotte Vandermeersch. It's another breathtaking, slow burn story about men and mountains. It takes its time, following boys growing into men as two friends navigate the cliffs, passages, and snowy peaks of their lives.
It's time again. The 2022 Cannes Film Festival begins this week, and I'm back in the South of France for my 12th time covering this festival. I always love being back, and even with updates and frustrations, there is nowhere else I'd rather be right now. Choosing an Opening Night film for any festival is always a daunting task. This year the Cannes opener is the French zombie comedy called Final Cut (or Coupez! in French), which just so happens to be a French remake of the beloved Japanese indie classic One Cut of the Dead. It was originally set to premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, but when that festival announced they would have to shut down their physical in-person fest due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the film backed out. I had a feeling it would end up in Cannes instead, and yep, I was right. And here it is! Ready to knock the socks off of the audiences in Cannes and remind them that filmmaking is a collaborative effort.
There is no greater feeling when you go to see a movie for the first time without any expectations, and it blows you away or even changes your life entirely. And there is nothing worse when a movie that you have been anticipating for a long time turns out to be a huge disappointment. Crushed hopes are a bitter pill to swallow. In that regard, writer / director Robert Eggers with his gloomy and hypnotizing film The Witch, and goofy yet profound The Lighthouse, was a safe harbor for cinephiles who were always in a search for something original. Even after sleeping for only four hours and standing in a line for three more hours just to see The Lighthouse in Cannes in 2019, I knew that it was worth it (and it was). I hate to say the director's new endeavor The Northman falls victim to the same virtues that gained him acclaim in the first place.
More often than not, good actors end up with a "bad" reputation because of their "less enjoyable" cinema projects, and the opposite is also possible, albeit in fewer numbers. The truth is that the general idea that literally all Hollywood celebrities live an above-average life without financial, personal, or family problems is somewhat misleading. Nicolas Cage is a perfect example of an incredibly talented actor who, due to the obstacles life confronted him with, was "forced" to participate in "smaller jobs" in order to solve complicated situations. Writer / director Tom Gormican's film The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is the quintessential tribute to the iconic career of someone who has always managed to elevate films he's been in.
Since originally debuting at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival back in March, Everything Everywhere All at Once has become one of the most anticipated films of the first half of this year. Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, better known simply as "Daniels", made their big-screen debut six years ago with the Daniel Radcliffe comedy Swiss Army Man, a movie overlooked by many viewers. Personally, I was fascinated by the strangely captivating mix of a flatulent corpse and the emotional aspects of the screenplay. Since then, the bizarre duo hasn't made a new feature film, until now… I hope we don't have to wait another six years for their third flick because Everything Everywhere deserves all the hype its generated over the last month.
When it comes to film franchises, it's common to see movie lovers struggle to be honest with their thoughts about the respective sagas, especially if they don't love them like most fans. Fortunately, Harry Potter was and remains special to me as well as to almost all of the viewers who let themselves be carried away by this massively acclaimed magical place. Fantastic Beasts emerged back in 2016 and nostalgia filled our hearts. A wave of emotions soon became overwhelming, resulting in a nearly uncontrollable hype that ended up being brought down by the first two films. However, despite having many issues, the new film Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore exceeds all expectations and becomes the first solid work of the now trilogy.
Everyone knows Michael Bay, and everyone knows what to expect from any Michael Bay movie. That's a given nowadays. Ambulance is Bay's 15th movie so far, and somehow even after all this time, he still hasn't evolved as a filmmaker. Everything he does is still about big explosions, big guns, big stakes, big car chases, big actors, big cameras. The only thing not big in this movie is the drones they use to fly around random places in Los Angeles. Everything else about Ambulance is as excessive and extreme as anything can get; of course there's explosions & gunfights galore. It's billed as Bay's "love letter" to Los Angeles, with the letters "L" and "A" turning different colors in the title sequence, for no other explainable reason than to boldly say "this movie is set in Los Angeles and Los Angeles gave us every resource to make it!!" More accurately, it's a love letter to the LAPD (ugh) as they bring everything to the table to try and stop these criminals on the run.
At the start of this new Batman movie, Bruce Wayne's voiceover talks about how his identity as the Batman has made criminals in Gotham City more fearful. They think he's lurking in the shadows, hiding down alleys, waiting to take them out. The very first reveal of "The Batman" in this movie has him literally walking out of the shadows, emerging from the pitch-black darkness to confront a group of hoodlums attacking a man on a subway platform. The darkness that permeates Gotham City is present in every frame of The Batman, it's unavoidable, a lesson that Batman comes to learn. This is the ultimate gritty, grimy Gotham City noir movie - easily the best Batman movie since The Dark Knight (read my old review). It's so incredibly dark that it's almost hard to see what's going on at times, but that's a feature not a bug. Matt Reeves has created one of the darkest Batman movies yet, both in tone and visual style, and it's an exhilarating big screen experience.
"Not every man in a suit and tie is a gentleman. Not every gentleman wears a suit and tie." But some still do… The Outfit is the first feature film directed by an up-and-coming writer and producer named Graham Moore, originally born in Chicago, Illinois. The film recently premiered as a Special Screening at the 2022 Berlin Film Festival and it's a clever, sneaky little mob thriller set in one location. It has this familiar "made during the pandemic" vibe, specifically that it's built around a very small cast and it all takes place in one location meaning they could make it in a small studio with a small crew and easily follow all the COVID-19 rules & regulations. But that doesn't take away from the thrill of the film, as it's a gripping tale of Chicago mobsters and one tailor who might just be smarter than all of them. If you've been watching movies over the last decade, you already know that any time Mark Rylance is in a film it's a must see – even if just for him.
"Nothing is real until it’s socially expressed." Telling stories about people long gone can change the world. One of the best documentaries from the 2022 Berlin Film Festival is this discovery - Nelly & Nadine made by Swedish filmmaker Magnus Gertten. The film delves into World War II history to tell the story of two women who met at a concentration camp during the war and fell in love, spending their lives together in Venezuela after their camp was liberated. It's a remarkable story, not only that they could find each other and fall in love, but that they made it out alive and were able to live together after the war. It's a wonderfully touching film, sensitive and compassionate as it explores their story and connects with relatives that are still alive today. Even though it's far from perfect, there's no way this film won't move you to tears at some point or another. And these kind of films are the ones that will stay with you far beyond all the film festival buzz.
Now that it has been 21 years since 9/11, more and more films are being made about the aftermath of this tragedy – including the way America responded with torture and heinous decisions in an attempt to punish everyone responsible. Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush is another film that digs into the same kind of story as the one told in The Mauritanian, about one innocent individual who was (illegally) locked up for years in Guantanamo Bay by the US over exaggerated suspicions that were never proven. There have been a growing number of films about Guatananmo and how horrible this place is, between Camp X-Ray, and even Paul Schrader's The Card Counter (which dips into this in an unusual way). Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush premiered at the Berlin Film Festival (where it won two awards) and tells the story of a Turkish man from Germany who was sent to Guantanamo, while his mother spent years and years fighting to get him out.