REVIEWS

Review: '14 Peaks' Documentary About the Remarkable Nimsdai Purja

14 Peaks Review

This film was screened as part of the 2021 DOC NYC Film Festival. If you ask someone to name a famous Nepali person, they might be able to recall Tenzing Norgay. He was one of two mountain climbers (the other was New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary) to be the first ever to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1953. But ever since then, Nepalis have mostly remained in the shadow, as other climbers from around the world have marched their way into the Himalayas to make their mark and set new records. This all changes with 14 Peaks and the climber known as Nimsdai. 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible is an extraordinary, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring documentary experience about Nimsdai's remarkable achievement - climbing the 14 highest mountains in the world within 7 months. It's not about whether he could do this, it's all about the journey, as it always is, and how momentous this achievement is. Free Solo is a cinch compared to 14 Peaks.

TIFF 2021 Faves: 'Electrical Life of Louis Wain' + 'The Odd-Job Men'

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

"I feel electricity." Two more favorite films from the 2021 Toronto Film Festival that deserve extra attention. While this year's festival has already wrapped up, both of these have remained on my mind throughout the last few weeks. The Odd-Job Men is a Spanish indie dramedy film made by filmmaker Neus Ballús, set in Barcelona following three handymen working various jobs around town. It premiered at the Locarno Film Festival, and is also playing at the Busan, London, and Chicago Film Festivals this fall. I'm glad I took the time to catch up with it at TIFF, it's a worthwhile discovery. The other is The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, from filmmaker Will Sharpe, an unconventional biopic about painter Louis Wain. It premiered at the Telluride Film Festival, and is also playing at the Zurich, Vancouver, and Woodstock Film Festivals this fall. It mind end up being one of my Top 10 films of the year, as I can't stop thinking about how wonderful it is.

 Posted October 5 in Review, TIFF 21 | 1 Comment

Review: 'No Time to Die' is a Satisfying End to Daniel Craig's Bond Era

No Time To Die Review

It's the end of an era. After starring in 5 movies over the last 15 years, English actor Daniel Craig is done with James Bond. No Time To Die is Craig's final Bond outing, his swan song in many ways, as these 5 movies have connected with storylines playing out across each of them. And this final one wraps things up as best it can. Years ago when they rebooted with Casino Royale, Eon Productions decided to try making the new Bond movies with ongoing narratives. Almost every other movie before this era was just a standalone movie: Bond would go off on his important mission, take out the bad guy and save the day; everything would start fresh again with the next movie. Ever since Casino Royale in 2006, Bond has been dealing with the guilt and sadness of losing his great love, Vesper Lynd. And with this fifth movie, they've put themselves in a situation where they have to tie up all the loose ends and usher all these characters to a satisfying end point.

Best of the Fest - 6 Favorite Films from the 2021 Venice Film Festival

2021 Venice Film Festival

Each year, I am incredibly lucky and privileged to return to the spectacular city of Venice in Italy to attend the Venice Film Festival and catch the latest films premiering there. Venice is over and looking back at the line-up, it's time to present my quick picks of my favorite films from Venice 2021. This was my fifth year in a row back to Venice, I even stopped by last year during the pandemic, and I spent every single day at screenings all day. They always show two new films in the morning, along with lots of other screenings in the evening to catch. In total, I watched 28 films at Venice this year, and while it wasn't the best selection, I'm always glad to have the chance to watch them anyway. The fest kicked off with Pedro Almodóvar's latest, Parallel Mothers (watch the trailer), which I didn't care much for. Then continued on for another 10 days, and I was there right up until the end. You probably already know what I flipped for, but let's recap anyway.

New African Cinema: 'Neptune Frost' & 'Saloum' Rock the Festivals

Neptune Frost & Saloum

"Stories about heroes travel faster than bullets." There are two new films from Africa playing film festivals this year that just so happen to be two of the most creative, unique, and entertaining discoveries in cinema all year. We're lucky we get to experience these films this year. The first is Neptune Frost, which initially premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival in the Directors' Fortnight sidebar. I watched it in Cannes but didn't write about it on here yet, knowing I will be raving about it whenever it gets a release. The second is a film called Saloum, set in Senegal, and it just premiered at the 2021 Toronto Film Festival this month. Both of these honestly deserve the "instant cult classic" label. Not only is it always exciting to have unique cinema from Africa playing at major festivals like Cannes & Toronto, both films are awesome creations with fun stories that cleverly pull from African mythology and culture. I need to take a moment to highlight both.

TIFF 2021: 'One Second' is Easily One of Zhang Yimou's Best Films

One Second Review

After being delayed for almost two full years, Zhang Yimou's film One Second is finally appearing outside of China, premiering at both the Toronto Film Festival and San Sebastian Film Festival this fall. It opened first in China in November of 2020, and it was originally announced as part of the 2019 Berlin Film Festival line-up a few years aback. But a day before that festival started, it was strangely pulled from the line-up for mysterious reasons (nothing specific was ever confirmed other than "technical difficulties"). Regardless, the film is now finally finished and allowed out by the Chinese censors. I'm delighted to say that One Second is easily one of the best films Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou has ever made. An instant favorite. A near perfect love letter to cinema set during China's Cultural Revolution, the whole film is so loving and tender towards 35mm and the magic & joy of cinema. I wanted to rewind & rewatch it again as soon as it was over.

 Posted September 19 in Review, TIFF 21 | Comments

Venice 2021: Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' Delivers on the Impossible

Dune Review

Denis Villeneuve specializes in delivering on the seemingly impossible. Over the last 10 years, he's made his English-language debut with one of the best thrillers of the last decade (Prisoners), given us one of the most satisfying-yet-confounding final shots in recent memory (Enemy), redefined how stressful traffic jams are (Sicario), expertly baked our noodles by cutting his sci-fi teeth on adapting Ted Chiang's cerebral short story "Story of Your Life" (Arrival), and given us a delayed sequel to one of the most beloved sci-fi epics and, against all odds, made it the original's equal if not superior (Blade Runner 2049). And yet, adapting Frank Herbert's famously sprawling (some might say tortuously impenetrable) epic sci-fi novel "Dune" may be his most ambitious undertaking to date – especially when considering the space saga previously defeated Jodorowsky and made David Lynch a very unhappy camper back in 1984, denouncing it as "a total failure."

TIFF 2021: Emotional 'Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11' Documentary

Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11 Review

The horrific events of September 11th, 2001 were possibly my earliest memory of seeing news on television. I was very young, but I recall standing in front of our old, square-shaped television, the crackling sounds of which woke me up at night. Even after 20 years of pain, overwhelming grief, and gradual healing, I think of the people whose lives were cut short and who will never be able to say goodbye. Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11, directed by David Belton and Bjorn Johnson, is a documentary that provides a unique insight into the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center towers in New York City, struck the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and killed people on board Flight 93 flying over Pennsylvania. The film is a riveting and emotional testimony of people who survived, lost loved ones, and witnessed the event that changed America.

Venice 2021: Ridley Scott's 'The Last Duel' is a Stirring Medieval Epic

The Last Duel Review

"I will not be silent!" When I sat down to watch Ridley Scott's movie The Last Duel, I was not expecting a two and a half hour sprawling medieval epic with massive battles and intimate drama aplenty. For whatever careless reason, I was initially expecting a small scale drama about men fighting over a woman, culminating in an entertaining duel between two cocky bastards. While there certainly is an entertaining duel, this film is anything but small scale. The Last Duel is one of two new Ridley Scott-directed movies releasing in 2021, the other being House of Gucci, and it showed up at the 2021 Venice Film Festival as a world premiere at the very end of the fest as an out-of-competition screening. It's not really a festival film, but it still entertained everyone anyway. Especially with a runtime of 152 minutes, massive medieval action set pieces galore, and a knights-in-full-armor duel unlike any shown on screen before. Will there be divisive reactions? Most likely… Will there be plenty to debate and argue about? Definitely. But is it at least a good movie? Yes, it certainly is.

Venice 2021: David Gordon Green's Horror Sequel 'Halloween Kills'

Halloween Kills Review

It's back to Haddonfield we go, where Michael Myers is still not done trick-or-treating… At the end of the 2018 update of Halloween, we left with three generations of the Strode family (Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak) as they escaped a burning home with the boogeyman trapped inside, burning to a crisp. Presumably. However, all of Laurie Strode's prepper plans were in vain, as "The Shape" only got his mask singed and didn't meet his demise. Let's cut to the chase: 2021's Halloween Kills is an almighty mixed bag that's ultimately more filler than killer. Director / writer David Gordon Green and his co-writers Danny McBride and Scott Teems clearly have a healthy appreciation for John Carpenter's source material but they still can’t conjure up a satisfying second installment to their planned horror trilogy.

Venice 2021: French Thriller 'Full Time' is a Riveting Festival Discovery

Full Time Review

Our modern world is all about hustle, hustle, hustle. Work, work, work. Get out there, bust your ass, never take breaks. That's the only way most people can make money, keep their job, and live their lives in these times. There's no easy way out, especially when there's so many people willing to work and everyone wants a nice job. This French thriller titled À Plein Temps, which translates Full Time, is a story about one woman, a single mother with two young kids, trying to survive a week from hell. It is one of the best films I've seen at the 2021 Venice Film Festival, a riveting and exciting discovery that thrilled me completely. I'm always so glad to stumble across and enjoy films like this, a film that I knew absolutely nothing about until this festival, and haven't heard of before because this is the film's world premiere. But now that I've seen it, I'm happy to rave about it, and hopefully bring some extra attention to it because this film needs to be seen.

Venice 2021: Edgar Wright's London Horror Film 'Last Night in Soho'

Last Night in Soho Review

Nearly a year after it originally was due to be released, Edgar Wright's Last Night in Soho finally makes its bow playing in the Out of Competition section at the 2021 Venice Film Festival. Thomasin Mackenzie stars as Eloise, a budding modern-day fashion student who moves from Cornwall to London; there, she is quickly ostracized by her chic "gap yaaah" London College of Fashion peers who cruelly label her "code beige". Fleeing student housing and finding a bedsit rented to her by the kind-but-no-nonsense Miss Collins (the late Diana Rigg, to whom the film is dedicated), she is soon dreamily transported back to 60s Soho. During these lucid nocturnal trips, she meets what seems to be her suppressed id / alter-ego, Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a confident singer starting a relationship with smooth bequiffed operator Jack (Matt Smith), who promises to help her achieve cabaret stardom. But the barriers separating past and present soon begin to collapse and the glamorous feel of a time that Eloise idolises starts to open some much darker doors.

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