REVIEWS

Fantasia 2020: Natasha Kermani's 'Lucky' is a Dark, Chilling Thriller

Lucky Review

Screened as a selection of the virtual 2020 Fantasia Film Festival. It seems as if one of the common themes in many films this year is stalking. Back in February, we got to see Elisabeth Moss fighting the "Invisible Man". This heinous act, appearing more and more in TV & film, relates to many people on a personal level, especially women. We can see similar themes (and more) in Lucky, the spine-chilling thriller directed by Natasha Kermani (her third film following Shattered, Imitation Girl) and written by actress / filmmaker Brea Grant (director of this year's 12 Hours Shift), who also stars as May, the main character of the film. What makes Lucky unusual is its post-reflection consideration that lingers long after finishing the thriller.

Fantasia 2020: 'Unearth' is a Chilling Eco-Horror Film About Farmers

Unearth Review

Screened as a selection of the virtual 2020 Fantasia Film Festival. When nature is one of the key elements of a film, it usually touches on humanity's relentless power of destruction. This theme is a major part of the newest eco-horror feature, Unearth, co-directed by John C. Lyons (Schism, There Are No Goodbyes) and Dorota Swies (Schism), from a script written by Lyons and Kelsey Goldberg. This self-described "fracking horror story" captivates audiences with its intense storytelling and, most importantly, the lessons hidden within. Next to phenomenal directing, its cast, especially Allison McAtee, deliver gratifying performances.

TIFF 2020: Francis Lee's Lovely Seaside Romance Film 'Ammonite'

Ammonite Review

"I don’t want to go back to the life I had before you…" Love is a powerful force. And love can be a beautiful thing, especially when it connects two people who don't have any interest in love. But true love is also rare, and honestly hard to find. As hard to find as a complete, unbroken fossil hidden inside a rock, just waiting patiently for millions of years to be discovered. That is the primary metaphor in this film, and it's a lovely metaphor. Ammonite is the second feature from British filmmaker Francis Lee, following his breakout debut God's Own Country a few years ago. It was selected for the Cannes Film Festival this year, but instead is premiering at the Toronto & London Film Festivals this fall (following Cannes' cancellation). I was lucky to catch the film, as Lee only wants to show it in a cinema. Rightfully so - it's worth to wait to see it properly.

 Posted September 24 in Review, TIFF 20 | Comments

TIFF 2020: 'Shadow in the Cloud' Creature Feature on a B-17 Bomber

Shadow in the Cloud Review

One of my favorite things about film festivals is discovering exceptional filmmakers by stumbling upon their break-out features. This film is one of the best discoveries of the 2020 Toronto Film Festival, playing in the prestigious Midnight Madness category. Shadow in the Cloud has a crazy, wickedly impossible concept - follow a woman who gets on a rickety B-17 Bomber, known as the "Flying Fortress" in WWII, as she escorts a special classified package that must not be opened. The whole film takes place on this B-17, nicknamed the "Fool's Errand" (yeah) by the crew. This means they could film it on a very small set but also somehow have to make the entire thing believable and authentic. To top it off, once she gets on the flight (and is relegated to the ball turret), she spots some gnarly gremlin crawling around and ripping apart the plane. This creature feature element of the film is a distinct nod to "The Twilight Zone" gremlin, yet isn't even the main conflict.

TIFF 2020: 'Another Round' is One of Thomas Vinterberg's Best Films

Another Round Review

"The world is never as you expect." That's the truth, even when we don't want it to be. Originally selected as a 2020 Cannes Film Festival premiere (before that fest was cancelled this year), Thomas Vinterberg's latest film is instead premiering at the 2020 Toronto Film Festival this fall. Another Round brings Vinterberg back home to Denmark and reteams him with exceptionally talented Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen to tell a story about drinking alcohol. Druk is the film's original Danish title, essentially translating to "drunk" or the act of binge drinking. Which is exactly what the four main characters in the film do, along with all of the students they're teaching. "Everyone in this country has a drinking problem," one character says in the film, which is true about Denmark and about pretty much every other country in the world, if we're to be honest. It is what it is, and we can't really stop it (prohibition didn't work, remember?). But can drinking be good?

 Posted September 18 in Review, TIFF 20 | Comments

Venice 2020: Chloe Zhao's Soulful, Gorgeous 'Nomadland' Journey

Nomadland Review

Home is where the heart is. And as they say in this film: a house is not the same as a home. Being house-less is not the same as being homeless. That's a lesson we can all learn. Nomadland is the third feature film made by acclaimed filmmaker Chloe Zhao, following her massive success with the indie film The Rider in 2017/2018. This time she follows a lonely drifter named Fern as she travels around various places in the United States of America in a van she calls home. She lives and sleeps in the van, and finds cheap places to park and stay in order to live off-grid, inexpensively, and without any other baggage to carry around. But it's not an easy life, and Fern still must find some work to pay for food and other expenses. Nomadland is the most soulful film of the year. It's utterly gorgeous, a poetic journey into the van-life of modern nomads.

Venice 2020: Gia Coppola's 'Mainstream' Gets Right Up in Your Face

Mainstream

The internet is a fame machine. It can turn nobodies into world famous celebrities in the blink of an eye. We all know how it works, of course, but is internet fame really a good thing anymore? Probably Definitely not. But everyone is still addicted to fame and fortune and money, even if it's just to watch someone else become famous. Especially the younger generations, so many teens need that attention and adoration to feel good about themselves. First Ingrid Goes West, then Spree, and now Mainstream - a subgenre is forming about how toxic and horrible social media is and how we're all a part of it. Mainstream is director Gia Coppola's second feature film (following Palo Alto) and it's a loud, wild, crazy film that does not shy away in literally straight up telling the viewers that they we are all involved in this delusion even if we don't want to admit it.

Venice 2020: Two Bozos & One Giant Fly in Dupieux's 'Mandibules'

Mandibules Review

What do two idiots, one giant fly, and Adèle Exarchopoulos have in common? Absolutely nothing! Except for a desire to eat good food and enjoy themselves in the summer sun. Mandibules is the latest creation from wacky French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux (of Rubber, Wrong, Reality, Deerskin) and it's an amusing, lighthearted, unquestionably enjoyable film about uh, two idiots, one giant fly, and Adèle Exarchopoulos. It's super weird, super French, buddy comedy ridiculousness. But that's the magic of Quentin Dupieux - he makes entirely original and entirely entertaining films. And this one clocks in at only 77 minutes, which is both just long enough, and also not long enough. You'll see what I mean once you watch it, because just as it's getting real good, it's over. Then again, better to not ruin it when everything else is pretty much perfect.

Venice 2020: 'Pieces of a Woman' Will Break You Then Rebuild You

Pieces of a Woman Review

Life is not only happiness and love and wonderful moments, as much we all wish it were. With all the good in life, there is also the bad, and every last one of us struggles greatly with the weight of emotions during these tough times when they find us. Each one of us responds and reacts differently, and it's not always easy to pull yourself back together after a tragedy. Pieces of a Woman is a film by Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó, and writer Kata Wéber, and to be blunt: it's a film about grief. Not just grief itself, but about all five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. It is an exceptionally emotional film, realistic in its depiction of people dealing with grief, and also vividly cinematic. It's the kind of film what will break you and then, through an honest depictions of good people, rebuild you by the end.

Review: 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' is a Captivating, Metaphysical Tale

I'm Thinking of Ending Things Review

When I was in school growing up we studied a painting that particularly captured my heart and my mind. Its title, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, is a perfect description of the events portrayed in the painting. The French Post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin created this masterpiece in Tahiti, painting characters that are meditating on the questions about human existence listed in the title. We ought to study the painting from right to left, starting with a sleeping child's figure and ending with an old woman near her death. These same existential questions immediately came to mind while watching I'm Thinking of Ending Things, the latest feature film both written and directed by Charlie Kaufman (director of Synecdoche New York, Anomalisa). Based on the debut novel by Iain Reed, this metaphysical thriller-drama touches on captivating ideas such as dreading existence and merciless aging of human being.

 Posted September 4 in Review | Comments

Venice 2020: 'I Am Greta' is an Emotional, Inspiring Portrait of a Hero

I Am Greta Doc Review

"I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet, you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!" Yes - preach! We all know who she is, we've all seen her speeches. Greta Thunberg is an inspirational hero, a passionate activist and defender of this beautiful planet we all live on. I Am Greta is a new documentary profile of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, marking the feature directorial debut of filmmaker Nathan Grossman. It's an emotional, intimate, gratifying doc film following closely her rise to power the last few years. A stirring story of hope - hope in younger generations. The film doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the table, Greta has already been doing her best to make everyone aware of what's going on with our planet, but it is still a deeply satisfying watch. It really moved me to tears.

Venice 2020: Bleak Greek Drama 'Apples' is Melancholic Yet Tender

Apples

There's nothing like watch a good film that leaves you with that warm embrace of cinema. Apples was my first screening of the 2020 Venice Film Festival, an interesting experience considering we're all wearing masks and sitting at least 1 meter (or ~3.3 feet) away from everyone else in the theater. But I'm happy to report it's an absolute delight. Apples is the feature directorial debut of a Greek filmmaker named Christos Nikou, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Stavros Raptis. Nikou is a bit of protégé of famed Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos; he worked as the second assistant director on Dogtooth years ago. Now he's ready to make his mark as a filmmaker in his own and his feature debut is worthy of our admiration. It's a very tender, understanding film that reminds us to live in our own way, no matter how hard that might be.

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