REVIEWS

Venice 2021: Kristen Stewart Soars as Princess Diana in 'Spencer'

Spencer Review

"I hope your friend's wild horse was never tamed." Bravo! Bravo! This is the kind of "F you" to the Royal Family that I absolutely love to see. Spencer is Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín's latest English-language feature, similar in many ways to his film Jackie about JFK's wife Jackie O. Kennedy in the minutes and days following his assassination. But this time the focus is on the beloved Princess Diana, formerly known as Diana Spencer before she was married. It takes place entirely at a sprawling manor during the Christmas holiday in 1991, just before she announces her divorce from Prince Charles and makes a plan to leave the Royals and get her life back. And her freedom back. And her dignity back. And her sanity back. She has been missing that since joining them and it's clearly suffocating. Literally, as they force her to wear tight-fitting dresses all the time and stuff herself with decadent Christmas food. And figuratively, as she comes to realize how oppressive and controlling the Royal Family is and how she just has no freedom to be herself anymore.

Venice 2021: Maggie Gyllenhaal's Superb Debut 'The Lost Daughter'

The Lost Daughter Review

Adapted from the Elena Ferrante novel of the same name, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal makes her feature directorial debut with this feature film The Lost Daughter, which first premiered at the 2021 Venice Film Festival playing in the main competition. And it's one of my favorite discoveries at the festival this year. The Lost Daughter is a staggeringly intelligent film that challenges the typical ideas of family and how wonderful children are by telling a story about bad mothers. Not just one of them, but a few of them, in fact. I honestly can't believe this is Maggie Gyllenhaal's directorial debut, it feels like the work of a director with five or six films under their belt already. Featuring astute, assured filmmaking – it's a refreshing cinematic creation because its a film that challenges viewers, with an exceptionally intellectual script dealing with layers upon layers of psychological concerns and questions about what it means to be a parent and how hard that job is.

Venice 2021: Villeneuve's 'Dune' is THE Blockbuster Event of the Year

Dune

DUNE! Shout it from the rooftops!! The time has finally arrived. After years of waiting, years of attempted adaptations, years of anticipation, Denis Villeneuve's contemporary version of Frank Hebert's seminal sci-fi classic Dune has finally landed. And it is glorious. It is everything I was hoping for and more. The Matrix sequels premiered at film festivals (Cannes 2003), Star Wars movies premiered at film festivals (Cannes 2002 / Cannes 2018), Lord of the Rings premiered at a film festivals (Cannes 2001), now it's Dune's turn. Dune unquestionably deserves to be at the Venice Film Festival, where the movie is world premiering before launching in theaters (and on HBO Max) this October. Film festivals are a part of cinema history, and Dune is about to make history once again. Denis Villeneuve's Dune is jaw-dropping incredible, a blow-you-away experience that truly captures the inter-planetary scale & splendor of the epic story of Atreides and Arrakis.

Venice 2021: Jane Campion's Dusty Western 'The Power of the Dog'

The Power of the Dog

Award-winning Kiwi filmmaker Jane Campion returns with her first feature film in 12 years after Bright Star in 2009. The Power of the Dog is Campion's latest, a rough 'n tumble dusty western set in Montana (filmed in Australia) about a cowboy and his simple life on his ranch. At its core, the film is an astounding study of toxic masculinity and the effect it has on everyone else, beyond just the tough men who have grown into this culture. Campion adapts the novel of the same name written by Thomas Savage, telling a story the works as both a riveting big screen tale of cowboys, and a complex examination of the damaging power of this brutal toxicity. The film premiered early on at the 2021 Venice Film Festival and is also playing at every other major film fest this fall: Telluride, Toronto, and New York (watch the trailer here). I loved it through and through, even though I'm admittedly not the biggest fan of westerns, yet this won me over completely.

Review: M. Night Shyamalan's Thriller 'Old' About a Peculiar Beach

Old Review

"A natural anomaly," the resort manager says at the beginning of the film. Yes, indeed it is. This is one of those lines from early on in the film that is a big wink at what's to come – not only about the film itself but with the strange beach they end up at. Old is the latest film from provocative, twisty filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, trying something new by adapting a French graphic novel called "Sandcastle" by Pierre-Oscar Lévy & Frederick Peeters. The story follows a family that visits a secluded tropical beach while on vacation, only to discover that not only are they trapped there, but everyone seems to be getting older extremely fast. It's an ambitious concept to turn into a film, not only to visualize correctly with regards to aging but to get the performances that make it all seem believable. Shyamlan does well, and the film is thrilling and chilling, but not the most impressive or satisfying creation. I enjoyed watching, but still wanted even more out of it.

 Posted July 23 in Review | 1 Comment

Cannes 2021 Finale: My 10 Favorite Films from the Summer Festival

Cannes 2021 Favorite Films

What are the best films out of this year's Cannes Film Festival? Which ones should you be taking an interest in? What films should be a priority for you to see? After 12 days at the 74th Cannes Film Festival, after 30 screenings, it's time to present my 2021 list of my Top 10 Favorite Films. This was my 11th year back to this festival, and I love being there in the middle of the buzz, seeing films all day every day non-stop. These ten listed below are the ones that connected with me emotionally or intellectually, and I hope you'll consider watching a few when they arrive in your neighborhood. They are worth the wait. Even after cancelling the fest last year due to the pandemic, there were many impressive films in Cannes this year. I'm glad I could be there and catch up with cinema again. This is my final recap of Cannes 2021 - don't miss any of these below.

 Posted July 21 in Cannes 21, Feat, Lists, Review | Comments

Cannes 2021: 'The Story of My Wife' is a Dull & Dour Waste of Time

The Story of My Wife

This is one story that isn't worth telling. The Story of My Wife (also known as A Feleségem Története in Hungarian) is the first English language film made by the acclaimed, award-winning Hungarian filmmaker Ildikó Enyedi. She's a wonderfully talented filmmaker and usually knows how to craft nuanced, powerfully moving stories about love and life, but not this time. I really wish this was better… I had high hopes for it. But it's such a let down. The Story of My Wife is a gorgeous-looking epic three hour romance about a sea captain and his French wife. Alas, the slow-burn rage of jealousy is drawn out over two hours and it drags on and on. And with a runtime just 10 minutes shy of three hours, it's a powerfully tedious affair, a story that goes on and on without ever becoming interesting or worthwhile. Right from the start I could tell these two lovers didn't have any chemistry, and it's almost painful to watch their romance flounder over 169 minutes.

 Posted July 17 in Cannes 21, Review | 1 Comment

Cannes 2021: How to Be Inspired By the Past Visiting 'Bergman Island'

Bergman Island Review

It's not easy to make a good film. It's also not easy to make a good film about the filmmaking process. But many filmmakers have tried, and a few do succeed. Nowadays, many filmmakers like to reminisce about the past and dream about making films as unforgettable as their cinema heroes - Scorsese, Welles, Fellini, Lean, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Varda, Buñuel, Bergman. But how do you go about letting yourself be inspired by these filmmakers in just the right way to make a film that is also as iconic and unforgettable as their films? That's one of the questions are the core of this film – Bergman Island, the latest feature written & directed by French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve. She takes us on a light and breezy stroll around the island of Fårö, located off the coast of Sweden to the south of Stockholm, better known as "Bergman Island" because he spent lots of time living there and even shot a few of his films there. What can a visit to this island teach us?

 Posted July 16 in Cannes 21, Review | Comments

Cannes 2021: Asghar Farhadi's 'A Hero' is a Gripping, Complex Tale

A Hero Review

Often the most engaging, thought-provoking stories in cinema are those with complex characters and moral provocations. They don't offer black and white interpretations, they make us question whether our prejudice is tainting our opinion on what's happening, and allow us to learn even more about the incessant complexity of humanity. Acclaimed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has returned to the 2021 Cannes Film Festival with his latest film, a drama called A Hero (originally Ghahreman in Persian) set in modern day Shiraz. This is his best film since A Separation, a return to form for Asghar Farhadi telling incredibly taut, thrilling stories about morality tales and characters trying their best in a world that won't let them succeed. I loved it and was caught up in it and was so shaken by the film that it messed up my emotions for the rest of the day.

 Posted July 14 in Cannes 21, Review | 2 Comments

Cannes 2021: The Indescribable 'Titane' Shocks & Rocks the Cinema

Titane Review

THIS is the film every critic was waiting to finally see at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. Something so bold and audacious and original and incredible and energetic that we all erupt into applause as soon as it's over. Titane is the second feature film made by French filmmaker Julia Ducournau, who made her debut with the horror hit Raw back in 2016. She returns to the Cannes Film Festival again to premiere her latest film, Titane, and it fucking rules. Absolute metal. File this one under "you have never seen anything like this" - wickedly original, jaw-drop cinema. Not at all what you're expecting, not what anyone is expecting. Which is the best kind of film to enjoy at a festival. Titane is an extremely brutal, audacious, vivacious take on bad fathers. Which is the simplest description that does not come close to properly capturing everything in this.

 Posted July 14 in Cannes 21, Review | 6 Comments

Cannes 2021: Joachim Trier's Superb 'The Worst Person in the World'

The Worst Person in the World Review

One of the best films at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival is a Norwegian romantic drama about a young woman on the verge of turning 30. It's a refreshingly intellectual and mesmerizing look at romance and love in our modern world, and all the remarkably empowering and frustrating challenges that come with it. The film is titled (in English) The Worst Person in the World, and the original Norwegian title is Verdens Verste Menneske, though the French title is Julie (en 12 Chapitres) or simply Julie (in 12 Chapters) - which is somewhat better than the English version. But none of these titles really do it justice, nor do they really fit with this film overall, nor capture how beautiful and excruciating and understanding and exhilarating it really is. But aside from that, there's so much to adore about this film and the depths of romance it explores, diving in so deep it may just make you question your own choices and who you're with in life with right now.

 Posted July 12 in Cannes 21, Review | 1 Comment

Cannes 2021: 'The Summit of the Gods' is Breathtaking Perfection

The Summit of the Gods Review

Oh my goodness, this is an instant personal favorite. No exaggeration, this goes on my "all-timer" list right away. I want to watch it again right now. I want the posters, I want frames of the film on my wall, I want to listen to the score non-stop, I want to buy copies of the graphic novel it's based on. It has everything I love, everything that amazes me about this world: photography, mountains, Nepal, the Himalayas, Japan, Tokyo, the starry night sky. The Summit of the Gods (also known as Le Sommet des Dieux) is a French animated film made by animation filmmaker Patrick Imbert, based on the Japanese manga also titled The Summit of the Gods written by Jiro Taniguchi. It tells a riveting story about a Japanese adventure photographer and mountain climber who becomes obsessed with searching for a long lost Japanese mountain climber hiding out in the Himalayas who may have found a camera from an early Everest expedition. An engrossing story.

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