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Entertainer

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I love entertainment...

Sex: Female
Language: English
Relationship Status: In a Relationship
Interested In: Men and Women

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Location: Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

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      • 5/5 (2 votes)
      • Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim
        5/5 (2 votes)
        Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim

        Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. Let me say that again because it’s little a hard to believe. Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. The first time I saw the promo of this film, I said to myself it’s going to be...

      • 5/5 (1 votes)
      • Interstellar
        5/5 (1 votes)
        Interstellar

        Christopher
        Nolan’s "Interstellar," about astronauts traveling to the other end of the galaxy to find a new home to
        replace humanity’s despoiled home-world, is frantically busy and earsplittingly
        loud. It uses booming music to jack...

      • San Andreas
        5/5 (1 votes)
        San Andreas

        In a match between a supremely catastrophic California
        earthquake and the former wrestling star turned movie action hero Dwayne
        Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock, aptly enough here I guess, although he’s not thusly
        credited), who are you going to bet...

      • Thumb motherlessbrooklyn hero use aug23

        Edward Norton bought the rights to Jonathan Lethem’s “Motherless Brooklyn” when it was first published in 1999. It was a good time for the young actor: he was riding high on an Oscar nomination for American History X,” was about to co-star in Fight Club,” and would soon direct his first feature “Keeping the Faith.” “Motherless Brooklyn” eventually fell into development hell, stymied by production delays and script changes and busy schedules. Meanwhile, Norton weathered his own career highs and lows throughout the 2000s, including a brief, doomed stint with the MCU in its early years, evolving into a reliable supporting player this past decade. But he never abandoned “Motherless Brooklyn,” or his unique take on the novel. Now, after twenty years, it has finally arrived, and sadly, it’s a dud.

        “Motherless Brooklyn” retains a few essential elements from the novel: the protagonist, private investigator Lionel Essrog (Norton); the character’s Tourette Syndrome; and the novel’s first chapter, featuring a stakeout gone wrong that ends with the death of his mentor Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). He jettisons almost everything else from the source material, most notably the time period, which he shifts from the ’90s to the ’50s, and the plot, which features a Robert Moses-esque figure, Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin), whose urban development projects threatens to displace black families from their Brooklyn neighborhoods. In the film, Essrog works together with activist Laura Rose (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) to discover the link between Minna’s murder and Randolph’s new real estate project.   

        Lethem reportedly signed off on Norton’s version of his work, which stems from the director’s concerns that characters inspired by post-war gumshoes would read as ironic if they were traipsing around ’90s New York. Yet, the characters’ period-appropriate language and demeanor doesn’t suddenly negate the film’s many conceptual flaws. Its Chinatown”-meets-“The Power Broker” narrative sprawls too far in every direction for it to properly communicate Norton’s considerable interest in mid-’50s New York as ground zero for institutional racism and corruption. The insights are obvious and the surprises never accumulate any emotional weight. Even if the plot was focused or compelling enough to retain audience interest across its bloated runtime, the film’s large ensemble cast can’t seem to evince believability as hardboiled archetypes. Most everyone, save for possibly Mbatha-Raw and Michael K. Williams, comes across like they’re playing dress-up. And the less said about Norton’s strained attempts to connect his “Motherless Brooklyn” to our political climate the better. If it weren’t simply relegated to allusions in the plot, it might have been fine, but Baldwin’s performance is specifically designed to recall Trump in cringeworthy ways. He even recites key phrases uttered by our President, e.g. “I moved on her…”

        Maybe if Norton had been faithful to Lethem’s book, “Motherless Brooklyn” would have been more successful, but even a straightforward rendering would have to reckon with translating Essrog’s neurological disorder to the screen. In the novel, Lethem uses Essrog’s Tourette’s primarily as a linguistic device, to illustrate how the character mentally plays with language as a deduction tool. Naturally, that goes by the wayside in a filmic version, leaving an actor of Norton’s caliber to properly bring it to life. Unfortunately, Norton never quite organically integrates his character’s Tourette’s into the overall performance, i.e. he primarily breaks up his otherwise standard noir leading man theatrics with Rain Man”-like outbursts. The fact that you can mentally bifurcate his performance into two modes indicates that it’s not convincing in the sum of its parts. That’s putting aside the problematic minefield of an able-minded actor playing this character at all.

        There are a few winning moments in “Motherless Brooklyn”—a dance scene between Norton and Mbatha-Raw features genuinely tender chemistry, and Norton imbues the opening sequence with some necessary tension—and yet the film feels both rudderless and hollow from the jump. It’s a shame that such an arduous journey from page to screen produced such an inconsequential creation.

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        In Kazik Radwanski’s “Anne at 13,000 ft,” Anne (Deragh Campbell) works at a Toronto daycare with her soon-to-be-married friend Sarah (Dorothea Paas). Though Anne connects with the kids in her care, her cheerful disposition barely masks her turbulent mental state, which comes in the forms of anxiety and depression. She bickers with her fellow teachers, who pick on her for not following the district rules, and struggles with social faux pas involving her boyfriend Matt (Matt Johnson), whom she introduces to her parents too fast. Sometimes her recklessness affects her work, but it primarily weighs down her aimless personal life. Anne’s life on the ground can’t compete with the high of skydiving, which she has been chasing ever since she first jumped out of a plane at Sarah’s bachelorette party. 

        The skydiving-as-emotional-serenity metaphor might be a tad hoary, especially in moments like when Anne stands on the daycare center roof to recapture the feeling of being in the air. Nevertheless, Campbell’s spiky-cum-vulnerable performance combined with Radwanski’s intimate direction creates a portrait of a woman in crisis that manifests itself in low-boil unease. Radwanski takes a playful approach to his subject’s emotional volatility by placing her in a high-stress work environment; Anne might not always be up to the responsibilities of dealing with children, especially when she’s hungover or depressed, but the workplace isn’t exactly supportive or healthy either. Her bristly demeanor bounces off her environments until it creates a feedback loop of instability, neatly captured by Radwanski’s handheld style, which moves into uncomfortable close-ups and generates tension even in gentle spaces. It’s only the scenes of Anne prepping for her next skydiving run, waiting to feel the adrenaline rush of falling from a great height, that feature a woman at peace.

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        Federico Veiroj’s “The Moneychanger” chronicles the tragicomic rise-and-relative-fall of Humberto Baruse (Daniel Handler), a schmuck whose lack of conscience and economic savvy helped him launder money for unsavory clients through the neutral Uruguay for over two decades. We watch as Baruse’s inability to decline illegal transactions both provide him with material gain and degrade large parts of his soul. His reckless personal nature alienates him from his comically domineering wife Gudrun (Dolores Fonzi), destroys his health, ruins his business, and threatens his safety. Yet, Baruse’s blank savant-like expression endears him to many and masks his cunning. His general haplessness affords him sympathy but his low-key ruthlessness and indifference to collateral damage puts him in line with the gangsters who patrol his office.

        Like other films of its ilk, “The Moneychanger” explains in no uncertain terms why financial malfeasance has been part of society since the beginning (the film opens with Jesus throwing moneychangers, people like Baruse, out of the temple) and how those in power write the rules so that corruption can be accepted without complaint. Handler’s comic performance and Veiroj’s matter-of-fact style do a good job of setting the film apart from its peers. Moral handholding has been replaced by casual, unfettered irony, with Handler’s shifting eyebrows and pained visage acting as a guide through an ethically compromised world. Like Scorsese’s gangsters, Baruse looks to the church, particularly the choir, to wash away his sins while monologuing self-aware diatribes about how he’s the root of evil. Hypocrisy abounds, so when his wife ball-busts him and controls his coffee intake along a multi-mile radius, his plight might be a source of comedy but hardly pity. He’s earned his fair share of suffering.

        It’s all fairly straightforward, but credit to Veiroj for emphasizing the general unsexiness of such behavior, emphasized by the film’s earth-heavy tones befitting the period aesthetic. Everyone might be wearing fancy suits, but cash will be stuffed into them like a duffel bag. Baruse might be hobnobbing with the powerful, but he still has to return home to a resentful family. When the inevitable heart attack arrives, it levels Baruse to the land of the mortals. Except that Veiroj emphasizes that he’s been there the whole time, even if he doesn’t realize it.

         




        Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/festivals-and-awards/tiff-2019-motherless-brooklyn-anne-at-13000-feet-the-moneychanger
        By: Vikram Murthi
        Posted: September 14, 2019, 2:27 pm

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        Manele Labidi’s debut feature “Arab Blues,” a comedy with little bite and less imagination, coasts on the offhanded charm and sincerity of its star Golshifteh Farahani. Farahani plays Selma, a Parisian psychotherapist who returns to her hometown of Tunis to open up a practice on the roof of her extended family’s apartment building. Her anchoring presence, one informed by a believable sense of existential isolation, goes a long way to grounding what’s otherwise a too-cute, well-tread examination of clashing cultures that goes for the easiest joke at every opportunity.

        Naturally, the Tunisian community, conditioned to bottle up their issues rather than coping with them, responds with skepticism to Selma’s practice, but as anyone can surely guess, the people take to talk therapy like a horse to water. Soon, Selma helps out everyone in town: a depressed imam, a salon owner with mother issues, a paranoid ex-con, and a man struggling with feelings of gender dysphoria, the latter of which evolves into bad, possibly transphobic schtick. She later addresses the deep dysfunction within her own extended family—an alcoholic uncle, a dissatisfied aunt, a rebellious cousin, all of whom can’t understand why she left a cosmopolitan city to return to the barren desert. Meanwhile, a handsome cop (Majd Mastoura) alternatively flirts with Selma and threatens to shut down her practice if she doesn’t file the proper bureaucratic paperwork.

        The therapy material leans too heavily on obvious, saccharine insights, and the cultural humor, most of which trades in gentle stereotyping and predictable archetypes, feels tailor-made for what’s left of the stagnant arthouse crowd. But Farahani does a lot by playing the straight woman in an ensemble directed to play to the cheap seats. Her character’s inevitable, subtext-explaining monologue aside, Farahani invests Selma with a determination that comes from a lifetime of being professionally and personally unfulfilled, not to mention living down a complicated family history. She wants to help her people, even if she has to drag them, along with culture and the government, kicking and screaming into her office. Props to her: it’s genuinely difficult to render that motivation credible while surrounded by cartoons.

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        "White Lie,” about a student who struggles to keep her fake cancer diagnosis a secret, mostly succeeds because it abstains from reducing its protagonist to a simple psychology. Written and directed by Calvin Thomas and Yonah Lewis, the film doesn’t tip its hand about why exactly Katie (Kacey Rohl) wants to defraud the Ontario public, or better still, why she wouldn’t give up after so many close calls. She has a Kickstarter campaign, but she can neither access nor be seen enriching herself with those funds in the short term. Plus, any cash donations she receives from concerned peers goes to maintaining the ruse. (Apparently, it costs time and money to procure illegal medications, forge medical records, and buy people’s silence.) Katie doesn’t have a goal for the money aside from a vague plan about going to Seattle, something that could be achieved without going to such emotionally manipulative lengths. She doesn’t even relish the attention, mostly keeping to herself and meekly accepting gratitude. It’s as if she’s doing it because she’s convinced herself it’s real and it’s working and she can’t stop now.

        Thomas and Lewis include some implied social commentary in “White Lie” about the ways in which people’s curatorial, brand-conscious impulses on social media can be used to perpetrate illusions small and large. There’s a sliding scale between selectively posting photos on Instagram to convey the image of a good vacation and using those same tools to create a benefit for a person with a fake disease. But “White Lie” is least interesting when it leans into that angle, which happens mostly towards the very end. It works much better as a psychological thriller with the character portraiture filtered through backdoor dealing and the danger of being discovered. Thomas and Lewis mine great tension from watching Rohl improvise her way through doctor’s offices, administrative meetings, and interpersonal relationships, all with the hammer waiting to fall just out of sight. She’s a sociopathic-grade liar with the organizational skills of an overworked undergrad.

        Rohl necessarily carries the film on her shoulders, convincing everyone along with the audience of her plight through crocodile tears and pleas to rationality. It’s interesting to watch her survey a situation and adjust facial expressions and tone of voice accordingly. She has the visage of a frightened kid staring down the barrel of a fatal disease but the emotional framework of a practiced abuser. The only person she can’t fool is her father (Martin Donovan, a welcome cameo), who very quickly susses out her daughter’s scam because she pulled the same con before, albeit on a much smaller scale. It’s very interesting indeed to watch how Rohl plays the uncomfortable moments with her dad in person and on the phone. The mask slips occasionally, and you see the real Katie, even if it’s only for a few seconds. Like many other scammers of this particular era, she’s pretty much what you expect, which isn’t all that impressive.

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        I had not seen any of Angela Schanelec’s work prior to viewing her tenth feature “I Was at Home, But…” A friend told me two things about her: 1) she’s considered one of the more austere stylists to emerge from the Berlin School of filmmaking, which has produced breakthroughs like Christian Petzold and Maren Ade, and 2) her films feature cryptic plots that eschew traditional narrative signifiers. The programmer who introduced “I Was at Home, But…” describe it as a “puzzle film,” and Schanelec cautioned the audience not to worry about connecting all the dots. The goal, she says, was to think intuitively.

        About halfway through the film, a few threads emerge from the thicket of Bresson-inspired imagery: Astrid (Maren Eggert) struggles with the pains of daily life as she grieves her late husband and adjusts to the sudden reappearance of Phillip (Jakob Lasalle), her 13-year-old son; multiple scenes featuring an oft-stilted classroom production of “Hamlet” starring young schoolchildren, including Phillip, which functions as an allusive chorus of sorts; and lastly, a minor subplot involving one of Phillip’s teachers (Franz Rogowski) who tries to save a doomed relationship. Schanelec doesn’t impose a linear narrative, so events occur out of order and only crystallize when settings, characters, and stray lines of dialogue recur. There are also scenes of nature that serve as bookends: a dog chases a rabbit; a donkey surveys his territory while the dog eats his prey; the dog sleeps next to the donkey.

        It’s either a fool’s errand or beyond my grasp to definitively state how these threads correspond with each other or what they’re supposed to signify. Schanelec relegates meaning to lateral echoes of comparable situations or trauma—absent fathers, errant alienation, strained relationships. I suspect piercing together a coherent narrative is entirely beside the point; it’s not a puzzle, but rather an inkblot. Obviously, this modus operandi isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. A friend who also attended the screening admitted to not getting the film and expressed frustration with Schanelec’s pre-show advice. The next day, I overheard a person venting about how much he loathed it to his colleague.

        I mostly appreciated “I Was at Home, But…” for its many formal pleasures. Schanelec’s patient approach to shot duration charges individual scenes, providing them with unexpected depth through the nature of studied observation. She interrogates Bressonian modes of acting through the film’s various performances, culminating in a lengthy monologue on the subject that’s a defense of the theory delivered in an ideologically oppositional manner. (For more on that particular scene, Schanelec’s relationship with Bresson, and more, I invite you to read Vadim Rizov’s thorough write-up of the film at Filmmaker Magazine.) The film’s syntactical structure frequently excites because the aesthetic framework engages the eye and it allows for surprising ruptures to occur. These include scenes of outright comedy, including an amusing runner involving a bicycle sale, and a sudden flashback to Astrid and her two children dancing in front of a mirror, set to M. Ward’s acoustic cover of “Let’s Dance.” Even if the destination isn’t always, the journey, however challenging, can still be edifying.





        Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/festivals-and-awards/tiff-2019-arab-blues-white-lie-i-was-at-home-but
        By: Vikram Murthi
        Posted: September 14, 2019, 2:31 pm

        • Entertainer
          Entertainer published a blog post Depraved

          Thumb depraved movie review 2019

          American indie horror king Larry Fessenden (“The Last Winter,” “Wendigo”) is just as much a pulp fiction aficionado as he is a neo-gothic romantic: his doomed heroes and sorrowful monsters are all messy, small people whose apparent sense of compassion is often dwarfed by their titanic egos and their general cosmic insignificance. Fessenden’s low-budget film horror movies are not the most cuddly (or polished), but his body of work as a writer and director (and producer and editor) is consistent in its investment in human-scaled people. Fessenden’s prickly sense of humanism makes a considerable difference in “Depraved,” his engrossing take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and maybe his best movie to date.

          Set mostly in a decrepit factory by Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, “Depraved” follows three troubled men and a constellation of tragic supporting characters, some of whom are women. There’s Adam (Alex Breaux), a cadaverous amnesiac with prominent scars on his gaunt face and semi-clothed body; and Henry (David Call), an egotistical, PTSD-afflicted ex-army medic and current research scientist; and Polidori (Joshua Leonard), Henry’s boastful, cynical patron, and a wannabe pharmaceutical mogul. There’s also Liz (Ana Kayne), Henry’s concerned girlfriend; and Georgina (Maria Dizzia), Polidori’s aloof wife; and Lucy (Chloe Levine), the kind girl that Adam can’t stop thinking about, mostly because Adam’s not really Adam.

          In a former life, Adam used to be beanie-clad hipster Alex (Owen Campbell), before Henry gave him an absurd new name, a battery of radical antibiotics, and an unreliable sort of companionship. Alex was callow, but not unsympathetic: in an introductory scene, he pushes Lucy away when she semi-casually mentions that he would make a good father. Alex is a mess—anxious, untrusting, young—but also real enough. Adam is somewhat similar, a child looking for guidance and love. His innocence draws people to him like a magnet, partly because everybody in “Depraved” is living on borrowed time, but doesn’t want to admit it, as Fessenden often reminds us through blunt, but effectively pulpy dialogue, and lo-fi psychedelic imagery (the movie’s trippy visual/optical effects are credited to cinematographer James Siewert).

          One of the most charming aspects of “Depraved” is the way that Fessenden is able to synthesize his pet themes into a lo-fi psychedelic multi-character study. But you don’t have to be familiar with his work to appreciate the idiosyncrasies that make “Depraved” such a stirring horror movie, though it certainly doesn’t hurt (check out “Skin and Bones,” his 2008 entry in the short-lived TV anthology series “Fear Itself”). Everything you need to “get” this movie is in the movie, so while Fessenden’s generally soft-spoken characters sometimes declaim their intentions, that’s only because they are young and careless (ex: “Most of America is on drugs” and “Henry, you brought the war home with you ...”). Fessenden also tends to rely on horror archetypes—the nouveau riche villain, his Byronic surrogate sons, and their worried muses—but only because he likes all of them too much to completely deconstruct or dismiss them. Fessenden’s also probably more of a hippy and/or fatalist than many viewers will be comfortable with, especially given his bleak view of humanity as a daisy chain of small-minded, unhappy creatures who’d rather preserve their lives than embrace their mortality. His characters are, in this way, doomed to inhabit roles that were prescribed to them as soon as Fessenden decided what type of horror story “Depraved” is.

          But what’s most remarkable about “Depraved” is the way that Fessenden makes you care about his characters, even when you know that they’re either too kind or too greedy to live. Polidori is the hardest character to warm up to: he wants to be a father figure to Adam because Henry is too proud to accept his benefactor’s cruel, over-simplified view of humanity. Polidori also tends to speechify about humanity’s fleeting genius, like when he gives Adam a guided tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and airily dismisses the whole institution as a “mausoleum to the aspirations of man.”

          It’s also hard to accept the peripheral roles that women like Liz play in Adam’s story, though Fessenden is characteristically sensitive enough to give his actresses enough space to inhabit their respective roles. I’m especially taken with the scene where Adam tries to bond with Shelley (Addison Timlin), a warm, but wary local barfly who thinks Adam looks like Iggy Pop. This scene’s inevitable conclusion annoyed and saddened me the first time I saw “Depraved,” but made more sense the second time around; this scene captures the pulse of the movie’s bleeding heart. “Depraved” may not take you anywhere that you haven’t been before, but it might leave you with a renewed appreciation for Shelley’s mythic story.




          Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/depraved-movie-review-2019
          By: Simon Abrams
          Posted: September 13, 2019, 1:18 pm

          • Entertainer
            Entertainer published a blog post Monos

            Thumb monos movie review 2019

            On a lonely mountaintop above the clouds, somewhere in Latin America, a group of teenage commandos—part of an amorphous army called "The Organization"—live in a feral state, awaiting orders from their superior, a frightening figure who shows up at random from the landscape far below, to put them through physical and emotional drills, drop off supplies, harangue them. The teenagers' squadron name is "Monos" (monkey), and all go by noms de guerre—Wolf, Lady, Boom Boom, Dog, Rambo. They are given charge of a milk cow and a prisoner (an American engineer referred to only as "Doctora"). Neither cow nor prisoner can be harmed. Why "Doctora" has been kidnapped isn't made clear, and it doesn't matter to the kids, anyway. Connected to the outside world only via radio (if it works), whatever war they're fighting in is very far away and very abstract. This is the set-up of "Monos," Alejandro Landes’ third feature, a fascinating and sometimes frustrating film. These kids—maybe orphans or street kids, maybe kidnapped or pressed into service—and then brutalized by military discipline and indoctrination—are left totally alone, no adults in sight, to create their own world. If you've read Lord of the Flies, you know a society created by kids left up to their own devices is rarely good or healthy or wise.

            Landes, who also wrote the script, does not put "Monos" in a specific locale. This is not the story of a specific war, or a specific country (although Colombia feels like the most natural choice). By leaving out details like this, by having the characters speak in a shorthand with one another, with absolutely no expository text, the audience is thrust into the thick of the confusion on that mountain, the kids cavorting around bonfires, shooting their weapons into the air, rolling around in the mud, teasing and tormenting their prisoner "Doctora" (Julianne Nicholson). This is the story of what happens to kids in war, what happens to the mind under a kind of brainwashing, especially a susceptible teenage mind. If "mercy" is seen as weak, if the group decides "mercy" is bad, it's very difficult to go against that grain, to maintain your sense of humanity. This is how "peer pressure" works in its most sinister state. If it's hard for adults to stay their own course, then imagine how hard it is for teenagers. One of the kids, named "Rambo" (Sofia Buenaventura), has somehow kept a spark alive, a spark of softness and care for others. Her sense of empathy makes you wonder if her nom de guerre was a mean-spirited tease imposed on her by the squadron.

            Except for Rambo and the wild-eyed Bigfoot (Moises Arias), the guerrilla soldier kids don't emerge as individuals, which I imagine is the point. Individuality is crushed in this environment. "Doctora," forced to participate in their games, forced to make "proof of life" videos where she holds up a daily newspaper, huddles in her "room" in a huge abandoned bunker, and at first Nicholson gives off an air of such frayed-nerve trauma she's like an automaton. But as "Monos" progresses, "Doctora"—malnourished and in shock—takes on a firmer shape. She's trying to survive a completely mad situation. The kids are frighteningly unpredictable. None of them speak English and her Spanish is halting, at best. Their "playing" is always rough-housing. They eat mushrooms and go on a group psychedelic trip. Every moment is a hazing opportunity, only it's hazing done by children waving around gigantic automatic weapons. Eventually, the order comes that "Doctora" needs to be moved off the mountain and down into the jungle. It's hard to tell how the war is going. To the kids of "Monos," the war is wherever they stand.

            None of this is all that profound, and has been examined in countless films with more depth and complexity than "Monos" achieves. But "Monos" is elevated into epic territory by the superb work of cinematographer Jasper Wolf, whose feel for the power of landscapes and light is inspired: mountaintops blanketed in thick fog, thunderstorms rolling by far below the outpost, the impenetrable green walls of the jungle, the vastness of nature so palpable it's a shock when an actual building eventually appears, late in the film. You had forgotten there was such a thing as a floor or walls. Composer Mica Levi's omnipresent electronic score creates an unnerving undercurrent, throbbing with menace and danger. The sense of being "right there" in the thick of it is often unbearable, with hand-held camerawork bringing us close in to the kids' faces, with a looming grandiose landscape blurred-out behind them. They're always on the edge of an abyss.

            This is a stunningly photographed film, and although I realize it won't be possible for many, I suggest seeing this one on the big screen if you can.




            Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/monos-movie-review-2019
            By: Sheila O'Malley
            Posted: September 13, 2019, 1:18 pm

            • Entertainer
              Entertainer published a blog post One Cut of the Dead

              Thumb one cut of the dead movie review 2019

              [There are some spoilers in the following “One Cut of the Dead” review. Do what feels right, as long as you’re not hurting anybody.]

              Last year, the Japanese zombie-comedy “One Cut of the Dead” was a word-of-mouth smash on both the international film festival circuit and in its native country. The micro-budget movie’s multivalent success wouldn’t be so remarkable if the movie’s fans weren’t so good at keeping its twists a secret. For months now—almost two years, if you count the 2017 Tokyo premiere—horror movie buffs have kept this cult oddity’s nesting doll narrative under wraps. They’ve also helped to hype up the movie’s reputation to the point where I almost fell out of my chair (literally) when I saw that “One Cut of the Dead” was finally receiving a US theatrical release. And I already owned the damn thing on DVD. I had to know: what did I miss when I regrettably bailed on it (after 30+ minutes) at the 2017 New York Asian Film Festival?

              Having now seen “One Cut of the Dead” all the way through, I can tell you a couple of things, and speculate about a few more. For starters: yes, you should probably see this one knowing as little about it as possible. I’m not generally a spoiler-phobe, but I appreciate that part of the movie’s charm comes from the almost impenetrable aura of mystery that surrounds it.

              With that said: “One Cut of the Dead” requires some patience. It begins as a visually flat, mostly by-the-numbers zombie comedy about a low-budget film crew who are menaced by zombies in real time while filming a zombie movie. So for the first 37 minutes, we follow a group of uninteresting, indistinct characters while they wander and occasionally flee from various shambling zombies in, up, and around an abandoned factory.

              This portion of the movie is still, upon rewatch, not great. Granted, writer/director Shinichiro Ueda throws some gas in his otherwise fume-driven genre vehicle just by filming his movie’s opening segment in one continuous, uninterrupted take. You may also enjoy watching characters run around while deranged, realism-obsessed director Hirugashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) occasionally pops up, as if out of thin air, to yell “action” or ramble about “true filmmaking: "There is no fiction, no lies! This is reality!” Still: imagine you’re watching somebody else play a generic first-person video game (one of the “Resident Evil” ripoffs, maybe), and you’ll probably understand why I bailed on “One Cut of the Dead” two years ago.

              Thankfully, there’s more. After those 37 minutes, “One Cut of the Dead” digs a little deeper into its meta-comedy: we join Hirugashi as he’s asked to direct the short movie that we just saw. This narrative gear shift is welcome, though it doesn’t really make Ueda’s movie pick up much speed. Viewers follow Hirugashi and some members of his crew as they figure out how to make the best zombie movie they can given the time, cast, and resources available to them. Guerilla filmmaking—even of z-grade quality—can be tough, so it’s nice to see a movie about movies show how many deferred opinions, budgetary restraints, and creative gaffes can happen behind the scenes on a dinky genre movie that, on its surface, doesn’t really stand out. At this point, Ueda’s film is what you’d get if “Day for Night” and “Ed Wood” had an inferior, but still likable movie-baby.

              Soon enough, “One Cut of the Dead” goes further with its meta-reflexive humor, and finally starts to move as we re-watch the film’s first third again, only this time through Hirugashi’s eyes. Now we see all the last-minute work that was happening while they shot their short, from wrangling actors to securing equipment. This part of “One Cut of the Dead” is fun, partly because Ueda and his co-creators don’t conflate filmmaking rigor with artistic merit (ie: they worked really hard on this passable high-concept comedy, so you should respect them for it). But for the most part: “One Cut of the Dead” works thanks to the simple joys of pattern recognition and variation: what starts as a strained attempt at self-aware playfulness finally becomes genuinely lively.

              With that said: I’m not sure if the payoff at the end of “One Cut of the Dead” is good enough to warrant such a drawn-out, belabored set-up. The jokes and characterizations are generally one-note, and Ueda’s movie appears, for the most part, to be indifferently assembled. You have to want to invest in his characters in order for “One Cut of the Dead” to really take off, so your mileage may vary on how long that will take, if it takes at all. For me, “One Cut of the Dead” is good enough. It sometimes surprised me while I waited for a payoff that Ueda basically delivered, even if he and his collaborators never made me involuntarily leave my seat.




              Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/one-cut-of-the-dead-movie-review-2019
              By: Simon Abrams
              Posted: September 13, 2019, 1:18 pm

              • Entertainer
                Entertainer published a blog post Hustlers

                Thumb hustlers movie review 2019

                Jennifer Lopez struts onto the main stage of a cavernous strip club in “Hustlers” to the blaring tune of Fiona Apple’s late ‘90s anthem “Criminal”—the first line of which, “I’ve been a bad, bad girl,” suggests the knowing, playful tease to come.

                Lusty men in musty suits immediately begin throwing money at her legendary derriere—not Lopez’s, exactly, but that of the veteran exotic dancer she portrays, the impeccably preserved Ramona. Still, it’s hard to discern completely between Lopez the superstar and the larger-than-life character she plays in “Hustlers,” and that’s actually part of the pleasure of watching this career-best performance from the multi-talented multi-hyphenate. We know this figure—we know the swagger, the magnetism, the incandescent ability to work an audience—and yet, Lopez has repurposed and repackaged all her well-honed abilities here as a reminder that before she was known as J.Lo, she was a naturally gifted actress.

                Seeing Lopez’s best screen work since her early heyday of “Selena” and “Out of Sight” isn’t the only reason to check out writer/director Lorene Scafaria’s crime drama, but it’s a huge draw. In telling the true story of a group of strippers who lured, drugged and fleeced their wealthy Wall Street clients out of millions, “Hustlers” as a whole is a blast, stomping and striding with the confidence of Lopez’s thrilling introduction.

                Scafaria leans a bit too heavily into classic Scorsese filmmaking tactics: the matter-of-fact narration describing the scam, her use of slow motion and zooms to heighten the emotion of a moment, the pop, rock and R&B soundtrack ranging from Janet Jackson and Britney Spears to Bob Seger and The Four Seasons, with Chopin sprinkled throughout. (Her long, opening tracking shot—from a dressing room, through a hallway, onto the stage, down the stairs and out into the crowd—does provide an impressive, immersive entrée to this realm.) And perhaps we get one or two montages too many of the high-end shopping and lavish lifestyle these ladies enjoyed with their ill-gotten gains. It’s “Goodfellas” in a G-string. But Scafaria’s film is always a blast to watch, resulting in a surprising level of emotional depth.

                Based closely on Jessica Pressler’s New York magazine article (with Julia Stiles serving as the journalist’s stand-in), “Hustlers” follows Constance Wu’s shy “new girl,” who goes by the stage name Destiny: a Queens native and child of immigrants navigating the world of Costco-sized strip clubs in The Big City. She’s doing it for financial survival to support the grandmother who raised her (Wai Ching Ho) and she doesn’t show much enthusiasm or talent for this pursuit at first. But seeing Ramona command the stage makes her realize how powerful—and lucrative—such work can be. The sequence in which Ramona and another stripper (Cardi B, a proud, Latina product of the Bronx like Jenny from the Block making her charismatic film debut) teach Destiny the finer points of pole spinning and lap dancing is hilarious and actually kind of sweet, and it’s an early indicator of the way these ladies look out for each other.

                The money is good for a while, especially with Ramona and Destiny working together as a seductive duo in the champagne room. But then the 2008 recession hits—and it hits the Wall Street jerks hard, which means they have less cash to toss at people’s posteriors. The crazy, addictive energy of the film’s beginning eventually gives way to a more low-key tone as work dries up, the dancers go their separate ways and Destiny gives birth to a baby girl.

                But desperation also inspires Ramona’s scheme to go after even bigger money: concocting a potent mix of MDMA and ketamine, sprinkling just a dash in the drink of an unsuspecting mark at a bar and then dragging him back to the strip club to drain his credit cards. (The drug-cooking sequence in the kitchen of Ramona’s minimalist Upper East Side apartment is lively and humorous but it also provides another unshakable “Goodfellas” comparison.) Ramona and Destiny recruit a couple of trusted fellow dancers—Keke Palmer’s Mercedes and Lili Reinhart’s Annabelle, who add to the cast’s chemistry—to create a diverse lineup of sirens, and the nightly heists kick into high gear.

                Scafaria doesn’t seem terribly interested in examining the morality of the women’s crimes. She suggests that these guys have it coming to them by virtue of their chosen profession; they’re crooks and scam artists themselves, albeit of the white-collar variety. They’re also obnoxious, awful human beings for the most part, which seems to justify the women’s actions, as well. Rather, we’re meant to root for these hard-working ladies to bask in the glory of their much-deserved riches. It may seem shallow, but Scafaria makes a persuasive argument in amassing such a likable ensemble.

                Ramona is, of course, the powerhouse driving the action; she’s both the brash ringleader and the warm mother hen, and Lopez fully embodies all her character’s contradictions and complexities. (Early on, during a chilly nighttime smoke break on the strip club rooftop, Ramona invites Destiny to climb inside her fur even before they’ve introduced themselves to each other. Who could possibly say no?) As Destiny, meanwhile, Wu gets to demonstrate more of an arc, transforming herself from wide-eyed neophyte to ruthless perpetrator. She also gets to show even more dramatic depth than her star-making performance in “Crazy Rich Asians” suggested. The teary-eyed bond between these two characters—their protective sisterhood in a world full of predators—feels unexpectedly substantive by the end, given the flashy, duplicitous nature of their dealings.

                And walking out of “Hustlers,” you may experience a sensation similar to that of the strippers’ victims: You may not remember everything that happened, but you’ll know you had a great time.




                Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/hustlers-movie-review-2019
                By: Christy Lemire
                Posted: September 13, 2019, 1:19 pm

              • Thumb moonlight sonata movie review 2019

                The documentary “Moonlight Sonata” is about a deaf boy named Jonas trying to play a Beethoven piece on the piano, even though he’s been warned he’s not ready for it yet. Meanwhile, his deaf grandparents—Paul and Sally—grapple with the realities of age.  

                The boy’s determination to master the piece is sparked by the fact that Beethoven was deaf, and wrote “Moonlight Sonata” to come to terms with his condition; Paul and Sally have been married for nearly 60 years, and didn’t get cochlear implants until they were in their sixties (an experience captured in Brodsky’s 2007 documentary “Hear and Now”). Directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky—Jonas’ mother and Paul and Sally’s daughter—this is the kind of film where simplicity generates feeling, and meanings are mainly carried through images of people doing things, going places, talking to each other, and sitting in close-up, lost in thought.

                Paul, an inventor of communications devices for the hearing impaired, bought the director her first camera when she was a just a girl and taught her how to use it. The images of the grandfather’s invention (which looks like a hybrid of a typewriter and a piano) connect with the grandson’s attempts to master Beethoven as well as the daughter's quest to evoke her family’s difficulties through images and sounds. Everywhere you look (and listen), there is language, imperfectly striving to capture the moments that define our lives.

                This artistic reaching-out across the centuries is made dynamic in scenes of Jonas, who got cochlear implants as a toddler but sometimes takes them out at the keyboard, practicing with his teacher, Colleen. We should all be so lucky as to have somebody like her as an instructor. Colleen demands commitment and focus, but while she's not above busting chops, she's never cruel, and she doesn’t believe in perfection, only improvement. She honors Jonas’ tenacity by telling him the truth instead of what he wants to hear. When he improves, she gives him a peppermint. When he asks for more than one, she says no, unless he makes her laugh.

                Their athlete-and-coach dynamic is as inspiring as anything in a sports drama. Brodsky leans on the comparison a bit too hard sometimes, even throwing in the equivalent of a training montage near the end. There are other moments where her nerve fails her, and she comes in with voice-over narration that's thoughtfully written and subtly performed but not always necessary, lays on music where silence was all that was needed, or otherwise fails to embrace the innate power of the extraordinarily intimate moments she’s captured (especially at the end, which rushes through a scene that deserved to unfold out at length). 

                But such lapses are noticeable only because there are so few of them. For the most part, this is an exceptional movie that works on several layers at once, with such tunnel-vision (like Jonas at his keyboard) that it seems not to care whether you notice how much thought went into its creation. “Moonlight Sonata” is about music, language, and music-as-language. It’s about ability and disability, youth and old age, memory and experience. And it’s a film about how the gifts of discipline and artistic expression are paid forward through generations. It’s a powerful film about parents and children, told with enough restraint that its more affecting moments may sneak up on you. 

                But mainly it's about the boy at the piano, chipping away at a sonata, day by day, week by week, dreaming at first of mastering it, then of getting through it with no mistakes, then realizing that in music, as in life, just getting through it is challenge enough.

                It isn’t until deep into “Moonlight Sonata” that you start to realize how many patterns Brodsky has woven into the fabric of this tale—everything from the three-movement structure, which mirrors the three generations of Brodskys, to the repeated shots of flying creatures (ducks and bats, some live-action, others animated) flitting across the screen in V-formations and in whirling clouds that change shape and direction on a dime. At various points, Beethoven, Jonas and Paul are all associated with a bird that travels alone, always remaining in sighting distance of a flock but never allowing himself to become part of it. In time, we associate each member of the Brodsky family with that bird, flying solo yet always in view of the flock, following its own course, wherever it leads.




                Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/moonlight-sonata-deafness-in-three-movements-2019
                By: Matt Zoller Seitz
                Posted: September 13, 2019, 1:18 pm

              • Thumb sorrywemissedyou 01

                Many movies are about a want or a need for something more in life. Maybe the lead character is on a personal journey to discover their worth, find a true connection or follow their passion. Perhaps they’re just working to survive, get through the day in a world that threatens to swallow them whole. At their core, these desires feel universal, because most anyone in the audience can relate to these characters’ struggles, even if the details in these stories sets us far apart.

                The ache to make things work is deeply felt in Ken Loach’s latest film, “Sorry We Missed You.” Updating the kitchen sink drama for the gig economy, the movie follows Ricky (Kris Hitchen) as he takes on impossible hours, demands and tasks as a subcontracted deliveryman in the hopes that he might be able to better provide for his family. It’s heartbreaking to watch the day-to-day negotiations Ricky makes with himself and his family to justify such austere working conditions and exploitive business practice. Outside of the van, Ricky has other worries mounting, including his wife’s job in danger after he sold her car and his son’s increasingly rebellious behavior. “Sorry We Missed You” isn’t too fussy about its framing or cinematography, giving it almost a documentary-like quality at times, which is sadly fitting since Paul Laverty’s unflinching script is based on a true story. 

                image

                In Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” the ache that drives its characters’ passion is love. Brought together by a chance assignment, a painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) and her subject Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) are forced to learn how to work together and work with one another to please the lady of the house, Héloïse’s mother. Surrounded by the beauty of the French countryside and given hours to spend time together, the two young women eventually discover that they’re developing feelings for one another. However, this is a costume drama set back a few centuries to the time of lace-up corsets and dangerously wide hoop skirts. A love like theirs would never be tolerated. So for now, they must agree to settle on longing stares at each other and the occasionally hidden tryst. Their relationship burns at a slow pace, and it’s not until later in the movie do the stakes rise and flirtation becomes foreplay. The shots in “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”  look so exquisitely composed and inked with deep, rich oil painting-like colors that many times it does look like a series of portraits. Men are almost entirely absent from the frame, which gives each character in the household even more space to develop and reveal their struggles and desires. 

                image

                Along more traditional lines of a hero’s journey is Unjoo Moon’s “I Am Woman,” a feminist biopic about a determined Australian singer Helen Reddy (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) who moves to New York to become a star. Of course, when she gets to the city, it doesn’t quite work out as she had imagined it. Her quest is to get her big break into the music business, and the audience follows Reddy as she faces off against a husband who’s not always in her corner and sexist music execs. She’s fighting in a man’s world, and Reddy knows it. At least for a time, she’s got the support of a friend who’s a journalist, Lilian (Danielle Macdonald). Their relationship is so much more interesting to watch over time instead of the showbiz husband and wife act that’s falling apart. The two friends must deal with fame, changing fortunes and distance, and there’s a hard lesson in the movie about enjoying every minute you have with the people that matter in your life. Fortunately, Reddy’s career aspirations lined up nicely with the rise of the women’s movement and the anthem she pens about the female experience earns the scorn of male executives for being “too angry.” She has the last laugh when her record with the movie’s title song becomes a hit and opens doors for her that men weren’t willing to hold for her. In life as in movies, not everyone may get what they want or need. We root for these characters because they may face the same impossible odds we have. When they do get what they're looking for, the gratifying feeling isn’t just restricted to the screen – it’s ours to share as well. 




                Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/festivals-and-awards/tiff-2019-sorry-we-missed-you-portrait-of-a-lady-on-fire-i-am-woman
                By: Monica Castillo
                Posted: September 13, 2019, 3:08 pm

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