I. Love, Antosha (2019)
This is a moving documentary that explores the life of actor Anton Yelchin (Star Trek (2009), Green Room (2015), Thoroughbreds (2017)), from his birth in Russia to his last films. This is an engaging and respectful feature that aims to pay tribute to this person of great potential taken too soon. Yelchin died on 19 June 2016, suffering a fatal crash between a brick wall and a fence when his car rolled back on him in his parking space in Los Angeles. Through his own footages, as well as the interviews conducted with his parents, close friends and co-workers, we find out what kind of a person Anton really was – extremely devoted to his loving parents, loyal to his friends, kind, generous, curious, intellectual, funny, goofy, and passionate about many aspects of life. He possessed a great charisma and acting skills, having started acting at a very young age and then later acting alongside such stars as Anthony Hopkins, Robin Williams, Albert Finney, Jodie Foster and Willem Dafoe. It is safe to say that, given his talent, he was just on the brink of “breaking through” in his career and just needed that one very successful big movie that will escalate his career much further, a movie that, sadly, will never now come. By recognising him as an absolute star now, we can at least pay tribute to this potential, to the person who was so passionate about acting and films, and whose kind, curious and sparkling personality will always be remembered.
Continue reading “Documentary Reviews: “Love, Antosha”, “Tower”, & “13th””
Joker  – ★★★1/2
Directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover (2011)), Joker is a latest, much-hyped film starring Joaquin Phoenix (The Master (2012)) in the titular role of Arthur Fleck or Joker, a stand-up comedian fallen on hard times, who resorts to violence in Gotham City to avenge wrongs allegedly committed against him. Being supported by no other than Robert De Niro (a role reversal from The King of Comedy (1983)), Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance in Joker than can only be described as manically jaw-dropping in its brilliance. The character insight and portrayal are also bold, vivid, without holding anything back, as the film tries to explore the origins of Arthur’s homicidal tendencies through his early history and its revelations. However, unfortunately, if we then shift our attention to anything that is not Phoenix or the character study, we can see a number of problems in the film, including the inability to suspend disbelief regarding major plot developments, the sheer predictability of the plot, and the imbalance in the spotlight given to the minor characters vis-a-vis the main one.
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Everybody Knows (Todos lo saben)  – ★★1/2
This mystery-thriller comes from acclaimed director Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman (2016)), and stars such big stars as Penelope Cruz (Volver (2006)), Javier Bardem (Mother! (2017)) and Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)). It thus seems as though this film can do no wrong, but, unfortunately, much does go wrong in this latest film by Farhadi. In this story, Laura (Cruz) travels from Argentina to Spain with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding. She arrives to a quiet Spanish village of her childhood and is happy to strengthen relationship with her large extended family. However, when Laura’s teenage daughter gets kidnapped, familial secrets come dangerously close to being revealed, and the pool of suspects thins to point to some family members. In Everybody Knows, the lead actors’ performances cannot be faulted, and the film has this one-of-a-kind ambiance of traditional rural Spain. The director also admirably tries to explore some curious familial situations. However, the problem with this film is that it does not become a clever mystery-thriller with tension surrounding the kidnapping and some twists to come. Instead, overlong Everybody Knows is all about tedious melodramatic scenes, with the feeling left that the script could have only been considered for some local TV series. Even more unfortunate, what “everybody knows” in the story or the big reveal could easily be guessed in the first half of this well-meaning “mystery” movie. Continue reading ““Everybody Knows” Review”
The Third Murder  – ★★★★
“People hardly understand members of their own family, let alone strangers” (Shigemori Akihisa in The Third Murder).
This film by an acclaimed Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda (After the Storm (2016), Shoplifters (2018)) begins with one scene of a murder in progress. A man kills his boss in cold blood and burns his body. The man – Misumi (Kōji Yakusho) – has previously been in prison for around 30 years for other two similar crimes he had committed. A legal team prepare a case, but since Misumi has confessed, there is nothing much to debate or investigate, and the sentence of death penalty looms over his head. The case of Misumi seems to be an open and shut one, or does it? When a new lawyer Tomoaki Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama) takes over the case, he slowly begins to realise that something does not make sense in Misumi’s confession, and the centrepiece of confusion is the motivation of the killer. It also does not help that Misumi starts to change his story of what happened with an astonishing ease and conviction. In Koreeda’s legal drama, it is interesting to uncover both personal connections to the case and the foreign legal system’s intricacies, but the quiet beauty of the picture can still be found in the slow unveiling of the truth.
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Murder on the Orient Express  – ★★★★
It is no wonder that Agatha Christie chose the Orient Express, once the most luxurious train in the world, as the setting for one of her fictitious crime scenes. From Paris to Istanbul, a journey of some 1,920 miles, will take passengers around 1883 (the date of its first launch) through exquisite landscapes in the total comfort of their seats and beds. Murder on the Orient Express was also inspired by the real incident which happened in 1929 when the train was forced to a standstill for five days due to heavy snow. Murder on the Orient Express (1974), directed by Sidney Lumet (Twelve Angry Men (1957)), could be said to be the first truly successful adaptation of a Christie’s novel, and the last film viewed by Agatha Christie herself, who approved it. Boasting an unbelievably starry cast, including such names as Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins and Vanessa Redgrave, this adaptation is both true to the novel and very-well acted, deserving a high praise.
Continue reading “Agatha Christie Adaptations: Murder on the Orient Express (1974), & (2017)”
Skyfall  – ★★★★1/2
🔫 For those who are unfamiliar with Sam Mendes’s work and its quality, Skyfall may appear like another action flick of some dubious quality, just another James Bond film full of the same old, recycled “tricks”. However, this is the film of Sam Mendes, which means that this first impression would be false. Skyfall is a delightful surprise, which has the potential to exceed everyone’s expectations. The film is intelligent, stylish, funny and well-acted. It is certainly better than the previous two films in the James Bond series. In this film, James Bond (Daniel Craig), badly wounded on the mission to Turkey and unfit for service, embarks on yet another mission to stop a former ‘00…’ MI6 agent from completing his evil plan.
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Miller’s Crossing  – ★★★★1/2
Loosely based on Dashiell Hamett’s Red Harvest, Miller’s Crossing is an intelligent gangster film shot in the style of a film-noir. Directed by Joel Coen, and produced by Ethan Coen and Mark Silverman, the film centres on Tom Regan (Gabriel Byrne), who is the “right hand” of Leo O’Bannon (Albert Finney), an Irish-American political boss, running a Prohibition-era city somewhere in the US. Leo has a “beef” with Johnny Casper, a gangster and his Italian rival. Leo’s girlfriend is Verna, whose brother Bernie Bernbaum has a contract on his life and is wanted dead by Casper. The idea here is that by “giving” Bernie to Casper to kill, Leo and Casper can come to a peaceful understanding and agreement. However, Leo is reluctant to do so because of his girlfriend, who wants to see her brother alive. Tom thinks that Leo is making a mistake. However, Tom also has an affair with Verna, seemingly being in love, and therefore is also, at least “deep inside”, is trying to protect her. When Tom starts to “play” both sides, the unexpected happens.
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Drive  – ★★★★★
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling, Drive is about a stunt and getaway driver and car mechanic man (Gosling), who gets entangled in a complicated criminal affair. With an amazing soundtrack, cast, performances, script and, above all, that nostalgic and unforgettable 1980s feel to it, Drive is an impressive film, giving off brilliance of a cult film, which maybe only be comparable to Scorsese’s iconic Taxi Driver (1976).
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