Categories
Film Review

Brazil (1985)

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Running time: 2h 12min
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Written by Terry Gilliam (screenplay by), Tom Stoppard (screenplay by)
Starring Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Robert De Niro

Terry Gilliam, the American Monty Python, is one of the more interesting directors of recent decades. While his movies are not always successful commercially or critically, he has a unique style, utilizing fantasy and comedy (particularly dark humour), and a penchant towards the absurd, which certainly sets his filmography apart from mainstream Hollywood. Brazil is perhaps his most imaginative and ambitious film, and it is widely regarded as a classic – some (English film critic Mark Kermode, for one) list it among their favourite films ever made. Despite its apparent appeal and recognition, I have always found Brazil a mixed bag – the film has great scenes and ideas, but the execution is far from perfect. It is 2021 and we are living in a mad timeline, so why not revisit the dystopic and nightmarish Brazil, 36 years after its release.

Categories
Film Review

Shoplifters (Manbiki kazoku) (2018)

IMDB link
Running time: 2h 1min
Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Written by Hirokazu Koreeda (original story), Hirokazu Koreeda (screenplay)
Starring Lily Franky, Sakura Andô, Kirin Kiki

Shoplifters (Manbiki kazoku is the original title, which Google translates as “Shoplifting family”) is a Japanese drama about, well, you guessed it, a family of shoplifters. A poor family living in squalor has made the choice to supplement their insufficient income from various jobs with less than legal means. This redistribution of wealth is also done by the children of the family, whom the adults have trained for the task. They mostly steal ordinary things, such as groceries and everyday items, but occasionally something more expensive will also get snatched to be sold. The thieving family is not depicted simply as good or bad, which is a major strength of the film – there are many shades of grey to the characters, making them feel like real humans instead of cartoonish caricatures. The viewer is free to make their own judgements, the film is not preachy or moralising.

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Film Review

Stargate (1994)

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Running time: 1h 56min
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Written by Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich
Starring Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson

Stargate was a hugely successful 1994 sci-fi/action/adventure blockbuster that spawned multiple television shows and launched director Roland Emmerich’s career in Hollywood into high orbit. I used to love Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007), the first and most successful series based on the film, but while I liked the original Stargate movie just fine when I was younger, I was never really that into it. And now, having rewatched it in 2021, after more than 20 years since I saw it, I can confidently say that the movie holds up only partly, and whatever liking I had to it has faded. Stargate is a big, dumb movie aimed at young boys, and I have outgrown it.

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Film Review

The Kindergarten Teacher (2018)

IMDB link
Running time: 1h 36min
Directed by Sara Colangelo
Written by Sara Colangelo, Nadav Lapid
Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gael García Bernal, Ato Blankson-Wood

The Kindergarten Teacher is an artistic psychological thriller/drama where a kindergarten teacher (duh) discovers one of her young students is a blossoming genius poet. No one else seems to quite appreciate the boy’s talents, greatly frustrating her and eventually leading her down a dangerous path. The film relies heavily on Maggie Gyllenhaal, being mostly a character study of this troubled and increasingly exasperated woman. As it progresses, the story gets more and more crazy as the lead character gradually loses her inhibitions and respect for laws and boundaries.

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Film Review

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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Running time: 1h 50min
Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson
Starring Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Anjelica Huston, and many others

The Royal Tenenbaums is a classic comedy that most film buffs will have felt obligated to watch by now, but which I, for whatever reason, had not actually sat down and viewed until recently. I knew it by its reputation, and that if I wanted to pretend to be knowledgeable about cinema, it was something I should get around to. 20 years after its release, I am glad that I finally got to experience it. The Royal Tenenbaums is definitely a great film, worthy of the praise it has been given. It is an eccentric comedy about eccentric characters that get into peculiar, hilarious, and sometimes tragic situations while dealing with eachother. Great writing, directing, and acting result in a deliciously humorous concoction that even a somewhat cynical viewer such as I can appreciate without caveats. Something that is rare for me: I ended up actually caring about these weird, flawed characters, and what happens to them.

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Film Review

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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Running time: 2h 2min
Directed by David O. Russell
Written by David O. Russell (screenplay), Matthew Quick (novel)
Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

Silver Linings Playbook is a movie I heard much about but never watched before now. From what I gather, it seems to be well liked by both audiences and critics. The film is a strange mix of drama and romantic comedy, which partly works, and partly, in my opinion, does not. Former teacher Pat (Bradley Cooper) is down on his luck trying to connect with his estranged ex-wife, but gradually finds a more meaningful connection with smoking hot but utterly crazy neighbor Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). What happens by the end of the film you can probably guess already. But you almost certainly cannot guess what happens before that, because it, like the two main characters, is nuts.

Categories
Film Review

Carlito’s Way (1993)

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Running time: 2h 24min
Directed by Brian De Palma
Written by Edwin Torres (novels), David Koepp (screenplay)
Starring Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Penelope Ann Miller

Carlito’s Way is a flawed, but still very good classic crime/gangster film from a competent crew of filmmakers. The story centers around a former criminal’s attempt at trying to change his ways and escape his past. Will he succeed and escape into the sunset or not? In the opening of the movie, which shows the very end, we find out right away that he most likely does not, having just been shot. Carlito’s Way is a tragic tale of crime with film noir elements, which seems to sometimes struggle with the tone it’s going for – at times it is serious, mature and nuanced, but at others it undermines this by presenting itself as just flippant entertainment.

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Film Review

In the Line of Fire (1993)

IMDB link
Running time: 2h 8min
Directed by Wolfgang Peterson
Written by Jeff Maguire
Starring Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich, Rene Russo

An assassin (John Malkovich) intends to kill the president, and in the process tries to emotionally connect with secret service agent Frank Horrigan (Eastwood) amid a deadly game of cat and mouse. While the game is on, Horrigan in turn tries to connect with attractive fellow agent Lilly Raines (Rene Russo). In the Line of Fire is an exciting and entertaining tale of intrigue and violence that has the viewer on the edge of their seat.