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Filmera by Trudie Graham - 12m ago

For all of history, Satanism has been viewed as an evil religion comprised of devil worshippers, baby killers, and sacrificial rituals – views that caused moral panic and hysteria that set the world ablaze. The real face of Satanism today – The Satanic Temple – prove the myths couldn’t be further from the truth. They might wear a lot of black, troll conservatives with offensive gestures, and enjoy anarchy, but the main goals of the group are founded upon tenets that the average person would find morally sound. With a focus on female reproductive rights, LGBT activism, and anti-establishment sentiment, Satanists choose to worship themselves instead of a god, they believe in no deity – only what they represent symbolically.

How do I know about these people? Well, I was probably one step away from a membership card in my youth. I may not identify as a Satanist now, but the things that attracted me in my youth remain things I admire. For anyone that already knew The Satanic Temple’s true nature, the wrong perception illustrated by Christians and far-right politicians won’t be anything new, but for fresh-faced and open-minded people looking to deep dive into a new subject, Penny Lane’s documentary is just the ticket.

Lucien Greaves delivering a speech in front of the state capitol building. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Hail Satan?‘s tone is best represented by the “?” in its title. The film isn’t telling you to worship Satan, nor is it trying to scare or make you see those who participate in Satanism as weirdos. It’s a question, like, should we? Maybe? Why not? It’s an explorative and curious project that is satisfyingly sensical and full of logical people. The edge of the humor in the film is delightful; it plays off the cringe-filled Satanism infomercials from decades past and revels in the discomfort of the religion’s objectifiers. There’s also a self-awareness in the filming of the actual Temple and its members, with sharp cuts and memorable characters representing the diverse pool of people who have joined since the Church’s original inception.

Hail Satan? for the most part follows Lucien Greaves, the spokesperson and co-founder of the Temple, as he fights to get the Temple’s 7ft tall Baphomet statue placed beside a statue of the ten commandments on the grounds of Oklahoma’s State Capitol. The legal battle is integrated into the film but thankfully never takes over, instead, it unravels in the background as we receive updates – revealing the hypocrisy and bias of the law in favor of Christianity. This topic is one of the many things Lane tackles with haste, and she pulls no punches when it comes to letting the members express their discontent and annoyance at the status quo, and how it affects them.

Supporters at the rally for religious liberty. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

The most sincere quality of the documentary comes from the supporting players, trans women, gay people, and loners that have found a sense of belonging. Although there are certainly more extreme members such as Jex Blackmore ( eventually removed as one of the Temple’s most public figureheads after implying she wanted Donald Trump to be executed), most are soft-spoken, clearly smart people looking for a community which shares their beliefs. These are men and women who feel rejected by other faiths and now spend their time rallying for each other’s rights.

Penny Lane’s sharp and well-edited Hail Satan? is on the side of logic and reason, for that alone, it’s well worth your time. Come for the unique subject material, stay for the trolling of the Westboro Baptist Church.

★★

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Filmera by Bethany Wilson - 3h ago

Netflix continues its prosperous streak with modern yet cliché rom-coms upon the release of their newest original film, Someone Great. As the directorial debut of Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, who also wrote the film, it’s a substantial addition to the family.

The film starts with aspiring musical journalist Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) obtaining an exciting job offer with Rolling Stone magazine that requires her to relocate across the country and away from everything crucial in her life. Her boyfriend of nine years, Nate (Lakeith Stanfield), ultimately decides to end their relationship when he concludes that long distance won’t work out between them. Jenny is devastated, as her whole life falls apart when Nate breaks up with her. After dating someone for nine years, things start to feel like second nature with them; so when your partner suddenly ends that relationship with you after building something for so long, there is every reason to be heartbroken.

As every woman should when she’s going through a breakup, Jenny turns to her best gal pals Blair (Brittany Snow) and Erin (DeWanda Wise) for comfort and support. They embark on a crazy adventure that goes from pouring out their feelings to drinking and smoking pot while they set off for one last hurrah in New York City before Jenny moves away. There are many things to love about this film, Someone Great’s all female and diverse lead cast and bubble gum cinematography being some of the main things that drew me in. There’s even a cameo from RuPaul who plays the girls’ pot dealer and a scene where Blair professes her love for Lady Bird. Now, which young woman can’t relate to that in 2019?

Gina Rodriguez and Lakeith Stanfield in Someone Great (2019) – source: Netflix

While not all of us have gone through breakups similar to the one depicted in Somone Great, there will be many aspects of the film that young women will relate to. As both writer and director, Robinson was able to achieve what most movies can’t – she created a crew in which the majority are female, and she told a personal story while casting women of color in leading roles. She created a film that was way more than your typical romantic comedy that Netflix produces and that genuinely surprised me. Someone Great is just as much about women supporting women as it’s about a woman finding, choosing and loving herself.

Adding to the list of endearing things about this film, it features hits from Lorde, Phoebe Bridgers, and Frank Ocean, making it one of the best film soundtracks I’ve heard so far this year. The best part about the film by far is its millennial-ized script and strong performances by the leads, which couldn’t have been successful without its director. The plot is lacking in many areas which made the pacing of the film drag on and on, making the 90-minute film feel much longer.

Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow and DeWanda Wise in Someone Great (2019) – source: Netflix

 Someone Great isn’t a cinematic masterpiece by any means, it’s still a fun and relatable film that I had a relatively good time watching. In so many romance films or films in general that have female leads, the woman almost always turns her whole world around after she goes through a breakup or becomes an entirely different person. Sometimes these films tell us that we need to change who we are after someone tells us we aren’t the one for them. Someone Great is not that film; it shows us that it’s okay to be messy and that we don’t always have to be perfect. People break up, and life goes on, sometimes women don’t have their shit together – and that’s okay.

Someone Great will be available to stream on Netflix starting April 19th.

★★★½

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Filmera by Carl Broughton - 2d ago

No matter the film festival, there are always going to be films that surprise audiences. Sometimes those surprises are quite pleasant and quickly become the talk of the festival, and other times they are so terrible that you are left wondering, “What the hell happened?” Wounds, directed and written by Babak Anvari, who is best known for his directorial debut of 2016 horror hit Under the Shadow, already set the bar high for his sophomore film, especially considering that Under the Shadow became the British entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the 89th Academy Awards.

The bar was raised even higher after the cast reveals, featuring Armie Hammer hot off of his beloved role in Call Me by Your Name, co-star Dakota Johnson who starred in the recent remake of horror classic Suspiria and the Fifty Shades trilogy, and Atlanta star Zazie Beetz. What you are undoubtedly thinking is that a film with a cast and director of such pedigree can’t be all that bad, but, yes, Wounds is that bad.

Wounds begins with an oddly placed quote from the novella Heart of Darkness, keyword “odd” because as the film progresses you realize one of the best parts of the film is that the quote doesn’t prepare audiences for the pure stupidity that oozes from Wounds. The story revolves around a charismatic but lazy New Orleans bartender named Will who stumbles upon a lost phone in his bar left by a group of underage teenagers from the night before. Rather than leaving the phone at his bar, he decides to take it home. As curiosity gets the better of him, he decides to go through it with his girlfriend, Carrie. What they discover sets them down a path unexplainable horrors and bizarre people.

The biggest complaint about Wounds besides the utterly wasted cast is the nasty tonal change throughout the film. Audiences will be left guessing on the intent behind each scene as they hesitate on whether to laugh at the pure absurdity on the screen or walk out of the theater. The dialog and cheap effects only harm any of the gripping psychological horror aspects as they make audiences realize just how silly the plot of Wounds is. After all, this is a film that can mainly be summed up as “Evil Cellphone: The Movie.” Another way to describe Wounds is to tell someone to imagine if Tommy Wiseau directed a horror movie instead of cult classic The Room, except Wounds lacks the charm and iconic lines that we associate with The Room.

For the people who decided not to walk out of the theater, Wounds rewarded its audience with by far the worst ending of any 2019 Sundance film that left numerous critics and press abruptly yelling, “What the fuck.” Wounds was scheduled for a March 29th release on Netflix, but quietly pulled from the schedule which only makes you question: How bad could it be if even Netflix wanted no part of it?

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20 months have passed since a brand new Game of Thrones episode last aired on television, and the show’s presence has been thoroughly missed—if the beloved characters taking over Twitter’s trending page is any indicator. I too have also missed Game of Thrones, despite my rocky history with the television series, and what I felt when the theme song swelled had only confirmed it. The beginning of the end is here, and the start is a solid one. The first episode of the final season of Game of Thrones is a collage of interesting character dynamics that set up the internal power struggle within the uneasy coalition of the living.

In season 7’s finale, the Night King had finally breached the Wall, the ancient bulwark against wildlings and White Walkers, in the most bombastic fashion—blasted to bits with an undead dragon. In the aftermath of the Wall’s destruction, the Night Watch, Northern Houses, and Daenerys’s forces retreat to the Starks’ ancestral seat. It’s a wonderful excuse to gather friends, families, and former enemies all under one roof (the episode was aptly titled Winterfell.) Reuniting characters and watching unlikely friendships thrive between strangers are the fan service many crave, and the show gives us just that. A little bit too pandering perhaps? Well, I think it’s worth it just for the good parts.

Death stare contest HBO

Aside from the Stark siblings finally reuniting with each other since Eddard Stark rode for King’s Landing to serve as Robert Baratheon’s Hand many years ago. There’s one particular scene I enjoyed that signified the deep history and powerful emotions built up over the years and made possible only by the journeys these characters had embarked on: The army marches into Winterfell and as Arya looks on she spots familiar faces: Jon, Gendry, and Sandor (The Hound) among the riders, but Arya stops herself from hailing them. She stands and watches, but her face says a thousand words. It this moment that allows Maisie Williams (Arya) to continue being the best among Game of Thrones’ cast.

Not all the newcomers received a warm welcome in Winterfell compared to King in the North, Jon Snow. Fellow plot armor wearer Daenerys Targaryen is met with skepticism from the Northern Houses as “The North Remembers”, and they haven’t forgotten that they had fought to overthrow  Daenerys father, Aerys II, the Mad King. While others don’t take kindly to a foreigner uncrowning their newly-appointed King in the North. Is Daenerys her father’s daughter? That’s the question raised oh-so-many seasons ago. Narratively speaking, it’s odd to see that particular issue rear its head once more, as that part of her character arc was already explored and abandoned.

There is an interesting discussion to be had about the double standards Daenerys faces in comparison to Jon Snow as a ruler; is the extra scrutiny is warranted due to her bloodline or does the skepticism stem from her sex? However, one thing is sure, she’s now a less engaging character than she was three seasons ago.

When Barristan the Bold became Daenerys’s Queensguard, he told her the truth about the reign of her father, shattering the rose-tinted impression formed by Viserys’s (who was then too young to remember) tales. After taking Mereen by force, Daenerys vowed to be a ruler, not just a conqueror who brings with her fire and blood, and so she stayed. Of course, not everything went smoothly for her; she faced slave-owner-organized terrorist attacks. However, instead of allowing Daenerys to defuse the situation diplomatically, the show just ran out of time—the story demanded Daenerys to cross the Narrow Sea. She powered through the quagmire with superior firepower and remained on the same trajectory ever since.

The Unsullied and dragons, two of Daenerys most powerful arsenal HBO

The game of thrones continues even though Westeros faces inevitable extinction. The show is setting up an interesting parallel between Daenerys and Jon, and their different approach to the idea of birthright and responsibility. Jon Snow learns of his true parentage at the end of this episode, and for the first time, doubt is sowed between the royal couple. Varys’s comment on the finite nature of all things rings even more ominous in hindsight. The matter of succession will undoubtedly be the ultimate conflict in the final season, White Walker incursion notwithstanding.

“We don’t have time for all this!” Bran warns, and he is right. If you stop and examine the surviving characters, you’ll find that there are many whose character arcs are duly exhausted. There’s no time to squabble when the threat of White Walkers looms, and no time for forcibly extended petty drama when the season is only six episodes long. Lesser examples include Tyrion, who ran out of materials two seasons ago, now just pathetically hangs around cracking bad jokes. The most egregious case is Cersei, having reached the natural conclusion of her arc, she currently sits on the throne, alone. Queen to ashes and ghosts and whatever nameless vassals she hasn’t destroyed yet. Her only next logical course of action seems to be backstabbing the North with her newly acquired Golden Company.

Cersei HBO

There’s not much action in Winterfell, but it does what a season premiere sets out to do adequately—it properly catches up characters and audience alike, and establishes geography and motives. Pieces are now in the right place, and all parties are ready to make their first move. It may not be the most exciting episode Game of Thrones has to offer, but I have a good feeling about what comes next.

★★★½

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Filmera by Carl Broughton - 3d ago

British filmmaker and screenwriter Joanna Hogg might seem like an unknown name to American audiences and even some film lovers, but the director has been crafting films for more than thirty years. Her feature film Unrelated, starring Tom Hiddleston, landed her breakthrough success at the 2007 London film festival, but it is her latest film that will make her one of the most talked about directors of 2019.

Premiering at Sundance earlier this year and winning the 2019 World Cinema Dramatic prize, The Souvenir is entirely different from Hogg’s previous filmography as it serves as a semi-autobiography of the director’s life based off her memoirs as a film student. To be specific, the story is set in the early 1980s and focuses on a timid young film woman named Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) who has great ambition to become a filmmaker but has yet to find the exact inspiration to propel her work to greatness. That is until a fateful encounter with a charismatic older gentleman named Anthony (Tom Burke) at a flat party. Anthony seems to have the answers to Julie’s problems as the two share philosophies on life, love, and art throughout consecutive meetings until their relationship blossoms into a full-on romance. Unfortunately, Anthony is not as trustworthy as he initially let on; unbeknownst to Julie, he has a dark secret that will uproot her entire posh way of living.

What immediately sets The Souvenir apart from other films at the festival is the gorgeous cinematography that genuinely elevates the British scenery into that of a late period piece. Several of the scenes almost feel like a homage to the late Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours trilogy, precisely Three Colours: Red which also centers on a young woman with similar mannerisms as Julie.

Another thing that is utmostly noticeable is the excellent acting on display from the cast, mainly that of Honor Swinton Byrne, daughter of Tilda Swinton, who co-stars with her as Julie’s caring and concerned mother. Byrne handles her role with a delicate balance, always knowing when to give the right look of disbelief or affection. Her performance is so captivating that one would be surprised to learn that this is her first acting role in a feature film.

Unfortunately, the praise comes to a halt because the actual story is more mundane than you would be led to believe. The Souvenir is yet another story about a young woman deceived by an older man. Because the events are directly from the director’s memoir, The Souvenir may be alluring from a psychological point of view, but as a film watching experience, it can prove tiresome as the viewer can predict the events that unfold within the film from half a mile away.

Of course, great stories have and will continue to tell of the innocence of youth and the love corrupted by older conniving men and women, but The Souvenir lacks the focus and narrative to rise above its predictability. The film almost feels like an outlet for Hogg to finally let out her inner ghost and demons in the form of a dull two-hour movie. Recently acquired by A24 for a May 17th release in America, The Souvenir will more than likely capture fans’ attention with its cinematography and cast, but its mundane story of a posh woman may make it harder to connect with when compared to other summer A24 distributed films, such as The Last Black Man in San Francisco or The Farewell.

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It was below 30 degrees in Park City, Utah, but that didn’t stop audiences from lining up several hours before the doors opened to the worldwide premiere of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile directed by Joe Berlinger, based on the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) who relied on his charm and handsomeness to lure in young women and then brutally murder them. Maybe it was because of Ted Bundy’s connection to the state of Utah, or perhaps due to the casting of Hollywood heartthrob Zac Efron to play the serial killer. Or maybe it was attributable to Netflix’s Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes also directed by Berlinger releasing two days prior to the premiere, but the anticipation in the theater for this film electrified the atmosphere.

The plot of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is adapted from the memoir The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy by Bundy’s former longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer (Lily Collins). The film begins with her first encounter of the serial killer at a bar and follows her over a span of six years until Kloepfer’s last meeting with Bundy before his execution. It is through her eyes that an audience can even fathom how someone could love a man like Ted Bundy, and how hard it can be to break free from his grasp.

Audiences familiar with Zac Efron from teen romance and comedy roles, such as High School Musical, Hair Spray, and Neighbors, will be shocked by this complete role reversal. People second-guessing Efron will be genuinely surprised as the actor lives up to the title of the film. Throughout the film, you see him as a loving boyfriend and charmer, but it is noticeable that there is a certain wickedness beneath his smile. It isn’t the violent acts in the film that will send chills down your spine, but the way he looks at his potential victims. Overall, there are a few scenes that might take you out of it due to Efron’s physical body appearance and looks compared to the real-life Bundy, but his performance is worth the praise.

Zac Efron fans and people interested in the serial killer Ted Bundy will become entranced by the almost unbelievable acts in the film, but it is Lily Collins career-defining role as Elizabeth Kloepfer that keeps the film grounded. Her performance from head over heels girlfriend to emotionally distraught ex-lover makes it easy for audiences to attach to her character as she represents the humanity of the film.

The film doesn’t romanticize the relationship of the two lovers or humanize Bundy as it serves as a reminder that extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile acts are carried out by the people you least expect. They even go so far as to show you real photos of the crime scenes and the innocent faces of those who fell victim to his rampage. The discourse around Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile will undoubtedly focus on the looks of Ted Bundy and the star who portrays him when released on Netflix on May 3rd, but the ending credits are sure to remind you of those we should really be talking about and honoring – the victims.

★★★★

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Filmera by Bethany Wilson - 6d ago

Netflix has had continuous blow-out success with its original content over the past year, especially in the teen romantic comedy department, but it seems Netflix is starting the Noah Centineo Cinematic Universe: with his latest role in The Perfect Date. Much like previous 2018 Netflix teen romantic comedies such as The Kissing Booth and Sierra Burgess Is a Loser – you’re either going to love The Perfect Date or wish it never existed. Noah Centineo is no stranger to portraying a teen heartthrob, as he had previously graced our television screens with his lovable portrayal of Peter Kavinsky in Netflix’s more critically acclaimed and generally likable teen rom-com, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. In The Perfect Date, Centineo stars as Brooks Rattigan (which is repeated way too many times in the film, as if we would ever forget a name like that), a high school student with big hopes and dreams of getting into Yale University and living an upper-class lifestyle – something he can’t afford. To raise money for school, he creates an app that pairs him up with girls in need of the “perfect date”. The characters of Kavinsky and Rattigan don’t seem to have much in common, which proves that Centineo has excellent versatility – even if he is playing a similar type of stereotypical male protagonist.

Noah Centineo in The Perfect Date (2019) – source: Netflix

Two other notable performances are from Laura Marano and Riverdale star Camila Mendes, two of Brooks’ love interests in the film. Centineo has great chemistry with both actresses, but the energy of the two women steal the show right off the bat. Their performances are so great that I would have liked to have seen more of them, learn more about them, and why they made the choices they did in the film, but since the story is told from Brooks’ perspective and only his view, there were zero flavors. The whole point of The Perfect Date is that Brooks is excellent at becoming whom other people want him to be, but as he’s continuously faking it, he has no time to figure out whom he wants to be. He repeatedly falls victim to the rule of society and people he thinks will increase his popularity. Furthermore, the best part of The Perfect Date was the genuineness of the chemistry between the actors. If there were a few more scenes to connect with or relate to, or even if the writers gave the characters some depth (you can 100% tell that a middle-aged man wrote this), I think this film would excel more in what it is trying to do.

Laura Marano & Noah Centineo in The Perfect Date (2019) – source: Netflix

The Perfect Date is Noah Centineo’s third film with Netflix in the past year that includes the ‘fake-dating’ trope, and I think it’s safe to say it won’t be his last. If you look past the casting and cliché movie tropes that everyone loves, there is very little about The Perfect Date that lives up to Centineo’s previously and universally loved performance in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. You cannot compare the two.

All in all, The Perfect Date is the perfect film to watch on a boring Friday night when you have nothing else to do. If you are looking for a film to make you reminiscent of cult-classics such as 10 Things I Hate About You or Clueless, don’t waste your time.

★★

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Filmera by Jonathan Edge - 1w ago

The first line sung by Elizabeth Moss’s hard-edged central rocker in Her Smell is “I always flirt with death”. It’s a line that ends up being prophetic of the whole movie; a high-wire portrait of an explosive rock-star who poses a constant threat of destruction to both herself and those surrounding her. Moss’s performance as Becky Something, lead singer of 90s grunge band Something She, obviously channels the likes of Courtney Love but it’s also its own distinct beast: with this and Us releasing so close together, Moss is quickly establishing herself as one of the more uniquely atomic performers we have.

Writer/director Alex Ross Perry has cited the films of Paul Verhoeven as an influence here and it’s most apparent in how truly abrasive Her Smell is. Perry tells this story of implosion, exorcism, and rebirth in five acts, and in the first three, his direction combined with Moss’s manic central performance is practically daring you to turn the movie off in disgust.

Elizabeth Moss in ‘Her Smell’ © Gunpowder & Sky

It is a very grueling watch, amplified massively by the gloriously grungy cinematography from Good Time DoP and regular Perry collaborator Sean Price Williams. Most of the action takes place in claustrophobic, labyrinthian backstage rooms covered in sickly neon lighting as tensions between our ensemble rise to a boiling point. Becky flies through these corridors like a demon of rock and roll, wreaking havoc and demolishing relationships with all those close to her in a truly anxiety-inducing manner.

Becky Something is a screen presence both electrifying and abhorrent. Moss darts across the screen like a bolt of lightning, entirely unpredictable from moment to moment and constantly teetering terrifyingly close to total self-immolation. The character isn’t just a total monster though – Her Smell is very much a film about addiction, and about a woman struggling and failing to reconcile her persona as a rock star with her insecurities as a friend and as a mother.

Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson and Dylan Gelula in ‘Her Smell’ © Gunpowder & Sky

The stacked supporting cast act as a perfect grounding to Becky’s mayhem and a window into the havoc she causes. Ashley Benson, Cara Delevingne and Dylan Gelula are fantastic as a younger band inspired by Becky who quickly learns not to meet your heroes when they become the latest pawns to be manipulated by her toxic behavior. Dan Stevens is typically reliable as Becky’s radio host ex-husband, a character who managed to move on from the dirtbag life and wishes Becky could do the same for the sake of their daughter, while Eric Stoltz is a delight as the hapless manager constantly trying to keep things together.

Agyness Deyn and Gayle Rankin are phenomenal as the other members of Something She – never treated as inferior to Becky but rather just people totally exasperated by the behavior of a friend who’s making it so difficult to try and help them. It’s a truly magnetic ensemble, every character so vivid and perfectly realized that they feel as though they could each be leading their own movie.

Agyness Deyn and Gayle Rankin in ‘Her Smell’ © Gunpowder & Sky

Ultimately, there has to be a breaking point for Becky, and Perry follows this with final segments of genuinely stunning catharsis and sincerity. Even in this section of the movie Moss’s performance represents a remarkably delicate balancing act as the claws of addiction are ever present and threatening to drag Becky and her friends back to hell. It’s a nerve-shredding conclusion, but also deeply sobering in the compassion it allows a character who could so easily be reduced to a monster.

The masterstroke of Her Smell isn’t just in how Perry rightfully depicts the abuse dealt by Becky for how toxic it is, but in how he understands and sympathizes with the broken woman behind it. Because for as destructive as Becky’s tendency to flirt with death ends up being, it’s also the reason it’s so wrenching to see her struggle to figure out why and how she should put the pieces back together again.

★★★★½

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Filmera by Ezra Farner - 1w ago

Triple Frontier, directed by J.C. Chandor, has all the makings of a thrilling action film with a strong cast. Unfortunately, however, despite a promising first act, it starts to lose itself in the second act and falls short of greatness. While it does hold some strong performances from leading actors, the script gives them little to work with and no room for dimension, ultimately resulting in an underwhelming film with wasted potential.

The film wastes no time jumping into action. Introducing us to Santiago “Pope” Garcia (Oscar Isaac), who is performing a raid on a supposed hideout for a drug cartel in Colombia. Specifically, he is trying to take down a drug lord named Lorea, whom he has been tracking for years. He learns from his informant Yovanna (Adria Arjona) that Lorea is storing his $75 million fortune in his safehouse in the jungle, and Pope quickly sets off to gather a team of old war buddies, all former special forces, to organize a heist. One by one he recruits Tom “Redfly” Davis (Ben Affleck), William “Ironhead” Miller (Charlie Hunnam), Ben Miller (Garrett Hedlund), and Francisco “Catfish” Morales (Pedro Pascal) for their various specialties. Though the group is at first apprehensive due to the morally gray nature of the operation, they are all struggling financially and eventually agree to help Pope steal the money for themselves.

Pope (Isaac, right) talks to his informant (Arjona, left), Netflix

The film focuses less on the heist itself but instead utilizes it as the turning point and focuses on what follows. The team travels to Lorea’s safehouse in the South American jungle, and discover the walls filled with cash. They find out a far more significant amount than initially estimated and begin to lose sight of what they came there for, as they pack more and more bags and miss the “hard out” exit time. Things go south as they make their getaway, and the team’s morals, loyalty, and motives are all tested by the obstacles they encounter. While the idea of deteriorating morality when face to face with millions of dollars is an incredibly compelling premise, the film fails to make any particularly exciting points.

Without a doubt, the film contains its thrills and action, but it stumbles in several critical areas. The most glaring issue was the wildly inconsistent characterization of the leading men. While it is clear that the film is trying to make points about what greed can do, it is difficult to understand the motives behind the careless mistakes they make in their operation. None of the characters contain much depth for the actors to work with, beyond throwaway lines about their backstory or family, which is a shame, as the cast is incredibly strong. Because of this poor writing, it makes it challenging to latch on to any of the characters and empathize with them. Affleck, in particular, suffers from the weak script, as his characterization fluctuates whenever it is convenient for the story. Even so, his character has the most developed backstory out of the team, making a lot of the decisions they make motivationally baffling. What could have been a fascinating dive on how greed can corrupt morals and loyalty becomes more frustrating than anything else. Additionally, it contains kernels of exciting themes, such as the idea that these veterans so inadequately supported by the country they fought for, turning them to robbing a drug lord, but nothing particularly salient comes of these themes.

The team finds themselves in a local village, Netflix

The messy production history is perhaps an explanation for why Triple Frontier is lacking in crucial areas. Originally, Katheryn Bigelow was set to direct before dropping out to focus on other films. Throughout its time stuck in development, names such as Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp, Tom Hardy, Channing Tatum, and Mahershala Ali were all in talks for lead roles. When it was finally set to start shooting, Paramount dropped the project, which eventually found its way to Netflix. Such a tumultuous development is never a good sign for any film, and unfortunately, it seems that Triple Frontier was never really able to find its footing.

Though Triple Frontier has a great soundtrack and impressive visuals, it is unfortunately not enough to redeem the film’s weak finish. The ending is not particularly deserved and feels incomplete and dissatisfying. What is supposed to be an exciting character study resulting from a caper gone wrong ends up feeling very flat and empty, leaving the viewer wondering why they should even care. The action is definitely entertaining, and it will keep you on the edge of your seat, but unfortunately, it loses its way and has nothing particularly noteworthy to bring to the already crowded table of action thrillers.

★★½

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Filmera by Trudie Graham - 1w ago

For those who enjoy the rarity and visual splendor of stop-motion, Laika films might feel like a gift from God. The studio’s reputation has been enviable, as it has come out with multiple well-received animated features over the past decade after entering the scene with contracted work on Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride – perhaps bringing the element that made it stand out despite underwhelming factors. Each of the films made their budget back and were a testament to the time and craftsmanship put into the animation style that results in images that aren’t comparable to CGI. Maybe with all of this in mind, I had too many expectations placed on the studio’s latest film, Missing Link. For all the beauty on display, it misses many of the marks previous ventures hit with perfectionism. However, of course, a production company only does so much – they might bring the talent to the table to bring the project to life but ultimately it’s other creative forces that decide the fates of these movies – and it’s most definitely those forces that stumble here.

Missing Link boasts a talented voice cast with too many names to mention, but the film focuses on a trio made up of Hugh Jackman as Lionel Frost, an investigator of mythological creatures, Zoe Saldana as Adelina Fortnight, a recently widowed woman from Lionel’s past, and Zach Galifianakis as Link/Susan. When Lionel decides to prove himself to the research societies of England that mock him by capturing Bigfoot, so begins the adventure. After meeting him and discovering the creature is intelligent and can speak English, the fluffy and kind half-man-half-animal pleads with Lionel to take him to the Himalayas to find the Yetis, whom he considers to be cousins by nature. Before long, Adelina is dragged along for the ride – wanting to escape the cage of her house – and the three explorers embark on a trek to the mountains to help the creature (who later decides on the name Susan for himself) find his place after years of loneliness.

Lionel and Susan. Missing Link © Laika Studios / Annapurna Pictures

More than anything, Missing Link is about the sense of belonging to somewhere or something. Lionel’s arch-nemesis comes in the form of Lord Piggot-Dunceb (Stephen Fry), who shakes with rage at the thought of a new, open-minded researcher disrupting the norms of the noble way of thinking. It becomes apparent rather quickly in the Lord’s actions and dialogue that he’s meant to represent a certain kind of man, one who believes there’s a pecking order where he, of course, is at the top of the hierarchy. Though not set in present times, writer/director Chris Butler draws comparisons to the small-minded figures that are recognizable in today’s world – those who deny change – as it might unhinge the power structure they reap the rewards from. Lionel’s place in the film is full of self-reflection and draws parallels to Susan’s in many ways as they both reach for acceptance.

As would be expected, the animation is so detail orientated and textured that it seems possible to reach out and touch the on-screen figures, with their noses red from the cold and their garments soft with fuzz. The cinematography of Missing Link also draws focus on a variety of color – the sunsets, the icy blue mountains, and the luscious green of the jungles are visually stunning. There’s something undeniably satisfying about knowing that so much of Missing Link is made by hand.

More than anything, Missing Link is about the sense of belonging to somewhere or something. Lionel’s arch-nemesis comes in the form of Lord Piggot-Dunceb (Stephen Fry), who shakes with rage at the thought of a new, open-minded researcher disrupting the norms of the noble way of thinking. It becomes apparent rather quickly in the Lord’s actions and dialogue that he’s meant to represent a certain kind of man, one who believes there’s a pecking order where he, of course, is at the top of the hierarchy. Though not set in present times, writer/director Chris Butler draws comparisons to the small-minded figures that are recognizable in today’s world – those who deny change – as it might unhinge the power structure they reap the rewards from. Lionel’s place in the film is full of self-reflection and draws parallels to Susan’s in many ways as they both reach for acceptance.

Susan lived in isolation before being found. Missing Link © Laika Studios / Annapurna Pictures

As would be expected, the animation is so detail orientated and textured that it seems possible to reach out and touch the on-screen figures, with their noses red from the cold and their garments soft with fuzz. The cinematography of Missing Link also draws focus on a variety of color – the sunsets, the icy blue mountains, and the luscious green of the jungles are visually stunning. There’s something undeniably satisfying about knowing that so much of Missing Link is made by hand.

As the narrative evolves from an exploration of new lands into an investigation of the family unit created by the trio on screen, the film becomes more mature and successfully brings development to the characters and well-written emotional moments, but it never quite hits a home run for some reason. The runtime is a breezy 95 minutes, which both helps and hinders the film in its quest for a wholesome creation that’s as fully formed as something that took this much effort to create should be. I liked the progression of the story, and the backdrops were always beautiful, but I was kept at arm’s length by characters that never had enough time to win me indeed over. By the time the credits rolled, it was as if only half the story of Missing Link was told – a good story, but an underwhelming one.

Missing Link is without a doubt likable, but if it’s a sin to wish for more when I hear of a new Laika film, then consider me guilty as charged. It’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly the improvements could be made. Maybe an extra 15 or so minutes would’ve helped seal the deal, but Missing Link is still an enjoyable time with clever references to the ugliness of colonization.

★★½

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