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  • 'Velvet Buzzsaw' Review | The Cinema Dispatch

    'Velvet Buzzsaw' Review February 7, 2019 By: Hunter Friesen The art world can be a cutthroat business or in the case of the film Velvet Buzzsaw , the art world is a business that can literally cut your throat. After a reclusive old man suddenly dies in her apartment building, art assistant Josephina unethically stumbles onto the man’s life work: hundreds of eerie paintings depicting acts of unsettling violence. Seeing this as a golden opportunity to rise up the social ladder, Josephina strikes a deal with her boss, Rhodora, to sell the paintings for vast sums of money. Unbeknownst to the buyers and sellers, the old man intended for all his paintings to be destroyed upon his death. With his final wish going unfulfilled, the cursed paintings take a shape of their own and begin to exact revenge on those who wrongfully profit from them. Directed by Dan Gilroy, Velvet Buzzsaw works across multiple genres as it pokes fun at the art world through a mix of satirical comedy and grotesque horror. Even though this has been done before in many other films, Gilroy does it differently as he entertainingly contradicts the expectations that come with each genre. Instead of being laughed out loud, the observational comedy amusingly bewilders, and the scares are delivered through a bright color palette as opposed to the conventional dark low lighting. Blending genres does make for some great fun throughout, but from time to time the film suffers from it. Gilroy overplays his hand at a few points, leading to some head-scratching moments where the film can’t decide if a scene is supposed to be funny or scary. Shot by veteran cinematographer Robert Elswit, the film also employs some neat camera tricks that keep the story on its toes. Information is steadily given frame by frame as it builds up to a big reveal that flips everything on its head. Both equally ambitious and narrow-minded, Gilroy’s script is quite lackluster when compared to his competent directing. Through an ensemble cavalcade of caricatures, the script satirizes the art industry and tries to prove that money and art don’t actually go hand in hand. This vision is respectable, but the clunkiness of the story and Gilroy’s inability to go outside the box holds it down. The clichéd anthem of “art is for everyone and greed is holding it back.” quickly becomes an overused gimmick by the time the characters start to get their comeuppance. The sheer size of the cast also spreads the message too thin across the main narrative and several subplots, many of whom are needless fillers. While this is a sin on a storytelling level, it is admittingly quite satisfying to watch each character receive a Final Destination -like death. The greatest asset the film boasts is its actors that give life to the crazy characters they inhabit. Reteaming with Gilroy after their fruitful work in Nightcrawler , Jake Gyllenhaal goes all in and is at his campy best as Morf Vandewalt, a renowned critic whose reviews can instantly make or break a career. Also in Nightcrawler , Rene Russo does a great job as Rhodora. She controls each character, and scene, with an iron fist and isn’t afraid to get dirty to make a living. Toni Collette and Zawe Ashton are pretty good as Gretchen and Josephina, respectively. They each give credible performances to their extravagantly unlikable characters. Even though they really don’t serve a purpose to the story, both John Malkovich and Daveed Diggs do good work as two contradicting artists that get caught up in the bloody mess. It probably wasn’t his intention, but Dan Gilroy has made a semi-unoriginal film that tries to make fun of the unoriginal world of high art. However, the unoriginality of the story doesn’t diminish from the amusement that it produces. Now available to stream on Netflix, this comedic slasher could be a good way to kill a couple of hours, especially when at the low cost of free. Must Read 'Inside Out 2' Review It's a delightful return to the world of emotions, bringing back the spark that we once consistently expected from Pixar. SHOP 'Tuesday' Review It all comes together to make something more than the sum of its parts, which are all equally fascinating to pick apart and dissect. SHOP Cannes Review Roundup Another Cannes Film Festival is in the books, which means it’s time to decompress from all the commotion and gather my thoughts on everything I saw. SHOP 'Anora' Review I’m pretty sure Greta Gerwig’s Cannes jury only needed the initial thirty seconds to declare this their Palme d’Or winner. SHOP 'Emilia Perez' Review An extraordinary amount of dedication and sincerity is given to even the most outlandish of concepts. SHOP

  • 'Beau Is Afraid' Review | The Cinema Dispatch

    'Beau Is Afraid' Review April 23, 2023 By: Hunter Friesen Beau Is Afraid is hilarious. It’s also cruel. It’s hilariously cruel and cruelly hilarious. It’s a movie that can’t be boxed into any one genre. It’s bound to puzzle anyone who happens to get in its way, which has already happened to theater owners, as the trailers for Insidious: The Red Door and Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City preceded the screening. Mashing up genres isn’t something new for writer/director Ari Aster, who, along with Robert Eggers and Jordan Peele, has become the poster child for new-age horror. For all its dismemberment and devil worship, the core of 2018’s Hereditary centers on a family working their way through tragedy. And Midsommar , which quelled the doubts of a sophomore slump, was essentially a relationship drama that also happened to have hallucinogenic drugs and pagan burning rituals. Aster is cashing in all the checks he generated from those two previous films for Beau Is Afraid . The beast inside of him has been fully unleashed, resulting in a clusterfuck of a film that defies conventional wisdom and lobs neverending subversive curveballs on the audience it preys upon. Bleak would be the world's biggest understatement for how Aster paints the American inner city. People record and post others jumping from tall buildings to commit suicide, assault rifles are sold at kiosks like phone cases, and homicidal maniacs freely roam the streets. The only person who seems to have a decent bone in their body is Beau Wasserman (Joaquin Phoenix), a middle-aged balding man with more neuroses and diagnosable mental problems than he has fingers. His biggest loves and fears come from his mother (Zoe Lister-Jones and Patty LuPone), who never ceases to weaponize her affection into the world’s worst guilt trip. Despite several calamities coming together to prevent Beau from visiting his mother this weekend (one being a wild brown spider that has already killed a person in his apartment complex), the hearing of the stinging words “it’s fine” from her is enough for him to make the Odyssean trek. Of course, the temperature for this hellish Earth only gets hotter from there, as Beau’s journey only seems to get worse as time goes on. At a reported cost of $35 million, Beau Is Afraid marks A24’s most expensive production to date. While you question the logic of any executive who greenlit this monstrosity, you also have to give respect for handing a demented filmmaker like Aster this big of a check. Elaborate set pieces create this nightmare world, which Pawel Pogorzelski (continuing his deep relationship with Aster) captures vividly with his camera. It’s a visual mashup of both Hereditary and Midsommar , as the dark and the light come together as a sort of lucid dream. And with 179 minutes at his disposal, Aster has all the time in the world to transfer his acid-laced rationale over to you. Eventually, the batshit lunacy and twists begin to make perfect sense. But just because they make sense at the moment, it doesn’t mean that they all work together. For all the things that happen to Beau, and for how much Phoenix dives headfirst into the role, he really isn’t that interesting of a character. He’s more of a listless guide taking us through the upside-down amusement park, reacting with bewilderment at every turn. It’s a bit of a guessing game for what it all means and if it comes together as satisfying as it should. Thankfully, the side characters that interrupt this ride are pitch-perfect, including an eerily helpful Nathan Lane and scene-stealing LuPone. The cult of A24 may be growing to worrying levels, as people now begin to clap at the sight of the signature logo that bookends each of their features. It’s also not the most artistically pure idea to have merchandising and memes made out of experimental indie films from interesting filmmakers. But if all those Hot Dog Finger Gloves and Pet Rocks in the Everything Everywhere All at Once store supplied the quickly-burnt cash needed to make Beau Is Afraid at this scale, then I guess this trend can go on for a little longer. Must Read 'Inside Out 2' Review It's a delightful return to the world of emotions, bringing back the spark that we once consistently expected from Pixar. SHOP 'Tuesday' Review It all comes together to make something more than the sum of its parts, which are all equally fascinating to pick apart and dissect. SHOP Cannes Review Roundup Another Cannes Film Festival is in the books, which means it’s time to decompress from all the commotion and gather my thoughts on everything I saw. SHOP 'Anora' Review I’m pretty sure Greta Gerwig’s Cannes jury only needed the initial thirty seconds to declare this their Palme d’Or winner. SHOP 'Emilia Perez' Review An extraordinary amount of dedication and sincerity is given to even the most outlandish of concepts. SHOP

  • The Great Musical War of 2021

    The Great Musical War of 2021 December 28, 2021 By: Hunter Friesen Besides the expected superhero films, the genre that seemed to be all the rage in 2021 was the movie musical. With Broadway shut down for a majority of the year due to the ongoing pandemic, the movies had to pick up the slack when it came to delivering the musical joy that audiences crave. 2021 saw several different variations of the movie musical, featuring original concepts ( Annette ), musical interpretations of classic tales ( Cinderella ), Broadway adaptations ( In the Heights , Tick, Tick… Boom! & Dear Evan Hansen ), and new adaptations of Broadway shows (Steven Spielberg's West Side Story ). Like Darwin's law of natural selection, some came and went with a whisper, and some were enjoyed and may become classics of the genre in the future. In this article, we'll look at why so many musicals were released this year and how each one fared in both a critical and commercial sense. Why were there so many musicals in 2021? When analyzing a trend, the first question that needs to be asked is why it happened in the first place. It's not like musicals are some newfound genre, like found footage movies. Musicals used to have the same market dominance that the superhero genre holds today. In 1930 alone, Hollywood released 100 musicals, most of them offering escapism from the doldrums of the Great Depression. There was even an Academy Award for Best Dance Direction from 1935 to 1937. As time went on, the number of musicals grew thinner, while their quality grew much bigger. Lavish and extravagant productions of well-known properties were made to compete with the growing popularity of television, with West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins , and The Sound of Music being some of the highest-grossing films of their respective year. Eventually, the market turned away from escapism and more towards realism. The big-budget hits of the past were now becoming hugely expensive bombs, as Doctor Doolittle, Hello, Dolly! , and Paint Your Wagon all lost millions within the span of a few years. Apart from Disney animation and a few hits here and there ( Grease ), the musical genre took a backseat role for a few decades. That is, until the 2010s when studios were chasing pre-branded hits. Mamma Mia! grossed over half a billion dollars in 2008, and its 2018 sequel grossed nearly $400 million. These impressive results encouraged studios to mine for Broadway intellectual property and bring it to the big screen. Tom Hooper's (whose Cats adaptation was interestingly the last musical to be released before the pandemic) Les Misérables nabbed several Oscar nominations (including a Best Supporting Actress win for Anne Hathaway) along with $438 million worldwide. Into the Woods made half of that and gave Meryl Streep another acting nomination to add to her record tally. But it wasn't just Broadway adaptations that were becoming hits. Original titles, such as La La Land and The Greatest Showman , made millions mainly because of their soundtracks. With the rise of music streaming, a hit song could make cultural waves even before the movie came out. The soundtrack for La La Land reached number 2 on the US Billboard 200, and the album for The Greatest Showman was the best-selling album of 2018. Along with the market's driving forces, the other reason why there are so many musicals this year is a more obvious one: the pandemic. By the time everything went to hell in March 2020, nearly every studio had at least one, if not multiple, musicals somewhere along the pipeline. Plans were thrown into chaos, and many movies, like West Side Story and In the Heights , could not recoup their costs solely through streaming. They had to play the most boring game imaginable, which was the waiting game. And so, many other musicals followed suit, condensing the steady stream of releases into a cascading waterfall. Musicals were no longer competing with other genres; they were now competing with themselves. This in-fighting bred a more fierce competition style, making 2021 a war for the finite amount of consumer time and money. Now that the dust has finally settled, let's take a look at how each of the 2021 releases fared... In the Heights Before there was Hamilton , there was In the Heights . Lin-Manuel Miranda's 2008 Broadway musical about Hispanic and Latino characters living in the neighborhood of Washington Heights won the Tony Award for Best Musical and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Universal Studios was initially set to adapt the musical back in 2008 but had to wait another decade for things to come together finally. A victim of the pandemic, the film was originally set to debut in the summer of 2020. It eventually was seen by audiences with a simultaneous HBO Max release in June of this year. The critical acclaim was through the roof, especially for Jon M. Chu's direction and Olga Merediz's supporting performance. Unfortunately, the film was a box office bomb, grossing a meager $43 million on a $55 million budget. That tepid response seems to have cratered the film's awards chances, with a Golden Globe nomination for Anthony Ramos seemingly being the best the film will net over the season. Annette Coming from the mind of Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks, and director Leos Carax of Holy Motors fame, Annette is a truly unique vision. Starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard as parents of a child with a unique gift, the film is more of a psychological drama than an escapist fantasy. It's a wild ride that divided critics and audiences, with the Cannes Film Festival awarding Carax the Best Director prize. While Amazon (who financed and released the film) will be a bit disappointed with the awards results, those familiar with Carax's filmography won't be shocked to see that the awards trajectory of Annette has (and will be) mostly relegated to critics' circles. The idiosyncratic Cahiers du Cinéma named the film the second-best of 2021 (behind First Cow ), and the Golden Globes gave a surprise nomination to Cotillard. Time will tell if this becomes a cult classic down the road. Come From Away Of all the historical events one could do a musical about, the 9/11 terrorist attacks would be one of the last to come to mind. But that hurdle didn't stop Irene Sankoff and David Hein from writing this musical about the true story of 7,000 passengers who become stranded in a small town in Newfoundland. Similar to Disney's Hamilton , Apple TV+ released this as a stage recording on September 10th. Critics immensely enjoyed the material, heaping praise for its ability to find joy and compassion in such a tragic time. Everybody's Talking About Jamie Going under the radar for the majority of audiences worldwide, this adaptation of the British stage musical (itself an adaptation of a BBC documentary) received positive reviews from both critics and audiences alike. Much of Everybody's Talking About Jamie's quiet release had to do with the pandemic, as its original date of October 2020 was scuttled due to the effects of COVID-19. Disney eventually sold it off to Amazon, who unceremoniously dumped it in early September. Following the true story of a 16-year-old boy fulfilling his dream of becoming a drag queen, the film has an infectiously giddy spirit as it sends a heartwarming message of inclusion for LGBTQ audiences and anyone who has had to deal with stigmatization. The British Independent Film Awards nominated Max Harwood for Best Breakthrough Performance for his titular role, along with the film's costumes and make-up. Cinderella It's a tale as old as time and one that has been told several times before in a much better fashion, according to both critics and audiences. Despite offering a few updates to the classic material, such as Billy Porter as the nonbinary fairy godmother, Kay Cannon's ( Blockers ) adaptation of Cinderella was flatlined by poor performances and character development. This was another Amazon disappointment, even though it was the most-streamed musical of the year as of its Labor Day weekend release. By the time the next rendition of this princess is released, this one will surely be forgotten. Dear Evan Hansen This adaptation of the multiple Tony Award-winning musical was mired with controversy since its inception through the casting of 27-year-old Ben Platt to reprise the role of the titular 17-year-old. There was also the problem of Stephen Chbosky's Dear Evan Hansen being unfaithful to the material and the lackluster handling of the touchy subject matters of suicide, depression, and self-discovery. The film had its world premiere as the Opening Night Gala Presentation for the Toronto International Film Festival, a decision that festival director Cameron Bailey may regret. Upon release, it was savagely ridiculed by critics and fans, grossing only $18 million worldwide, a far cry from the lofty expectation Universal had. Even the Golden Globes, who have come through for misbegotten films in the past, stayed far away from this disaster, refusing to give it a single nomination. " You Will Be Found" may be one of the most acclaimed songs from the soundtrack, but the only place this movie will be found is on several critics' worst-of-the-year lists. Diana Despite The Crown and Spencer taking up most of the oxygen about the life of Diana Spencer, Netflix felt that there was still room for a musical rendition about the life of the Princess of Wales. Their hunch proved to be incorrect, as this stage recording of the short-lived Broadway production was met with harsh criticism from critics, some of which went so far as to claim it was so bad, it's good. Other critics felt it was extremely immoral and disrespectful to Diana's life, and as a result, audiences stayed far, far away. Tick, Tick... Boom! The world got not one but two Lin-Manuel Miranda projects this year as the Hamilton and In the Heights creator made his feature film directorial debut with this semi-autobiographical telling of the life of Jonathan Larson, who wrote the famed production of Rent . Andrew Garfield received some of the best reviews of his career for his portrayal of Larson, bringing panicked energy as he attempted to jump-start his career with a show that consumed most of his life in 1990s New York City. By depicting the turbulent creative process, Miranda has made a love letter to all those who have poured their hearts and souls into their work. And unlike the fates of so many other musicals this year, this one has serious awards prospects. Garfield is firmly in the Best Actor race, and so is Steven Levenson's script and the film's editing. With a locked ten nominees for Best Picture starting this year, Tick, Tick… Boom! may find itself in good company come nomination morning. West Side Story Another pandemic victim that sat on the shelf for nearly a year, Steven Spielberg's first foray into the musical genre has been touted as one of the year's best films. Despite adapting one of the most beloved stage musicals (which was turned into a Best Picture-winning film in 1961), Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner found a new way to harmonize the past and the present, giving the original material fresh life. West Side Story also made stars out of new and exciting talents such as Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, Mike Faist, and David Alvarez. Alongside Belfast and The Power of the Dog , Spielberg's film is a serious contender to win Best Picture and will more than likely be the nomination leader come Oscar nomination morning. Cyrano Unlike the majority of the films that were delayed due to the pandemic, this adaptation of the classic tale of Cyrano de Bergerac did not commence production until October 2020, when the pandemic was in full swing. Famed literary director Joe Wright ( Atonement ) helmed the musical, with multiple Emmy winner Peter Dinklage portraying the titular wordsmith. Reviews from the film's festival run have been quite positive for Dinklage, who garnered some of the best reviews of his career, and the craftsmanship from Wright despite having to operate under such restricting circumstances. United Artists Releasing holds domestic distribution and is playing a high-risk, high-reward game by giving the film a qualifying release, followed by a limited national release in mid-January. So far, the strategy seems to be working as both the film and Dinklage have picked up several critics group nominations, including Best Actor nominations from both the Golden Globes and Critics Choice. In a year with so many movie musicals, Cyrano 's late-release strategy is helping it to stand out and carry the movie musical genre's momentum into 2022, where hopefully we'll continue to see a trend of more of these films continue to get released. Must Read 'Inside Out 2' Review It's a delightful return to the world of emotions, bringing back the spark that we once consistently expected from Pixar. SHOP 'Tuesday' Review It all comes together to make something more than the sum of its parts, which are all equally fascinating to pick apart and dissect. SHOP Cannes Review Roundup Another Cannes Film Festival is in the books, which means it’s time to decompress from all the commotion and gather my thoughts on everything I saw. SHOP 'Anora' Review I’m pretty sure Greta Gerwig’s Cannes jury only needed the initial thirty seconds to declare this their Palme d’Or winner. SHOP 'Emilia Perez' Review An extraordinary amount of dedication and sincerity is given to even the most outlandish of concepts. SHOP

  • Cannes Predictions - Part 3: The Festival Mainstays

    Cannes Predictions - Part 3: The Festival Mainstays April 8, 2023 By: Hunter Friesen As one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, the Cannes Film Festival always attracts the attention of cinephiles and industry professionals alike. Each year, the festival presents a diverse lineup of films that represent the best of international cinema, including both established and emerging filmmakers. With the 76th edition of the festival set to take place in May, film enthusiasts around the world are eagerly anticipating the announcement of the official selection on April 13th. While the festival organizers keep their cards close to their chest, there are already some strong players emerging as likely contenders for the coveted Cannes spotlights. In this four-part series, I’ll take a closer look at some of the films that are generating buzz and predict which ones are likely to make it to the Croisette this year. Each part will represent a category of films, which are: The Festival Masters Hollywood Makes a Splash The Festival Mainstays The Irregulars and Up-and-Comers The third part of my series reaches a little further down the pecking order. The filmmakers listed here may not have the pedigree of those from the first part, nor do their films command the headlines like the blockbusters. But many of them are in the process of being established as festival darlings and have projects that deserve attention on account of their immense potential. Which of these films are you most interested in? I'll be keeping you all posted on my adventures and sharing my thoughts on the films that I see. Stay tuned for more updates! Coup de Chance With a legendary career that now spans fifty works as a director, it would seem fitting to bid farewell to filmmaking in the country that has always adored him. Allen has brought several films to the festival, all of them playing out of competition. His latest work will be entirely in French with a local all-star cast. Of course, any mention of Allen brings along controversy, so Fremeaux will have a hard decision to make about what to do. La Chimera Alice Rohrwacher’s film made waves at last year’s festival when Neon picked up the project’s North American distribution rights. The company had a great run last with Triangle of Sadness taking the Palme d’Or, so it seems likely they’ll be gunning for a repeat. The film stars Josh O’Connor and Isabella Rossellini in a story about 1980s tomb robbers set in Italy. The Beast Bertrand Bonello has premiered nearly all of his films at the festival, so there’s no reason not to predict him to do the same this time around. Léa Seydoux and George MacKay lead the cast of this sci-fi romance revolving around a troubled young woman who decides to purify her DNA in a machine that will take her on a journey across a series of past lives. Jeanne du Barry Never one to shy away from controversy, writer/director Maïwenn has doubled down by casting Johnny Depp as King Louis XV in her palace drama. The casting itself will bring headlines, but not the kind the festival may want, especially with films by Woody Allen and Roman Polanski also in the mix. If selected, it’ll likely be placed in one of the sidebars. *UPDATE: CONFIRMED FOR OPENING SELECTION* Daaaaaali! Along with Gaspar Noe, surrealist filmmaker Quentin Dupieux often is the provider of the strange and wild, which he did last year with the wacky Smoking Causes Coughing . His new movie will certainly be a more fun story about Salvador Dalí than Mary Harron’s Dalíland at last year's TIFF. The logline is as follows: “A French journalist meets the iconic surrealist artist Salvador Dalí on several occasions for a documentary project that never came to be.” The Book of Solutions Michel Gondry has always kept himself incredibly busy between feature films, music videos, television shows, and short films. He’s done a tour of the festival sidecars throughout his career, so there’s little doubt he’ll be invited back if he decides to premiere his new film on the Croisette. The premise sounds Charlie Kaufman-esque as it follows a director who tries to vanquish his demons which are oppressing his creativity. Limonov While the Cannes leadership has ruled that they will not welcome any members of the Russian delegation or those linked to the government, that rule does not apply to Russian auteur Kirill Serebrennikov, who has had his problem with Putin’s government. Serebrennikov recently left the country after a three-year travel ban, which forced him to miss the premiere of Petrov's Flu in 2021. His next film will continue the biopic streak from Tchaikovsky’s Wife , this time in the English language and focusing on the life of Soviet poet Eduard Limonov. Serebrennikov co-wrote the screenplay with Cold War director Pawel Pawlikowski and Ben Hopkins, and Ben Whishaw will play the titular character. Promised Land While he doesn’t make as many regular appearances as Ken Loach, fellow Englishman Michael Winterbottom did make a name for himself at the turn of the millennium with a slew of rough-around-the-edges peeks into British life. His new film sounds like it might fit that description quite well, as it follows two Brit police officers in their hunt for charismatic poet and Zionist freedom fighter Avraham Stern, who was plotting to evict British authorities. Last Summer French provocateur Catherine Breillat looks to be coming out of her self-imposed retirement with her first film in almost a decade. The sexually charged auteur's new film may be her most squirm-inducing yet, as it follows the consequences on a family when a woman gets attracted to her underage stepson. The first image was released in December just as production wrapped. Given her pedigree within the French film industry and that this may be her last film, it seems highly likely Breillat makes her way into the competition. Must Read 'Inside Out 2' Review It's a delightful return to the world of emotions, bringing back the spark that we once consistently expected from Pixar. SHOP 'Tuesday' Review It all comes together to make something more than the sum of its parts, which are all equally fascinating to pick apart and dissect. SHOP Cannes Review Roundup Another Cannes Film Festival is in the books, which means it’s time to decompress from all the commotion and gather my thoughts on everything I saw. SHOP 'Anora' Review I’m pretty sure Greta Gerwig’s Cannes jury only needed the initial thirty seconds to declare this their Palme d’Or winner. SHOP 'Emilia Perez' Review An extraordinary amount of dedication and sincerity is given to even the most outlandish of concepts. SHOP

  • 'The Son' Review | The Cinema Dispatch

    'The Son' Review September 12, 2022 By: Hunter Friesen The Son played at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. Sony Pictures Classics will release the film in theaters on November 25. Esteemed playwright Florian Zeller returns to the silver screen with his sophomore feature after the Oscar-winning success of The Father . An adaptation of his French stage play, The Son , sees Zeller return to the familiar ground of mental health and family anguish, only this time it centers on a depressed teenage boy instead of an elderly man with looming Alzheimer’s. And instead of dealing with this sensitive issue with poise and ingenuity, Zeller rubs our faces in it while screaming “THIS IS IMPORTANT!” for two ungodly hours. Hugh Jackman stars as Peter, a middle-aged father who seems to be reaching his peak. He and his second wife, Beth (Vanessa Kirby), have just welcomed their new child, and are living in an upscale apartment in New York City. Peter is also a budding prospect to manage a major new political campaign, one that may take him to the next level. Knocking on Peter’s door one night is his ex-wife Kate (Laura Dern), who explains that their son, seventeen-year-old Nicholas (Zen McGrath), hasn’t been to school in over a month. Kate can’t seem to reach him on an emotional level, so she pleads with Peter to have Nicholas move in with him. Being the dutiful father, Peter agrees in the hopes that a change of scenery will snap Nicholas out of whatever funk he’s in. The actors are not well served here, with screenwriters Zeller and Christopher Hampton opting for an emotional sledgehammer rather than the precise scalpel they used for The Father . Zeller stressed beforehand to the press that teenage mental health issues are an ever-complicated topic that can’t be easily explained. Although it may be true, that’s an odd statement because the film itself does the exact opposite. The reasoning behind Nicholas’ depression comes across as superficial and shallow, with his parent’s recent divorce being the culprit. There is no gray area for introspection, which McGrath’s one-note performance does no favors in exploring. There’s also a literal Checkov’s gun moment, deflating any suspense on how the movie will end, which is wretchedly executed. Both Kirby and Dern get little to do besides sitting around talking about how worried they are about Nicholas. Kirby does well with what she’s given, offering an outsider’s opinion on Nicholas’ state and imploring Peter to not let himself get sucked down the rabbit hole. Jackman and Anthony Hopkins, who appears in a cameo as Peter’s unloving father, are the only actors to make it out of this mess unscathed. Jackman’s performance runs the whole emotional gamut. He runs laps around McGrath during the moments of emotional outburst, and finely handles the subtle moments with Kirby. Hans Zimmer’s orchestral score, guaranteed to become one of his most underrated pieces of work, does much of the heavy lifting. And Simon Bowle’s production design, complete with sleek interiors and harsh exteriors, traps the characters within the ungodly situation they find themselves in. If only Zeller was able to harness their powers for good. Instead, all we’re left with is an infuriatingly preachy film that possibly does more harm than any other film this year. There’s a scene midway through The Son that exemplifies my experience watching the film. Peter and Beth are having a bonding moment as they recreate the dance routine they did when they first met each other at a party years ago. Nicholas walks in on them, and can’t help but join in on the fun. The three dance goofily, enjoying each other’s company for the first time in forever. After a while, the camera begins to swirl, losing sight of Nicholas as it focuses on the married couple. It then pans to the left, hard needle dropping to the most clichéd emo song imaginable as Nicholas expressionlessly stares directly into the camera. All the goodwill built up to that moment is immediately lost forever, and all I’m left with is an infuriatingly preachy film that possibly does more harm than good. Must Read 'Inside Out 2' Review It's a delightful return to the world of emotions, bringing back the spark that we once consistently expected from Pixar. SHOP 'Tuesday' Review It all comes together to make something more than the sum of its parts, which are all equally fascinating to pick apart and dissect. SHOP Cannes Review Roundup Another Cannes Film Festival is in the books, which means it’s time to decompress from all the commotion and gather my thoughts on everything I saw. SHOP 'Anora' Review I’m pretty sure Greta Gerwig’s Cannes jury only needed the initial thirty seconds to declare this their Palme d’Or winner. SHOP 'Emilia Perez' Review An extraordinary amount of dedication and sincerity is given to even the most outlandish of concepts. SHOP

  • 'The Power of the Dog' Review | The Cinema Dispatch

    'The Power of the Dog' Review November 29, 2021 By: Hunter Friesen Despite being the master of the gangster genre with such films as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull , and Goodfellas , Martin Scorsese cites The Age of Innocence as his most violent film. It’s a bizarre statement, considering the 1993 period piece features no sex, swearing, or physicality. Instead, the violence that the film harbors is purely emotional and under the surface, carrying far more damaging effects that linger longer than any external wound. Similarly, Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog is one of the most violent films of the year - and of the Western genre - all without a gun, knife, or fistfight. The year is 1925. The Burbank brothers run one of the most successful ranches in Montana. Phil is handsome, calculating, and utterly brutal. He lives purely for the land, paying no mind to the feelings of those around him. George is pudgy and sensitive, and always on the receiving end of Phil’s torments. Together they represent Romulus and Remus, ruling over a vast empire that could topple at any moment. On one of their cattle drives, George becomes smitten by a widow, Rose. The couple swiftly marries and moves back to the mansion-sized ranch house. Disapproving of this union, Phil unleashes his cunning fury on Rose and her emasculated son, Peter. But there’s more to Peter than meets the eye, as his outward weakness may not be reflective of the inside. After some time, Phil begins to warm up to Peter and take him under his wing. Is this latest gesture a softening that leaves Phil exposed, or another one of his mind games that will delve further into menace? As a director, Campion has often been able to communicate the unsayable and unspeakable. Her films often resemble a poem more than a narrative. Based on her past features of The Piano and Sweetie , it can be said that she isn’t concerned with only opening one door, or telling her audience exactly how to feel. This ambiguity brings out the power of interpretation, leaving the viewer with the film in their mind long after the runtime has passed. The Power of the Dog doesn’t stray from that trademark as Campion tightly wounds this surprise psychosexual drama. There’s a cutting edge to each frame, epically lensed by Ari Wegner with the vast prairies of New Zealand standing in for Montana plains. A shot of a knotted rope, the castration of a bull, or the movement of a cigarette tell as much of the story as any piece of dialogue. Every act becomes a piece of symbolism, carrying an intentional ritualistic weight. With plucked strings, Radiohead frontman Jonny Greenwood (often a collaborating partner with Paul Thomas Anderson), squeezes those last drops of tension out of every scene. But when the dialogue takes precedent, Campion, adapting the words of Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel, makes sure it still stings. Phil uses his words to cut someone while they’re down, with a sharpness that cannot be matched. It doesn’t help that his cowhands, who worship his every move, sneer and snicker along. In the lead role of Phil, Cumberbatch reaches new heights in his career. The British thespian has built himself on playing the smartest man in the room, such as Sherlock Holmes on television, Alan Turing in The Imitation Game , and Doctor Strange in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here, that supreme intelligence brings its faults, such as emotional weakness and detachment. Branding Phil as carrying “toxic masculinity” would be too much of an oversimplification as Campion takes that weakness and spins it into something less one-dimensional. While Phil may hate himself on the inside, George is more outward with his self-loathing, which inevitably gets passed on to Rose, as she deals with despair by turning towards the bottle. The real-life couple of Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst are great in their supporting roles, as they find solace in each other’s arms in the brief moments they have together. Acting as the yin to Phil’s yang (and also as the surprise actor showcase within the film) is Kodi Smit-McPhee as Rose’s son, Peter, whose external simplicity masks his internal strength and awareness. The battle between Phil and Peter is one of wits, with the outcome recontextualizing the film into something more than the sum of its parts. Jane Campion has made a grand return to feature films with The Power of the Dog . It’s an enigmatic modern take on the well-worn genre of the Western that leaves you with much more than you could ever bring in. Because of that, it’s one of the best films of the year, and should surely be checked out. Must Read 'Inside Out 2' Review It's a delightful return to the world of emotions, bringing back the spark that we once consistently expected from Pixar. SHOP 'Tuesday' Review It all comes together to make something more than the sum of its parts, which are all equally fascinating to pick apart and dissect. SHOP Cannes Review Roundup Another Cannes Film Festival is in the books, which means it’s time to decompress from all the commotion and gather my thoughts on everything I saw. SHOP 'Anora' Review I’m pretty sure Greta Gerwig’s Cannes jury only needed the initial thirty seconds to declare this their Palme d’Or winner. SHOP 'Emilia Perez' Review An extraordinary amount of dedication and sincerity is given to even the most outlandish of concepts. SHOP

  • 'Bad Behaviour' Review | The Cinema Dispatch

    'Bad Behaviour' Review January 28, 2023 By: Hunter Friesen Bad Behaviour premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. It is currently seeking domestic distribution. “Never give in to hope. Just be,” says Ben Whishaw’s mysterious spiritual self-help guru to a group of strangers that have gathered to solve their deepest and darkest problems. That Yoda-esque saying was primarily aimed towards Lucy (Jennifer Connelly), a former child actress who feels ashamed that she still lives a comfortable life from the money she earned from a trashy television series that was more interested in her body than her character. Attaining fame at an early age affects both the relationships in her past and future, namely with her parents, who clung onto her as a meal ticket, and her now-adult daughter Dylan, who entered the film industry by being a stunt performer. It’s an extremely difficult tightrope walk to create unlikable and complicated characters that make you want to learn more about them and sympathize with their troubles. Only a single false action may tip the scales in the wrong direction, robbing the audience of an interesting study of the human experience. Unfortunately for writer/director/star Alice Englert, she doesn't make just one wrong move, she makes several over the course of this exponentially grating film about broken relationships. Englert, daughter of famed filmmaker and most recent winner of the Academy Award for Best Director Jane Campion, packs a lot of ideas within Bad Behaviour , yet none of them come to fruition. Lucy is riddled with generational trauma passed down by her parents, who also made her feel like she wasn’t good enough. That abusive relationship instilled a deep depression, leading to a neglectful relationship with her daughter later on in life. Englert doesn’t provide much detail into the mother-daughter relationship, save for a few awkward phone calls and a tedious exposition dump later on. Much of the potentially intriguing ideas within her script follow that same trajectory. We’re told more than shown, with the telling coming across as a cop-out. Connelly acts her heart out in the central role, but not in the most positive way. Her eccentric mannerisms and ticking-time-bomb attitude are always front and center, serving as a constant reminder of the artificiality of this character. Things only get worse as the narrative leans more into the absurd near the latter half, with implausible story beats and wild directorial flourishes taking away from any authentic emotion that could have been mined from this situation. Bad Behaviour would at least be tolerable if the problems it had were interesting. But mostly it comes across as tedious and frustrating, making it far worse than it has any right to be on paper. Must Read 'Inside Out 2' Review It's a delightful return to the world of emotions, bringing back the spark that we once consistently expected from Pixar. SHOP 'Tuesday' Review It all comes together to make something more than the sum of its parts, which are all equally fascinating to pick apart and dissect. SHOP Cannes Review Roundup Another Cannes Film Festival is in the books, which means it’s time to decompress from all the commotion and gather my thoughts on everything I saw. SHOP 'Anora' Review I’m pretty sure Greta Gerwig’s Cannes jury only needed the initial thirty seconds to declare this their Palme d’Or winner. SHOP 'Emilia Perez' Review An extraordinary amount of dedication and sincerity is given to even the most outlandish of concepts. SHOP

  • 'Love Lies Bleeding' Review | The Cinema Dispatch

    'Love Lies Bleeding' Review March 13, 2024 By: Hunter Friesen From its neon-drenched cinematography, pulpy story, casting of Jena Malone, and Clint Mansell’s electronic score, one could be fooled into thinking that Love Lies Bleeding is the cinematic return of Danish bad-boy filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn. Blood red tinges over the studio logos, and the opening shot traverses up an abyss so deep that it would make James Cameron blush. The camera keeps moving into a gym at the center of a podunk desert town. Sweat is dripping off every face, muscles are firm and perpetually flexed, the cardio machines are always whirring, and the clanging of weights punctuates each roid rage-induced grunt. Writer/director Sean Durkin showed the peak of the male physique with The Iron Claw , and now it’s time for Rose Glass to do the same for the ladies in her sophomore feature. At the helm of the gym is Lou (Kristen Stewart), a lonesome and frantic person who’s never had a life outside the ten square miles that surround her. Her job is demeaning, dealing with alpha bros “getting their gains” and cleaning toilets by hand. All that changes when Jackie (Katy O’Brian) blows in with the tumbleweeds. Lou has never met anyone like Jackie, which is unsurprising since no one in the world is like Jackie. She’s an aspiring bodybuilder on her to the national championships in Las Vegas, this town being just another stop on her solo journey. Also in the mix is Lou’s father (Ed Harris), the proprietor of a gun range that’s riding high off the gun fetishization in Die Hard . But that’s just a front for all the criminal activities that go in behind the backdoor, with Lou’s POS brother-in-law (Dave Franco) also participating. Glass does show many similarities to Refn in her direction. Improving on what she displayed with her 2019 debut Saint Maud , Glass wrings tension out of each and every scene. The sound effects are ratcheted up to eleven, with pumping of blood through veins and flexing of muscles being treated with both reverence and horror. Every character is ready to pop at any moment, each outburst promising gory results that beg you to look away. As a corkscrew rollercoaster, it makes sense that Love Lies Bleeding also packs a steamy love story between Lou and Jackie. Their power dynamics may be obvious physically, but there’s never a moment where either is fixed in their position. Stewart and O’Brian have excellent chemistry together, both emboldened by Glass to crank up the heat. Neither of them are one-note; with Stewart displaying repressed strength for the timid Lou, and O’Brian showing compassion to counter her hulking physique. With his long flowing mane (just cut it off, man!), Harris is a deadbeat criminal genius from hell. He fills in the gaps of characterization for his antagonistic role, and so does Franco with his nasty mullet. Glass may also swing for the fences a little too much near the end, resulting in some foul balls instead of the expected hits. But it’s easy to forgive the ambition, as there’s a lot here that you haven’t seen much of before. And with Refn out of the picture for now (and not in his peak form), there’s a vacancy for the role of delivering the unhinged pulp we so desperately crave. Must Read 'Inside Out 2' Review It's a delightful return to the world of emotions, bringing back the spark that we once consistently expected from Pixar. SHOP 'Tuesday' Review It all comes together to make something more than the sum of its parts, which are all equally fascinating to pick apart and dissect. SHOP Cannes Review Roundup Another Cannes Film Festival is in the books, which means it’s time to decompress from all the commotion and gather my thoughts on everything I saw. SHOP 'Anora' Review I’m pretty sure Greta Gerwig’s Cannes jury only needed the initial thirty seconds to declare this their Palme d’Or winner. SHOP 'Emilia Perez' Review An extraordinary amount of dedication and sincerity is given to even the most outlandish of concepts. SHOP

  • 'Sing Sing' Review | The Cinema Dispatch

    'Sing Sing' Review April 23, 2024 By: Hunter Friesen This review was originally published at the 2024 Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Film Festival. A24 will release the film in theaters in July. Blue streamers, a paper bird, a cardboard crown, stitched-together outfits, sheet cloth backgrounds, and a dim searchlight. These are the things that are used to turn reality into dreams within Sing Sing Correctional Facility, located just north of New York City. The actors up on that makeshift stage have been put there through Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA), a real-life prison program that aims to help incarcerated individuals channel their creativity in a way that helps them become better suited to their eventual life outside of the cement walls. “We are here to become human again,” is the mantra that the participants live by, with many of them having been a a part of the program for too many seasons to count. One of those veteran cast members is John 'Divine G' Whitfield, who has claimed Sing Sing as his home since he was wrongfully convicted of murders in the 1980s (the film takes place in 2005). He’s become somewhat of a minor celebrity across the prison system, with his plays and books, which he authors by clacking away on a typewriter within his tiny cell, reaching a wide audience of fellow inmates. He’s usually the brains of the operation, coming up with the ideas and scripts for the new productions, and starring in the lead roles. But while his next idea revolves around social satire, the others in the program would like to branch away from the “serious” material (their latest production was King Lear) and do something else. Somebody wants to do a Western, another wants something in Ancient Egypt, someone else wants to continue with Shakespeare, while another wants to play Freddie Krueger. Instead of choosing just one of those options, they decide to stitch them all together through time travel in their own original production. Adapting from the Esquire article “The Sing Sing Follies,” co-writer/director Greg Kwedar takes a naturalistic approach to the proceedings. After each of their performances, the actors are showered with applause from their inmate audience. They go backstage and congratulate each other on the great job that they’ve done. But instead of going out and celebrating, or receiving bouquets of flowers from adoring fans, they’re met with a wave of guards ready to sternly escort them back to their cells. The stark reality of this almost makes it more impressive that they persist season after season to put on a good show. None of this will advance their careers, nor will there be any sort of monetary reward at the end of this road. That non-professional aesthetic extends into the cast as well; with Kwedar only casting three professional actors in Colman Domingo as Divine G, Paul Raci as the group’s advisor, and Sean San Jose as G’s best friend. Much of the other roles are made up of former incarcerated members of the real-life troupe, which gives an unsanitized look at how the program has changed their lives. Talking at the post-screening Q&A, Kwedar mentioned the inspiration he took from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in terms of casting, with Domingo’s Oscar-nominated presence making him stand out similarly to Jack Nicholson. The role of Nurse Ratched is played here by The New York State Board of Parole, who constantly serve as the roadblock to Divine G’s potential release. That feeling of persevering through hopelessness is at the heart of Kwedar and Clint Bentley’s script, but it never comes across in an elevated fashion. Much of the tin-eared lines come from Clarence “Divine Eye” Maclin (playing himself excellently), who makes several speeches about the streets being his home and that you shouldn’t put faith in the system. Bryce Dessner’s somber score soothes your ears between those moments, and Pat Scola’s quietly investigative camera roams the concrete jungle. Sing Sing is an important film when it's all put together, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lecture. There’s a lot of fun to be had in the production of the play, with the sheer creativity being incredibly infectious. Don’t be surprised to constantly hear about this film throughout the rest of the year. Must Read 'Inside Out 2' Review It's a delightful return to the world of emotions, bringing back the spark that we once consistently expected from Pixar. SHOP 'Tuesday' Review It all comes together to make something more than the sum of its parts, which are all equally fascinating to pick apart and dissect. SHOP Cannes Review Roundup Another Cannes Film Festival is in the books, which means it’s time to decompress from all the commotion and gather my thoughts on everything I saw. SHOP 'Anora' Review I’m pretty sure Greta Gerwig’s Cannes jury only needed the initial thirty seconds to declare this their Palme d’Or winner. SHOP 'Emilia Perez' Review An extraordinary amount of dedication and sincerity is given to even the most outlandish of concepts. SHOP

  • 'A Star Is Born' Review | The Cinema Dispatch

    'A Star Is Born' Review October 8, 2018 By: Hunter Friesen A Star Is Born is one of those classic Hollywood films that has stayed close to each generation that has experienced it. Whether it be the original from 1937 or the remakes in 1954 and 1976, people have adored the timeless story that preaches the value of hope and perseverance in the face of adversity. Now in 2018, the film is being remade for the third time, this time with director, writer, and star Bradley Cooper teaming up with Lady Gaga to tell the classic tale to a modern audience. The film follows the relationship between music superstar Jackson Maine (Cooper) and aspiring singer Ally (Gaga). They quickly fall for each other after meeting and set out to share their love and music with the world. Because of this, Ally’s career starts to take off, while Jackson’s begins to crumble beneath his feet as he battles alcoholism and addiction. From this point, their lives begin to irreversibly change. They try to hold onto each other, but it becomes more and more difficult as they go down their own separate paths. Bradley Cooper is a natural director and it is astonishing that this is his debut feature. It probably helps that over the past decade, he’s had the opportunity to learn from veteran directors like Clint Eastwood and David O. Russell. Cooper possesses a ton of confidence and a queen eye for great visuals. The concert scenes are the highlight of the film as they bloom with bright colors and original music. It feels like we’re right there on stage with the main characters as they profess their love to each other while pouring all their emotions into the songs. Cooper uses a high amount of close-ups of the character’s faces in order to tell the story. He also does well at letting scenes play out in a natural order rather than cutting them up. This creates a feeling of authenticity and rawness as the characters are allowed to feel like real people rather than the fictional stars that have been seen so many times before. It’s well known that Cooper is the director and star, but what’s most surprising is that he also contributed to the script along with Eric Roth and Will Fetters. The dialogue between Cooper and Gaga is some of the most authentic speech you’ll find today. Every emotion possible is put on display as their contrasting journeys play out. They always feel like a real couple as they try to manage their relationship and the strain that fame has put on it. In addition to the main plot, there is also a subplot between Maine and his older brother Bobby, who has acted as Jackson’s caretaker all his life. The brothers share a strong bond as they look back on their rough childhoods and re-examine how their relationship has changed over the years. While the subplot provides a good break from the main story and packs an emotional punch, there just needed to be more of it. The interactions between the brothers are few and far between, and by the end, it feels like a lot more could have been explored. The legacy of A Star Is Born has been built on great acting from the leads. Cooper and Gaga more than live up to expectations and will surely be compared to the greats that have come before. Cooper probably gives his career-best performance as the country star fighting his own personal demons. With his lowered voice and grizzled face, Cooper’s character is a sad spectacle that exudes sympathy as his journey takes him lower and lower. He also lends his voice to some great music as he and Gaga light up the stage together. While Cooper is terrific, the show belongs to Lady Gaga as Ally. Even though she’s a superstar singer in the real world, Gaga hides all of that behind her transcendental performance as every girl trying to get ahead. She's the heart of the film as she delivers each line with perfection. Her chemistry with Cooper is second to none as they simultaneously explore the effects that fame has on a person. Lastly, Sam Elliott also gives a career-best as Bobby. He doesn’t get much screen time, but he makes every second count as he plays a character battling his past and the effects it has had on his life. A Star Is Born has everything going for it; great directing, a powerful story, amazing original songs, and two leads who couldn’t be closer. It’s the best film of the year (so far) and will become an instant classic, one that will be played and remembered by this generation for years to come. Must Read 'Inside Out 2' Review It's a delightful return to the world of emotions, bringing back the spark that we once consistently expected from Pixar. SHOP 'Tuesday' Review It all comes together to make something more than the sum of its parts, which are all equally fascinating to pick apart and dissect. SHOP Cannes Review Roundup Another Cannes Film Festival is in the books, which means it’s time to decompress from all the commotion and gather my thoughts on everything I saw. SHOP 'Anora' Review I’m pretty sure Greta Gerwig’s Cannes jury only needed the initial thirty seconds to declare this their Palme d’Or winner. SHOP 'Emilia Perez' Review An extraordinary amount of dedication and sincerity is given to even the most outlandish of concepts. SHOP

  • 'The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare' Review | The Cinema Dispatch

    'The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare' Review April 18, 2024 By: Hunter Friesen With each subsequent entry in his ever-growing filmography, Guy Ritchie seems to make it a mission to make the most Guy Ritchie-esque film yet. The rough edges of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch have been streamlined over the decades, which may be the primary reason why the British writer/director has been one of the most prolific filmmakers since the pandemic, pumping out five feature films since the beginning of 2020. Hell, he already has one in the can titled In the Grey that’s dated for January of next year (reuniting Ritchie with Jake Gyllenhaal, Henry Cavill, and Eiza González), and is in the process of shooting another Apple adventure movie with Natalie Portman and John Krasinski. Some may cry foul at Ritchie essentially becoming an institution rather than a distinct filmmaker, but his brand of mid-budget action comedies is something that our current movie market sorely lacks. It’s also commendable how mindless they are, like a Michael Bay movie without the migraines. I couldn’t tell you much about the plots of the Sherlock Holmes films, The Gentlemen , or Wrath of Man , but I can recall how entertained I was watching them. The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is no different as it partakes in a giddy showcase of violence. Luckily for you and me, there is no guilt to be felt at the sight of knives slashing throats, bullets shredding torsos, and axes severing limbs; as all these victims are the stormtroopers of the Nazi regime (producers love this cheat code!). We first find our heroes, Gus March-Phillips (Henry Cavill) and Anders Lassen (Alan Ritchson), posing as Swedish fishermen as they’re being raided by the most punchable Nazi officer the movie has to offer. But the sight of over a dozen Nazi foot soldiers pointing guns at them doesn’t inspire fear in our burly warriors, rather, it whets their appetite for German blood. Also along for the ride is their demolition expert (Henry Golding), pilot (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), and strategist (Alex Pettyfer). Their mission, apart from general Nazi ass-kicking, is to locate and destroy the ships that supply Germany’s U-boats that sink anything that dares to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The ships are located off the coast of West Africa at Fernando Po, where two undercover agents (Eiza González and Babs Olusanmokun) have already been stationed to set the trap in motion. Between the yellow-colored subtitles, the Ennio Morricone-esque score by Christopher Benstead, the casting of Til Schweiger as a Nazi, and general vibes, there’s no sense in arguing the heavy influence of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds . This imitation even has its own Mike Meyers in the form of Cary Elwes as Brigadier Gubbins 'M', who has Ian Fleming (yes, that Ian Fleming) as his right-hand man. While Tarantino’s suicide mission perpetually hanged in the balance, Ritchie’s feels like watching the ‘95 Chicago Bulls going up against your local junior college. Our heroes’ indestructibility and inability to be deterred is sometimes a feature, allowing for maximum carnage and the clichés that come with missions going wrong. But there’s also a lack of tension, leaving little to the imagination. Not every joke lands (or was even that good in the first place), and almost all of the characters are pretty one-note. Cavill and Ritchson let their frames do most of the talking, and it’s certainly a sight to behold. Fans of Cavill’s M:I - Fallout arm reload and Prime Video’s Reacher are certainly getting more than what they asked for here. I won’t complain if we just keep getting more of these good-but-not-great actioners from Ritchie for the next half-decade or so. Must Read 'Inside Out 2' Review It's a delightful return to the world of emotions, bringing back the spark that we once consistently expected from Pixar. SHOP 'Tuesday' Review It all comes together to make something more than the sum of its parts, which are all equally fascinating to pick apart and dissect. SHOP Cannes Review Roundup Another Cannes Film Festival is in the books, which means it’s time to decompress from all the commotion and gather my thoughts on everything I saw. SHOP 'Anora' Review I’m pretty sure Greta Gerwig’s Cannes jury only needed the initial thirty seconds to declare this their Palme d’Or winner. SHOP 'Emilia Perez' Review An extraordinary amount of dedication and sincerity is given to even the most outlandish of concepts. SHOP

  • 'Uncharted' Review | The Cinema Dispatch

    'Uncharted' Review February 21, 2022 By: Hunter Friesen In terms of adapting a video game to film, Uncharted should have been the easiest one yet. The cinematic sequences are all there, from the plane ejection and sinking cruise ship in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception , to the train sequence in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves . These levels contained some of the most impressive moments in video game history, with the sound and visuals delivering enough excitement to please even the most adventurous of spirits. Even though it seemed like a slam dunk on paper, publisher Sony struggled for years to get a film adaptation off the ground. They tried to get the ball rolling in 2008, only a year after the first game in the series was released. Things stagnated for a while until The Fighter and American Hustle writer/director David O. Russell was announced to be helming the project in 2010. In hindsight, Russell was an odd choice, and both parties were better off going their separate ways. Little did Sony know that Russell would only be the first of six directors to be attached to the project before leaving shortly after. Eventually, in 2017, Tom Holland was announced for the lead role of Nathan Drake, with Mark Wahlberg, the original choice for Nathan back in the Russell days, playing his older partner, Sully. Zombieland and Venom director Ruben Fleischer came aboard, and the film was finally completed after a decade of turmoil. And yet after all this time, I still would much rather play the Uncharted games a second time than watch the Uncharted movie again. Working as a mix-and-match of different story elements within the game series, Uncharted starts with the street-smart orphan Nathan Drake working at a bar. There he meets Sully, who offers to make Nathan his partner in a search for lost Spanish pirate gold worth nearly $5 billion. Also on the hunt for the treasure is Santiago Moncada, an heir to the family that funded the pirate’s expedition, who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. From there, the two parties bounce off each other in their hunt, which takes them from New York to Barcelona to the Philippines. Except it’s obvious that much of this movie never took place in any of those locations, with dubious green screening utilized as a cheap shortcut. The Uncharted games were often seen as the video game equivalent of the Indiana Jones series, with the bonus that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was a great fourth entry while Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull gets worse the more that hindsight allows. Both those series made great use of locations, taking the audience around the world on death-defying journeys. 2022’s Uncharted doesn’t have that authentic feeling of adventure, as everything is kept bottled up. The characters in the film are in disbelief at what’s happening, but we as the audience feel none of that. It’s all weightless and formulaic, plodding from one beat to the next. What saves Uncharted from being a total trainwreck is the relative likeability of its cast. No one can argue that Tom Holland has been one of, if not the best portrayals of Spider-Man. But the jury is still out if he can carry a film outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s had little success over the years shedding his boyish looks in streaming titles such as The Devil All the Time or Cherry . Even if that same boyishness makes Holland a bit of a miscast, his charm and banterous chemistry with Wahlberg keep the film light on its toes. As far as video game adaptations go, Uncharted is one of the better ones if the bar it has to jump over is generously low. It makes a slightly amusing two hours, with nothing exceptional to make it stick once the credits roll. If you have more time to spare, I’d recommend playing the games. But if you only have two hours, you could do worse than seeing this. Must Read 'Inside Out 2' Review It's a delightful return to the world of emotions, bringing back the spark that we once consistently expected from Pixar. SHOP 'Tuesday' Review It all comes together to make something more than the sum of its parts, which are all equally fascinating to pick apart and dissect. SHOP Cannes Review Roundup Another Cannes Film Festival is in the books, which means it’s time to decompress from all the commotion and gather my thoughts on everything I saw. SHOP 'Anora' Review I’m pretty sure Greta Gerwig’s Cannes jury only needed the initial thirty seconds to declare this their Palme d’Or winner. SHOP 'Emilia Perez' Review An extraordinary amount of dedication and sincerity is given to even the most outlandish of concepts. SHOP

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