HORSE GIRL (2020)

A descent into a fragmenting mind that at first seems like it might land too far the side of twee and meet-cute but veers off into the strange and tragic.

Alison Brie paints a convincing picture of someone suddenly and very rapidly losing their mind to PTSD in a world of pastel mundanity that is both tonally light while uncomfortably grounded.

The sort of weird indie project that Netflix excels at platforming, worth your time if that’s anything like your jam.

I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS (2020)

A young woman goes on a road trip to meet her new(ish) boyfriend’s parents. And… uh… that does happen… but also…

It’s a more successful synthesis of dream logic than anything of recent memory — trippy, unsettling and weird, but just grounded enough to keep you curious and engaged while simultaneously being alienated and slightly uncomfortable.

So much hinges on great anchoring performances from Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons, and any show that Charlie Kaufman wants to put on is worth admission just to see what he’s up to this time around.

This is the movie that Aronofsky’s ‘mother!’ wishes it was, and only a fraction as heavyhanded and self-important.

Do not watch any trailers. Go along for the roadtrip if you don’t mind getting no easy answers.

El secreto de sus ojos (2009) // VS // The Secret in Their Eyes (2015)

While at first blush the two might seem to be the same story, really only the broadest of strokes have been retained in the adaptation from Argentina to North America, and all the richness of character has been drained out for a by-the-numbers crime thriller with an overqualified cast.

EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS (2009) won awards and acclaim as a mystery wherein the investigation into the murder of a young woman twenty-five years in the past stirs up old relationships when the investigator returns to town to try and write a book about his experience on the case. We slowly learn what went wrong, why he was forced to leave, and the life he was forced to leave behind — framed around an unconsummated romance with his superior and the deep vein of corruption running through the Argentinian legal system.

It’s very much sincere and charismatic and takes time to show how the incompleteness of the case has worn on everyone involved, that they have fallen into incomplete lives even now, two decades on, and you sincerely hope for them to find solace or closure.

There’s also an incredible single take chase shot that flies into a soccer stadium, sweeps around the crowd and then pursues the invesigators through the chaos after their mark. That shot alone is a technical marvel worth the price of admission.

Being a mystery, I’ll stay as light on the details as possible, but it’s deserving of the praise and Ricardo Darin is a treasure.

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2015) takes the skeleton of the case and a passing glance at the romace framing the narrative and reshuffles everything else so that nothing fits together in the same way nor approaches anything like the engagement of the original.

The cast is excellent — indeed, this is dream casting for the story and I don’t doubt they were able to pull Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Alfred Molina in simply by screening the original for them. But that’s about as far as my compliments will go.

First and foremost: almost all of the actual detective work happens off screen. The bonding of the investigative team originally came from working out how each of their personas lent something of value to the case and they grew closer through it. In the 2015 version we’re shown a few brief flashbacks of people “being friends” and that’s meant to suffice. It doesn’t.

The politics in this version is a strange shoehorning of post-9/11 anti-Muslim fear involving a stakeout at a mosque that ultimately lends nothing to the story at hand. It can’t possibly have been twenty-five years worth of time between the two parts of the story, and very little effort was actually made to make either time period distinguishable or distinct from one another.

And that impressive chase shot I mentioned? It becomes a single drone shot coming into a baseball match and then as soon as the chase starts proper it just cuts like a normal chase. No single take. Why even bother adapting something if you’re not going to pay attention to the things that made the original unique?

I would highly recommend watching the Argentinian version, and then come back here to find out a little more on how the American remake fucked it up.

SPOILER WARNING

Continue reading “El secreto de sus ojos (2009) // VS // The Secret in Their Eyes (2015)”

PALM SPRINGS (2020)

Much more subdued than what you might expect from a Lonely Island movie but still light, easy and fun all the same.

Effortlessly charismatic performances from both Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti and the always welcome JK Simmons wildcard.

Could have maybe gone a little bigger on its premise, but it’s also really charming while keeping its humour away from the sort of rambling aimless improv you’d get from, say, an Apatow version of this.

Good for a lazy day if you want to feel colour and sunshine pouring out of your TV.

EUROVISION: Fire Saga Story or whatever (2020)

I’m not gonna spend time drawing anything for this one. It sucks.

Dan Stevens and Rachel McAdams’ charisma are entirely wasted on two hours of unwritten jokes and Will Ferrell improvising badly between occasional bright moments of Eurovision ridiculousness that are neither a love letter to the song contest nor anything approaching a satire.

There’s a good pretense for a film here but this execution is fucking atrocious. Comedy is an extremely generous classification.

Skip it.

THE VAST OF NIGHT (2019)

A nice, simple little scifi thriller with the look and feel of an early Cold War-set episode of STRANGE TALES or THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

Does a great deal with very little, and has some really creative camera work that beautifully describes the distances around a small town somewhere in 1950s America.

Some incredibly long and seamless shots and two extremely charismatic lead performances, but to say anything of the plot would be to ruin the tone and the expectation it so wonderfully builds with steady, thoughtful pace. Could have perhaps gone a little further with some of its more creative reaches to really elevate itself it greatness, but I’m not going to hold that against it since restraint stops it tipping over into gimmicky and helps it feel authentic.

Recommended — don’t read anything up about it!

REVIEW SPECTACULAR 7: Revenge of the Medium Movies

Every once in a while I remember a bunch of films that I’ve recently watched which didn’t leave enough of an impression to want to paint them, so I compile them into a single post. This is one of those posts:

GUNS AKIMBO
BLOODSHOT
JUMANJI 2
DOLITTLE
DOLEMITE IS MY NAME
FANTASTIC BEASTS
A WRINKLE IN TIME
WRECK IT RAPLH 2
RAMPAGE

Continue reading “REVIEW SPECTACULAR 7: Revenge of the Medium Movies”

THE FAREWELL (2019)

A Chinese-American family returns home to attend a cousin’s wedding, except the wedding is fake and the family are really gathering to say goodbye to their grandmother whom they haven’t told is dying.

Awkwafina should have received more than just the hushed critical attention she got for this — she really anchors the perspective of an outsider watching a familiar yet alien culture navigate a complex situation, and does so with gravity and a genuine, moving charisma.

Each of the family members offers some insight into the clash of culture between East and West, but seldom do we really get to see that conflict from the modern Chinese perspective and what their own misconceptions of Western culture are like, especially regarding something as universal as a death in the family.

Deserves all the praise. It’s a wonderful film, highly recommended.

PAIN & GLORY // DOLOR Y GLORIA (2019)

I’m starting to think this Antonio Banderas guy might have a bright future ahead of him.

This only really lost attention last year because it was up against the fantastic PARASITE and PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE — it’s a warm, understated and craftsmanly slice of film with a mesmerising lead performance and a mellow, retrospective tone to it.

As much a meditation on a long life of storytelling as it is a story within a story of itself. Doesn’t have the dazzle of its rivals but isn’t aiming for that sort of thing, and is no less a beautiful film.

Recommended.