The Tragedy Of Macbeth: One For The Art House Crowd And Not Many More

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A retelling of Macbeth with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand in the leading roles, no more is needed.

I am sure the art house attendees will love this film; I however was decidedly less impressed. I think the performances from Washington and McDormand are good, not Oscar worthy but good, and the style of the film is cool to look at, but really other than that I struggle to see what is so impressive about this film.

It does little different to any other Macbeth adaption you have seen and though it tries to differentiate itself with its style it is only partially successful. Furthermore, the language choice of old Shakespearian English will be a barrier to entry for some, just as it was with the Fassbender adaption that tried a similar thing only a few years prior; and is probably the better of the two.

Perhaps I am a philistine but through most of this film I was bored. I had seen it all before and though Washington and McDormand are good they are not good enough to get me to invest in something I have already seen before. Moreover, despite clocking in at less than two hours this feels much, much longer and will test the patience of most moviegoers.    

Overall, don’t believe the hype.

Pros.

Washington and McDormand

The style

The story is a literary classic

Cons.

There is little new here

The style doesn’t add enough

It is badly paced  

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Bruised: Berry’s Career Receives A Knockout Blow

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

In her first directorial role Halle Berry has to give herself the lead role of a disgraced UFC fighter trying to get back in the game, as no one else is offering her roles. It is funny how life mirrors art, though I suppose Berry isn’t disgraced simply forgotten.

If this is how Berry wants to get back into cinema stardom then she has gone the wrong way about it, casting herself feels cheap and more than a little narcissistic, this wouldn’t be so bad if she was able to provide the film with a good performance, sadly that is not forthcoming.

As I have said in many other reviews the actor turned director often doesn’t have a lot of luck making good films that are well received by both audiences and critics, this provides us with another example. Berry certainly throws everything she has at this film, but it isn’t nearly enough. The pace of over two hours is simply grotesque and the story of a broken former star trying to regain past glories is about as played out as they come. If the film had better material to work with then perhaps it wouldn’t be as bad as it is.

As it stands this is just another bad and soon to be forgotten Netflix movie, though it does leave us with a lesson that not every actor has what it takes to excel behind the camera.

Overall, incredibly familiar, overly long and frankly an effort in egotism.

Pros.

It has a good soundtrack

The supporting cast are trying

Cons.

Berry

It is too familiar

It is too long

It is incredibly generic    

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Italian Studies: Wandering The Streets Hoping To Get Things For Free

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A writer, played by Vanessa Kirby, loses her memory and so must wander the streets in search of who she is.

I have seen many mixed reviews for this film describing it as more of an experience than a film, and largely that is right. There is no real cohesive structure here, some of it seems genuine whilst other bits abstract, it feels far more like an art film that is more into its themes than telling a story, do these elements lend themselves to the film? Yes and no, yes in that they help to further the helplessness and isolation of the lead as she doesn’t know who she is and no, in that it leads the film to often feeling drawn out and padded which effect the pace.

The supporting cast led by an always solid Maya Hawke are again just fine, they can’t match Kirby and don’t really try to. For the most part I found the supporting cast serviceable, though I did not like the quasi interview scenes wherein Kirby’s character talked to them off screen and they gave their views on life, as with C’mon C’mon I found the format trite.

Vanessa Kirby does a good job at giving the film something tangible and delivers a fairly layered performance, sadly however it leads to nowhere as the script can’t be bothered to feature a proper ending of any sort.

Overall, Kirby is good but for most this film can be easily skipped.

Pros.

Kirby

Hawke is trying

It has some nice mediative moments

Cons.

It has pacing issues

Narratively it is flawed

The ending is weak

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Parallel Mothers: Always DNA Test Your Child

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Two mothers, played by Penelope Cruz and Milena Smit, become intertwined in each other’s lives after befriending one another on a maternity ward.

Spoilers

I found this film to be fascinating, they did so much with such a simplistic premise. To get right into spoilers I enjoyed the conspiracy angle to this film as Cruz’s character becomes more and more sure the child she is raising is not her own. I thought these ideas of paranoia and hormonal changes nicely lent the film a sense of tension that permeated it throughout.

Furthermore, I like the mania of the later film when Cruz’s character is forced to live with the knowledge of her discoveries and come to terms with what has happened, as she desperately clings to those around her looking for a life raft. I thought these later scenes were acted to perfection by Cruz and her performance on the whole was terrific and should be up for awards consideration this season. I liked Smit’s performance as well but thought she was totally outacted by Cruz.

My one complaint of this film would be that it had a number of very unnecessary subplots that led to nowhere, with these removed the film would have been phenomenal.

Overall, a very strong film and one to check out before awards season.

Pros.

Cruz

The tension

The conspiracy

The ending

Cons.

A few too many subplots, a little busy.

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Licorice Pizza: Grooming And Further Consent Issues

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young man, played by Cooper Hoffman, pursues an older woman, played by Alana Haim, whilst both try and do something with their lives and become successful.

I will come right out and say it, the age difference in this film really bothered me. The boy is underage and the woman is much older, ten years his senior, I thought the film teasing us with the will they wont they aspect was disturbing as regardless of the outcome he is still a minor. They do in fact end up together just in case you’re wondering. I can’t help but note that if the romance was flipped so it was an older man and a below age girl, there would be an uproar and the film would never have been made yet that seems to be ignored here, suspect.

I also thought this film suffered from some of the worst pacing I have seen in the last year, it felt double its run time and far outstayed its welcome bringing in more and more subplots and side stories that you just don’t care about.

On a positive note, I thought there were things to enjoy here. I liked the charming strangeness of the whole thing and thought that there were a number of very funny scenes, whenever Bradley Cooper came on screen and wrecked something or threaten someone that always got a laugh out of me. I also thought the film had a really strong soundtrack that helped it out in various different ways.

Overall, the film has enjoyable elements, Cooper, the soundtrack, some laughs, but the icky romance and terrible pacing really bring it down for me.

Pros.

Cooper

The soundtrack

A good few laughs

Cons.

The icky romance

The pacing is awful

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Burn: There Is No Need To Panic

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film follows a child, played by Matti Kolirin,  born into an unkind world with themes of national panic and personal tragedy.

I found this to be a surprisingly affecting horror film for a number of reasons, firstly the film does a good job in making us care about the child, their experiences, and how they are growing up, so therefore as things begin to happen you care about the fate of the character. Secondly there is more than enough of our modern times reflected in the film, even though it was made a number of years ago, maybe I am reading into it but I saw a lot of home truths reflective of our current hyper panicked world.

I thought the performances across the board were all strong, I believed the family bond and thought each of the actors played off each other well. I was thoroughly convinced.

My only real criticism of the film would be that there were some pacing issues especially towards the start that really slowed the film down, if it weren’t for them this film could be sweeping full marks

Overall, I related to this film quite a lot and found myself moved by it as well as a little disconcerted.

Pros.

The performances

The ending

The emotion

The relatability

Cons.

Pacing issues  

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The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain: Cats Becoming People.

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

From watching the trailers for this film I didn’t really know what to expect. It looked strange and abstract and it is and in that is the films’ greatest success. This is indeed a quirky and an odd film and one that you aren’t likely to see again this year, and by doing that it becomes memorable.

This film is a who’s who of British acting talent and has more than a few familiar faces, everyone does a good job and the acting across the board is strong. Cumberbatch is a superb leading man and from his portrayal you really buy the eccentricity of Wain and also the suffering and the loss. Cumberbatch’s performance is transportive. Likewise Claire Foy is also excellent here and her and Cumberbatch have really strong chemistry that really helps to propel the early parts of the film.

My main negative of the film was that it was incredibly depressing and hard to watch at times. Yes, I know this film was based on Wain’s real life and there is nothing you can do to change that or how it was. It being sad and depressing is true to life. However, it is in that where for me at least the film became hard to watch. The trailers which made the film look feel good were almost certainly misleading, this film is upsetting.

Overall, a quirky film with oodles of personality but one that some might find too sad to watch.

Pros.

Foy

Cumberbatch

The personality and charm of the film

Cons.

It is very sad

Pacing issues

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The Tender Bar: An Earnest An Emotional Performance From Ben Affleck Saves The Day

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young boy, played by Daniel Ranieri as a boy and Tye Sheridan as a young man, turns to his surly uncle, played by Ben Affleck, for life advise in place of his absentee father, played by Max Martini.

Not too long ago in a review I was saying about how actors who then become directors don’t usually end up becoming good at it, I even gave George Clooney, the director of this film, as an example and whilst this film doesn’t prove me wrong it does show a nice upswing for Clooney’s filmography and suggests that maybe there is hope for the actor turned director.

That is not to say this film is perfect, it really isn’t. From a structural point of view there aren’t any stakes, things just happen and then it is on to the next thing. I understand it is supposed to be autobiographical to some extent and life isn’t like a film there often aren’t great stakes and battles to be won, but this film’s narrative needed that. As it stands it’s just one thing then the next, happening one after another without any real consequence.

Furthermore, Sheridan was probably the wrong actor to cast for this role as he seems incapable of emoting. Mud was a good film, but Sheridan wasn’t the main focus there, however in everything that has followed wherein he is the lead he seems incredibly one note and like he is pulling the same face throughout regardless of what is happening on screen- this is true here, painfully so.

However, rather surprisingly this film is saved by an incredibly emotional and earnest performance from Ben Affleck. There are several moments in this film where I would say Affleck’s performance is worthy of awards consideration, one that springs to mind is the emotion on his face during his final scene in the film as he watches his nephew, who is basically a son to him, drive away into the sunset: his face is so full of emotion, happiness and sadness, pride and loss it is quite moving. Sadly, it also points out just how poor of a job Sheridan is doing.

Overall, there might be hope for Clooney yet if he keeps working with Affleck.

Pros.

The emotion

Affleck

It was well paced

Cons.

No stakes, things just sort of happen and then are moved on from

Sheridan  

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Minamata: All You Need To Fight Injustice Is A Camera

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Johnny Depp stars as W. Eugene Smith a photo journalist who was pivotal in exposing the Japanese Minamata scandal.

There will be some out there put off by the fact that this film stars Johnny Depp, to them I will say he has not been charged with anything, though he is already cancelled and the masses online will form a pitch fork wielding mob if he stars in anything. If he is formally charged with something then of course my opinion will change, but for now the situation is murky and people are quick to cast the stone and ride the high horse.

Personally, I thought Depp was surprisingly solid here, his last few performances had begun to suggest he was losing his way and was maybe even starting to phone it in, however he is on strong form here and delivers a stirring performance.

I thought the film as a whole was haunting and brought light to a scandal many of us may not be aware of. It handles the drama and the emotion well and you become so wrapped up in the goings on that you want to go out and fight the injustice as well. I thought Ryo Kase was the scene stealer of the film and had many powerful scenes.  

Overall, I think it is a shame that many will let their feelings towards Depp put them off watching this as it is a very powerful and needed film.

Pros.

Depp

The emotion

Kase

Cons.

Pacing issues

Bill Nighy seems miscast

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Red Rocket: Sleaze In The America South

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A retired porn star, played by Simon Rex, must move back in with his wife’s family as he dreams of ways to get rich quickly.

I applaud this film for giving us a complex lead, in many ways Rex’s Mikey is a deeply flawed individual as he is a predator and a user of people however he also has moments of warmth and the film kind of wants you to root for him whilst also criticising him. However, unlike in film’s of the past where the dirtbag protagonist seems to get away or even be rewarded for their actions here Mikey does face the consequences. It is nice to see a protagonist that is not cut and dry morally, it will upset some online for sure.

I thought for the most part the film was very engaging and kept a good pace, though I will say the start is a little slow, however by the time it hits the start of the second act the pacing is much better. Additionally, I liked the open endedness of the ending, in some ways it can be seen as a defeat for Mikey but in other ways it is more of an easy to overcome setback. I would like to see a sequel to see where the character goes from here.

Overall, a morally complex film which examines the underbelly of society.

Pros.

The morality

Rex

The ending

The supporting cast are all doing a good job

Cons.

A few minor pacing issues

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