Nightmare Alley: Not Even Willem Dafoe Can Save This

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A man with a dark past, played by Bradley Cooper, joins a traveling circus and tries to make it big as a mentalist.

What happened here? Coming off Crimson Peak and The Shape Of Water two very strong del Toro films he makes this. That is not to say this film is bad just very average. I have seen this film being talked about under the notion of awards contention and frankly it couldn’t be further away from deserving that.

The film is self-indulgent to a tee and goes on for far, far too long. There are moments of promise throughout the film, but they are quickly undone by all the mediocrity that fills out the rest of the runtime. An example of which can be found with the final twist when Bradley Cooper’s character falls prey to a new circus master, played by Tim Blake Nelson, and becomes the new geek. Now some might say this ending for the character is profound but frankly I saw it coming from midway into the film.

The performances are equally a mixed bag. On the one hand you have strong turns from Willem Dafoe and Rooney Mara, but on the other you have an incredibly one note Cate Blanchett as a femme fatale and Bradley Cooper as a character that seems devoid of any kind of personality.

However, though this review has mainly focused on the negative, as I was disappointed with the film, that is not to say it is all bad. The film’s ending does manage to build a nice amount of tension and feel engaging, and some of the early carnival stuff features nice character work and moments that help the audience to power through just how long the first act goes on for.

Overall, not terrible but certainly a step back for del Toro.

Pros.
Dafoe

Mara

The third act tension

Cons.

Cooper

Blanchett

The pacing

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Dirty Harry: A Troubled Classic

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Unorthodox inspector Harry Callahan, Clint Eastwood, tries to catch a sniper that is roaming the streets of San Francisco gunning down innocent people.

I have had this on my watch list for some time and now that I have I can see why people think it is a noir classic. All the elements of the film come together in such a way to really give this film a classic noir feel, the cinematography, the editing, even the colour choices are all very evocative.

Eastwood is strong in the role and has a number of memorable moments and catchphrases. I think his is the only performance that stands out of the film, and your feeling towards him are mixed. He can be both the cheer worthy hero and also the detestable villain, I’m talking about when he punches the jumper.

There are several lines that age poorly, and that would be offensive when viewed by today’s standards. I tried my best to ignore them whilst watching, but they did put me off it as it was fairly recurrent. Before you counter that by saying oh those were the times, racism has never been okay.

Overall, a slick film that looks a little more dirty when viewed in today’s framing.

Pros.

Clint Eastwood

A very memorable moments

It is slick

Cons.

The racism

The condoning of police torture

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Blood From Stone: Even Vampires Go On Benders, Blood-lust Quenched

Blood From Stone is a vampire western film directed by Geoff Ryan. The plot follows decades old vampire Jure (Vanja Kapetanovic), as he goes on a rampage killing human victims left and right. Revealing himself in the process.

When I first thought vampire western, I imagined it literally, and while this is not that, it is so much more. This feels more like a character study to me, a study in what happens to a person, or in this case a vampire, when they have been denied something they desire for a long time. We see that relapse in all its gory splendour here.

This is a tale of two vampire primarily and though Darya (Gabriella Toth), is a strong character in her own right this is really Jure’s film. I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to say that both Toth and Kapetanovic both give terrific performances. There is something broken in Kapetanovic’s performance which just feels so right for this role.

The horror of this film is not really the sort that makes you jump; it is more akin to dread. Think about how you feel when you watch a biopic knowing it’s a sad ending, or when you watch a film about banker robbers knowing they can’t keep getting away. You get that feeling right from the off and you know it is all going to end poorly, but you can’t help but watch and hope that it doesn’t.

Overall, a very tragic but also fascinating film that enthrals you from the get-go.

Pros

Kapetanovic

Toth

The horror

The sense of dread

The ending

Cons

None

5/5

Reviewed by Luke      

Cat O’ Nine Tails: Argento’s Least Favourite

The Cat O’ Nine Tails is an Italian Giallo film directed by Dario Argento. The plot follows a blind man (Karl Malden), as he works with the police to solve a series of murders.

Of the Giallo films I have seen thus far this is by far the worst.

This film has awful pacing, some of the most egregious I have seen in recent memory. It goes on and on and you lose interest quickly. It has a large amount of bloat and a lot of the film feels like it is trying to kill time until the next reveal which it meanders then eventually gets to.

Unlike other Argento films, you don’t care about the mystery here. The plot feels very average and generic, there is no style to it there is nothing to set it apart from any number of other films. The killer, and the reveal feels very underwhelming especially when compared to Argento’s earlier film, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage.

Finally, the lead is dull and uninteresting. You don’t care about them and they feel very hard to root for. Clearly the film was going for the buddy cop dynamic, or what would later become that, of later noir films as they team the blind man with a generic police officer partner, but they just serve as another character not to care about.

Overall, a weak follow up in the Animal Trilogy and it is fairly obvious why this is Argento’s least favourite of his own films.

Pros.

I enjoyed the soundtrack

Cons.

It is hard to watch

You lose interest quickly

You don’t care about the characters

It lacks but style and substance and the killer feels bland

1/5

The Bird With Crystal Plumage: Take Away, Never Intervene In A Murder

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is an Italian giallo film directed by Dario Argento. The plot sees Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante), an American writer holidaying in Rome become tangled up in a series of bizarre murders. As the killer creeps closer Sam has to figure out who it is and stop them.

What I enjoyed the most about this film was the merging of noir elements and supernatural slasher elements to create a hybrid of sorts. The killer in this film is menacing and mysterious, almost more so than any of the slashers that would come after them, pair this with the fact they also doesn’t feel out of place in this very realistic world. It is a tight rope walk, but one that this film pulls off well.

Pacing wise this film is a model that other films should strive for, it used its hour and a half runtime well it build the mystery and sense of threat over the course of the film well, never giving it a moment to drop or drag. Moreover, the mystery was never obvious, it kept you guessing, and I appreciated that.

I thought the acting was top notch as well, Musante was a compelling lead who had just the right amounts of vulnerability and capability to never feel anything other than a real person. He is not some invincible force of justice, neither is a terrified victim, rather he feels rounded.

Overall, a fantastic example of Italian genre cinema. A strong mystery adapted well that has more than enough thrills and chills to keep you invested

Pros.

The mystery

The killer

The leading man

Paced well

Cons.

It would have been nice to see the female characters be more than just sex objects and victims

4.5/5

Reviewed by Luke