“Unsane” Review

Unsane Poster

Unsane (2018) 

This psychological thriller by Steven Soderbergh (“Side Effects” (2013)) has the distinction of being the first theatrical feature film shot almost entirely on iPhone cameras, and the result is impressive. Claire Foy (“Breathe” (2017)) plays Sawyer Valentini, a career-driven young woman who has just started a new job in a new city. We are invited to question her sense of reality when she becomes obsessed with the apparent stalking behaviour which is going on around her with her being the primary victim. When Sawyer is invited to spend a few days in a mental institution to rest and gather her wits, her apparent paranoia and delusions intensify. Soderbergh employs iPhone cameras very cleverly to both critique the provision of mental health help and to show Sawyer’s mounting psychological problems.

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“Big Fish & Begonia” Review

Big Fish & Begonia Poster

Big Fish & Begonia (2016)

This fantastical tale is about Chun, a girl who is a member of a tribe of mythical beings (“neither humans nor gods, but others”) living underwater, capable of controlling tides and knowing the secrets of nature. As part of her rite of passage, Chun turns into a dolphin to visit the human world. There, Chun makes a contact with a boy who loses his life “because of her”, and Chun vows to sacrifice a part of her life for him, seeking help to turn the boy into a fish which must grow big enough for his later transformation. The story sounds a bit complex; it requires certain open-mindedness; and the layering is quite deep. However, with the stunning visuals (better seen on the widest possible screen), the simplicity of the main theme is quite evident and heart-warming. The meticulously-constructed scenery, and the relatable themes of the cycle of life, and the importance of friendship and of not losing hope, all make this animation more than worth your time. Moreover, “Big Fish & Begonia” has already done extremely well at the Chinese box office, and, being a huge leap forward for the Chinese animation industry, it may be a contender in the next Oscar season.

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“The Mercy” Mini-Review

The Mercy PosterThe Mercy (2018)

There is method in his madness. This is the way some were able to characterise Donald Crowhurst’s insane desire and, ultimately, attempt to finish a single-handed, non-stop round-the world trip – the Golden Glove (Yacht) Race sponsored by Sunday Times in 1968. Completely amateur, Crowhurst, nevertheless, entered the race, and, overcome with growing boat problems and despair, started falsifying his positions in log books, to make it appear as though he is making an excellent progress in the race. The fascinating bit is that the film is based on a real story, which has so far been the subject of numerous books and other films (for example, see, probably, a better recent film “Crowhurst” (2018)). Despite the cast of Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz in the lead roles in “The Mercy“, the film never quite manages to raise its sails up, portraying a very predictable (to the point of boring) voyage, with an almost unconvincing and foolish “hero”-character at its centre. 

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“A Quiet Place” Review

quiet_place

A Quiet Place (2018)    

John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” is currently on everyone’s lips, a horror that tries to “reinvent” the horror genre (if such thing is possible after “Get Out(2017) or “The Witch” (2015)). Preoccupied with silence, “A Quiet Place” is about a close family of four: father (John Krasinski), mother (Emily Blunt), and their two children (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe), who are forced to live in complete silence because any loud noise can provoke an attack of aliens populating Earth. This clever horror film has the theme of alien invasion as its touchstone, but then goes off in its own direction to become something more innovative and absorbing, largely thanks to its effective use of sound or lack thereof.

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“Youth” Review

Youth (2015)youth poster

One of my favourite actors – Sir Michael Caine turned 85 this week, and this is my belated opportunity to celebrate by reviewing one of Caine’s more recent films directed by the eminent Italian director Paolo Sorrentino (“The Great Beauty” (2013)). “Youth” is about Fred Ballinger (Caine), a retired music composer who reminisces on his life while luxuriating at a health resort in the Swiss Alps. His old friend Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), an American film director, keeps him company, while his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz), who suffers from a relationship break-up, prompts Fred to re-examine his past familial relationships. A very much Sorrentino film, “Youth” may not reach the heights of Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty“, but it is still an interesting examination of a life past with some great acting as well as breathtakingly beautiful vistas on display.    

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“120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)” Review

120 BPM poster120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017)  

This French-language film about ACT UP-Paris’s activities to promote AIDS-related issues in the early 1990s is defined by Robin Campillo (director)’s personal experience, which makes the movie somehow even more potent, significant and poignant. At the centre of the story is the ACT UP-Paris organisation itself, a non-violent activist group based in Paris, which tries to defend the rights of those (especially minorities) affected by HIV and AIDS, and to seek better treatment for them. The film boasts great performances from Arnaud Valois (Nathan), Nahuel Perez Biscayart (Sean) and Adele Haenel (“The Unknown Girl” (2016) as Sophie, but it is probably the sheer power of its main message which is the most fascinating and memorable of its assets. An important movie to have been made in many ways, “120 BPM” unfortunately also suffers from excessive length and the inability to successfully shuffle organisational and personal issues in the story in its second half. 

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“The Florida Project” Review

florida-project (1)

The Florida Project (2017)

Sean Baker, director of “Tangerine” (2015), has produced something special – a powerful, unforgettable film about the innocence, joys, freedoms and wonders of childhood played out in the context of social and economic exclusion in Florida, US. “The Florida Project” has been very unjustly ignored by the Academy in the forthcoming Best Picture Oscar race, an omission which is incomprehensible. “The Florida Project” is about a little girl Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) who lives with her young mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) in a simple motel with a big name “The Magic Castle” overshadowed by a large Disney resort. Moonee goes on happily with her daily activities full of wonder and mischief, barely registering the true hardship and deprivation which stalk economically-disadvantaged in the area.

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