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Hell House LLC (2015)
Hell House LLC (2015)
2015 | Horror, Mystery
I'd heard very little about Hell House LLC before watching it and hadn't even seen the trailer either. But, it had been highly recommended by a few people and had been sitting on my Amazon Prime watch-list for some time anyway, so I decided to give it a shot. It's a found footage horror, which has been done to death now, so it's easy to go into another one feeling cynical and apprehensive. However, there is still the occasional hidden gem out there waiting to be found and, for me, Hell House LLC turned out to be one of them.

The plot surrounds a Halloween house tour in an old abandoned hotel in a small American town. On opening night, as dozens of thrill-seekers descend on the house to enjoy the various mannequins and lighting effects that have been setup to try and scare them, there is an incident down in the basement. Panic ensues as everyone tries to locate the exits and there are a number of mysterious deaths, along with numerous injuries. We see a YouTube video that somebody recorded during their tour, but they didn't quite make it to the basement to capture what went on, so all we see is them making a hasty exit. Five years on and the hotel is now boarded up, while the whole tragedy remains unexplained. Now though, the sole survivor of the crew responsible for putting on the event has approached a documentary crew with a bunch of video tapes that were recorded by the team in the run-up to opening night, so hopefully the truth will finally be revealed.

We begin with the team driving to the hotel for the first time, before going inside to check it all out. They've put on Halloween house tours before, but this one is a bit of a challenge due to the derelict nature of the hotel. First they need to get power to the place, in order to setup safety cameras in every room and corridor, strobe lighting etc. Then they start setting up the various rooms, working out themes and hiring a small group of actors to dress up and scare people during the tour. Early on in the movie, these scenes are interspersed with interviews from reporters, photographers and historians who recount some of the troubled history of the hotel and give us a bit more detail as to what happened during and after the events of the tours opening night.

The crew of five are all staying in the hotel as they work towards the big day, all the while documenting their progress and the various challenges they encounter. The place is seriously creepy anyway and the movie takes it's time in establishing the characters and making sure you're familiar with everything they've installed and the general layout of the hotel before mysterious things start happening, usually at night while everyone is trying to sleep. At first, things are basic enough that it's easy for them to accuse someone of trying to prank the others, but they soon start to increase in intensity and creepiness. Despite all common sense, preparations still continue for the big night which, as we already know, turns out to be a big mistake.

I really liked Hell House LLC. I'm still not actually sure what happened down in the basement, or afterwards for that matter, but the build up to it really did work well for me and there were some very effective and genuinely unsettling moments. And I do love feeling unsettled by a movie!
  
Vice (2018)
Vice (2018)
2018 | Biography, Drama
Good movie with 2 GREAT performances
Writer/Director Adam McKay was known for years as the writing partner/director of Will Ferrell, having written and directed such comedy gems as ANCHORMAN, TALLADEGA NIGHTS and STEP BROTHERS and then, in 2015, he stepped out of Ferrell's shadow - and the comedy world - and delivered the multi-Oscar nominated film THE BIG SHORT, a fascinating, terrifying and (at times) funny look at the financial crisis of the mid-2000's.

His follow-up to this film is another fascinating, terrifying and (at times) funny look at a serious subject - the life and career of former Vice President Dick Cheney, an unassuming bureaucrat that wields much power in the George W. Bush White House. I thought THE BIG SHORT worked on every level so was looking forward to this follow-up and this one works on MOST levels.

So..what does work? Let's start with the acting of the top-notch cast. Steve Carrell, Sam Rockwell, Lily Rabe, Justin Kirk and Tyler Perry all are terrific in smaller, supporting roles that depict real people (like Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Liz Cheney, Scooter LIbbey and Colin Powell, respectively). They all bring the necessary level of gravitas and ironic humor to their parts.

But...make no mistake...this film stars and IS ABOUT Lynne and Dick Cheney (Amy Adams and Christian Bale) and both of these two stars SHINE BRIGHTLY in their portrayal of a a Washington DC power couple who are always calculating the political angle of any issue and how they can benefit from it. I expect both of these two actors to get Oscar nominations.

What also works is the pseduo-documentary style that McKay brings to the screen (similar to THE BIG SHORT), the characters, at times, speak directly to the camera to explain something or (at one time) breaks into a Shakespearean scene to emphasize what's going on.

So...what doesn't work? I'm going to start with the Narrator of this piece, Jesse Plemons. He is a solid actor who can bring a wry sense of humor - or gravitas - to the proceedings. But, to be plain about it, Plemons narrator character (who we come to find out has a VERY big role in Cheney's life) is just not interesting enough to follow or listen to. In THE BIG SHORT, this role was filled by the charm and charisma of Ryan Gosling and, I'm afraid, Plemons just doesn't have that same level of charm and charisma.

Secondly, what didn't work for me was the people/events that were unfolding in front of me. There was NOT ONE character to root for on the screen. Every politician seen upon the screen was just out for themselves and were willing to screw (or stab in the back) anyone that is no longer any use for them. These are not very likable characters and I longed for someone to root for, which made this film fall short of "GREAT" status for me. It is a very good film - strongly acted - but not a GREAT film.

If you haven't seen it, I would recommend VICE to all if, for nothing else, the performances of Adams and Bale, they are mesmerizing, just don't expect to root for anyone.

Letter Grade B+

8 (out of 10) stars and you can take that to the Bank(ofMarquis)
  
In The Dark World, Zak Bagans talks about his ghostly encounters, as the lead investigator for the documentary series Ghost Adventures! As one of the more seasoned and experienced professionals in the field, Zak has had some pretty crazy experiences! They cover the entire spectrum of ghost hunting phenomena, from seeing full body apparitions, to having his butt pinched by a spirit, LOL!

Zak begins by talking about the experiences he’s had with spirits prior to the series, and explaining why his own nature led him to this danger’s-edge career path. It’s not a biography however, and in some places is more like a manual for future ghost hunters.

There is an element of progression in the book, in that it starts by concentrating on innocent spirits, which he admits make up the majority; followed by confused spirits, who are sometimes unaware that they have died. This is succeeded by chapters on angry spirits, followed by downright evil spirits, which he refers to as demons.

The book starts with less dramatic phenomena such as words being heard through a white noise generator, emotional transference, and unexplained orbs of light on camera. But this is quickly followed up by tales of pebbles and shards being levitated vertically and flung horizontally by unseen hands, and physical scratch marks on Zak’s back! Zak also comes dangerously close to being possessed!

When Zak carries out an investigation, he starts by researching the history of the buildings and accompanying remaining personalities linked to the buildings. This makes for better story-telling, both on the screen, and certainly in his book.

I am a follower of the show when it’s available in the UK, and have always been intrigued by the equipment they use. I was expecting the book to be heavily edited, and, as such lacking in this kind of detail. However I was very pleasantly surprised - Zak even goes as far as explaining which pieces of equipment are better, and why. To an extent, the book can serve as a manual for would be ghost hunters.

Zak explains the difference between residual and intelligent hauntings, and chronicles instances where the lines between the two are blurred. He also documents moments when he’s had simultaneous significant readings on several devices, and argues that that in itself provides excellent evidence of the paranormal.

The nerd that I am looked forward to the section on the scientific theories for these paranormal experiences - and I wasn’t disappointed! Several theories were put forward and they form one of the most accessible guides to scientific theories that I’ve ever read! Zak discusses how each theory fits particular experiences of his, and compares and contrasts them for different phenomena.

The book is rounded off with Zak relating his ambitions for the field of paranormal investigation, where he puts a case forward for a central repository of data. In this section, we also hear from other prominent figures in the field, with their hopes for the field, including a striking passage from Marie D. Jones.

The book has high entertainment value, but a mere book, even one written as seriously as this, won’t make a believer out of a sceptic. Its content provides essential background for a would-be ghost hunter however. A recommended read for the open-minded and curious.
  
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Movie Metropolis (283 KP) rated War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) in Movies

Jun 10, 2019 (Updated Jun 10, 2019)  
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
2017 | Action, Sci-Fi
The Great Ape-scape
Six years ago, I didn’t think I’d be telling you that a remake of the classic Planet of the Apes and its sequel would go on to be one of the finest double acts since The Two Ronnies, but that’s exactly what has happened.

Now, the final part of this incredible trilogy, War for the Planet of the Apes is out and ready to conclude an incredible half decade of cinema. But is it as good as its predecessors?

Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his band of loyal apes are forced into a deadly war with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson). After Caesar’s band of apes suffers unimaginable losses, he wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own quest of revenge. As the journey finally brings the two rivals face-to-face, Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both of their species.

I have to say, I was a little concerned the finished product would be as tongue twisting as its frankly ridiculous title (a problem that has blighted the entire series), but it ends up being a stunning and heart-warming finale to a franchise filled to the brim with memorable moments.

The motion capture used on Andy Serkis to create Caesar has to be seen to be believed. If you thought predecessor Dawn was good, you haven’t seen anything yet. His hair moves with subtle believability and his movements are so fluid, it’s easy to forget you’re watching a film and not a documentary.

But this incredible technology isn’t used solely on our main protagonist. Fan favourite orangutan Maurice returns and newcomer “Bad Ape” captured by Steve Zahn provides the flick with a much-needed eccentric, shining a little light in one of the bleakest feature films of the last half decade.

The human characters, naturally don’t fare so well. Woody Harrelson is his usual charismatic self but feels a little caricature like. His colonel just doesn’t feel particularly believable. Likewise, Amiah Miller’s turn as Nova, whom Maurice adopts as his daughter, seems to be merely used as a plot device, though she does partake in some of the sweeter moments.

As with its predecessors, War is a slow burner with the action interweaved into the plot rather than the other way around. In principle it works well, though the pacing towards the middle of this 140-minute behemoth is a little off.

Nevertheless, the action is filmed beautifully. In fact, the whole film is stunning. Beautiful wooded landscapes and open deserts are juxtaposed with the dark concentration camps used in the latter half. One sequence in particular, behind a gorgeously realised waterfall, is one of the best action scenes of the entire year.

Masquerading as a blockbuster, this is a film with a much deeper message about messing with nature. Brutal and emotionally testing, War for the Planet of the Apes is brave in its choices and all the better for it.

Three films in, it would be easy for director Matt Reeves to rest on his laurels and rely on the positive reaction to its predecessors, but thankfully he has climaxed on a high. It’s not perfect, and not an easy watch by any means, but for a threequel, you can’t really get much better.

https://moviemetropolis.net/2017/07/12/war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-review/
  
Eighth Grade (2018)
Eighth Grade (2018)
2018 | Comedy
Elsie Fisher (0 more)
Eighth Grade had its US release back in July last year and since then, I've seen nothing but praise and high ratings for it online. Only now is it heading to UK cinemas and, for some reason, the powers that be have decided to go and release it at the same time as Avengers: Endgame later this month. Cineworld showed it earlier this week as one of their unlimited screenings, so I thought I'd give it a go before it gets lost among all the Avengers hype when it goes on general release.

Eighth Grade is the directorial debut of comedian and former YouTube star, Bo Burnham. It stars Elsie Fisher as Kayla, a young girl lacking in confidence, awkward around her fellow students at school and generally very quiet by nature. So quiet she even lands the award at school for being the quietest, nominated by fellow students in an awards ceremony held during assembly. The movie basically follows the daily struggles of Kayla and her life as a teenager. By night she endlessly scrolls through social media feeds and records her own YouTube videos. Her posts are confident, self help motivational videos about teenage issues, but rarely get more than a single like. She spends her days attempting to follow her own advice and dealing with the anxiety and heartbreak that brings. You feel genuinely awkward with her and spend the majority of the movie totally rooting for her, hoping she'll make it through this tough period of life. Even at home she struggles - mum is no longer on the scene and conversations with her dad are just strained and awkward. All of what makes this feel so natural and believable is down to Elsie Fisher, who is incredible as Kayla, a real star in the making. It all goes to show that growing up can be so hard, girls can be real bitches and boys can be absolute dicks!

I guess your overall enjoyment of the movie kind of depends on whether you can relate to, or appreciate, any of the experiences or feelings that Kayla has. Being a socially awkward father of two daughters, I guess I was hoping to find a lot more to relate to and enjoy than I actually did. To be fair, there are plenty of perfectly observed, wonderfully acted and genuinely beautiful moments throughout, but the movie plays too much like a documentary and that worked against it for me. Far too many moments, particularly around the middle section, when the movie really dragged. And at only 93 minutes long, I shouldn't really be checking my watch and hoping for it to end in the way that I did.

Probably only about 15 or so people attended the large screening of this at my local Cineworld, and around half a dozen of those got up and left during the movie. I wondered if this was indicative of the other screenings around the country but, judging by the reaction online afterwards, approximately 90% of Cineworld Unlimited members seem to have really loved it, with many declaring it their favourite movie so far this year! So I guess this is one of those movies that's really going to divide people. Worth checking out though, and hopefully you'll enjoy it a lot more than I did.
  
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)
2018 | Adventure, Comedy, Drama
25+ years in the making!
Up until its release, "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" would have been at the top of any movie list featuring movies in development hell never to actually make it to the big screen. Those who are interested should read the lengthy details of the various derailed productions of the film including its original incarnation starring Johnny Depp and the late Jean Rochefort. The film chronicles can even be viewed on their own in the 2002 documentary film "Lost in La Mancha".

To say director Terry Gilliam has had a hard time getting some of his quirky films made, financed and released is an understatement for sure. Films like "Brazil", "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" or "Tideland" had their difficulties making it to the big screen. How about having the main star of your film die in the middle of production? He had that issue as well during filming of "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" when Heath Ledger passed away. Thanks to the help of Johnny Depp, Collin Farrell and Jude Law stepping in, the film was able to be released eventually.

Over the years I had kept up with Gilliam's repeated attempts to get the film financed and made including another time where he had cast fellow Python vet Michael Palin in the lead or even Robert Duvall was attached at one point.

The movie itself is a marvel of tenacity for Gilliam and I am very glad he was finally able to make it.

This final version of the film stars Adam Driver as troubled film director, Toby, and Jonathan Pryce as Don Quixote.

Toby is not thrilled about his current production and wanders back to the small Spanish town where he had met some of the locals and made a student film about Quixote 10 years earlier. He finds his "Quixote" living out a sideshow fantasy having lost his grip on reality thinking he is still Quixote today. Toby decides to launch an adventure with him through the Spanish countryside as his "Sancho Panza". Through their quests they encounter a multitude of interesting, wacky and outlandish characters who feed into the Quixote fantasy.

I have to say the film's look left me breathless. As with Gilliam's entire library of films, the production design, art direction and cinematography were astonishing really delving you into this larger than life world and helped move along some of the weaker elements.
 
Gilliam's goal with the screenplay was to adapt the classic Quixote story to be told under up to date circumstances and I'm not sure he completely succeeded. Some of the scenes and dialogue were boring and the movie's plot dragged at times. The mixing of world's was a little confusing and not sure the payoff entirely wrapped the story to conclusion.

Besides playing Kylo Wren, I am not sure Adam Driver will end up having a long career in film as I thought he was flat and not entertaining to watch as I am sure Depp would have been in the role. Jonathan Pryce was a joy to watch and every scene he was in he really stole the show.

It was fun to watch some elements from some of Gilliam's other work on display including the red knight from "The Fisher King", the sprawling landscapes from "Baron Munchausen" or "Time Bandits" and even the sideshow from "Parnassus".

Overall, I am glad I finally got to watch it as I am sure Gilliam was to finally film and release his long-awaited project. I guess I would say I was entertained, but felt like it fell short of being a true classic.

  
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5 Minute Movie Guy (379 KP) Jul 2, 2019

I really want to see this one, and am so glad it was finally made. I actually read Don Quixote in Spanish in college. Good to know you enjoyed it!

Phoenix Incident (2016)
Phoenix Incident (2016)
2016 | Mystery, Sci-Fi
6
6.0 (1 Ratings)
Movie Rating
Today’s selection, for your consideration, is another movie from the ‘found footage’ genre. I know I know. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … ‘The Blair Witch Project’ pretty much broke ground and played out that genre in the timespan of a single film. Hear me out though, cause the folks responsible for today’s selection tapped into the world of science fiction and ufos (and somewhat of a larger budget) to make this movie and the result is I believe a movie worthy enough to add to the selection of your Friday/Saturday night scary movie marathon. I’d even give it B-Movie/Cult Film status.

 

‘The Phoenix Incident’ is a documentary/sci-fi/thriller written and directed by Keith Arem and stars Yuri Lowenthal, Travis Willingham, Jamie Tisdale, Liam O’Brian, James C. Burns, Troy Baker, and Michael Adamthwaite. Based on the infamous ‘Phoenix Lights’ ufo incident which occurred on Thursday, March 13th 1997, the film merges the fictional disappearance of four local men and a military conspiracy with the factual account of thousands of people seeing what was described as a squadron or fleet of ufos seen traveling from the Nevada state line all the way to Phoenix, Arizona and later as far south as Mexico. The whole event was later attributed to a series of flares deployed as part of a trading exercise by A-10 Warthogs of U.S. National Guard (accounts vary by reports made by various media, law enforcement, and military outlets).

 

After overcoming a brief car accident outside of town and a brief but hostile encounter with a local religious fanatic, four of the five friends take off on their ATVs for an afternoon in the desert terrain surrounding Phoenix. As the friends are traversing the terrain and recording live video of their afternoon they suddenly spot a huge military presence consisting of warplanes, troop carriers, and attack helicopters racing into the desert at high speed. Intrigued and perhaps far too curious, the group of friends decide to try and follow the aircraft further into the desert as seen through their own camera footage. Darkness soon falls and the men become witnesses themselves to the mass UFO incident occurring over their town. Soon after though, their outing descends into absolute chaos as they become witnesses to something else. Something horrifying that will lead them into the unknown where their ultimate fate will become a mystery all its own. Included with the footage of the group are interviews with family and friends of the four missing men as well as interviews with law enforcement officials who each have different theories on what happened to the four friends. Intertwined with this footage is the account of the military exercises the men witnessed by an anonymous Air Force officer and his knowledge as to what REALLY happened to the four men that evening.

 

For a film made on less than a million dollars, I give this one major props. It’s definitely falls into the X-Files niche only without Mulder and Scully. I’m wondering if the filmmakers weren’t fans of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ back in the day when Robert Stack hosted cause it has a similar bone-chilling aspect too it at some points. They didn’t CGI the hell out of the special effects either which I think is a real issue today in film and television. The acting ‘doesn’t look like acting’ either. The majority of ‘footage’ genuinely looks like a bunch of friends that start off spending the day goofing off and hanging out only to have their fun filled afternoon descend into utter hell.

I’ll give this one 3 out of 5 stars. Definitely worth the money for the digital download. Watch during sunset or at night to enhance the ‘thrill factor’ and checkout the bonus features included with the film as well. You’re liable to get caught up in it though and forget it’s fiction.

 

Or is it?
  
Official Secrets (2019)
Official Secrets (2019)
2019 | Biography, Drama, Thriller
Should this tense, dramatic thriller remain a Secret?
I was lucky enough to be invited to an advanced screening of this film, ahead of it's general release.

"Official Secrets (2019)" is a tense and clever thriller based on real events that occurred during the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003. Keira Knightley plays Katherine Gun, a British spy-turned-whistleblower who worked for GCHQ at the time. She leaked confidential information to the press, exposing illegal activities at the highest levels of government intended to falsely justify the invasion of Iraq. Backed by a high-calibre support cast, which includes Matt Smith and Ralph Fiennes, this film serves to show you the true story of what happened during this shadowy and questionable chapter in our history.

The film uses actual news footage from the time to great effect, making you feel as if you're watching a biographical documentary on the History Channel. Knightley is captivating as the Robin Hood-esque lead, delivering a truly believable and heartfelt performance throughout. It wasn't until the credits began to roll and they showed you footage of the real Katherine Gun from news reels at the time that you realise just how good Knightley's performance really was. From the way she dressed to the tone in which she spoke and the small mannerisms of her personality, it was a very, very good portrayal.

As with most films like this, I imagine certain events and aspects of the story were dramatised or exaggerated for the purposes of cinema, but at no point did it ever feel like it. Any changes to real events were subtle enough that you couldn't spot them without detailed knowledge of what really happened at the time - something, it turns out, very few people actually had.

Matt Smith is both charming and uncompromising as the stubborn reporter who champions Gun's crusade for the truth, giving her support and a platform to get her message out to the world. Similarly, Ralph Fiennes looks right at home as the lawyer who defends her in the public eye.

I admit that certain aspects and legalities within the plot felt, at times, a little far-fetched, but honestly, the film did such a good job of telling this story, I'm inclined to think that's still how things actually happened.

Spoilers aren't as much of an issue for films like this, as you already know the outcome. But this film isn't about the destination, it's about the journey. It shines a spotlight on the down-and-dirty world of global politics, as well as how difficult it can sometimes be to choose to do the right thing.

The film moves along at a slow yet perfect pace. It doesn't look or feel like a Hollywood movie, which I think is a very good thing. Instead, it feels like a BBC drama, similar to Line of Duty or Luther or Spooks, and that's exactly the kind of approach this film needed to work.

I went into this admittedly understanding very little of what went on back in 2003. I was much younger and wasn't interested in geopolitics, or even the news in general. But seeing this film piqued my interest, and after a few hours of Googling the events depicted in the film, I'm even more in awe of just how well made this was. Kudos to everyone involved.

My only criticism, if I had to give one, would be the number of times people had to say "Official Secrets Act"... I get that's what the film is about, but it seemed like every character had a quota for the number of times they had to mention it! But that's just nit-picking for nit-picking's sake. This truly is a cracking film. One of the gems of the year that's not to be missed!
  
Jojo Rabbit (2019)
Jojo Rabbit (2019)
2019 | Comedy, Drama, War
During the opening credits of Jojo Rabbit, we're treated to The Beatles singing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" while documentary footage plays showing crowds of Germans going absolutely nuts for Hitler, sieg-heiling and cheering for him. It's a fairly good indication of the kind of humour you can expect from Jojo Rabbit and writer/director Taika Waititi, who hit the big time after directing 'Thor Ragnarok', but has previously been responsible for a wide range of brilliantly quirky movies such as 'What We Do in the Shadows' and 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople'.

We begin by meeting 10 year old German boy, Johannes 'Jojo' Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), as he nervously prepares to head off to Nazi youth camp in order to fulfill his dream of serving Adolf Hitler. Heading up the camp is one-eyed Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), aided by a bunch of inept instructors, including Fraulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson) and Finkel (Alfie Allen). At the camp, boys get to play with knives and hand grenades, girls are taught the importance of having babies (Fraulein Rahm has given birth to 18!), while all of the children are taught about the evil monsters that are the Jews. Accompanying Jojo at the camp are best friend Yorki (a brilliant Archie Yates, soon to be starring in the recently announced remake of Home Alone) and Jojo's imaginary friend Hitler (Taika Waititi). When Jojo refuses to wring the neck of rabbit during a lesson on killing (earning him the nickname Jojo Rabbit), and is hospitalised following an unfortunate incident with a grenade, he is forced to leave the camp behind, returning home to be with his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson).

While his mother is out during the day, Jojo discovers a teenage Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding out in the wall-space of his sisters bedroom. Jojo is initially shocked, and repulsed, by this hideous Jew, even more so when he discovers that it was his mother who was responsible for hiding her. As time goes on though, Jojo and Elsa begin to form a friendship, with Elsa feeding Jojo a series of made up ridiculous stories and tales regarding the origins and ways of Jews so that Jojo can write a book about them. All the while, Rosie remains completely unaware that Jojo knows anything of Elsa. The bumbling, goofy Hitler occasionally shows up too when Jojo needs words of encouragement, or when times are tough, and provides us with some welcome light relief. More humour is provided in the form of various smaller characters, including gestapo member Stephen Merchant and his team during what is essentially a pretty serious and dramatic scene as they show up and ransack Jojo's house.

But Jojo Rabbit is a movie about relationships. The Jojo/Hitler dynamic begins to take a backseat as things start to get more serious and we focus more on the bond between Jojo and his mother, and the relationship between Jojo and Elsa, as the final months of the war play out. The child actors in Jojo Rabbit are all outstanding and we also get to see a wonderfully different side to Scarlett Johansson. Sam Rockwell is hilarious and Rebel Wilson is just, well, Rebel Wilson! Occasionally though, we are dealt an unexpected gut punch, and it's fair to say that you'll be crying at Jojo Rabbit just as much as you'll be laughing. If I'm honest, I really wasn't expecting that side to Jojo Rabbit and it did more for me and my enjoyment of the movie than the comedy did, which wasn't really as laugh out loud as I thought it would be. Overall though, Jojo Rabbit is simply wonderful - funny, heartbreaking, sad and poignant - and unlike anything you've ever seen before.
  
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Christopher Kirk (1384 KP) rated Beasts of No Nation (2015) in Movies

Mar 3, 2020 (Updated Jul 9, 2020)  
Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Beasts of No Nation (2015)
2015 | Drama
7
7.0 (2 Ratings)
Movie Rating
As I may have mentioned, a lot of my film viewing over the last wee while has been part of a project that hopes to be called 21st Century Cinema: 200 Essential films of the new millennium – which utilises the Decinemal system you will see at the bottom of each of my reviews. It aims to judge each film objectively with a score out of 10 over 10 categories, to give an overall rating out of 100.

Cary Joyi Fukunaga’s personal opus Beasts of no Nation, made for Netflix but good enough for a cinema release, falls into the category of films that have garnered enough critical acclaim to demand consideration for the top 200. It is the kind of film that you would always recommend, but may choose to overlook in search of a more basically entertaining watch.

Fukunaga has a fine pedigree already in his career, with credits on True Detective and the under-rated Sin Nombre from 2009. He has also been tasked with directing duties on the delayed Bond No Time To Die, which we hope to see before the new year now. He is a hands on, no messing about kind of guy, seemingly, taking on writing and cinematography duties also for this sad tale of child exploitation in an unnamed African war.

At times, it borders on documentary style, with an eye for strong visual images and extended silences, favoured over extraneous exposition and needless dialogue. A technique that makes the subject matter all the more uncomfortable to watch. Idris Elba adds big name weight in a fine supporting role, but the lion’s share of acting responsibility falls to young Abraham Attah, who is nothing short of astonishing in the most harrowing moments of this stark and sincere story.

I have to confess, this was another pre-lockdown watch for me, and as much as I can recall the feel and impact of it as a whole, I would struggle to talk about it in any detail after one viewing three months ago. And that is partly the reason it won’t quite make the lower benchmark of a strong 73 Decinemal score; for all its power it just isn’t quite memorable enough on every level, in the way something like City Of God, or even Beasts of the Southern Wild most definitely are.

Perhaps those are unfair comparisons, but it strives for the impact of the former without the flair, and has an independant feel without the charm of the latter. Not that flair or charm are priorities here. It simply wants to show you an issue you may not have been overly aware of, and demands that you empathise both with the complexity of the problem and with the tragic journey of Agu – a child robbed of all innocence by a terrible world.

The photography sits with the strong performances as a notable highlight; giving contrast to the devastation, depredation and desperation under the skin, and showing an angry beauty that dances beside it, showing brief moments of hope when we need them most, and therefore avoiding the trap of being too brutal to enjoy on any level. Which is a mistake similar films can fall prey too.

Violence and war are not light subjects. When the focus is also the lost soul of a child, the tightrope of melodrama and sentimentality is very fine. All involved here walk that line expertly, never once resorting to having to buy your care with familiar Hollywood tricks. In fact it couldn’t be further from Hollywood if it tried. And the drama is all the better for that.

A solid, fine movie, that is narrowly short of being truly great. But you should most definitely see it at some point if you haven’t already.