EXTRACTION

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EXTRACTION (Mini-review) 4.0_MG_SMALL

Director: Sam Hargrave Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Golshifteh Farahani, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Piyush Khati, Shivam Vichare, Pankaj Tripathi.

If you are looking for any resemblance of a script, or character development or any original emotional arc, then forget about this film. However if you want about 100 minutes of incredible action non stop, look no further! “Extraction” must take the crown as the blockbuster of the year so far (and given that movie theatres will be close for a while, it’ll keep the top spot for a long time).The film literally starts with a bang and never lets go. It is absolutely relentless as the body count keeps rising and getting more and more bloody and the film gets more and more tense. In among all that, there’s a particular chase scene which probably goes on for about 20 or so in a seamless one-take-wonder (which clearly must have been several shots “magically” and invisibly stitched together): it is one of the best action moment I’ve seen in a very long time and I was on the edge of my sofa pretty much all the way through. The usual moaner will probably say that it looked like a “call of duty” extract, to which I’ll reply “So what!?”. It was the most exciting thing I’ve seen in quite a while and never got bored.
One final interesting fact: the final credits are about 15 minutes long!!! 😱

On #Netflix right now

THE LITTLE PRINCE

THE LITTLE PRINCE

THE LITTLE PRINCE 3 out of 5

This is a reimagined take of the classic tale by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. There’s a completely new framing device, set in modern day (a city which seen from the above looks like a microchip from a computer), which I guess is needed for today’s audience so far away from the the sensibility of the 1940s when the original book was written. In contrast it is intercut with dreamy warm segments straight from the original book, beautifully rendered in 2D stop motion.
The central message that all grown-ups were once children, but few of them still remember it, is still at the core of the story. It is lovingly done and very respectful of the original, but despite some beautiful imagery, especially during the little Prince’s tales, the film is a little bit too opaque to be really loved by children, and it’s probably slightly too laboured, self conscious and artificial for adults.
Those who love the original book might be disappointed and enchanted in equal measure aware that this is one of those stories that is next to impossible to be reproduced on a screen.

THE LITTLE PRINCE is available on Netflix

Ratatouille

RATATOUILLE

revisiting “RATATOUILLE” 5 out of 5

I’ve been doing this little exercise on Facebook called  #AMovieADay, which is turning out to be a way to re-discover some gems and especially watching some of them with my son, it’s an excuse to pretend to be a child again and treat myself with a animated film like this.
Ratatouille is up there among the most enjoyable Pixar animated features.
The colours and the rendering of the food alone makes it a five star film, if on the top of that you add the infectious music by Giacchino, the sheer inventiveness of the story of a rat controlling a human by his hair, the splendid creation of the character of the food critic who lives in a room shaped as a coffin, that “inspired” moment with the ratatouille itself (with that priceless “jaws-counter-zooms effect), that masterful first scene in the restaurant kitchen, choreographed like the an action best, the chase sequence in the streets of Paris, the revelation of the city itself from the rooftops, the health inspector… and I could go on and on.
This is one of the richest, warmest, most colourful animated film of the last few decades. It may not have the ambitions of future Pixar movies like Inside Out, Coco, or even Wally, but it’s certainly one of the most delightful and enjoyable.
One finally bit of advise, you really don’t need a child as a excuse to rewatch (or even watch for the first time) a film like this: just do it. You’ll feel better.

Scary Story to tell in the Dark

Scary-Stories-to-Tell-in-the-Dark-Harold

Scary Story to tell in the Dark 3 out of 5

Director: André Øvredal. Cast: Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows ,Austin Zajur.

A horror story for teenagers I guess, which depending on what mood you’re in, you’ve got equal chances to love it or hate it.
The setting is your typical suburban American town in 1969, obviously at Halloween. Iimagine a cross between all the classic 80s horror B-movies (Creepshow, Children of the corn and so on), mixed with a bit of Stephen King’s It (and consequently, Stranger things too) and a hint of “Final Destination”. In other words, there is absolutely nothing original in this film. You could plot pretty much everything before it actually happens but maybe that’s part of the fun. In fact the first half at least of this film holds on quite well, proving that sometimes you don’t need to be completely original to create a suspenseful story. A few jumps scares here and there, some creepy imagery and fun-gory bits.
It often does feel like a collection of little segments put together and I do wonder whether at some stage this was meant to be an anthology film. However for what it is “Scary Stories” definitely outstays its welcome and after a while all the genre tropes become a bit tiresome. The last 20 minutes are insufferable and left me with a really sour taste, almost sorting enough to push it all down to “2 stars”.

The Goonies

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THE GOONIES 4.5_MG_SMALL

Director: Richard Donner.Writers: Chris Columbus, Steven Spielberg. Cast:Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Ke Huy Quan, John Matuszak, Joe Pantoliano, Anne Ramsey.

To talk about this film objectively is for me virtually impossible. I’ve grown up with the Goonies and I could probably recite the script by heart (in fact both in Italian and English). For us children of the 80s this was the film to watch over and over again. We all dreamed of adventures, hidden treasures, secret dungeons. When I was 15 or 16 I even made a short film with my friends (using a huge VHS camcorder) called the “poonies” which was a rip off (to put it kindly) of the idea of a band of kids solving a mystery.
Anyway back to the Goonies. Your appreciation of this will depend whether you’ve grown up with it (or whether you’re a kid today) or not.

This screams Spielberg’s popcorn 80s all the way, in the best possible way: it’s witty, charming, exciting, adventurous. It has kids on bikes, the suburban locations, the slightly cheesy all American innocence. It’s just a perfect entertainment machine.

Beyond the (intentionally) ludicrous and slightly clunky plot director Richard Donner directs the group of talented young actors with such care, dynamism and love, making them feel like they’ve all been knowing each other forever. The interaction between them is what makes this such an enduring classic: they all embody their parts to perfection. Each of them has always something to do, even when they’re in the background. Yes sometime they all talk over each other and often it can be hard to understand what they’re talking about as their screams and loud music cover some of the lines, but that’s what makes it so much enjoyable to watch too!

The film rattles along from set piece to set piece, beautifully photographed with its moody dark shadows. There’s no “kids don’t do this at home” warning here. There’s swearing, penis jokes, tongue kissing references, some bullying even but it’s all done with such fun and innocence that it’s hard to fault it.
And that’s without mentioning the Fratelli brothers (and their mom!), Sloth, the pirate ship, the water slide, the “Good Enough” song, Sean Astin, and so on and so on….
My son watching it for the first time was breathless, shouting at the screen, covering his eyes and ears, mesmerised and terrified at the same time. What a joy watching it with him.
In a time defined by superheroes, blockbusters, Disney franchises and reboots, the Goonies is what “kids’ movies” used to be and Hollywood should look at it again once in a while and learn something from it.

MY LIFE AS A COURGETTE

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MY LIFE AS A COURGETTE (US Version: My Life As A Zucchini) 5 out of 5

Director: Claude Barras. Cast: Erick Abbate, Romy Beckman, Susanne Blakeslee, Ellen Page.

Well, that was a surprise! Chosen by Giovanni, we were all half expecting to see a film about talking vegetables… We could not have been more wrong!
There are different types of good animated films (and then obviously there are infinite types of bad ones!): those that use the means of animation to do things you couldn’t really do in real life. Pixar does that all the time: “Up”, which we saw yesterday had a flying home attached to balloons and talking dogs. And then you have those like “My Life as a Courgette” (“zucchini” in the American Version), which tell absolutely normal stories about very important things and grown up feelings, which children might not necessarilybe interested in watching were they not for the animation factor itself and the fact that the characters have big heads and big eyes and they might just looking appealing enough for them.
The is a beautiful, tender, poignant, funny and very wise film that takes on tough subject matters through the eyes of children. It is so warm, so alive, that adults will forget they’re watching stop-motion animation. Most of the details might go through a young viewer’s head, but the important issues bubbling over the surface about family, loneliness and friendship are all there for them to absorb.
A splendid little surprise with so much to offer in only 70 minutes!

One Cut of the Dead

One Cut of the Dead

One Cut of the Dead 3 out of 5

Director: Shin’ichirô Ueda. Cast Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Harumi Shuhama

Now let me tell you, this film requires a lot of patience. But given its 100% score of rotten tomatoes, I was willing to give it a chance. I have to be honest though, I found myself wondering 

“How long should I carry on watching this?” more than once. 

But I’m glad I did persevere. 

* * * (MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD) * * * 

The film is essentially a film within a film… within a film… (within a film?). It reminded me a little bit of those plays like “The Play That Goes Wrong” and especially “Noises Off” for its 3 act structure. 

It’s a sort of love letter to no-bugbet guerrilla-style film-making. Living in Oblivion obviously comes to mind and of course Day for Night (but clearly there’s no comparison).

It’s a film that basically rewards you right at the end in the last act, where finally all it’s revealed and everything clicks together and makes sense, including all those bits which you thought were a bit “odd” or just bad.

At which point, it’s definitely A LOT OF FUN and I can see why a lot of people warmed up to it. 

Whether the “payoff” (doesn’t matter how much fun it is) is enough to make this the masterpiece everyone is talking about is very debatable. Because it order to get there, you’ll have to go through such an extended and elaborate set-up, with bad acting, unfunny jokes and a terrible script. 

Booksmart

booksmart

BOOKSMART 4 out of 5

Director: Olivia Wilde. Cast Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow, Jason Sudeikis.

Nothing about this film inspired me much, from the title, to the cast, to the trailer… Not even the poster looked that good.
I thought “Do we really need another teen-comedy, about people graduating from high school, trying to go to parties and have sex and being as rude as only kids can be at that age?”
Well, apparently we do.
Not for anything “Booksmart” ended up on Obama’s list of his favourite film from 2019.
Obviously, every film needs to be judged according to his genre (if any). You can’t really compare a horror with a comedy or a documentary and so on. But this is certainly one of the strongest coming-of-age/teen-commedy of the last few years and it will probably end up being used as a sort of milestone for this decade, the way Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Breakfast Club were for the 80s, Clueless for the 90s and, like or not, Superbad for the 00s (thought, I can assure you, this is A LOT BETTER)
This is a comedy which is so effortlessly inclusive and progressive that it doesn’t even have to make a point about by drawing your attention to it: it just is.
The humour is always sharp, yes sometimes crude, yes often puerile, but never cheap and always advancing the story or its characters… and most importantly, quite fun too!
The script is honest and smart as it plays with tropes and archetypes and doesn’t just subvert them but gives a whole new fresh and modern twist.
Yes, we still have the “graduation speech” scene at the end and the “learn about myself” moment and rivals will inevitably become friends, but for most of it, the film just hangs all the superficial assumptions and the clichés at the door and let the real kids step forward, and boy the kids of today are a lot smarter than we were!

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