The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian (season 1 and 2) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Creator: Jon Favreau. Cast: Pedro PascalGina CaranoGiancarlo Esposito, Chris Bartlett, Carl Weathers.

I’m possibly slightly late with this review. By this time everyone who’s fan of Star Wars must have already seen these two seasons, but I wanted to watch it all with the family (and my 8 years old in particular, who’s becoming a biggest Star Wars fan than I am) to do my assessment of it.. and hopefully I might be able to convince those latecomers who are not so crazy-maniac-Star-Wars-devotees to give it a go.

Star Wars has been a part of my life since I was 5 years old, for better or worse. I’ve grown up with dreaming of flying the Millennium Falcon, terrorised by Darth Vader’s breathing, in awe of the many different planets, in love with R2D2, wanting to be Luke first and then Han as I grew up a bit more. I’ve been through the 3 trilogies (originals, prequels and new), through the standalone movies, I watched the animated series (loved “Rebels” and slowly going through “The Clone Wars”, which actually is getting better and better I’m on season 4), I’ve even read some books, collected stickers, bought the merchandising… and don’t get me started with the Lego sets, T-shirts and all the rest.

Through all this, I’ve obviously been disappointed by some of the outcome more times than I care to admit, but always found a way to forgive the many faults of several of the instalments. It’s Star Wars after all… it’s never meant to be “pure perfection”.And then “The Mandalorian” came along. In the beginning I thought it was all a bit slow and not Star-Warsy enough… I thought it was taking itself a bit too seriously and it seemed to lack the sense of fun and adventure that made me fall in love so much with the whole thing as a child… How short-sighted I was! Having now been to the end of season 2, this has been an absolute joy! Not just a love letter to the whole saga, but a wonderful way to expand its scope without betraying the spirit of not just the films, but the animates series as well as some of the books.It is an incredible achievement, not just technically (some of the sequences are better than any blockbuster I’ve seen on the big screen), but also emotionally: by the last episode I had tears in eyes and my son next to me was clapping his hands like I was when I was his age. What a treat! The magic of the galaxy far far away is back and it feels as fresh and groundbreaking as it felt back in 1977.

I’m in awe at what’s been achieved here and cannot wait to see where it all goes next. Well done DisneyPlus!!

The Little Things

The Little Things ⭐️⭐️⭐

Director:  John Lee Hancock. Cast: Denzel WashingtonRami MalekJared Leto

This wanna-be-Se7en is a throwback to 90s crime films which to be honest adds very little to the genre. There is not a lot here that we haven’t seen before: two cops from different districts getting together to solve a crime, the serial killer playing cat-and-mouse with the police, the seedy dirty room where the victim has been slashed (plus the added gruesome details), the flashlights in the nights, the stakeouts… and I could go and on. In fact, I was so dazed and numbed by the familiarity of all that I found the first half of this film pretty unbearable. Even Denzel Washington looked a bit bored throughout (though arguably that was probably what his character required… who knows? I couldn’t tell). However once the Jared Leto finally came in, things did get slightly more interesting (yet still pretty unoriginal), enough at least to get me through the rest of the film. In fact the second half is a lot more tense and actually I won’t deny that at some point I even found myself midly entertained whether that’s enough to recommend the film, it really depends on your mood. Tonight I feel particularly forgiving… ask me tomorrow and I might tell you to give it a miss.

You can watch this via a digital store such as Google Play or Amazon Prime Video’s store

The Silence Of The Lambs – 20th Anniversary

The Silence Of The Lamb (1991)

(30th Anniversary Review)

Dir: Jonathan Demme With: Jodie FosterAnthony HopkinsScott Glenn

Yes, it has been 30 years since Antony Hopkins appeared for the first time as Dr Hannibal Lecter on Valentine’s day (not your typical date movie, is it?).

Back in 1991 it defied expectations by winning the “Big 5” Oscars (and a year after its release too!!), best film, director, screenplay, leading actor and actress: it was only the third film in movie history to do so (after it happened one night and One flew over the cuckoos’nest) and even more groundbreaking, it was the first horror/thriller to win for best film. 

30 years later, “The Silence of the Lambs” is still a preposterous film, camp as hell, absurdly over the top in its premise and its execution and yet it holds a place in American Movie History as a ‘modern classic’.

With Hannibal (incidentally a character that appears for only 16 minutes in the film) Hopkins became a star (yes, I know…  he was “good” well before this, but oly few really knew him from Elephant Man for example) and created an icon, which lived on throughout (or despite) its three sequels: Hannibal, Red Dragon (which in fact this is both a prequel and a remake of Micheal Mann’s Manhunter) and the very forgettable Hannibal Rising (another prequel, Hopkins-free). And that’s without mentioning the recent TV Series (dark as hell… and probably too weird to survive past 3 season… though I quite liked it). 

All of a sudden, we all started to love the bad guy, or at least we loved hating him: we loved the fact that he ate the despicable Dr Chilton at the end film (“I have an old friend for dinner”, is probably one of the most classic final lines of any film, up there with “Nobody’s perfect” in Some Like It Hot), we loved those over the top lines of dialogue, those chilling looks, his refined taste, his Southern English accent… And somehow we (or at least I) just wanted him to get away, despite the fact that we know he’s not just bad… but he likes to eat his victims. 

This is certainly nothing new, Hitchcock had done it  30 years earlier in Psycho, but arguably this is the film that started off the whole trend of “serial killers” with whom we identify, the whole puzzle solving murder mysteries and the mixture of dark horror and funny one liners. Surely without Silence of the lambs and its Hannibal the Cannibal character, there would have been no Se7en by David Fincher, possibly no Dexter on TV and probably not even Jigsaw from the Saw franchise…  And God knows how many others.

However what keeps this film anchored to the ground, despite the absurd (but obviously very effective) performance by Anthony Hopkins, is a combination of a very controlled and calculated direction by Jonathan Demme and the presence of Jodie Forster, who somehow counterbalances the campness of her screen partner.

Jonathan Demme, uses every little (subtle and non-subtle) trick in the book to suck in his viewers and bring them as close possible to the screen. He films the most intimate dialogue sequences between Hannibal and Clarice in extreme close ups, and has them delivering their lines straight to camera, as if they were confessing their inner secrets directly to us. As he does so, he drops the level of any other sound away from the central conversation, he kills the music and as as he slowly zooms in closer and closer into their faces, he very subtly pushes the bars of the prison cells that separate them away from each other until they actually disappear at the edge of frames, thus bringing the two characters even closer to each other.

It’s very effective trick and it works wonderfully!

He even uses the powerful the editing in order to deceive us to believe one thing instead of another. That famous sequence where we are lead to believe that the police is about to break into killer’s house and save the day, only to reveal that in fact they’re all in the wrong place: a trick have been copied over and over again in countless movies and TV CSI-like shows (and even the great 24) ever since, but never worked as well as they did here: it is an incredibly manipulative but just as accomplished moment.

Watching it tonight, I find so many clichés of the genre in it, but  only because most films that came after copied so many of its elements. If the film has aged a bit it’s just because everything that came afterwards drew something from it. It may not be a perfect film and it’s very debatable whether it did merit all those Oscars, but it definitely deserves its cult status and its place in history for paving the way for a new genre of thrillers and many brainer and more stylish horrors film. 

8.5/10

Check out the review of another modern Classic:

Back to the Future (1985)

The Sandlot

The Sandlot ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director: David Mickey Evans. Cast: Art LaFleurTom GuiryMike Vitar Patrick Renna, Chauncey Leopardi.

1993 was a pretty good year in movies, with things like “Jurassic Park”, “Schindler’s List”, “The Fugitive”, “Groundhog Day”, “In the Name of the Father”, “In the Line of Fire”, Falling down, Philadelphia, “True Romance”, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and who knows how many others… So you will forgive me if “The Sandlot” had completely escaped me. So much so that I don’t think I even remember it being released. Possibly the idea about kids playing baseball would not have appealed much to me at that time anyway (and on paper it still doesn’t today).But I’m happy I finally got around to see it and even happier I was able to do it with Giovanni, because this is actually the perfect kids movie.The 60s summery settings gives it that ‘Stand by Me’ vibe, which I adore so much (obviously not as profound and emotional as that one, but hardly anything is in my book) and the group of kids feels straight out of stories like “It” or even “The Goonies”, just as nerdy and likeable (Incidentally, the cast here is spot on!).”The Sandlot” might not break any barriers for originality and it’s certainly miles away from being a perfect film, but it’s immensely enjoyable in a superficial sort of way, completely harmless and throughoully charming.

Another Round

Director: Thomas Vinterberg. Cast: Mads MikkelsenThomas Bo LarsenMagnus Millang 

Watching this Danish film tonight I found myself thinking that maybe one day I should start drinking too… 

Jokes aside “Another Round” is a story about a group of 4 high school teachers who decide to follow the theory of a Norwegian psychologist who claims that humans are born with a 0.05% alcohol content deficit in our blood. And so they embark in a rather reckless and “unusual” experiment where they’ll have to drink just enough to constantly maintain that small percentage of alcohol in their blood to be slightly inebriated and free from inhibitions, releasing their full potentials, but obviously without ending up drunk. No brownie point for guessing where it’s all going to go… 

This was sold to me as a comedy, but it’s definitely not one of those laugh-out-loud film. In fact it’s more of a tragicomedy: a parable about over-drinking, addiction, middle-age crisis, friendship and families.

Beyond the fairly predictable plot there are still plenty of small intimate, very human and rather touching surprises along the way. 

The whole cast is perfect, but Mads Mikkelsen’s performance is absolutely spectacular. Throughout the film he manages to play the “looser”, the depressed, the drunk, the man on the verge of a breakdown but also the amazing teacher we would all love to have… and a lot more.

Hard to believe this was the man playing “Hannibal Lecter” just a few years ago!

And then, that final sequence in the film, which of course I’m not going to spoil, which all of a sudden lifted the film up for me to a 4 star rating and left me with a big smile on my face (I actually laughed out loud at last freeze-frame!)

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