Sorry To Bother You

Sorry to Bother You ⭐⭐⭐

Director: Boots Riley Cast: LaKeith StanfieldTessa ThompsonJermaine Fowler 

Sorry to bother you is a crazy, surreal satirical film that’s probably the equivalent of getting high on cocaine while being feverish, drinking spirits and talking with your friends about matters like racial stereotypes, corporate greed, people working on minimal wage (I say “probably” because actually I’ve never been “high” in my life… but I’m sure the makers of this did). 

It is a unique piece of work, a cross between a ‘Spike Lee joint’ (that’s how Spike himself calls his films) and a Zucker Abrahams Zucker comedy (the makers of Airplane, Top Secret! And Naked Gun), which has non-stop energy and crazy ideas coming out of every frame (some more successful than others but all of them on message!). Definitely not subtle, but it’s ambitious, as well as messy and bonkers. 

It is an undeniably original film, at times very funny too, however after a while you just wish you had a slightly more grounded story with characters you could root for. 

As it is, it’s a film that’s easier to be intrigued and amused by than actually to love.

The wacky cacophony of criticism and social commentary after a strong start begins to feel just a bit too much and loses some of its funny undertone as it becomes increasingly and unapologetically more and more preposterous, dismissing the actual storyline it has set up and consequently becoming a little bit exhausting. 

So in the end as an audience you’re left slightly bamboozled, watching it all from a distance as opposed to being involved with it. 

I admired it but I just wish it made me care a little bit more. 

On Netflix right now. 

Terminator: Dark Fate

Terminator: Dark Fate ⭐⭐ 1/2

Director: Tim Miller. Cast: David S. GoyerJustin RhodesBilly Ray 

I lost the count of how many attempts they’ve tried to make a sequel or a reboot after the first two iconic Terminator movies. This one seems to link straight to those two originals, disregarding completely what happened since, which is probably a good thing because not only all the others were pretty poor, but I don’t think anyone can actually remember what happened in them anyway. I must confess there is a certain pleasure in seeing Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger together again. The 30 years that have passed clearly show on Linda’s wrinkled face, but her strength and energy as an 64-years-old action hero is pretty much second to none.Mackenzie Davis here used as a sort of surrogate of Charlize Theron does a pretty decent job too .The film itself follows the usual formula of the terminator sent from the future to kill somebody and preventing that person to be instrumental for the human kind… or something like that. To be honest, who cares? The moment the film stops and starts explaining things it becomes rather dull and unimaginative, but luckily most of the rest is one action scene after another and even though there is very little as mind blowing as what we’ve seen before in Judgment day, it’s entertaining enough in a disposable sort of way, to fill a couple of hours. Just about…

The Sugarland Express

The Sugarland Express ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Director: Steven Spielberg. Cast: Goldie HawnBen JohnsonMichael Sacks 

This has always been a half forgotten one in Spielberg’s filmography. It is actually his first real feature film for the big screen (in fact, really big screen: he shoot it all in wide anamorphic), and it’s also the first collaboration with John Williams (thought this is still quite an un-williams soundtrack, with Spielberg himself playing the harmonica).

I had seen it before and while I remembered the main plot (based on bit of a “Bonny and Clyde” on the road true story: a wife convinces his soon to be released husband to escape prison so that they can kidnap their own son, who is with foster parents. In their escape they take a policeman hostage). I remembered the long lines of police cars and obviously the unforgettable ending, but I didn’t quite remember how funny it was too. The wonderfully devilish Goldie Hawn is hilarious (and infuriating at the same time), and beyond from the insanity of the story itself to ,what really works here is the relationship between the couple and the “kidnapped policeman”.

Despite the tragedy beneath the surface of the main story, Spielberg has a lot of fun with some of the most outlandish details but at the same time he manages to flesh out a certain sweetness from the characters, well beyond the simple lines of dialogue. It’s all in the looks, in the gestures in the silences. That’s when Spielberg excels in his direction. The film is not as flashy and beautifully choreographed as many of his later films (or in fact even his earlier Duel for that matter) but here and there you’ll still find some wonderful Spielbergian flourishes, some beautiful edits, if you know what to look out for: the long takes, the quick edits as the car flash by, the big close-ups, the beautiful compositions… and so on.

The film has that sort slightly slower pace so in tune with the 70s (especially in its first half), which is probably why today it is not revisited as much, but I really liked it and was glued to the screen till the very end.

The Life Ahead

The Life Ahead (La vita davanti a sé) ⭐⭐⭐

Directed by: Edoardo Ponti Cast: Sophia Loren, Renato CarpentieriFrancesco CassanoIbrahima Gueye

There is something rather beautiful about seeing Sophia Loren, now 86 years old, on the screen again! (With an added bonus of a Neapolitan accent, so reminiscent of her early films). Her presence in the film is enough of a hook and her performance is enough to earn the 3 stars seal of approval, but actually I thought that the real revelation is the little boy, Ibrahima Gueye, whose range of emotion lights up the whole film.Unfortunately both Gueye and Loren work with aslightly forced script, riddled with clichés and predictable which most likely suffers from being condensed from larger and more nuanced story in the original book.The film is directed by Sophia Loren’s own son, Edorado Ponti and it’s a remake of a French Oscar winning film from the 1977 (Madame Rosa). It’s definitely a flawed film: for example I didn’t buy the voice over, which felt like it was coming from a different character as the one I was watching on the screen, I found some of the behavior changes of the main characters a bit too abrupt and I never had a sense of time passing.There were lots of potentially very interesting characters but the film only seem to scratch the surface.However, having said all that, here and there were glimpses of pure poetry and beauty. Little gems, tiny moments which I found surprising and heart-warming which somehow made me forgive the so-so rest.

You can stream this on Netflix


Duel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director: Steven Spielberg. Cast: Dennis WeaverJacqueline ScottEddie Firestone

Surprisingly I think I had only seen this film in its entirety once, a long time ago (I know… shame on me!) and I could hardly many of the set-pieces. Given my never-ending reverence and love for Steven Spielberg, I thought it was time to revisit his first feature (Though it had directed other stuff for TV before). Even then, in 1971, at the young age of 24, he showed an understanding of the medium and a mastery at building scenes and tension which was truly unique and quite astonishing. He was so confident about the power of his visuals that he actually cut 50% of the dialogue from the script while making the film (he said he would have cut more if the studio had allowed him to).The original story by Richard Matheson had appeared on Playboy (of all places): “It was one of the few times I ever picked up Playboy without looking at the pictures” Spielberg would later say.He took the simplest streamlined premise (a truck stalking a driver), and turned it into a nail-biting murderous game of cat and mouse, using every trick in the film-maker guide book to maximum effect: great vistas, tight close-up, handheld camera, crane shots, tracking shots, low angles, high angles, 360 degree pans and so on. In fact there are hardly 2 shots alike in this film, which is surprising given its plot.Spielberg’s technical virtuosity goes beyond just the placing of the camera. The sharp editing, the inventive use of sound, the music so reminiscent of Bernard Hermann (not the only Hitchcockian influence in this film) but also so experimental. All of these elements converge to make even the most boring and uncharismatic man on the planet (in this case Dennis Weaver) seem exciting. That’s not to say that Dennis Weaver is miscast, actually quite the opposite, his descent to madness is very believable.As a film geek, I love seeing some of Spielberg’strademarks already visible here: the unseen murderous truck driver, just like the unseen shark in Jaws, a man from a broken family, like in Close Encounter, the big close-ups of the hero’s eyes, later seeing in “Raiders”… and even extras which he would later use again and so on, all the way to more recent films like Munich.This may not be the most compelling story ever told, but the way it’s told is second to none… and at that point one of cinema’s greatest was “born”.

The Blu-ray I watched the on contains some pretty juicy interviews and documentaries too, all which made the experience of watching this even more exciting.

Everybody Flies

Everybody Flies ⭐⭐⭐

Directed by Tristan Loraine, Beth Moran. Cast: Tristan LoraineBeth MoranVivienne Young

Ex BA Captain and now filmmaker, Tristan Loraine gives an in-depth insight (18 years worth of research ) into the world of aviation as he investigates the claim that the air we breathe on a plane can actually be dangerous. A pollutant called tricresyl phosphate (TCP), which is present in the oil used in plane engines, apparently can leak into cabin air supplies and it can lead to serious damage and even cause cancer. This is pretty explosive stuff and one wonders why this isn’t talked more about. It’s all very throughly researched stuff, clearly explained and laid out, with some good interviews from insiders (thought interestingly all the major airplane companies have refused to take part or to comment), but despite containing some truly terrifying claims and information, I felt it never really hit me as it should have. It was all a bit too tame. As a documentary itself, I thought it did pretty much run out of new things to say after about 20 minutes and the rest was just a confirmation what I had heard previously heard. Also I have to say I found the editing a bit slow and pedestrian (I hated the way the commentary was coming in, with the lowering of the sync sound and a long delay of what felt like at least 3 seconds of silence).

Bit aside from this little technical details, I really felt this should have really been a much more “angry” piece of film-making. Dare-I-say, it needed a Michael Moore type of person to expose the scandal!

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the temple of doom (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)

Director: Steven Spielberg. Cast: Harrison FordKate CapshawKe Huy Quan, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth.

What!? 5 stars?! I can hear some of you moaning already.Is this film as good as the first one? Well, of course not. But then again, hardly anything is. However, is this one of the most entertaining, fun, dazzling, un-relentlessly inventive and non-stop action film in cinema history? My answer to this second question is also a resounding YES. I never get tired of watching this film, and tonight introducing son to it, with the lights tuned down and the volume at full-blast, was like re-living it for the first time (despite my wife who kept covering his eyes). And it’s to me being biased for Spielberg (well… a little bit). I just can’t think of many action films that are this exciting, scary and fun all at the same time. Let me just remind you: the completely unexpected musical number, the exchange at the round table, the hilarious fight scene among falling white ballots, running behind the big silver gong, falling off the window, the introduction to Short Round driving a car (and that’s all in the first few minutes at the “Obi Wan Club” in Shanghai), the scene with the beetles and the crashing-room with those spikes, the roller coaster chase in the tunnels, the final moment on the bridge, the relentless scene where Indy tries to save Willie from being dipped in lava… (possibly one of the most tense in the entire series), but also some really funny moments too, the banter between Willie and Indy, the Elephants, night-time in the jungle. I know, the film can be very silly at times (falling off the plane on a dingy??!), but it’s not supposed to be taken too seriously, it never was. It’s just a fun ride. It’s definitely darker too. Probably too dark in places. Some people took really against this: Spielberg and Lucas themselves always regretted going a bit too far, but as far as I’m concerned, that never bothered me, and it still doesn’t. I’ve always been a great fan of scary films and as kid (I know… bit of a disturbed child)and I’ve always loved every second of this, especially the darker scenes. We’ve become much too prudent, and politically correct these days and nobody would ever dare showing a chained-up child being used as slave in a family film. And as for the racist undertone, oh well, I’ve grown up all my life watching Italians being depicted as mafiosi: no big deal. I mean, c’mon, it’s a film, after all, for crying out loud! And also, it was the 80s. Everything was allowed.

Beyond all this, this is another masterwork in direction, pace and staging. It’s just a real pleasure to see how Spielberg moves his camera and how it orchestrates it all. More than anyone he knows how to makes us jump, cover our eyes, how to makes us root for his hero. And while all this happens, John Williams comes up once again with some of his best music.

This is what action film should be like, forget about 99% of anything that we get today!

Saint Maud

Saint Maud ⭐⭐⭐

Director: Rose Glass. Cast: Morfydd ClarkJennifer EhleLily Knight

“Saint Maud” is almost the opposite of film about “demonic possessions” as it follows the breakdown of a young live-in nurse (a terrific performance by Morfydd Clark) as she becomes obsessed by her diving mission to save the soul of a terminally ill patient.Make no mistakes, this is a horror film right from the start, but beyond the scary and sinister images, the very creepy atmosphere and a few gruesome moments, “Saint Maud” is first and foremost a character study: a film about loneliness. It’s no secret that director Rose Glass was inspired by Taxi Driver: there’s a lot of that same sense of claustrophobia and psychological unease here. But watching it unfold I was also reminded of Carrie, or rather the mother in that film, another obsessive religious devotee who thinks she’s doing God’s work but actually she’s slowly descending to hell.As the mental breakdown of the young nurse becomes more and more apparent and she gets madder and madder, so is the visual style of the film-making, the camera moves and the soundtrack.I must confess I didn’t love the film as much as many critics did. I found the pace quite slow and a bit indulgent, also I also didn’t think the ending was as shocking as it should have been (especially since you know exactly where it’s all heading to, so there’s no really any surprise, or at least I wasn’t surprised), but there’s no denying that this is an impressive and stylish debut from a new British director which we must watch closely.

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