The Killing of a Sacred Deer

ratings4

Steven, a charismatic surgeon, is forced to make an unthinkable decision after his life starts to fall apart, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister.

I’ve seen many movies over the years that dare to do something different, that have an unconventional style or method of storytelling and challenge the mainstream audience in some way, but nothing has compared to the pure insanity that I witnessed watching The Killing of a Sacred Deer. There is no film that you can call similar to this movie, because everything going on in this film is so unprecedented and different than what we’re used to seeing in film. The opening shot alone convinced me how messed up and different this movie would be, and this film is effective in its thrills and scares like no other horror/thriller movie could. There are no jump scares or supernatural threats, most of what is going on would have seemed completely normal if Yorgos Lanthimos had not directed it. He directed probably the most bizarre film I had seen before this one with The Lobster (which got him a screenplay Oscar nomination, and I hope he gets another for this), and his style is notably dark, unsettling, and uncompromising about the worst of humanity. His cinematography is gorgeously in unexpected places and he breaks the rules of how every other director chooses to place their shots. No filmmaker has been quite this daring since Stanley Kubrick, and you can even draw similarities to his work The Shining, with the symmetry and tracking shots that are used. The music is also beautiful and loud and promotes the tension and uncomfortably even further. With The Lobster, Lanthimos was able to create a dark and painful yet funny and satirical dystopian indie, and here he takes all those elements and kick them up a notch to create one of the most horrifying, tragic, and powerful horror movies I’ve ever seen. If you go in expecting a typical horror, thriller, or even an art movie that is slightly challenging, you will be unprepared for the unimaginably gruesome imagery, terrible decisions made by the characters, and the dilemma the main character, portrayed brilliantly by Collin Farrell in a career-best performance, is facing, which is a shocking journey Lanthimos invites you to take.

Despite Farrell’s great acting in the lead role as a rather friendly family man whose past returns to haunt him, the film is stolen by Dunkirk‘s Barry Keoghan, who plays a psychotic teenager named Martin with terrible morals, who makes Colin Farrell’s characters life a living hell. Nicole Kidman is also great as Farrell’s wife, but all the film’s most awkward and horrific moments are thanks to Keoghan. There is a chance that you will dislike this movie, as some even walked out mid-film in disgust, because the humor is dark and odd and the story is so pessimistic yet so thrilling and inviting that I somehow was able to love it. The unorthodox filmmaking and techniques used in the film are used to elevate the feeling of distress, and the fascinating plot and dialogue feel so off yet so intriguing. Lanthimos knows that what makes a good horror movie isn’t showing the audience fantastical creatures such as zombies or ghosts, but by showing the audience the worst that could happen in real life — a character with a Sophie’s Choice-like dilemma, a teenager with a tragic past and a messed up mind , and characters with desires and sexual interests that are so uncomfortable to dive into, which is how it gets so deep under your skin. We feel like these characters could even be someone we could one day know, or these events could be real-life nightmares, and that’s what makes the grotesque content even more elevating in this hideous but poetic thriller. The plot takas es many dark turns that we are constantly invested in — unless you have been grossed out by the film’s disturbing moments and themes too much, that is — leading up to a gut-wrenching climax that had my heart pounding, which results tragically and leads to a magnificent final scene that will have you shocked beyond when the screen cuts to black and the title is shown. A24 is known for releasing films that are very odd and difficult for some audiences to love, but this is on a completely new level of weird and puzzling, and even beats the strongly allegorical, disturbing, and divisive mother! as the most unusual film to be released in a long time.  Many audiences will hate the macabre and sickening violence and the weird and dark humor, and that’s completely understandable, as it’s definitely not for everyone, but I have never been more invested and emotionally attached to a thriller movie in a very long time — a truly eccentric film that refuses to lighten up but I personally loved, with the powerful emotion and uncomfortable horrific feel adding so much to the suspense.

Yorgos Lanthimos has made a film for only the most patient and daring moviegoers, and although some viewers may believe that only a human as sick as the antagonist Martin could enjoy such a movie, but this thriller, that won multiple awards at the Cannes Film Festival in May, is simply groundbreaking and unforgettable — but only in the good way for some, so be cautious, because you may boo out of horror and disgust or cheer in awe and break into applause — both reactions were received by the film at its premiere. I can’t recommend this complex, bizarre, and shocking psychological thriller for everyone, but in my opinion, it’s a masterful film that has resonated with me and stunned me like hardly any other film out there, and hopefully there are many out there who believe the same.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer.png

 

Advertisements

Murder on the Orient Express

ratings3

In the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel, Kenneth Branagh directs and plays Hercule Poirot, who must solve a murder on a train and bring the killer to justice. The large ensemble cast also includes Josh Gad, Michelle Pfieffer, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr., Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, and Judi Dench as the other passengers on the train whose guilt or innocence must be discovered by Poirot. Although the classic murder mystery style is entertaining and the cast is great, there isn’t much to offer other than an interesting mystery that is only sometimes inviting. Some of the cinematography feels out of place and some of the green screen effects and CGI feel obvious, but what matters in this kind of movie is the story, which isn’t perfect either. The opening scene set in Jerusalem is very entertaining and sets up a light tone for the rest of the movie, but later some darker elements are kicked in and it feels unbalanced. The titular murder only takes place about 30 minutes into the movie, and there is too much that’s unnecessarily built up before the inciting incident, and this could have easily been shortened. Some of the supporting cast, including Pfieffer, Gad, Ridley, Depp, and Odom, get their moments to shine, and it works really well for them, but lots of the other cast members do nothing and don’t get much significance. However, Branagh is definitely the standout of the cast and the film with his charming and great performance as the famous detective who’s been loved by many generations for nearly a century. He is able to bring his character to life very well and his presence is always fun and exciting. However, he may have not been the best person to direct the film, and although the sets and costume design are outstanding, the pacing and writing are uneven, and while some of the mystery is intriguing, a lot of the runtime feels rather slow and the movie could have been easily been cut down to a shorter runtime of maybe 10 minutes less, which would make it feel more like a nonstop thrill ride mystery like it should have been. Although I liked the big reveal and the solution to the murder, the way the very end was handled was heavy-handed and betrayed the way the character of Poirot was being established throughout the film.

While Murder on the Orient Express is surely not a bad film, it’s a remake that doesn’t offer anything new if you already know the story other than a great cast and some nice production design. The execution is uneven and could have used more balanced runtime and pacing, and it’s somewhat forgettable but will interest those who like the classic murder mystery style.

Murder on the Orient Express teaser poster.jpg

Mother!

ratings4

Mother! is a film in which a happy couple (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem) living in a house surrounded by woods, are met by uninvited guests in their house, which leads to chaos and turmoil in the house.

If you expect a horror film or a thriller from this, you’ll be let down because this film is much more than that. You can’t put this movie in one genre, it starts as a psychological thriller, with the tension that builds up continuing to intrigue and confuse as you wonder, just like Jennifer Lawrence’s protagonist, what could possibly be happening. Lawrence is absolutely brilliant in the film, showing plenty of emotion and vulnerability as an innocent woman going through a nightmare. She was perfectly casted in the role, and so was Bardem as her character’s charming but complex husband, and Michelle Pfieffer, Ed Harris, and a few other well known stars are good as well. The cinematography is shot on a rare 16mm format which is very appreciable as it’s rare to see movies not shot on film nowadays, and the movie is always either shot from Lawrence’s perspective or with her in the frame. I liked the creative technical style of the film, which also includes the use of zero music throughout the entire runtime, helping establish more intensity. There is lots of imagery that’s never quite explained or revealed and the movie becomes more mysterious and you can’t wait until everything is explained. There is a lot that audiences may enjoy, and then the film switches things up and goes insane during the final act. This last act is the reason many audiences have criticized and polarized the movie. Many have hated it for the disturbing content it displays in the climax, and the allegorical narrative it offers. The ending is quite ambiguous and does betray the genre of the rest of the film, but it’s fascinating how weird it is and how differently everyone can interpret it. I expected an ending that would stay true to what the first two acts offered, and some stuff did bother me on how confusing it turned out to be, but director Darren Aronofsky had an interesting vision and strong passion to make this, and it’s getting people to talk about it. I overall liked the film and appreciate how daring and different it is, but it’s definitely not for everyone, as it’s metaphorical themes and gory content will frustrate many.

Mother! is the weirdest, craziest, most different and least mainstream movie I’ve seen this year. Many have loved it and many have hated it, and I can’t recommend it to everyone because many will be disturbed and disappointed, but the acting, directing, cinematography, tension, and ambiguity make this an insane yet special film to be released in 2017, with many different meanings that it could potentially posses.

Mother!2017.jpg

Good Time

ratings3

After a botched bank robbery lands his younger brother in prison, Constantine Nikas (Robert Pattinson) embarks on a twisted odyssey through New York City’s underworld in an increasingly desperate-and dangerous-attempt to get his brother out of jail.

Good Time has gotten lots of buzz ever since it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, but I was ultimately let down by what I got here. A24 is known for releasing masterful films with distinctive and creative styles, but the directors’ vision here didn’t work for me. Robert Pattinson and Jennifer Jason Leigh are both great in their roles and carry their scenes very well. Pattinson disappears in his role and Leigh is able to make her scenes interesting, but the overly shaky cinematography and choppy editing toolots of the interest out of the film. Some scenes are written well, and the movie is written as a nonstop ride of sorts, but the film never stops to show us why the characters are doing what they’re doing or why they’re in these situations. The film makes too many cuts throught scenes that could have been more interesting of the camerawork wasn’t so handheld and distracting. The retro score is also edited badly into the film and even annoying and unnecessary in some scenes. We are never given time to feel for our characters or understand why we should root for them, and some of these characters barely served a point. There are lots of scenes that are supposed to be human conversations to make us care for our characters more, but none of that really got me engaged. The intensity in the final act didn’t keep me thrilled at all, and the ending is extremely predictable. By the end, even as the credits roll over the final scene, we are left with nothing to think about or reflect on about what this movie offered. It starts out as a film about brotherhood, and by the end not even the writers know what it’s about. I love crime movies and I think this movie had lots of potential, but despite the critical acclaim, the great acting, and a few well-written scenes, Good Time was ultimately forgettable and failed to live up to the promise of its title.

Image result for good time poster

Wind River

ratings4

In Wind River, the directorial debut of Taylor Sheridan, writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water, an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) teams with a town’s veteran game tracker (Jeremy Renner) to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation. Both the past films written by Sheridan did not fail to impress me, as both were masterfully written and very engaging.  Wind River sees Sheridan in the director’s chair and he delivers yet another excellent screenplay, this time set in a snowy reservation in Wyoming. Sheridan develops his settings and main characters very well in all three of his scripts, and here it doesn’t fail as well. Jeremy Renner delivers one of his best performances as the main character, who has a tragic past and an estranged family, and you feel for the emotion Renner provides in every scene, and his character is superbly written. As much as I love him as Hawkeye in the Marvel universe, his best roles are the ones in smaller films, those that go into emotional depth, even like in last year’s Arrival. This is definitely up there with his performances in Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar winner The Hurt Locker and Ben Affleck’s heist thriller The Town as one of his greatest roles. Elizabeth Olsen has a few good moments in the film, but it mostly felt like she was just reading lines off a script and barely brought much depth into her character, and it was ultimately hard to care for her role.

Wind River has a Coen brothers vibe to it, as it feels like it drew great inspiration from Fargo, not just the development of the cold, isolated setting but also the way tension is built so well through small scenes. For those looking for a thrilling and interesting mystery thriller to watch, you’ll definitely be entertained, although I never felt like it brought anything new to the genre. The overall structure is entertaining but also feels very familiar and it didn’t offer much that was new or ground-breaking. Although the script is overall great, I was sometimes concerned by the directing before watching the movie, as this is Sheridan’s first time directing a film. I was mostly impressed by the directing, especially for a debut, but the use of handheld cam is often too shaky and sometimes distracting. Some shots are captured very well, but during the smaller, more conversational scenes, the camerawork could have used some improvement. There wasn’t the energy to it that Sicario and Hell or High Water had, as those films had more richness in their cinematography and directing, part of what made them both better films. This film could have used some more interesting and longer shots, as well as less noticeable handheld camera to make some scenes even stronger, but I overall was very pleased by what Sheridan was able to do as a director for the first time. He didn’t offer the incredible style brought by the directors of his previous scripts, but his work is still solid and appreciable, and I was still able to really enjoy the film. I hope to see Sheridan write and direct many more films in the future.

Wind River is a violent, engaging, and smart thriller with a great script and lead performance, and although the story is still somewhat familiar and the directing isn’t perfect, this is the type of film cinema should have more of to offer, and I’d definitely recommend this as a film to go watch when it’s released this August.

Wind River (2017 film).png

Dunkirk

ratings5

Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to Interstellar is a WWII epic focusing on the week-long evacuation of hundreds of thousands of soldiers off the beach of Dunkirk, France. The movie focuses on the battle from three different perspectives – the land, the sea, and the air. The cast includes Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, and Harry Styles (you know your film is good when you get a good performance out of a pop star). With non-stop intensity, violence, and loud sound effects, Nolan once again proves that he’s arguably one of, if not the best modern filmmaker working in Hollywood today. With his previous films, including The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, Nolan has been able to execute incredible action sequences with minimal CGI. His use of practical effects here is no less breathtaking. The scenes of planes shooting at each other, soldiers swimming away from sinking ships that are being bombed from above, and soldiers fighting for their lives are beautifully shot by Hoyte van Hoytema, who returns from having shot Nolan’s previous film with some more Oscar-worthy work that is majestic and engaging. The 70mm format makes the quality of the picture extraordinary and different. Hans Zimmer once again composes a magnificent score, and I sure hope he never stops composing for Nolan films, or for films in general. His score is thrilling and never stops playing throughout the film. No sound or shot failed to impress me and keep my eyes glued to the screen. As the loud noises of firing, explosions, and screaming encompass your ears and the auditorium, you feel immersed in the terror and fear experienced by the soldiers. The practicality of this movie is one of the most impressive parts of the film, as none of the sequences seemed unrealistic in any way. The movie doesn’t feel too carried by dialogue or character development, as each actor is treated as a bigger part of an ensemble cast. Don’t expect there to be one star of the movie you’ll be cheering for, because everyone in this movie is terrific. Like most movies of his, as I’ve said before, Nolan is the true star of this film. He brings so much realism and tension to each moment in this exciting and potent war epic that may just be one of the best war films since Spielberg’s masterpiece Saving Private Ryan. Most of this movie doesn’t quite feel like an action war film like most war movies, this one is more of a survival story, one that is masterfully put to screen and unbelievably masterful work of film that should not be missed.

Whenever Nolan settles on a topic to make a film out of, you know he’ll give it his all, because here you can feel all the passion Nolan had in this topic and how specifically he wanted everything edited and put together. The expensive $150 million budget is well worth it in this ambitious and nearly flawless summer blockbuster that is still able to feel like an Oscar contender type of film. This intense non-stop ride never has a dull moment and will always keep your heart pounding and push you to the very edge of your seat. One minor problem is that the film is about to end on a beautiful final shot but then briefly cuts to another shot and then ends there, but this may not bother me in future watches of this movie. I don’t see any of the characters or performances becoming some of my favorites anytime soon, but this film is truly about what each soldier experienced and how the battle played out. Christopher Nolan is one of the most dedicated and ambitious filmmakers of our time, and every film of his, from his low-budget thriller Memento to his Batman superhero blockbusters, demonstrates his love of cinema and his passion of everything he puts his heart into, and I sure hope we don’t have to wait much longer to see his next film.

If you want a powerful, marvelous, engaging, and thrilling movie to watch on the big screen, then Dunkirk is one that you’ll love. Definitely one of the best movies of the year and another excellent feature film that’s fantastic to look at on the big screen. A war film about humanity, survival, and resilience, this movie definitely won’t disappoint anyone seeking another profound and jaw-dropping Nolan movie, or an exciting and brilliant war movie like no other.

Dunkirk Film poster.jpg

It Comes at Night

ratings4

It Comes at Night is a film you should go into knowing as little as possible, so I’m sorry but I can’t discuss the plot. It’s such a divisive film that you can’t go in with a single expectation. It’s the kind of film that challenges all audiences with its horrifying imagery, intense and surreal filmmaking, and it’s ambiguity. It’s being marketed as a horror film but it’s hard to fit it in a genre. It’s definitely not a horror film, it’s a psychological thriller more than anything. It’s a film about fear, hopelessness, darkness, sadness, and paranoia, but it’s also a film about love, family, and protecting what you love. This makes for such a powerful and unique story piled into an hour and a half of pure terror and suspense. The title does not suggest a supernatural threat yet a mysterious psychological threat that is never really revealed. The acting from the five main actors, Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Riley Keough, is an a higher league than any of the film performances delivered this year. Each of their character’s lines and physical reactions are incredibly realistic and brilliantly scripted. Edgerton especially brings depth to a protective and strict but loving father and husband who will protect his family at any cost. Harrison is also especially talented, with his performance as Edgerton’s character’s son being outstandingly fascinating with plenty of believable emotion.

Director Trey Edward Shults knows how not only to use dialogue and actions to the story’s advantage, but also using slow camera movements and cuts to create tension. He makes every shot last long and advance slowly, and every shot feels so crisp and edited so well. Shults also loves experimenting with the film’s aspect ratio, making it smaller as the tension increases during certain scenes. It’s cool in the first few times this is done, but during the climax, the smaller aspect ratio was distracted from the terrific acting and writing in that scene, which were made harder to appreciate during that scene because of that editing choice. We’re often given shots that may or may not represent dream sequences, and you’re left to think about whether those shots were dreams or really happening. Despite how pessimistic, dark, and saddening the film may seem, it’s also somewhat about the love of family. All the characters aren’t without their family, and they all care about nothing more than their family. When a character makes a horrific decision, you can somewhat understand what their motives were because of how fleshed out all these characters are. This is a film about how fear and paranoia can be the true villain and can dominate over us sometimes. The final shot is deep, moving, quiet, powerful, and extremely haunting at the same time. Lots of it is left unanswered to be ambiguous and left for the audience to think about, which is what has made this film receive backlash from audiences. Audiences have been unsatisfied with the film’s ending, which I will not spoil in this review. It Comes at Night is so different than what we usually see in theaters, and people just want to watch the same robots, monsters, superheroes, and ghosts over and over again. This is a film that does something unique: It leaves you with zero exposition in the beginning, and almost no explanation of how the film ended. The lack of exposition did not bother me at all, as it is easy to assume what is out there and what conflict the main characters are facing, but we are never told why they are alone and what is making everyone sick. Giving us only the same amount of information as the characters is such a clever choice that builds even more fear throughout the film’s runtime. The choice to make everything in the end ambiguous has mostly been criticized about the film, but I think that the way lots of things are left for interpretation at the end is just far more haunting and majestic than if everything was answered in the end. The film is not treated like a movie, with a regular formula and closure in the end, but another chapter in the main family’s life, and a reflection of the real demons inside us, not paranormal demons like many would expect from a film like this. This movie is being loved by critics but panned by audiences, and has only made $6 million dollars at the box office. Please don’t let It Comes at Night be a failure, and go see it in theaters. It’s so much better than any superheroes, pirates, mummies, aliens, talking cars, comedies, or biopics out there right now.

It Comes at Night is by far the best film of the year. It’s dark, violent, chilling, and unsettling, but it’s more beautifully made and incredibly acted than any other movie this year. Audiences have been divided by its misleading marketing and title, as well as its ambiguous ending. But I promise you, It Comes at Night is a masterful work of art worth paying for. Whether or not I’m worth trusting is up to you, but I implore you, before you judge the film based on any trailers or reviews, go see it for yourself.

It Comes at Night.png