Saturday, 10 July 2021

Cannes 2021 - Benedetta by Paul Verhoeven

Benedetta was arguably one of the most anticipated film on the Croisette this year. The idea of Paul Verhoeven tackling the subgenre of nunsploitation soon after his most successful critical and commercial hit in a while, Elle, was exciting enough and after its delayed production and release, first due to the director's health issues then the small matter of the pandemic, it was finally shown on competition. 

In Benedetta, a novice 17th century nun, Benedetta (Virginie Efira) puts her convent in turmoil when she is struck by some religious visions then exhibits the signs of stigmata while turning her romantic attention to a younger sister, Bartolomea (Daphné Patakia).

Thursday, 18 March 2021

SXSW 2021: The Hunt for Planet B by Nathaniel Kahn

The valiant Hubble telescope has generated some awe-inspiring pictures over the decades and revolutionised astronomy so excitement for its replacement, the Webb telescope, the largest and most complex space observatory ever built that is going to take it all to the next level, is at its peak. The Hunt for Planet B follows a group of astronomers as preparations are well on their way for its launch, relaying their motivations, the drama behind it all and the hopes placed onto it.

The issue with many scientific documentaries is their propension to fall into two extremes: they are either too technical and dry or too simplistic and over the top, with a bombastic narration full of grand claims and some outlandish CGI. No such things with The Hunt of Planet B which is all the more remarkable considering what is the stake, quite simply the possibility that it might detect some life signatures in the atmosphere of the exploplanets in the Trappist-1 System, the closest one to our solar system.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

SXSW 2021: Paul Dood's Deadly Lunch Break by Nick Gillespie

Paul Dood's Deadly Lunch Break has a rather brilliant premise. We have all seen the first rounds of reality talent shows in which the production team puts the spotlight on the most talentless and deluded, at times scary participants, with their dramatic walkouts as their dream of stardom are ruined by the judges, uttering some stern threats while security staff is on standby. So what if one of them actually followed through and went all Falling Down?

SXSW 2021- WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn

"If you tell a thirtysomething male he is Jesus Christ, he is inclined to believe it". 

WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn is the account of the rise and fall of WeWork, one of the biggest venture capitalist bubbles in recent years and his near messianic co-founder Adam Neumann. WeWork was in the not so glamorous business of renting office space in premises it had refurbished with a trendier edge except that with it came some grand promises of a new lifestyle, of a work revolution, of changing the world even. In it, Academy Award winner Jed Rothstein has interviewed several former employees at every level as well as those bought into the We lifestyle and gathered some extensive footage for a forensic investigation into this unicorn company, that promised so much and failed so hard.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Berlinale 2021: Bloodsuckers - A Marxist Vampire Comedy by Julian Radlmaier

Writer/director Julian Radlmaier ‘s 2021 film Bloodsuckers – A Marxist Vampire Comedy (Blutsauger in the original German) has firmly nailed his genre aspirations to the mast of his film title. Nominally set in late 1920s Germany a wandering actor Ljowushka (Aleksandre Koberidze) becomes of interest to a wealthy German vampire Octavia (Lilith Stangenberg) who at first, assumes the Russian is an aristocrat fleeing the Soviet regime. Holidaying in her family’s seaside estate with her lovelorn servant or human vampire familiar Jakob (Alexander Herbst), Octavia quickly acts on her attraction to Ljowushka and he is invited to stay. 

Thursday, 25 February 2021

The Lawyer by Romas Zabarauskas

In The Lawyer, Lithuanian corporate lawyer Marcus (Eimutis Kvosciauskas) meets a Syrian refugee, Ali (Dogac Yilkiz) on a cam service and travels to Belgrade to meet him and help him escape to Western Europe, while some complicated feelings slowly develop between the two men.

The premise might make you think you are about to watch an issue film, not there would be anything wrong with that but while film is acutely attuned to contemporary social concerns, it is the best kind of social films, one that never forgets about cinema and characterisation as opposed to just serving us a dour lecture, while still putting the focus on the injustice of the world.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Wrong Turn by Mike P. Nelson

In Wrong Turn, a group of teenage friends is hiking the Appalachian trail when their idyllic trip turns into a nightmare as they find themselves stalked and hunted by unseen assailants. As their situation becomes more and more desperate, their fight for survival forces them to challenge and reconsider their moral values.

In the mid 2000s, horror classics remakes were all the rage, with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), Amityville (2005), Friday the 13th (2009) and a few others of variable quality. Among those came Wrong Turn (2003), an original film despite some familiar tropes that became a beloved minor classic, one that spawned five sequels with diminishing returns.

The new Wrong Turn is neither a sequel nor a remake but a reboot. After a prologue, the action is mostly told in a long flashback and at first the story is fairly close to the first film except that the group of teenagers has been transposed to our era thanks to some  signifiers that are a little too obviously signposted without having much narrative weight.