Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy will one day be Oscar-winning actresses...of this, I have no doubt. They are too of the most captivating and talented young actresses in Hollywood and of their generation, and to see them face-off in "Last Night in Soho" is truly a sight to behold.
Edgar Wright ("Baby Driver," "Shaun of the Dead") helms this luscious, intoxicating film with confidence, style and pizzazz. It nearly derails with an abrupt shift from psychological thriller to straight-up horror in its final act, but Wright sticks the landing thanks to his commanding leading ladies.
It has finally arrived. Denis Villeneuve's "Dune" is finally here, but it's a mixed bag of sand, splendor and style that never coagulates into anything of substance.
Simultaneously and ironically, it's everything we've hoped for and everything we feared it might be. "Dune" is a visual (and audible) masterpiece. It delivers in scale, taking its time to craft a world - to steal from the 1984 film's tagline - "beyond your imagination." It is every bit as epic, grand and mind-blowing as you dreamed it could be.
It's also somewhat of a disappointment, with uneven characters and a flatness that doesn't invite the viewer to invest any emotional currency. It's a touch too avant-garde for the casual movie-goer, a bit too convoluted for those willing to dive in head-first. It also suffers from dreaded "Marvel-itis," where in setting up future films, it forgets to be a complete one itself.
All of this sounds dreary, but "Dune" still gets a passing grade based on what DOES work...and the promise of what is to come, even though I would have preferred some of that spice be offered up NOW.
Mild spoilers are to follow.
Sometimes a film will come along like "Mass" that will remind you of the beauty of the medium. Boiled down, movies are just made up of people acting in front of a camera, but so often it becomes much more than that. Where incredibly difficult topics and complex human emotions are explored in ways that force us to confront and ponder them, and in doing so, help us cope and begin to understand them. Topics that most people just can't bare to face head-on in real life.
Many go to the movies solely for entertainment, but "Mass" is why movies are an integral part of a free society. This is a powerful, painful yet intensely therapeutic movie about two sets of parents who have so much in common, but whose lives have been irreversibly altered in ways that will forever separate them.
"Mass" is simple really, and it's simply one of the best films of the year too.
It's been 24 years since "Good Will Hunting" made Oscar-winning scribes out of real-life best friends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Curiously, it took that long for the two to reunite as writers once again, bringing in a third, the Oscar-nominated Nicole Holofcener ("Can You Ever Forgive Me?") to adapt Eric Jager's novel, "The Last Duel."
The dynamic behind the script - two men and one woman - is also at the heart of the brutal story itself, a true tale about a 14th century knight, Jean de Carrouges (Damon) who challenges his squire, Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) to a duel, after Le Gris is accused of raping Carrouges's wife, Marguerite (Jodie Comer).
Directed by Ridley Scott ("Alien," "The Martian," "Gladiator"), this is not a film categorized as "entertaining" in the same way that many of his other films might be. "The Last Duel" is a very tough watch, and may not be for all movie-goers who might enter in based on the star-power, or thinking they're going to get a riotous, sword-clashing adventure. It's rather a depiction of what life was like for women in medieval times, and how some of this treatment echoes through all the way to modern times.
It's powerful, with more than a few hiccups, but "The Last Duel" finds its stride as it gallops on, making it one of the most important films of the year, if falling short of being one of the best ones.
Talk about a sight for sore eyes. "No Time to Die" - the 25th overall James Bond film and the fifth (and final) one starring Daniel Craig as 007, was originally slated for theatrical release nearly two years ago, back in November of 2019. It was delayed into February of 2020 and then into April...and on and on, finally landing in theaters this weekend.
The film was delayed for so long, that some of the in-movie product placements had to be updated...you can't have Bond traipsing along using outdated tech, can you? But now that it's finally here, we're reminded of the charm and the allure of this character, that has persevered for nearly 60 years on the big-screen. He's a timeless hero, tweaked for the times.
"No Time to Die" has an epic feel to it, with some stellar action sequences, gadgets and thrills like we've come to expect from the franchise. It has its shortcomings for sure, but by and large, this is a Bond film that was worth the wait.
Of the many Marvel properties that have been translated into movies, Venom has by far been the worst adaptation. His cool look jumps off of the page, but on screen - when added with his ridiculous voice - Venom has thus far been a mess. He's neither funny nor scary, and he's one of the least compelling comic book characters going.
Suffice it to say, "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is a catastrophe from head-to-toe...it's a tonal nightmare featuring characters with very little depth and given very little to do. The first "Venom" film was a success (the comic book character, created by Todd McFarlane and David Michelinie, is among the most popular of all the Marvel characters since first appearing in 1988), which means that this sequel was inevitable, but "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to "superhero" movies, let alone Marvel films.
To quote Silvio Dante quoting Michael Corleone: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back IN!!"
That's what it feels like to submerge back into the world of "The Sopranos," the ground-breaking HBO drama that is considered one of the best TV shows of all-time and certainly one of the most influential of its era. For me, it was the last "must see" TV show, something that would later be categorized as "appointment TV." I would watch nervously and breathlessly each week, hoping that my favorite characters would survive the hour. They often would, but many times wouldn't.
With "The Sopranos" prequel film, "The Many Saints of Newark," you are pulled back in to this modern world of gangsters, their families and their issues that exist both externally and internally. You'll be reminded that David Chase, the creator of "The Sopranos" and who co-wrote "The Many Saints of Newark," is an absolute force of nature...a writer unparalleled and like the show he created, in a league of his own. He makes "Many Saints" not only fit into the world that he created over 20 years ago, but adds to it.
"Many Saints," I'd argue, is going to become required-viewing for those wanting to experience the full tragic saga of Tony Soprano. It lives up to the hype, and for any fan of "The Sopranos," it will meet and surpass your already astronomical expectations.
It's not just a worthy Sopranos story, it's one of my favorite films of the year.
Full disclosure: I have not seen the Tony-winning stage version of "Dear Evan Hansen." But judging by the movie version, I now have no desire to.
A 27-year-old Ben Platt - playing a high school senior and reprising his original role from the play - is the least of the film's problems. There isn't a note of truth in this misguided adaptation, so without ever having seen the play, I can plainly tell you that this film does not do the original material any justice.
"Blue Bayou" walks the line and occasionally stumbles into at best, melodrama and at worst, manipulation, but it has a pure heart. It features characters we don't often see on screen, and includes some tremendous performances. As it drives towards its unpredictable conclusion, there is a scene that will either bring you to tears, or will make your eyes roll so far into the back of your skull that you may just pass out.
For me, "Blue Bayou" worked tremendously (put me in the "brought tears to your eyes" category) and it would be an absolute crime if its writer/director and star, Justin Chon, isn't recognized this awards season. This is a story that needs to be seen, about how the American Dream can - for many - be realized as an absolute nightmare.
The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, or "TIFF" has now ended. So what films stood out from the pack, and which films/performances stand the best chances come Oscar season this year?
If you missed it, you can read Part 1 of our TIFF coverage here and Part 2 here.
Read on for the "Final Report" (Part 3), including Tom Santilli's Top Five films and stand-out performances from TIFF 2021.
(The "Tom at TIFF" series, with WXYZ film critic and Movie Show Plus's own Tom Santilli, follows Tom's digital coverage and his ongoing reports on TIFF throughout the Festival, which ran from September 9th to September 18th.)
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