So, here’s PART TWO of my Netflix spring film reviews. PART ONE is HERE if you are interested.
Happy Holidays everyone!
THE PALE BLUE EYE (2022)
Scott Cooper and Christian Bale combined to brutal and intense impact with the dark Western, Hostiles (2017). Their follow-up is an equally bleak, but not so riveting character study, based on the detective novel by Louis Bayard. Bale portrays a world-weary detective, during the 1830s, tasked with solving the suspicious deaths of cadets at military school, West Point. Moody, murky, and dour in performance, production design and plotting, The Pale Blue Eye (2022), is a draining experience. Further, Bale’s Augustus Landor is not the most charismatic of protagonists and only Harry Melling’s eccentric rendition of a young Edgar Allen Poe, occasionally raises the gloom. There’s some terrific cinematography in this cold thriller and a great story in there. I especially enjoyed the Edgar Allen Poe elements too. But, the film is suffocated by the slow pacing and lack of empathy for the victims or lead characters.
Mark: 7 out of 11
I have to be honest, but I have never really had a big emotional connection with the story of Pinocchio. It’s great to have goals in life, but the desire to ascend to a higher plain of humanity and be “real”, whether you are made of wood or machine (see Artificial Intelligence (2001)) is a desire I cannot align too. Maybe I am too dumb or privileged? However, I think that is probably the point of the writer Carlo Colludi’s classic tale. Because it is all about finding peace within yourself whatever you are made of. Indeed, it is a fantastic rites-of-passage, journey of discovery narrative and deserving of classic status. Let’s not forget that Disney, Kubrick, Spielberg, Garrone, Zemeckis, and now Guillermo Del Toro have produced versions of Pinocchio (2022). But how many more do we need? Del Toro, Mark Gustafson and their genius production team’s stop-motion version is a stunning rendition though. Setting it during World War II darkens the flavour and colour, with Del Toro breathing fresh life into this overfamiliar fairy story.
Mark: 8.5 out of 11
THE TRIP (2021)
Norwegian genre movie director, Tommy Wirkola, unofficially remakes Haneke’s Funny Games (1997), with this bloody hilarious live-action cartoon comedy. Noomi Rapace and Aksel Hannie are Lars and Lisa, a couple whose marriage is crumbling. Both decide that divorce is not the best way to end their relationship. A trip away is not an attempt for the couple to reconcile, but to destroy each other. Before you can say War of the Roses (1989), the film takes a violent twist as their unromantic getaway descends further into destruction with the introduction of a surprising criminal element. I won’t give it away, but I was thoroughly entertained by the gory and bone-shredding silliness of it all. Noomi Rapace is always brilliant too!
Mark: 8 out of 11
WHITE NOISE (2022)
Kubrick is quoted as saying, “If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.” But does that necessarily mean it should be filmed? So, when you read a literary classic is apparently unfilmable, and then discover that it is being filmed, you wonder how they have filmed it. Well, in the case of Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of postmodern classic, Dom DeLillo’s White Noise (2022), I genuinely wonder why they bothered. Perhaps, the apparent $100 million spent will allow Noel Baumbach and Greta Gerwig to develop more interesting projects in the future, but this really is an over-expensive 1980s set cinematic folly. Having said that Gerwig and Adam Driver light up the screen and Baumbach’s witty script had some genuinely delightful dialogue exchanges between the energetic and intellectual ensemble. However, overall the film was too self-consciously eccentric and over-long. I’m glad the filmmaking team got a grand payday, but arguably the book should have remained unfilmed and on the page. Sticking it out to the bitter end is well worth it though. It has a fantastic final credits sequence.
Mark: 7 out of 11
THE WONDER (2022)
Is there a better actor around than Florence Pugh? I am not so sure. She is formidably brilliant in every role I have seen her in. I think that Pugh is so clever, emotional and magnetic in her screen performances, none more so than in this intense period drama directed by Sebastian Lelio. The Wonder (2022), an adaptation of a novel by Emma Donoghue, is set during 1862 in rural Ireland shortly after the Great Famine. Pugh’s English nurse, Elizabeth Wright, is summoned to attend a young girl who apparently has not eaten for months. Is it a religious miracle or are there supernatural forces at play? Such themes are intelligently explored in this atmospheric and brooding drama which had me gripped throughout. The subtext of religious control, Catholic guilt and the English stranglehold over Ireland also exist between the dramatic lines in an intimate epic, anchored by Pugh’s dominant force-of-human-nature performance.