Movie Review – Fearless (1993)

Fearless (1993)
Written by Rafael Yglesias
Directed by Peter Weir

You wouldn’t be blamed for never having heard of this film. While Green Card was a quiet hit and Weir’s next picture, The Truman Show would prove a massive hit, Fearless is mostly forgotten. It wasn’t lost in a sea of better films. In October 1993, some box office hits were Demolition Man, Cool Runnings, or The Good Son. I would attribute the film’s lack of audience to the fact that Weir dives headfirst into some of the most significant themes of his career, mainly life, death, and human existence. It’s heavy stuff, and Weir handles it so well. You can honestly see him being drawn to more existential material between this and The Truman Show.

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Movie Review – The Mosquito Coast

The Mosquito Coast (1986)
Written by Paul Schrader
Directed by Peter Weir

Peter Weir was going to make a movie of Paul Theroux’s novel. Weir bought the film rights as soon as it was published in 1981 and was in pre-production when he was sidetracked with Witness. Unlike Witness, a side project for Weir, which gained massive critical and audience acclaim, The Mosquito Coast is considered a box office failure. Even critics were unsure what to make of this very different, bleak film. Harrison Ford was cast completely against type, one of the movie’s most interesting elements. But apparently, moviegoers and critics wanted something less abrasive, so Weir was dealt the first of several blows in the middle part of his career.

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Movie Review – Picnic at Hanging Rock

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
Written by Cliff Green
Directed by Peter Weir

The Australian New Wave was an explosion of cinema from the Land Down Under that lasted from 1970 through 1990. Many of the filmmakers involved branched into cinema outside their home country like George Miller (Mad Max) or Phillip Noyce (Rabbit Proof-Fence). Peter Weir is arguably the most successful of these directors, having had a very lucrative career in Hollywood through the 1980s. However, the gap between Weir’s projects grew as the years went on. His last film was The Way Back, released in 2010. I plan to look at his film catalog to figure out his familiar themes and techniques as a means to fully appreciate his work. 

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Movie Review – The Lost Daughter

The Lost Daughter (2021)
Written & Directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal

Motherhood always makes for a promising theme to tackle in film or literature. Being a mother is an intense experience from what I can observe as a childless man. I’ve been around many mothers as a primary school teacher, both as work colleagues and my students’ parents. In American culture, mothers are often juxtaposed against Mary, the mother of Jesus, saintly figures who sacrifice themselves to care for their offspring. The debate over reproductive rights is right in the middle of these ideals, pushing the assumption that all women love being mothers once they finally experience it, not so in The Lost Daughter.

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Movie Review – Drive My Car

Drive My Car (2021)
Written by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe
Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi

There’s just something about filmmakers taking author Haruki Murakami’s short fiction and giving their own spin on them. See Lee Chang-dong’s Burning. This time around, Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi gives us a three-hour adaptation of a short from Men Without Women. He certainly takes a lot of artistic discretion and takes the story in a different direction than its original form. Author Murakami has become infamous for inserting “manic pixie dream girl” types in his work, and this film has several women that influence our protagonist but not by forfeiting their own agency or depth as characters. The result is simply one of the best, most moving film experiences of the year.

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Movie Review – Nightmare Alley (2021)

Nightmare Alley (2021)
Written by Guillermo del Toro and Kim Morgan
Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Having just watched the original Nightmare Alley a week ago, I was a little uncertain how I’d feel about this remake. Guillermo del Toro, like the Wachowskis, is a filmmaker I respect but don’t necessarily enjoy much of their work. It’s clear del Toro is presenting his vision without many studio-directed tweaks and cuts. I’ve begun to think of him as a more thoughtful Tim Burton, someone whose style is matched by the substance of his work. With Nightmare Alley, he comes to the table with a solid narrative to work with. He even manages to go with the novel’s original, bleaker conclusion than the 1947’s softened conclusion. However, the movie feels too sterile due to an over-reliance on modern digital cinematography.

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Movie Review – Nightmare Alley

Nightmare Alley (1947)
Written by Jules Furthman
Directed by Edmund Goulding

When I sat down to watch the original Nightmare Alley, I wasn’t prepared to be hit with such a spectacular film. I expected it would be a decent, pulpy sort of tale but the performances, cinematography, and music were far beyond the bar I’d set in my head. I turned to Ariana during our viewing to make sure I didn’t imagine how amazing this movie is, and she confirmed that she, too, was blown away. For just two years post-WWII, this movie looks ahead of its time. The plot is incredibly complex and can’t simply be boiled down to a single sentence. There are so many supporting characters who are given the type of nuance and complexity we often associate with modern cinema. But here it is, punching far above the weight of most movies and delivering one of the darkest endings I’ve seen from a film of this era.

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Movie Review – The Humans

The Humans (2021)
Written & Directed by Stephen Karam

You wouldn’t be in the wrong to walk away from The Humans feeling a bit confused about how you were supposed to feel watching this filmed stage play. The work’s creator, Stephen Karam, has imbued his movie with such a foreboding and menacing tone. This is followed by numerous jumpscares that cut through the monotonous and passive-aggressive dialogue of the characters. The story’s setting even brushes up against the premise in an interesting way: A crumbling New York apartment complex where a family meets to have Thanksgiving dinner. The audience is constantly unsettled by noises coming from neighboring apartments or figures briefly glimpsed through blurry, rain-stained windows. This is a Thanksgiving ghost story for the 21st century.

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Movie Review – Thumbsucker

Thumbsucker (2005)
Written & Directed by Mike Mills

Mike Mills has been a director that has intrigued me since my college days. I don’t know how to describe his particular aesthetic, and it has undoubtedly changed from his first feature to the present. With his newest film, C’mon C’mon, being released this weekend, I thought I should revisit that debut film and see how it holds up sixteen years later. I have enjoyed all of his output (Beginners, 21st Century Women) and think those earlier music videos and short films haven’t aged with the times very well. Mills certainly isn’t offensive, but he is very twee in how he tells his stories.

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Movie Review – Dune (2021)

Dune (2021)
Written by Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, and Eric Roth
Directed by Denis Villeneuve

In the early 2000s, SciFi Channel aired the first attempt since David Lynch’s adaptation of the Dune novel. They were reasonably successful in creating a mini-series that encompassed the first three books in Frank Herbert’s series. Once again, though, critics voiced concerns over the drawn exposition of the world as the filmmakers had to lay out a distant future for humanity with a limited amount of time. It would be twenty years later that this newest attempt would happen. With a larger budget to do justice to the strange new world eight thousand years in the future, will this version finally be the satisfying film fans and general audiences will click with?

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