Movie reviews in English for students

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Every review has an English trailer, a link with a review in English (advanced students) and a link with mymovies.com including an Italian review, an Italian trailer and an Italian newspapers’ review collection (lazy students).


DON’T LOOK UP 

because you could see the real enemy: dystopian slapstick comedy not to miss

Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), an astronomy grad student, and her professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) make an astounding discovery of a comet orbiting within the solar system. The problem: it’s on a direct collision course with Earth. The other problem? No one really seems to care. Turns out warning mankind about a planet-killer the size of Mount Everest is an inconvenient fact to navigate. With the help of Dr. Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), Kate and Randall embark on a media tour that takes them from the office of an indifferent President Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her sycophantic son and Chief of Staff, Jason (Jonah Hill), to the airwaves of The Daily Rip, an upbeat morning show hosted by Brie (Cate Blanchett) and Jack (Tyler Perry). With only six months until the comet makes impact, managing the 24-hour news cycle and gaining the attention of the social media-obsessed public before it’s too late proves shockingly comical — what will it take to get the world to just look up? (Rotten Tomatoes)

AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX

Funny, dramatic and apocalyptic at the same time, Don’t Look Up is a must-see of this problematic movie season. While in this film people should look up to see the actual danger, in real life we have to look around to perceive the non-fictional threat we have been living through for two years now; with one difference: you can easily spot a giant meteorite but you can’t spot the covid 19 virus, just like the protagonists of the early Sci-Fi classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Don’t Look Up is basically a slapstick comedy, with a series of sketches worth Saturday Night Live, a bitter satire of the foolishness of the world we live in, in particular of the press, of TV networks and above all of the social networks. Self-centred, aiming only at the audience score and mere appearance, they blur people’s minds to the point that they cannot see a planetary danger just above their heads.

The film is also a strong attack against politics and power, personified by an American Trump-like female president whose stupidity wraps her all around and who tries to exploit the opportunity to increase her consensus that the deadly danger offers her  – and that inevitably leads to disaster. It is also a violent critique of the hi-tech media corporations, the multinational businesses who use politics as their private toy, as means to reach their selling goals and to exploit resources, not seeing the real danger in their blind rush to money-making. The hi-tech mogul of the movie, the real villain, looks terribly like a deranged Steve Jobs.

Even the two positive anti-hero protagonists (nerdy astronomer Dr Randall Mindy and his smart grad student Kate Dibiasky) are eaten up by the media machine to a certain point, only to come back to their real selves just in time to accept the coming catastrophe with a stoic ‘last dinner’. Does the theme of scientists being not believed, laughed at, obscured by fake news sound familiar today?

There is the echo of Citizen Kane as far as the press is concerned and of Dr. Strangelove as far as fanatism is concerned, but there is no trace of the press as a democratic institution unveiling the misdeeds of power, a genre dear to liberal Hollywood, All the President’s Men style.

The metaphor of the comet for climate change and for the covid pandemic is obvious; what is not obvious is the lack of will of our society in saving itself, physically and metaphorically: that’s why the movie has a disturbing dystopian background lurking through the slapstick comedy surface.

Follow up

mymovies.it/film/2021/dont-look-up

 


LAST NIGHT IN SOHO

Back to glamorous Swinging London, with a touch of horror attached

In acclaimed director Edgar Wright’s psychological thriller, Eloise, an aspiring fashion designer, is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer, Sandie. But the glamour is not all it appears to be and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something far darker (Rotten Tomatoes)

Fascinated by the call of the big city, Eloise, a provincial girl, goes to London to look for success but finds the hidden evil behind the glamorous surface. It’s a story we have seen many times on the screen, but this time the protagonist magically steps into the Swinging London of the 60s to ‘witness’ the sad story of a girl like her, Sandie, coming from the farm to try and become a successful singer. Sandie is a kind of Eloise’s doppelganger, and so she relives the sad parable of the wannabe singer and her descent into the inferno behind the shining facade of Swinging Soho. It is a tale of illusion vs reality that leads to failure, murder and nightmare, in which the villain is a victim of society’s greed looking for revenge. The film is cross-genre, part comedy, part drama, thriller, horror, with zombies attached – actually Eloise’s nightmare visions. Nonetheless, the Soho of the 60s is great visual indeed, boosted by an excellent period soundtrack. If you love that decade and that lost London, go for it. You won’t regret it.

Follow up

Last Night in Soho review -The Guardian


NO TIME TO DIE: His name was Bond, James Bond

For the very last time, in No Time to Die Daniel Craig shows us his handsome Shrek face: this is his announced last performance as 007 in this 25-film-long franchise (the word we use in movies for ‘series’).

It all started with Sean Connery in the sixties and Roger Moore in the seventies, with those early film versions of Fleming’s novels in which Bond was the quintessential dream of every white Western male, the paladin of the Western society in Cold War times, a black&white world in which the villain was always linked to the communist powers. And where women were no more than pleasure toys. 

After P. Brosnan’s age in the nineties, more focused on globalization and planetarian villains, came Craig’s post-9/11 five films, in which Bond has to fight against a high-tech villain, international terrorism, chemical weapons and internal enemies. And also against his ageing, the insurgence of repressed feelings, and has to accept the ‘politically correct’: a new black female 007 and a black Miss Moneypenny are inconceivable in the ‘white supremacy’ world of Fleming. 

Being a Bond fan, I went to see No Time to Die with good expectations but I came out disappointed and puzzled. The plot is traditional as far as the chase of the villain is concerned, with exaggerated stunting and shooting. Bond goes back to service first to revenge his old CIA pal Felix (a noir classic), then to save the world from the planetarian neurotic villain who wants to destroy humankind and who, like many previous movies, has his HQ in a private exotic island, Dr No style. What is quite new, and puzzling, is James himself. Bond is in love: it had happened before, with disastrous results, especially in the Craig series, but this time, as the story develops, he expresses his feelings and considers making a family; in a word, he is more human, and that humanity creeps through the toughness [si insinua nella durezza di …] of Bond the licence-to-kill secret agent. The Bond girl here is no more a pleasure toy but someone to be faithful to (another inconceivable item for Fleming). The finale is puzzling too, and really unexpected: that is the real thing in the movie; even if at the end of the credit it says Bond will return, it won’t be the same again, that’s for sure.

One last word about the stunning locations which characterizes the franchise. Italy has always been a favourite of directors, and this time it is no exception. Trendy Matera is the background of the opening sequence, one of the best in the movie, to confirm the fact that Matera is the gorgeous Italian hill town film-makers can’t resist (here is The Guardian article).

(455 words)

Follow up:

Check rottentomatoes.com which aggregates reviews.

MyMovies review (in Italian) is very good: UN CAPITOLO CHIAVE CHE CHIUDE UN’EPOCA E NE APRE UN’ALTRA, CHE AGGIORNA 007, DISORIENTA E INFINE STORDISCE, CON UN EPILOGO INATTESO ED ESPLOSIVO.


The Last Duel

Storytelling with gusto in Ridley Scott’s medieval epic

The Last Duel is a film … set in the midst of the Hundred Years War that explores the ubiquitous power of men, the frailty of justice and the strength and courage of one woman willing to stand alone in the service of truth. Based on actual events, the film … [is] about France’s last … duel between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, two friends turned bitter rivals. Carrouges is a respected knight known for his bravery and skill on the battlefield. Le Gris is a Norman squire whose intelligence and eloquence make him one of the most admired nobles in court. When Carrouges’ wife, Marguerite, is viciously assaulted by Le Gris, a charge he denies, she refuses to stay silent, stepping forward to accuse her attacker, an act of bravery and defiance that puts her life in jeopardy [danger]. The ensuing trial by combat, a grueling duel to the death, places the fate of all three in God’s hands. (www.rottentomatoes.com)

This film is not the ‘cloak and dagger’ story you expect, that’s a fact. Indeed, the elements of the genre are traditional: power, possession, chivalry on the one hand and love, rape, betrayal, revenge on the other, all this caused by the never ageing love triangle which makes friends turn into foes (hence the motto three is a crowd). What is not traditional in this movie is the storytelling and the psychology of the characters.

Not surprisingly, the movie begins at the climax (the duel) and is narrated in flashback. But this is a three-time-told tale: the same events are narrated three times by the three main characters’ different points of view, approaches and attitudes (the husband, the rapier, the abused wife): it’s up to the viewer to make up his own truth. This narrative technique reminded me of A. Christie’s Five Little Pigs and W. Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury in which the same procedure is used.

As a direct consequence, the film portrays ’round characters’, not flat heroes and villains, the latter destined to die in the final fight. There’s good and bad, nobility and cowardice in each of them, like in real life. The film investigates their psychology and makes it difficult to say who is the hero and who is the bad guy. Carrouges, destined to be the champion who revenges his abused wife, has many negative aspects because of his blind faith in the given rules and in the status quo. Le Gris, destined to be the villain, is a charming fellow, literate and sensible, truly in love with a passion he can’t control. Easy to see that the real heroine here is Marguerite, an ante litteram feminist, risking her life to break the medieval codes of behaviour, with an interior struggle to cope with her fascination for the attractive Le Gris.

A final word about ‘oldie but goldie’ director R. Scott. His locations and film visuals are superb, as usual in his work (remember Blade Runner?). He makes us feel the blind violence of the Middle Ages, in battle and at home. It is a medieval epic indeed, but with clear reference to the present; as the title of the New Yorker review says, The Last Duel “is a wannabe #MeToo movie.” (379 words)

(#Me Too movement: a social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment where people publicize allegations of sex crimes.)

Follow up:

https://www.mymovies.it/film/2021/the-last-duel/


OLD: And Then There Were None revisited

A mix of whodunit, horror, humour and social commitment, a movie worth watching – 3/5 stars

As the different protagonists, introduced in the film incipit, arrive in an apparent seaside holiday paradise and are taken to a solitary spectacular beach with no connection to the resort, we immediately feel we are in a classical A. Christie’s situation, and that something is very wrong. And if you are familiar with And The There were None (Dieci Piccoli indiani), you know what might happen next in the plot development: a fight for survival and …. In the movie, time has been terrifyingly accelerated, as if the character lived their life in just one day. It is a brilliant feature which makes the film unconventional and boosts suspense. Will the characters be able to survive, will they escape their golden trap? The finale will answer the questions we ask ourselves during the film, showing a finger-pointing social commitment about a topic (drugs and its globalized production) we have all been familiar with since the rise of Covid 19.

Follow-up:
The GuardianOld review – M Night Shyamalan’s fast-ageing beach horror 
MymoviesSHYAMALAN GIOCA CON IL SUO STESSO CINEMA, SPINGENDOSI OLTRE IN UNA RIFLESSIONE CHE VA AL DI LÀ DELLE APPARENZE DI GENERE

 

 

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