Category Archives: No Spoiler Reviews

AT ETERNITY’S GATE (2019): The Things I Liked…

At Eternity's Gate (2018), Willem Dafoe, CBS Films
At Eternity’s Gate (2018), Willem Dafoe, CBS Films

There’s plenty of beauty in director Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate, a biography / drama about highly celebrated artist Vincent Van Gogh. The beauty lies first and foremost in the stunning cinematography, but also in the dialogue, editing and musical score.

As a big fan of colour and light, there’s certainly plenty of it to take in and enjoy  in Schabel’s movie; whether it’s the scenes in nature that Willem Dafoe’s Van Gogh is mesmerised by, or the beautiful blue of the jacket on the artist’s back.

Thanks to Schabel’s great execution, I enjoyed At Eternity’s Gate in its entirety. Even the heartbreaking moments that highlighted the truth of just how challenging Van Gogh’s experience of life must have been. The moments of suffering he endured made me sad and simultaneously grateful that he, at the very least had one of the most loving brothers anyone could ever wish for.

So engaging and immersive is the viewing experience of At Eternity’s Gate that it felt as though I was often there with Van Gogh; whether running with him through the beautiful vistas, laying down to take in the beauty of the sky and surrounding nature or even during his most tormented periods. Periods when there was next to zero colour in his days.

Watch At Eternity’s Gate because you appreciate visual art. Watch it to learn some truths about Van Gogh and for the mesmerising footage of an artist at work. By the very end, you may even be inspired to take  a trip to Amsterdam for the  Van Gogh Museum; or perhaps pick up some paint and brushes.

Time for me to look up Schnabel’s other films.

At Eternity’s Gate also stars Rupert Friend, Oscar Isaac, Mads Mikkelsen, Mathieu Amalric, Niels Arestrup…

Happy Film Loving 

G

BOY ERASED (2018): The Thing I Liked…

Boy Erased (2018), Nicole Kidman, Lucas Hedges
Boy Erased (2018), Nicole Kidman, Lucas Hedges

Boy Erased is a biographical drama based on a specific time in the life of Garrard Conley, a Baptist preacher’s son who as a teenager was forced to take part in a church-supported gay conversion program. A disturbing and damaging practice that I’m sadly unsurprised to learn still continues today. 

Besides standing out for being a heartbreaking true story that’s well acted and directed, Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Joel Edgerton’s latest movie features a number of scenes that I won’t soon forget. 

My very favourite one is a scene so moving that it made me realise I don’t actually recall the last time I wanted a person’s all important phone call to be answered so desperately. 

My second favourite scene takes place just before the one with the phone phone call. It’s a moment that had me hoping that every parent with a strong willed child recognises the value of their child’s will. Especially when the child chooses to question what appears as nonsense – at the most crucial time, regardless of who may be spewing it.

Boy Erased definitely has a number of unfortunate things that happen in this story; meaning you really won’t be laughing much, if at all. Still, I did find the experience worthwhile for the insight into what can occur at gay conversion camps and for the aforementioned well executed and memorable scenes which take place towards the end.

Watch it if it intrigues you enough and also because it’s more hopeful than you may think.

Happy Film Loving

G

THE WIFE (2018): The Thing I Liked…

The Wife (2019), Glenn Close
The Wife (2018), Glenn Close

Imagine being way past middle age and finding yourself ill at ease with your life choices. This is the situation Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) finds her self in as travels to Stockholm with her husband, where he’s due to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Featuring good performances by all involved, especially Close, I enjoyed this story and the way it handles regret. I particularly liked how expertly Close portrayed the complicated emotional journey of a woman in a specific predicament that is the kind of situation most modern independent women should hopefully no longer find themselves in. 

I’m quite certain that my favourite movie about regret will probably always be Magnolia (1999). Yet, The Wife too is memorable in the way it handles the subject. I felt badly for Joan, not so much because of the life she chose but because she let what seemed like other people’s negative experiences change the direction of her entire life. 

Another way to look at Joan’s story is to conclude that she fell in love, and that truth took priority over all else – including her own morality and the kind of treatment and respect a person really ought to demand in every situation.

More than anything, for me, The Wife is a reminder to think, think and think again before you sacrifice a key part of yourself for another – especially in the name of love. 

It is also just a well acted movie you should see if the themes intrigue you enough. 

Lastly, fun fact! The actress who plays young Joan’s is actually Glenn Close’s real life daughter, Annie Starke.

Happy Film Loving 

G

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (2018): The Things I Liked…

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018), KiKi Layne, Stephan James
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018), KiKi Layne, Stephan James

Starring Regina King, KiKi Layne, Pedro Pascal, Stephan James, Ed Skrein, and from Moonight 2016 director Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk is a drama / romance set in early 1970s Harlem. 

Based on rightly celebrated American novelist and social critic James Baldwin’s book of the same name, at the centre of the story is Tish. Tish is a pregnant young black woman who’s desperately scrambling to prove her fiancé innocent of a terrible crime.

There are some moments in this movie where I wanted to hit the fast forward button for a few seconds. Yet, overall, I’d say that at first you may resist the sometimes almost dream-like pace of this story, but soon enough you surrender to it. And you do so on account of the well written dialogue, the musical score, the great performances and Jenkins’s depiction of a truly united, loving family – generally speaking and in the face of great injustice.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018), Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, Regina King
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018), Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, Regina King

It was during the most heartbreaking scenes in this movie that the full meaning behind Baldwin’s book title, ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ quickly came to light. And as it did so, my head and heart started wishing that the truth of the story would end up being ‘When Beale Street Spoke.’

Well edited with flashbacks that are expertly woven in, this one is a movie that will one minute break your heart and have you extremely disappointed in the capacity of the human to hate. Then the next minute make you smile at the beauty of love as you take a moment to appreciate the strength and love of family and friends when you need them most.

As a fan of great writing, I can only imagine the pride of the actors who got to speak Baldwin’s words. The writing stood out so much fo me that, had I not already known that Baldwin was behind it, as the movie played, I’d have definitely had to make a note to look this great ‘new’ writer up.

Watch it for all the reasons above. Especially the dialogue, the family unit, for some insight into being black in America, to discover KiKi Layne – if you didn’t already know – and of course, love.

Happy Film Loving

G

VELVET BUZZSAW (2019): The Things I Liked…

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019), Jake Gyllenhaal
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019), Jake Gyllenhaal

I had a good time watching writer / director Dan Gilroy’s latest movie, Velvet Buzzsaw. The fact that it’s set in sunny Miami Beach, Florida only has a little something to do with it.

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, John Malkovich, Zawe Ashton, Toni Collette and Billy Magnussen, Velvet Buzzsaw is a comedy / crime / fantasy movie about a group of art lovers who become revenge targets for a supernatural force. The catalyst for the vengeance being, the art lovers helped themselves to pieces of art they really shouldn’t have.

I immediately liked the early scenes where the different characters along with all their various motivations are established. Nevertheless, I did watch these scenes while somewhat impatiently waiting for the vengeance to begin. The true extent of my impatience didn’t really reveal itself until after the very first bit of rather thrilling revenge is enacted. Reason being, some of the scenes after that point weren’t always especially engaging. 

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019), Zawe Ashton
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019), Zawe Ashton

For me personally, thanks to my favourite characters in the movie, the ones played by Gyllenhaal, Ashton and Natalia Dyer, I feel like Velvet Buzzsaw had enough to make the nearly two hours I spent watching the movie worthwhile. I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s quite as good as Nightcrawler (2014)my favourite Gyllenhaal and Gilroy collaboration, but it does have some standout moments that I won’t soon forget. Especially in regards to the creative ways revenge is enacted upon the greedy art lovers. There’s also the moments of gorgeous cinematography and rich, vibrant colours. 

Another good movie that came to mind as I watched Velvet Buzzsaw is Final Destination (2000), a horror / thriller that did a very memorable job of thrilling and shocking its audience because of the very well executed death sequences – something Velvet Buzzsaw doesn’t do too badly at either.

Watch it if you’re so curious. Other reasons include the ‘funny’ replacement personal assistant, the chance to see Gyllenhaal really having fun in this role. Last but not least, watch it and be surprised by how much you actually enjoy the very last ‘piece of art’ shown in this movie. I know I did. I really could have looked at it for a while, if I were less busy.

Happy Film Loving 

G

BEAUTIFUL BOY (2018): The Thing I Liked…

Beautiful Boy (2018), Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney
Beautiful Boy (2018), Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney

At the centre of Beautiful Boy is a father’s struggle as he tries to help his drug addicted son turn his life around. Starring Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet and Maura Tierney, this one is a story as heartbreaking and inspiring as everyone said.

I wanted to see director Felix Van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy because of my curiosity about the experience of a parent whose child is battling addiction. Another motivation was a desire to witness Carell deliver yet another notable dramatic performance, which he does, of course. Then there’s Chalamet. It really was about time that I understood the reason behind all the hype concerning Chalamet’s acting skills. I understand the hype and I have zero objections.

Besides being fifteen to twenty minutes longer than is preferable, Beautiful Boy is well told and moving story. If I had to pick a favourite moment, I enjoyed the moment at the airport that conveyed the strong bond between father and son. The scene that moved me most however is the one with the vehicular pursuit near the family home. It’s a great moment that really brought to the fore the considerable suffering experienced by family members outside of the father / son relationship, one family member in particular.

Watch Beautiful Boy for the insight and a reminder of what a truly huge undertaking parenthood truly is. Praises be to all the great parents, who remain great especially when their children mess up. 

Happy Film Loving 

G

NIGHT SCHOOL (2018): The Thing I liked…

Night School (2018), Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish
Night School (2018), Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish

Night School, Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish ‘s comedy about adult troublemakers forced to get ready for the GED exam during night classes is not all that I’d hoped.

My very favourite moment in the whole nearly two hour duration of the movie is the beginning. Reason being, that’s when it had the most promise. Unfortunately though, from that point on my interest in the characters just decreased more and more as the film continued.

I definitely think that the movie should have been at least 20 minutes shorter. I like what it had to say about second chances and how instrumental the right teacher can be in getting the best out of seemingly difficult students. Nevertheless, I wanted the film to have my whole attention, without my mind wandering as it played. It’s therefore not as funny or engaging as the trailer had me hoping.

Give it a chance if you’re a big enough fan of Haddish, Hart and Taran Killam Just know that you probably won’t consider it one of their best movies.

Happy Film Loving

G

ROMA (2018): The Things I Liked…

Roma (2018), Yalitza Aparicio

Acclaimed director Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, a drama about a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s is not a bad film. In fact, Roma is good in a similar way to how Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (2014) is good. Roma captures life with undeniable realism. Realism that often means there’ll be moments when you may want the pace to pick up – and for more things to happen. Luckily, more things do happen, eventually. They just don’t happen so much in the first half of the film.

In terms of what stood out most for me in the story, that would be the theme of sisterhood among women. Especially the way they come together during the most challenging times and often when it may not be expected.

There’s also the cinematography. I definitely can’t deny that I found myself missing colour at certain points in Cuarón’s black and white movie. Still, I really did enjoy the beautifully lit visuals. Images that made many scenes look very much like well captured, engaging black and white photographs. Photographs you may find yourself staring at for a while.

The main star of Cuarón’s movie, Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio delivers a perfectly measured performance as the young maid / nanny Cleo. It’s her character’s sometimes challenging experiences that leads us through the events in the movie from the start to the very end.

Watch Roma if you’re so curious. Just make sure you’re fully rested beforehand because some moments are slow, regardless of how visually arresting the cinematography may be.

Roma also stars Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Nancy García García, Jorge Antonio Guerrero…

Happy Film Loving

G