“The greatest story of the west ever filmed!” is what the marketing insists you, but as to be expected from the hyperbolic labelling George Stevens’s Shane carries enough in order to prove itself an entertaining ride while it lasts. Although I’ve not yet been blown away by any of Stevens’s films, he was always a filmmaker whose work has consistently remained engaging and Shane continues a long streak for him. On some count this is arguably George Stevens’s most famous film and it’s easy to see why, for it shows a beautiful portrait of the American West as occupied by a highly political environment, together with the iconic closing sequence – but I’ve found still carries another particular tendency with Stevens that has always bothered me, but that’s not to say it makes Shane any less of a great western than it is.
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There are two sides to the battle as portrayed in Michael Mann’s epic crime drama Heat that grants it the title of being one of the best films of its own time. Putting Al Pacino and Robert De Niro together for once after their share from The Godfather: Part II, what we have now is a different crime saga, but one within the streets of Los Angeles. Under the hands of any other filmmaker, Heat could almost have found itself falling in the same category as just about any other cops-and-robbers tale, but there’s a great sense of humility present in the way that Michael Mann is telling his own story that ultimately has made his work one of the defining works of its era. Michael Mann’s Heat doesn’t simply carry its own weight through a sense of the action, its strength lies inside the morality at play.
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James Ponsoldt’s directorial credit should already have been enough for me to think that there was something decent inside of The Circle, but what also caught me was the fact it came from a novel by, and was co-written by Dave Eggers. This name already caught me eye more than anything else about The Circle because Eggers also was a co-writer of Spike Jonze’s underrated but wonderful Where the Wild Things Are. Now that The Circle has come out I’m just wondering how everything had gone so terribly wrong for both Ponsoldt and Eggers because both filmmakers have created fairly thoughtful material prior to this and now comes the worst Black Mirror episode disguised as a feature film. Then again, at least Black Mirror even at their very worst had something to say and yet this one doesn’t even know in the slightest what it wishes to do and at its worst, has to preach everything in your face to the point it becomes so irritating.
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Rohmer’s voice isn’t as particularly well-known amidst the best French New Wave filmmakers along the likes of Jean-Luc Godard or François Truffaut, which is quite a shame because there’s no doubt that he’s one of the most thoughtful filmmakers to have arisen from the movement. The third film in Rohmer’s “Comedies and Proverbs” series following The Aviator’s Wife and A Good Marriage, this is the most I’ve found myself entertained watching any of Rohmer’s films. Not to say his work was any less enthralling but it has come to stick in my head within time because I’ve almost in some sense found a common comfort prominent within how he weaves conversations between characters together. But add it to the delivery of his own actors and what comes out is a beautiful coming-of-age tale also brings out a new tale of understanding within one’s own comfort and eventually going beyond.
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Film lovers should already be familiar with the name of Charlie Chaplin considering the huge impact he has laid upon the comedy genre over the years. Richard Attenborough’s biopic comes along the same veins where his Oscar-winning Gandhi has come from and although not nearly as long, it’s in part an entertaining one but at the same time too by-the-numbers for its own good, which is the last thing I’d even want for a film about Chaplin. I don’t wish to dismiss Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin as the sort of film that does present itself as a disservice towards Chaplin’s legacy because in part it feels like it can excellently recreate that joy, although there’s another degree to where I’m not even sure what Attenborough intended his viewers to make of the life of the man behind the Tramp himself. What may have worked for Gandhi didn’t transfer well for a tale about Chaplin.
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Ben Wheatley has always been a complicated case for myself and Free Fire shows another side to him that may prove itself more accessible put next to the rest of his films. I went into Free Fire wondering what this new route would have done for Wheatley then I got a mixed bag of results. On one hand, the idea that is being presented here is something to which I have great admiration for, but on another hand, I’m not exactly sure that I got enough of it presented here and I wonder how much it would benefit either from trimming or extension. This was something that has always run through my head when I watch Wheatley’s films, they have ideas that don’t always come fully realized but he’s a director I admire on the count that he tries to reach out for more through the unorthodox.
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NOTE: Jonathan Demme passed away on April 26, 2017, and this review is dedicated to his memory.
In the history of the Academy Awards only three films have managed to sweep up the Big Five, and the most recent one to hold such a distinction is none other than Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. It was at the point where Demme was making a name for himself through the comedy films Melvin and Howard and Something Wild or documentaries such as Stop Making Sense. Within the many years that have come by, The Silence of the Lambs has already become widely seen as Demme’s best known film together with the most widely celebrated cinematic portrayal of Hannibal Lecter – for good reason. The greatest joy that Demme presents in The Silence of the Lambs doesn’t come from the consequence of event but how it works its way into one’s mind the way Hannibal Lecter finds his way under another’s skin just as the very best thrillers do just as The Silence of the Lambs is indeed deserving of every bit of its own reputation as one of the best films of its own period.
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Zach Braff’s presence, let alone involvement in anything is enough to turn me away from watching something. The thought of a Zach Braff-directed remake of the 1979 comedy of the same name was already set to put me off no matter who would have been cast, and add the fact that Theodore Melfi of St. Vincent and Hidden Figures would be writing the screenplay, I’d only have imagined that the most it can possibly be is a harmless comedy that’ll come and go. It caught me by surprise that this was also the first time Zach Braff had ever done something that didn’t leave me feeling any sort of anger or annoyance given the bad taste his quirk in Garden State and Wish I Was Here had left in my mouth – but at the same time it was also the most I could even have expected Going in Style to be. Something that’d come and go without any real impact.
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James Gray’s films have always been a struggle for me to get into, so The Lost City of Z wasn’t one I was looking forward to so readily. The sort of material that Gray was set to cover in here wasn’t something I would have expected of him so I was hoping my issues with his body of work would be infrequent here. Thankfully it was the case with The Lost City of Z and as a result, a great film had come right out. For not only is The Lost City of Z the most ambitious that I have seen James Gray reaching through his career as of yet from what I have been able to catch, it also rings back to a classic era of adventure films with its own eerie spin – one if anything that helped in making a great theatrical experience inside of itself, and maybe more.
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It was only fitting that Charlie Chaplin could have been around to make a film during Hitler’s reign of Germany that outright mocks his regime in order to expose a harsher reality and teach his audiences an important lesson about humanity. From here onward, Chaplin had become no stranger to politics and even put his own popularity at risk although the satire that The Great Dictator has presented still remains frighteningly relevant even today, for even though the film had made a name for itself on the count of its depiction of Hitler’s regime there’s a universal message lingering all throughout that only calls for it to be seen even by today’s audiences. But of all the films in his body of work that had to allow Chaplin to shift from making silent films to talkies, it was only fitting that The Great Dictator was that one. Not only is it a work of comedic genius but it speaks many lessons still necessary today.
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