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The Watcher 6
Tiny Movie Reviews for Flower Moon / Henry Sugar / Concrete Utopia / Megalomaniac / Odd Man Out / Race with the Devil / 2020 Texas Gladiators / Dogman / The Blackening / Blue Beetle and more.
Tiny and not so tiny reviews for:
Killers of the Flower Moon (USA 2023, Martin Scorsese) ★★★★★
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar/The Rat Catcher/The Swan/Poison (USA 2023, Wes Anderson) ★★★★★
Concrete Utopia (South Korea 2023, Um Tae-hwa) ★★★★★
The Conference (Sweden 2023, Patrik Eklund) ★★★★☆
Megalomaniac (Belgium 2022, Karim Ouelhaj) ★★★★☆
Odd Man Out (UK 1947, Carol Reed) ★★★★☆
Dogman (France 2023, Luc Besson) ★★★☆☆
The Blackening (USA 2023, Tim Story) ★★★☆☆
It Lives Inside (USA 2023, Bishal Dutta) ★★★☆☆
Race with the Devil (USA 1975, Jack Starrett) ★★★☆☆
Night of the Hunted (USA 2023, Franck Khalfoun) ★★★☆☆
Blue Beetle (USA 2023, Ángel Manuel Soto) ★★☆☆☆
The Retirement Plan (USA 2023, Tim Brown) ★★☆☆☆
Herd (USA 2023, Steven Pierce) ★★☆☆☆
Final Summer (USA 2023, John Isberg) ★☆☆☆☆
Dark Harvest (USA 2023, David Slade) ★☆☆☆☆
2020 Texas Gladiators (Italy 1983, Joe D'Amato) ☆☆☆☆☆
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Killers of the Flower Moon (USA 2023, Martin Scorsese) ★★★★★ Review contains spoilers. When the Osage tribe discover oil on their land becoming the wealthiest people in the country, DiCaprio and DeNiro conspire to take over their money by marrying into their families and murdering the wifes.
Flower Moon is Scorsese at his best, a complex story about the corruption of love through greed and crime unfolding in beautiful, slow moving images. The production design of this period piece is a marvel to look at, and the whole cast shines in this late epic jewel coming from a true master of his craft.
I know there are some debates if Scorsese as an old white man is 'allowed' to tell this murder story of the Osage indian tribe, but i don't think those debates get at what this movie is about. But this is not a film about murder, and it is very self aware of the exploitative nature of Hollywood.
This is a film about the suppression of a violent past, the self awareness of your own guilt and complicity in it, and coming to terms with that. Scorsese himself comments on that explicitly in the very last minutes of the movie, when the epilogue is told by showing the FBI-produced radioplay reenacting the murders in a form of true-crime-podcast live on stage, with a non-indigenous cast, one of which is Jack White, proudly sponsored by a well known cigarette corporation. In that final scene, Scorsese is reading from a script that the indian main character Mollie Burkhart died years later and in her obituary printed in the american press there was no mention of any murder, whatsoever. This film tries to correct a wrong in american history — the ignorance and exploitation of violence.
This is a movie by non-indigenous for non-indigenous to make them aware of their cimes and a violent past surpressed by american publics and institutions, just like DiCaprio is becoming aware of his actions at the end of the film, even when he stays a coward all along. In that sense, Flower Moon is woke af in the best sense of the word, and it punches that fact right into your stomach with it's very last line.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar/The Rat Catcher/The Swan/Poison (USA 2023, Wes Anderson) ★★★★★ Overstylized like all Wes Anderson films, this collection of Roald Dahl shorts play with mechanics of stageplay, making them unlike anything i've seen on film in a long time. An omnipresent narrator works as the active part of the story, constantly looking at us, while the backgrounds morph and move around and stagehands construct FX literally live on stage. More than anything, these shorts are metanarratives about storytelling itself, with Dahl, portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in a near verbatim rebuilt of his famous writing room, serving as bookends to each story in layered fictions within fictions.
All these shorts are great excercises in minimal filmmaking drawing in the viewer and leaving it to the audience to fill in the blanks in this DIY-mechanistic aesthetic with their imagination, most emphasized in the segment The Swan. I loved all of them, but the dark bullying fantasy The Swan unfolding in simple shapes of cornfields against bright, white backdrops i liked the most.
I'm not the biggest Anderson Fan and i get tired watching his stylistic excesses, but here it works and serves those stories uniquely well. After The fantastic Mr.Fox, this was finally another Anderson-effort which i truly loved. Most excellent.
Concrete Utopia (South Korea 2023, Um Tae-hwa) ★★★★★ After a gigantic earthquake levels all of Korea, only the Hwan Gung apartment complex is still standing. It's residents vote to evict outsiders from Dream Palace in the midst of the harshest winter, dooming them to death while their newly elected glorious leader carries a dark secret.
Conrete Utopia is a fantastic allegory on totalitarian systems packaged in a dark desaster movie with great sets and visuals, interesting characters and interwoven storylines that never confuse or obstruct it's central human message. It's like Ben Wheatleys adaption of High Rise, but better and less confusing.
I guess embedded in the subtext there is a metaphor on the korean conflict about which i know next to nothing, but this didn't keep me from enjoying this great piece of inventive moviemaking a lot.
The Conference (Sweden 2023, Patrik Eklund) ★★★★☆ A killer is targeting office workers coming together at a camp for team building, where they ready the construction of a mall in the local community. While accusations of corruption and motivational business talk is thrown around, he takes them out one by one.
The Conference is a cool little horror satire on parasitic capitalism and office culture and while it does have some minor flaws and is a bit predictable, it works great at being funny and grim and stays entertaining until the end. A great cast performing interesting characters, some fine gore and fresh ideas make this a really worthwhile movie for people who love The Office and Friday the 13th.
Megalomaniac (Belgium 2022, Karim Ouelhaj) ★★★★☆ The psychotic sister of a serial killer descends into madness after getting raped at work and becomes complice in his killing spree, when they decide to execute revenge on her tormentors.
A dark extreme horror flick from Belgium without a trace of hope, with grim violent outbursts contrasted with tasteful, baroque arthouse imagery. The movie absolutely is uncomfortable to watch, but it delivers, if that's your kind of stuff.
I have to admit that I'm over Martyrs-style extreme horror like this, but its good camera work, great lighting and the artful surrealism aswell as the excellent performance from Eline Schumacher elevate this way beyond the usual torture porn.
Odd Man Out (UK 1947, Carol Reed) ★★★★☆ After a heist gone wrong, Johnny's gang is hunted down while he's wounded and tumbles through the city of Belfast in search of redemption and escape. Against this backdrop director Carol Reed paints a panoramic image of society, where the dying and hallucinating Johnny meets all kinds of characters from clerics to bums to artists, examining the different attitudes of people towards supposedly evil men in need for help.
Irish political history takes a backseat for a colorful portrait of a city, most of the movie shot on location in beautiful and interesting black and white images by Robert Krasker, who two years later worked with Carol Reed again in his classic The Third Man.
By todays standards, this classy crime drama drags a bit in the second act, but that doesn't matter much. There's so much going on and the story keeps being interesting, it easily keeps you hooked.
Dogman (France 2023, Luc Besson) ★★★☆☆ A dragqueen with a history of abuse, caught by the police for robbing rich people with a bunch of dogs, tells the story of his life to a psychologist during interrogation.
The trailer for Dogman sells this as an actionfilm which this is not, but I'm not disappointed. While the action and crime elements stay in the background, this is a complex story about a tortured soul clinging to the beauty of life, love and art and succeeds, after all.
Some elements of the film were a bit too hard to believe for me, as i grew up with dogs and know a bit about what they can and can't do even with training. But ofcourse the animals work as a metaphor for unconditional love in which the guy immersed himself after a life of pain, and his smarts, cleverness and loyalty elevate him above tragedy resulting in his own, private triumph.
An interesting, original story with a great central character, some minor plotholes and an action plot which feels detached result in an uneven, but enjoyable film.
The Blackening (USA 2023, Tim Story) ★★★☆☆ Black Lives Matter, the Slasher-Comedy. Unfortunately the film is more occupied with talking about race than being a good movie, but it's entertaining enough to make it work and the jokes sometimes are actually funny. While the horror stays tame and generic and the movie thinks it's cleverer than it is, it's still a fun, amusing watch.
It Lives Inside (USA 2023, Bishal Dutta) ★★★☆☆ An indian-american teen gets stalked by an invisible monster. It Lives Inside is a kind of frustrating watch because it makes nothing of it's interesting premises and stays a clichéd monster flick. While entertaining, it misses the opportunity to comment on intercultural experiences of immigrants and even when i welcome this more unpolitical stance, it could've made more use of it's setting in subtext, transforming it's horror into a metaphor for something. But nope, there's nothing there, just some okay FX and some nice atmosphere. That's enough to be entertaining, but nothing more.
Race with the Devil (USA 1975, Jack Starrett) ★★★☆☆ Two couples on a roadtrip in a camper stumble upon a satanist cult and witness a ritual murder who then go full Mad Max on them. I remembered this to be more high octane road action which only makes for the last twenty minutes or so, but at least those sequences compensate for the kind of dull second act which just drags along. It's okay and crashes a lot of cars at the end, but it's also not the menacing siege road movie it could have been.
Night of the Hunted (USA 2023, Franck Khalfoun) ★★★☆☆ A MAGA-psycho traps a woman in a gas station where he's sniping down people all night long. A mean little thriller with solid visuals and some dull moments in the script. But it keeps the suspense-level constantly high and the ending which keeps the identity of the killer vague makes up for the lack of any subtext. I love siege movies and this is a okay, sometimes a good one, but i wish it would've been not so on the nose and tried to be a bit more sophisticated.
Blue Beetle (USA 2023, Ángel Manuel Soto) ★★☆☆☆ A completely annoying comicbook movie from DC with tons of annoying humor, an annoying soundtrack, annoying dialogue and even annoying production design. The only not annoying thing about this movie is Susan Sarandon, but even she can't save this thing.
Some of the action sequences towards the end are good and i get that i'm not the target audience here, which would be twelve year old mainstream kids — so i guess it's alright for some, but not for me.
While Zack Snyders DCU-flicks were annoying in their absurdly fake-grim seriousness and darkness, this wants to be lighthearted fluff but feels like a Chihuahua constantly jumping up your leg trying to tell you how cute it is, while it's just an annoying little furball i mean bugball. I hope James Gunns new DCU has more to offer than this, but i also think that he got his new job overlooking all the DCU franchises when this was already finished.
The Retirement Plan (USA 2023, Tim Brown) ★★☆☆☆ A woman gets embroyled in some crime thing and sends her daughter to her grandfather Nicolas Cage who's living as a beach bum on the Cayman Islands. Mildly entertaining crime romp with some rare mildly clever twists and turns and mild action. One has to wonder how they got Nic Cage for such a mild flick, given he's usually playing more, well, intense characters. It's okay but I've already forgotten most of it.
Herd (USA 2023, Steven Pierce) ★★☆☆☆ A lesbian couple on a canoe trip gets trapped between the lines of a fight between militia and a bunch of rednecks during a zombie outbreak. Somewhere there's a good movie hidden in this, but it's buried under a bad script full of ridiculous moments, bad acting by the supporting cast and burping zombie sounds.
Final Summer (USA 2023, John Isberg) ★☆☆☆☆ A generic camp slasher whichs solid camera work can't save it from a bad script full of embarissing moments and hilariously crappy dialogue. You gotta hand it to them, this very much looks like a bunch of friends scrapped together a small amount of money to film a low budget slasher that wants to be a straightforward throwback to Friday 13th, and for a lowbudget movie of it's kind, it's not that bad. But it still sucks and the bad acting doesn't help either.
Dark Harvest (USA 2023, David Slade) ★☆☆☆☆ Every year, a town locks in their sons three days before Halloween for them to starve until they are let out to hunt down a mysterious monster growing in the cornfields.
Dark Harvest is an overacted mess with a bloated script full of bad dialogue. Hidden somewhere is a comment about the crisis of boys, but it lacks depth and subtext to say anything about it and some rare nice shots can't make up for bad editing. The film wants to show some overly dramatic 50s rebel youth, but lacks the patience to establish the style to do it justice — it's like Cry Baby watched The Purge and wants to be Pumpkinhead now, but instead of John Waters we get an untalented director unable to shoot one good scene that actually makes sense.
It has one or two moments where i thought the movie manages to turn around but nope. At least the ending gives some meaning to the senseless mess, but this is still a pretty bad movie.
2020 Texas Gladiators (Italy 1983, Joe D'Amato) ☆☆☆☆☆ In this supposedly Mad Max Ripoff we meet nuns, kung fu fighters, barely clad women, indians, future nazis, bikers and cowboys, all of them played by actors with zero talent, and it's one giant stupid mess held together by a minimal story and badly choreographed action scenes. Joe D'Amato just throws everything against the wall and doesn't care if anything sticks.
Literally zero fucks were given making this movie: D'Amato stated in an interview that he "only wrote these awful movies for financial reasons — no attempt at originality was made at all" and that's exactly what you get. Interesting solely for trash-cinema-historical reasons and a good laugh.