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Thorougbreds (2017)

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First it was borderline personality,then severe depression,
yesterday, she said it was antisocial with schizoid tendency.
She’s basically just flipping to random pages of the DSM-5and throwing medications at me.
But I have a perfectly healthy brain.
It just doesn’t contain feelings.

There are films that aren’t much of a story and still leave a certain impression. The same applies to “Thoroughbreds” where two teenage girls, each with a specific personality disorder, come up with a plan to kill someone. The two haven’t seen each other for a long time. An eternity in which much has changed. One grew up in a rich family while the other knew a past in which the killing of her own horse played an important role. But despite the contradictions, the old friendship bond is restored. And before they know it, they are planning a murder together. Strange but true. Although it’s about a murder, it’s actually a funny and comic film. Especially because of the fascinating conversations full of dry, nonchalant humor. Sometimes it seems like the two young girls are totally insensitive people. Which is applicable to one of them.

Two tasty actresses.

The two main roles are played by two young actresses whose earlier performances I could appreciate. Physically they both look appetizing. Only Anya Taylor-Joy, who takes care of the role of Lily, has a more unique look with those big Bambi eyes. Olivia Cooke, on the other hand, is more the cliché image of the beautiful girl next door who’s slowly changing into a sensual young lady. The type of girl you’ve already met in countless feature films. Maybe that’s why Anya Taylor-Joy appeared in movies like “The Witch“, “Morgan“, “Split” and “Marrowbone“. All of which I enjoyed. Although I was kind of disappointed about “The Witch“. Not because of the acting. I was expecting more of a horror instead of a medieval drama.

Dead serious and funny at the same time.

Olivia Cooke’s acting was breathtaking and extraordinary in the film “Me and Earl and the dying girl“. A film that’s difficult to surpass. Even though her acting in “The Signal“, “The Quiet Ones” and “Ready player one” (although the emphasis was on the visual part) wasn’t so bad, the quoted film really stands out. But what she shows in “Thoroughbreds” as the apathetic Amanda, can compete with it. This was an enjoyment from start to finish. The way she plays the personality of Amanda is truly magnificent. And even though this film is meant to be deadly serious, her attitude will unintentionally cause comical situations.

I bet you didn’t see that one coming.

Thoroughbreds” is such a type of film which is difficult to pin down to a specific genre. Yes, it’s indeed a crime film about two eccentric girls who are brooding on a devilish plan. And yes, unintentionally there’s also that comical approach through the behavior of the two ladies and the way they interact with each other. And wait till you see the unexpected ending which makes it all seem sinister. But if you think about it longer, you’ll agree it’s a logical outcome. “Thoroughbreds” is not exactly an easy movie in terms of genre. It is a fascinating film with the emphasis on the character and psyche of the protagonists. The fact that an intriguing and ingenious twist has been given to it only makes it more interesting.

I was fascinated by the conversations. Bizarre.

So if you like a well-thought-out story that isn’t simply crafted up, then you should definitely give this film a chance. And besides that, you can also enjoy Anton Yelchin, who unfortunately died in a sad accident, once more. I thought the last film he acted in was “Green Room“. But most of all, it’s the literary jousting that takes place between the two female main characters that made an impression on me. It sometimes seemed like a Shakespearean play that uses fancy words in a subtle dialogue. I never thought a conversation would fascinate me. The wonders of the world are not yet out.

My rating 7/10
Links: IMDB

Drama

The Way Back: Thanks To Ben Affleck This Movie Effortlessly Exceeds The Average

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I’m surprised you could keep him out of the bar
long enough to hold practice.

 

There are lots of similar sports movies like “The Way Back“. Moralistic stories about how a trainer manages to bring a floundering team to unprecedented heights. Preferably, the team consists of a few foul-mouthed hotheads who want to impress the others by acting tough. Usually, they have a talent for the sport they practice, but lack of discipline makes them miss constancy. To the annoyance of the appointed coach at that moment. Of course, they are allergic to any type of authoritarian behavior. Until the new coach comes up. Preferably an old sports star who can look back on a successful sports career and who comes to the rescue by using clever pedagogical techniques. First of all, he gives each of the team members a figurative kick in the butt. Suspends the most rebellious pain in the ass (who of course comes back crawling to ask if he can be re-included in the team because the sport is vital for him). Then the grueling training sessions begin in such a way that this bunch of misfits finally starts winning games and slowly propel them to stardom. You saw it in “Coach Carter”, “Slap Shot” and to a lesser extent in “Major League”. “The Way Back” follows this same scenario. Only here the coach is also struggling with his personal demons.

 

The Way Back

 

You’ll always find a reason to start drinking.

I’m not a real Ben Affleck fan. Not that I think he’s a bad actor. Maybe the movie choices he made were a bit unfortunate. With “Daredevil” as the most terrible career choice, in my opinion. But here Affleck shows that he does have acting talent. Perhaps personal life experiences are the reason why he was able to empathize with the role of coach Jack easily. A tormented person who lost everything after a tragic event and sought refuge in drinking. Something Affleck has experience with since he has already admired the inside of a rehabilitation center several times. Probably because of this that the scenes during which he carelessly drinks, look so realistic. As well as the way he behaves when he’s not in a bar. The manipulation, the sneaking around, and the search for excuses. Typical behavior of an addict trying to hide his weakness. “The Way Back” tries to portray this addiction meticulously. If you see the umpteenth beercan disappear from the fridge while a spare one is already put in the freezer to stay cold, you as a viewer know that Jack is not a social drinker but a problem drinker with a fixed routine.

 

The Way Back

 

Impressive acting in a not so impressive movie.

Like many other film productions, “The Way Back” has been disadvantaged by the Corona pandemic. Had the original release date not been shifted from late 2019 to March this year, the damage would have been limited. Hence Warner Bross’s decision to release this movie directly on various platforms such as iTunes and Prime video among others. Now, I myself don’t consider it a requirement to watch “The way back” in a cinema. Apart from the admirable acting of Affleck, this film is nothing more than an average film that doesn’t impress in terms of originality. It seems as if a pre-printed checklist has been used for this type of film. A group of young people with a wrong attitude and who, as a basketball team, wallows in the role of the underdog. Check! Ex basketball player whose life is in a downward spiral. Check! Miraculous revival of the despised basketball team. Check! Family tragedy that ruined the coach’s life. Check! Obviously a relapse happens. Check! Once again a miraculous resurgence leading to a happy ending. Check! It feels like a three-pointer every time a check is placed on this list.

 

The Way Back

 

Give it a try.

In short. The film won’t win a prize in the category of originality. The already well-trodden paths of previously released sports dramas are followed too carefully. But what Ben Affleck demonstrates here (and I know I’m repeating myself) makes that this movie effortlessly exceeds the average. Only the way and period in which he defeated his demons, felt romanticized. And finally, you should not confuse this film with the 2010 film of the same name about a Polish prisoner who could escape from a Russian gulag with some fellow sufferers. The only similarity the Ben Affleck film has with the latter is that the road followed by the group of young people is also full of obstacles. And giving up is also not an option. So if you run into it anywhere on a VOD channel, give it a try. It’s not really a waste of time.

 

 

My rating 7/10
Links: IMDB

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HORROR

Z: Its Presence Is Clearly Felt In Every Dark Grim Scene

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ZZ likes it dark.

 

Movies with creepy little boys. With “Z” you also have the feeling you are getting yet another horror in which such a demonic boy is in command. Only recently I saw “The Prodigy” where the son of the house slowly develops a deviating pattern of behavior. That movie was about reincarnation. In “Z” it’s about having an imaginary friend. When Joshua Parsons (Jett Klyne) introduces his friend “Z” to his parents, they don’t really worry at first. They think it’s probably just a phase their kid has to struggle through. They even think it’s cute, in a certain way. Until suddenly school friends don’t want anything to do with Josh anymore, Elizabeth (Keegan Connor Tracy) becomes aware of strange things and finally, Joshua is also suspended from school because of intolerable behavior. At that moment, Elizabeth starts to realize that this imaginary friend has a tremendous influence on her sweet son.

 

Z

 

Just an ordinary horror, I thought.

Until halfway through the film it seems like an ordinary average horror. Including, something terrible happening to one of Joshua’s school friends (with or without Z’s collaboration) and Joshua revealing a horrible drawing in his bedroom. Believe me. Draw a black top hat on the head of this scary creature and you have the twin brother of “The Babadook” in front of you. Now is the time for Elizabeth to sound the alarm, while dad Kevin (Sean Rogerson) is still in a phase of denial and suffers from utter blindness, and get in touch with psychologist Dr. Seager (Stephen McHattie) to present the problem. The well-known tricks from the horror genre are being used in “Z” of course. So again the shady spots with scary sounds. Toys that come to life. And nocturnal wanderings through the semi-darkness (while every sensible person would turn on the light anyway) with a few jump-scares as a result. Even a creepy bath scene couldn’t fail to come.

 

Z

 

Hey, it turns out to be completely something different.

And yet the film cleverly changes the mood and shifts the focus from a scary invisible friend to a long-forgotten childhood trauma that set the whole mechanism in motion. And before you realize it, the creepy horror story has given way to a sort of psychological thriller. From here, Joshua is no longer central, but the story focuses on Elizabeth. And frankly, the way Keegan Connor Tracy gives shape to this character was of exceptionally high level. An obviously confused person who slowly but surely sinks further into complete madness as a tormented soul. The father’s character contrasts sharply with that of his family members. In the end, I found it a meaningless person and quite implausible as a father figure. On the one hand, he said nothing about the red notes from school that exposed Joshua’s misconduct. On the other hand, he’s blind with anger when hearing that his son has been prescribed medication without his knowledge. Ah, as always in horror movies, it’s usually the fathers who navigate through the story carefree and never notice anything suspicious. It’s usually the mother figure who experiences strange sensations and concludes that disaster is imminent.

 

Z

 

It’s not such a scary movie.

I can’t say the film “Z” was really scary. Maybe deliberately not depicting the phenomenon “Z” explicitly, does cause some tension. A cleverly applied gimmick so the viewer’s imagination has to do most of the work (with a terrifying wall drawing as inspiration). Ultimately, it’s mainly the mood that’s essential in this film. In hindsight, the film covers different topics. Youthful growing pains and parental concerns. Nightmarish phantoms and unresolved trauma. As a parent, you expect your offspring to inherit some of your character traits or personal qualities. However, in “Z” this legacy is not something you’d expect. And even though this delusion isn’t excessively visualized here, its presence is clearly felt in every dark, grim scene.

 

 

My rating 6/10
Links: IMDB

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Drama

The Banker: A Must-See For Sure

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Sometimes you need to take a step back
and enjoy what you’ve accomplished, baby.

 

What an amusing movie this was. Such a movie you start watching and before you know it, the end credits roll across your screen. Even though the subject won’t get you very excited. The world of real estate and banking. A world populated with stiffs in perfectly fitting suits who prefer to juggle with repayment schedules and capitalization rates while using a jargon that a normal human can’t make heads or tails of. I sometimes have my doubts about whether they understand it thoroughly themselves. And the reason why it became an entertaining film is not only due to the packaging but also because of the Holy Trinity Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, and Nicholas Hoult. A colorful (pun not intended) cast that effortlessly works through dialogues and plays so naturally that it seems as if they have been working together for years.

 

The Banker

 

The racial issue.

In addition to the real estate market as a subject, there’s also the issue of racial discrimination that was still visible in the U.S. from the 50s. A black man who wants to settle in a white neighborhood wasn’t so obvious. Let alone that he could also take out a loan to buy and sell real estate in such a neighborhood. Hence the idea of Bernard (Anthony Mackie), a Texas-born African-American who is firmly convinced to succeed in his intent to make money from doing business rather than manual labor, to recruit Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson) as a business partner and use Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult) as a straw man. Well, they aren’t exactly ideal partners. The first is a flamboyant bon vivant and blabbermouth who comes across as an untrustworthy slick. And Matt is a hard worker with a good heart. Only he’s not really blessed with a top-level brain like Bernard.

 

The Banker

 

A light-hearted first part.

The first half of the movie is the more light-hearted part. The start of the Bernard Empire and the process of turning Matt Steiner into a convincing businessman. For me, this was the most hilarious part. The golf lessons where Samuel L. Jackson excels as the extravagant golf teacher and the math part Bernard takes care of. The amusing discussion that Steiner had with a wealthy man while trying to buy his building, was the ultimate climax of this period of training. And when this first chapter is over and the gentlemen are gradually taking over the real estate market in California, the next chapter pops up. The more serious part of the movie.

 

The Banker

 

Bernard’s second plan didn’t go as planned.

The first part not only showed how the two gentlemen managed to circumvent the discriminatory way of doing business in a devious way. It also showed how black people were deprived of the right to develop themselves in American society during that period. Loans and property sales were simply forbidden. Bernard’s plan to subsequently buy a bank in Texas, where segregation was still very much present, in order to support his black fellow man, is what you see in this tailpiece. Needless to say, this wasn’t a smooth operation.

 

The Banker

 

Highly recommended.

The Banker” is based on true facts and I believe it truly shows how it went in the U.S. and how people were deprived of decent housing. Perhaps Bernard Garrett intended to act as a benefactor and pave the way for African Americans. Maybe he was doing it out of self-interest, too, simply to prove to himself and his father that you could succeed if you firmly believe in it. Anyway, “The Banker” is a great movie with a serious part and a very entertaining part. But as I mentioned earlier, it’s the cast that takes the whole thing to a higher level. A must-see for sure.

‘The Banker,’ is now available on Apple TV+

 

PS. I wrote this a week ago. But due to the situation in the U.S. right now, this movie is even more current and confrontational than before.

 

 

My rating 8/10
Links: IMDB

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