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High Life – Not A Film For The Average Moviegoer

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I fear, Willow.
I could drown like a kitten.
It would have been easy.
First you, then me.

The film “High Life” is just as meaningful as the expedition for which those sentenced to death have registered voluntarily. Not very meaningful. I do understand why they have chosen for it. The choice of sitting in a cell and staring emptily into space until the end of days. Or a space journey for many years with a black hole as a final destination from which they will try to produce energy. No wonder they prefer freedom, albeit to a limited extent, than to die in a cell. However, being on board of this ship isn’t exactly fun and quite boring. I’m convinced most of them already regret the fact they volunteered. I’m also surprised that these serious criminals haven’t killed each other yet after a certain period. Most likely out of boredom. Even the footage isn’t something to get excited about. And some of these volunteers are also extremely irritating. In short, I won’t use the words captivating, fascinating and the film title in one and the same sentence.

 

High Life

 

Arty SF.

I’m sure that fans of arty SF films will get excited while watching “High Life“. And when a philosophical message has been incorporated in it, I’m sure there will be others who’ll sit in front of the screen, gasping excitedly. Unfortunately, it also had a sleep-inducing effect on me. It also gave me a feeling of hope. Such hope many visitors of the statue of Mary in Lourdes will envy me for. And that’s the hope for a surprising turn or an action-rich incident that would give the storyline a sudden boost in terms of drama and excitement. Forget it. The story progressed reluctantly without deviating from its boring course and the content remained fairly empty. A bit like this spaceship that moved on steadily deep into infinite and empty outer space.

 

High Life

 

All respect for Robert Pattinson.

A few words of sincere admiration for Robert Pattinson though. This young actor, better known for his cooperation in the whole “Twilight” saga (something I hate passionately), tries to break away with this notorious past in his own way. After his contribution to “The Last City of Z“, where he was practically unrecognizable thanks to his immense, rough beard, and “The Rover“, he again tries to play an unusual role in a non-commercial film. However, you can’t really call this role brilliant since his character is fairly silent and withdrawn. Even though that shaved para-command hairstyle suggests he’s someone with a short fuse. The beginning of the film shows him as a caring father who takes care of his baby daughter on an apparently abandoned space ship. It’s only after flashbacks that we find out what happened during this suicide mission.

 

High Life

 

Intercourse is forbidden. Let’s create a fuck-box.

The opposite of Monte you’ll get to know in the person of the fairly crazy and slightly aggressive scientist Dibs (JulietteThe 33Binoche). Her presence transforms this space journey into an experimental trip. She certainly wouldn’t have been out of place as a camp doctor in a concentration camp during the Second World War. The crew is used as human guinea pigs to optimize the reproduction process. How she gets a satisfactory result later in the film, is too bizarre to believe. However, after you’ve seen her erotic act, that takes place in a dark room (where the crew members can fulfill their sexual fantasies), it’s not so surprising that she used that controversial method. That steamy erotically charged scene reminded me of the game “Virtual Valerie” for the Macintosh, one way or another.

 

High Life

 

Not for the average moviegoer.

All the time I had this feeling as if I was watching an unfinished end product. A paper-thin idea around which a very artistic-looking film was embroidered. However, it’s nothing more than a psychological study of conflicts between people in an enclosed space and the way in which their survival instinct emerges. Erotic scenes alternate with fairly violent events. And in between, many moments of reveries and soundless aesthetically pleasing film moments. “High Life” is not a film for the average moviegoer. For that, it’s doing a little too much to be arty. It’s not easy to follow and also ends with a non-explanatory final scene. What remains is one conclusion and one unresolved question. First of all a deep bow for Robert Pattinson who has grown as an actor and distances himself from his adolescent audience. And the pressing question that remains: could someone explain to me scientifically why it is that the corpses which Monte throws out the ship, actually fall down? That’s something that intrigues me.

 

My rating 4/10
Links: IMDB

 

 

Action

The Silencing | Great Cinematography From A Low Budget Film

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I need to see that girl.
She could be my daughter.

 

It’s always nice to see how actors from a successful television series cope in a feature film. And especially if the genre is quite different from what they played in that series. Here Nikolaj Coster-Waldau makes a decent attempt to show that he has more to offer than playing a king’s son who prefers to perform gymnastic exercises with his sister between the sheets. His performance here is on a similar level to that of Jaime Lannister in “Game of Thrones”. Convincing enough, but not exactly of exceptional quality. A role that doesn’t annoy you. But every time you see his face somewhere, you have to think for a moment where you know that face from. This is also the case here in “The Silencing”. I was like, “Damn, where do I know this guy from?”. Only after fifteen minutes or so, I could figure it out.

 

 

Where there’s grief, there’s booze.

The Silencing” itself is of the same level. Certainly not a bad movie. But also not a movie that’ll blow you away. The story felt a bit incomplete to me. There were some improbabilities (not to say completely nonsensical decisions). And the denouement with the disclosure of the perpetrator and his motivation, I personally found a bit far-fetched. The film had something “Silence of the Lambs“-ish but then set in an extensive, forest-like nature reserve. An area managed by Rayborn Swanson (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) that has been given the name “Gwen Swanson sanctuary”. A reference to his daughter who has been missing for 5 years. It’s a place where animals can live undisturbed and protected, far from hunters and poachers. Rayborn lives an isolated life far from the civilized world. A way to silently grief about the loss of his daughter. Usually by consuming liters of alcohol. A bit strange because that’s exactly what caused that disappearance.

 

 

There’s a serial killer on the loose.

The story gets a little bit more exciting the moment a serial killer comes into the picture. Someone who probably watched “The Hunt” too much. What follows, is a cat-and-mouse game with the participation of the local female sheriff Alice Gustafson (Annabelle Wallis, series-loving fans will recognize her from “Peaky Blinders”) who herself has her hands full with the stupidities her little brother Brooks (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), a drug addict with a traumatic past.

 

 

Ridiculous things.

Without a doubt, this could have been a much better, coherent movie, provided the script was changed a bit. It’s linked together with hooks and eyes. Full of coincidences and ridiculous twists. Decisions are made that are too ridiculous for words. Alice’s surprising action at one point is understandable on the one hand. But on the other hand completely unreal. And the indifference that those involved show afterward as if nothing had ever happened, made me frown for a moment. Rayborn’s paint pot trick seemed so absurd and stupid that I spontaneously burst out laughing. Not exactly applicable to a serious thriller about a serial killer.

 

Mediocrity rules.

The Silencing” isn’t so great. A mediocre piece of movie. Actually, you could say that you’ve seen it all before in other movies. And much better movies too. Cinematographically it looks professional (despite the low budget) and the general mood is also good. But, when you love watching exciting flicks with nerve-racking suspense, you’ll be disappointed. The only thing I can’t say anything wrong about is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s acting. Solid and constant. Just like in “Game of Thrones“. Again a pitiful persona. But I’m sure I won’t recognize him in his next feature. Once again.

 

 

My rating 5/10
Links: IMDB

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Tenet – The Movie Mind Puzzle Of The Year

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There were times during ‘Tenet,’ that I wanted to perform a most heinous code violation by ripping off my face mask and declaring to all that “I bloody love Cinema”. Some of the action set-pieces in this film have to be seen on the big screen to do them justice. One particular sequence on an Estonian motorway is the sort of action that makes cinema such a magical and wondrous place.  I realized at this point I had missed cinema enormously over the past 6 months and it was wonderful to be back.

As for the film itself, I was quite nervous going in. I had read from one reviewer that it was “obnoxiously complex”, that a lot of the dialogue was mumbled or drowned by an omnipresent rumble of a score and that the film was incredibly difficult to follow. I won’t pretend that I understood everything that was going on, but it definitely wasn’t the mind dump that several claimed. I certainly followed it better than I do with the average David Lynch film. The sound is an interesting point, and I’ll come back to that shortly. It certainly is easy to write a “spoiler-free” review as I wouldn’t know how to spoil it for people.

The film charges along at a staggering pace, with the 2 and a half-hour run time zipping by. Performance-wise, John David Washington surely can have as good of a leading man career as his father,  while  Robert Pattinson continues to prove all his naysayers wrong with a charming yet enigmatic performance. Kenneth Branagh manages to keep the panto villainy just about under control, but the stand out for me was Elizabeth Debicki, who added a level of grace to the proceedings.

The action never lets up, and more importantly, it all has a purpose. It is not just thrown in there to demonstrate the techniques that Nolan possesses, it is all plot-driven. From the electric prologue at the Kyiv Opera to a Mission Impossible-style raid on an art warehouse at an airport, to the aforementioned Estonian motorway to the climactic showdown at a Soviet “closed city”, this is all part of the topsy-turvy narrative.

People have claimed that they struggled to hear all of the dialogue, which makes a confusing film even more of a challenge to comprehend. I do agree, there were some scenes where dialogue was often drowned out by the surrounding wall of noise. I don’t think this is anything new with Nolan films. I have a theory that Nolan makes films if you take Inception and Interstellar before Tenet, that is designed to have repeat viewings. His films are puzzles that can’t necessarily be understood on the first watch, some trails and thoughts perhaps are designed to make people come back to re-watch. You could argue, why to make a film that once watched can be dispensed with.

I didn’t find the occasionally intrusive score spoiled my enjoyment of the film, as the spectacle more than made up for it.

This is a hugely ambitious, occasionally baffling piece of cinema, packed with some of the most audacious action sequences (all shot with practical effects btw) I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, the plot is convoluted, yes there are sequences where you genuinely need a moment. About three-quarters of the way in, Pattinson asks Washington “Does your brain hurt yet?”, the audience answers for him with a knowing “a little”. It is a feast for the eyes, which is also quite humorous in places.

It’s films like this that make me appreciate the wonder of cinema, an original, standalone, non-franchise piece of searing entertainment. I’m glad I didn’t understand all of it, as it just encourages me to go watch it again.

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Adventure

Artemis Fowl: Confusing And Chaotic With Good Looking CGI

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Who do you think you are?
I’m the next criminal mastermind.

 

I’m afraid you need to be as intelligent as “Artemis Fowl” to understand and keep up with this movie. What a confusing chaos this was. I get it that they are looking for a sort of Harry Potter successor and already started drooling while thinking of the box-office with every new sequel. But they should have spread this single movie over a number of sequels because now you cannot make heads or tails of it. Let me remind you that I don’t know the book series written by Eoin Colfer, on which this film is based. Let alone read one of them. A kind of introduction of the characters would have been helpful for the uninitiated viewers. And that’s a big difference when you compare (and there will be a lot of comparisons) this Disney film with the Harry Potter films. Even if you hadn’t read one of the Harry Potter books, you were sucked into the wonderful story about this mini wizard from the start. All the leading protagonists were carefully introduced and gradually you got to know them, appreciate them, and quickly one of the leading characters became your favorite. With “Artemis Fowl” you better keep focused because before you know it you have missed a whole storyline and a number of important characters. The amount of facts and things of importance is so immense that it’ll make you dizzy.

 

Artemis Fowl

 

The making of “Artemis Fowl” on its own deserves a motion picture.

It also took an awful lot of effort before the film could be released. The film rights were bought in 2001 by Miramax Films (in the middle of the fantasy film period when Potter and Frodo ruled). Next Disney announced in 2013 that they were going to make the film in partnership with The Weinstein Company. The creation of this feature film was very different from what had been expected. First of all, you had the disappearing trick of some directors. Then there was the Weinstein affair with Harvey waving his wand too much apparently. Next came the disgruntled fans and last but not least the Coronavirus. In the end, it was decided to stream the film on the Disney + platform instead of screening in the cinema. For sure this was the best decision they could have ever made. No one would be inclined to watch it in the cinema after reading a few reviews. Unfortunately, the revenue from Disney + platform subscriptions is not enough to bear the price tag of a sloppy $ 125 million.

 

Artemis Fowl

 

The acting wasn’t impressive.

What else went wrong besides the fact it’s a very confusing story? Well, to be honest, I wasn’t really charmed by the characters themselves. Artemis Fowl Jr. (Ferdia Shaw) is an annoying kid without any charisma and totally insensitive (A kind of MIB version of Richie Rich). A deadly serious little brat with an attitude. Admittedly, his intelligence is lightyears beyond normal and he obtained a series of diplomas at a very young age. Plus he comes from a wealthy family and probably took everything for granted during his young life. The magic of a film doesn’t only depend on the magic of the story itself, but also how amiable the main characters come across. No one could resist the charms of Harry Potter (I know. There’s the comparison again.): that poor little fellow living under the stairs, with his roguish smile and lightning bolt on his forehead. I really didn’t find Artemis that charming. And even the more famous actors made little impression. Colin Farrell had a depressed and sulky expression throughout the film as if he already saw the potential for disaster. Judi Dench was actually the only one to stand out in her green leather fairy outfit. But that was more because of the charismatic nature of her character Commandant Root. And Lara McDonell looked adorable as the brave fairy Holly Short. You also had a centaur who could join Milli Vanilli. The dwarf Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad), who also took on the role of narrator at the same time, who’s actually not a dwarf and resembles Rubeus Hagrid. And there was even the suggestion David Bowie was an elf (Talking bout humor). That’s about it what I can remember from all personages. In general, however, the performances were not impressive or grand.

 

Artemis Fowl

 

Visual spectacle.

There’s also something to be said about the footage. They’ve put a lot of energy into it (maybe a little too much) and the film is packed with generally good-looking CGI. But a film about fairies, trolls, and dwarfs, who live in an underground hidden world, must look fairy-like and enchanting to me. They’ve decided to create a futuristic-looking fairy world full of flashy vehicles and modern buildings. And stuffed with a bunch of extras, busy decors, and an infinite number of props that you’ll need an extra pair of eyes to take in all the wonders. But don’t panic. This magical place is soon abandoned. Most of the film is set in the residence of the Fowl family. And there you can expect even more CGI (slightly less well developed). Perhaps it was quite an exaggeration when you consider the number of special effects. The only thing that impressed me was the jaw joints of Mulch Diggums.

 

Artemis Fowl

No sequel needed for me.

No, I’m not a new fan of “Artemis Fowl” and I don’t feel the urge to discover the books. All in all, I found this movie version confusing and chaotic. I sometimes had the feeling that I was watching a new episode of “Kingsman” for young viewers. I didn’t fully understand the principle of the time bubble and was amazed bout how Artemis could unravel everything so quickly (But yes, extremely intelligent. Right?). Maybe me being a grownup has something to do with it. I guess youngsters will like it. Although, I think my two kids, who aren’t real book readers and never heard of Artemis Fowl, will be lost after 20 minutes. A re-watch might help better understanding the whole thing. I imagine fans of the books were very curious how Fowl’s world would look like on the silver screen. Anyway. I won’t wait for the sequels of this vague film. To put it mildly, I think the movie “Artemis Fowl” is a perfect fit for the current summer vacation that has become a disaster due to COVID-19.

 

 

My rating 3/10
Links: IMDB

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