Cinema Dispatch: The Northman

The Northman and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features

Directed by Robert Eggers

So not only did The Daniels make one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time, we got a movie from Robert Eggers just a few weeks after! Either someone out there likes me or I’m being set up for a huge downfall, which admittedly is thematically consistent with Eggers’ other work. Both The Witch and The Lighthouse were two of the best movies in their respective years and it looks like Hollywood is taking notice as they’ve given him a blank check to make his unique form of creeping dread and otherworldly terror as big and bombastic as any summer blockbuster! Do the bigger budget and expansive production give Eggers the room he needs to make the best movie of his career, or is he better suited for something on a much smaller scale? Let’s find out!!

Back in the time of The Vikings, there was a king named Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke) who was unjustly slain by his own brother (Claes Bang) in front of the young prince Amleth (Oscar Novak) in a power grab for his kingdom and his queen (Nicole Kidman). The prince manages to escape and swears vengeance on his uncle which he nurtures into a finely distilled ball of pure rage and spends the next twenty years bulking up and kicking butt until he is ready to take back his kingdom. Now a grown man (Alexander Skarsgård), Amleth pillages the countryside with a group of like-minded and similarly buff Viking dudes until he gets word that his uncle has been deposed and is living with the queen and their two sons on some farm in Iceland. He heads over there on a slave ship to try and get close to him while meeting the fair maiden Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) who may or may not be a witch, and is similarly interesting in killing the man who will be enslaving them both. Amleth manages to stay unrecognized as he becomes one of his uncle’s slaves and plots his revenge which includes sewing chaos during the night and stabbing dudes with a magic sword he finds. Still, this proves to not be as simple a task as Amleth believed it to be for all those years, and now he’s faced with the true consequences of his actions which forces him to weigh the cost of his vengeance against the balance he hopes to restore with that blood. Will Amleth be able to avenge his father, save his mother, and be the hero that would make Odin proud? Will his uncle catch wise to this hulking blonde brute being the instrument of his torment, and even if he does realize his identity, is there anything he can do to stop his nephew from carrying out his quest? Is it just me or does a blood feud really do wonders for your physique? I mean jeez, they didn’t even have EMS back!

[THENORTHMANCD1 – I guess when you can’t get whey protein in a jar you just have to get it the old-fashioned way by drinking the blood of your enemies!]

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Cinema Dispatch: 2021 Catch Up (Part 2)

January is still proving to be a rough month across the board, so we’re gonna continue our look back 2021 with a few more movies that I missed!  Will some of them be contenders for the end of the year lists I’ll be putting together very soon?  Let’s find out!!

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Being the Ricardos

Being the Ricardos is owned by Amazon Studios

Directed by Aaron Sorkin

Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) are about to have a rough week making their show I Love Lucy when a local news station accuses Lucille of having ties to the Communist Party.  Couple that with tabloids about Desi’s behavior, fights with the network over content, and a director that really gets under Lucille’s skin, and there may not be a show to put on by the time it goes to air!  Can Lucy and Desi smooth through all of these problems without alienating the people who help them make the show, and is there more at stake than their careers if things go badly?

Aaron Sorkin has always been fascinated with the inner workings of organizations that carry a lot of public weight; places where hiding the turmoil behind the scenes is just as important as anything else they are doing.  It seems almost natural that he’d turn that fascination even more inward with a movie about the field he’s most familiar with, television productions, and while there are some Sorkin-esque flaws in this movie, I think the material has steered him into making one of his best works.  Lucy and Desi, at least as they are portrayed in this movie, are fascinating characters with deeply compelling inner lives, and the movie makes no bones about singing their praises throughout.  Whenever they clash with the network over their creative vision for the show, it’s played with reverence as these victories did end up revolutionizing television and American culture, and Sorkin definitely uses this story to indulge in his favorite topics.  Strong men and women with sharp tongues and even sharper wits sticking it to the old guard to make way for the next generation is well-worn territory for him, but the fact that he’s drawing from real things that other people did tempers that enthusiasm and so it comes off as genuinely important rather than mere wish fulfillment.  Now that’s not to say he doesn’t exaggerate in places as the film does lack a certain sense of authenticity.  Clothing, technology, and even a lot of the attitudes do fit in with the time period, but it never quite feels like a period piece with Sorkin’s dialogue being what it is, and the overall look and feel of the show just feels too modern.  I don’t know if there are HD transfers of I Love Lucy, but I’m guessing they don’t look this crisp and they certainly weren’t shot in widescreen.  Still, even if it’s a bit showy in places where it probably wasn’t in the real-life story, Sorkin’s overly enthusiastic style fits with themes of the movie and his specific brand of dialogue creates a clear delineation between the deep and flawed people who make the show and the more modest caricatures they bring to life in front of cameras.  This is where the movie shines brightest, where these two people are darn near Herculean in their ability to solve problems, fight for what’s important, and smooth talk their way to getting what they want, but at the end of the day, when the cameras stop rolling and the lights turn out, they are still flawed people barreling towards an ending they are too scared to face.  Desi is madly in love with Lucille and Lucille is just as passionate about him, but Desi also can’t help but hurt her in ways that she cannot ignore.  This tension between the genuine love they feel and their uncontrollable selfishness (admittedly much more so with Desi than Lucille) is where the tragedy of this story ultimately lies and where the story is at its strongest.  This ends up being a double-edged sword however as the movie feels the need to be about more than just that and so it feels a bit scattershot and overstuffed with subplots and characters that don’t have the impact you would expect them to given the prominence of certain scenes.  The big red elephant in the room is the Communist allegations which are what kicks off the movie and you assume it’s what the whole thing is going to be about, but that ends up fading into the background as the network stuff and the relationship between Lucy and Desi end up pushing it to the background. It ends up being relevant only to the start and the end of the movie which is a bit of a shame as the fervor surrounding communism in the mid-twentieth century is certainly a frightening chapter in television history, but it at least ends on a very strong note and sets us up for a pretty big gut punch right at the end of the movie.  It’s certainly a flawed movie throughout, but it’s entertaining from the first frame to the final curtain call, and frankly, something that walks with confidence is more interesting to me than something safe; even if the former trips over itself a few times along the way.

4 out of 5
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: 2021 Catch Up (Part 2)”

Cinema Dispatch: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by David Yates

There are a lot of ways that you can mess up a sequel, but the most disappointing is when the film doesn’t just IGNORE the problems of the first film but actively builds off of them as if they were what we came there to see in the first place.  It happened to The last Exorcism (no one cared about the Satanic Cult!), it happened with… well basically EVERY Hellraiser movie (the Cenobites shouldn’t be the main characters!), and it looks like that’s what’s happening with this film; a sequel to a film I enjoyed the heck out of but ended on… that note, and that’s the direction we’re going with.  Sigh… I don’t know, maybe there’ll still be enough of the first movie’s cast to keep this form being utterly sunk by the presence of… that guy, but then again I can’t imagine how good the judgement of anyone involved with this could be if this is the guy they want to star in their lynchpin movie to an entire Harry Potter universe.  Does this manage to eke out a bit of fun despite being in such poor taste right out the gate, or is it time for someone else to take a crack at the Wizarding World before the original creators cause even MORE damage to the franchise?  Let’s find out!!

After the events of the last film, Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has been under in a magical US detention center and the Ministry of Magic in… I guess the UK (did they ever establish if the ministry in the books was just London, the United Kingdom, or something equivalent to the European Union?) has decided to move him back to London so he can stand trial.  Of course they have a very convoluted and whimsical way of transporting this suspected murderer and terrorist which means that he ends up escaping and fleeing to France to I guess gather power and execute the next step in his overly convoluted scheme.  If only there was someone powerful enough to hunt him down and bring him to justice!  Sadly there isn’t, but Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is still bumming around England after the first movie, so I guess he’ll have to do!  He’s been having trouble with his work since the Ministry put a travel ban on him after the events in New York (for reasons I guess?) and his brother Theseus (Callum Turner) is trying to help him within his power as an Auror, but Newt’s not much for shady deals and compromises, so he rejects any offer that they give him to… I think join the Ministry or something.  Anyway, all this bureaucratic nonsense won’t keep Newt from starring in this movie, especially since Dumbledore (Jude Law) is giving him Main Character Tips and explicitly wants him to fix everything!  I think the plan is that if Newt could somehow get to France then he can find Credence (Ezra Miller) from the first movie who by the way is still alive and important for some reason, and only Newt can do this because… reasons.  Oh, but Newt needs more than just saving the world from tyranny as a motivation!  Maybe if we could throw in some of the characters from the previous movies, we could get this ball rolling.  Oh look!  Jacob and Queenie (Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol) are back together and he knows about magic again, but Tina (Katherine Waterston) is in France to try and find Credence for the US Ministry, and now Newt’s super into her which is something I really didn’t get from the first movie, but whatever.  Newt heads to France to find Tina and I guess Credence, Queenie fights with Jacob and tries to find Tina, and Jacob goes with Newt to find Queenie.  There are also subplots involving Newt’s ex-girlfriend and Theseus’s current fiancée Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz), Dumbledore being under strict watch by… someone at the Ministry, Credence and his new buddy Nagini (Claudia Kim) who gets maybe three lines trying to find his birth mother, and probably a few other things that just whizzed past me as I was watching this.  Can Newt find Tina and Queenie and Credence and Grendlewald and maybe a few Fantastic Beasts before the running time threatens to suck up every remaining moment of my life!?  Why the heck did they get Jude Law to play Dumbledore just to lock him in a castle for two hours!?  WHO THE HECK THOUGHT ANY OF THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA!?

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“ACCIO A SCREENWRITER AND SIX BOTTLES OF WHISKY!”

Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”