BERLINALE22 REVIEW: The City and the City [2022]

I’ll calm down when you wake up. Directors Christos Passalis and Syllas Tzoumerkas describe their film The City and the City as the untold story of Thessaloniki, Greece. It isn’t that because there’s a lack of interest, though. No, this story is one that the majority Christian city doesn’t want told. Why? Because it damages their narrative. This is their home and that’s all anyone needs to know. To believe the start and end of a place’s history lies with those currently in power not only exposes you as a…

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REVIEW: Dishonored [1931]

To love and excitement. Marie Kolverer (Marlene Dietrich) never asked to be a spy. The widow was merely mentioning to a police officer standing guard at the latest death-by-gas-asphyxiation suicide that she wouldn’t be following in the victim’s footsteps like he remarks most women will. She tells him that she’s not afraid of life before clarifying that she’s not afraid of death either. The sentiments catch the ears of the Austrian Secret Service Chief (Gustav von Seyffertitz) as those of someone with a strong enough constitution to recruit for an…

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REVIEW: Zeros and Ones [2021]

Shoot it so they believe it. The opening credits had already begun before Ethan Hawke appeared to introduce himself and the film we’re about to see. He talks about always being a fan of Abel Ferrara and being excited that they were finally working together before describing Zeros and Ones as the writer/director’s interpretation of the world we’re currently living in due to COVID, terrorism, and the blurred line between good and evil. It’s an interesting maneuver that could either be a result of wanting to get audiences pumped by…

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REVIEW: De forbandede år [Into the Darkness] [2020]

So what happens next? The irony of neutrality is that you must have a formidable army to sustain it. It’s therefore cute to watch as the aristocracy looks aghast when a foe such as Adolph Hitler comes knocking because they thought they were safe. Talk about privilege and naiveté. The people attending Karl Skov’s (Jesper Christensen) anniversary party are actually incredulous when German planes drop leaflets onto their heads. They wonder how their king could just surrender as though they ever stood a chance once Hitler began moving west and…

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REVIEW: Moffie [2020]

You are no longer someone. There’s no better propaganda machine than the military. But while that institution generally wields its power upon those who willingly embrace its messaging, not every country relies on volunteers to fill their ranks. For countries like South Africa during Apartheid, conscription became a way to retain white minority control. Why? Because it ensured that every able white male would receive a steady dose of its racist and bigoted rhetoric for at least two years. Rather than preach to the choir, the Afrikaners could brainwash every…

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REVIEW: Quo vadis, Aida? [2020]

We just need to stick together. Some stories don’t leave room for a hero even if they provide ample opportunity for one to enter. And when it comes to the 1995 Bosnian genocide that occurred in the town of Srebrenica at the hands of the Serbian army, there’s hardly room for hope let alone saviors. With over eight thousand men murdered while the UN and the world looked on, what is truly left but mourning and memorial? What is there to say besides the truth of its horrors so that…

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REVIEW: Дылда [Dylda] [Beanpole] [2019]

He’ll heal us. World War II has left Stalingrad in shambles. Buildings are destroyed. Families are torn apart. And meaning has all but disappeared in the face of atrocities that won’t simply go away. The head doctor at the city’s hospital (Andrey Bykov‘s Nikolay Ivanovich) tries his best to hold morale by saying that “peace is on its way” and yet the words can’t help but feel hollow. He lost everyone in the war himself and now he’s tasked with pretending that a soldier devoid of movement anywhere but his…

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TIFF20 REVIEW: Shadow in the Cloud [2021]

Be safe. Shape up. Stay on task. Try as they might, Max Landis‘ name is still there on the big screen when the opening titles to Roseanne Liang‘s Shadow in the Cloud begin to roll. They’ve scrubbed it from the press notes save a single mention in the full credit list, IMDB hasn’t added it to their page (yet), and star Chloë Grace Moretz has gone out of her way to ensure everyone knows Liang (who shares that screenwriting credit) rewrote the original draft multiple times. That Landis hasn’t been…

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REVIEW: Summerland [2020]

Stories have to come from somewhere. The above quote is a big part of playwright Jessica Swale‘s feature directorial debut Summerland because of its lead Alice Lamb’s (Gemma Arterton) vocation. She writes academic theses about folklore wherein she dissects the scientific and anthropological reasons behind both the supernatural and impossible characters/settings/phenomena within myths. It’s also a rather all-encompassing statement considering how little we know about the character herself. Where did she come from? What events transpired to render her reclusive and ultimately reviled by the nearby townsfolk of Kent? What…

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REVIEW: Ghosts of War [2020]

If you leave, you die. Sometimes the memories of our inaction haunt us more than the actions we have committed. This can be especially true at war once you return home to realize the blood on your hands goes far beyond the lives you were directly responsible for extinguishing. Whether you found yourself helpless to act because of a direct order from your superior or you simply froze out of justifiable fear, the screams of those lost will remind you of your complicity either way and haunt your dreams like…

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REVIEW: Da 5 Bloods [2020]

The American War is over. Decades after surviving a harrowing experience during the Vietnam War while tasked to reacquire a chest of gold bars from a downed plane in Viet Cong territory, Otis (Clarke Peters), Paul (Delroy Lindo), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), and Eddie (Norm Lewis) have returned to the South China Sea with unfinished business. It was their squad commander “Stormin’” Norman (Chadwick Boseman) who decided to bury the gold so that they could retrieve it once the fighting stopped. He was educated in the teachings of Martin Luther…

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