Tag Archives: Review

Tolkien (Dome Karukoski, 2019)

Having already helmed Tom of Finland in 2017, Finnish director Dome Karukoski continues his penchant for biopics about creative people with Tolkien. With Nicholas Hoult in the title role, the film presents the trials and tribulations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life up to putting his first draft of The Hobbit to paper. These include his orphaning at a young age, a strong bond with a group of classmates at school, a burgeoning romance with his future wife, Edith (Lily Collins), and his experiences in the First World War.

Tolkien is a handsomely mounted production with an endearing pair of performances at its centre, but it never overcomes the problem at the core of David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford’s screenplay: the reductivism concerning the artistic process. Considering that Tolkien himself was a man who resisted allegorical readings of his work, particularly when it came to the influence of war on his output, there’s a degree of irony to this biopic presenting the most literal-minded interpretation of how The Hobbit – and parts of The Lord of the Rings – came to be…

Full review for VODzilla.co

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Modest Heroes (Hiromasa Yonebayashi/Yoshiyuki Momose/Akihiko Yamashita, 2018)

In a short documentary available on Netflix, titled The Modest Heroes of Studio Ponoc, producer Yoshiaki Nishimura says that makers of short animation films are often asked: “Why do you make short films?” But he wonders why they never ask the question, “Why do you make feature films?” He suggests that short films are often viewed as a stepping-stone of sorts for people who can’t yet make feature films, but that this does a disservice to the form. As he says, short animation films have their own form of expression: “If the creator fully understands the idea, they can create great work… we create short films because we believe they have a value in and of themselves”

Nishimura is right to point out this unfair view towards shorts films. And it is admirable that Studio Ponoc’s second release, which clocks in at under an hour, should be an anthology collection of short films, rather than a traditional narrative feature, such as their 2017 debut, Mary and the Witch’s Flower. The good news is that this three-film collection does a strong job at illustrating the range of the studio’s talents, helping them emerge from the shadow of Studio Ghibli, for whom many of their staff used to work…

Full review for VODzilla.co

A Girl Missing (Kôji Fukada, 2019)

In Fukada Kōji’s Harmonium (2016), Tsutsui Mariko played a woman whose life was destroyed by tragic circumstances beyond her control. In this reunion of the actor and writer-director, Tsutsui is working in a similar mode, including playing someone before and after a significant time jump. Here, those timelines are presented in parallel, tracking, to largely deft effect, a transformation from a compassionate, pragmatic individual to a vengeful soul who’s lost everything…

Full review for Sight & Sound

Gwen (William McGregor, 2018)

We may not yet be in a full-blown renaissance of folk horror, a subgenre particularly popular in British cinema in the 1970s, but several recent high-profile offerings indicate a burgeoning interest in films eschewing traditional monsters and boogeymen for stories of the land, community traditions, and, occasionally, religion driving hysteria and hauntings.

Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England and Kill List flirt with folk horror in both period and contemporary contexts; Ari Aster’s Midsommar has an isolated Swedish village’s rituals causing terror; and Robert Eggers’ The Witch has the explicit subtitle A New-England Folktale. Gwen, the debut feature from TV veteran William McGregor (Poldark), fits neatly into this scene in terms of its use of landscape and how its writer/director flirts with macabre folklore to fuel a near-suffocating sense of dread…

Full review for Little White Lies

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Stacie Passon, 2018)

Stacie Passon’s We Have Always Lived In The Castle premiered on the festival circuit before the Netflix launch of Mike Flanagan’s series based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, but it’s certainly set to benefit from a resurgence of interest in adapting Jackson’s fiction for the screen. A feature-length take on Jackson’s short story, The Lottery, is also in development…

Full review for SciFiNow

I See You (Adam Randall, 2019)

Written by Devon Graye and directed by Adam Randall, I See You flirts with multiple genres across its runtime, keeping viewers guessing as to the exact nature of what they’re watching. Wildly different modes of horror and thriller storytelling are presented across the film. The protagonist(s) you think you’re following may not retain that status for the whole thing.

To compare it to other notable horror hits of late may provide an accurate sense of the film’s tone or plot, but that would only apply to a certain section of the story or the mood for just part of the film, rather than a precise picture of the whole. That said, ‘Hereditary meets Don’t Breathe’, with shades of Scott Derrickson’s forays into detective-led horror, wouldn’t be a terribly erroneous description…

Full review for SciFiNow

The Furies (Tony D’Aquino, 2019)

The Furies is a curious mix of slashers, The Running Man and Predators. Kayla (Airlie Dodds) is kidnapped, waking up in a coffin-like box in the Australian wilderness. Meeting a few other young women who barely know more about their mysterious circumstances, Kayla tries to both locate her fellow kidnapped friend and evade the grotesque masked maniacs hunting them. An epilepsy-sufferer, Kayla has fits that reveal that the women’s armed pursuers may be tracking their movements through implanted cameras. And they may not be the only ones watching this most dangerous game…

Full review for SciFiNow