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Drama

Life Itself (2018)

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So, what does that tell us?
That the only truly reliable narrator is life itself.
But life itself is also a completely unreliable narrator
because it is constantly misdirecting and misleading us and taking us on this journey
where it is literally impossible to predict where it’s gonna go next.

Occasionally I come across such a film that knows how to surprise me. At first, I wondered what it was all about. Usually, I take a wait-and-see approach and see where it’s going. If there’s no improvement in terms of story and it remains quite uninteresting, I’ll give up. Fortunately, this rarely happens. And certainly not in the case of “Life itself“. As the film progressed, it became (at least for me) more fascinating. Before I knew it, I was looking at the credits with astonishment and I thought to myself: “Wow, what the hell was this”. A film that succeeds in making me quiet and paralyzed. That’s quite an achievement.

 

 

Hate campaign?

In retrospect, I was somewhat surprised at the negative comments regarding this film. I do understand there are people who are allergic to tragedy, drama, and sadness in films. But the bursts of tirades being fired at this movie, are rather exaggerated in my opinion. Or is it my anarchist nature that is rebelling? Calling “Life itself” the “Worst movie of the year“, is a bit shortsighted and slightly simplistic. I suppose those who did, only watched the crème de la crème of films that year. I dare to admit that I’ve seen much worse last year. Again it looks like a snowball effect after the appearing of some reviews of prominent film critics. And expressions such as “semi-intellectual”, “philosophical ramblings” and “overly melodramatic” are copied excessively so that it resembles a we-against-them situation. Or is it an acute case of navel-gazing? Or are they all male critics who, just like Dan Fogelman said in an interview, hate films with emotions? Maybe a defense mechanism so nobody would say that their tough torso contains too many female hormones. Oh well. If you focus on the correctness of timelines and the correct layout of the different time sections only, you may lose sight of the larger picture.

 

 

Holier-than-thou?

I am convinced that among those notorious critics, there are some who unknowingly believe in certain things that would fit perfectly into the context of this film. Isn’t it so that people speak of a soul mate who exists somewhere on this planet? That there’s this one special person somewhere who’s a good fit for you? And isn’t the term karma used all the time? Does coincidence exist? Or coincidentally not? And then the pinnacle of mysterious power that millions believe in. The divine power that watches over us and directs our lives. I bet some of those opinion writers have used these terms before? Or that they want to save their soul every week by solemnly entering a church somewhere? Well, not me. Am I too realistic? Too suspicious? Could be. But I believe that a combination of circumstances and destiny can form the basis of a story such as “Life itself“.

 

 

The first chapter is phenomenal.

Without a doubt, the first chapter is the one with the most impact. A chapter full of confusion, psychological distress, and trauma. But also a chapter about eternal love. Finding that one specific person who fits you unconditionally. Will (Oscar Isaac) and Abby (Olivia Wilde) are such a couple. The living proof of the well-known saying about the pot and the lid. Until one day Abby leaves Will, and Will’s life immediately becomes a mess. A ruin that needs to be restored with the help of a psychologist. It’s a chapter in which the storyline wraps itself ingeniously around Will’s past and present. With and without Abby. With and without the will to live. A chapter full of flashbacks. A chapter introduced by Samuel L. Jackson who represents the “unreliable storyteller”. The subject of Abby’s thesis. But at the same time, he plays a character from a script that Abby and Will wanted to write together. “A husband and wife Tarantino”. That’s why Samuel L. Jackson uses his “Pulp Fiction” intonation. And then there are some who claim that his contribution adds little to the story. well, you just have to want to see it, I guess.

 

 

Two different family trees.

The chapter ends shockingly. A blow of a sledgehammer, as it were. And from then on the story begins to spread intercontinental. From the rebellious Dylan (OliviaMe and Earl and the Dying GirlCooke), the end result of the wonderful love between Abby and Will, whose life is dominated by death. To Spain, where the rich olive oil manufacturer Mr. Saccione (Antonio Banderas) tells his life story to one of his workers, Javier Gonzalez (Sergio Peris-Mencheta). And although these two different family trees initially have nothing in common with each other, the two storylines melt together in a bewildering manner. But you have to discover for yourself how it all gets connected.

 

 

The unreliable narrator.

The only flaw I could think of is the predictability at a certain moment. At first, you don’t have a clue what’s going on. Once you’ve passed that point, you can already see where it’s going. If I were a nitpicker, I would use this to criticize “Life itself” harshly. But the inventive story and the sometimes excellent acting of a group of well-known actors make this a side issue. Perhaps it all seems doom and gloom. As if real life only produces sorrow and misery. Where you experience one setback after the other. Everyone has bad periods in their lives and emotionally difficult experiences. But perhaps the message is also that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t believe in coincidence or destiny. I don’t believe in a heavenly power that determines our lives and sets out the route in our lives. But admit it. The way the story developed here could actually also occur in real life. Unfortunately, sometimes life is indeed an unreliable narrator.

My rating 8/10
Links: IMDB

 

 

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Drama

Netflix’s Damsel: Millie Bobby Brown’s Medicore Fantasy Drama Fails Angela Bassett and Robin Wright

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Robin Wright, Millie Bobby Brown and Angela Basett in Netflix's Damsel

Netflix’s latest 109-minute original movie, starring Millie Bobby Brown, unfortunately fails to conquer its audience. The twisted dark fairy tale turns into a fantasy survival thriller as the “damsel in distress” faces betrayal and hardships. Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and written by Dan Mazeau, Damsel offers a beautiful concept with a weak story.

Millie Bobby Brown in Netflix's Damsel

Millie Bobby Brown in Netflix’s Damsel

The opening narration of the movie, “There are many stories of chivalry where the heroic knight saves the damsel in distress. This is not one of them,” sets the tone of the movie as Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown) was ‘sold’ to another kingdom as a bride only to be betrayed by her husband soon after getting married. Hurt, alone, and frightened, the protagonist soon learns that she has been ‘sacrificed’ for the benefit of the kingdom to a dragon. Survival seems hard for the princess as she comes across the dangers of the majestic creature. Brown’s character soon finds out that she is not the first to be sacrificed. Several brides like her have been thrown away for generations like a stick thrown to a dog.

Damsel offers an unusual and strong concept with captivating visuals and cinematography. The traditional classy costumes and rich makeup style match the theme well. As usual, the Stranger Things star offered outstanding dialogue delivery with expectational expressions.

Millie Bobby Brown in Netflix's Damsel

Millie Bobby Brown in Netflix’s Damsel

As much as Millie Bobby Brown’s magnificent performance needs to be applauded one cannot help but notice the waste of fine talents. Yes, we’re talking about multiple award winners, veteran actresses Angela Bassett and Robin Wright, who are highly recognized talents out in the world, famous for their spectacular roles in multiple critically acclaimed projects. Brown’s heavy presence leaves no room for Bassett and Wright to shine. It leaves other actors such as Ray Winstone, Nick Robinson, and Brooke Carter far out from the spotlight.

Damsel includes some heart-wrenching action scenes along with many emotional turning points that make Elodie question her life. She is living in fear, facing betrayal, figuring things out, and most importantly, trying to survive all alone in a dark cave. The bland dialogues in between disrupt the flow of the movie, but the rushed conclusion lashes all hopes to the ground! All the buildup was quickly washed away as the movie ends cursory.

Millie Bobby Brown in Netflix's Damsel

Millie Bobby Brown in Netflix’s Damsel

The period movie challenges patriarchy, inequality, and gender roles. The protagonist Princess Elodie is an open-minded, strong, progressive-thinking character who can do anything for her people – even if it means giving up her dreams and life in an arranged marriage. The women in the movie are bold, strong, rational, and, protective. It is only fitting that Netflix’s Damsel was released on International Women’s Day as the distressed damsel shows she needs no man in shining armor to protect her from the dangers present in the world. She is a brave, daring, sharp-minded young woman who takes revenge and expresses power when it was needed. Game of Thrones may have set a standard for dragons, but this one is no less. We’re sure Khaleesi would be proud of Elodie!

Damsel is available to stream on Netflix.

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Action

Napoleon: Explosive and Victorious!

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Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Plot

Napoleon is a spectacle-filled action epic that details the checkered rise and fall of the iconic French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, played by Oscar®-winner Joaquin Phoenix. Against a stunning backdrop of large-scale filmmaking orchestrated by legendary director Ridley Scott, the film captures Bonaparte’s relentless journey to power through the prism of his addictive, volatile relationship with his one true love, Josephine, showcasing his visionary military and political tactics against some of the most dynamic practical battle sequences ever filmed.

Vanessa Kirby as Josephine Bonaparte and Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Movie Review

The movie starts off on a high note, showcasing the end of one of France’s major historical figures while Napoleon watches on. The storyline is centered around some of Napoleon’s highlights in his military career such as the siege of Toulon, the Battles of Austerlitz and Waterloo, as well as his exile to St Helena. Every moment combined with dramatic effect delivers a well-rounded historical war-drama.

We are taken to picturesque locations supported by an epic soundtrack delivered by Martin Phipps (listen below).

Napoleon (Original Soundtrack by Martin Phipps)

The costumes and military regalia is done to perfection. The display of explosive artillery adds to the battle highlights, and watching the movie in a IMAX theatre adds even more value in terms of sound and picture quality.

Even though the movie contains historical inaccuracies, a well dramatised historical account of Napoleon Bonaparte is offered, and Joaquin Phoenix delivers a performance worthy of a medal. Vanessa Kirby plays the part of Empress Joséphine, and delivers

One movie would never be enough to share all of the highlights of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, but I feel this movie really summed up some of the stories quite well. The movie is filled with non-stop action between the battlefields and political halls of France. Ridley Scott delivers a war movie that gives us a shortened but powerful glimpse of the legacy of Napoleon Bonaparte. Give him a medal!

I would personally have loved a see an entire series dedicated to the stories of Napoleon Bonaparte.

I rate this movie 4 out of 5. Not for sensitive viewers. Lots of action with a few violent scenes. There are a few sexual scenes but with no graphic nudity.

The movie trailer doesn’t spoil too much of the movie content and is a brilliant appetizer for the history buffs among us. There is no post-credits scene though, so no need to wait till the end.

Watch Napoleon at a cinema near you!

Napoleon Official Trailer (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

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Comedy

Netflix’s Crashing Eid Review: Love, Culture, and Differences

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Crashing Eid

If you are curious about other cultures, or maybe want to see how your culture is represented in mainstream media, then you should binge-watch Netflix’s Arabic Comedy series Crashing Eid this weekend. It’s a 4-episode long series with each episode of roughly 47 minutes. The series revolves around culture, love, differences, family, and drama.

The story focuses on Razan (Summer Shesha) as she finds love for the second time in her life but struggles to convince her family for marriage. Razan is shown to be living in the UK with her daughter Lamar (Bateel Qamlo) and finds her British-Pakastani boyfriend Sameer (Hamza Haq) as a suitable match for herself. She proposes to him for marriage before traveling to Saudi Arabia, her home, to celebrate Eid. Her family is convinced that she is back in Saudi for good but Razan has other plans. She tries to tell them about Sameer but constantly fails due to fear and lack of ‘perfect’ timing. She tells Sameer that her parents have agreed to their marriage as she panics to tell him the truth.

Summer Shesha and Bateel Qamlo in Crashing Eid

Summer Shesha as Razan, Bateel Qamlo as Lamar in Crashing Eid

Here comes the twist – Sameer reaches Saudi to surprise Razan and to meet her parents! She tries her best to handle the situation and hide their relationship with the help of her daughter Lamar. At the end of the episode, the truth uncovers itself and everyone is left disappointed. The story follows Razan’s family drama, bitter relations with her mother, previous abusive marriage, her brother Hasan’s (Yasir Alsaggaf) struggle to connect with his son after losing custody, etc. Her previous marriage with her cousin affected her relationship with her own mother as she blames Razan for the failed marriage.

Summer Shesha’s portrayal of a strong woman struggling with every close person in her life but still managing to face everything with bravery is appreciable. Khalid Alharbi deserves applause for his sweet, loving, and understanding role as Razan’s father.

Yasir Alsaggaf, Summer Shesha and Amani Idrees in Crashing Eid

Yasir Alsaggaf, Summer Shesha, and Amani Idrees in Crashing Eid

Despite a fun twist challenge, representation, and Khalid Alharbi’s brilliant performance, a few parts lack perspective. The story doesn’t completely revolve around Razan yet it fails to involve Lamar’s (Bateel Qamlo) emotions in the family drama. She is seen upset at times but it’s never completely addressed. She plays the role of a typical elder daughter helping out her mother in everything and neglecting herself at times. The ending felt rushed as it doesn’t properly elaborate on how Razan’s mother (Amani Idrees) suddenly changed her mind about her daughter. Emotions take time and that’s what felt rushed.

Summer Shesha, Hamza Haq and Khalid Alharbi in Crashing Eid

Summer Shesha, Hamza Haq, and Khalid Alharbi in Crashing Eid

Crashing Eid  offers strong cultural representation, women empowerment, and how love can help you deal with almost everything. It focuses strongly on social taboos surrounding women and Muslim culture.

Crashing Eid is now available to stream on Netflix.

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