That’s a million dollar opal you are holding.
Straight from the Ethiopian Jewish tribe.
Are you in the middle of a nasty divorce? Or are you at home on sick leave because of burnout due to your stressful job that demands too much from you? Or are those two revolting teenagers at home, who go through puberty right now, making you so much upset that you almost have no fingernails anymore? Good advice! Ignore this movie and look for another soothing movie. Because “Uncut Gems” will certainly not be ideal for your peace of mind. I’m afraid that after 20 minutes you’ll be throwing snacks at the screen out of frustration while pulling your hair out of sheer desperation. Because it’s the most stressful film ever. It drives up the tension throughout the whole movie in a merciless way to an extreme level. Believe me, at the end of the film my heart rhythm was proportional to that of the exhilarating rhythm of this tragicomic film.
Nerve-wracking at an absurd high pace.
Not only is it a nerve-wracking film. The pace of the film is also absurdly high. A movie like an out of control high-speed train. It seemed as if everyone is running from pillar to post at an inhuman pace. From the beginning of the film, it looks like you are being thrown into a centrifuge that’s spinning at a dizzying speed and where the speed never diminishes. Up to and including the denouement. Then the emergency brake is pulled swiftly and the tumultuous life of jeweler Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) abruptly comes to a halt. And if you are annoyed by the use of the “f” word, I warn you already. There are a few hidden in every dialogue.
Frankly, I’m not a Sandler fan.
I’m not at all an Adam Sandler fan. The few films I saw with him (“Click“, “Blended” and “The Cobbler“) were disappointing in my eyes. Maybe it’s the humor used by Sandler. Maybe it’s the person Sandler himself I have a problem with. And to be honest, I always avoid movies with his name on the film poster. It surprised me when I read somewhere that he’s the best-paid actor in Hollywood. But after seeing “Uncut Gems” I have to drastically adjust my opinion about the actor Sandler. It’s not a real comedy (in a reasonably morbid way you could see some kind of humor in it) although you could say that the character Sandler is playing here, is kind of a caricature. Howard, a Jewish jeweler in the metropolis of New York, tries to get his chaotic life back on track. An Ethiopian opal should take care of that. An uncut diamond that according to Howard could muster a fortune at an auction. A fortune with which he can pay off his debts to pawnbrokers and underworld figures. Debts incurred due to his uncontrollable gambling addiction. Until the famous basketball star Kevin Garnett (Kevin Garnett himself) steps in his diamond shop and asks if he could borrow the precious thing because he feels it exudes a primal power. A power that could bring his performance to an unprecedented height during the upcoming important match.
Oscar nomination worthy.
Well, and when KG doesn’t return the precious good to Howard at the agreed time, it’s the start of a nerve-racking race. A race in which Howard’s life is turned into a hell by nasty people, debt collectors, his wife (Idina Menzel who hates him wholeheartedly and calls him the most annoying person in the world) and his mistress Julia (Julia Fox). Even though Howard is indeed a highly annoying person without scruples or any kind of courtesy, you still feel sorry for this man whose life is collapsing like a house of cards. And even though I got nervous because of the Mr. Bean-like character of the film where Howard screws up every time he makes a decision over and over again, this film still managed to entertain me. I could never have imagined that I would ever say this, but Adam Sandler is simply playing his role in an exceptionally excellent way. This was actually worthy of an Oscar nomination. Hopefully, Sandler developed a taste for serious movies now and will make another attempt with a serious role (in a hopefully less hectic setting) in the future. However, I’m afraid that we’ll be seeing a load of comedies (filled with offbeat, childish humor) before that’ll happen.
My rating 7/10
The Zone Of Interest Is A Bleak Reminder of the Horrors of Holocaust
The Zone of Interest is Jonathan Glazer’s latest feature loosely based on Martin Amis’ novel of the same name. It stars Christian Friedel and Sandra Huller in the lead roles. The German-language feature was a major breakout from the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, where it also won the Grand Prix award. It is based around one of the darkest chapters in human history and serves as an important reminder of how brutal and evil humans are capable of being.
Glazer is known for having carefully crafted frames with plenty of nuances which is the case here as well. He intricately designs each and every scene for maximum impact. Before we enter the first scene, the screen fades to black with a chilling score in the background that sets the viewer up for everything they are about to witness. Black is also the colour of evil which hints at what aspects of human nature this story will explore. The cinematography is also top-notch. The use of natural lighting works really well to complement the setting of a warm family atmosphere. Also, there are a few moments where the visual style changes and those scenes are thoughtfully captured as well.
Christian Friedel and Sandra Huller are both fantastic in their roles. Friedel is absolutely convincing as Rudolph Hoss, the commander of the Auschwitz concentration camps, and Huller plays his wife Hedwig, who steals a lot of scenes with her emotional range. The editing is also careful and patient. Each scene gets time to breathe and settle properly resulting in a lot of extended scenes of the daily life of the family. The background music is minimal, but whenever it kicks in, it makes sure to elevate the scenes with creepy and ominous sounds.
The plot may seem basic and simple on the surface level, but we gradually see the layers unfold as the narrative moves forward. The story gets darker and darker with time and can be utterly shocking and horrifying at times, especially in the third act. It is no doubt a slow burn In terms of its pacing and takes its own time to set things up and we keep getting to see more sides of the characters in the second half of the movie.
It is utterly shocking how a family man who reads his children bedtime stories and loves his wife wholeheartedly can do the things that Rudolph Hoss does. But that level of brutality and faithfulness to reality is among its biggest strengths. The movie doesn’t have too many weak aspects, but it is slow and takes a while to get going. Also, it will turn out to be difficult to follow or comprehend for general audiences and it might be difficult to follow for some. It demands patience and attention.
The Zone of Interest is a kind of movie that subtly and slowly horrifies you with its brutal and harrowing storytelling. Jonathan Glazer is at the top of his game. The lead performances are top notch and the conclusion leaves a heavy impact on the viewer. It won’t work for everyone, but will certainly find the appreciation it deserves.
The Zone of Interest will release in cinemas on December 8.
‘Past Lives’ Review: A Transcendent Cinematic Journey
Hollywood has a knack for producing extraordinary movies year after year, but there comes a time when the industry exceeds all expectations with a gem of a movie like ‘Past Lives.’ A mesmerizing film directed by the talented Celine Song takes audiences on an unparalleled journey of self-discovery and the exploration of our interconnectedness through time. This thought-provoking movie connects various lives, blurring the boundaries of reality and immersing viewers in a transcendental tale.
The romantic drama showcases Song’s remarkable storytelling ability, presenting a narrative that delicately balances emotion and intellect. ‘Past Lives’ starts with Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), Nora (Greta Lee), and Arthur (John Magaro) sitting at a bar. An unseen couple watches and tries to guess their relationship. We are taken back in time and get all the vital details about the relationship they have been sharing throughout various parts of their lives. One of the best aspects of the movie is how Son interconnects the lives of diverse characters across different periods and unveils the secrets that bind them together. The film’s nonlinear structure allows for a gripping exploration of multiple storylines, ensuring an engaging and enthralling experience.
Visually, ‘Past Lives’ is an absolute feast for the eyes. The poignant visuals heighten the emotional resonance of the narrative, leaving a lasting impression on the viewer. Accompanying the stunning visuals and sound design is an enchanting score that perfectly complements the film’s ethereal quality. Beyond its visual and musical splendor, the movie invites viewers to contemplate profound themes and philosophical questions. The film raises thought-provoking inquiries about the nature of existence, the way people’s lives are connected, and the impact of our actions across time. The script forces the moviegoers to reflect on the concept of destiny, choices, and the ripple effects they create.
Furthermore, the performances in ‘Past Lives’ are nothing short of extraordinary. The ensemble cast, led by seasoned actors, delivers nuanced and heartfelt portrayals, breathing life into their respective characters. Greta Lee is enchanting as Nora and delivers a performance that is undoubtedly going to give her all the buzz during the awards season. Meanwhile, Teo Yoo is just as brilliant. The talent on display evokes genuine empathy, enhancing the overall experience.
Even though the awards season is far away from where we are, we have already got a strong contender for Best Picture and top acting categories in the form of ‘Past Lives.’ It is quite rare these days to see a romantic story that provides such an immersive experience and we are glad that Celine Song’s film has given us a movie that makes us wonder why such romantic movies are not made anymore.
‘Past Lives’ is a modern masterpiece.
A Kind of Kidnapping – Dark Comedy with Politics
Written and directed by Dan Clark, this fairly star studded independent film follows a young couple who are stuck in a financial situation, and decide to kidnap a sleazy conservative politician in order to receive a ransom, that will allow them to escape their static lives.
Patrick Baladi (The Office) plays Hardy our creepy politician, Kelly Wenham (Double Date) plays Maggie, a complex woman who seemingly is always drawn to the “bad boy”, Jack Parry-Jones (The Crown) plays Brian our voice of reason within all of this, or is he?
The character development is well written and allows the space for character arcs, unlike a lot of small films, where there isn’t that room in the script. The three main leads feel very grounded and familiar, everyone knows someone like this in their life or perhaps public figures in the media.
The performances of the main three lead actors are great, if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think this film would work as well. Alongside the strong performances, the editing of the film helped to navigate this non-linear plot and allowed the film to peel aways the layers of backstory which all helped to create a stronger character driven piece.
As the film was nearing the final act, it felt as though it was dragging a little. Dan Clark mentioned in the Q&A after the screening how this was a short film before and I can definitely see how it could work in a confined setting really well. Maybe there was a bit of padding in second to third act to reach that feautre length requirement that didn’t aid certain character moments.
If you want to hear my full thoughts, the best thing to do is check out my review over on YouTube and let me know your thoughts in the comments.
When independent film is fighting for its life, A Kind of Kidnapping is the light in the dark. This is one of the better British produced indie films I’ve seen in a long time.
A Kind of Kidnapping is out on digital on 24th July on iTunes, Amazon, Google and Sky.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the [series/movie/etc] being covered here wouldn’t exist.
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