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Hypnotic Review | Robert Rodriguez’s Studio Bankrupting Actioner Is His Worst-Ever Film

Robert Rodriguez’s latest movie is his worst-ever project yet, with a baffling script and ridiculously inert performances from its leads.

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Imagine a studio paying so much money for a screenplay that it literally bankrupted them. That’s what happened when Solstice Studios acquired Robert Rodriguez’s Hypnotic, which, on paper, does sound quite interesting: the film chronicles a police detective’s (Ben Affleck) quest to find Lev Dellrayne (William Fichtner), the person who kidnapped his daughter. Dellrayne is hypnotic, meaning he can easily manipulate someone’s mind and perception of reality by uttering a few words to someone.

Detective Rourke (Affleck) teams up with Diana Cruz (Alice Braga), a powerful hypnotic, to take town Dellrayne, but things are quickly not as they seem… Again, that sounds like an interesting premise, and it is seemingly very much a riff on Christopher Nolan’s Memento, Inception, and Tenet (perhaps in 2010, it would’ve been a box office juggernaut), but its execution is amazingly sloppy and barely watchable.

Rodriguez has always been known for making movies through a cheap and no-nonsense style, and it has worked to great effect in his El Mariachi trilogy and even in the Spy Kids flicks. Hell, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is a guilty pleasure for many, even if its screenplay is one of the worst ever written, and the CGI is an absolute nightmare to watch. Rodriguez has also proven himself to direct massive blockbusters like Alita: Battle Angel and episodes of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. He is an incredibly versatile filmmaker, but his filmography has been mostly inconsistent.

You’d think that a scenario like Hypnotic would mean success for Rodriguez as he gives his own spin on Nolan’s trippiest movies, but he cannot save this film from being anything more than a disaster. There isn’t a single actor that gives a good performance here. Affleck looks particularly bored trying to assimilate every ounce of exposition Braga and Fichtner consistently deliver. None of the characters feel like they are human or live in a human world with extraordinary circumstances. The dialogue is mostly flat and unengaging, with Braga’s character being the worst offender of them all.

I cannot for the life of me explain to you all what a “Hypnotic” truly is because the film keeps adding more information to the concept without necessarily explaining how that’s important. Such an expository-heavy movie needs more time to make the audience understand exactly what’s going on, but it continuously jumps the shark whenever it gets quasi-interesting and has “fun” blurring the line between reality and fiction. Is what you’re seeing even real? Is it a construct of Rourke’s imagination? Is Dellrayne an actual character? Who knows, and who cares!

The film gives the audience little motivation or interest to care about what’s happening because it overexplains the concept of hypnotics to the point where no one truly understands their purpose and underexplains everything else. Of course, it’s fine for a movie to be ambiguous and suspend certain elements. But for the movie to do that, its narrative must be tight, and its thematic elements must be strong. Hypnotic doesn’t have any of that.

It also doesn’t help that none of the action scenes are remotely engaging. They’re shot with the energy of an Asylum flick and edited in the vein of an Olivier Megaton picture. You cannot see a damn thing, but what you actively see are the actors sleepwalking through the setpieces. There’s no engagement from any of the stars — they perform in those sequences as if they were handcuffed and desperately want to leave.

But the worst part of the film is its midpoint twist, which changes everything that came before and is ridiculously uninspired. It feels like a total cop-out. I won’t spoil what it is, and you’re better off discovering it on your own, but it is amazingly lazy and insults the audience’s patience and intelligence. It also thinks it’s smart to add in so many twists and turns to subvert audience expectations after its “core” twist, but they all fall flat and deliver absolutely nothing of note for the viewer.

There’s no fun to be had watching Hypnotic. Even Rodriguez’s worst films have a campy quality to them that makes them watchable. Hypnotic isn’t unintentionally hilarious, nor campy enough for me to have cared. It’s not worth anyone’s time, and it certainly wasn’t worth bankrupting an emerging studio for having paid way too much money for such a mediocre script…

ZERO STARS

FILM RATING
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Sex Education Season 4 is a Spectacular (and Overstuffed) Conclusion to One of Netflix’s Extraordinary Series

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Official posted of 'Sex Education' Season 4 (Netflix)

When the first season of Sex Education came out on Netflix in 2019, it felt pretty daring and exciting for everyone. While there were many shows about teenagers and sex, ‘Sex Education’ stood out because it talked about these topics openly and covered them in a pretty detailed manner. Without any guesses, the show became really popular and is now considered a classic on Netflix. For 3 long seasons, viewers have seen students of Moordale, and everyone around them, dealing with a lot of complications, but now, it’s time to say goodbye to some of our character as the Netflix series has returned for its fourth and final edition.

At the end of Season 3, Moordale Secondary School closed down. This means that Otis, Eric, Aimee, Jackson, Vivienne, Cal, and Ruby have to go to a new school, Cavendish Sixth Form College. Some of them fit in well, while others struggle. And while Otis tries to focus on his therapy work, he finds out that there are other young people who are experts on relationships and sex in town.

Gillian Anderson as Jean Milburn in ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 (Netflix)

One of the strengths of Sex Education is its diverse and inclusive representation. The show shines a light on various sexual orientations, gender identities, and cultural backgrounds, providing a platform for underrepresented voices. Season 4 continues to explore these themes, introducing new characters who add depth and complexity to the narrative. On ghe other hand, the only problem with Season 4 is that there are too many things going on at once. There are so many sub-plots that might distract you at times and make you feel that this story might have looked good if there was another season in pipeline.

Even then, the writing remains sharp and witty, creating relatable and genuine teenage characters who grapple with their own insecurities and desires.

Ncuti Gatwa as Eric Effiong in Sex Education Season 4 (Netflix)

The performances in ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 are consistently strong. Asa Butterfield brings vulnerability and charm to his role as Otis, portraying the character’s growth and maturity. Ncuti Gatwa shines as Eric, capturing both his strength and vulnerability as he navigates new relationships and personal challenges. Emma Mackey delivers a nuanced performance as Maeve, showcasing her character’s intelligence and emotional depth. Mimi Keene is stupendous as well and bring another layer to her character which was so nice to see. Meanwhile, Gillian Anderson does what she is best at: deliver another extraordinary performance.

Emma Mackey as Maeve in Sex Education Season 4. (Netflix)

On the other hand, Aimee Lou Wood continues to mesmerise us with her charm and simplicity. Directors should definitely look at her and give her a leading role soon because she deserves it. Another actor that is surely a star in the making is Anthony Lexa, who portrays Abbi in Season 4. Her performance adds an additional charm to the series and gives a hope to Trans actors that they can too achieve their dreams.

A still from ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 (Netflix)

The final edition tackles difficult topics with sensitivity and care, highlighting the importance of consent, communication, and understanding in relationships. The show’s ability to tackle these issues head-on without becoming preachy is a testament to its thoughtful storytelling.

While the final season of ‘Sex Education’ does have some pacing and narrative issues, the strength of the performances, the thoughtful exploration of important issues, and the show’s commitment to inclusivity make it a satisfying and engaging watch. It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to these beloved characters, but the legacy of Sex Education will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on the television landscape.

Sex Education Season 4. (L to R) Mimi Keene as Ruby, Asa Butterfield as Otis in Sex Education Season 4 (Netflix)

In conclusion, ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 continues to deliver a standout and boundary-pushing narrative that explores sexuality, identity, and personal growth with humor and sensitivity. Despite some minor flaws, the show remains a shining example of inclusive storytelling and offers a heartfelt farewell to its beloved characters.

Some goodbyes are hard and this is certainly one of them.

FILM RATING
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Flora and Son is a Heartfelt Exploration of Family and Music

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Eve Hewson and Oren Kinlan in a still from 'Flora and Son' (Apple TV+)

Flora and Son, directed by John Carney, tells the compelling story of Flora, a single mother struggling to navigate the challenges of parenthood and find her own identity. Starring Eve Hewson as Flora, the film dives into the complexities of motherhood, relationships, and the power of music in bringing people together. There have been a lot of musicals in recent times that take a very complex route in telling a story, but Flora and Son is a bit different than all of them. The story is really simple and that’s what makes the film such a treat to watch.

The movie opens with Flora enjoying a night out at a club in Dublin, only to end up in a disappointing hook-up. Flora’s life is far from perfect, as she grapples with her troubled teenage son Max (Orén Kinlan) and a less-than-supportive ex-husband, Ian (Jack Reynor). Flora’s interactions with Max are often tense, filled with sarcastic banter and strained attempts to connect with him. As a single mother, Flora faces numerous hardships and setbacks, leading her to doubt her own potential. Her attempts to do right by her son are often met with indifference or resistance. However, a pivotal moment occurs when Flora acquires a guitar for Max, unaware that it will have a profound impact on her own journey. Flora’s decision to learn to play the guitar leads her to Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a songwriter and teacher based in California. Despite the distance between them, their connection is palpable, and through music, they bridge the gap. Jeff encourages Flora to embrace her creativity and express herself authentically, unlocking a passion she didn’t know she possessed.

Eve Hewson in a still from ‘Flora and Son’ (Apple TV+)

The performances in Flora and Son are exceptional, particularly Eve Hewson’s portrayal of Flora. She effortlessly portrays a range of emotions, from humor and charm to vulnerability and raw emotion. Hewson’s nuanced performance brings depth and authenticity to the character, making her relatable and captivating. It will be a travesty if she is not spotted by a big filmmaker and gives her a chance to lead another extraordinary movie. On the other hand, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is soulful and gives a performance that is really enchanting. The chemistry between Hewson and Gordon-Levitt, even through virtual interactions, adds an extra layer of depth to their characters’ connection.

Carney’s direction creates an intimate yet heartfelt atmosphere in the film.  The use of music as a driving force in the narrative is a testament to Carney’s storytelling prowess, showcasing the transformative power of melodies and lyrics. One of the film’s strengths is its refusal to tie everything up neatly in a predictable manner. Instead, Flora and Son choose a more realistic approach, leaving some loose ends and logistics unresolved. This choice allows the characters to continue their journey of self-discovery, leaving viewers with a sense of hope and possibility.

Eve Hewson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a still from ‘Flora and Son’ (Apple TV+)

In conclusion, Flora and Son is a touching exploration of a single mother’s journey to find her voice, both as a musician and as a parent. With exceptional performances and a thoughtful narrative, the film resonates with authenticity and emotional depth. Carney’s direction and the film’s emphasis on the transformative power of music make Flora and Son a standout family drama. The simplicity and innocence is what makes it such a heart-warming watch. This film will make your heart sing.

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Love at First Sight Review | Netflix Makes A Great Rom-Com [For Once]

Despite a predictable story, Love at First Sight works tremendously well thanks to the impassioned performances of Haley Lu Richardson and Ben Hardy.

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This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and the actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Doesn’t it feel great to watch something that doesn’t feel trite or manipulative? You’ll be surprised to know that this film is coming from Netflix, the king of trite rom-coms. But their latest venture into this world in Love at First Sight is surprisingly good, thanks to the incredible chemistry from Haley Lu Richardson and Ben Hardy.

Directed by Vanessa Caswill and based on Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, the film follows Hadley (Richardson), who has unfortunately missed her flight to London by four minutes. She is traveling there for her father’s (Rob Delaney) wedding but dreads seeing him with another woman than her mother. While waiting for her next flight, she meets Oliver (Hardy), who also flies to London for her mother’s (Sally Phillips) memorial.

During the seven-hour flight, the two fall in love, though they get separated before exchanging numbers. At the wedding, she only thinks about reuniting with Oliver, who also longs to be with Hadley during the memorial. Therefore, Hadley attempts to travel through London, hoping to look for him, and you probably know how it will end from there.

Is it predictable? Yes, but it wouldn’t be a rom-com without some familiarity with the proceedings. However, a few effective “twists” prevent the movie from veering into manipulative territory, which is how most Netflix rom-coms usually end up being. For instance, the movie grinds Hadley’s story to a halt by showing us Oliver’s perspective when he gets off the plane, playing with time in a way that makes their relationship stand out above the pact of trite romantic comedies. The near-misses are ridiculous, but you still care about them in the end, even if you know they will fall in love by the time the film’s over. Otherwise, what’s the point?

The movie wouldn’t have worked without solid chemistry from Richardson and Hardy, but the two are dynamite together and perhaps the best pair I’ve seen in a studio-driven romantic comedy this year. They’re funny when they need to be to draw us closer to their surprising match, but they are also deeply human at their core. Some of the movie’s quiet and introspective scenes are strongest, especially near the latter half, where Oliver opens up to Hadley in ways he didn’t think were possible.

Supporting performances from Rob Delaney, Sally Phillips, Dexter Fletcher (yes, that Dexter Fletcher), and Jameela Jamil (playing one of the strangest movie narrators) are also decent, though some character arcs aren’t as developed as others. The way the film presents the narrator isn’t as properly defined as some other movie narrators, though Jamil’s presence is still fun.

The movie falters a bit in the protagonists’ relationships with their parents. It’s developed enough but still needs more meat around the bone for them to feel more complete, especially regarding Oliver’s relationship with her mother. The performances are great, but something feels missing. To talk about it would mean spoiling one of the film’s key subversive moments, which is much smarter than it has any right to be, so I’ll let you discover that on your own.

Still, Love at First Sight is far better than it has any right to be. From the looks of the trailer, it sounded like Netflix was back with yet another fake movie, but it released an earnest and affectionate rom-com that anyone watching will surely enjoy. The cynic in me thought it would be a total waste of time, but it was a breezy and memorable watch, thanks to Haley Lu Richardson and Ben Hardy carrying the film until the end. The statistical probability of love at first sight is quite low, but it’s quite high for this film.

FILM RATING

Love at First Sight is now streaming on Netflix.

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