Peninsula (2020)

Ahh, the age-old question: how do you make a zombie film series feel fresh? (pun intended). Funny as it may be, nobody seems to have an answer to this question. Sure, there have been some great examples of that (e.g. Dawn of the Dead) but the statistical sample is still too small to give any hints as to how filmmakers should approach following up on successful zombie films without sliding into a groove of repeatability or leaving the spirit of the original film at the door.  

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22 July (2018)

22 July was released in 2018, a little more than seven years after the barbaric terrorist attack perpetrated by Anders Breivik, which claimed the lives of seventy-seven people, injured well over two hundred and – one way or another – affected the lives of all Norwegians. Written and directed by Paul Greengrass who has had a long-standing interest in exploring tragic and politically-relevant events in film (Bloody SundayUnited 93 and Captain Phillips), this film has attracted a rather lukewarm critical reception, which immediately invites a question as to why that was.  

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Greyhound (2020)

At this point I am not exactly sure what the problem with Greyhound is, especially having been made aware of the rather lukewarm reception it got when it was originally released. Granted, it was most assuredly hurt by the raging pandemic and some have perhaps indicated they would be interested in seeing how their perception of this film would change if they had the opportunity to watch it in a theatrical setting. And I don’t think I agree with it being the case. In fact, I’d venture a guess that the most abundant piece of criticism levelled at this film would involve pointing out the shortcomings of its scale.  

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Coming 2 America (2021)

When Coming to America opened in 1988, I don’t think it aspired to anything more than being a funny and entertaining comedy. Whatever else it smuggled beneath the epidermis of its fish-out-of-water raunchy rom-com borrowing heavily from Preston Sturges and Howard Hawkes both in spirit and in application of comedic technique, it didn’t ultimately matter. It was an effective, innovative and light-hearted movie that capitalized on the effortless chemistry between Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall and pulled no punches when it came to more provocative attempts at humour.  

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Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

As the field of animation matured in the mainstream of popular culture and successfully untethered itself from being immediately associated with entertainment for children, many Hollywood animated features have developed a successful methodology of including pop-cultural refences as little off-hand remarks, Easter eggs and winks at the audience as a way to entertain the adult in the room. Now, I have never been fully on board with this because I do believe that children should have their entertainment untainted with overabundance of ‘adult stuff’, however funny it might be for the adults watching it or critics reviewing it. However, certain studios (like Pixar) have successfully evolved this ideology into entertainment for general audiences as they hide their Easter eggs well enough that they don’t distract from the story at hand and the subject matter equally appeals a bit more to a wider range of ages.  

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Fantastic Planet (1973)

When it was originally released in 1973, Fantastic Planet immediately attracted considerable attention from critics who praised its surreal atmosphere, singular animation style and design. Undeniably, a good chunk of the reason why this film instantly became (and perhaps continues to be) a bottomless well for interpretation is owed to the artistic stamp left by Roland Topor. Some might even suggest that without his signature outlandish animated vision Fantastic Planet wouldn’t be half as rich as it is; and though there may be some validity to this statement, it is much safer to assume that René Laloux’s film is a prime example of a sum-of-its-parts film, or – better yet – a lightning in a bottle.  

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I Care a Lot (2020)

Some films are results of a burning passion to tell a great story. Some come from a bleeding soul trying to describe extremely complex emotions using the language of moving images. Some come from more simple desires to offer entertainment to their audiences (and there’s nothing wrong with that). And then, there are some that try to guess what their audiences want to see in order to assert themselves in the popular culture. They are fakes, cinematic sociopaths smiling when it’s appropriate to smile and perfecting the art of saying the right thing at the right time without having a shred of original thought of their own. I Care a Lot is one such specimen.  

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Understanding Michael Haneke: Caché (2005)

Caché (Hidden) (2005)

All throughout his career Michael Haneke has been busy putting a scalpel to the wealthiest classes and flaying them methodically – layer after layer – to expose their flesh and the intricately woven network of delicate cardiovascular vessels pumping their azure blood. However, while doing so he has also been struggling with his own perspective and, hence, some of his work may give an impression that he has been engaged in this delicate surgical work whilst mounted atop a high horse of immovable moral authority. This is not the case here. Released in 2005, Caché proves unequivocally that at least for the moment Haneke was able to dismount and deliver his most cunning experiment in deconstructing the bourgeoisie, thus proving to be the pinnacle of his filmmaking career in my view. 

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The Kubrick Appreciation Project: The Killing (1956)

Stanley Kubrick referred to his 1956 noir caper The Killing as his first mature film. However, as Roger Ebert famously pointed out, it may be inappropriate to single it out as some kind of a fork in the road, let alone a watershed moment that set Kubrick on a trajectory to the pantheon of greatest filmmakers in history. Just as Ebert suggested, without the directing credit listed at the beginning of the movie, it would be very hard to trace it back to Kubrick. 

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Greenland (2020)

I have to admit that when I was sitting down to watch Greenland, I wasn’t really expecting much. In fact – I have to come clean – I was more or less looking forward to ‘veging out’ on a Saturday night while looking at Gerard Butler (for whom I do have a bit of a soft spot) do his utmost to save his family from an impending cataclysm.  

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