Cinebites #14

Welcome to my mini movie review series. I watch a lot of movies and I thought it’d be fun to share a few thoughts on some of the things I’ve watched.

These are all SPOILER FREE reviews so you can enjoy these films at your leisure.

Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)

I’m not what you would call a “war film” person. I just don’t have a taste for it but this is thankfully, surprisingly, less of a war film and more of a human film. Rife with grief, politic, fear, and confrontations with the depths of the human soul it’s sad and quiet while still feeling grounded and sharp. At times the camera seems to drift away from the action of a scene and just places us as eyes inside of it, hunkered down waiting for the inevitable course of history.

Final Verdict: I’m not sure I would recommend this movie unless you have a particular interest in war, civil war, The Troubles, or Irish history in general because it’s a bit long and a bit stark for most tastes. Acting and filming are both top notch but I suspect most people might find this whole thing dull and it’s probably a little to a lot confusing if you’re only aware of Ireland in the present day.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

This movie is much more my speed. When the movie ended I wished immediately that I could erase my memory and experience it again. Everything in this movie was just working for me from the beautiful cinematography and costume design to the subtle but jarringly realistic acting. There are so many scenes that will stick in my mind for a long time to come and the movie gave me a feeling like the echo of a good ache. A memory of a soft feeling that I can only get when I press hard enough that it hurts. Wonderfully feminine, achingly tender, and never overstaying its welcome this one shouldn’t be missed.

Final Verdict: Even if you just muted the movie and turned off the subtitles this would be worth it for the eye candy visual style. Colors pop and burst in your vision, scenes draw you in with color and texture of any master painting. This left me moved and emotional and raw and joyful and I really think most people will enjoy it. This is, at its core, a very small story but there’s so many little things going on in the movie that thankfully it’s never boring. A must watch for nearly anyone.

Blue Ruin (2013)

I wish I had watched this before I watched You Were Never Really Here because then I absolutely would have like this movie more. I suppose this movie falls into the angry man out for revenge trope but it flips it on its head a little bit by having the man actually not want to do any of the things he does and also he’s terrible at it. Far from comedy this movie plays all the those things as straight as possible making this a brutal, slow burn film dedicated to the senselessness of violence and revenge but ultimately leaving me kind of empty.

Final Verdict: I know there’s a person out there who must absolutely adore this film. It’s well acted, well shot. The dialogue is sparse but good. There’s good pacing, consistent theming but I just could not like this. It’s a sad story about a sad man and the sad things he thinks he has to do but the movie isn’t even convincing about that. If there was a theme here it’s just that revenge is bad and nothing more. Honestly, I’d felt a little like I’d been cheated by the end of the film. There isn’t a moment that gave me any hint that there was more than that a basic idea holding this film together. Skip it, go straight to You Were Never Really Here, Old Boy, or Revenge.

Free Fire (2016)

I wanted to want this first and foremost because I really enjoy Ben Wheatley as a director but also because I had literally never heard of this movie but it stars about a dozen people who I have heard of including but not limited to Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, and Brie Larson. It’s a tiny little production despite the big names and clearly a labor of love. The movie is much better than it has any right to be but I couldn’t say it’s particularly good or memorable outside of having such a star studded cast.

Final Verdict: Perfect for a sick day if you’re the type of person who doesn’t mind a little blood and violence. This movie is for the niche people who really liked both Shoot ‘Em Up and Reservoir Dogs. It’s a shoot out movie that is extremely meticulously filmed with some good dialogue and surprisingly intricate character acting but other than that it’s just not got much going on. Best for rainy days and people who are really into guns.

Chungking Express (1994)

I had this on my watch list for a few years and just never seemed to get around to it. I really enjoyed In the Mood for Love so I was really looking forward to this but wow, I absolutely hated this from the deepest well of my soul and nearly stopped watching the movie about halfway through. This movie has a weirdly flippant tone that doesn’t quite ever mesh with the visuals and ideas being presented. It reminded me really strongly of another movie that people love and I can’t stand, Lost in Translation. I know that people are really invested in this idea of the distracted and disconnected city dweller but I found it was like pulling teeth. The movie is basically divided into two stories and while the second was stronger than the first they’re just not the type of stories I can ever get in to because they so alien to me.

Final Verdict: There’s a lot to like in this film. The city of Hong Kong in the 90s gets a fascinating framing, the language politic throughout the movie is interesting, and Wong Kar-Wei keeps the visuals and editing interesting the entire way through. The acting is a kind of mixed bag as far as I’m concerned but it played off well through the realism lens of the editing and tone. It just didn’t do it for me and I’d probably say to skip this one if you don’t want to watch 2 hours of sad men romanticizing the idea of women.

That’s all for this time! See you soon (hopefully) with 5 more films!

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