REVIEW: Triangle of Sadness (2022)

Woody Harrelson (right) plays a drunken American captain of a yacht that’s about to be bought by a wealthy Russian capitalist (played by Zlatko Burić) in Ruben Östlund’s TRIANGLE OF SADNESS — PHOTO: NEON / SF Studios..

Directed by Ruben Östlund (The Square) — Screenplay by Ruben Östlund.

Alongside the Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier (Oslo 31. August) and the Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Druk), the Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund is one of the very best Scandinavian filmmakers working right now. Östlund has been working as a filmmaker for more than a decade, but I think it’s fair to say that it is with his 2014 effort, Force Majeure, that he had his true international breakthrough. Including his latest film, Östlund’s last three films have all received awards at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. With Triangle of Sadness, the Swede is now a two-time Palme d’Or winner (winning his first one for the utterly hilarious The Square from 2017). Having swapped the square out in favor of a triangle (the title refers to an area between your eyebrows and your nose bridge that can be ‘fixed’ with botox), Östlund has managed to keep his satirical writing equally sharp and at times outright hilarious. Triangle of Sadness is one of the best films of the year.

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REVIEW: Don’t Worry Darling (2022)

Florence Pugh and Harry Styles star in Olivia Wilde’s second feature-length film as a director, DON’T WORRY DARLING — PHOTO: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Directed by Olivia Wilde (Booksmart) — Story by Carey van Dyke, Shane van Dyke, and Katie Silberman.

Whether by design (for marketing purposes) or not, Don’t Worry Darling has amassed one of the wildest behind-the-scenes on-and-off-set dramas in recent memory. Olivia Wilde’s sophomore effort as a director — following the hit teen comedy Booksmart — is one of the most talked about films this year, but ‘the talk’ isn’t about the film itself. It started with an embarrassing public disagreement about whether Shia LaBeouf was fired or if he left the project of his own volition (and a leaked video wherein Wilde tried to get LaBeouf back on board), but it snowballed into stories about on-set tension (alleged screaming matches between the director and her leading lady), internet sleuthing about whether or not Harry Styles spat on Chris Pine at one of the film’s premieres, and Olivia Wilde’s alleged absence from the set has even been compared to Boris Johnson’s rule-breaking COVID era behavior

It’s a lot of noise that is far more interesting than the film itself, honestly. But it is also true that certain male directors (and their films), which others have argued, have gotten away with even more questionable behavior. It’s a mess that may ultimately help the film at the box office (again, inadvertently or not), but I just wish the film was anywhere near as good or memorable as the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding it.

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REVIEW: I Came By (2022)

Hugh Bonneville in Babak Anvari’s crime-thriller I CAME BY — PHOTO: Netflix.

Directed by Babak Anvari — Screenplay by Babak Anvari & Namsi Khan.

The British-Iranian filmmaker Babak Anvari burst onto the scene with his wildly impressive feature-length directorial debut, Under The Shadow, a terrific but underseen psychological horror film that was selected as the British entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards. Widely praised, it was a good springboard for Anvari, but his follow-up film, Wounds starring Armie Hammer, represented “a disappointingly severe sophomore slump” for Anvari. When his third effort, I Came By, which, like his previous two efforts, was released on Netflix in my region, it was without much fanfare. To me, it almost felt like it was being hidden, which concerned me. In my review of Wounds, I noted how I really wanted “to see [Babak Anvari] make a triumphant return with a film that is as brilliant and promising as I thought [Under The Shadow] was.” So, did I get what I want? Eh, not really. It’s not a recommendation, but, admittedly, it is better than Wounds.

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REVIEW: The Invitation (2022)

Evie (played by Nathalie Emmanuel) falls for Walter De Ville (played by Thomas Doherty) in THE INVITATION — Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Directed by Jessica M. Thompson — Screenplay by Blair Butler.

Not to be confused with 2016’s The Invitation, which is a far superior thriller from Karyn Kusama, Jessica M. Thompson’s The Invitation follows Evie (played by Nathalie Emmanuel), a waitress in New York City, who, after receiving the results of a DNA kit, is invited by distant British relatives — that she previously knew nothing about — to attend a wedding. Evie eventually agrees to attend the wedding, and, once she is there, she becomes charmed by the owner of the manor that she will be sleeping in. While she slowly, but surely, falls for the young lord (played by Thomas Doherty), strange things happen in the manor, and Evie starts to see foreboding visions. You shouldn’t know more about the film than that when you sit down to watch it in the theater. Unfortunately, all of its secrets have already been given away in the marketing.

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REVIEW: For All Mankind – Season Three (2022)

Scene from “For All Mankind,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

Series Created by Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert, and Ben Nedivi — Available Now on Apple TV+.

For All Mankind is my favorite Apple TV+ show, which is saying something considering how much I absolutely love Ted Lasso. Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert, and Ben Nedivi’s historical fiction series started as ‘what if the Soviet Union had reached the Moon first and, as a result, the United States continued and accelerated the space race,’ and the second season explored this alternate history science-fiction by having the Cold War take place in outer space, essentially. If the first season was a ‘small step,’ and the second season a ‘giant leap,’ then this third season cements that the previous season wasn’t just a fluke. For All Mankind is still one of the best ongoing shows on any streaming service.

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REVIEW: Kærlighed for Voksne (2022)

Dar Salim plays Christian, a cheating husband, in LOVING ADULTS — Photo: NETFLIX.

Directed by Barbara Rothenborg — Screenplay by Anders Rønnow Klarlund and Jacob Weinreich.

As a Dane, I’d love to be able to say that each and every Danish film is a must-watch. But that definitely wouldn’t be true. Not every Danish film is as good as Another Round, Riders of Justice, Queen of Hearts, or Speak No Evil — to name just a few of the recent Danish hits. Now that Netflix has started to produce Danish films, one would hope that their presence in the Danish film industry would be a really good thing. It could be. It’s certainly offering new opportunities for Danish filmmakers. But based on Toscana, Against the Ice, and now Kærlighed for Voksne (int. title: Loving Adults) it is becoming clear that the streamer is having a difficult time making truly memorable Danish films. Kærlighed for Voksne doesn’t work.

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REVIEW: Black Bird (2022 – Limited Series)

Ray Liotta and Taron Egerton in “Black Bird,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

Series Developed by Dennis Lehane.

Apple TV+ is starting to pick up steam as a serious streamer with several fantastic shows. Black Bird, from award-winning novelist and screenwriter Dennis Lehane, is one of its latest solid series. Unfortunately, since Apple TV+ is yet to have a massive subscriber count, shows like it, For All Mankind, Severance, Shining Girls, and so on and so forth will probably struggle to find an enormous audience. Black Bird should be an easy sell for many people in this day and age where true crime adaptations are all the rage. The mini-series is based on James Keene and Hillel Levin’s autobiographical novel In With The Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption.

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REVIEW: Better Call Saul – “Nippy”

The following is a recap and review of the tenth episode of the sixth and final season of Better Call Saul, available on AMC in the U. S. and on Netflix internationally. Expect story spoilers.

In the tenth episode of the sixth season of Better Call Saul — titled Nippy — “Gene” (played by Bob Odenkirk) tries to convince someone to take part in a con job with a very brief time window. Nippy was written by Alison Tatlock and directed by Michelle MacLaren.

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Steven Yeun’s character looks upward and tries to monetize what he sees in Jordan Peele’s NOPE — Photo: Universal Pictures.

Directed by Jordan Peele — Screenplay by Jordan Peele.

With Get Out and Us, Jordan Peele’s name became synonymous with the social-horror genre. A master of horror on the rise, who is still building his oeuvre, Peele’s films as a director thus far have felt like event films, to me. Get Out was a masterpiece and one of the best films of the 2010s, and Us was a fantastic horror film that I think is exceptionally rewatchable, rewarding, and thought-provoking. He didn’t land all of his big ideas with Us, but it was still one of my favorite films of 2019. I absolutely loved it. So, when his third outing as a director was announced and revealed to be a sci-fi horror flick starring two of my favorite actors of the 2010s in Daniel Kaluuya, re-teaming with Peele after Get Out, and Steven Yeun, who made his name known with The Walking Dead but whose best performance can be seen in Lee Chang-dong’s masterpiece Burning, my expectations reached a fever pitch. So, does NOPE work? In a word, yep.

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REVIEW: Better Call Saul – “Fun and Games”

The following is a recap and review of the ninth episode of the sixth and final season of Better Call Saul, available on AMC in the U. S. and on Netflix internationally. Expect story spoilers.

In the ninth episode of the sixth season of Better Call Saul — titled Fun and Games — Mike (played by Jonathan Banks) meets with Nacho’s father, while Kim (played by Rhea Seehorn) makes a definitive decision about her future. Fun and Games was written by Ann Cherkis and directed by Michael Morris. The episode is dedicated to Julia Clark Downs.

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