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Knives Out (2019)
9/10
Entertaining Old School Whodunit
12 December 2019
Harlan Thrombey is a successful novelist and publisher who throws a party inviting his immediate family to attend. The familial gathering turns out well until situations unravel and matters get out of hand. "Knives Out" is a fun suspense comedy that lifts its style from vintage mysteries and adeptly places it in a modern setting. The all-star cast shines as Christopher Plummer, Don Johnson, Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans and the rest of the cast bring out their respective roles as the characters involved who try to get their wits together for their own ends. Humor permeates throughout and Daniel Craig navigating through his Southern drawl just wins. And Ana de Armas' comely doe-eyed innocence is endless eye candy. The ending is as unexpected as it is delightful. With a topnotch script and everything you want in a movie that works this rib-tickling glimpse into the wild and wacky ways of the rich is a lively romp intriguing its way to the viewer's glee. Comedy of the year.
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Midway (2019)
8/10
The Turning Point
10 December 2019
Confident after their success at Pearl Harbor the Japanese armed forces decided to lure the American navy into a trap near Midway Atoll, an important area in the Pacific crucial to both sides. Japanese underestimation of the American response, poor placing of their ships and most importantly the breaking of their codes by American cryptographers dealt the doom of the Japanese fleet as they in turn fell for the net the American fleet spread out at them. The predator became the prey. "Midway" showcases the action and drama involved as one of the turning points in history unravels in the silver screen. Good acting features the important personages involved and the personal lives of individuals adding the human element always turned upside down in the turmoil of war. Good special effects highlight the exhilaration, chaos, tragedy and high of battle as dogfights, fighter planes, anti-aircraft guns, aircraft carriers, artillery, streaming bullets and crashing bombs erupt as the soundtrack to death and carnage where the conflict leads its participants to destiny. An added plus is the depiction of the Japanese side of the story where unlike past war films where only the Western perspective is shown here the Japanese experience is represented giving the movie a fuller well rounded whole. Although not as fast paced as a war flick should be the film delivers with its no frills depiction of the battle. As war films go this is one of the best with no politics and agenda to taint it, just a solid recreation of history as it occurred. And in these times is a winner just as much as the quality of the film itself, perhaps even more.
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9/10
The Race to Forever
7 December 2019
Henry Ford II offered to buy the Ferrari company. Founder and owner Enzo Ferrari turns Ford down at the last minute. Unable to take this lightly and vowing revenge, Ford II decides to use his considerable resources to defeat Ferrari in the 1966 Le Mans race. And a legend was born. "Ford v Ferrari" is the highly watchable cinematic depiction of the greatest rivalry in car racing history. Matt Damon portrays the calm and collected car designer Carroll Shelby who oversees the operation to win the race for Ford at Le Mans. Christian Bale plays the cocky and outspoken race car driver Ken Miles whose challenging personality stood out as much as his skill in driving. Together their tense relationship forms the heart of the story as their interaction covers the range of combative to genuine friendship as they make auto racing history. Of course, there's the races, where the high speed rush of the best cars of their time try to outspeed each other in fully charged blasts zooming to the finish line. One of the most notable bioflicks and a highlight in a year that has proven to be one of the best in cinema history, this is one that will turn out to be a fave among many fans of the silver screen.
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Synth Britannia (2009 TV Movie)
9/10
The 2nd British Invasion
6 December 2019
The synthesizer was an obscure, expensive keyboard/gadget that was unknown in the age of loud guitars. But a few mavericks made use of the various sounds the instrument can do and inspired an entire generation of innovators and talents to take the promise of the instrument to the next and higher level. "Synth Britannia" chronicles the origins of the instrument from its simple beginnings to its dominant peak and eventual decline to its permanent place in the musical landscape. Tracing its start to the soundtrack of "A Clockwork Orange" and the German band Kraftwerk the documentary moves to its main theme of the music's hold on Britain and its story there. The early practitioners are well covered like Throbbing Gristle, The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, The Normal, Ultravox and OMD. The floodgates burst open with the success of Gary Numan and Classic Synth was born, paving the way for the much maligned genre to be finally accepted in the mainstream ushering in a new wave of superstars like Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, Yaz and previously ignored acts like the aforementioned The Human League and OMD. Interviews and footage present a Britain in a time of social and economic turmoil with a hyper capitalist society and the talented musicians who emerged from these. Dismissing the traditional format of Punk while retaining its independent ideology the synth luminaries created some of the most compelling and groundbreaking music. With its cold, distinct, multifaceted sound the synthesizer dominated its time and changed music forever.
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Howl (2010)
8/10
An Impressive and Moving Tribute to the Greatest Poem of the 20th-Century
4 December 2019
In a well done multifaceted panorama of words and images "Howl" is one of the few films where art succeeds in doing justice to art. James Franco in his best role portrays Allen Ginsberg and competently reflects the man's personality down to his gestures and voice narrating his various thoughts and emotions whether in an interview, a poetry reading or scenes from his storied life. Scenes based on records of the trial of "Howl" are also shown highlighting the controversy the poem triggered and it's importance in literature and freedom of expression. Freeflowing animation adds a colorful and complementary appeal to the subject matter. Although slow going in parts the film is a compelling chronicle on the creation of great art and its enduring legacy. "Howl" was one of the profoundest and most important books I first read when I started getting heavily into literature and it's one of the most important and formative works of art that influenced me and molded my personality. A triumph by everyone involved in the creation of the film, this is a warm and moving celebration and tribute to a masterpiece that changed the world.
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Sunrise (1927)
8/10
Torn Between Two Lovers
3 December 2019
One of famed director F.W. Murnau's highly acclaimed films, "Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans" successfully combined storytelling tradition with technological innovation. An oafish rube is seduced by a worldly gal from the city who suggests he do a Chris Watts on his wife so they can move unhindered to the great metropolis. Things don't go as planned, and a series of events lead to an ending as conventional as it is fitting. Shot in aesthetic black and white the film is visually appealing with the impressive special effects of the time adding to it. Good directing and although melodramatic the acting is well done in all its theatrical stageyness. A touch of humor brings some wholesome fun (you'll never forget that drunken pig!). Slow going in parts (the film would have been more solid as an hour long flick) the movie nonetheless keeps the viewer watching with its leisurely paced romantic narrative. And the time machine glimpse into America in The Roaring Twenties alone makes it worth the watch. Winner of a number of awards in the first ever academy awards the film isn't the much ballyhooed "Greatest Silent of All Time" masterpiece it's claimed to be (watch "Les Vampires", now THAT'S the greatest silent) but with its simple and effective depiction of "love conquers all" this is one of the more lasting artifacts from The Jazz Age that only gets better with time.
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The Threat (1949)
8/10
"Before You Embark on a Journey of Revenge, Dig Two Graves"
2 December 2019
A dangerous convict manages to escape from prison with revenge on his mind. He succeeds in nabbing those who placed him behind bars and uses them to ensure his security. All go swimmingly well at first but as time passes what he holds onto as his means of freedom would prove to be his downfall. The film has good acting for the time except for the ruggedly handsome Charles McGraw who for all the toughness he attempts still looks too amiable to be the feared criminal he's supposed to be. The endlessly pleading Virginia Grey provides some nice vintage eye candy to the rough drama. One of the best and most underrated flicks of the genre, this is one to add to your noir list.
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Madre (2017)
10/10
¡Que Horror!
30 November 2019
A woman goes through her daily routine until she receives a call from her 6 year old son. What transpires as an affectionate conversation between mother and son turns into a nightmare as the reality of the situation unfolds. A sterling story with topnotch acting especially by lead actress Marta Nieto as the hysteric mother who tries to keep her sanity together as the mounting horror engulfing her life escalates with each painful second. A tense and gripping thriller that's all too real, this is perhaps the best short ever made.
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9/10
Deutschland Über Alles
29 November 2019
Rising out of the ashes of the 2nd World War, Germany's youth rebelled against the old order with riots and music. The former was bloody, the latter was glorious. Making a conscious effort to break off the dominant Anglo-American Pop scene the German bands took the look and attitude of Rock and combined it with European Classical and Experimental sounds to create a groundbreaking and compelling sound whose quality and influence had a profound effect on music since. "Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany" is a stellar documentary on the great music scene and features interviews with the movers and shakers of the movement with priceless footage of the music and the times. Luminaries like Can, Neu!, Faust, Kraftwerk, Amon Düül II, Tangerine Dream and Cluster are given proper representation including an always articulate and fun Iggy Pop sharing his memories on the music and its influence on him. Although the film ends abruptly and this is a genre that sure deserves longer coverage this is the best doc on Germany's greatest contribution to Popular Music. Yes, you limp-wristed pissant, there was more to Germany than the corporal with a funny moustache.
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7/10
A Fun and Historic Take on Nice, Ca. 1930
28 November 2019
A lively and amusing time capsule on the popular seaside city from the south of France. A documentary with touches of experimental, "À propos de Nice" shows a vibrant and bouncy metropolis in a day in the life setting. Water splashing on shore, architecture, people watching, sky gazing, parades, facial expressions, pairs of luscious stockinged legs, dances, upskirts and other scenes of urban activity highlight a bustling romp through the various up and goings in town. It's a marvel to view the vintage fashion, cars, edifices and the departed individuals who leave their lasting legacy with this. The film's endlessly brisk pace shifting quickly through varied images and an occassionally revolving camera stake the flick's claim as one of the early experimental art shorts. Although no classic, the repetitive nature of more or less endlessly cyclic displays of the same things can have one's mind wandering astray this is a memorable effort by the fascinating and tragic Jean Vigo. One of the finest shorts, this is a charming glimpse into another time.
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9/10
A Well Done Documentary on the Greatest Chess Player of All Time
27 November 2019
Bobby Fischer was both the embodiment and the antithesis of what the public perceives a Chess master to be. A prodigy, a genius, driven, obsessive, complicated, eccentric, and at the same time tall, handsome, political and politically incorrect; the man compelled the greatest admiration and at the same time disdain in his turbulent life. "Bobby Fischer Against the World" documents Fischer's unique story from his complicated and troubled childhood on to his ascent as one of the great prodigies of the game to winning the world championship and finally his tragic decline and death. The centerpiece of the film is the 1972 world championship match between Fischer and Spassky and the drama that unfolded. The tense lead-up to the match with Fischer's prima donna antics leaving the world wondering whether the match will ever take place; the match itself, with its false starts and amusing incidents and games that are among the most befuddling and brilliant in the history of the game; and Fischer's victory which elevated him to legend all amidst the backdrop of the Cold War and its importance and connection to the game. His post-championship years are properly covered highlighting the man's decline as he descended on to his "wilderness" years of forsaking the game on to the dark road of cults, homelessness, conspiracy theories, anti-semitism, a pathological rematch with Spassky, lawlessness and death in Iceland which served as full circle to a life that was tragic as it was one of a kind. Interviews with Fischer's friends, acquaintances, Chess masters, authors and footage of Fischer and his times offer a sweeping glimpse of the man and the myth and legend that was him. One cannot overestimate Fischer's importance and contribution to the game, his brilliance on the board and efforts to improve the status of the game have been part of professional Chess ever since. The best documentary on Fischer at present "Bobby Fischer Against the World" is a distinguished tribute to one of the most fascinating and outstanding individuals in history.
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Suspense (1913)
8/10
Here It Comes!
23 November 2019
A well made thriller and admirable directorial work from Lois Weber, considered America's first female director. In ten well paced minutes one can feel the dread, the ominous air of tragedy awaiting innocence and vulnerability as the chase for survival races to a final conclusion. As with films this old it's truly the glimpse into the distant past that adds to the appeal and allure of these marvellous relics that have survived the ravages of time. These moving images of a bygone time are truly a time machine that give one a view into how people looked, dressed and lived so long ago. Living up to its title, "Suspense" is one of the successful shorts and a wonderful example of the magic of film.
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9/10
Innovation, Big Business and the Emergence of a Superpower
21 November 2019
An appealingly watchable and well done documentary on the men who emerged from post-Civil War America to become the titans of their respective enterprises and helped shape a nation into one of the greatest and most influential nations in history. The stories of Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford are shown featuring their rise from varied backgrounds to being among the most powerful men in the United States. Their interactions with each other and society around them, their triumphs, challenges, crimes and eventual declines are well presented. Decent actors portray the historical figures well and well done reenactments give a good glimpse into a time and place when these giants of industry dominated their respective domains. Interviews with authors and prominent business figures like Donald Trump and Jack Welch add a contemporary outlook and sense of perspective. Whether it be in shipping, railroads, oil, electricity, or automobiles the documentary shows that these moguls all had the vision, the confidence and the drive to succeed and saw opportunity in situations both good and bad and never allowed adversity or setbacks to get in their way. Informative and inspiring, "The Men Who Built America" highlights what man can achieve.
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10/10
A Howl from the American Underground
19 November 2019
A stellar documentary on one of the greatest and most influential music scenes, "American Hardcore" moves and delivers just like the music itself: fast, tight and in your face. Chronicling the music's origins from Southern California and its spread like wildfire onto the rest of the United States and Canada the film features interviews on the musicians, the writers, the artists and the scenemakers who created and cultivated this unique and compelling look and sound that formulated a whole philosophy and outlook of its own. From performing in the most offbeat rundown places to starting their own music labels to creating their own press releases onto the violence and the awesome power of the music everyone involved have their direct say. The stars are here: Black Flag, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Circle Jerks, etc., and the places that gave birth to them: Los Angeles, San Francisco, D.C., New York, Detroit, Boston, Texas, etc.. The individuals who gave this most life-changing music a voice and sound relate their experiences: Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, Keith Morris, H.R., Jack Grisham, etc., recall the glory days of the scene and their fun and scary involvement with it. Through their tales one can get the idea and feel of the excitement and danger being involved with it, where in one moment you can feel the high of a stage dive while getting lost in the energy and intensity of the music while at the next you could find yourself getting pummeled to the ground by a cop's night stick in one of the worst displays of police brutality known. The music was the perfect outlet for adolescent angst and rage, the distillation of fear and confusion in a hormonal drive for purpose and release. The music and its ideology are among the greatest influences in my life, the combination of art and its DIY aesthetic have shaped and moulded my personality for the better. Compelling and with a rush that never lets up, "American Hardcore" is a document and a tribute to an era which embodied a rallying call to outsiders and individuals and gave them hope and something to call their own while changing the world in the process. "Rise Above"!
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Taxi Driver (1976)
10/10
City of Night
18 November 2019
One of the most lauded and influential films in cinema history, "Taxi Driver" is one of the highlights of the gritty realism that characterized American film during its peak in the 1970s. A near flawless panoramic view of one man's world and state of mind. Travis Bickle is an ex-marine who drives a cab in New York City. Soaking in the streets of the big city the sights and sounds of the great metropolis with its attendant hub of activity: noise, dirt, rude and bizarre individuals, violence, crime, he's equally dismayed and repulsed at the world around him. Disappointed in his personal life the harsh existence slowly gnaws in him as the ugliness of society gets into his head culminating in a series of events that lead to an end that's equal comedy, pathos and liberation. Robert De Niro perfectly embodies the lead character with his unhinged, wasted, weary, awkward, autistic-behaving simpleton personality who gradually takes the viewer into his steady descent into madness. The Big Apple is the perfect background to the dark and grimy flick mirroring its own decay and collapse at the time. Justly regarded as one of the most distinguished and important films ever made this is a prime example of art doing justice to life and one work of art that only gets better with time.
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Dirty Harry (1971)
9/10
"Well do you, PUNK"!?
16 November 2019
An unhinged psychopath is on the loose gunning down innocent people in scenic San Francisco for kicks. There's only one man to stop him: Harry Callahan. A handsome, unfazed and world-weary police inspector who is the living embodiment of a man who "follows the beat of his own drum", Callahan is as much a headache to his superiors as to the crooks who fear and dread his wrath. In their cat and mouse game Callahan and the villain who calls himself "Scorpio" stroll, run, and shoot leaving a trail of smashed objects, bloodied figures, scared pedestrians, dead bodies and a lot of pissed off people. While not the classic it's made out to be, "Dirty Harry" is one of the most notable action flicks whose entertainment value and influence were felt way into the end of the 20th-Century and made Clint Eastwood a legend. The film is also a neat glimpse into Nixon-era America with it's hearse-like cars, sideburns, funky soundtrack and that clear, somewhat sleazy and shady vibe that went hand in hand with a warmth and energy that made the time special and which this world has yet to see again. "Well do you, PUNK"!?
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The 400 Blows (1959)
9/10
Slice of Life
15 November 2019
One of the gems of the fabled French New Wave, "Les quatre cents coups" (The 400 Blows) is a highly watchable realist drama set in post-war Paris. An adolescent with a troubled background is bent on fun and mischief. Such loose and barely controlled upbringing unravels leading to crime. Shot in black and white, the film moves at a brisk pace barely letting up where action is the name without sacrificing the Euro atmosphere and look. Good directing and acting make the film standout highlighting Truffaut's eminence as one of the foremost directors in film. Despite these the film loses some steam towards the middle where one too many unnecessary scenes dull its edge. A compelling film on childhood, friendship and man's experiences and place in society, this is one flick that can leave quite a mark. Highly regarded and deservedly so, the film is certain to be worth the watch for any lover of cinema and its history.
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Get Out (I) (2017)
9/10
Don't Date White Girls If You're a Black Guy
13 November 2019
A young black man is invited by his white girlfriend to visit her well-off folks out at the outskirts. The man's apprehension at such a scenario is suspended at first by the bucolic scenery and the seemingly genuine friendliness of the girl's parents. Little by little though his initial concerns are triggered by events that are difficult to comprehend. Strange occurrences, bizarre people and a growing sense of unease force the man to leave. What transpires are a series of scenes straight out of a nightmare which the unfortunate guy will never forget. Well acted and directed, "Get Out" is an amusing and highly viewable film that seamlessly blends the Horror genre with social issues. And the film is in clear and attractive color that makes one appreciate the beauty of modern technology unlike the ugly and grimy wannabe retro-looking flicks that have plagued cinema since the start of the millennium. Whether you see this film as praise or criticism of the modern era it'll certainly keep you entertained. Beware of what lurks in those pretty suburban areas...
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9/10
Three Chords and the Truth
11 November 2019
A well done documentary on the foremost musical instrument of the 20th-Century, its origins, its long and shaky ascent to prominence, its luminaries and its lasting legacy. BBC presenter Alan Yentob goes on a trek to the places where the instrument flourished and interviews the people who not only played but also made. Entertaining and informative interviews ranging from Les Paul and Pete Townshend to air guitar players offer the variety of the personalities involved and the instrument's broad appeal. Footage of live performances and of course music highlight the distinct and unique sound of this most sexy and powerful musical medium. Although the final episode loses the plot by highlighting individual guitar players rather than focusing on the story of the guitar as a whole it was still neat to hear talented musicians express their passion and display their skill for and with their axes. Entertaining and informative this is one every guitar lover should see.
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9/10
The Man, The Myth, The Legend
5 November 2019
A simple and quite enthralling quest on the life and legend of the seminal Blues artist who's one of the cornerstones of Blues and Rock music. John P. Hammond, the son of the legendary record producer John Hammond hosts this moving and revealing documentary as he travels the American South charting the life and work of the man Eric Clapton called "the greatest". Interviews with people who knew Johnson and scholars of his life and work reveal a talented and complex man who lived a complicated life of travel, booze, women and music. With the man's striking music serving as a soundtrack Hammond also brings out the axe and jams with Johnson's musical cohorts Johnny Shines and David "Honeyboy" Edwards to added appeal. The mystery of Johnson's death is discussed at the end which adds further to the aura of the myth. A tribute and a documentary with heart and soul, this is a look into the power of music and one of its most compelling and enduring luminaries.
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Kill List (2011)
8/10
Down the Rabbit Hole
1 November 2019
A pair of hitmen are hired to do a number of killings when they come across something so unsettlingly disturbing that the more temperemental one loses it driving the two into a dark and nefarious world where there's no getting back. A slow and quiet Euro kind of flick which paces In a glacial even serene pace, this take on conspiracies and secret societies is one of the best in all things sinister and unknown. Brace yourself, this is some chilling territory you're about to enter.
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8/10
The Freewheelin' '60s Scandinavian Style
27 October 2019
One of the most notable and controversial films from the heady anything goes counterculture of the Age of Aquarius, "I Am Curious (Yellow)" pulls and entertains the viewer into its swinging world of politics, sex (lots of it) and art. Starting as a film in the process of being made, the distinction blurs as the film progresses where one can barely tell if the scenes are from the movie or are the offscreen lives of the actors involved. Lead muse Lena Nyman is the cutie who plays an annoying extroverted pseudo intellectual whose jaunty interest and involvement in the times and the world around her turn the viewer into a fascinated voyeur. One of the foremost documents of the time, the film doesn't hesitate to take advantage of the freedom brought by it and full frontal nudity, strong political rhetoric and frank depictions of rebellion against the old order take precedence. Long and slow going in spots, the film nonetheless is one of the radical arty flicks that actually works in its compelling watchability. Sweden has a long and proud cinema history and this is one of its gems. A must for any film fan.
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The Lighthouse (I) (2019)
7/10
To the Lighthouse
26 October 2019
Shot in black and white reminiscent of the German Expressionist films and the experimental flicks of Maya Deren, "The Lighthouse" is a moody and atmospheric drama covering fantasy and reality and the thin line that divides them. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson shine as the lighthouse keepers who endure the torment of solitude and familiarity in their oppressive encroachment. Dafoe plays the gruff, oddball elder who harasses and cajoles the sully and withdrawn Pattinson as the two men tolerate each other in the middle of nowhere. Pushed toward the breaking point, the protagonists drag each other to a tragic fate that's as bizarre as it is unreal. Long and slow, one can imagine being one of the unfortunates in that secluded hell as the boredom piles up. A strange character study on humans placed in situations that tests them to their limit this film will appeal to few but should be of interest to art house fans and those with a little more adventurous and open minded appreciation of the arts.
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8/10
To Light Up the World
26 October 2019
An interesting portrayal of the rivalry between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse on who would be the first and who could provide the best kind of electricity throughout the United States. Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon are the Victorian gentlemen who plan, scheme and try to outmaneuver each other in their race to illuminate the world in this tale of prestige, money and technology. Historical figures like J.P. Morgan and Nikola Tesla figure prominently in their roles in the world-changing drama as the past gives way to the new. The period piece adds to the charm as the Victorian way of life graces the silver screen in its formality and color. The token blacks remind one of when the film was made and slow spots appear throughout the film (two full grown men competing over electricity isn't exactly the most exciting of plots) but a well-done and watchable film is to be had with this historical depiction. For fans of history, science and technology this is worth the view.
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Hustlers (2019)
9/10
A Sexy, Surprisingly Compelling Film on Contemporary Society
19 October 2019
One of the standout films of the year and current cinema, "Hustlers" is a fixating peek into present-day urban society. When a group of strippers suffer from the aftershocks of the 2008 economic crisis, the Queen Bee of the group concocts a plan to get the girls back on track and higher than ever. What ensues is a melodrama of money, privilege, womanhood, crime, justice and friendship. Although I'm not a fan of Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu their solid performances as muses of the flesh industry warmed me to them. And for a woman pushing 50 Lopez looked 30 and sure was hot in a skimpy g-string sliding up and down a pole. A well deserved hit in the box office this is a good antidote to the shallow fantasy-ridden state of modern cinema and proof that art is basically reality done well.
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