Film reviews

VIFF 2019 – Final Round-Up

The 2019 Vancouver International Film Festival wrapped up with some big names, big experiences, and plenty of charm…


The Two Popes

If asked in 2002 what sort of projects City of God co-director Fernando Meirelles would make in future, few would have suggested a comedy-drama centred on the Catholic Church’s 2013 transition from Pope Benedict XVI – following his resignation – to the more progressive Pope Francis.

Even fewer would have predicted the well-deserved success The Two Popes is currently enjoying, driven by the performances of Anthony Hopkins as Benedict and the marvellous Jonathan Pryce as Francis.

The Welsh veterans flow easily through multiple languages and bring a dose of unexpected deadpan wit to proceedings, as their initially rivalrous popes eventually bond over everything from music and football, to their deep love of the Church and confessions of past mistakes.

Due to land on Netflix just in time for Christmas, The Two Popes is the perfect solution to the age old question: “What can we watch after dinner that grandma will enjoy?”.

READ MORE: Fright / Killer Sofa / Itsy Bitsy / And Soon The Darkness / Holiday Hell – Horror Round-Up


Marriage Story

It does not take long to become immersed in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. As Adam Driver’s Charlie and Scarlett Johansson’s Nicole narrate their feelings for one another, in what we soon learn is a failed attempt to begin their divorce proceedings in a positive manner, you immediately find yourself both all in on their relationship and willing to get caught up in their breakup alongside Henry (Azhy Robertson), their young son.

What follows is an all-round acting masterclass from Driver and Johansson, both of whom tap into something special to turn Baumbach’s highly personal tale (it was written following his divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh) into a powerhouse dual performance.

Charlie and Nicole stretch from tender, to weary, to emotionally charged in the blink of an eye, boosted by Julie Hagerty, Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta as part of a hysterical supporting cast that may well see Laura Dern walk away with a Best Supporting Actress statue in several months’ time.

Consistent with his previous works, Baumbach is quirky, on the nose, and sometimes over the top. The turns he coaxes from Driver and Johansson are so good, however, that it really doesn’t matter. The pacing is practically perfect, and when you feel those heartstrings tug at the most crushing moment possible, you’ll know that’s because Randy Newman is in the house.


Ford v Ferrari (Le Mans ’66)

Few sports movies match up to a high-class Hollywood racing flick. Gearhead or no, the thunderous big screen exhilaration of life and death motorsport is tough to beat, and James Mangold’s latest effort is no exception.

Long in the works, with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt originally slated to star, Ford v Ferrari is the true story of American automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and British race car driver Ken Miles’ (Christian Bale) exploits on behalf of Team Ford at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans; a gruelling endurance showdown between the American manufacturer and its European rival Ferrari, the heavy favourite.

The finished product is exactly what you would expect: 152 minutes of big performances, on point Tinsel Town beats, and blistering on track action, with the sound design constantly stealing the show as Bale and co. take each corner, hit each straight, and push their cars to the limit to cross over into the heady heights of 7,000 RPM. See it on the biggest screen, in the loudest theatre possible.

READ MORE: 3 From Hell – Blu-ray Review


Melancholic

When directionless university graduate Kazuhiko gets a cleaning job at a local bathhouse, his awkward nature is soon put to the test by its dual, somewhat surprising late-night purpose, and the bloody revelation that the local Yakuza don’t exactly clean up after themselves.

A bit like its lead character, Melancholic is never quite sure what it wants to be as it drifts through the usual beats of doomed romance-infused drama and East Asian gangster flick, without ever managing to fully mesh the two together.

It is, however, a solid debut from writer-director Seiji Tanaka, with several interesting performances and enough staple Japanese dark comedy to see you through. Plus, it really does make you want to have a bath, but thankfully not because you feel that dirty.

 

Catch up on our coverage of the Vancouver International Film Festival 2019 here.

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