The Perfection (2018) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

 

The Perfection Review

Director: Richard Shepard
Writers: Eric C. Charmelo (as Eric Charmelo), Richard Shepard
Stars: Allison Williams, Steven Weber, Alaina Huffman

Whenever I read newsflashes about films that make people suffer from migraine attacks and even make them sick, my curiosity is immediately awakened. The final verdict can go two ways. Or the film indeed has an ingeniously elaborated story and is provided with images the average stomach can’t bear. Or it’s the umpteenth overrated movie of which you ask yourself afterward “Who on earth made such statements?“. Are those people who’ve never seen a similar film as “The Perfection“? Are they film lovers who limit themselves to innocent rom-coms? Or supporters of superficial films such as “The Sound of Music“? No idea. In any case, I couldn’t find any nauseating fragments or rancid footage in this Netflix Original. But that doesn’t mean I thought it was a terrible movie. On the contrary. “The Perfection” contains a cleverly put together story, some successful acting, and a surprising denouement. So, highly recommended.

I myself thought that “The Perfection” was nothing more than a psychological thriller with a bit of erotism and a few lurid events. Admittedly, the denouement will look pretty disturbing for some. But I assure you that this film will mislead you from the start. The goal that Charlotte (Allison “Get out” Williams) has in mind and the reasons for this are of a very different nature than you would expect. If you realise what a dark secret the Bachoff Institute is hiding, where Charlotte has taken lessons for years as a gifted cellist, it will give you more chills than the bus ride through rural China. The film fits in perfectly with our modern zeitgeist where there’s a “Me too” movement that explicitly tries to draw attention to sexual harassment and sexual assault. How the renowned academy Bachoff can be associated with this is something that you have to discover for yourself in this original film.

It’s quite clear that this film is difficult to catalog when it comes to the genre. It’s actually a mixed bag of different genres. It’s a light-erotic thriller with a dash of horror. For experienced horror enthusiasts, the horror part will be slightly disappointing. You could describe it as an ultra-light version of “I spit on your grave“. But without explicit visual material and a wide variety of horrifying revenge actions. And from the beginning of the film till roughly halfway, it’s a mild drama where you are introduced to the most important protagonists. Charlotte, a talented cellist who, after years of absence (taking care of her sick mother), seeks contact again with her former music teacher Anton (Steven Weber) and his wife Paloma (Alaina Huffman). But especially the meeting with the new star of the academy, cellist Lizzie (Logan Browning), is causing some stir. First of all, you can feel the competition between the two cellists whose finger-fastness and sensitive handling of the fiddlestick create magical sounds the moment they squeeze a cello between their knees. As these two, not bad-looking classical musicians spend more time together, the sexual tension between them increases. And before they know it, they make use of the skills they use while playing the cello, when they are all over each other when lying naked under the sheets.

Once this introduction took place and the two lovebirds are sitting on a local bus on their way to some small town in China, the film goes in a higher gear. The frivolous atmosphere makes way for exciting situations and horror elements. It feels rather mysterious. Even the rewind moments won’t really clarify it. On the one hand, I thought this technique was kind of an original approach. On the other hand, it seemed rather pedantic. Let’s say something about acting. There’s actually nothing negative to announce. You can safely state that the two main characters almost reach perfection when it’s about that. The chemistry between the two girls is realistic. The different moods that they struggle through are convincing. Steven Weber and Alaina Huffman also fit perfectly into their role. An illustrious couple consisting of dark personalities. Perhaps it seems as if they have mixed a number of different genres and it feels as if they didn’t know which direction to go. But it never gets boring. No, “The Perfection” is certainly not perfect. But it wasn’t very far from perfection.

Come to Daddy (2019) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

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Director: Ant Timpson
Writers: Toby Harvard (story), Toby Harvard
Stars: Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Garfield Wilson

Watch & review enough movies and you learn to appreciate those which manage to surprise you. Come to Daddy is definitely not for everyone, but if nothing else, it is totally unpredictable from start to finish.

I’ll to refrain from giving any kind of detailed plot synopsis because the twists and character revelations come early and often. But the initial set-up has emotionally-fragile musician Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) visiting his estranged father (Stephen McHattie), who left him and his mother 30 years ago. Norval hopes to rekindle their relationship, or at least find out why he’s reaching-out after all these years. However, it turns out Dad isn’t the man he seems to be – in more ways than one – and the story’s just getting started.

Not a horror film per se, Come to Daddy is sometimes very horrific, but the wince-inducing violence is tempered by clever black comedy and, while occasionally shocking, it never feels gratuitous. The plot itself unfolds like something the Coen Brothers would concoct during a drunken binge – ultimately a compliment – and the performances are suitably amusing. Wood makes a sympathetic protagonist (though he can do this type of role in his sleep), but McHattie and especially Martin Donovan – whose role I wouldn’t dream of revealing – steal every scene they’re in.

Best of all, the entire film is completely unpredictable, blindsiding the viewer with one surprise after another. Come to Daddy is loaded with plot twists – none of which I saw coming – without any pesky red herrings. Twisted and brutal but also frequently funny, the film is consistently engaging for thrillseekers looking for something different.

The Grudge (2020) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

The Grudge Review

Director: Nicolas Pesce
Writers: Nicolas Pesce (screenplay by), Nicolas Pesce (story by)
Stars: Tara Westwood, Junko Bailey, David Lawrence Brown

I was never that enamored with 2004’s The Grudge, mostly because it felt pretty derivative of The Ring, as did all the other remakes Hollywood cranked out during its brief infatuation with J-horror. So my expectations for this belated fourth entry in the franchise weren’t exactly lofty.

Maybe that’s why I kind-of enjoyed it.

Despite the identical title, this isn’t a remake, nor is it exactly a sequel. The Grudge is more like a spin-off with a prologue that has an American nurse quitting her job at the same Tokyo house from the first film, unknowingly bringing the curse back home with her. A few years later, an investigation by the recently-widowed Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) loosely works as a framing device for the film to tell three concurrent stories. All of them involve poor bastards unfortunate enough to have ventured into a suburban house where the titular demon has taken residence. Like a virus, once someone is exposed, the little Grudgling follows, along with a variety of violent pleasantries.

None of it is particularly original, nor are there a ton of surprises. However, The Grudge makes nice use of its non-linear narrative to show how the characters from each “story” are ultimately linked. It also features a strong cast that includes a variety of familiar character actors, such as John Cho, Demián Bichir, William Sadler, Frankie Faison and everyone’s favorite senior scream queen, Lin Shaye. Finally, the film more-than-earns its R-rating with some nasty bits of bone-breaking, blood-spattering violence (though I could have done without seeing a child murdered by her own mother).

The Grudge isn’t a great film. A reasonable argument could be made that it isn’t even a good one. But since I was expecting neither, it was certainly watchable enough. While bringing nothing new to the franchise (or horror, in general), the film is efficiently assembled and doesn’t water-down the mayhem for the mallrat crowd.

Uncut Gems (2019) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Uncut Gems Review

Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Writers: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie
Stars: Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel  

If you’ve never been to Six Flags Magic Mountain, let me assure you it has more roller coasters than any park in the world…big ones, small ones, fast ones, slow ones, new ones, old ones…a coaster for every age and level of bravery. My wife and I went one summer, and since coasters are my favorite ride at any park, I was up for the challenge.

Then I rode Goliath. At the time, it was the longest, tallest and fastest coaster in the world. Some poor lady even suffered a heart attack and died on the ride just a few years earlier. As for this would-be thrillseeker, Goliath turned out to be a bit more than I bargained for…not only scary, but loud, overwhelming and relentless. While I didn’t have a coronary or toss my cookies, when the ride was finally over, the main thing I felt was relief.

Uncut Gems is kind-of like riding Goliath, which isn’t intended as criticism.

The film is getting a lot of attention because of Adam Sandler in a role that’s certainly atypical of the man-children he’s made a career from. Some say he was snubbed during awards season, but I don’t know if I’d go that far. Sure, it’s the best thing Sandler has ever done and he’s mesmerizing as brash, fast-talking gambling addict Howard Ratner. But is his performance really a huge stretch? As a comedian and actor, Sandler’s generally loud, brash and – in my opinion – obnoxiously overbearing. Since Ratner displays all these traits and more, it’s arguably a character he was born to play (albeit with a lot more F-bombs).

As for the film, Uncut Gems is 135 minutes of relentless anxiety as we watch Ratner’s downward spiral. Arguably the film’s protagonist and antagonist, he’s his own worst enemy. An unscrupulous gem dealer, Ratner has gambling debts all over town and is barely a step ahead of those trying to collect, including brother-in-law Arno (Eric Bogosian), who appears to have mob connections. After acquiring a rare stone that could solve all his financial woes, Ratner still can’t get out of his own way, trying to dupe others into paying more than its worth (such as NBA star Kevin Garnett, playing himself) so he can settle his debts. But even then, Ratner is literally unable to stop gambling with money that isn’t his.

I was immediately reminded of Bad Lieutenant, another film featuring a remorseless main character whose downfall is the entire plot. Uncut Games isn’t nearly as off-putting, but cut from the same cloth. Ratner isn’t a likable character, neglecting his own family, alienating everyone close to him and growing increasingly narcissistic. Yet we watch with fascinated dread as he repeatedly digs himself deeper, to the point we’re certain everything’s gonna end badly. The most powerful moment comes late in the story when Ratner’s sitting in his office, bawling helplessly as the walls close in, yet he still doesn’t take responsibility for his own actions. That scene might be the best of Sandler’s entire career.

Howard Ratner’s descent into self-destruction is morbidly compelling and Sadler knocks it out of the park with a manic performance that – for once – suits the character perfectly. Extremely well-written, directed and performed, Uncut Gems is a character study that plays like a thriller (though the grating score is awful). Similar to riding Goliath, it’s an exhausting, uncomfortable ride that doesn’t let the viewer off until the end credits roll. As good as it is, I gotta say I was kind of relieved when it was finally over.

Guns Akimbo (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

Guns Akimbo Review

Director: Jason Lei Howden
Writer: Jason Lei Howden
Stars: Samara Weaving, Daniel Radcliffe, Natasha Liu Bordizzo

“Guns Akimbo” is simply too absurd for words. It’s absolute nonsense and you shouldn’t take it too seriously. It’s simply “over the top” pulp and looks as if it’s based on some Asian comic strip. But believe me. This film is simply top-notch entertainment. A roller coaster that slowly takes a very steep run-up and then crashes into the depth with a breakneck-speed, shaking you back and forth. And this crazy, hyper kinetic ride lasts until the end. The action scenes with Nix (Samara Weaving) are equivalent to those in “John Wick“. Flashy editing. Blood splattering when bullets rip apart human flesh in slow motion. And all this under the guidance of an energetic soundtrack where you will hear amongst other “The Ballroom Blitz” from The Sweet. In short, I greatly enjoyed this film for an hour and a half.

I have infinite respect for the actor Daniel Radcliffe. This guy could have benefited all his life from the “Harry Potter” stamp that they have tattooed on his forehead. It would have been possible to come up with a few sequels without any problems and without hesitation they could have exploited the success formula of the book series and film versions. He could also have demanded to be part of the “Fantastic Beasts and where to find them” franchise. But no. Instead, Radcliffe opted for not so obvious projects such as “Kill your Darlings“, “Horns” and “Swiss Army Man“. A homosexual-tinted film, full of literary blabbering on the one hand. And on the other hand a film about a friendship between a castaway and a corpse. It’s hard to say that these were commercially safe films that suit the fantasy-loving Harry Potter fans. And to avoid any misunderstanding. I was also enchanted by the Potter films (at least the first four anyway).

So no magic formulas, mythological creatures and a Radcliffe with a wizard hat showing a boyish, shy smile. Nope, he’s a nobody in this flick. A nobody with a futureless job, who empties one beer bottle after the other while playing violent video games at home. And as a notorious online troll hunter, Miles (Daniel Radcliffe) cannot resist posting derogatory comments on the “Skizm” website and provoking supporters of this obscure platform. “Skizm” is an illegal website that organizes duels in real life where opponents try to eliminate each other. And this is thrown on the internet and followed by hundreds of thousands of fanatic fans and bettors. Obviously, the first movie that came to mind was “Death Match“. The organizer of all this is an ugly tattooed guy called Riktor (Ned Dennehy) who’s obviously completely nuts and is accompanied by a gang of weirdos whose muscle mass is noticeably heavier than the weight of their brains. And Riktor isn’t happy with the muscular language Miles places on his forum. And before the latter realizes it, he lies in bed with two automatic guns bolted to both his hands. And furthermore, he himself is a candidate for a duel between him and Nix.

With this film, Daniel Radcliffe leaves his comfort zone for the umpteenth time and tries to show that he’s more than just Harry Potter. A bushy beard, constantly covered in blood and using a portion of self-mockery and humor, ensure that. Not to mention his clothing: a checkered dressing gown, boxer shorts, and fluffy giant slippers in the shape of tiger claws. For Samara Weaving, this is a little bit an extension of her role in “Ready or Not“. The same bloody and over-the-top situations. But here she got more of a Harley Quinn attitude. A disturbed, fearless person who’s extremely effective in terms of eliminating opponents. That her insane behavior was caused by an incident in her youth is briefly mentioned, but in fact, has no impact or significance. This mindless action film has only one goal in mind and that’s to show chaotic and limitless action. And all this topped with a sauce of humor à la “Deadpool“. There are quite a few hilarious moments in this film. The hand-mounted guns that cause problems for Miles to accomplish daily routines. Like for instance opening a door. Or making a phone call. And peeing is even a hazardous thing to do. The Australian-sounding hobo (Rhys Darby) was simply hilarious with his advice on suicide techniques and his Cypress Hill imitation. How he got Miles in that coat, however, remains a mystery to me.

If you can’t stand a chaotic storyline and you get annoyed when it’s a movie that’s plain predictable and that looks more like an exaggerated comic, then I recommend you avoid this one. Or you don’t take a too critical attitude and you simply undergo the film. Perhaps then you can appreciate the vibrant pace, the screamy images, the creative camera techniques and the complete insane undertone of this movie with a limited budget. “Guns Akimbo” is certainly not a film for everyone because of the video game-like mood and the raw sense of humor. And for those who want to know what the film title actually means: Akimbo is a combat technique in which two weapons are used, with one in each hand. Well, I had to look it up myself.

Colewell (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

Colewell Review
Director: Tom Quinn
Writer: Tom Quinn
Stars: Karen Allen, Kevin J. O’Connor, Hannah Gross

You’ve just seen “Uncut Gems” and you feel the nerves raging through your body after watching this ultra-nervous film? Well, I recommend you to watch the film “Colewell“. Believe me. After watching this film, you’ll feel completely relaxed again. There are no situations full of agitated behaviour. No feverish activity. Everything is calm and peaceful. This cosy and pleasant film progresses at a leisurely pace. Like the gently rippling water in a quiet stream. Just about the pace of someone in old age who performs the same ritual every day and eagerly awaits his well-deserved retirement. Only Nora (Karen Allen) was not yet ready for that well-deserved rest that is now being forced upon her.

Nora is an older lady who runs a local post office in the small village of Colewell, somewhere in Pennsylvania. And trust me on this, when I say you can admire her morning routine several times. A morning where she will check the chicken coop for freshly laid eggs. And every time she checks the state of one of the laying hens because it’s upset because of newly added fellow hens and thus refuses to squeeze such a fragile object through her poopybutthole. Then it’s time for breakfast (with a firm omelette made with fresh eggs) and a getting dressed ritual before she opens the door of the post office (located at her place) to welcome the villagers. Everything is performed dutifully and meticulously. And I’m sure she did this from day one.

“Colewell” is about aging and the preservation of certain values of life. At the same time, it’s also about the fear of losing these certain values. And the rapidly changing world around us. When a decision is made to forget about certain post offices and integrate them into the larger whole, Nora sees those values disappearing like snow in the sun. The day after she’s being confronted with this terrible decision at the US Postal Service headquarters, she sinks into an emotional pit and consciously skips her daily rituals. As if it all no longer matters. The choices that were proposed to her are both not adequate solutions for her. Relocating to a larger city to work there at the post office. Or retire. Both are alternatives that Nora disregards.

The post office in Colewell has an additional function. It’s the meeting place for the local population. There’s gossiping, stockings are knitted, food is exchanged, and life stories shared. In short, it’s the heart of a community. And the members of this community are heartbroken when they are told that their beloved assembly point is about to disappear. Initiatives are being taken to turn the tide and efforts are being made to safeguard Nora’s workplace. But as soon as they realize that this is a futile effort, everyone accepts the situation and the social contacts move to other locations. To the dismay of Nora.

“Colewell” is endearing, serene and melancholic at the same time. A subdued drama about how it feels to grow older and then suddenly realize that your functional role has been played out and two arrogant younger people say this without hesitation in your face. Or you’ll be flexible, or you pack it up and make room for the future generation. A realistic character study, without frills. But not entirely. The moment Ella (Hannah Gross) shows up at Nora’s place, realism turns into vagueness. It’s not clear whether this is Nora’s free-spirited daughter or a figment of Nora’s imagination representing the younger Nora. Anyway. Do you like action-rich movies that are nerve-wracking exciting? Well, I suggest skipping this one. The easy-going nature of the film may well get on your nerves.

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