• The Call of the Wild (2020)

    The Call of the Wild is an adventure movie based upon Jack London's novel of the same name. It revolves around a crossbreed dog named Buck who lives in an elegant mansion in California. The dog eventually gets abducted and shipped to the Yukon aboard a freighter. In the North, Buck first works for a friendly couple who delivers letters across the isolated territory. Up next, he is forced to work for an inexperienced and mean-spirited gold prospector and only narrowly escapes death. He ends up living with a recluse named John Thornton who has to battle some demons of his past before returning to civilization. In this isolated world, Buck finds a place called home when befriending a pack of wolves. However, the evil gold prospector is aggressively going after Buck and John Thornton which leads to a tense finale.

    The movie misses a few occasions to be more than an average family-friendly production. First of all, it's quite obvious that Buck and several other animals aren't real but animated characters that look surprisingly outdated by contemporary standards. The film would have been much more authentic if it had used shots of actual animals with more precision, patience and care.

    Up next, the film is filled with artificial visual effects. That's a shame because the landscapes in the Yukon are truly stunning and would have made for stunning shots that are much more convincing than exchangeable locations and computer graphics.

    The movie's saving grace is the swift plot and its different characters that entertain from start to finish. Especially children and young teenagers might find the dynamic movie quite entertaining. As for older teenagers and adults however, the film is at times predictable and even stereotypical.

    At the end of the day, The Call of the Wild is an average adventure movie that should please younger audiences. Older teenagers and especially adults can however stay away from this film that offers as many flaws as strengths. The movie is overall overrated as there are multiple similar adventure movies that are much more convincing and memorable.

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  • Promising Young Woman (2020)

    Promising Young Woman is a dramatic thriller on the pulse of time that deserves the attention and acclaim it has gotten. The movie revolves around Cassie who was once planning on becoming a doctor. When her best friend got raped and the investigation got dropped, Cassie's life changed forever. She dropped out of school, still lives at her parents' house and has no friends. Instead, she regularly feigns drunkenness in clubs, allowing men to take her to their homes, and revealing sobriety when they try to take advantage of her. Cassie's life changes yet again when she meets a former classmate named Ryan who wants to go on a date with her. The initial romance is cut short when Cassie learns that the man who raped her best friend is getting married. She decides that those who committed the crime and those who dropped the case must pay for their actions. She encounters former witnesses, perpetrators and lawyers who react very differently to those past events. Things take an even more sinister turn when Cassie learns that the rape was filmed and that her new romantic interest was one of the bystanders.

    This dramatic thriller convinces on many levels. The issue of rape culture is exposed very directly and honestly and offers food for debate and thought. The lead character is particularly fascinating because she is brutally vengeful but also steadfastly loyal to her best friend. The movie cleverly meanders from sinister crime scenes over pitch-black comedy to hopeful romantic moments. This makes the film unpredictable and especially the final forty-five minutes will keep the audience on the edge of its seats. The acting performances are authentic as the actresses and actors become one with their roles. The soft, nostalgic and melodic soundtrack creates a stark contrast to the gloomy story. The camera work is calm and precise and recalls the cinematic works of the late seventies and early eighties on more than one occasion. The light and sound effects as well as the locations and settings further give the movie a slight vintage vibe.

    In the end, Promising Young Woman is a movie that is professionally crafted, thoroughly entertaining and most importantly exposes an important issue that still exists in the twenty-first century. Some viewers might find that message exaggerated, inappropriate or offensive but it's important to discuss it, get information about it and ultimately tackle that issue in our real world. From that point of view, this film is perhaps not the very best but certainly the most relevant Hollywood film in recent memory.

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  • Mafia Inc (2019)

    Mafia Inc is an epic gangster drama from Quebec that is partially based upon true events. It tells the story of a tailor's son who got rejected by his father and his dying mother and becomes a member of a mafia family in Montreal because he is friends with one of the godfather's sons. The protagonist is seen as an adoptive son and soon climbs the ranks. However, his ambitions quickly cause some tension and he ultimately becomes a liability. Things get even more complicated when his sister starts dating one of the godfather's sons. The tension reaches its height when the police gets involved.

    This epic gangster drama convinces on many levels. The settings bring the early nineties in and around Montreal to life in a realistic way. Some scenes take place in Italy and Venezuela and add some diversity.

    The characters in this film are quite intriguing even though they are very antipathic. The ambitious protagonist who is getting more relentless in every scene, his young sister that changes drastically throughout the story, his helpless father who finally decides to stand his ground and the charismatic godfather who can be gentle in one moment and pitiless in the next one are certainly outstanding. The acting performances go along with this as the performers become one with their roles.

    The storytelling in this film is quite balanced. It introduces the characters properly, adds a few flashbacks here and there and finds the perfect balance between meaningful dialogues and quite violent scenes. The movie never idolizes criminal organizations and portrays how ruthless that kind of illegal business is.

    There are very few things to criticize about this movie. The story is obviously not exactly new. Several scenes are therefore a little bit predictable.

    However, fans of gangster films such as The Godfather, Once Upon a Time in America and The Untouchables should certainly appreciate this dynamic, profound and realistic movie. The characters, settings and stories are so interesting that one might soon expect one or two sequels. It's certainly an interesting alternative to the overlong The Irishman.

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  • The Irishman (2019)

    The Irishman is an epic gangster drama by renowned director Martin Scorsese that clocks in at three and a half hours. Based upon true events, it tells the story of a truck driver who gets involved in organized crime. Irish-American war veteran Frank Sheeran starts doing different jobs for Russell Buffalino, a gangster boss who seems calm and diplomatic on the surface but who doesn't hesitate to be headstrong and violent when needed. Frank Sheeran is soon assigned to protect labour union leader Jimmy Hoffa who becomes a close friend to his family. As Jimmy Hoffa becomes more ambitious and egoistic as time goes by, he starts to be considered a liability by the organized crime members who had once supported him. Russell Buffalino orders Frank Sheeran to take out Jimmy Hoffa. Will the hitman be loyal to his boss or protect the man who has become his best friend?

    The Irishman convinces on several levels. First of all, the settings from the fifties until the early years of the new millennium have been recreated with extraordinary care regarding cars, fashion and music. The soundtrack of this film is particularly outstanding and underlines the atmosphere of every single scene very accurately. The acting performances by veterans Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino are absolutely outstanding as they become one with their respective characters. The entire movie has been filmed in a calm and precise way that makes it almost look like a documentary. Despite its ambitious length, most parts of the film have solid flow and it was no challenge to watch the entire movie in one single session.

    This movie however also has a few minor flaws. Despite its solid flow, the movie includes several unnecessary lengths. Especially the hotel bedroom conversations between Frank Sheeran and Jimmy Hoffa drag on for far too long. While the three main characters are properly developed, several side characters such as Frank Sheeran's family members are lacking progression and depth. The story is obviously based upon true events but the film is a little bit too slow, quiet and predictable for a gangster flick.

    The bottom line is that this type of gangster drama should please genre fans but might seem a little bit tame, overlong and old-fashioned to younger audiences. The most outstanding elements are the precise directing, excellent acting performances and magnificent soundtrack. The movie's unconventional ending was very fitting, philosophical and thought-provoking in my opinion but other reviewers might criticize a certain lack of closure. This movie can't compete with Martin Scorsese's own Goodfellas but it's still a more than decent genre flick.

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  • Sound of Metal (2019)

    Sound of Metal is a drama about a young couple that is facing numerous challenges. Ruben is a former drug addict with a sucidal side who has found salvation in being the drummer of a metal band and being in a relationship with the only other member, guitarist and singer Lou. She has some problems of her own as she had to deal with her mother's suicide and mutilates herself. The couple is on a tour through the United States of America in a van when Ruben realizes that he is losing his hearing. After consulting a doctor, he is told that he has to stop being exposed to loud music and that potential surgery might cost several tens of thousands of dollars and isn't covered by any insurances. Ruben struggles to accept his fate but ultimately joins a rural shelter for deaf recovering addicts. His girlfriend isn't allowed to stay and ultimately returns living in France with her father. Ruben has come to a point in his life where he must ask himself several important questions. Should he accept becoming deaf or try the expensive surgery? Should he stay in the camp or return home? Should he continue his relationship with his girlfriend in France or start a new life in the United States of America?

    This movie convinces on several levels. The acting performances by Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke are excellent. The former portrays a desperate but resilient young man that is easy to empathize with. The latter incarnates a tough young woman with a soft core who is still trying to figure out her identity. The numerous side characters in this movie are also interesting, especially the war veteran in charge of the rural shelter played by Paul Raci who becomes a father figure for the film's protagonist. This film shows that there is always hope in desperate situations and that it's possible to have a decent life even after going through difficult medical issues.

    Sound of Metal however also has several flaws. The two lead characters face too many struggles at once. Combing borderline personality disorder, deafness, drug addiction, family issues and suicidal thoughts is a little bit overwhelming. The way the heavy metal scene is portrayed in this movie is filled with unnecessary stereotypes. I have been listening to this type of music for several decades and know many friends who have done so as well and nobody we know has any of the psychological troubles shown in the movie. Making loud music doesn't mean that you are trying to fight some inner demons. The message that the female protagonist returns to France and lives with her rich father and now performs boring French piano ballads in the key of Brassens, Brel and Dassin with him makes her happy is quite strange to say the least.

    In the end, Sound of Metal is a decent drama but portrays the metal scene quite negatively as the story is filled with closed-minded stereotypes. The concept and message behind the movie are very positive but the scripwriters overloaded the characters with personal and psychological issues. The bottom line is that this drama is emotional and engaging but the story could have been more balanced and simplified to make this movie even more efficient.

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