Review : The Cutlass

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“Inspired by true events, THE CUTLASS is a dramatic thriller set in the tropical wilderness of Trinidad and tells the story of a young woman who falls into the grasp of a dangerous sociopath. She finds herself isolated and musters the courage to emotionally battle the unsettled mind of her abductor.”

As the summary implies, this movie both takes place and was made by and in Trinidad and Tobago (so if you’re not from or in the Caribbean you might not be able to see this one). Its written by Teneille Newallo, and directed by Darisha Beresford, and it boasts a genuinely diverse cast across all levels. The movie itself is definitely more good than bad, but first, the good. Arnold Goindhan who plays the antagonist here, has the meatiest role, and the most heavy lifting, acting wise to do here, and he does a pretty good job. He does come across as sincere in his more vulnerable moments, and when he keeps his portrayal subtle, he really shines. He does this across from Lisa-Bel Hirschmann, who definitely keeps her acting as subtle as possible, but for the most part doesn’t have as much to play against. Her most emotional scene however, is done really well, and she does tug on the heart strings with her performance there. I do think some of the cinematography does lack a bit of imagination, as I think it would have allowed for some more powerful scenes with some better framing. I also did have some problems with the sound, not in that it was bad, or not done properly, there just were a few times when I felt in either the ADR, or straight audio mixing of the audio, that some dialogue didn’t feel like it was happening in the situation, but sounded more like a voice over. The score I also wasn’t too impressed with, for the most part it was very subdued and subtle, and thats fine, but I felt like when it really needed to swell and help impart some emotion or suspense, it came off a bit lack luster. And lack luster is how I would define the ending of this movie, for most of it, everything in the movie is building towards to a head, towards some kind of resolution, and you just never get it. There is an ending here, and there are definite resolutions in the script, but things don’t feel resolved, they feel like what we invested in before, was fully paid off. I know I probably sound like I really don’t like this film, but I did like it, the things that it did well, it genuinely did. There are some problems here yes, like any movie really, but this movie definitely shows the raising levels of Caribbean film making. Production wise this is one of the best local (local meaning Trinidadian) films I’ve seen. All in all, I do encourage anyone who has the opportunity to check this movie out to do so, supporting local industries is important for growth, and there is definitely enjoyment to be had in this movie.

Review Score : 7 out of 10

Review : Live By Night

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“A group of Boston-bred gangsters set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the completion and the Klu Klux Klan.”

If there is one thing I should say about this movie right from the start, it’s that if you think this is a shoot-em-up gangster movie, erm…not so much. This is a gangster movie, most definitely, but, its not what you think. Even if you’ve seen Ben Affleck movies before, there is some of the same here, but this movie is also considerably different. For starters, this movie is really slow. This movie is just over 2 hours long, which is really 2 hours sans the credit, but it FEELS like 4 hours. Now I wouldn’t say that the movie really gets boring, but if you need a certain kind of pace to a film, you’re going to be very put off by the pacing here. This movie is slow and deliberate, it takes careful and thoughtful steps. There directing and cinematography here are nothing we don’t expect now from Ben, and we also get some really nice character moments. What this movie really feels like, is an old time gangster movie that has been stretched out to fill it up with great character moments from great actors. All in all, this movie is something you need to ready for, or be in the mood for to really enjoy I think.

Review Score : 7 out of 10

Review : Arrival

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“A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.”

Arrival is the newest offering from director Denis Villeneuve, who’s sights are now squarely set on the up coming Blade Runner sequel. And if he can add the same kind of tension and sense of terror that he has in this movie, then we have nothing to worry about. Start to finish, Arrival is all about tension and intrigue. It keeps winding and winding you up till the end, then it just lets you be. It doesn’t end in a snap, but rather just a release. The story twists and turns in a way that keeps your attention and keeps you thinking as it goes along. Visually the movie is stunning, as both the cinematography and the visual effects here are top notch, and they add a real sense of realism to what the movie presents.All of the cast here is one point, but Amy Adams is the real stand out, and she delivers a truly nuanced and subtle performance the really helps you connect with her character. The score here is also used to perfection as it seems to creep and crawl until those moments when it springs up and heightens the tension even more. All in all Arrival is a very well done film, that doesn’t really have any short comings, unless you go into this movie expecting it be something its not (its really a science fiction thriller).

Review Score : 9 out of 10

Review : Doctor Strange

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“A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.”

Doctor Strange is the 14th movie in the ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it brings for the first time, true magic and mysticism into the MCU. And it does this without fail and in some serious style. The look of the magic, and the way in which it was used was nailed 110%. They really sold that there was a physicality and a heft to using magic, and it wasn’t simply a point and spell situation. It also does extremely well to introduce and create these other, multiple dimensions and astral plains and the like. Part of that was because of the actors reactions to things they obviously weren’t seeing, and then the visual effects themselves were done spectacularly. This movie also does a really good job with the action and those action set pieces, and each characters choreography. The characters themselves were all very well played, and it was their commitment to their individual roles that really sold them and the story line here. Some people might find the villain here more of the same from the marvel villains thus far, and I both agree and disagree with that, but I can’t go to bat for it being an amazing villain either. We do however, get a look ahead at the probably next villain for Dr Steven Strange to combat, and that ones seems like a more likely candidate for a really memorable villain if we do indeed get a sequel about the sorcerer supreme. All in all Doctor Strange is very well put together movie with amazing visuals from top to bottom, but it maybe doesn’t get to the heights of movies like Cap 2.

Review Score : 8.5 out of 10

Review : The Birth of a Nation

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“Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher in the antebellum South, orchestrates an uprising.”

The Birth of a Nation is part written and directed by Nate Parker, but it is also irrevocably embroiled in scandal and controversy. That controversy, rightly or wrongly so, will be a major factor not only in what people think of this movie, but also if they even see it. In this review I’m not going to go into those aspect of things, (I’ve already done so in another post so you can check that out if you like) I’m just going to try and give an honest review of the art and not the artist. To start, this movie is very well done in all the ways you’d want a movie to be. It looks good, its shot well, and it has some really great acting performances. now those things while they are all good, only add to part of the story. The other mot important part, is the story itself. Is it compelling? Is it told well? And the answer to both of those is more or less yes. This is based on a true story, and a fascinating story at that, and Nate Parker really is great here in his role. The story in terms of its structure and layout is also done well, however while this is a story that requires a lot of subtlety, it’s also the kind of story that needs to not become boring while it is allowing for that subtlety to come front and centre. So what we end up getting, is a movie that goes from 0-10 for 80% of the movie and then 10-100 in that last 20%. Don’t get me wrong the movie does a wonderful job at showing the slow and methodical change in the character of Nat Turner, but it also does it in a way that might have some people falling asleep. All in all, this is a powerful film, and one that id like to recommend solely on the story it tells, but i do understand if people can’t or won’t see it for personal reasons.

Review Score : 7.5 out of 10

Review : Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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“When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that spans different worlds and times, he finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. But the mystery and danger deepen as he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.”

Miss Peregrine’s is typically Burtonesque styled film, but other than that, it doesn’t truly know what it is. The film does a great job to build up both a sense of tension and to really fill out its weird world, but after it takes the time to get there, it then jumps all over the place. The tone is probably the things that suffers the most here, as it is constantly shifted in ways that seem out of place and disjointed. There is even one scene in particular in which a certain battle happens, but it happens in both a setting and to some music that just didn’t match, and made it all feel odd and out of place. On the positive side, the costume, set, and character designs here are all top notched and unique, and they give the movie its own look and style. All of the actors here certain go all in, and that does make and break some of the performances here (some being too over the top). The world itself the movie creates is a good and unique one, and it itself acts as a character on its own. Also Asa Butterfields character seemed a bit lame by the end of the movie. He has his ability and what not, but there are some little things that seemed to be done totally on purpose to hint at something more from him, that just never came. All in all I think Miss Peregrine’s is a missed opportunity to truly be the Tim Burton’s X-Men as it was being called, and in the end is a bit of a disappointment.

Review Score : 5 out of 10

Review : The Magnificent Seven

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“Seven gun men in the old west gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves.”

What do you get when you combine the star and director of Training Day, Star Lord, Kingpin and a few other well known faces? You get a movie with a lot of mass appeal, a lot of action, some surprising heart, but maybe doesn’t quite get up to the levels of all the talent involved. To be clear, this movie is a lot of fun and is definitely worth seeing on the big screen. Even for those who aren’t huge fans of westerns, this movie is much more of an ensemble character piece reflecting the famous story it emulates┬áthan it is a strict western. The seven come together to quickly and maybe too conveniently for some viewers, but there is a fine line between to soon and too late with the director erring on the side of too soon here. The characters themselves are all great, they don’t each go through any kind of real character arch, but truth be told, they don’t have to in this movie. Denzel Washington being the title character here does see him have the most to do, but he his most certain a professional at what he does. He brings a real gravitas and a grounding to the team of strays as they are referred to in the movie. All in all, The Magnificent Seven is a good ole fun time in the cinema, with some great and charismatic actors.

Review Score : 7.5 out of 10