Reviews In Short is a new regular feature here on Thoughts On Film which basically consists of short, paragraph-long reviews of movies I have watched recently, old and new alike, which I didn’t get a chance to review in full. As always feel free to comment with your own thoughts and opinions on each of the films.
Part introspective drama, part adventure thriller, The Hunter pulls of the combination very well and makes for a hypnotic cinematic experience. It centers on a mercenary sent into the Tasmanian wilderness in search of the Tasmanian tiger which is believed by most to be extinct. This slow-moving but nevertheless compelling film is anchored by a fantastic central performance by the ever reliable Willem Dafoe, who pulls off a very difficult role as a perpetually isolated man finding something real to connect to. 4/5
King of Devil’s Island
Telling the true story of what happened at the Bastoy Prison for young boys in Norway in the early 20th century, King of Devil’s Island is a tough, harsh film for a tough and harsh set of events. Following the lives of the “inmates,” who are there for as little as stealing food, and how they’re treated by their Housemaster and the Governor, it’s not exactly an easy watch at times. But this fittingly austere film builds tension in a fascinating way, hitting you with an ending that’s somehow both surprising and completely necessary. However, the real strength of the film is how it allows us to connect with its characters, whether it be the boys trying desperately to survive or the men keeping them locked up. Superb. 4.5/5
Yet another body-swap comedy, The Change-Up doesn’t exactly start off the line on good footing. But with a talented cast which includes Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde and Alan Arkin, surely there’s something worthwhile to be found here, right? Wrong. This painfully unfunny, gross-out, swear-filled, almost entirely laugh-free gag-fest is the type of “comedy” which gives the Hollywood brand of the genre a bad name. There are a couple of jokes which work at least somewhat but that’s about it. After consistently aiming low on the comedy scales, going for the cheapest of gags like the obligatory messy diaper changing routine (twice!), it has the nerve to shove friendship and being happy with what you have messages down our throats. Avoid, avoid and avoid some more. 1.5/5
One of two collaborations between director Oren Moverman and stars Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster (the other being Rampart), The Messenger follows American soldier Will Montgomery (Foster) who is assigned to help Captain Tony Stone (Harrelson) deliver the news of other soldiers being killed. But things start getting more complicated than they should when Will gets involved with one of the grieving widows. It’s a simple film on the surface dealing with complicated issues underneath, featuring two brilliant central performances by Foster and Harrelson (the latter Oscar-nominated for it). It’s painfully emotional viewing at times as we watch the two go around and gives the worst of news to the various relatives, with Will the newbie finding it difficult to keep to the rules of not getting personal and Tony trying to assure professionalism at all costs. A difficult topic handled just right. 4/5
That’s it for Reviews In Short. Until next time!