Cruella

2 STARS

Director: Craig Gillespie
Writer: Dana Fox, Tony McNamara
Cast: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Mark Strong, John McCrea

Everybody loves dogs, right? Ok, not everybody, but certainly most people. Movies about dogs are usually pretty great and can easily pull in an audience of all ages. Disney’s original 1961 animation One Hundred and One Dalmatians has been a classic in Disney collections since its release on VHS in 1992 (at that time it was the sixth best-selling video of all time). Based on the 1956 novel by Dodie Smith, the cartoon was followed by a straight-to-video sequel (2003), a live-action adaptation (1996) and a live-action sequel (2000). The latter two may be most well-known for Glenn Close’s performance as the villainous Cruella de Vil, a role she is forever associated with. Until now, perhaps? As Emma Stone steps into the fur coat, has Disney hit its mark once again with another prequel revolving around a villain’s origin story, or have these dogs had their day?

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A Quiet Place Part II

Director: John Krasinski
Writer: John Krasinski
Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

When A Quiet Place made its debut in 2018, it was something quite new for horror. The creatures attacking humans were rather terrifying, but the fear was exacerbated by the silence that gives the film its title. I am someone who has always said the more silent a horror movie is the more frightening it can/will be, and that’s because this is true of reality – we don’t have film scores following us around (unless you’ve constantly got your earphones in), so if you find yourself in a dark cave, the silence is only going to freak you out more. John Krasinski knew this and channelled it into one of the best horror movies this side of 2000. And now we have the follow up, a sequel that A Quiet Place fans have, ironically, been screaming for, and not to mention waited longer for than originally intended (thanks, Covid-19). Is it everything we’d hoped for, deserving of rapturous applause, or followed by a deafening silence that’s sure to be the death of any film?

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Those Who Wish Me Dead

Director: Taylor Sheridan
Writer:
Michael Koryta, Charles Leavitt, Taylor Sheridan
Cast:
Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Jon Bernthal, Aidan Gillen, Nicholas Hoult, Medina Senghore, Jake Weber

If you’ve seen Sicario (1 and/or 2), you may be a little familiar with Taylor Sheridan’s work as a writer (and possibly familiar with his face if you’ve watched enough television). His writing credits are few, but he’s already developing themes and tropes with his screenplays. Those Who Wish Me Dead (TWWMD) is the proverbial apple near the tree, following a similar jaunt down the action/thriller brick road with another female co-protagonist. Sheridan also takes over directorial duties for this feature, putting New Line’s (et al) money where Sheridan’s mouth is. Is it a worthy investment, or is it bound for the bonfire?

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Nomadland

nomadland

5 STARS

Director: Chloé Zhao
Writer: Chloé Zhao, based on the book by Jessica Bruder
Cast: Frances McDormand, David Straitharn

Nomadland has been a triumph at awards shows and film festivals the world over, in particular the Oscars, with six nominations and scooping up three of those as wins: Best Director for Chloé Zhao, Best Actress for Frances McDormand and, of course, Best Film. Focusing a film on the realities of human life, whether a common societal truth that’s within the public consciousness or something less established in the mainstream, is always bound to attract a lot of attention. However, it’s the lasting impression that a film leaves its audiences with that is the most meaningful, that rare impact that ultimately breathes life into cinema. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the most profound, but if we aren’t left with something significant afterward that we can take away and think about, or even apply in our own lives, then we can certainly wonder, what was the point? Is Nomadland truly such a film worthy of all the accolades, one that leaves us with a new sense of something, or has it been overhyped and perhaps overawarded in the industry’s new mission to be more inclusive to minority artists?

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Minari (미나리)

Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Writer: Lee Isaac Chung
Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Youn Yeo-jeong, Noel Kate Cho, Will Patton

The subject of immigration is one that is constantly relevant and portrayed in multiple ways through films. Most films that tackle the subject usually revolve around someone/a family trying to fit in amongst people of a different culture and/or race in a country they don’t know much about except that it’s supposed to provide better opportunities and a better life than they’ve experienced in their home country. They often face a lot of challenges, such as prejudice, abuse and exploitation. Chung’s semi-autobiographical Minari sees the Yi family, originally from South Korea, move from California, where they had already settled into American life, to Arkansas, in pursuit of the patriarch of the family’s dreams. They understand how America operates, they’ve learned a decent amount of English, the children are making friends and they seem to fit in easily (perhaps more easily done when there’s already a small community of Koreans in the town in which they settle). But what happens when, after the seemingly hardest part of immigration has passed, the pursuit of the “American Dream” proves to be the hardest part of all?

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