Review: Benedetta and The Hand of God
A Double Feature Review!
Writer-director Paul Verhoeven’s (RoboCop, Showgirls, and Elle) Benedetta takes a deep dive into Catholicism and the church’s system of abuse. Provocative, visionary, and seductive: this 17th-century story is layered with complication and artistry. Verhoeven’s film is not perfect but with sly humor and damnation: Benedetta is still well worth your time. Benedetta is an erotic tale of passion, faith, and betrayal. Verhoeven's newest picture is inspired by a wild true story and based on the non-fiction book (Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy) by author Judith C. Brown. Benedetta has been called the "erotic-lesbian-nun-love-affair-movie," but the film is much more than that. The love story between sister Benedetta (a strong Virginie Efira) and sister Bartolomea (a wonderful Daphne Patakia) is just one aspect of Verhoeven’s larger-than-life religious story.
Our story follows sister Benedetta, a Catholic nun in 17th-century Italy, who believed she truly spoke to the Virgin Mary and even Jesus through a variety of supernatural visions. Benedetta is religious ecstasy that captures the hierarchy of the church through false prophets and sexism. Yes, there is a decent amount of nudity in this film. However, I would argue that most of the nudity is natural and in non-sexual scenes. Verhoeven goes through a great deal of work to scrub out the male gaze in the picture. I applaud him for this. While focusing on sister Benedetta and sister Bartolomea's relationship, we also see numerous amounts of religious hypocrisy from the higher leaders. The film is also a scathing critique of the Catholic Church. Verhoeven’s film is campy, funny, outrageous, and brimming with drama. Benedetta is a film that will offend many, but it is also a film that they cannot deny happened. Benedetta was a real story that breathes new life through the artist behind the camera telling this wild tale.
Benedetta is rated Not Rated (NR).
Benedetta had its world premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Starring Virginie Efira, Daphne Patakia, Lambert Wilson, Olivier Rabourdin, Clotilde Courau, Charlotte Rampling, and Hervé Pierre.
The Hand of God
Writer-director Paolo Sorrentino’s (Youth and The Great Beauty) The Hand of God is a rich coming-of-age film; that's deeply personal and beautiful. The joys and heartbreak of cinema seep through the walls in Sorrentino’s The Hand of God. This is a film that takes its time, polishing its story as it blossoms before your very eyes. We follow the story of a boy, Fabietto Schisa (newcomer Filippo Scotti), and his life in the Naples of the 1980s. Fabietto doesn’t have many friends or a significant other and wants to study philosophy in college. He enjoys his time listening to music and watching Diego Maradona playing for his home team, Napoli. Fabietto enjoys spending time with his large family on the beautiful seas of Naples, Italy. Fabietto seems to also have an attraction to his emotionally troubled aunt Patrizia (a strong Luisa Ranieri). Patrizia loves to flaunt her beauty to the world. One way of doing so is by sunbathing naked in front of her entire family. She doesn't care. In fact, she kind of likes it. Yet, tragedy strikes Fabietto's family, turning this coming-of-age story upside down. Through grief and loss, Fabietto must learn how to keep moving forward and become a man. The story is rich and personal, while the cinematography (Daria D'Antonio) is breathtaking throughout. The Hand of God is not Sorrentino's best work, but it is his most personal to date. A story and film I can appreciate. The Hand of God captures the wonders of cinema from the beaches of Naples to the sound of tears falling from one's face.
The Hand of God is rated R (Restricted) Sexual Content | Language | Brief Drug Use | Some Graphic Nudity.
Now Streaming on Netflix
The Hand of God had its world premiere at the 78th Venice International Film Festival.
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Starring Filippo Scotti, Toni Servillo, Teresa Saponangelo, Marlon Joubert, Luisa Ranieri, Renato Carpentieri, and Massimiliano Gallo.
Review: The Power of the Dog
The Power of the Dog: a slow-burning Western and character study. Writer-director Jane Campion's (Sweetie, The Piano, and Bright Star) direction is breathtaking, always in control of her craft. While Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, and Kodi Smit-McPhee deliver superb performances. A striking drama about toxic masculinity. Emotional and bruising: that ending hits you.
The Power of the Dog is a bruising Western that will strike an emotional chord inside you. It's one of the best films to come out this year. Filmmaker Jane Campion continues to showcase to the world why she is one of our greatest directors of the times. Dog marks the first film for Campion in twelve years, 2009's Bright Star. Yet, Campion has not lost any of her muster. Her craft has never been better, while actors Cumberbatch, Dunst, and Smit-McPhee fill in the cracks with grandeur. The Power of the Dog is a movie that has long been on my mind ever since I finished watching it. A slow-burning Western that will get under your skin, aching at your bones, oh and that ending! Cumberbatch plays a handsome but brutal cowboy named Phil Burbank. Phil, along with his brother George (a wonderful Jesse Plemons), are wealthy ranchers in the hills of Montana.
The year is 1925, and Phil is a powerful man who's tormented with past rage, romance, and fragility. Phil unleashes this anger on everyone and everything around him. Whether it's castrating a bull calf with his knife or verbally mocking a young man named Peter (a strong Smit-McPhee), Phil's rage has no mercy as he plows his land and everything around it. Cumberbatch has never been better, giving us his best performance to date. Cumberbatch deserves all of the awards this season. Through blood, sweat, and tears: Cumberbatch is at the top of his game in The Power of the Dog. Likewise, Dunst gives us another rousing performance as Rose, a widow who runs her own inn and cafe with her son Peter (Smit-McPhee). George falls for Rose and asks her to marry him. Rose says yes. By doing so, Rose and Peter come to live with the Burbank brothers at their wealthy ranch house.
Phil is furious and unleashes his cunning rage verbally at both Rose and Peter. This type of torment leads Rose to begin drinking again; as she spirals down a dark rabbit hole of alcoholism. While Phil is not executing his toxicity towards the world, he's out taking long swims naked in the river and smearing his body with mud. This is where Campion explores sexuality as an underlining but important storyline to this picture. Phil ropes his lasso with toxic masculinity and repressed sexuality until they begin to spill out, hurting others in the process. Campion is a master of her craft. Her old-fashioned smoothly-paced Western is a towering menace of cinematic brilliance and heartbreak. I have not even gotten to talk about the gorgeous cinematography by Ari Wegner (2016's Lady Macbeth and 2021's Zola) or the haunting score by Jonny Greenwood (who also did this year's Spencer). I have not even mentioned the ghostly spirit of Bronco Henry that runs through this film's veins.
A mysterious being of Phil's past; that he constantly brings up and is fixated on. The Power of the Dog is one of the front runners this awards season, and for a good reason. Could this finally be Netflix's first movie that wins Best Picture? We'll have to wait and see. For now, The Power of the Dog has already won 77 awards, including 137 nominations. These nominations include seven from the 79th Golden Globe Awards, as well as, ten from the 27th Critics' Choice Awards. Campion's picture is a powerhouse from the directing to the acting, from the cinematography to the score. Campion's cunning Western will stir inside you until you cannot get it out of your head. As Phil begins to take Peter under his wing, an uneasy feeling will travel to the pit of your stomach. What is Phil's endgame here? Will it leave him more exposed or more furious? I won't say. The Power of the Dog is a fascinating character study, leather saddles, gloves, and all.
The Power of the Dog is rated R (Restricted) Full Nudity | Brief Sexual Content.
Now Streaming on Netflix
Directed by Jane Campion
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Thomasin McKenzie.
Review: C'mon C'mon
Writer-director Mike Mills has made one of the best films of the year. Seriously, C'mon C'mon is inspirational. This black-and-white beauty will leave you in awe. Joaquin Phoenix and Woody Norman shine from beginning to end. Personal, empathetic, and completely human. 5-stars.
“To visit planet Earth, you will have to be born as a human child..."
C'mon C'mon is structured on a simplistic story with a lot of emotional depth, slowly melting your heart away. Mills' (Beginners and 20th Century Women) story follows a radio journalist named Johnny (a phenomenal Phoenix). Johnny is traveling crossed-country: interviewing children and teens about their lives and their thoughts on the future. While Johnny is traveling with his producing partners, he gets an urgent call from his sister Viv (a tremendous Gaby Hoffmann). Viv's estranged husband Paul (Scoot McNairy) is struggling with mental illness and has recently run away. Viv needs Johnny to watch her son Jesse (newcomer Norman); while she takes care of Paul. Here, we get to see and explore Johnny's relationship with his nephew, blossoming into a beautiful picture about feelings, love, and gratitude. Jesse ends up traveling with Johnny on his interviews (New York City and New Orleans). Johnny needs to learn how to care for a child; while Norman needs to learn how to open up about his feelings and concerns in life.
“You will grow up, travel, and work. Over the years you will try to make sense of that happy-sad-full always-shifting life you were in..."
Mills' C'mon C'mon is a deeply moving portrait of life and what connects us as human beings. Norman's acting chops are a force of nature in this film. He grabs ahold of you, never letting go. Norman's marvelous performance shines brightly in this movie. He has a bright future ahead of him. Likewise, Phoenix also gives us another moving performance. I really enjoyed Phoenix's performance here. Johnny is vulnerable: always learning how to deal with his past grief. In addition, the movie's black-and-white cinematography by Robbie Ryan (The Favourite and Marriage Story) is drop-dead gorgeous. C'mon C'mon is one of the best-looking pictures of the year. Mills' film feels authentic, and it also feels real. The children and teens that Phoenix's character interviews in this movie are real people. Likewise, their answers are also real, non-scripted. By doing it this way, the movie felt more raw and genuine. It also brought a sense of sadness over you by listening to the pain of these young kids.
"...and when the time comes to return to your star, it may be hard to say goodbye to that strangely beautiful world..."
The chemistry between Phoenix and Norman keeps the audience invested as their bond will capture your soul. C'mon C'mon is charming and also incredibly funny at times. Mills' picture knows how to juggle a lot of topics. All of them are equally balanced throughout. There were many scenes where I was laughing, only to be holding back tears in the next. That showcases the craftsmanship and skilled direction Mills molded into this picture. The most human movie of 2021, finding its voice, talking to the audience as we listen. C'mon C'mon is not only a great film, but also a great film that needs to be recognized this awards season. I am afraid that this will be one of those movies that stays largely out of the awards conversation, which would be a shame. So, do yourself a favor if C'mon C'mon is playing at your local theater; go see it right now. Let the sweet melody of Clair de Lune take ahold of you. You will laugh, you will cry, you will be inspired. This tender film about human relationships in this messy world of ours is a masterclass from beginning to end.
Want to hear more of my thoughts about C'mon C'mon? I spoke with my good friends, Matt and Ashley, on their podcast, Mashely at the Movies | Listen Here.
C'mon C'mon is rated R (Restricted) Language
Directed by Mike Mills
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Woody Norman, and Gaby Hoffmann.
A Double Feature Review!
The Humans is a film fueled with anxiety that will send one's blood pressure through the roof. With intriguing camerawork and an all-star cast, this is a film that sneaks up on you. Eerie and powerful; The Humans will rattle your bones. Happy Thanksgiving! The Humans is one of the most claustrophobic movies of the year, while also being superbly led by an all-star cast: Jayne Houdyshell, Richard Jenkins, Amy Schumer, Beanie Feldstein, Steven Yeun, and June Squibb. Houdyshell and Jenkins stand out with their raw and hard-hitting performances as the parents of Schumer and Feldstein's characters. Houdyshell gives us one of the most profound performances of 2021, and it's a shame that she's not being recognized more for her powerful performance. While Jenkins is at the top of his game, showcasing a father who is overshadowed with guilt and paranoia. In the past, Schumer and Feldstein have given us incredible comedic performances. With The Humans, they easily prove that they can deliver more dramatic and gut-wrenching roles. The film revolves around Feldstein's new apartment that she just moved into.
Her father (Jenkins) is concerned about her new apartment in New York City (Chinatown) and would rather her live in Scranton, PA with them. The apartment creaks, rattles, and drips, sending an unsettling feeling down your spine. Schumer is also struggling with problems of her own. She had just broken up with her longtime girlfriend. Yeun comes in as Feldstein's new boyfriend, who's trying to make a first good impression meeting the family. While at 92, Squibb plays the grandma and has been suffering from dementia for a while now. Mostly nonverbal, but Squibb is still able to convey a raw and moving performance that hits you like a shot to the heart. The Humans is Stephen Karam's directorial debut, which is also based on his one-act Broadway play of the same name. Karam knows how to stage scenes with a moving camera that lingers and sways, giving off horror-esque vibes. Along with the intriguing sound mixing that will give one goosebumps, The Humans is one of the most engrossing movies to come out this year. Dysfunction, paranoia, and claustrophobia are all part of the appetizers. Wait until you see the full course meal. You won't know what hit you.
The Humans is rated R (Restricted) Language | Some Sexual Material.
See it in theaters or stream it on Showtime Anytime.
Directed by Stephen Karam
Starring Jayne Houdyshell, Richard Jenkins, Amy Schumer, Beanie Feldstein, Steven Yeun, and June Squibb.
House of Gucci
House of Gucci is stylish, bombastic, campy, and wildly entertaining. Lady Gaga is fantastic. She dazzles in every scene. Likewise, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, and Jared Leto are all great. Glynis and I thoroughly enjoyed it. At 84, director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator) is still rockin' and rollin' with making movies. Scott even released two movies in 2021 alone: The Last Duel and House of Gucci. While Gucci might not be Scott's strongest feature, it's definitely his most fun and stylish. With Gucci, we get a biopic that is fueled with style, audacity, and campiness (in a good way). Like the Italian family themselves (Gucci): everything in this movie is way over-the-top, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Clocking in at 2 hours and 38 minutes, Gucci is a tad leggy and probably could have been trimmed up slightly. Nevertheless, I was amused and intrigued from beginning to end. Just like she did back in 2018's A Star Is Born, Gaga gives us another rousing performance. She continues to prove that she's not only a born pop star but a born actress. House of Gucci is inspired by the true story of one Italian family's fashion empire that's engulfed with betrayal, decadence, revenge, and, eventually, murder.
Patrizia Reggiani (a dazzling Gaga) is an outsider who marries into the Gucci family. Patrizia falls in love with Maurizio Gucci (a strong Driver). Rodolfo Gucci (a fantastic Jeremy Irons) disapproves of the marriage. There's also Aldo Gucci (a stellar Pacino), who is currently leading the fashion empire. Accompanying Aldo is his "idiot" son, Paolo Gucci (a surprisingly good Leto). Leto's performance is the most bananas out of the entire cast, but he also delivers some of the best comedic moments in the film. Not only is Gucci bombastic with its filmmaking approach, but it is also very funny. There were some genuinely good laughs I got out of this movie. As Patrizia's ambition begins to slowly unravel, Maurizio's choices begin to go down a dark road of lust and adultery. In some ways, Maurizio becomes a bigger monster than Patrizia, that is, until she decides to hire a hitman to kill him. Screenwriters Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna do a good job of humanizing Patrizia's story; while also feeding the story with style, pizazz, and greed. House of Gucci is a fun movie to watch this holiday season, so sit back, drink some espresso, and enjoy the show.
House of Gucci is rated R (Restricted) Some Sexual Content | Language | Brief Nudity | Violence.
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, and Salma Hayek.
A Double Feature Review!
Holy nostalgia! At times, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a bit overburdened with the constant callbacks and fan service. Overall, it’s still a sweet, funny, and enjoyable movie. For better or for worst, the Ghostbusters franchise has finally thrown in the towel and given fans what they've always wanted. An experience full of nonstop callbacks to the original, goofy nostalgia, and a sweet movie with a lot of heart. My expectations were low with this one, but I came out of the theater surprised. Afterlife is a fun family film and a moving tribute to the late Harold Ramis (who passed away in 2014). Our film follows a single mom (Carrie Coon) and her two kids (Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace), who arrive in a small town in Oklahoma, where they begin to discover their connection to the original Ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind. Hint Dr. Egon Spengler (Ramis). Paul Rudd is the town's goofy middle-school science teacher. Rudd helps give the film some noble comedic laughs throughout, but the real star of Afterlife is Mckenna Grace as Phoebe. At only 15-years-old, Grace has already made her imprint in Hollywood, being in films and TV shows like I, Tonya, Captain Marvel, Malignant, The Haunting of Hill House, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Annabelle Comes Home, and Young Sheldon. Grace is the real star of this movie, as she gets to showcase her acting chops. She has a bright future ahead of her in Hollywood. Overall, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a sweet film that the whole family will enjoy. Especially, when our old friends come back on the screen. So, "who you gonna call?"
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Supernatural Action | Some Suggestive References.
Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, and Paul Rudd.
tick, tick... BOOM!
tick, tick... BOOM! is a phenomenal film: a love letter to Broadway that will make you want to go back to the theatre. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut grabs ahold of you, never letting go. A stirring tribute to Jonathan Larson (Rent and tick, tick... BOOM!), his legacy (who sadly passed away at the age of 35), and a celebration of the creative process. Andrew Garfield is remarkable throughout. Give this man an Oscar nom! Somewhere, looking down upon us, Larson is smiling because tick, tick... BOOM! is a rich and emotionally rewarding tribute to the artist's life and love of theatre. Miranda's (Broadway musicals In the Heights and Hamilton) directorial debut is a wonderful musical feature led by the acting chops of Garfield. Theatre geeks, like myself, will fall in love with this picture, sending one over the moon and back. tick, tick... BOOM! is an adaptation of the autobiographical musical by Larson, who was one of the artists that revolutionized the theatre in the late 90s. Our film follows Jon (a star-struck Garfield), a young theater composer striving to make his big break in The Big Apple.
While Jon isn't working on his writings, he's waiting tables at a New York City diner (Moondance). Jon is days away from showcasing his work (Superbia) in a make-or-break performance. Feeling the pressure from everywhere and everyone: his girlfriend Susan (a great Alexandra Shipp), whose dreams are beyond New York City; his friend Michael (a spectacular Robin de Jesús), who has moved on to a more financial job; and being amidst the AIDS epidemic that is grappling ahold of the artistic community. The clock is ticking, Jon's mind is racing, and time is running out. Garfield gives us a phenomenal performance while belting out those singing chops. Garfield has a voice that shines, one that will also melt your heart away. Likewise, Shipp, de Jesús, Vanessa Hudgens, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, and Joshua Henry all give wonderful performances in the supporting role. tick, tick...BOOM! is also made up of a grand soundtrack, featuring songs like 30/90, Boho Days, Sunday, Swimming, Why, and Louder Than Words. tick, tick...BOOM! is one of the best musical movies to come out this year. Miranda's picture will win you over and fill your soul with everlasting joy. Theatre geeks rejoice! tick, tick...BOOM! is here to stay.
tick, tick... BOOM! is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Some Suggestive Material | Some Strong Language | Drug References.
Now streaming on Netflix.
Directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Starring Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesús, Joshua Henry, Judith Light Vanessa Hudgens, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, and Bradley Whitford as the great Stephen Sondheim (who, sadly, passed away).
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