Movies of 2021, week 24

The Father directed by Florian Zeller; starring Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Rufus Sewell, Imogen Poots, Olivia Williams and Mark Gatiss; written by Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller

A woman struggles to care for her aging father as he slowly succumbs to dementia.

In the lead, Anthony Hopkins gives a mesmerizing and powerful performance that recreates his character’s condition with heartbreaking authenticity and there’s no question he deserved his second Academy Award. Opposite him, Olivia Coleman is her usual excellent self, again truly moving and authentic.
The script revolves around one specific idea to portray the condition from the main character’s perspective and uses it to its fullest. The result is genuinely clever and insightful.
It can however, to an extent, feel a bit gimmicky after a while and the movie does seem like it is going in circles. And while this is very meta and possibly inevitable, it can lead  to some predictability.
Still, the cast’s excellent performances and the film’s original structure come together for a visceral portrayal of a dramatic medical condition, depicted with an accuracy that had never been achieved before.

Rating: B

Nobody directed by Ilya Naishuller, starring Bob Odenkirk, Aleksey Serebryakov, Connie Nielsen, Christopher Lloyd and RZA; written by Derek Kolstad

A discreet family man with a hidden past unwittingly crosses paths with the Russian mafia.

The movie scores no point for originality as its plot and the majority of its elements are blatantly lifted from “John Wick”. Since it is however written by Derek Kolstad who is the creator of John Wick, it falls into the more acceptable category of self rather than straightforward plagiarism, something often referred to in the industry as ‘milking it’.
And ultimately, this isn’t such a bad thing because “Nobody” is actually slightly more clever, has a bit more depth and, taking itself less seriously, ends up being a lot more fun than “John Wick”. Some angles feel a bit underdeveloped but at least this allows for a minimal running time, making sure the film doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Bob Odenkirk gives an engaging performance in the lead role and Christopher Lloyd makes an explosive appearance, plus director Ilya Naishuller can finally put his consummate filmmaking skills to a better use than the ill-conceived “Hardcore Henry”, all of which make up for a film that can easily be summed up as ‘John Wick but good’.

Rating: B –

Dream Horse directed by Euros Lyn; starring Toni Collette, Damian Lewis, Owen Teale, Nicholas Farrell and Karl Johnson; written by Neil McKay

Seeking to enliven her life, a despondent housewife decides to breed a race horse and enlists some residents of her small village to finance the venture.

Based on a true story, the movie has all the staples of the genre: a heartwarming plot tinged with social drama and light comedy. Character-driven by nature, the film benefits from a seasoned cast with Toni Collette and Damian Lewis as leads.
There’s something a bit formatted there however, a feeling that you’ve seen that same thing before. Most ancillary characters are under-developed and after its first half, the main characters become a bit too distant from the actual action for the story to really resonate.

Rating: C

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard directed by Patrick Hughes; starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman and Frank Grillo; written by Brandon Murphy, Philip Murphy and Tom O’Connor

After he’s unwillingly forced to again rescue the hitman who ruined his career, a bodyguard must now stop a crazy billionaire with catastrophic plans to destroy Europe’s infrastructure.

Starting off on the flimsiest of pretexts, this somewhat unwarranted sequel moves along with little logic. The tone is also a bit off, often too dark for the genre, though nothing as bad as in the previous installment.
At the midway point however, things settle down a bit to a more acceptable storyline that lets you enjoy Ryan Reynolds’ consummate comedic timing, the one thing that manages to rescue this train wreck of a concept. Set along to explosive action and a punchy soundtrack, it makes for a relatively entertaining combination, if you’re willing to overlook how over-the-top everything constantly is.

Rating: C

In the Heights directed by John M. Chu; starring Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits, Gregory Diaz IV and Daphne Rubin-Vega; written by Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda

The residents of a latino neighborhood of NYC dream of better things.

Adapted from Lin-Manual Miranda’s Broadway musical, the film features many musical sequences with elaborate choreography, skillfully filmed by director John M. Chu. As always with Miranda’s style, they tread a thin line between obvious virtuosity and overwhelming density, and perhaps too often of the latter.
The story showcases the mindset and lives of American Hispanics in ways that are often insightful and topical. But the plot is overall threadbare, somewhat cliché and too often a pretext to string along the musical moments. Ultimately, nothing really moves forward or resolves itself in a particularly satisfying or moving way, a flaw all the more glaring considering the film’s running time of almost two and a half hours.

Rating: D+

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