Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Northman (2022) ***1/2

Sword and Sorcery epics underwent a bonanza during the 1980s spurred by John Boorman's Excalibur and the John Milius classic Conan the Barbarian which launched many equally beloved imitations. Recent attempts at Arhturian epics have floundered from the Anton Fuqua's 2000s effort to Guy Ritchie's recent bomb Legend of the Sword. Robert Eggers has built a film career by crafting historical epics told from a mythological perspective (The Witch and The Lighthouse) and The Northman ups the stakes, a transition from the Indie to the big budget realm. Filmed in Iceland and Northern Ireland, The Northman is a full on Viking tale of revenge, a rough hewn version of Hamlet. The story is simple enough: young Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard) witnesses his father King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke) being murdered and escapes to Russia and plot revenge. Like Excalibur, Northman is fascinated with how civilization emerged out of the muck, riddled with violence and superstition. The cinematography is vibrant, drenched in blood and mist. Nicole Kidman and Anya Taylor-Joy are given strong female roles, giving their characters depth and a fierce will in the hyper- masculine climate. The story is told and even feels like a piece of iron being forged, committed to evoking the distant past (may also inspire some idiotic male behavior). 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) ****

Where does one even begin? Everything Everywhere All At Once will be a film to reckon with in 2022 and beyond. From its inception, film as a medium has played with our sense of reality. I can think of few films that have done it better: imagining the possibility of experiencing a multitude of different realities simultaneously with a rare virtuosity. For the first 10 minutes the film appears to be a kitchen sink story of a Chinese-American family trying to make ends meet running a laundromat. Michelle Yeoh stars as Evelyn Wang, on the cusp of a divorce with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), while struggling to connect with her wayward daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Without revealing too much, the film smartly lets you know (Directed by the "Daniels' team) early you're in for a disorienting ride through multiple realities, experiencing the characters in many different guises. Yet the film stays grounded and never loses focus. Yeoh carries the film along, holding the entire saga together. Quan, a child star of two iconic '80s films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Goonies) is incredible as well. By turns hilarious, downright strange, and wonderfully moving, EEAAO delivers a unique cinematic experience. It will be a film destined to launch thousands of college essays - and prove to be a touchstone of the decade.