Stranger boredom. “The Black Phone” (2021)

directed by Scott Derrickson
© 2021 Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

I haven’t written any non-necessarily-to-watch post in a while, but seems like you miss those, so here we are. I was thinking which film had recently disappointed me the most and I guess this is the winner. I normally don’t watch trailers, but I went to see one film in the cinema and they played “The Black Phone” trailer before it, so I was kind of forced to watch. And I remember how thrilled I was about this horror, and I still believe that the trailer is very well-made. So imagine my expectations about the film. But since I’m writing about it today, you might be guessing the film didn’t excite me as much as the trailer. Basically, the story is about “The Grabber” (Ethan Hawke), a child abductor. A very successful child abductor, I may say. And we also have siblings, Finney (Mason Thames) and Gwen (Madeleine McGraw), one of which gets kidnapped by the man. Finney is being kept in a basement where he can find a black rotary phone on one of the walls. According to the abductor, the phone doesn’t work, but when he’s not there, Finney hears it ringing. When the boy answers the phone, he hears his friend speaking to him and giving him some tips about the basement and how to run away from there. That friend is not the only child that calls, and at some point Finney realises that he’s talking to their ghosts. Doom, doom, doom. Sounds awesome, right? Yeah, too bad I found it horribly shallow. The idea is wonderful, but at some point I felt bored with the way they were telling the story. We have numerous brilliant films that take place in one flat or even room, yet this horror is not one of them. I feel like by lack of thrilling ideas, they wasted the potential. Plus, a lot of people, including me, notice that we don’t really get to learn anything much about The Grabber. Like we would like to know more about him, about his past, about his character, background, hobbies, professional experience… okay, joking, but you know what I mean. The best part of horrors is when we get to know the bad guy. And here, he just exists and he seems bland and dull, even though he’s played by the talented Ethan Hawke. I was hoping that it’s one of those films that keep you feeling “meh” and then hit you with an exceptional ending. Well, no. Many say that the film has “Stranger Things” vibes and perhaps that is why there are fans of this horror. I, however, didn’t find the series that exciting and (please, don’t get mad) I actually believe it’s overrated… It’s not bad, but slightly too naive for me… Anyway, that’s why I always say that even if I dislike some film, it doesn’t mean you will. But now you know my opinion so maybe I’ve just saved you 2 hours of your life. You’re welcome. Or maybe you’ll watch it and want to express your opinion – and that’s even better. I love discussing about films, especially when the other person has different views. Once again, “Stranger Things” fans, don’t hate me, and all my dearest readers, watch the trailer and find yourselves a different film. That’s my final word.

My rating: 3/10
S.

You’re the one that I want. “Grease” (1978)

directed by Randal Kleiser
© 1978 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

It’s always difficult to lose someone special. Recently, we said goodbye to Olivia Newton-John, a very talented and charming actress, whom you may definitely remember from “Grease”. That is why I’ve decided to remind us all about this musical and also share some interesting theories about it. Even if you haven’t seen the film, it’s rather impossible you’ve never heard “You’re the One That I Want” song, just perhaps you don’t know it’s coming from “Grease”. But first things first – it’s a story about two young people in love, Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta). They meet during one summer as Sandy, originally from Australia, is spending her holidays in the US, and despite their strong feelings, they are aware of the upcoming separation. However, Sandy’s parents decide to stay in the US and the girl goes to the same high school as Danny. Unfortunately, when they meet at school, Danny cares so much about his image that he ignores Sandy, who’s not really the kind of girl boys in his gang are dating. And then both lovers start questioning their own identity and feelings. It’s a simple youth drama based on the idea of Romeo and Juliet – two people in love, each of them coming from a different background, trying to make it work no matter what. However, this film is important in the cinema history as it shows very intriguing female characters. First, we have Sandy who’s a perfect girl that’s questioning whether she should let herself be a bit more imperfect (not to spoil anything to the ones who haven’t seen it). Second, we have the character of Rizzo (Stockard Channing), who starts realising that her personality is perhaps hidden under some strange mask and she’s in fact a different person than she presents to others. Plus, we have the character of Danny, who, as a young man, tries his best to follow social standards, yet he’s way more sensitive and romantic than the society expect him to be. That is why “Grease” was a signifiant production that made young people reflect on themselves and perhaps find courage to discover who they really are. Plus, it’s an amazing musical and I guess I’ll never get bored of listening to the soundtrack. However, there were those who disliked the ending of the film believing *SPOILER COMING* it’s shallow and forces young people to change for another person. But is it really? Did Sandy change because she had to or because she wanted to change? That’s for you to judge. And one more – there’s a theory that Sandy died at the beginning of the film and everything that’s happening later is just fantasy. Personally, I think it’s a bit too abstract, but hey, if that makes your experience with this film better, who am I to forbid you believing so. One thing I know for sure is that Olivia was a true gem and we will miss her energy for sure. May she rest in peace.

My rating: 7/10
S.

Actually, don’t tell me about it. “Good Old Friends” (2020)

directed by Peter Kondra & Mikael Schallock
© 2020 Indie Rights. All Rights Reserved.

This review will be a bit different than my usual reviews because I believe it would be best if you… didn’t read it. In fact, I highly recommend you not to read anything about this film, not even short descriptions. You know how people often complain that trailers spoil films? I think that in this case anything might spoil it. So if you trust me and don’t want to make the same mistake I made, please search for this film and see it. However, if you want to risk destroying your potentially better experience, then continue reading. But I’ve warned you. Today’s film is about three friends reuniting after some years in Berlin. Pete (Peter Kondra), Marc (Andrej Vickers) and Mike (Mikael Schallock) decide to spend a night drinking, discussing their lives and simply having fun all together. Unfortunately, at some point one of them gets killed and the two others have to manage the situation, which isn’t easy as they’re both drunk and on drugs. And if you’re one of those rebels who didn’t stop reading my review at the beginning, let me explain why I warned you. Before watching this film I’d known that one of them dies at some point and I was naturally waiting for that moment as I believed that’s when the main action starts. So I was watching, and watching, and watching, and that moment wasn’t coming. Surprisingly, it happens in the middle of the film, which in my opinion was way too late. I spent about 40 minutes watching the introduction, listening to three men talking random things about their lives, swearing a lot, drinking and choosing drugs to take. Oh what fun, right? So I have to admit, I was a bit confused and through the second half of the film I was just hoping to understand this unusual script. And I guess it hit me at the end – the death of that man isn’t a plot twist that begins the main action. For those who might not be aware of this common template of writing scripts, a classic script should have at least two plot twists, one rather at the beginning, which ends the introduction and starts the main action, and then one at the end (preferably stronger one) almost at the end. Maybe it’s just my opinion, but in this film I saw only one strong plot twist and it was right in the middle. So from the beginning we’re slowly going up with the pace, up, up, bang – plot twist happens, and then we’re slowly going down, down, down. And I believe that if I hadn’t known about the death of that man before watching, I would have enjoyed this film way more. Because at some point you start feeling like you’re on drugs by only watching them and even if they are just chatting in the car, you’re focused on them deeply. So dear rebel, if you’ve just read my review, try not to wait for that plot twist, just relax and go with the flow. This film is different and that’s its charm. Last two things I have to appreciate are the camerawork, which was extremely satisfying in my opinion, and the references to “The Room”. I’m glad there are filmmakers who look up to the best.

P.S. You may see the full film for free and legally on Youtube right here. Enjoy!

My rating: 6.5/10
S.

One day men will treat us like ladies. “Much Loved” (2015)

directed by Nabil Ayouch
© 2015 Pryamide Distribution. All Rights Reserved.

I bet lots of you haven’t heard of this film, yet I think you should. I found it by accident and, despite rather average ratings, watched it with much interest. Especially since it’s a French-Moroccan production and… it was banned in Morocco. Why? Let’s talk about it… The story is about four women working as sex workers: Noha (Loubna Abidar), Randa (Asmaa Lazrak), Soukaina (Halima Karaouane) and Hlima (Sara Elmhamdi Elalaoui). Each one of them is different, they have different temperaments, different ways of being and different backgrounds. Yet, they all have something in common – their bodies are their providers. We follow them in their everyday life as they meet with extremely wealthy foreigners who treat them like objects as well as random men on the street who can barely pay for sex with them. But none of them treat Noha, Randa, Soukaina and Hlima like human beings, like women, like ladies. They seem to exist to please men and not to enjoy their lives. Because as much as they party, laugh a lot, drink expensive alcohol and wear fancy clothes, their reality is miserable. This film is full of contrasts, which in the end make you feel horribly sad. You see them dancing and having fun, but deep inside you know it’s not real happiness. I’d say this film is quite raw, that’s why it doesn’t have such high ratings, as it’s not a documentary, yet it doesn’t let you forget you’re watching a film. Plus, as I mentioned, it was banned in Morocco as, according to their authorities, it presents Moroccan women in a shameful way. But my question is: really? Is it really about these women? Shouldn’t we be more concerned how men are presented in this and such films? Sex workers wouldn’t exist and wouldn’t earn money if there weren’t any clients – simple business rules. So why are Moroccan authorities ashamed of how this film presents their women if the only disgusting thing I saw were abusive and disloyal men? Imagine that one of the actresses was receiving death threats after playing in this production. I lack words to express how insane this is, so I’ll just let it sink in and let you reflect on it yourselves. I think that is why it’s important to make this film more visible and talk about the real problem it presents. And for all four ladies from the film – much love!

My rating: 6/10
S.

Nobody can leave unless they are willing to pay the price. “One of Us” (2017)

directed by Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady
© 2017 Netflix. All Rights Reserved.

I think that each one of us should have the right to be themselves, express themselves and believe in anything they wish as long as they don’t hurt anyone else with their actions. Let me repeat, as long as they don’t hurt anyone. And today I’d like to tell you about a documentary where we learn three stories of people who have been hurt by their religious community. We get to know Etty Ausch, Luzer Twersky and Ari Hershkowitz, all of whom used to be members of Hasidic community – incredibly orthodox Judaism believers. I wouldn’t like to share their stories in details as I think it’s best if you see the documentary yourselves, but generally speaking, all three are showing how toxic the relations between members of such community are, especially when one has doubts or is willing to leave. Even though all three stories are very much emotional, I find the story of Etty the most horrifying. The woman left the community and would like to take care of her children, but she simply cannot. Apparently, religious laws are respected way more than any other kinds of laws, so as long as Etty doesn’t agree to raise her children in the way Hasidic Jews would, she’s not allowed to raise them at all. In other words, the woman left the toxic environment and in order to stay in touch with her own children, she would have to continue the community practices, yet she’s excluded and highly disrespected by them. Or she may stay a free human being and perhaps never see her daughters and sons again. I can’t even express how angry I was watching this documentary because I could feel the helplessness of Etty, Luzer and Ari. Indeed, they have left the community, but, no matter what, they will always be somehow attached to it and maybe they will never experience peace in their life because of that. Absolutely horrifying. All I can say is that the documentary really hits hard and more people should see how religious beliefs, which should be each person’s individual and personal choice, become a tool to manipulate and mistreat other people. I really hope all ex-members of this and similar communities stay strong and find peace.

My rating: 7/10
S.

I’d like to be you for a day. “Freaky Friday” (1976)

directed by Gary Nelson
© 1976 Buena Vista Distribution. All Rights Reserved.

Recently, I recommended you “Freaky Friday”, the one made in 2003. However, did you know that the first ever film adaptation of this novel (by Mary Rodgers) was actually made in 1976? And I’m sure you’d be even more surprised to learn that the girl in this version is played by young Jodie Foster. Yes, the same one who was later hanging out with a cannibal. You have no idea what life may bring you when you’re 14, right? Anyway, if you read my previous recommendation, you should know what this story is all about because the idea is the same. Ellen (Barbara Harris) and her daughter Annabel (Jodie Foster) switch bodies for a day and need to deal with each other’s reality. In this version Ellen has a husband and she’s a housewife, while Annabel is a bit younger than Anna in the newer adaptation and is more of a sport girl. Personally, I discovered this version some days ago and I loved it. I still prefer the one from 2003, yet in this one you may feel those 70s vibes. It was actually adorable to see what kind of problems a housewife and a teenager from the 70s may be having and how life looked like back then. Somehow that lack of modern technology made the story even funnier. Besides, this version is generally less dramatic than the 2003 one. Barbara Harris is absolutely hilarious in her role and I was honestly stunned by Jodie Foster’s maturity. She was only 14 back then and I seriously felt as if a grown up woman was stuck in that girl’s body. I think it’s one of those films you may watch on Sunday with your whole family and everyone will be entertained. The children might have a pleasant history lesson and you may just aww a lot remembering old times. Funny fact – when they switched their bodies, my first thought was “now you should call each other” (as they were in two different places) and then I realised they had no mobile phones. It’s fascinating how modern technology can affect our minds… I guess it’s time to watch more old productions.

My rating: 7/10
S.

Darling, could you like chill for a sec? “Freaky Friday” (2003)

directed by Mark Waters
© 2003 Buena Vista Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

I’m aware of the fact it’s Monday today, but this film, despite having Friday in its title, is perfect for every evening of the week. I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen it because it’s one of my guilty pleasure productions and whenever I’m feeling blue, “Freaky Friday” is there to cheer me up. It’s about a mother-daughter relationship, which often gets quite emotional. Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a mother and a widow who’s soon about to marry Ryan (Mark Harmon), her new partner. The woman is a respected and highly qualified therapist and, even though she’s helped many people, it seems like she cannot really manage the relationship between her and Anna, her daughter. Anna (Lindsay Lohan) is a teenage rebel who spends way too much time in detention or in the garage playing music with her band. One day, they all go for a family dinner to a Chinese restaurant and the two ladies have an argument there. The owner’s mother decides to step in and gives Tess and Anna cookies with the same fortune. They don’t take it anyhow seriously until the next morning when they wake up… in different bodies. From now on Anna is trapped in Tess’ body and the other way round. And to make it even more complicated, this day Anna has an important audition with her band and Tess has her wedding rehearsal. They are both horribly panicked, but they need to learn how to cooperate and communicate not to screw everything up. First, I’m a huge fan of Jamie Lee Curtis, so seeing her acting like a rebellious high-schooler is just priceless. But let’s not forget about Lindsay Lohan who, in my opinion, shines bright in this role as well. I honestly believed both ladies that they are not themselves, which is difficult for actors to achieve, especially since it’s an abstract situation. Second, it’s a really good comedy, with jokes that don’t make you close your eyes and take a deep breath thinking “oh come on” – and that’s quite common for comedies, let’s face it. Third, I love how they managed to present the importance of quality communication between a parent and a child in such pleasant and non-dramatic way. I’m always seriously moved when the ladies finally compromise and have an honest conversation (don’t take it as a spoiler, we all know how such films end). And let’s not forget about Pink Slip, Anna’s band, and their absolute hit “Take Me Away” that they play during the audition. I mean, if you’re a millennial, there’s no way you don’t shake your head hearing it. So to sum up, if Monday is treating you badly, or if any day of the week treats you badly, remember that “Freaky Friday” is here to give you a big cinematographic hug. Besides, who wouldn’t like to see Chad Michael Murray belting out “Baby One More Time” completely out of tune? Don’t look at me, I’m totally in.

My rating: 8/10
S.

Life goes forward not backwards. “The Man Without a Past” (“Mies vailla menneisyyttä”, 2002)

directed by Aki Kaurismäki
© 2002 Sputnik. All Rights Reserved.

Do you happen to know that only one film from Finland has been (so far) nominated for the Academy Award? Which is probably incredibly significant for Finnish people, so I’d like to share more about it and perhaps you, my dear readers, will find time to see it. The film that represented Finland during the 75th Academy Awards in 2003 was “The Man Without a Past” and it’s literally about that. We get to meet an unnamed man (Markku Peltola) who falls asleep in a park and gets attacked by some random hooligans. He later ends up in hospital and wakes up not remembering anything, not even his identity. The man needs to start his life from the beginning. He needs to find a shelter, food, a job, build relationships etc. I know that it sounds ridiculous and perhaps you’d say that such things don’t happen, but I think that’s the charm of Kaurismäki’s style. I have to say that I’m not the biggest fan of such humour as sometimes those jokes appear out of nowhere and I need a bit of time to analyse whether that was a joke or not. But for sure his humour is not pathetic nor cringy – it actually demands the viewer’s open mind and a bit of abstract thinking. Which is great, yet slightly tiring at some point, at least for me. However, lots of people are big fans of Kaurismäki’s style and I’m more than happy to be sharing about his work forward. This film shows the irrational social rules that we often follow unconsciously from the perspective of a man who doesn’t apply to them. Obviously, we wouldn’t know that certain rules are illogical or pointless because we’ve got used to them and we’ve been taught to accept the way the world works. That is why we get the character of M (as the protagonist is later referred to) who gives us an idea what it would be like to enter our reality without any previous preparation. What I also loved about this production is that it shows how peaceful and simple life would be if we were M. He has very basic problems and very basic needs, unlike us who tend to live a life full of drama and tiredness. But also, it reminds us that sometimes it’s good to just let the past stay in the past and focus on what’s in front of us. And I’m leaving you with such inspirational statement wishing you a wonderful future. And an open mind to get all the jokes hidden in this film.

My rating: 7/10
S.

I still believe in paradise. “The Beach” (2000)

directed by Danny Boyle
© 2000 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

When you hear “Leonardo DiCaprio”, what do you think of? “Titanic”? “The Wolf of Wall Street”? No Oscar for way too many years and then one for probably one of the least satisfying (for me) roles of his? Yeah, all that is right, but let me remind you of Leo in 2000. That year he played in a film titled “The Beach” and even though it doesn’t have such high ratings, I decided to give it a try and in the end write about it. Maybe Leo isn’t shining so bright in it (he even got a Golden Raspberry nomination for the Worst Actor), but the story itself is intriguing. Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a young man enjoying his life in Bangkok. You know, a single American guy, searching for adventures, trying to experience different life etc. At the hotel where he’s staying he meets Daffy (Robert Carlyle), who tells him about a mysterious and uninhabited island where he used to be living. Next morning Richard finds Daffy dead, but before committing suicide, the man left a map. Richard decides to follow the instructions and find the island, because why not? When he finally reaches it, he finds out that the island isn’t inhabited at all. It’s actually a home to a very eccentric community who welcome Richard and introduce him to their reality and their rules, one of which is keeping the island a secret is beyond anything. Anything. You may find numerous reviews saying that this film is a waste of time, that it’s nothing good compared to the book it’s based on (same title by Alex Garland) and there’s nothing special to write about except cinematography. And here I am to defend it, but mind the fact that *SPOILERS* are coming, so first watch the film and then get back to this post. So, I do believe this film is worth your time as it shows the problem of inability to adapt to reality, at least that’s how I read it. The community have their own rules, they are away from things they disliked in their previous lives and they want to stay in a small and intimate group in order not to destroy it. That is why the character I’d reflect the most on isn’t Richard, but Sal (Tilda Swinton). She was going to do literally anything to protect her own reality as she was scared of being out there, following social rules and being pressured by others. Perhaps for Richard it was a pleasant break from his everyday life and he was able to return, but what about people who cannot deal with it like Sal or… Daffy. Yes, the one who committed suicide. To me, this film has a slightly wasted potential, yet it touches me somehow, reminding of all the people who feel unsafe, anxious and simply not home where they are. Here comes another questions – is there anyone who doesn’t feel so? But that’s a topic for an evening with cold drinks in our hands and several free hours. Still, I’m glad I’ve seen this film and gave my brain a small training.

My rating: 6/10
S.

It has no nobility. “Misery” (1990)

directed by Rob Reiner
© 1990 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

We’ve recently lost James Caan, a wonderful actor that shall be remembered for a long time. That is why I’d like to recommend you a film which may remind you of his skills and charm, and which is also one of my beloved thrillers ever made. It’s actually a story based on the book by Stephen King titled just like the film – “Misery”. I can still recall reading it when I was yet a child and it was actually my first book by King, so imagine the intensity of that experience. Right after finishing the book, I watched this adaptation and even though there are differences between them in the plot, I loved both. But for those who haven’t heard of it, let me introduce you to the story: we get to meet Paul Sheldon (James Caan), a famous novelist who’s gained a lot of fans thanks to his series about Misery, a woman living in the Victorian era. However, the man is already tired of writing the romance, therefore he decides to kill the well-known character in his newest book and focus on different genres. Unfortunately, while driving he gets into an accident and is saved by Annie (Kathy Bates), a nurse from a small town. And I’m not sure which part of the previous sentence was worse for Paul. As he wakes up at Annie’s home, he finds out that the woman is his huge fan and it’s true honour for her to be taking care of the novelist. Paul is feeling incredibly lucky as Annie helps him in the recovery until… she reads his newest book. Yes, the one where Paul kills Misery. And the hell begins… Not going to say more because I think everyone should either read the book or watch the film, or both. The story seems simple, yet King knows how to describe even small actions to make you feel extremely uncomfortable. Plus, Caan and Bates were the perfect choice for these two roles and they really cooperated well on the screen. You don’t only see their huge talent, but also hypnotising chemistry between them. Especially considering the fact that one of the characters is an insane murderer, but anything is possible in the world of cinema, right? Also, I love the camerawork in this production as it really builds up the tension and most modern filmmakers can’t do the same nowadays. Notice how individual shots make you perceive the whole situation more intensively. At least that’s for me. Anyway, you should definitely take a moment to see this production even if you’re worried that it might be too scary. Personally, I think the book is much more hardcore and the film adaptation is still kept as a thriller. By the way, Kathy Bates was awarded an Oscar for this role, so it’s a must-see, in my opinion, but I believe James Caan wasn’t out of the spotlight that much. That is why I think it’s a perfect film to remember him. Thank you for your charm.

My rating: 9/10
S.