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Film Review: The Moon Thieves (2024) by Steve Yuen

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Film Review: The Moon Thieves (2024) by Steve Yuen

“Lies are best based on truth”

The caper or heist film is one of the sub-genres of action that has a lot to offer thematically and stylistically if done correctly. If we think back to “To Catch a Thief” or even the “Oceans”-series, the world these stories show are a reflection of a society based on materialism and property, with the thieves sharing the same obsession as the owners of the object they want to steal. On the other hand, given its potential to be an ensemble piece, the caper/heist feature also offers actors the chance to shine. Steve Yuen’s “The Moon Thieves”, the director’s third feature, tries to combine the two aspects of the genre, but fails to offer some depth to its otherwise intriguing premise.

The Moon Thieves is released exclusively in UK cinemas by Central City Media

Uncle (Keung To) is a major player in the Hong Kong underworld and he is also a successful dealer in fake and real watches. Upon hearing three prestigious watches owned by painter Pablo Picasso will be auctioned in Tokyo, he recruits a crew to steal them and exchange them with counterfeits. Chief (Louis Cheng), a loyal follower to Uncle’s father, is the leader of the crew which also consists of Mario (Michael Ning), an explosive expert, Vincent (Edan Lui), a master counterfeiter, and finally Yoh (Anson Lo), a safe-cracker. Chief and Mario are somewhat skeptical of the two younger members of the team, especially Vincent who has issues with the whole undertaking and prefers to not be part of the heist itself.

However, he changes his mind upon seeing the contents of the safe where the watches are kept. Among the Picasso watches, there is also the infamous Moonwatch, which was supposedly worn by Buzz Aldrin upon walking on the moon for the first time in 1969. During a fireworks festival, the heist takes place and despite a few hiccups, everything goes largely as planned. But when one of the thieves also takes the precious Moonwatch, this sets in motion a series of events, as a Japanese businessman and crime lord is unwilling to give up on his property this easily.

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While the premise of having a crew of thieves stealing three watches does not sound thrilling at first glance, Yuen’s film manages to make this idea attractive from the very first minute on. As we are introduced to the character of Vincent, we also delve deep into the world of watches, the art of making a “frankenwatch” using vintage parts from other watches and ultimately selling it to some rather shady looking individuals. The fast-paced editing and overall glossy aesthetics emphasize the image of a world of prestige and property, but also one easy to fool by a shiny surface, which is essentially the core of “The Moon Thieves”. Consequently, the characters go through various episodes in which they con their targets, deceive them and come up with such elaborate schemes that more than once seem a little pointless. Thanks to the performances of the cast, this is done in a way which is quite entertaining and even has some humorous interactions.

At the same time, this elaborate magic-show, which is another way to describe “The Moon Thieves”, becomes stale after a while. In the second part of the feature, the action elements take up much more space, making it look and feel more like every other blockbuster. It is still solid, especially the shooting and the stunts, but then again you cannot help but wonder whether there could have been more depth to some elements of “The Moon Thieves”. The characters, while some of them seem to have an interesting backstory, are more or less the conventional band of lowlifes and con-artists we have come to expect from the genre. Additionally, you cannot help but wonder about some of the casting decisions, especially Keung To as Uncle, who tries to give his best shot at being an intimidating mobster, but lacks credibility due to his young age and delivery.

“The Moon Thieves” is a solid caper/heist movie with some interesting ideas, which fail to fully materialize resulting in an ultimately conventional finale. Undoubtedly, there is a lot of fun to be had with Steve Yuen’s film, but it will also likely be forgotten soon after watching.

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Humane (2024) – Review | Dystopian Family Thriller | Heaven of Horror

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Humane (2024) – Review | Dystopian Family Thriller | Heaven of Horror

How to reduce the population in a humane way

In Humane, which takes place in one single afternoon, but based on events that have happened over decades, a family is forced to deal with an ecological collapse. Basically, we need to reduce Earth’s population now, so the question becomes; How can we do that as a society in a humane way?

Hot tip: You need to pay attention to everything being said in the background during the opening credits!

Of course, there isn’t anything humane about having to eliminate a large percentage of the population. And yet, money can help, so a new euthanasia program has been made. Basically, you can volunteer to be “put down!

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Your family will be by your side as you say goodbye to them and they will also get a pretty penny for your sacrifice. Clearly, this scheme leads to mostly poor people and immigrants signing up, as they can then help their children and grandchildren to a better life.

That’s why it’s such a shock when a recently retired newsman – who has plenty of wealth to last a few lifetimes – invites his four grown children to dinner to announce that he has enlisted for the euthanasia program.

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Of course, nothing is as simple as described in the commercials constantly playing on TV to enlist volunteers. So, when the father’s plan goes wrong, full-blown chaos erupts among the four siblings, and they end up fighting each other to survive.

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There’s Still Tomorrow (2023) – Movie Review

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There’s Still Tomorrow (2023) – Movie Review

There’s Still Tomorrow, 2023.

Directed by Paola Cortellesi.
Starring Paola Cortellesi, Valerio Mastandrea, Romana Maggiora Vergano, Emanuela Fanelli, Giorgio Colangeli, and Vinicio Marchioni.

SYNOPSIS:

Trying to escape from the patriarchy in the Italian post-war society, Delia plots an act of rebellion against her violent husband.

Italian Cinema has had its share of triumphs over the years with the likes of Federico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini helping to define European Cinema of the mid 1900s. There’s Still Tomorrow from Star and Director Paola Cortellesi, proves that there is still plenty of life left in Italian Cinema. It has earned rave reviews and proven to be the most successful film of 2023 in Italy and the ninth highest-grossing film of all time there.

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Set in Rome in 1946, it follows Delia (Cortellisi), caught in a loveless marriage, struggling to put food on the table. Delia cares for their three young children and is also expected to tend to her bedridden father-in-law.  The Rome we follow is far from the more glamorous one we tend to see now, more like something in Rome Open City, with the effects of the war apparent, with a sizable US military presence still in place.

It has rightly earned plaudits and the way Cortellisi has balanced the period elements with neorealism is worth singling out. On paper this shouldn’t work, feeling often like a drama lifted straight from the era but also with a striking, contemporary edge to it, buoyed by some of the musical choices. The likes of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Outkast helping to lend it a ferocious energy and give it a sense of purpose. As far as debuts go this is incredibly ambitious but it never succumbs to striving for too much, miraculously finding balance throughout.

While the action is kept largely to Delia and her family it is gripping with plenty of impressive traits from our first-time director from the use of music and dance to slow motion. Davide Leone’s cinematography is striking and perfectly captures the downbeat nature of post-war Rome.

There’s Still Tomorrow is a wonderful blend of 1940s Italian Cinema and melodrama with a distinctly modern edge to it, landing this awkward balance for the most part. It will be intriguing to see whether international audiences take to it quite as strongly but as Italian as it feels, there is a global appeal to it, of a woman trying to escape a horrendous situation and reclaim her life. It is a very impressive debut and we can only hope Paola Cortellisi directs more in future. It is an unpredictable love letter to Italian cinema and this particular era in Italian society that wears its heart on its sleeve and is hard not to be enamoured with.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Chris Connor

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Movie Review: Prepare to get hot and bothered with stylish, synthy tennis drama 'Challengers'

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Movie Review: Prepare to get hot and bothered with stylish, synthy tennis drama 'Challengers'

“Challengers” is a bit of a tease. That’s what makes it fun.

There is plenty of skin, sweat, close-ups of muscly thighs and smoldering looks of lust and hate in this deliriously over-the-top psychodrama. But get that image of Josh O’Connor, Zendaya and Mike Faist sitting together on the bed out of your mind. Most of this action takes place on the tennis court.

It’s still a sexy tennis movie about friendship, love, competition and sport set to a synth-y score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — it just might not contain exactly what you think it does. But remember, Luca Guadagnino is the one who filmed Timothée Chalamet with that peach, perhaps more memorable than any actual sex scene from the past decade. Manage expectations, but also trust.

And like “Call Me By Your Name” did for Chalamet, “Challengers” is one of those rare original big-screen delights that firmly announces the arrival of a new generation of movie stars. Zendaya and Faist already had a bit of a leg up. She has played significant supporting roles in some of the biggest movies of the past few years, from “Spider-Man” to “Dune,” and he had had his big cinematic breakthrough as Riff in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.” But it’s O’Connor who really comes out on top, effectively shedding any lingering image of him as a whiny, dweeby Prince Charles in seasons three and four of “The Crown.” In “Challengers,” his Patrick Zweig is the cocky, flirty, slightly mean, slightly dirty and slightly broken bad boyfriend of our fictional dreams.

Written by playwright Justin Kuritzkes (who is married to “Past Lives” filmmaker Celine Song) “Challengers” is a prickly treat, about fractured relationships, egos, infidelity and ambition. Set during a qualifying match at the New Rochelle Tennis Club, outside New York City, the intricately woven story reveals itself through flashbacks that build to a crescendo in the present-day match.

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O’Connor’s Patrick and Faist’s Art are old boarding school roommates turned tennis teammates. It’s a relationship that’s at turns brotherly, erotic and competitive. Whatever it is, they are definitely too close and not remotely prepared for Zendaya’s Tashi Duncan to enter the mix.

Tashi, in high school, is well on her way to becoming the next big tennis superstar. Art and Patrick watch her play, mouths agape at her technical form and physical beauty. Later, they both ask for her number, leading to a revealing night in a grungy hotel room. She promises her number to the one who wins the singles match the next day. Tashi just wants to see some good tennis, she says, but she also knows how to motivate and manipulate.

This image released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures shows Zendaya in a scene from “Challengers.” Credit: AP/Niko Tavernise

Because of the fractured timeline, we know that Tashi in the present day does not play tennis anymore. She was injured at some point and never recovered, unlike her husband, Art, who is now one of the most famous players in the world. The two of them are wildly wealthy, living in a ritzy hotel and fronting Aston Martin ad campaigns. At night, Tashi uses Augustinus Bader cream to moisturize her legs. Guadagnino, who likes to wink at and luxuriate in wealth signifiers, enlisted JW Anderson designer Jonathan Anderson to do the costumes, which will surely populate summer style inspiration boards the way his “A Bigger Splash” and “Call Me By Your Name” have in the past.

But while they are technically at the top, Art is also on a losing streak, so Tashi sends him to a low-stakes tournament where he can get his confidence back. That’s where they encounter Patrick, who has not been so fortunate over the years and who has fallen out with his old friends. Of course, it’s all building to Patrick and Art playing one another in the final match, a part of which is so wildly and comically drawn out that you can almost envision the “Saturday Night Live” spoof.

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“Challengers” is a drama, but a funny and self-aware one. It doesn’t take itself very seriously and has a lot of fun with its characters, all three of which are anti-heroes in a way. You might have a favorite, but you’re probably not rooting for anyone exactly — just glued to the screen to see how it all plays out on and off the court.

“Challengers,” an MGM release in theaters Friday, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association for “language throughout, some sexual content and graphic nudity.” Running time: 131 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.

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