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IF (2024) – Movie Review

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IF (2024) – Movie Review

IF, 2024. 

Directed by John Krasinski.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Cailey Fleming, Fiona Shaw, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr., Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Maya Rudolph, Jon Stewart, Bobby Moynihan, Sam Rockwell, Sebastian Maniscalco, Christopher Meloni, Richard Jenkins, Awkwafina, and Steve Carell.

SYNOPSIS

After discovering she can see everyone’s imaginary friends, a girl embarks on a magical adventure to reconnect forgotten IFs with their kids.

John Krasinski’s masterful A Quiet Place was horror built on the foundation of a strong, believable family dynamic. Here he skews towards a younger audience for a similar tale of a fractured family surrounded by fantastical creatures, but instead of striking terror in the hearts of viewers, with IF he has crafted a film that will fill them with joy and wonder. 

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Not wanting to shy away from issues that have permeated some of the best children’s movies of days-gone-by, from the off Krasinski grounds his fable in grief and loss. It’s a brave opening gambit on which to build a story of colourful characters and magical events, but you can leave the complaints to the professional cynics, because the emotion is delicately handled, and narratively it pays off in spades.

That it achieves this fine balancing act is largely down to the superb cast. You might turn up for the purple thingies, a farting gummy bear, or a glass of water voiced by Bradley Cooper, but IF‘s driving force is the performance of Cailey Fleming. Brilliant in the final few seasons of The Walking Dead, here she runs the full gamut as Bea. Carrying the dramatic moments with aplomb, and thoroughly convincing during her interactions with the imaginary creations, Fleming brings a weight to her character which makes you invest in the story, one which from the outside might seem like a gimmicky summer family-flick, but which turns out to be so much more as the movie unfolds. 

Taking a back seat to her is Ryan Reynolds, who is restrained and charming as the Imaginary Friends’ human liaison. As Bea’s guide through this secret world full of manifested menagerie, he shares countless interactions with the film’s starry-voiced creations, of which Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Steve Carell’s characters leave the most indelible impressions. 

Waller-Bridge’s Blossom, an anthropomorphic butterfly with a penchant for tea, goes on a character arc which culminates in one of the most beautiful scenes of the year. It’s a sequence which sums up Krasinski’s film in microcosm, one which constantly catches you off guard with moments of heart-swelling happiness. 

Sharing more than a few positive similarities with Robert Zemeckis’ classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, spending time in the world of IF is also some of the most fun you’ll have this side of Toon Town. There is a bonkers tour through an Imaginary Friends retirement home which feels like an experimental night at Glastonbury, and ends with a smile-inducing song and dance number, and you’ll be hard-pressed to choose who your favourite IF is from the likes of Sam Rockwell’s ‘Guardian Dog’ or Christoper Meloni’s scene-stealing private-investigator ‘Cosmo’.

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Ordinarily this kind of creative overload could result in hyperactive chaos, but held together by Michael Giacchino’s beautiful, comforting and immediately affecting score, Krasinski ensures that the focus never shifts from the relationships that join the dots between the characters, both real and imaginary, or the very human story at its core. 

Another one in the win column for Krasinski the director, IF is one of the first big surprises of the year. Go for the unicorns, dragons, and A-list cameos, but stay for the big beating heart and Cailey Fleming’s star-making performance. It will leave you glowing. 

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

Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=embed/playlist

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Movie Reviews

'Thalavan': A well-crafted investigative thriller with strong performances from Biju Menon, Asif Ali | Movie Review

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'Thalavan': A well-crafted investigative thriller with strong performances from Biju Menon, Asif Ali | Movie Review

‘Thalavan’, directed by Jis Joy and starring Biju Menon and Asif Ali, has hit theatres today, delivering an entertaining investigative thriller. Recently, Malayalam cinema has seen an influx of police-themed movies, raising the question of what ‘Thalavan’ has to offer. Biju Menon’s last release, ‘Thundu’, another police movie, received a lukewarm response at the box office, so audiences were curious about ‘Thalavan’. This film is well-crafted and contains enough substance to be considered a solid investigative story.

The story revolves around two police officers, Jayashankar (Biju Menon) and Karthik (Asif Ali), and how one becomes a suspect in a murder case. While the movie may not be excessively gripping, it certainly manages to capture your attention. From the outset, the film dives into the investigative phase, immediately hooking you to the story. There is also an ongoing ego clash between the two officers, though this subplot doesn’t significantly impact the main story.

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Movie Reviews

Atlas: Jennifer Lopez learns to trust AI in Netflix sci-fi thriller

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Atlas: Jennifer Lopez learns to trust AI in Netflix sci-fi thriller

2/5 stars

Mere months after Hollywood’s actors and writers reached an agreement with studios to protect their likenesses and creative output, it appears Netflix is already doubling down on its advocacy of artificial intelligence.

The streaming platform’s new science fiction thriller, Atlas, starring Jennifer Lopez and Simu Liu, might as well bear the tagline, “How I learned to stop worrying and love AI”.

It is set in a near future when Earth is at the mercy of the world’s first “AI terrorist”. Lopez’s jaded heroine must overcome her distrust of technology and put her life in the hands of a sentient machine to save the planet from Armageddon.

Humanity’s relationship with technology has been a fertile topic for sci-fi writers since the dawn of the genre, with the fear of artificial intelligence eclipsing our own at the heart of some of its best works, from 2001: A Space Odyssey to The Matrix.

Atlas adopts a decidedly more positive stance, suggesting that humanity’s continued survival relies on achieving synergy between man and machine.

Directed by Brad Peyton, responsible for the forgettable Dwayne Johnson vehicles San Andreas and Rampage, Atlas takes its narrative cues most obviously from James Cameron’s 1986 classic Aliens.

As in that film, a female protagonist with prior experience of a non-human threat accompanies a squad of heavily armed marines on an off-world combat mission.

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Simu Liu as Harlan in a still from Atlas. Photo: Netflix

Rather than extraterrestrial xenomorphs, the antagonist is rogue android Harlan (Liu), who has vowed to stop humanity destroying the Earth by any means at his disposable. When the rest of the squad is wiped out upon arrival, it falls to Lopez’s data analyst Atlas Shepherd to take up arms herself.

Her survival relies upon forming a successful neural link with an AI-powered mech suit named Smith (voiced by Gregory James Cohan), something she is initially loath to do because of her innate distrust of technology – the result of a tragedy from her past.

Lopez has built a career playing mature, feisty women navigating a male-dominated world, and is absolutely in her element here.

Despite appearances from Sterling K. Brown and Mark Strong in supporting roles, it is Shepherd’s frosty banter with Smith that provides the film’s strongest relationship in an otherwise effects-heavy, overlong action thriller offering few surprises.

A still from Atlas. Photo: Netflix

One could argue that the film is allegorical, addressing society’s attitudes towards any number of marginalised demographics.

At a time when AI is becoming frighteningly ubiquitous in daily life, however, Atlas perhaps should be taken at face value, while its overwhelmingly positive stance is cause for genuine concern.

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Atlas is streaming on Netflix.

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Movie Reviews

‘The Village Next to Paradise’ Review: Somali Family Drama Doubles as a Potent Portrait of Life in the Shadow of War

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‘The Village Next to Paradise’ Review: Somali Family Drama Doubles as a Potent Portrait of Life in the Shadow of War

Mo Harawe’s debut feature The Village Next to Paradise is a haunting offering. The film, which premiered at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section and is the first Somali film to ever screen on the Croisette, presents a compelling narrative of one family’s survival in a sleepy Somali town. But it’s the devastating backdrop against which their drama plays out that lingers long after the credits roll. 

The siren wails of drones soundtrack each scene of Harawe’s film, which opens with footage of a real-life report of a United States drone strike on Somalia. Since the U.S. began using drones in the East African country in the early 2000s, Somalis have suffered at the hands of an enveloping and ravenous counterterrorism operation. According to data from the New America foundation, there have been more than 300 documented uses of drones resulting in hundreds of known civilian deaths.

The Village Next to Paradise

The Bottom Line

Uneven but affecting.

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Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard)
Cast: Ahmed Ali Farah, Ahmed Mohamud Saleban, Anab Ahmed Ibrahim
Director-screenwriter: Mo Harawe

2 hours 13 minutes

The fatal impact of contemporary warfare organizes life in Paradise village, a locale whose name seems more melancholic with time. Marmargade (Ahmed Ali Farah), a principal character in Harawe’s languorous film, makes money doing odd jobs, but one of his most lucrative gigs involves burying the dead. Some of the people for whom he finds a place in the sandy terrain died of natural causes, but many of them are victims of foreign airstrikes. When this business slows, Marmargade reluctantly smuggles a truck full of goods — the contents of which play a pivotal role later — to a nearby city. 

Because Marmargade knows the realities of living in a place shrouded by the shadow of death, he strives for a better life for his son Cigaal (Ahmed Mohamud Saleban), a buoyant kid who thinks nothing of the constant buzzing coming from the sky. When the local school cancels classes for the year because of chronic absenteeism among the teachers, Marmargade works to send Cigaal to a school in the city, where safety is more than an illusion. But Cigaal doesn’t want to leave his family, friends or his life in the village. When Marmargade proposes this new life to him, the child rejects the idea. 

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The main narrative of The Village Next to Paradise revolves around the conflicting desires within this makeshift family. Marmargade lives with his sister Araweelo (Anab Ahmed Ibrahim), a recently divorced woman who wants to build her own tailoring shop. The two have the kind of fractious relationship resulting from years of mistrust. She thinks her brother should be honest with Cigaal instead of trying to trick the young one into going to school. Marmargade wants his sister’s financial support more than her advice. After she refuses to lend him the money for tuition, Marmargade makes a series of decisions that threatens all their livelihoods. 

Harawe’s film contains many admirable elements. With its unhurried pacing and tender focus on a single family, The Village Next to Paradise recalls Gabriel Martins’ 2022 feature Mars One. And the way Harawe structures the film around a broader geopolitical conflict resembles the role the Chadian civil war played in Mahamet Saleh Haroun’s  2010 film A Screaming Man, which also premiered at Cannes. The cinematography (by Mostafa El Kashef) offers truly striking images that conjure up the ghostly atmosphere of this village without turning its people into caricatures for a Western gaze hungry for a particular kind of poverty porn. 

But The Village Next to Paradise is also hobbled in places by its meandering narrative and occasionally wooden performances from Harawe’s cast of local nonprofessional actors. The sharpness of Harawe’s vision is dulled by a story that takes one too many detours before settling into itself. Characters with dubious relevance are introduced and then dropped, while ones who come to play crucial roles don’t get an appropriate amount of screen time.

The film becomes more dynamic in its latter half, when Marmargade’s desperation leads him to questionable decisions that clash with Araweelo’s desires. Indeed, it’s also during these parts of the film that Harawe pulls the strongest performances from his actors, who otherwise struggle to shake off an understandable stiffness. 

Despite these flaws, Harawe’s film does have a real staying power. The Village Next to Paradise orients itself around a quiet optimism and surprising humor that mirror real life. There are moments throughout that serve as a reminder that even in places where death feels close, hope for tomorrow is still alive.

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