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Kinds of Kindness: Poor Things director at his most elusive

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Kinds of Kindness: Poor Things director at his most elusive

In the first, “The Death of R.M.F.”, Jesse Plemons plays Robert, a man who appears in thrall to Raymond (Willem Dafoe), who sets Robert’s agenda, from his diet to his sexual encounters.

In the second, “R.M.F. Is Flying”, Plemons plays Daniel, a cop whose wife Liz (Emma Stone) has gone missing; when she returns, he is convinced she is an imposter.

Finally, in “R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich”, Stone plays Emily, a woman who seeks out a cult leader (Dafoe) for a spiritual and sexual awakening.

Hong Chau in a still from Kinds of Kindness. Photo: Atsushi Nishijima

Inevitably, as is the case with most portmanteau films, one episode stands out – in this case “The Death of R.M.F.”, which has an unnerving quality to it.

The second instalment is the most shocking, featuring Liz and Daniel sitting around with friends (Mamoudou Athie and Margaret Qualley) watching a highly explicit sex tape the four of them made.

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Bringing up the rear is the final short, which rather drags with its depictions of sweat lodges, bodily contamination, and Stone skidding around in her cool-looking Dodge Challenger.

With Hong Chau (The Whale) and Joe Alwyn (who featured in Lanthimos’ The Favourite) also appearing, it is undoubtedly a fine cast, one led by Plemons, who truly understands how to perform in the Lanthimos style.

Stone, now on her third movie with the Greek director, seems to relish the extremes she gets to go to.

(From left) Willem Dafoe, Jesse Plemons and Hong Chau in a still from Kinds of Kindness. Photo: Atsushi Nishijima

Quite what it all means, however, is another thing entirely. The characters seem to be in states of crisis, with miscarriage a common theme.

Looking at humanity in all its weirdness, Kinds of Kindness is a baffling film to take in, as abrasive as its musical score from Jerskin Fendrix, who performed similar tricks on Poor Things.

Certainly, compared to his more accessible films, such as The Favourite and Poor Things, this feels like Lanthimos at his most elusive and frustrating.

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Movie Reviews

Film Review: King of Prison 2: The Prison War by Kang Tae-ho

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Film Review: King of Prison 2: The Prison War by Kang Tae-ho

“Guys like you need to get beaten up”

I am not sure how successful the first entry was, but nevertheless, a sequel to “King of Prison” titled “The Prison War” did come two years later, and with an evidently bigger budget. Lee Sol-gu who played the King in the first movie gave his stead to the even more impressive physically Shin Yoo-ram, while the cast is almost completely different, with the exceptions of Lee Hyun-woong who reprises his role as Wai-wai and Kim Min-V as KTX.

This time the action is much more intense and actually starts from the beginning, as Kang Tae-ho creates an explosive mixture. King Beom-teol is here once more and is still the King, but his dominance is more challenged than ever. First from the Mess Sergeant, who works in the kitchen and thus has access to knives, and secondly from a cell filled with immigrants from China, who seem to be particularly violent. When Gi-cheol, the number two of a gang opposing the one Mess Sergeant belongs to enters Beom-teol’s cell and Gwang-ho enters Mess Sergeant’s cell, all hell breaks loose, with the King frequently finding himself under attack.

As the Christians in prison find themselves persecuted and the authority of the chaebol chairman in control of the prison and the head of the security department goes too far, the situation becomes even more dire, and the battle for the new King becomes more intense than ever.

As I mentioned before, the focus this time is more on action than the previous entry. However, this does not mean that the realistic premises are not here once more. On the contrary, the boredom associated with life inside and the value of food is highlighted once more, as much as the fact that people in prison frequently end up becoming friends, even though they have very little in common. The differences between those who were involved with organized crime and the ones who don’t is also showcased, as much as that the older ones are the one in charge, and the younger ones are treated as rookies. There is a sexual offender present once more, who is, once more, used for laughs, while the homosexual relations are not omitted either. Thankfully, the jokes having to do with the toilets are rather toned down.

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On the other hand, the concept of religion inside the prison is a new concept, implemented both for comedy and for drama, while the hierarchy of each cell also gets its focus. Furthermore, the corruption of the higher ups is even more stressed, to the point that their authority gets challenged more than ever. Lastly, Gi-cheol adds an intense sense of drama to the movie, that is definitely a plus for the narrative.

Regarding the action, it is framed for both impression and drama. Beom-teol is the King and the most powerful guy in prison, but his opponents are many and cunning, resulting in a series of fights he has to battle on his own against scores of enemies. Expectedly, this leads to multiple injuries for him and the occasional punishment by the corrupt authorities. Mess Sergeant proves a worthy opponent, particularly in terms of cunningness, although the reemergence of KTX balances the whole thing to a point. The real fight, however, begins when Gwang-ho takes over and the Chinese get involved, with chaos essentially ruling the whole prison and action taking over the narrative.

The fights, as in the previous film, follow realistic paths for the most part, without any particular exaltation, dictated by the fact that the majority of the protagonists are middle-aged. The brutality, though, is definitely here once more, particularly after the point when a number of inmates get their hands on various weapons.

The cinematography follows realistic paths, with the claustrophobic setting of the prison being communicated quite eloquently. The editing results in a relatively fast pace, that does become too slow, though, on occasion, while at 111 minutes, the movie somewhat overextends its welcome, particularly during the overlong finale.

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Shin Yoo-ram as Beom-teol is definitely a force for the movie, with him demanding fear and respect with every movement. That his acting is quite measured is definitely a tick in the pros column, although, as with the previous movie, if Don Lee was in the role the whole thing would be rather better. Kang In-sung as Gi-cheol presents a truly tragic figure convincingly, while Sung Nak-kyung as Mess sergeant highlights his transformation brilliantly. Yoo Sang-hoon as Gwang-ho is also good as one of the central villains here.

“King of Prison 2: The Prison War” although not staying as far away from usual prison films as its predecessor, it is actually a better film, much more well-shot and entertaining.

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Movie Review: 'Hit Man' – Catholic Review

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Movie Review: 'Hit Man' – Catholic Review

NEW YORK (OSV News) – A fact-based fish-out-of-water tale, director and co-writer Richard Linklater’s black comedy “Hit Man” (Netflix) starts off intriguingly. After some needlessly graphic forays into eroticism, however, the film’s third-act departure from the real biography of its protagonist sends a morally skewed message.

Glen Powell — who collaborated with Linklater on the script, which is based on an article by Skip Hollandsworth — plays mild-mannered New Orleans philosophy professor Gary Johnson. Although his routine-driven, solitary lifestyle centers on his cats, Gary’s flair for electronics does enable him to dabble in undercover surveillance work for the police as a sideline.

Suddenly called upon to pose as an assassin-for-hire during a sting operation, Gary is initially intimidated and frightened. But he soon finds he has a knack for the work. Calling himself Ron, and dressed in ever more elaborate disguises, he tailors his various personas to meet the expectations of each suspect he’s trying to ensnare.

Despite his success, Gary’s situation becomes complicated when he first runs afoul of Jasper (Austin Amelio), the full-time cop whose role he has usurped, and then falls for Madison (Adria Arjona), an abused wife who wants him to kill her lowlife husband, Ray (Evan Holtzman). Gary persuades Madison to adopt a more peaceful plan. But he doesn’t share his secret with her.

By the midpoint of the running time, there’s an enjoyable irony to Gary’s dual life. He explores abstract questions of identity in the classroom while simultaneously conducting a secret romance in the guise of his tough-guy alter ego.

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But, ethically at least, things unravel with the movie’s climax. Without resorting to a spoiler, suffice it to say that the wrap-up of the plot blithely suggests that heinous crimes can serve as the foundation for a happy future. Such a wrongheaded outlook makes “Hit Man” unsuitable for viewers of any age.

The film contains a frivolous view of evildoing, strong sexual content, including explicit premarital encounters and implied aberrant acts, a few profanities, several milder oaths, pervasive rough and much crude language and about a half-dozen crass terms. The OSV News classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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Movie Review | Old emotions make new frenemies in excellent sequel

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Movie Review | Old emotions make new frenemies in excellent sequel

Remember at the end of 2015’s acclaimed “Inside Out” when the emotions operating within a 12-year-old girl were introduced to a mysterious button on their big, new control console marked “Puberty”?

Early on in “Inside Out 2,” as Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust sleep within newly minted teenager Riley — Anger is, of course, fighting someone in his dream — a beeping sound begins to emanate from the button.

Then a full-blown siren.

This is not a drill, people, er, emotions!

Yes, Riley, now voiced by Kensington Tallman, enters into that confusing — and highly emotional — time in a young person’s life in this excellent sequel from Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios.

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The lifelong emotions of a girl named Riley —Fear, left, Sadness, Anger, Joy and Disgust, voiced, respectively, by Tony Hale, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Amy Poehler and Liza Lapira — meet new emotion Anxiety, voiced by Maya Hawke, in a scene from “Inside Out 2.” (Courtesy of Disney/Pixar)

Riley’s still a good kid when “Inside Out 2” begins, which is a source of pride for Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear, voiced, respectively, by returnees Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith and Lewis Black and newcomers Liza Lapira and Tony Hale. She loves her mom and dad (fellow “Inside Out” alums Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) and playing hockey with besties Grace (Grace Lu) and Bree (Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green), with whom she collaborates on the winning goal in a championship game.

That triumph is followed by the trio being invited to a three-day hockey camp that will be populated by players from the high school level. If they impress the coach (Yvette Nicole Brown), she may offer them spots on the team!

The morning the camp starts, that siren is blaring within Riley. As her emotions try to gently tap the right buttons on the console, Riley unleashes on her well-intended mother before entering into a bout of sadness.

Oh boy.

It is then that Riley’s quintet of emotions realizes they have a newcomer among them: Anxiety (Maya Hawke).

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She’s, well, a lot — and she’s not alone, bringing with her Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) and Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos). (The latter is described as a mix of “boredom, disdain or this feeling of blase” by director Kelsey Mann in the movie’s production notes, and Ennui does her job, lazily, via smartphone from a nearby couch.)

As if the new emotions aren’t enough for Riley to deal with, she realizes — in a well-executed scene in which emotions inside different friends examine the way each looks at the other — that Bree and Grace are hiding something from her. When they spill the beans that they’ve been assigned to a different high school from hers for the next school year, Riley — driven by the extremely assertive Anxiety — decides to shut them out and try to impress the older girls, especially her idol, the talented Valentina “Val” Ortiz (Lilimar Hernandez, credited as simply Lilimar).

Sadness, left, voiced by Phyllis Smith, looks for help from the big new emotion Embarrassment, voiced by Paul Walter Houser, against the wishes of Anxiety, right, voiced by Maya Hawke. (Courtesy of Disney/Pixar)
Sadness, left, voiced by Phyllis Smith, looks for help from the big new emotion Embarrassment, voiced by Paul Walter Houser, against the wishes of Anxiety, right, voiced by Maya Hawke. (Courtesy of Disney/Pixar)

The old guard of emotions, Joy especially, doesn’t like any of this, and those emotions soon find themselves literally bottled up — suppressed emotions! — thanks to Anxiety, who is increasingly out of control as she tries to navigate Riley through the camp.

Written by Meg LeFauve (“Inside Out,” “Captain Marvel”) and Dave Holstein (“Kidding,” “Weeds”), with the story credited to Mann and LeFauve, “Inside Out 2,” like its predecessor, is chock full of clever concepts for the world within Riley, such as the Stream of Consciousness and, most praise-worthy, the Sar-Chasm. (It’s so, so clever.)

Making his directorial debut, Pixar vet Mann takes over the directing reins from Pixar Chief Creative Officer Pete Doctor. The latter had a daughter of about Riley’s age while making “Inside Out,” and the former has two teens, so the handoff feels appropriate.

Mann and company have improved upon the formula from the first movie by having more emotions working in concert throughout the adventure, the actions of the newcomers driving Riley’s increasingly questionable choices. Led by Joy, the old gang sets about the important — and dangerous — task of restoring Riley’s Sense of Self. In the process, Joy asks much of the less-than-confident Sadness who finds a kindred spirit in the large but very much not-in-charge Embarrassment, who frequently pulls his hoodie over his eyes when around the others.

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Hawke (“Stranger Things”) is terrific as the odd-looking bundle of nervous energy that is Anxiety, while Poehler’s work as Joy is, appropriately, the emotional center of “Inside Out 2.” One of the film’s myriad third-act impactful moments is Joy beginning to wonder if a person simply experiences less joy when he or she gets older.

For as strong as it is from its first few minutes, “Inside Out 2” truly does save the best for last, with everything coming to a highly and believably emotional climax at the camp-concluding scrimmage.

“Inside Out” was a box-office hit and the 2016 winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but, honestly, we were a little underwhelmed, feeling it didn’t quite deliver on its admirably ambitious concept. That is not the case here, with the puberty angle providing very fertile ground for this format.

And now we’d welcome an “Inside Out 3.” After all, what happens when a cute boy enters Riley’s world?

We’re gonna need a few more emotions, to be sure.

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“Inside Out 2” is rated PG for some thematic elements. Runtime: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

 

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