Chris has written 51 reviews for films rated ★★★½ .

  • Spencer

    Spencer

    ★★★½

    Wisely evades the conventional biopic trappings for something more akin to a jittery psychodrama. It's natural to draw comparisons between this and Jackie given that they feel like thematic counterpoints, both focusing on iconic figures forced to conceal their crumbling inner worlds behind dignified surfaces and the disquieting impact that the perception of others has on their self-identity. The detached, elegaic style which Larrain favours certainly matches this type of material effectively; it manages to spotlight Princess Diana's uncomfortable lack…

  • Devil in a Blue Dress

    Devil in a Blue Dress

    ★★★½

    Really solid noir that uses its refined stylings to adeptly contrast the seedy world it delves into. The story itself is pretty run-of-the-mill for the genre (murder, corruption, political scandal and a hapless gumshoe in over his head) and there are a few developments that feel overly trite as everything is revealed, but the individual pieces are what make this standout. Denzel Washington is magnetic in a role that is much more vulnerable than your typical hard-boiled detective, the supporting…

  • Risky Business

    Risky Business

    ★★★½

    The cultural imprint that this film has left as an archetypal raunchy teen comedy is so bafflingly inaccurate. Underneath the witty surface sheen lies a surprisingly cynical core that takes a scathing aim at the vacuous materialism promoted by Reaganomics, the hollowness of affluent suburbia and the inherent link immorality has to success within the capitalist system. It's adolescent liberation perverted, the uncomfortable realisation that intelligence or perseverance mean nothing when wealth is everything and the uncertain road into the…

  • Blue Spring

    Blue Spring

    ★★★½

    Teenage angst without release turns into nihilism which overwhelms everything it touches in this imaginative twist on a familiar story of adolescents unable to find a purpose. A high school structure becomes akin to an organised crime hierarchy where the angry and the disillusioned intermingle as the campus proves to be an almost lawless state; these wayward youths realise too late that they weren't able to grasp their one route to success and can only descend into despondency at the…

  • Breathless

    Breathless

    ★★★½

    The candid manner in which this film looks at the lingering effects of childhood trauma and emotional abuse should be commended. It pulls no punches in portraying its lead character Sang-hoon as an unstable figure consumed by his past who lashes out at anyone in his vicinity, aptly capturing the disturbing depths people can plunge to when battling their inner demons and the violent cycles they inadvertently perpetuate. Broken individuals will always gravitate towards those who share their pain as…

  • A Scene at the Sea

    A Scene at the Sea

    ★★★½

    A pleasant change of pace for Takeshi Kitano which sees him discarding the hostility and violence that dominated his preceding works for a gentle slice of life story focusing on the relationship between a deaf couple when one takes up surfing. It's more than content to coast along on the tranquil atmosphere it crafts via the understated interactions and exquisite scenery; there's little in the way of narrative propulsion, the dialogue is sparse and the sensitive emotions are often accentuated…

  • Kotoko

    Kotoko

    ★★★½

    Pop star Cocco gives a surprisingly convincing lead performance in this dark psychological drama about a single mother's turbulent deterioration as she's tormented by her anxieties taking the form of malevolent visions. It's an unflinching look at mental illness wreaking havoc on a person through the oppressive social stigma it brings, the weight it adds to preexisting parental pressures and the way it makes maintaining a seemingly ordinary lifestyle impossible. We witness Kotoko's volatile relationships and continual self-mutilation in stark…

  • Tremble All You Want

    Tremble All You Want

    ★★★½

    Infatuation makes a person do peculiar things by causing a collision between apprehension and impulsion, leaving them in an emotional quandary. Providing a more introspective slant on a standard romcom formula (girl unable to move on from a past crush despite catching a new man's attention) allows this narrative to effectively capture that internal uncertainty which plagues lead Yoshika as she tries to find love while being repeatedly forced to measure her own expectations against social pressures and meet someone…

  • The Batman

    The Batman

    ★★★½

    It's hard to believe that it has taken this long for someone to make a cinematic Batman adaptation that places primary focus on him being a detective above all else, an approach which wisely pushes the character's intellectual attributes to the forefront in a way that complements the dynamic action and psychological darkness. Props to Matt Reeves for deciding to fully emphasise the noir and mystery genre influences which have been largely marginalised in previous iterations (often negatively in favour…

  • Before We Vanish

    Before We Vanish

    ★★★½

    I'm always impressed by Kurosawa's ability to make familiar ideas and tropes feel fresh by exploring them from an unconventional standpoint. This is an alien invasion which de-emphasises the abject terror and intense action often found in the subgenre for something a little more introspective, pondering what makes us human through the concepts we consider important in our everyday lives. Consequently, the global catastrophe is felt on an intimate scale. It touches frequently on the ways we choose to communicate…

  • Journey to the Shore

    Journey to the Shore

    ★★★½

    The gentleness present in this tender ghost story is something you wouldn't usually expect to find in a Kiyoshi Kurosawa feature, but it proves to be extremely fitting when dealing with the different ways that people handle the grieving process and come to terms with mortality. We follow a woman whose deceased husband returns to show her the lost souls he visited after dying, turning a physical journey into a spiritual one as she hopes to find closure through the…

  • Bad Genius

    Bad Genius

    ★★★½

    Didn't expect this quasi-heist thriller set around test-taking to be able to generate so much excitement via such a tedious exercise, focusing on a straight-A student who comes up with an elaborate plan to help her fellow pupils cheat which only seems to increase in scale. Exams are a fundamentally flawed way to grade intellect in a world where money dominates everything and that's something portrayed astutely throughout this narrative; the playing field has never been level, the rich can…