Quick takes on 5 films

Blade of the Immortal is a very strange film. Directed by eclectic filmmaker Takashi Miike and based on a manga series of the same name, it is about a Japanese samurai who is given eternal life. He cannot be killed, but instead heals from even the worst blows. He is enlisted by a young girl, who wants his help to hunt down and kill the man who had killed her parents. The movie is violent from the beginning, with buckets of outlandish gore splattered all over the place during the sword fights. Think Kill Bill taken up a notch. I enjoy a good samurai film from time to time, but this one was a bit much for me. The plot is fairly thin, so it relies on its fight scenes to keep you interested. These are often spectacular in the beginning, but even gore fest lovers may grow tired of the constant dripping sounds in this one.
The King’s Choice on the other hand is gripping and holds your attention until the final minute. Based on a true story, it is a war film that isn’t really a war film, about a time and place which many may be unaware. Taking place over three days in April, 1940, it is about the invasion of Norway by Germany, and the subsequent pressure on Norway’s government to make the invasion legal by installing Germany’s chosen puppet as Prime Minister. The current king of Norway has to balance his love for country and its inhabitants with his own personal morals and fears. The battle scenes are tense for sure, but the real heart in this movie is found in the will of the king. Here in the USA we understandably tend to focus on our involvement in the war, but there was obviously a whole lot going on before we ever entered in. This movie is a fantastic look at one such front. Beautifully well made.
Una has a ton of potential, but ultimately fails in the end due to an overabundance of weak plot elements, shoddy editing, and some fairly unbelievable circumstances and dialogue. Una (Rooney Mara) goes and confronts Peter (Ben Mendelsohn) at his work. The much older Peter and a thirteen year old Una had previously had a sexual relationship, and now 15 years later, Peter has served his jail time for statutory rape, changed his name, and attempted to start a new life. Of course, it hasn’t been so easy for Una, who suffers from depression and has never been able to move on. They spend the day learning about each other again, with their past relationship told in quick flashbacks. A powerful subject, and handled properly this could have been a tremendous film, but it too often goes for shock value instead of subtlety, and almost has the feel of a teenage drama, albeit with more a more serious subject.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is one wild trip of a movie. The followup to director Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster (another peculiar movie I really enjoyed), it is a strange psychological thriller, with a lot of hidden meaning that would probably take a couple viewings for my meager brain to catch. Steven is a successful surgeon, with an unknown (but definitely dark) relationship with a much younger man named Martin. Martin eventually meets Steven’s family, and it comes out that Martin’s dad had been killed in an accident, and met Steven through that tragedy. As the movie goes along, we learn some dark secrets, and while quietly suspenseful from the beginning (the music does a good job of telling us something isn’t right from the get-go), it takes a drastic turn halfway through, which is best to see for yourself. The movie is purposefully written in an odd, jerky way, with strange dialogue that makes it seem like all of the characters are suffering from some emotional disorder or detachment. It builds slowly but suredly to a fantastic conclusion. This film isn’t going to be for everyone, and even I might not have liked it on a different day, but today, I thought it was a masterpiece.
I, Daniel Blake is a very touching, and very well told story about a man in northern England struggling in life. Recently widowed and a survivor of a heart attack, Dan is just scraping by . His doctors tell him he can’t work, but the government tells him he can, and thus denies financial assistance. Dan tries to go through the proper channels for help, but everywhere he turns, he is told to fill out a new form, or wait for a phone call, or to go online, which as a life-long laborer, he has no knowledge of the internet or even basic computer functions. He meets up with a young single mother named Katie, who is also starving with her kids, but at least Dan has skills that helps her fix up her new apartment to make it safe and clean. As circumstances for both Dan and Katie grow increasingly dim, we aren’t sure if this movie will have a happy ending or not. Ultimately, it is up to the viewer to decide if it is happy or not. A very sweet movie.

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