Friday, 26 November 2021

8-Bit Christmas (Movie Review)

Christmas is right around the corner, which means the various streaming services have once again started to put out their holiday offerings. Hawkeye just debuted on Disney+ with a two-episode premiere on Wednesday, while Netflix had its third entry in The Princess Switch series go up last week. But over on HBO Max, viewers are being treated to a different kind of holiday fair. This is coming in the form of a retro trip back to the 80s in the new holiday comedy, 8-Bit Christmas.

The film stars Neil Patrick Harris as Jake Doyle, a man who regales his daughter with a story of the one Christmas he was willing to do anything to get his hands on a Nintendo Entertainment System. The year was 1988 and young Jake's parents had already refused to get him one on the grounds that it was going to rot his brains away. Disheartened but not dissuaded, Jake is forced to come up with his own elaborate plan to procure the game console. What he doesn't count on though is just how hard getting the highly-elusive holiday item would prove to be.

On the surface, 8-Bit Christmas might look like yet another comedy about the craziness that sometimes surrounds the holidays. Much like the equally comical Jingle All The Way, the film centers on a high-in-demand holiday gift item and the people trying to get their hands on it. But that is where the similarities end really because outside of that central conceit, much of this film is about a young boy simply trying to navigate all the hardships life seemed bent on throwing at him this one Christmas.

The film uses its unreliable narrator framework to great comedic effect, making us question the validity of much of the claims being made while keeping most of it lighthearted and funny. It is certainly a family film and one I can see appealing to young and older viewers alike. There is a sense of nostalgia for anybody that grew up in the late 80s, or ever pinned for a Nintendo Entertainment System back in its heyday. And the whole thing ties into a very emotional ending I didn't see coming at all.

The best thing about 8-Bit Christmas is you don't have to be into video games to enjoy its highly-humorous and heartwarming story. The film is as much a homage to the 80s as it is a morality tale. Most of the jokes are of the over-the-top slapstick variety, and while not every single one of them might land, the overall film boasts more hits than misses. The movie should satisfy anyone looking for something new to watch this holiday, and as such, it earns an easy recommendation from me.

Friday, 12 November 2021

Eternals (Movie Review)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe grows larger than ever with Eternals, the latest film to come out in Phase 4. Directed by Chloe Zhao, the movie introduces fans of the franchise to its eponymous team of superheroes and their particular slice of its overall mythology. And what a slice that is, spanning thousands of years and involving beings as old as time itself. The film is certainly grand with its ambitions and it shows from its very first frames. But does all that ambition come at the detriment of the movie's overall execution?

The film begins with an opening crawl that sets the stage by letting us know just how insignificant everything that has come before it is in the grand scheme of things. I won't go into too many details but just know that we have these centuries-old beings called Eternals, and they've been sent here by the power that be to protect mankind from the deviants, a vicious race of aliens seeking to destroy all life. And when the deviants suddenly resurface after being gone for hundreds of years, the Eternals are forced to do what they'd been sent here to do.

I guess I'll have to start this review by addressing the obvious fact that it is coming one week later than originally planned. In the wake of the film receiving a ban in Saudi Arabia last week, the Nigerian censorship board had decided to follow suit with a ban of its own. And just like that, the movie was yanked out of cinema schedules nationwide, and wouldn't resurface until one week later.

All that because of one kiss between a gay couple and the MCU's first-ever sex scene, neither of which had made it into the cut of the film we were shown. And judging by the shoddy editing that was done around the scenes in question, it would appear that this particular cut wasn't done or sanctioned by Disney itself. I mention all this just for the sake of transparency, as I do my best to appraise the film based on the chopped-up version I saw. 

Regarding the film itself, I'm pleased to say that I enjoyed it a lot more than I had anticipated. It certainly feels like an MCU film, even though it ditches much of the traditional MCU formula for something far more ambitious. The film employs a nonlinear narrative structure, with the plot spanning several time periods and the story getting filled in the further it went along. But it still had all the humor and action fans have come to expect from the MCU.

It is clear that Chloe Zhao and her team of writers were shooting for something very grand indeed. And for the most part, they've succeeded, bringing her distinct vision to a film that would have probably turned out differently in the hands of any other director. I can certainly see traces of her other work on films like Nomadland in this one, in scenes that showcased the striking beauty of rural communities, intermixed with the intergalactic proceedings.

So yes, the film scores high in my books on the grounds of atmosphere alone. My main criticism then comes from the fact that it juggles between way too many characters, making it hard to fully invest in their struggles on an emotional level. There were characters like Makari that I would have loved to see more of, and others still that were outright missing for long stretches of the film. Unlike the various other Marvel team-ups, this one didn't have the benefit of enough character development, despite its interminable runtime, and it shows.

The movie is also plagued by some rather uneven special effects. Most of it was decent enough and spectacularly so, serving to convey the epic scale Chloe Zhao was going for. But others were just inexcusably bad, even looking unfinished and working to pull me out of the movie. I guess most of us have come to accept that these Marvel movies will always be effects heavy extravaganzas, and that those effects won't always look particularly convincing.

Eternals is a film that often feels like it is at war with itself. On the one hand, it is an epic sci-fi story that asks a lot of big questions while raising several possibilities. On the other hand, it tries to fit all that vast mythology and storytelling into the traditional MCU mold. This results in a mishmash that doesn't always quite work. But when it does, we get to catch glimpses of the completely stunning movie buried underneath it all, and what a sight to behold it was.

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

The Harder They Fall (Movie Review)


Boyz n the Hood meets the Wild West in the new Netflix Original, The Harder They Fall. The movie is just the latest one to hit the streaming platform from the more than 70 it had promised to release this year. Most of those movies have turned out to be resounding duds though, with more misses than actual hits doting their 2021 lineup thus far. But as we enter into awards season, we can expect the wheat to get separated from the chaff. The question then is where exactly does their new Blaxploitation Western fall within that quality spectrum?

In The Harder They Fall, a young outlaw named Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) finds that his quest for revenge is brought back to the forefront when his archenemy, Rufus Black (Idris Elba), gets sprung out from prison. He learns that Rufus had in fact taken control of a small town, but that his plans to turn it into a safe haven are challenged by some financial setbacks. Nat rides there to liberate the townsfolk, together with his posse of sharpshooters. Except what they find there is something they were not prepared for and Nat would be forced to test just how far he is willing to go to get his revenge. 

Revenge is a dish best served cold as they say, and I am as much a sucker for a good Spaghetti Western as the next man. So when Netflix had originally dropped the first trailer for The Harder They Fall, you can bet that I was immediately intrigued. The concept of a Blaxploitation Western is nothing new of course, with films like Django Unchained having already laid the framework for how they can be done to near perfection. So it shouldn't really come as a surprise that The Harder They Fall follows that same template almost religiously.

The first thing that undoubtedly stands out about the movie though is the killer ensemble. The film does a good job of establishing all the key characters, giving just enough context for their individual motivations to make them captivating whenever they were onscreen. That is, until they start engaging in some leaps of logic, all in the name of advancing the plot. I won't go into specifics but it is somewhat aggravating that the script hadn't received nearly as much love as other facets of the film.

Speaking of which, the entire film drips with style and it certainly doesn't shy away from wearing its influences on its sleeves. Then again, neither did Quentin Tarantino in his many Spaghetti Western-influenced movies. The film is competently shot, with scenes that were expertly framed to maximize the growing tensions between the characters. The same can be said about the editing, which keeps those scenes rolling along despite its two-hour-plus runtime.

Sadly, the illusion is often broken by some flimsy-looking Production Design, which might have been excusable in the heydays of the Hollywood Western, but stands out like a sore thumb today. Then there is the soundtrack, which while great on its own merits, often works to distract from the onscreen action, rather than enhance it, making the whole thing feel like an overproduced music video sometimes.

The Harder They Fall comes close to being all style with very little substance, but the movie is elevated by some truly great performances from its stellar ensemble. It was clear that each actor was having as much fun as they could with their roles, and it is that fun that ultimately resonates with us the viewer. The film certainly delivers on its promise of a solid Spaghetti Western which is why it earns an easy recommendation from me for fans of the genre and any of the actors involved.

Monday, 18 October 2021

Dune (Movie Review)


Rolling into 2021, one of my most anticipated movies for the year was the latest Hollywood adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune. This was a book I had loved as a kid, captivated as I was by its descriptions of its desert world and the politics that governed that specific slice of the universe. And when word had initially come out that the movie was to be helmed by Denis Villeneuve, I couldn't think of a better director for the job. Now that the film is finally here, I am more than happy to share my thoughts on its grand ambitions and the overall quality of its execution.

The movie centers upon a young man named Paul Atredies (Timothy Chalamet), whose father is the leader of one of the great houses that make up the Galactic Empire. Despite being haunted by visions of a blue-eyed girl (Zendaya), he must instead grapple with the reality of his training to become leader of their house one day. But when his father, Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), is appointed as steward of Arrakis, their entire family is forced to leave the comforts of their homeworld behind and forge a new path on the harsh desert planet.

It was always going to be a difficult task, adapting one of the most beloved sci-fi novels of the past century. And Denis Villeneuve steps up to that challenge with more than capable hands. Coming off the critical success he'd gotten with both Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, the visionary director puts his skills to good use on a property that is often compared to the likes of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. And while we can definitely see its source material's influence on the former, I think the only real connection with the latter is in its scale.

Everything about Dune feels grand and epic, with some of the best production design I've seen in a sci-fi movie. The world of Arrakis is brought to glorious life, matching much of what I'd conjured up in my mind while reading the book. Except the film even goes one step further with its wildly unique interpretations. Everything from the insect-like ornithopters to the completely massive sandworms speaks to that distinct vision, and it is all captured with some truly gorgeous cinematography.

Aside from looking great though, Dune still has a story to tell, and for the most part, it faithfully adapts the one we got in the novel. The movie is well-paced, moving the plot forward in a gradual flow that should keep most viewers engaged. It does a decent job of establishing all the key characters and background lore, without getting too bogged down in boring exposition or information dumps. That said, the film is kind of light on action, at least compared to the average blockbuster, and when that action does happen, it is played for emotions as much as it is spectacle, so anyone going in expecting your typical popcorn fare would be best off tapering those expectations.

On the acting side, the performances were uniformly great, with Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd in particular managing to chew some scenery as the villainous Baron Harkonnen. The music was also appropriately rousing, conjuring feelings of dread and wonder to go along with the onscreen visuals. But all that is not to say that the movie is without its flaws, the biggest of which stems from the nature of the adaptation itself. Adapting just the first half of the book means there is still half a book worth of story to tell, making the film as it is feel less satisfying as a result. 
 
I am also concerned about how none readers and science-fiction casuals might take to its sprawling worlds and jargon-heavy lore, without the benefit of all the background details Frank Herbert was able to cram into the novel. The ultimate test would be how the film performs when it releases in US and UK theaters. But if its success in international territories is any kind of indication, then those concerns could very much turn out to be unfounded.

Dune is one of the more faithful book-to-film adaptations I have seen in years. But even more than that, it is a movie that serves as another showcase for Denis Villeneuve's talents, cementing his position as one of the best sci-fi directors working today. And while it remains to be seen if his current saga will be able to rise to the level of pop culture relevance we saw with The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones (most likely not), it is still off to a great start and I am more than eager to see what comes next.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Halloween Kills (Movie Review)

Following a year-long delay that was brought about by the ongoing pandemic, Michael Myers returns this Halloween to do what he does best. And with a title as on the nose as Halloween Kills, it is anybody's guess what that is. The film marks the second entry in the current trilogy, after the first one pretty much retconned everything that happened beyond the 1978 classic. But does the new film move the franchise forward in any meaningful way, or is it just another case of more of the same?

Set immediately after the events of the previous movie, we once again find masked killer Michael Myers defying the odds. He somehow manages to escape the carefully-laid-out trap he'd been left in at the end of the 2018 film, as he goes on to continue his killing spree through the small town. Except the townsfolk have had enough. So in a classic case of the hunter becoming the hunted, they form an angry mob in a bid to put an end to his reign of terror. But it quickly becomes clear that they are in over their heads when he proves quite resilient and almost impossible to kill.

Halloween Kills is yet another trudge through an all-too-familiar path. The movie pulls all of the same punches we've seen in previous entries, and it does so without bringing anything new to the table. The result is that the entire thing starts to feel like filler before long, or a stopgap before the inevitable final film in the new trilogy. But even taken into consideration within its own limited playground, the film simply doesn't offer nearly enough thrills or reasons for its existence.

I'd even go one step further and say that it simply lacked any true sense of dread or quality scares, which is what one primarily goes into these movies for. Michael Myers was the same old Michael Myers we've been getting since 1978, with no added depth or dimension to his character. Jamie Lee Curtis was easily the best part of the previous movie, and even she was pretty much underutilized and out of commission for the better part of this one. And none of the other supporting characters were anywhere near as compelling, making it hard to really care when they start to get killed off one by one.

Speaking of which, this is the one area where the movie attempts to raise the bar, the actual kills themselves. And it certainly had its fair share, so gorehounds should be pleased in that regard. Some of those kills border on the edge of comedy though, requiring a level of suspension of disbelief I wasn't expecting to find in a modern-day slasher film. It is hard to take the film seriously, not when it has some of the most cartoonish deaths I've seen outside of the Final Destination series.

Halloween Kills feels like extended setup for Halloween Ends, the third and hopefully final installment of what is clearly an aging franchise. And much like the masked killer at the center of its plot, the whole thing feels rote and stuck in its ways. Anyone hoping for the kind of revitalization we saw in the previous film would be better off tapering those expectations. But for anyone just looking for a half decent slasher film to watch this Halloween, then there is some rudimentary fun to be had with this one.

Saturday, 2 October 2021

No Time to Die (Movie Review)

The 25th entry in the James Bond series is finally here, following its much publicized delays in the wake of COVID-19 concerns last year. The landmark film marks Daniel Craig's final outing as its eponymous secret agent, a role he has played since Casino Royale in 2006. And in all that time, the actor has come to define that role, so watching him say goodbye to the character was always going to be a bittersweet affair. But does his fifth and final appearance as Bond do justice to his tenure?

In No Time to Die, everyone's favorite MI6 agent is forced out of retirement when the world is once again threatened by the terrorist organization, Spectre. And things have changed somewhat since the last time he was on her Royal Majesty's secret service. Not only has MI6 been caught dabbling in some shady dealings, he must also contend with his replacement, a new hotshot agent. But the two must learn to work together to bring down the terrorist organization once and for all.

Let me start by confessing that I wasn't all that keen on Spectre when I saw it in 2015. It was a movie I'd found to be quite forgettable amongst other things. So watching No Time to Die, which is effectively a direct sequel, it almost felt like I was missing a big chunk of the narrative. The film does its best to fill in those blanks, but I guess what I'm saying is your enjoyment of No Time to Die could very well hinge on how much you'd enjoyed the previous movie.
 
All that said, No Time to Die is definitely an improvement over Spectre. The film finds Bond doing what he does best, except he is even more world weary this time around, having suffered some crushing emotional blows in his time as a double O. It also subverts expectations by throwing away some of the well-worn tropes the franchise has come to be known for, like the action packed cold opens that has defined the last couple of entries. 
 
But the whole thing ultimately feels the same, with yet another global threat that must be stopped before it is too late. And speaking of that threat, Rami Malek plays the film's villain, Safin, in a performance I found to be quite on the nose. He was certainly as villainous as they come, but came too close to mustache-twirling territory for my liking. The movie is also overlong, stretching towards the three-hour mark without really justifying why it needed to do so.

I guess my biggest gripe with No Time to Die is the fact that it doesn't really give any indication of what to expect with the James Bond franchise going forward. Most likely we'll be getting another reboot sometime down the line, so anyone going into the movie expecting some kind of passing of the torch might come out sorely disappointed. But negatives aside, the film still manages to shine due to its focus on its central hero and his storied history.

No Time to Die is a fitting end to the Daniel Craig era of Bond movies. It builds upon everything that came before it to give the actor one of the more emotional sendoffs in the franchise's 25-film history. And while it doesn't reach the same heights as a Casino Royale or Skyfall, it still manages to satisfy as it caps off what is surely one of the best runs we've had since we were first introduced to Bond.

 

Friday, 17 September 2021

Cry Macho (Movie Review)

Very few filmmakers working today are as resilient as Clint Eastwood. At 91 years old, the acclaimed actor and director continues to put forth excellent work in his movies, where others would've already opted for retirement. His latest project is one that has seen its own share of ups and downs, having been attached to several actors and directors since the screenplay was first written in the 1970s. But following a development period that seems worthy of its own movie, the film finally hit theaters and HBO Max simultaneously this weekend.

In Cry Macho, Clint Eastwood plays Mike Milo, a washed-up ranch hand whose glory days as a rodeo cowboy had ended with a severe back injury. Now he lives a life of solitude following the string of tragedies that have come to define who he is as a person. But when he is called upon by his former employer (Dwight Yoakam) to repay a debt that would involve him crossing the Mexican border to retrieve the man's estranged son, he finds himself forced to accept. What he doesn't count on though is just how challenging this particular job would prove to be.

Cry Macho once again finds Clint Eastwood stepping into the shoes of an aging cowboy. But unlike the brilliant Unforgiven, this is a film that is less concerned about shoot outs. It is effectively a road movie that centers upon the growing relationship between an old man and a young boy, and the film shines brightest when we get to see the chemistry between the two evolve. Clint Eastwood is just as charismatic as he has ever been, delivering a performance that was very much nuanced.

The same thing can't be said for the rest of the cast though, with performances ranging from good to just barely serviceable. Thankfully, most of the runtime is spent with our two leads, or three if you count Macho, the titular rooster. In terms of tone, the film is not afraid to throw in a few jokes, despite its otherwise serious premise. I wouldn't go as far as calling it a comedy, but things are kept lighthearted for the most part, no doubt to ensure that its feel-good message about redemption comes through strong.

My main criticism then is its somewhat slow pacing and relatively low stakes. The film has long stretches where barely anything seems to happen, lacking much of the excitement you would expect from a movie about a man operation outsides the lines of the law. But not every one of these films need to be plot-driven, or conform to the same rigid formula we've seen time and time again. This isn't Rambo: Last Blood after all, and neither does it need to be.

Cry Macho is a clear example of a passion project, and it is that passion that carries the film for most of its runtime. The story itself is simple, with very little in the way of twists or surprises, while its overall pacing does suffer from a lack of momentum. It helps of course that the whole thing is beautifully shot, and that Clint Eastwood's commandeering presence can be felt both in front and behind the camera. His execution might not be to everyone's taste, but what the film lacks in tension it definitely makes up for in heart.

Friday, 10 September 2021

Malignant (Movie Review)


As we once again approach Halloween, you can expect the various Hollywood studios to start serving up the horror goods. And Warner Bros. is one of the first ones to jump into the fray with Malignant, a supernatural horror film that is receiving a simultaneous release in theaters and on HBO Max this weekend. Directed by James Wan of Saw and The Conjuring fame, the film finds the acclaimed horror director taking time away from those other franchises to conjure up something new and unsettling.

In Malignant, a young woman named Madison finds herself inexplicably connected to a serial killer through visions of his grisly murders. And as the killer grows increasingly malignant, she gets embroiled in an investigation to catch him before he claims his next victim. But in order to get to the bottom of the mystery, she'll need to search deep within herself and channel the suppressed horrors of her troubled childhood.

Let me just start off by admitting that I was a little bit torn coming out of Malignant. On the one hand, I understand what James Wan was trying to accomplish with its throwback horror feel and the cheesy dialogue to go with it. On the other hand, I was almost put to sleep by the predictability of its build up and its lack of quality scares for most of its runtime, which is generally why you'd want to see a horror film in the first place, for the scares.

But the film spends so much time setting up its grand finale that by the time it gets to its third act, I was all but ready to check out completely. Thankfully, I hadn't, because I would've missed out on what is quite possibly the most insane and bonkers turn of events I have witnessed in a film this year. The final twist was so overwhelming that I found myself questioning what I was even watching. That's how gloriously executed that entire stretch of the movie was.

It's just a shame that the rest of the film didn't even attempt to measure up. On the flip side, the movie did have some great cinematography that worked well to heighten the tension in those earlier scenes, as well as some cool gore effects that is sure to leave all but the most jaded of gore hounds feeling squeamish. It did tend to get a little bit too heavy on its use of CGI though, which I generally don't like to see in horror films since it makes them feel less believable. But I'd still like to say that they manage to strike a nice balance between that and all the practical effects on display.

Malignant is saved by a climax so wild that you almost wouldn't believe your eyes while watching it. The final 20 minutes manage to go so completely off the rails, and in the best way possible, that it almost made up for the slog we had to endure to get there. James Wan clearly has a mastery of the art of horror, and the wildness and unhinged nature of this particular vision are what make the film ultimately worthwhile.

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Movie Review)

Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was meant to kick off with Black Widow. But as anyone who had seen my review of that film would remember, I hadn't been too pleased with how it turned out. My main gripe stemmed from the fact that it didn't really move the MCU forward in any meaningful way, nor did it manage to do more than attempt to fill the gap between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.

So we've basically had to rely on Disney+ shows like Loki and WandaVision to set the stage for the current phase of the MCU, which they have to varying degrees. Loki in particular looks like it might have long-reaching ramifications for films like Spider-Man: No Way Home as well as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. But out of everything we've gotten in Phase Four thus far, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings feels like its first true springboard for what's to come.

Set in the post-Blip portion of the MCU timeline, the film stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, a trained warrior who has long since turned his back on his family and their ways. He now spends his days working in LA as a valet with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina). But after his father (Tony Leung) and leader of the Ten Rings criminal organization sends a number of his foot soldiers to hunt him down, he finds himself drawn back into the life he thought he'd already left behind.

As far as MCU origin stories go, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is one of the best ones yet. It was certainly leagues above Black Widow, which didn't even feel like an origin story in the strictest of terms. This one introduces its title character and his particular corner of the MCU, without feeling like it was merely treading the same ground that past MCU origin films had, most of which is due to its talented cast, and the chemistry between them.
 
Simi Liu shines as Shang-Chi, delivering a performance that was strong enough to carry the movie. But he was of course helped along by Awkafina, who provided much of the comic relief. It was easy to buy into their friendship because both actors manage to make it look so pure and effortless. And Tony Leung plays what is now another top-tier MCU villain in the form of Wenwu, aka. the real Mandarin. There were several nods to the earlier iteration of the character throughout the film, none of which I will spoil here. 

But by far the biggest facet of the movie that I enjoyed was the fight choreography. The movie boasts some of the best action scenes in the MCU, borrowing heavily from Chinese cinema to create some truly jaw-dropping wire stunts that immediately call to mind films like Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Fans of such films and Chinese mythology in general would definitely have plenty to ogle at, especially since it fully embraces their more fantastical side, unlike the recent Mulan live-action adaptation.

This is incidentally the one area of the movie that I found didn't always live up to that same high quality. I'm of course talking about the special effects, which were definitely special and spectacularly so for the most part. Some of it was convincing enough, while others were borderline cartoonish. This was especially true during the climax, where these MCU films typically tend to get CGI heavy. But all of that is par for the course, so it shouldn't really work to pull you out of the experience that much.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is proof that Kevin Feige and his team of writers still have a few tricks up their sleeves. They've crafted a world that feels just as integral to the overall MCU as everything that came before it. That they've done that while telling a story that was both heartwarming and awe-inspiring bodes well for the future of the franchise. And if this is any indication of what we can expect from these movies post-Avengers: Endgame, then fans still have a lot to look forward to.

Monday, 30 August 2021

The Green Knight (Movie Review)


Filmmaking in my opinion is all about stimulating the senses. Whether this is through a well-executed action scene like the ones we get in a typical summer blockbuster, or through stories that capture the imagination in other less visceral ways. And every now and then, we get a film that take either of those two things one step further, elevating the medium into the realm of fine art. Films like Mad Max: Fury Road and Blade Runner 2049 immediately come to mind, wherein the filmmaker's singular vision is on full display for all to see. The Green Knight is just the latest example.

Directed by David Lowery, the film is based on the 14th-century poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In this particular adaptation, Dev Patel plays Gawain, nephew to a battle-weary King (Sean Harris) who is challenged to a game by the eponymous Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) one Christmas morning. With nothing to lose and plenty to prove, Gawain accepts the challenge. But as he'll quickly come to find out, the knight's game is a lot more devious than he'd anticipated. Now he is bound to an oath that would have him journeying across the country to fulfill it.

I concede that I am a little bit late to the party with my review of The Green Knight, but that was mainly due to the fact that the film did not receive a theatrical release over here in Nigeria. Apparently, we have a low tolerance for so-called art films, as they tend to require a greater commitment from the viewer, who more often than not just wants something simple to serve as some mild escapism. Which is fine, and every film has its purpose and target audience. 

But all that is to say that I didn't get to see the movie the way it was meant to be seen, sprawled across a massive theater screen. And believe me when I say if ever there was a film that deserves the premium large format treatment, it is this one. The film is easily one of the most visually-striking I have seen this year, with cinematography that all but seems like a shoo-in at next year's Oscars. Every single shot is meticulously framed, and every single scene is tightly edited, which is saying something considering the film's deliberate pacing.

Speaking of pacing, the story follows the same general beats as its source material, with a few minor deviations to keep the film feeling fresh. But this is where the film itself might lose most viewers, because the director never shies away from letting the camera linger on his subjects, or from scenes that stretch on much longer than most viewers are accustomed to. In spite of all that though, none of those scenes felt inconsequential, or truly overstayed their welcome, not when they were filled with so much detail to parse and take in.

The closest thing I can liken it to is staring at a beautiful painting. Beneath every brush stroke lie layers of meaning and expression. And the movie is certainly filled with hidden depths, much like the poem it is based upon. It is a coming-of-age story that is less concerned with adventure than it is understanding what drives a young man in pursuit of honor and glory. Dev Patel helps to bring that young man to life, in what is arguably his most accomplished performance to date. And he is helped by one of the best ensembles on this side of the round table.

The Green Knight is not an easy movie to sit through, no doubt. The film meanders in the way that most slow-burn art films tend to do. The fact that it leaves its ending and overall narrative open to interpretation also might turn casual viewers off. But if you are willing to indulge in the director's striking vision and unique take on the classic Arthurian legend, then you'll find yourself lost in its vast canvas of rich textures and beautiful imagery.