Movies of the Week #7 (2023)

L’inferno (1911): I’m noticing a pattern – when I do watch a movie made a hundred years ago or more, it’s the technical ambitions that impress me the most. Dante’s Inferno feels like cinema, it’s daring, effects heavy and visually imposing. I’ve never read the Divine Comedy, but following Virgil and Dante into the depths of hell proved a more entertaining experience than I’d have expected. I would call it a gentleman’s exploration of horror, with terrifying tales of woe and torture, sparkled with some moments of pedantry from Dante, whenever he has a bone to pick with someone. What I could just sense throughout though was the experimental desire to make the visuals tell the story and be remarkable, which works even when it looks off. 8

Ali & Ava (2021): Middle-aged romantic not quite comedies are a rare thing, because few people want to identify with normal looking people who struggle in their later 30s/early 40s. A&A provides a heartfelt entry into this genre, featuring two strong performances by Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook. Their characters don’t live the lives of movie stars, it’s a more Ken Loach-ian affair of social highwalls, but there’s fresh air to be had in the pockets of self-assured individuality that the characters hold in themselves. It’s a clash at times, but that’s how romance is for us older fellows. Unfortunately, director-writer Clio Barnard gave in to the last act cliche of creating unnecessary tension (i.e. break up) just to allow for a positive resolution, which is something I tolerate, but don’t like. Still a worthy watch, though. 7

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022): I didn’t think much of the original PiB spin-off from the Shrek universe, even though the character did make Shrek 2 more fun. In The Last Wish, Puss is back – and hard-pressed for fun and games. On his last life, the specter of death instills fear and dread in him. After an unsuccessful retirement as “Pickles” the cat, Puss goes out on a quest to find a wishing star and wish himself some more lives. The whole adventure is a bit dull until we reach the Dark Forest, where everything picks up and the movie becomes worthwhile. With some fun scenes, cute characters and beautiful bonds, TLW proves the rare case of a sequel being better than the original. 7

Plane (2023): My first official 2023 release is none other than Gerard Butler’s latest. After pulling off a surprisingly strong end of the world movie in Greenland (2020), he also somehow manages to be a part of something called “Plane” that isn’t awful. Actually, it’s a very solid genre movie, that executes well on its simple premise – plane goes down in pirate infested islands, fight for survival ensues. It offers few insights into anything other than having a good time and enjoying some brutal takedowns along the way. Not quite Rambo level, but definitely inspired by, with a likable leading duo. 7

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021): The sequel to 2018’s Escape Room is a very similar movie, going through the motions while trying to offer some insight behind the concept’s genesis. Who is the game designer? – nobody really asked at the the end of the first one. I was lured into watching this by Isabelle Fuhrman’s credit (almost watched it before the original, not knowing it existed), but I felt tricked by the end, as her role, while important, didn’t allow for much screen time. This sequel, Escape Room’s very own Quarter Quell, is ultimately more of the same, with some grizzly puzzles, but less appealing characters. Which makes it less exciting and, I guess, the reason why we are yet to have a second sequel (I mean that, but primarily the fact ToC made one third of the original at the box office). 5