It’s a lot harder to ‘one line’ the sophomore film by Daniels’ Kwan and Scheinert than was the case with their first. If Swiss Army Man was Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse comedy, Everything Everywhere All at Once is…? Well, it’s the one with the weaponised dildos. It’s also the one with Michelle Yeoh’s googly third eye and hot dog fingers. It’s even the one where a pair of pebbles enjoy an existential debate on the meaning of life. When Jamie Lee Curtis declared her newest release would ‘out marvel Marvel’, she wasn’t just pot stirring. This is super stuff on a heroically limited budget.
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From its first orgiastic rave on, Babylon is nothing short of exactly the film its director wanted to make. This is a DAMIEN CHAZELLE picture. A film that could only be made by a virtuoso at the height of his powers. Only a man with half a dozen Oscars on his mantle could get away with Babylon, a grossly self-indulgent anti-crowd pleaser. Sprawling, often brilliant, fabulously acted, exploitative and around an forty minutes overlong. It hasn’t a hope with the Academy and shan’t make a penny at the box office. Not that either is the true benchmark of success. Indeed, for the sheer impertinence of his efforts alone, Chazelle warrants commendation. Babylon is not for the faint of heart.
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If 1917 saw Sam Mendes pay tribute to the life of his grandfather, Empire of Light exists in debt to the strife of his mother. It is her struggles with mental illness that inform the plot. As films, the two are worlds apart. This is not least owing to the latter’s status as Mendes’ first solo writing credit. In this regard, Empire of Light finds its director landing not quite as a duck to water. Yet, in a typically remarkable Olivia Colman, the film still offers worthy attention for very truthful pain. Visually, meanwhile, Mendes reputation remains untainted.
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