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Cannes 2022 Review: DECISION TO LEAVE, The Haunting Beauty of Romantic Doom

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Cannes 2022 Review: DECISION TO LEAVE, The Haunting Beauty of Romantic Doom

“Am I such a pushover?” Detective Hae-jun asks the femme fatale of Park Chan-wook’s latest masterwork, Decision to Leave. “Am I so wicked?” comes her response. Perhaps the truth of these tried and true character tropes lies somewhere in the middle.

Many a tragic figure has come undone by the femme fatale, an archetype as old as the noir genre itself that serves to tell and re-tell the same powerful story of beauty and the damned. To me, its staying power concerns its central metaphor for the very real truth of love’s potent capability to drive a person to betray their own values, dignity, and sense of self, if pushed hard enough by a seductive force that knowingly uses it as a weapon.

In only seven years, Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon will turn a hundred years old and one would think after almost a century of stories featuring seductresses exercising their wiles on pigeon detectives, the well might have run dry or at least evaporated into a sea of post-modern irony. Yet Park Chan-wook has somehow found a way to not only shed new ground in a faithfully classic way, but to make his loyalist vision uniquely modern and achingly salient.

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Our hero is an insomniac detective who no longer knows if his penchant for all-night stakeouts comes from his inability to sleep or if his inability to sleep comes from his penchant for stakeouts. Hae-jun is a man who, like so many hard-boiled dicks before him, not only defines himself by his job, but may go as far as to live for the romance of crime-solving, not that he’d ever admit this to his wife. Is this why so many characters like him fall for their crime victims/suspects? Do their intertwined passions become entangled?

His latest case involves the death of a mountain climber who may have slipped and fallen to his death or maybe not. It’s up to Hae-jun to suss out if the victim’s bewitching widow is the classic suspect number one or the radiant victim of tragic circumstances. As you may have gathered from the genre’s narrative pastime, our protagonist grows obsessed with the case and the woman who affects him like no other, and in no time at all, becomes emotionally undone by how uncharacteristically he finds himself behaving.

During the film’s press conference at the Cannes film festival, where Park Chan-wook well-deservedly took home the best director prix, the auteur felt compelled to address the numerous critics who seemed eager to talk with him about Hitchcock and obsession, which are indeed somewhat synonymous. But Park Chan-wook seemed to find the comparison somewhat baffling.

Perhaps this is because Hitchcock, a seemingly oppressed observer, if ever there was one, was highly keyed into the male gaze and through it, its objects of affection. But where Park Chan-wook takes the nefarious femme fatale into uncharted waters involves reciprocity. In Decision to Leave, the gaze’s object looks back.

Nevertheless, the comparison is certainly apt in one regard whether intended or not and that is the Korean auteur’s command of capital-C cinema. With Decision to Leave, Park Chan-wook’s storytelling has never been quite so impeccably crafted as he utilizes every trick in the mise-en-scène dictionary while scintillatingly adding fresh moves at every turn. With incredible attention to both impressionistic and expressionistic detail in camera and editing, Park Chan-wook’s construction of shots, complete with ultra-creative perspectives and curiously satisfying zooms, will dazzle the deepest cinephiles while simultaneously captivating viewers of all stripes.

Ultimately, the most enthralling aspect of Decision to Leave is the haunting beauty of its almost-Shakespearean sense of romantic doom. Like the film’s femme, it is an utterly bewitching work of chilling romance and I remain deeply under its spell. It’s nice to know, as we enter the genre’s second century, that it is still possible to achieve timeless originality and I have no doubt that our grandchildren will continue talking about Decision to Leave in another hundred years.

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Decision to Leave

Writer(s)
  • Park Chan-wook
  • Seo-kyeong Jeong
Cast
  • Tang Wei
  • Park Hae-il
  • Go Kyung-Pyo

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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