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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

Review Round-Up: 'Confess, Fletch' | 'Palm Trees And Power Lines' | 'Hatching' + More

A collage of stills from the five movies discussed
Paramount Pictures | Sundance Institute | Netflix | Nordisk Film | Focus Features


''Where did this come from?'' is presumably a lot of people's reactions when they randomly come across a new reboot for a franchise that is fairly well known. Based on Gregory Mcdonald's novel of the same name, director and co-writer Greg Mottola's Confess, Fletch is a crime comedy mostly targeted for adults, something that is not only getting rarer each passing day but then also appeared in theatres and on your home screens with little fanfare. Jon Hamm stars as Irwin M. ''Fletch'' Fletcher himself who is a former journalist who becomes a suspect in a murder case after she finds a dead woman in Boston. Meanwhile, he is also trying to recover his girlfriend Angela's (Lorenza Izzo) father's art collection which has been stolen by art dealer Ronald Horan (Kyle MacLachlan).

While it doesn't hit notes as high as other surprisingly good, barely-seen comedies in recent years, there is a fascinating general vibe to the film that makes it an irresistibly enjoyable watch and one you'd easily recommend as well. The highs aren't as high because of the quality of its jokes but it's still striking that nearly every comedic line has a purpose or at least is an attempt to get a chuckle out of you, often five seconds later when you've finally internalised them.

Hamm also seems to be suitably cast for the main role—with the caveat that I'm not familiar with source material or previous adaptations—and other supporting talent like Izzo, Roy Wood Jr. and Ayden Mayeri (latter two playing inspector Monroe and detective Griz, respectively, two cops investigating the murder) share solid chemistry with Hamm while providing physical or verbal comedy too. Mottola and co-writer Zev Borow's script can get pretty messy with the crimes and reveals at times but the vibe still remains thankfully. Don't overthink everything and just go with it?

Smileys: Humour, Jon Hamm

Frowneys: Minor issues with story


Jon Hamm wearing a yacht club coat
Paramount Pictures


It's actually scientifically proven that it's not a proper year if you haven't seen the most Sundance movie that has ever Sundance-d in its respective graduating class. There's a good chance that majority would agree this year's darling to be Palm Trees And Power Lines, director-writer Jamie Dack's feature debut co-written with Audrey Findlay and based on Dack's short film of the same name. In this youth drama, 17-year-old Lea (Lily McInerny) is growing apart emotionally from her high school friends and other peers, her then becoming attached to a significantly older man named Tom (Jonathan Tucker) whom she meets at a local diner. While even their age difference doesn't immediately ring the alarm bells as you'd certainly expect, Lea does eventually find herself to be in dangerous company.

This kind of introduction to movies is rarely fair compared to the amount of times that their platform gets mentioned but in this case Dack and company follow the rulebook very closely. There's a coming-of--age angle that is satisfactorily established, exploration of one's romantic interests and/or sexuality as well as an appropriate sense of suffocation that comes with familiarity with your hometown. Dack and Findlay find something to say with their script even if they say it bluntly like filmmakers often do before they fully find their own style. Editing by Christopher Radcliff also lets scenes breathe as they should, which allows newcomer McInerny and Tucker's performances create enough honesty when needed, whether that's Tom's intimate yet suspicious gazes or Lea's wide-eyed view of circumstances that she doesn't control. Sometimes that's enough, notably for someone like Dack who hopefully goes on to make a bigger, more daring splash in the future.

Smileys: Acting, atmosphere

Frowneys: Nothing too disappointing


Lily McInerny sitting on a passenger seat, looking at Jonathan Tucker standing next to her
Sundance Institute


Seems like as good a time as any to check in with tormented, self-serious artists and see how they're coping nowadays because undoubtably there's a movie lurking somewhere in there. Director, co-writer, co-editor and co-composer Alejandro G. Iñárritu contrasts one's Mexican-American identity and life with Mexico's history in Bardo, False Chronicle Of A Handful Of Truths (Bardo, falsa crónica de unas cuantas verdades in Spanish), co-written by Nicolás Giacobone. Silverio Gama (Daniel Giménez Cacho) is a documentarian living in Los Angeles with his wife Lucía (Griselda Siciliani) and son Lorenzo (Iker Solano). When Silverio returns to Mexico, his experiences there are accompanied by absurd elements from historical moments that reflect his push-and-pull as he's also set out to be the first Latin American to win a particular American journalism award.

Even more so than ever, Iñárritu has decided to throw all of his cinematic glory at the wall and see if all or enough of it sticks. His style is sometimes very entertaining and the imagery can be memorable and crafted with skill, yet often it is also self-defeating and sensory overload for sensory overload's sake. Eugenio Caballero's production design is superb when everything works as it's designed, notably morphing Silverio's house based on his mindset, DoP Darius Khondji finding every piece of it as he's determined to win the award for Most Camera Movement.

When everything isn't perfectly in sync, however, Iñárritu does lose the thread when it comes to writing and choosing what to show; a few cool transitions by him and co-editor Monica Salazar can't hide the exhaustion that you get moving from scene to scene. Dialogue becomes increasingly bothersome, hindering Cacho and other actors' work in the process. The film does find some genuine emotional truth with its beautifully realised ending but even then it's hard to feel like much of the preaching earlier had a proper effect on revealing that truth.

Smileys: Production design, ending

Frowneys: Runtime, screenplay, pacing


Daniel Giménez Cacho surrounded by dancers wearing pink and wigs


Puberty sucks, am I right? Well, the good thing is that not every kid's room is covered in slime and creature footprints like it is in Hatching (Pahanhautoja in Finnish), a candy-coated monster horror movie from director Hanna Bergholm who is making her feature debut here. It follows 12-year-old Tinja (Siiri Solalinna, also making her screen debut) who's a gymnastics prodigy living in ideal suburbs with her uptight ''family vlogger'' mom (Sophia Heikkilä), kind-but-very-vanilla father (Jani Volanen) and younger brother Matias (Oiva Ollila). Tinja is struggling to balance her growing pains with strict demands of her mom about behaviour and success when she one day finds an ominous egg which hatches a creature that she later names ''Alli''.

The main hook for the film obviously is the creature design and puppetry that comes with it, those features luckily being excellent in delivering the creepy factor which also reflects Tinja's changes. Bergholm has clearly found the right wavelength to bring that to light, orchestrating a few great horror sequences while getting a lot of range out of Solalinna as a performer. There are missteps with other performances, though, as Ollila seems to be on the other side of a 50-50 coin toss when casting child actors, some of the problems seemingly being with direction as Reino Nordin's outing (as mom's secret lover Tero) is equally distracting and out-of-place when compared to the overall tone.

Those soap opera-esque distractions pile up when screenwriter Ilja Rautsi's writing also makes the dialogue unapproachable as Tinja sounds more like a middle-aged screenwriter than a middle-class pre-teen, while all edges have been smoothened for all the men in the film. Linda Jildmalm's editing also fails to capitalise on horror of it all, often using harsh cuts with little connective tissue from one frame to another. Some of that is due to issues with visual language, some of it speaks to general untapped potential in Hatching as a whole.

Smileys: SFX

Frowneys: Dialogue, editing, Oiva Ollila, Reino Nordin


Siiri Solalinna touching a massive, white-ish egg on a bed
Nordisk Film


Witches be wildin', or at least they'll be doing that in the Balkans of all places where they'll be relatively safe to do so as cinematic lenses rarely find their way there to capture any of it. Writer-director Goran Stolevski makes his feature film debut with folk horror You Won't Be Alone, which is filmed in Macedonian (title in Macedonian is currently unknown). The movie is set in the 19th century and follows a mute girl called Nevena from a rural village who is turned into a shapeshifting witch by another mysterious witch (Anamaria Marinca) after Nevena's mother makes a deal with the witch in order to save Nevena's life. After Nevena has grown up in isolation, she ventures out into the world to experience life, shapeshifting along the way.

You Won't Be Alone comes with the heavy warning that it's very important to meet it on its own terms as it definitely doesn't follow or explore usual structures, character arcs or constructions in filmmaking. That said, there's a lot in the film that are an aspiring filmmaker's undeveloped ideas, or better yet, aspirations of what they want to visualise or express. Stolevski is riffing off his likely influences effectively but doesn't show much virtuosity with his script which is full of vaguely intellectual lines, or with his direction that leaves the cast—like Noomi Rapace, Sara Klimoska, and Alice Englert as Nevena's different forms—looking like they're still doing warm-ups in acting classes. Stolevski and cinematographer Matthew Chuang's camera and position remain merely as a passive observer, therefore little interest is shown in women who are portrayed. Maybe the next film shows that it has something to say.

Smileys: Nothing

Frowneys: Screenplay, directing, acting


Noomi Rapace looking nervous and unclean
Focus Features

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