Here are my reviews for Eight for Silver, R#J, and Jockey from the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
Eight for Silver
Within the first five minutes of Sean Ellis’ Eight for Silver we see body parts being amputated and bullets being graphically removed from a body all to the backdrop of World War I. This immediately sets the tone for what we are about to witness for the next nearly two hours: a film that is brutal, violent, and grim.
Following the World War I sequence, we flash back to thirty-five years prior to the late 1800’s. Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie) owns acres of land and there is a group of traveling gypsies staying on a part of it. Refusing to leave, Laurent has all the gypsies killed in horrific ways, though not without one of them putting a curse on the land. Days later, it appears that an animal has attacked a boy in the village, which brings John McBride (Boyd Holbrook) into town to investigate. Through his investigations, however, Boyd figures out that it isn’t just an ordinary animal wreaking havoc all over town, but something much bigger and much darker.
Eight for Silver is a dark, twisted fantasy period piece and Ellis keeps its gloomy tone with a gray color pallet and horrific, graphic, bloody violence. The production design and costumes are stellar and really keep us in the time-period. Though I liked the look and feel of this movie, there are some issues with the visual effects that really take you out of them movie. Certain things look un-rendered and rushed and I wish Ellis and his team took more time on making sure the visual effects looked as good as everything else.
The films biggest flaw is its incredibly thin characters, which ultimately hurts majority of the performances. Holbrook gives the best performance in the film and it is one of the better performances I have seen from him. There is a calm, calculated demeanor to McBride, yet a lot boiling beneath the surface. Holbrook to own the screen and makes me want to see him hunt dark creatures more. None of the other characters matter and neither do the performances.
Led by Boyd Holbrook’s excellent performance and great visuals, Eight for Silver is a tough and brutal period drama.
Romeo and Juliet is one of the most popular literally pieces ever created. It has been adapted countless times on the stage and on screen. You would think that at this point there could possibly be no other way to tell this classic story of forbidden love.
Well, think again. Director Carey Williams has made the most original adaptation of Romeo and Juliet since Baz Luhrman’s 1996 version. Set in today’s world and told entirely through social media platforms, like Instagram, Tik Tok, and Twitter, while also keeping the Shakespearean dialog, Williams has modernized the classic story for the times that we live in.
The gimmick of showing the story all through social media is rather effective and creative. They use all sorts of social media throughout the movie, from Instagram Live to show fights between the Capulets and the Montague’s, a constant occurrence in today’s society of streaming fights, to the text messages between Rome and Juliet, and it all works well, mainly because the film fully commits to the gimmick for the entire film. It was also interesting how Williams, along with co-writers Oleksii Sobolev and Rickie Castaneda, had the actors speak in perfect Shakespearean dialect, yet through text messages they talked with modern slang. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it somehow worked.
This is also an insightful look at love in the modern era, where the first major moment in the relationship is not the first kiss, but the first gif. The story of Romeo and Juliet is still at the core of the film and even though the performances leaves something to be desired, you still buy into the two of them loving each other.
It’s one of the strangest adaptations you’ll ever see, but R#J effectively works as a new modern take on the Shakespearean classic.
Jockey is a movie about an aging jockey (Clifton Collins Jr.) trying to win the final big race when a hot young rider (Moises Arias) comes long claiming to be his son. It is a fascinating character study that takes us into the world of horse racing and the dangers jockey’s face every day.
Clifton Collins Jr. has been a great character actor for three decades now. He fits the mantra of a “that guy” actor in that you have probably seen him in a movie or television show before yet did not even realize it or know his name. Jockey sees Collins Jr. in rare form as our lead character and he makes the best of it. In nearly every shot of the movie, Collins Jr. gives us the full picture of this aging jockey. We see the emotional tole the sport has put on him, the physical tole from countless falls and broken bones, and the new slice of life this new rider and son has sparked in him. It is sensational work from a great actor and one of the best performances of his career.
Director/co-writer Clint Bentley thoroughly and quietly shows us the world of being a jockey. These are not big-time Kentucky Derby racers, however, but racers on the smaller level who do this because they love the sport. There isn’t a lot of racing in this one but that only makes the movie more interesting. We are taken into the locker rooms and see the comradary of the riders. We are taken into the therapy sessions where riders talk about traumatic injuries that they have had. We see in the stables and the celebratory parties after a victory. This is a behind-the-curtain sports movie about a sport few of us truly know anything about.
It hits a few slow moments and it’s pretty predictable where the story is going to go, but Jockey is an insightful, thorough, compelling movie featuring beautiful cinematography and a terrific Clifton Collins Jr.
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