The main problem I had with the first Dune was that I had a hard time finding even one single character whose fate I cared about. It was a beautiful but cold and empty film. The second film, however, manages to repair the series' reputation in that sense rather quickly. The heroes finally do something interesting, they talk to each other, the debates have a point, and Villeneuve wraps it all up in just a little bit nicer visuals. Dune: Part Two is more beautiful, but also more action-packed, brisker and more watchable. Until suddenly it isn't. Villeneuve seems to realise after a hundred minutes or so that he still has a lot of story to tell and that he just can't cram it into the remaining hour. So he hits the gas and the film is suddenly unnecessarily rushed, running away from interesting topics because he still has to finish this or that. And while the final battle looks really magnificent, once again, with the closing credits, I got the feeling that there may very well be a great story behind this beautiful film, but even this time it didn't get told in the way it deserved. Unlike the first part, I wasn't bored this time, but if I ever see this part again, it will be before the premiere of the eventual third. For despite all the qualities, there is still a certain aftertaste of incompleteness.
In the 1990s, the police in Slovakia had an unexpected rapport with gangsters. But a pragmatic cop from Poprad and his new partner discover that there are things they can't turn a blind eye to, and blood will flow in the streets. Cop War is a stylish gangster drama with great actors, excellent atmosphere and world-class visuals. Too bad the plot is a bit disjointed and there are perhaps a few too many wild twists towards the end. But it is a high European standard in its genre, and we are not used to that here.
Alexander Payne knows how to make dramas that are humanly warm one moment and uncomfortably acerbic a few moments later. Few filmmakers are as good at it as him, and I'm glad he reminded us of that with The Holdovers. Paul Giamatti is excellent, as are his two less famous colleagues, both of whom we hope to hear from in the future. There's some excellent work with the gradual reveal of the characters and the fact that everyone carries their past, trauma and insecurities within them and it takes a lot of work to start talking about them or even confronting them. I definitely appreciate that Payne doesn't push the envelope in this regard and is rather restrained in working with emotions, not trying to make the characters laugh, move or bare their innermost selves at all costs. He just follows the three lost souls left to fend for themselves at Christmas. The seventies feel (not just the setting) is beautiful too, and overall it's very nice to watch. Whether you take it as a bittersweet pice or a gritty drama about how everyone just has to deal with certain things on their own, it's still not a bad thing to have someone by your side.