Sunday, May 14, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Nocturnal Animals - Slick Tom Ford

Copyright: Focus Features
Tom Ford, aside from having a really cool name and looking as cool as a vintage James Bond character is also one hell of a director. I didn’t get to see his A Single Man but boy oh boy is Nocturnal Animals a deep-cutting film. Following a double narrative in which one takes place in Susan’s (Amy Adams) shattered life lived in a gilded cage of her own making and the other in a fictional book of her former lover (Jake Gyllenhaal), Ford flows across a strong screenplay like the capital ship of the Zheng He’s fleet. I know, that was one long sentence with a historical reference to boot, wasn’t it?

But, Nocturnal Animals is also a long and often hard to watch film, but it still mesmerized me like something that can only become a future neo-noir classic. A big part of this is thanks to Adams who is definitely one of the true modern genius actresses, just like Arrival showed. Her intellect, emotional range, and simple physical presence makes her a woman that easily covers everything Ford’s tale throws at her, and it does throw some curveballs. At the end, I didn’t really get what occurred before I read some interpretation, but it still made a terrific impact on me. The only downside is the strange visual and thematic loosening of the plot at the very end of the novel part, but it could be that I also misinterpreted that as well.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Colossal - Emotional Friction and Kaiju

Copyright: Neon
Man, Colossal is a weird film, but mostly in a good way. Here, we get to see that there are original ideas but also the reason why so many  Hollywood producers shy away from them - they're tough to pull off and even tougher to sell successfully. I’m still not sure if this movie ended up being what its director Nacho Vigalondo wanted to create, but it is definitely unique.

In the story of two childhood friends who are reunited later in their small town, where they lead semi-purposeless lives, the audience is shown what friction and damage can come about at small age, but also what personal forest fires can arise from them. Aside from the super-odd script which includes monsters that attack Seoul as its main point, the film utilizes Anne Hathaway and even more Jason Sudeikis (who often, for some haunting reason, looks exactly like Ben Affleck) to bring this very relatable struggle to life, both in human and Kaiju form.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Areal Shots Wars

Copyright: Walt Disney Studios
Gareth Edwards is a guy that was clearly captivated by aerial shots throughout his career. In Monsters, they worked quite well, where he used them to show something terrible, impressive and barely knowable in the distance, but they failed in Godzilla, where we already knew what was lurking there and we wanted to see more of it, not less. Now, in Rogue One, this approach works somewhere in the middle, making a not too shabby, but also not too great of a film.

The only live-action, stand-alone film in the Star Wars series opens in a very complex and hard to follow manner, jumping around both in terms of time and space. But then, Edwards creates his merry crew of suicidal rebels and other characters who will do anything to get some blueprints. This takes them right into the heart of darkness, here located in a tropical paradise with some really lacking security measures. Also, Ben Mendelsohn was great like he always is and the film felt better to me than Star Wars: Force Awakens.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Anthropoid (2016) - That Czech-English though

Copyright: Bleecker Street
Aside from touching upon the horrors of the Nazi occupation pretty much anywhere, Anthropoid delves deep into the issue of western actors struggling with a Slavic accent that is not Russian. Here, people like Cillian Murphy and Toby Jones work with local stars as they try to figure out that particular brand of Slavic English and end up sounding strange (at least to me).

Apart from that, the film showcases the assassination attempt of Reinhard Heydrich who got a back full of fine automotive leather along with grenade fragments for his contribution the Third Reich, dying a painful and slow death that is never shown on screen. What is shown is the slow buildup to the attack and then a prolonged war-themed torture porn segment featuring the assassins and resistance members being hunted down and killed in Prague.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Our Final Days Together - Short Film Series (2017)

It always fascinates me that a genre like zombie films, which is so overcrowded, still regularly provides interesting reimagining of their main premise. From under-the-radar films like Maggie to TV shows like The Walking Dead that became global phenomena, it looks like we just can’t get enough of these brain-craving monsters. But, even more interestingly, the same genre works quite well in the domain of low-budget filmmaking and Our Final Days Together series provides a perfect example.

Written, directed and shot by Jonathan Vargas, a young film author from Florida, the series currently includes two parts, both of which follow a girl named Claire, played by Vania Vieta, as she navigates the world of Miami after a terrorist unwantedly triggered a zombie outbreak which quickly destroyed practically everything. In the reality where the undead reign supreme, surviving often comes with a heavy price and series examines the same toll in great detail.

Vargas is now a veteran author in the domain of filmmaking, which is seen through his work - a constant stream of improvements and upgrades is a clear trend. In his previous big project, Gaby’s Revenge, Vargas took on a neo-noir thriller web series. This time, he clearly wants to explore the areas of zombie horror, but at the same time, cleverly, he also pushes into a drama that is cut with a great chunk of the vintage suspense thrillers.

From the construct of both films, Vargas aims to merge genres into something that is part family drama, part Hickok film, all with a healthy dressing of zombie tropes. The form in which the films are made also serves this purpose - shot in black and white, with practically no props besides a few guns, the films are bleak and bare, just like the world of death and senseless loss in which humanity finds itself in after the collapse. The gist of the films takes place mostly in the dialogues between the characters, in which the notions of old and new collide forcefully. In the old order of things, lives and murders carried a different weight than in the new one.

Now, as the zombies roam the streets and the minds of survivors become polluted and/or diluted with the horrors that the apocalypse brought, there are no good choices or correct answers. In the films, it’s like Vargas tries to say that in this type of event, we all lose, regardless of the fact that we can die right away or kill to live another day. Still, his writing, like in his previous works, manages to end up at the notion of a family and what means to lose it or protect it when the danger is the greatest. The series shows one way or the other, protecting that safe harbor is no longer possible, in spite of the sacrifice some are willing to make to protect their loved ones.

But, while the general sentiment might be pessimistic, the tension of individual films is the strongest suit of the series. From the set up to the framing, everything in these moments underlines the fact that something wicked is approaching the characters. In these pulsating, unnerving segments, Vargas shows he can master the moment with just his shots and some ambient sounds, giving the films a very engaging trait.

At the same time, Vargas steadily builds a greater narrative which will clearly follow Claire into a very uncertain future as well - like always for her, there she can find either death or safety. That is why, at the very end of each episode, the pessimism still gives way to a glimmer of hope, no matter how much doubt and violence comes with it. I can only wait for new episodes and hope Claire will not lose her life or something even more precious - her soul. 

Watch the first part here and the second part premiers in April 2017.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Film Review: Logan (2017)

Copyright: 20th Century Fox
Getting old is a tough thing to go through, apparently even more so for super heroes. Set some 20 years in the future, Logan explores the moment when powerful and relevant individuals lose all of that and just become frail people who desire nothing more than to rest and forget about their waking hours.

For Logan, now a limo driver in an increasingly crumbling US, that rest is hard to come by as his main task in life is to provide to Professor Xavier, now demented and (because of that) very dangerous, a peaceful end to life. However, a mechanical-hand-owning mercenary puts a dent in those plans when he appears, looking for a particular little girl.

Action and sadness are merged in this film is a great way, while its director James Mangold obviously wanted to make a superhero film like no other. While Nolan brought darkness and maturity, Mangold brought melancholy and resentment to the formula, both of which work like a charm. Logan is jaded and past caring (but not in that cool, rebel way), while Patrick Stewart does a marvelous job as a sick father figure who can give nothing more aside from a small grain of wisdom.

In all, it is this bitterness that builds the road on which Logan has to travel to redemption and purposefulness, no matter how tiresome or painful this might end up being. As an action film, Logan misses the mark only with its collection of villains, which are somewhat prosaic and not really engaging as the good guys.

But they don’t spoil the film, which is all about relationships. When Mangold placed all of this smart script-writing in a dystopian future that is only starting to become a real hellhole, the film ended up being something very unique and it resonated with me completely.