Thursday, August 31, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Annabelle: Creation (2017)

Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures
Dolls are creepy and Annabelle: Creation is weirdly a film about a creepy doll that (very commendably) doesn’t use the same object too much. This was a great move by its director, who fought off the impulse to make the doll front and center, which would do the story no favors. Instead, the film switches its focus between the girls of a Christian orphanage who get to travel to the middle of nowhere with their guardian nun and start living in the home of a good Samaritan dollmaker and his wife.

As the horror action begins to unravel, the director follows a single girl on her quest of moving from a victim to the main monster, switching perspectives smoothly and effortlessly. At the same time, frights are abundant and striking, but they also lead to a somewhat ineffective finish. While the ending and the last third are not bad, they do feel like a missed opportunity to score some bigger and more dramatic horror points. In this regard, Annabelle: Creation works much like its previous part, ending up a decent modern horror but still feeling very forgettable.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Copyright: 20th Century Fox
Like its predecessor, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, this film works well inside of its own micro-genre - ape-based war drama (not counting humans in this ape category here). As a direct continuation of the second part in the series, War of the Planet of the Apes uses the expectations of the audience to its advantage, always staying a step ahead of them when it comes to the way the plot unravels. This time around, like Koba some years before, Caesar is also on the war footing, but this time his target is a deranged human colonel bent on their destruction, along with other maniacal plans.

The action in the film is impressive, but what I found most interesting is the use of close-up shots of both ape and human character and their emotional expressions. I think this was used for the purpose of blurring lines between the two species, forcing the audience to become emphatic to both in one way or another. While this prolonged exposition definitely added to the films somewhat too long run-time of almost two and a half hours, it completed its purpose perfectly. Because of this, War of the Planet of the Apes is first and foremost a touching film and this is an impressive feat for the entire cast and crew.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures
I always tend to appreciate films that try something as opposed to those who try nothing. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a film that does try something new, even though it is actually two old things - a Peter-Jackson-like epic fantasy approach and the film’s own director’s signature street-hustling style that made Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels into a cult movie. But since his days in contemporary British gangster stories, Guy Ritchie began branching out and this film is one of those branches.

Of course, not all will or have appreciated the fast-talking, street-smart Arthur who is more than a reluctant hero. Epic fantasy, like porn, is often meant to be consumed in a predefined way where innovations are seen by many as something that takes pleasure away from the expected enjoyment. In spite of that collective wisdom, Ritchie did something interesting here and this might not lead to others trying to emulate his emergent fantasy style, but the film is unpredictable when it comes to its plot and rather well-acted; this especially applies to Jude Law as the main villain Vortigern. Finally, the film might not be the new Excalibur, but like the classic from 1981, it tries to mix it up.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Copyright: Paramount Picture
There’s plenty of shells in the new adaptation of the classic anime, but not many of them are the good kind like the one Major, played by Scarlett Johansson has for her body. Instead, these shells are all over the place and they represent great potential followed by failed opportunities to make any kind of a lasting connection to the audience. While there are some redeeming emotional moments brought on by the film’s end, mostly through the always creepy and always impressive Michael Pitt, but overall Ghost in the Shell is plastic both to touch and taste.

Yes, there is an endless homage to all things Japanese and cyberpunk, but the runtime of just over 90 minutes stops the film from exploring any underlying issue of identity, technological change and the meaningfulness of choice. The reason for this is most likely some heavy studio chopping and cutting, which is a shame. Instead of a meditative and gorgeous exploration of a dark future, it goes for the action feel but it underdeliveres at many of its crucial moments - the best fight scenes come at the start of the film, as if it is trying to convince its audience to come and watch it. It’s still gorgeous though.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Crowdfunding Push: Jenna The Great

Comedy films and the educational system are one of the great combos ever since the late 1970’s. Of course, everyone’s experience, including my own, shows why this is true - all those bad, weird and supremely boring times spent in school can hardly be forgotten. Now, a new independent film in the crowdfunding phase is trying to capture the same phenomena, but using an interesting and very original fantasy twist. The film in question is called Jenna the Great and here’s what its Indiegogo page states:

What on Earth would 'YOU' do if you had your last exam around the corner woke up with a genius that just happened to be a famous philosopher from Ancient Greece? A team of decorated filmmakers have teamed up to deliver this fun, wacky idea to the screen. The story sets up cocky student protagonist; Jenna waking up with our chosen favourite philosopher; Aristotle, to deliver you our funny hidden chapter of history about the most unlikeliest of friendships ever forged.

Aside from including one of the greatest philosophical minds in history as a teenager-helper to the main character, the film’s pitch is brimming with that old-fashioned down-to-earth positivity that is sorely lacking in modern sarcastic and too self-conscious films, both studio-based and indie-made. The video pitch for the crowdfunding shows a team of artists and producers who are eager to get to work on a script they clearly like and find funny and charming in equal measure. Because of all of this, there is little doubt that the end product will be a breath of fresh air that is both a lighthearted comedy about the educational system and homage to the important (if not crucial) role it plays.

The flexible campaign to raise money for Jenna The Great was designed to cover basic costs of filming and production, so any help would be very appreciated by the cast and crew. Learn more about the campaign and how you can help it out right here.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Short Film Review: Justin Bieber Role Play Harem

Identity is something we take for granted in our everyday lives. However, when these lives do not belong to regular individuals but celebrities adorned and/or despised by millions around the globe, the same identity is slowly but surely becoming somewhat of a public domain. This way, a celebrity becomes not only the human being of flesh and blood, but also an idea in itself, which has now, thanks to the internet and social media, available to everyone.

In this strange and uncrated domain is where the new film Justin Bieber Role Play Harem dives into. A social media account representing the famous Canadian pop star begins a series of relationships with other equally famous accounts, leading to tales of love, despair, exhilaration, lust and jealousy. As the film shows a series of short clips of these celebrities and the Instagram accounts that represent them, the atmosphere it builds is generated quickly and effectively, even though it doesn’t definitively show what is going on.

With no spoken words and all verbal ideas transmitted using Instagram comments, the director of the film, Sohaila Rahimi, uses images and camera movements that are almost nausea-inducing to tell this strange tale. As the film progresses, the audience struggles to keep track of the forming and imploding relationships, as the beautiful images of the celebrities fly over the screen. The minds of the viewers will be thrown into a spiraling state where they both realize this cannot be true and still continue to wonder could it be, as if some huge scandal somehow managed to elude us.
As this unnerving dance continues till the very end, I was left with a sense that no matter how this narrative approach might seem weird, I was able to become immersed in it fully. It must be that my brain is already used to process so much information using social media snippets and short exposures that a film like Justin Bieber Role Play Harem came to me completely naturally.

Some might feel a dread because of this idea, but I don’t reject it. The world is changing and so are we along with it. This film simply manages to capture a small part of it, like a snapshot of a sprout before it bursts out of the seed’s shell. It does the same it a marvelous way.

Check it out the full short film right here: