Brief Consideration: The Ides of March (2011)

sphe-ides_of_march_the_2011-Full-Image_GalleryBackground-en-US-1484349161728._RI_SX940_

The Ides of March depicts the underhanded duplicitous tactics, and overt power plays in a crucial Ohioan primary election for the aspiring Democrat candidate, Mike Morris (George Clooney). Squeaky clean and optimistic Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) is Morris’s junior campaign manager who finds himself embroiled in an ever-escalating series of personal and career-compromising situations.

Despite commendable direction from Clooney, who makes the proceedings like a shadowy noir with some inspired lighting choices; while also injecting the numerous political chatter scenes with the tension and speed of Hitchcock and Hawkes respectively. One can’t help but find Ides of March’s various plot twists and character revelations surface-level in their depth.

Crucially, the entire narrative hinges on Gosling’s character succumbing to the shader side of politicking due to a fatal mistake that leads to desperation. While the storytelling cogs for these series of events are effortless and logical, they inherently lack any sense of tragedy or real aftertaste. This is due to Meyers having no real internal life and his sanguine worldview being solely shaped by Morris.

The Ides of March is an efficiently crafted political thriller with spirited performances from all its actors. But it has a fundamental tension between the reality it purports to represent and its characters being shackled by their archetypical and narrative trappings. The film would have been much more interesting if it embraced the origin of its title, by delivering a harrowing and tense tale of internal leader assassination in the context of an American presidential race.

Advertisements
Posted in 2011 Films | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brief Consideration: Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

alive-wallpaper-HD8

Jim Jarmusch’s 2014 film- Only Lovers Left Alive reimagines the vampire tale of accursed eternal life into a meditation on the effect of art on society. Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is a creature of the night who has been a source of great inspiration for many revered historical figures throughout the centuries. His melancholia of immortality does not come from the boredom of existence, but rather the sense of inevitability stemming from the fact that most of the significant people of the past were reviled and unappreciated in their time. This sense of prolonged depression and frustration becomes a source of tension in his career as an underground electronic musician. Jarmusch elegantly parallels the plight of the vampire with that of the disgruntled a rock star who spurns their fame and worries about relevance.

However, the picture honestly comes alive in its leisurely excursions and genuine moments of discovery, courtesy of Adam’s lover and centuries-old wife- Eve (Tilda Swinton). In stark contrast to her withdrawn partner, Eve embraces life in all its strange and wondrous turns. Swinton plays the part with a measured resignation that never diminishes her enthusiasm of the moment. Glacially paced, wryly amusing and seductively directed, especially one montage in which Jarmusch equates the vampire’s blood drinking with the feverish euphoria of a drug trip: Only Lovers Left Alive imbues the proverbial vampire myth with a contemporary edge that feels fascinating and heartfelt. 

Posted in 2014 Films, Indie Cinema | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

avenger-infinity-war-thanos-fire

Avengers: Infinity War carries the burden of ten years of storytelling and various disparate facets of its cinematic universe to harmonise. For many other movies, these aspects would be a final nail in the coffin of a fast descent into narrative wonkiness, and it’s a credit to the expansive comic book movie that it never feels incoherent, lumbering or indulgent. In fact, in its most intimate moments, the picture illustrates that death weighs as heavily on the wicked as it does on the good.

Taking place two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War, the nineteenth Marvel Studios movie chronicles Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) search for the remaining Infinity Stones. These are elemental gems that grant its wearer various abilities, such as turning back time and manipulating the environment. Once armed with a complete roster, the Mad Titan can exact his goal of wiping out half of the universe.

While Infinity War is bursting at the seams with various character interactions that would make even the most devout and ardent admirers swoon; a particular favourite is the first meeting of two characters, in which a well-intentioned universal greeting is used as a punch line in the midst of a battle sequence. The picture engages as a reflexive meditation on death in the cinematic universe.

In a good number of Marvel movies, the concept has lacked potency because of foreknowledge of the real world movie making plays that would render a character immortal to the point of absurdity; i.e. top tier characters with their names above the door escaping death’s cold embrace because of economic flow charts.

Infinity War trades mind-numbing worldly destruction and death for the significant cost of one life. In many instances, the characters are challenged to pull the trigger on loved ones for a slim possibility of universal and personal salvation. In these instances, death is not so much a dispassionate execution, but an act of heartbreaking devotion and trust. And in a climactic action sequence, the magnitude of a person’s passing causes a brash outrage that at the moment has earth-shattering consequences.

In the picture’s real masterstroke, this pervasive weight of death equally applies to Thanos. His conquest for balancing the universe carries its share of personal anguish and cost. Infinity War’s most sly trick is making the purple overlord the central figure of the movie and making the rest of the characters seem like star-studded tourists. Josh Brolin plays the famed comic book villain with the ruthless authority and weariness of a stern general, who’s prepared to make the sacrifices for the continued existence of the entire cosmos.

Equally as impressive is Chris Hemsworth, who shines in an extended role that combines the sublime comic timing that he displayed in Thor Ragnarok with the necessary dramatic weight the part requires. Hemsworth has always played Thor with an air of self-knowing confidence and to see that manifest as an external shield and motivator was heartening to watch.

From a technical point of view, the third Avengers picture lacks some of the previous Marvel movies’ dazzling phantasmagoric imagery. Though, the planet Vormir does provide the film with a few fleeting moments of memorable visuals. In particular, the looming and shadowy snow terrain of the planet’s surface looks like  iconography from Stephen King’s Dark Tower filtered through the lens of Soviet-era Russia.

Various money shots accentuate the importance of some characters, mainly thinking of Doctor Strange’s many feats of wizardry. However, the most striking cinematic moments are when directors Anthony and Joe Russo occasionally employ framing to fascinating effect. One sequence juxtaposes the visual embodiment of Thanos’ worldview, via a small child balancing a knife on her palm (in the foreground) and the harsh and sobering reality of said idea in practice, which comes from a line of people getting massacred (in the background).

Despite the grim spectre of death earnestly looming over Infinity War, one can’t help but feel that its effects might be temporary, with the distinct possibility of Avengers 4 undoing the final grim moments. However, even if this comes to pass, Infinity War will be remembered as the sole Marvel movie that looked upon the face of death and for a moment had a chill run down its spine about its various implications.

Posted in 2018 Films | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Personal Post: Updates on Cameron Cloutier’s Twin Peaks Fan Film

Five months ago, Cameron Cloutier (of Obnoxious and Anonymous fame) dared to venture into the misty forest of internet movie campaigning. The endeavour proved to be a blazing success. Since then, the ardent Peaker and YouTuber has been hard at work on the fan film. When asked about the inspiration for the project, the independent filmmaker stated:

“I first had the idea for the film back in 1992, shortly after {Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me} came out. Never thought I would ever get to make it so I just moved on in life creatively. Right after season 3 finished I saw Thor Åmli’s short film “Summer at Pearl Lakes” and I saw that with new technology that it was possible to perhaps make the spin-off story I’ve always wanted to tell. I floated it out to my viewership and there was tremendous interest so I jumped into the crowdfunding campaign without a net and hoped for the best.”

The fourth in a line of promotional trailers recently unveiled the character amid atmospheric shots from many familiar locations including Laura’s house, the Sheriff’s station and the Double R Diner. The new photography was punctuated with frantic and perfectly edited audio clips from the series. The result was a blistering combination of new and old worlds harmonising to create an intriguing collage of images.

30119024_10155238411686646_1057689303_n

Amy Ostbo was announced to play the iconic Twin Peaks character. As one could see from this exclusive picture, Ms Ostbo captures the sheer innocence and dazed nature of the character. In a statement regarding the actress, Mr Cloutier said: “Amy just embodies Annie from inside out, and it has been an awfully long time since I’ve worked with an actor who is prepared to throw herself into a role and show us the layers that make a character like Annie as fascinating as I’ve always found her. I’m incredibly lucky to have found a down to earth individual, who knows how to be professional but also keep things fun around the set.”

30020139_10155238411316646_1251481219_n

The trailer also hinted at the return of the show’ s primary focus and obsession- Laura Palmer. Queen of Hearts’ producer Caitlin Thayil steps into the role that Sheryl Lee made so famous. If her first picture (photographed by Jill Watson) is anything to go by then the fervent anxiety that pervaded the character’s soul has been retained. When asked for a comment on the collaboration, the independent filmmaker went on to say:

“I met Caitlin because of several friends recommending her to me for some possible roles, but when we met, I was impressed by her work ethic and her interest to see this film be the best it could be. I also quickly saw her as Laura and thought she would be a great fit for the part, so we shot a few scenes for the extended promo.

However, in talking with her more, I realized that she could bring even more to the project so, over lunch, I remember looking at her and saying,“I would very much like you to be my Sabrina,” and she thankfully thought producing the film would be a great experience and opportunity for her. I couldn’t ask for more a wonderful person to work with.”

If you would like more information on Queen of Hearts then you can do the following:

You can like the Queen of Hearts’ Facebook page for all the latest news:

https://www.facebook.com/QueenofHeartsATwinPeaksFanFilm/

And subscribe to the Obnoxious and Anonymous YouTube channel for further media updates:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0hoE4h1oj1_nVu6CLLovZw

You can also contribute to this exciting undertaking by going to the Queen of Hearts’ Indiegogo page:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/queen-of-hearts-a-twin-peaks-fan-film#/

 

Posted in Rare Posts, Twin Peaks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Initial Impression: Isle of Dogs (2018)

Wes-Anderson-–-Isle-of-Dogs

Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs is a return to stop-motion animation for the pristine American auteur. The form and style was a revelation for his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox. With its lightning cuts and the juxtaposition between the sincerely earnest and absurd aspects of life, made all the more potent because of the central character’s struggle between prescribed domesticity and inherent wild tendencies: The 2009 film recalled the freeing youthful quality that pervaded Anderson’s debut film- Bottle Rocket.

By comparison, Anderson’s latest endeavour is a bleak and sombre affair. Set amid the backdrop of a dystopic Japan, Isle of Dogs charts the adventures of a young boy who travels to Trash island to find his dog. The entire canine species has been outlawed and banished by the government due to an outbreak of a virus that mainly affects their species.

Isle of Dogs represents Anderson’s most ambitious film to date. His reliance on Japanese culture and style does wonder for his carefully constructed ascetic. For instance, he employs Akira Kurosawa’s penchant for visceral weather to astounding effect, via gloomy and overcast uses of grey for the skies of Trash island.

There are a numerous amount of myths told throughout the picture. Anderson manages to convey the incredibly intricate stories with Hokusai esque paintings that engulf the frame. Alexandre Desplat’s percussive score, which consists of drums and saxophones punctate their importance.

Isle of Dogs also has an impressive amount of kineticism with panning shots coming from the characters being on conveyor belts, balloons and aeroplanes. Anderson also uses split screen to great effect in the action sequences to economise the sheer amount of information being conveyed to the audience.

The film also has something interesting to say about nature versus nurture. Many of the dogs in the picture have been bred for a specific purpose and are challenged with embracing their natural wild side when they find themselves surviving on the island. This idea has particular thematic weight when applied to the central canine, Chief (Byran Cranston), who comes to embrace his role as a domestic pet as opposed to a stray, violent dog.

Despite these virtues, I found Isle of Dogs hollow and not as emotionally accessible as Anderson’s other films. In fact, watching the film was akin to witnessing an excellent painter in the midst of creating. I admire the craft, passion and technique that is at work, even if the result did not speak to me as much as I would have liked.

Posted in 2018 Films, Initial Impression, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Pacific Rim Uprising (2018)

Pacific-Rim-Uprising-IMAX-Trailer-1280x771

Pacific Rim Uprising is an excited adolescent of a movie that breathlessly dashes about the place with sugary notions of family and identity in the manner of the most well-intentioned Power Rangers episode. The sequel takes place ten years after the events of the first picture and depicts a new generation of Jaeger pilots taking on mysterious threats from the Kaiju monsters.

Some of the fresh candidates include Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), a street-smart teenager who builds and handles her own Jaeger as a response to a traumatic childhood encounter with a Kaiju. And Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of the legendary war commander and hero of the last film Stacker Pentecost.

Uprising is a weird concoction insofar as it manages to retain a tiny shred of the original movie’s charm while primarily jettisoning most of its character and spirit. Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 film had the heart of an American sports film. Its characters had to overcome their personal and adversarial angst to harmonise and ultimately pilot giant robots (via a process of mind melding). Even del Toro’s extensive use of close-ups and long shots injected the mechanised fight sequences with the dazzling import of an exhibition boxing match.

At the same time, the film had world building that hinted at the rough, hard-worn edges of a post-apocalyptic universe in which the chances of our survival was minuscule. More importantly, the Oscar-winning director filtered these aspects through a bleak and horrific lens with frightening sequences that evoked the potent power of Ishirō Honda’s Godzilla.

By comparison, Uprising feels like a rushed and inconsequential television pilot that frustrates in the lack of interest it has in its ideas. The movie sets up a tantalising debate about the utility of burgeoning drone Jaegers versus the standard two pilot models. However, this is never really addressed, and its consequences are handled off-screen.

Worse yet is a plot point involving a character from the previous film, which has Lovecraftian implications of feverish madness, caused by the influence of the Kaiju creatures on a curious scientist. Rather than explore the blurred line between the genuine human will and the malformed intentions of possession: The character is employed in the same manner as a Saturday morning cartoon villain, who sits on the sidelines and brashly bellows commands with impotent rage.

Aesthetically the film is somewhat serviceable with the overcast nighttime sequences of the original becoming bright and scorchingly colourful scenes that take advantage of the daylight hours. Moreover, Steven S. DeKnight’s first foray into tent pole filmmaking is not entirely without merit. A 360-degree shot captures the sheer overwhelming nature of an invasion, and one sequence gracefully plays with scale as a character grows smaller in size as the camera pans out to reveal an assembly line of Jaegers. But these aspects are all for nought. Knight lacks del Toro’s inherent worldly curiosity that manifested itself in protracted and lingering shots that revealed quaint and vivid detail.

The film honestly comes alive with John Boyega’s boisterous and seemingly improvised performance. It injects the proceedings with a frolicking and at times earnest demeanour. Lorne Balfe commendably follows up Ramin Djawadi’s energising electrical score with an engrossing cross-genre mixture of tragic and bombastic music, courtesy of an eclectic array of mournful Celtic and techno tracks. This is one of the few times in which I wished a movie truly lived up to the emotion apparent in its musical score.

Posted in 2018 Films, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Jodorowsky’s Dune (2014)

19gtlwjpip8tujpg

Jodorowsky’s Dune is a heartening and often amusing experience that hoists the weight of the auteur theory on its shoulders with vivid and sobering clarity. Frank Pavich’s documentary charts the early career of Chilian-French director- Alejandro Jodorowsky and his subsequent attempt to bring his vision of Frank Herbert’s celebrated and influential science fiction novel to life.

As conceived, Jodorowsky’s Dune would have been a twelve-fourteen hour film that claimed to have replicated the effects of LSD and ultimately represent a sacred life-changing event for its young viewers; particularly in reference to its conception of God as universal consciousness. The picture also would have boasted visuals that were going to be based on the sexually macabre concept art of H.R. Giger and the imaginative science fiction illustrations of Chris Foss.

While the central appeal of the documentary may come from finding out the sheer surreal and frankly demented behind the scenes wrangling of talent: Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger and Orson Welles are among a few of the names that casually glide through the picture. Jodorowsky’s Dune primarily engages as an examination of the auteur theory.

By his actions and words, Alejandro Jodorowsky has enough gusto to inspire a small country, and the film’s humour arises from the comic timing via graceful juxtapositions of Jodorowsky’s fiery outcries with the severe and sobering version of the events under discussion. At the same time, the picture illustrates how his passionate nature could be interpreted as having the overtones of a cult leader.

In stark contrast to other directors, Jodorowsky expected his technical crew to not only help bring his vision to life but wholeheartedly believe in it too. He even resorted to asking some of his loyal members to abandon their current life and move to Paris and work on the film. The famed cult director would not hire anyone unless they were deemed a spiritual person who believed his vision was the second coming. He thought that his crew were “spiritual warriors” who he permanently controlled and owned.

This aspect is wonderfully subverted through the course of the film as Jodorowsky is shown compromising his vision in fascinating ways to get certain people to commit to working with him. One sequence animates a storyboard of a scene involving a burning giraffe, which was one of Dali’s conditions to starring in the film. Even the director’s musical choices that varied from Pink Floyd to the French prog rock group- Magma show that he dipped his toe in the waters of commercial viability to sustain his picture’s longevity.

If there is a problem with the film, then it stems from Jodorowsky’s conception of the film becoming an overwhelming force of nature. By the premise of the picture, it has to expound upon his version of Dune, but at times it comes at the expense of other versions of the famed Science Fiction story. There is cursory mention of the original text, and the tail end of the picture acknowledges David Lynch’s adaptation as a compromised counterpoint to Jodorowsky’s unproduced endeavour.

This element is somewhat redeemed by a hopeful irony that gets revealed in the final stretch of the documentary. While Jodorowsky never got to make his “celluloid prophet” of a film, he at least has been able to see his dream for the project have ripple effects in science fiction cinema. In that regard, his work can be at least deemed an accomplishment as a fever dream that everyone keeps aspiring to comprehend.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment