Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Stars Wars the force continues and continues…….

Posted by Greg Butler On December - 13 - 2015

If anything George Lucas’s space fantasy have taught us, is that the Star Wars saga is a work in constant motion, never quite completed to be one thing but rather morphing in many different ways, sometime dividing the communities in free fall battles in fan forums, youtube or Imdb commentaries.
The shoving match between the revisionists and the purists, the prequel lovers Vs the sequel romantics. Did Greedo really shoot first, did little Anakin Skywalker build C3PO and when did faith in the force turn into a trekkien science babble?
The idea of childhood dreams being assaulted because of some questionable interpretations always seem to me way over the proverbial top. Backlash of fans and critics have resulted in extreme opinionated articles and videos. Online examples as The Phantom Menace edit, whereas as a not very favorable character Jar Jar Binks is severely omitted, or Redletter Media’s hyperbolic (but hysterically amusing) deconstruction review of said prequels.
Is it reasonable to expect more than what was there, just a mercurial entertainment for the sake of a few escapist hours.  Comedians like Pat Oswalt and other unflattering comments from various Hollywood sources, has held up the original trilogy as the holy trinity. But then if one were to research it carefully the divide between fans really began with Return of the Jedi and those cursed Ewoks. Since then, the irregularities and contradictions of all six films been either ignored, not noticed, accepted or dismissed .

“There a really a lot of haters. BUT this is what art is: you release it and let it be judged. Some people don’t like the originals films. This one everyone is going to like, though by force” Actor John Boyega , Star Wars: the force awakens.Timeout Magazine.

Well Mr Boyega that remains to be seen.

A colleague of mine once qouted from the film The Big Chill, ” Sometimes you have to let art flow over you. ..” perhaps that is why there isn’t common ground among fans, art is subjective, who cares if it doesn’t make sense, or maybe our criteria of entertainment is low, fuck do I know. In the meantime despite my misgivings, I do prefer certain certain chapters more than others, so in celebration of awakens, let me and my fellow writer Sean give a quick rundown on the negatives and positives of a
galaxy far far away……..

The Phantom Menace
(What’s Lucas smokin?)
Midi- what?
Casting too many high powered actors with nothing for them to stand out (sorry Terrance Stamp).
The space station blowing up, undermines the original death star explosions as being trivial.

( What went right )
Double edged light saber and fight sequence.
Darth Maul.
Ian Macdiarmid.

Attack of the clones.
(What’s Lucas smokin’?)
The editing as a whole throws too many ideas without a cohesive direction to digest to what we are seeing.
No chemistry between All the actors, the romance being the worst.
Relied more on the cgi than usual.

(What went right )
Casting Christopher lee as Count Dooku
The fight between Jango Fett and Kenobi, something over due from Return of the Jedi.

Revenge of the Sith
(What’s lucas smokin’)
Knocking off Mr lee much to soon.
forcing the plot such as it is, in disposing the Jedi knights in a ham fisted way just to get to the main characters, again the key word is trivilizing.
The editing of the film is choppy and pacing disorganized.

Star Wars
(What’s lucas smokin’?)                                                                                                                                                                                        
Should have edited out the Biggs part during the original run, was fixed later in the revamped version but still unnecessary.

Repeating the threat expositions twice, the Greedo and Jabba scenes, basic 101 screenwriting mistake.

Greedo shooting first at close range, sorry Lucas you can’t turn Solo into John Wayne decades after the fact.

han shot first

 

(what went right)                                                                                                                                                                                       

  Screenplay with a Macguffin and character motivations, the best since The Wizard of Oz.

John Williams’s score.

Costumes and design.

 

The Empire strikes Back

 (What’s Lucas, Kasden and Kershner smokin’?)                                                                                                                                                                          

Not wearing pressure suits during the whale/asteroid scene, or rather the characters not questioning the gravity or air on a floating rock.

Ah Hell, who am I fooling, I luv the flick!

 

Return of the Jedi

(What’s lucas smokin’?)

Resolving the Luke and Leia relationship by making them siblings, creating a uncomfortable vibe affecting the first two films.

Ewoks; enuff said.

The Untapped potential of bounty hunter Fett/ The impressive imperial guards of the emperor, disappearing off the picture.

(what went right)

 

Speederbike chase through forrest.

Before the prequels and special editions, first appearance of Jabba the Hutt.

Again;  Ian Macdiarmid.

 

<b>Star</b> <b>Wars</b>

SEAN

Phantom Menace

Cons

• The stakes are never really felt because no one seems to react like there are any, with the exception of Padme. She’s the only one who acts like she cares.

• If you erased the original trilogy and just had this film, you wouldn’t care for anybody or what is going on. Vice versa, you can erase this film and not lose anything in the original trilogy. Those films gave you a reason to care. Any investment you have in Phantom Menace is not earned by the film itself.

• For being wise, powerful peacekeepers, the Jedi have no qualms with putting a child’s life in danger by bringing him along when they go to fight.

Pros

• It expands the mythology of the universe and how some of the societies work with the introduction of the senate and the Jedi council, even if it doesn’t make the story interesting.

• The action is exciting and the light saber fights are very well choreographed.

• Darth Maul was a threatening villain, even though he had little dialogue and no background. He came off as more of a Sith terminator.

Attack of the Clones

Cons

• The dialogue is very poorly written (Ex. “Sand”), and the stilted acting makes it so much more apparent, especially since most of the actors are actually really good outside of this series.

• There is only one scene where Obi-Wan and Anakin act like friends—the elevator scene in the beginning, which kind of feels forced (refer to previous con)—and what little time they spend in each other’s company during the rest of the film is spent with Obi-Wan putting up with Anakin’s whiny bullshit. If they are such great friends, the film doesn’t do much to support it.

• How in the name of God does Padme fall for Anakin?! Everything he does screams unstable psychopath, and any sane person would’ve taken off running after listening to him rant about how he killed men, women, and children. With how Anakin’, it would’ve made more sense if Luke and Leia were the spawn of rape than forbidden love.

Pros

• The plot of the film is not as isolated at the first one and firmly plants the seeds for what’s to come in the original trilogy by delving into the Republic and the Separatists.

• The action is exciting and the light saber fights are very well choreographed.

• Palpatine’s plan, while convoluted, takes shape here and makes the Emperor all the more sinister because he was able to orchestrate the clones and the civil war from behind the scenes without drawing the attention of the Jedi and getting the Senate to actually back him up.

Revenge of the Sith

Cons

• The opening, while a thrilling action piece, is drawn out and serves only to have Anakin execute Count Dooku and build towards his turn to the dark side. This segment takes up a good twenty minutes or so, but the same goal could’ve been achieved with something more focused and less meandering (Ex. R2’s silly action scene), and more time could’ve been spared to developing other points in the story, like the ending or Anakin’s transformation, which leads to:

• Anakin’s turn, though built up over the past two films, still feels too quick and out of character. If he was the same whiny brat from Attack of the Clones, I would have bought it a little more, but in this film, his angst and psychotic tendencies are toned down quite a bit in favor of desperation for his love of Padme, which I still can’t buy into. It was as though his emotional arc was shown in reverse between Ep. 2 and 3.

• The ending is merely a rapid-fire checklist of things to set up the original trilogy and even contradicts future revelations (Leia remembers her mother, though she could also be referring to her mother on Alderaan). Padme dies, the twins are split up, Obi-Wan goes into hiding, and Darth Vader is born and watches the construction of the Death Star; we are shown “what” happens, but we aren’t really shown “why”. We aren’t really given a chance to digest the somber chain of events, and once again, much of the emotional connection relies on the viewer having already seen the original trilogy. It would’ve earned nothing if the prequels existed on their own.

Pros

• The opera scene. It is a beautifully shot moment, and while it’s meant to serve Anakin’s transition into the dark side, it works far better in adding a new facet to the Star Wars mythology with the introduction of Darth Plagueis and providing more insight into the soon-to-be Emperor. I wouldn’t mind if this bit of knowledge is brought up again in future Star Wars movies.

• The fall of the Jedi and is a grim, haunting moment. The montage of Order 66 is actually one of the most emotional scenes in the entire Star Wars saga as the light side of the Force get blindsided by Palpatine’s puppet-mastery, and Anakin’s march into the Jedi temple is cold, brutal, and extremely effective without showing the carnage, despite how alarming this shift in Anakin is.

• And to cap it all off, Palpatine uses the guise of safety to lure the Senate into siding with him and creating the Empire. It’s a moment that reflects everything going on in the world today, where the fear of terrorism has led to the people giving up certain freedoms in the name of security. As Padme so eloquently puts it, “So this is how liberty dies: with thunderous applause”.

A New Hope

Cons

• Leia seems a little nonplussed after watching her planet blow up.

• And the movie wants you to believe that Obi-Wan deserves more mourning than said planet.

• Wait, so Leia actually did know they were being tracked after they escaped from the Death Star, and they still went to the Rebel base?!

Pros

• Harrison Ford. Enough said.

• Despite the grave events that happen in the film (Luke’s aunt and uncle dying, Alderaan blowing up, Obi-Wan dying) the film maintains a rather consistent fun and light tone and never seems to dip in pacing.

• Though the effects are a little dated, they hold up much better after almost four decades than most CGI in films from the past five years. The practical look works in favor of making you believe in this sci-fi universe.

Empire Strikes Back

Cons

• The time duration of the film is murky at best. Luke’s training is happening at the same time as Millennium Falcon’s run-and-hide scenario, which means that Luke only trained for a few days, a week or two at best. Far too little time for Luke to make the progress he displays before he takes on Vader.

• C3PO’s bickering got a little annoying after a while.

• Parts with the Millennium Falcon running away dragged a little bit in terms of pacing.

Pros

• The Empire Strikes Back earns its title. The stakes are ramped up throughout the course of the film, leading to the powerful crescendo of Luke vs. Darth Vader.

• The story takes the characters into new and even dark places (Luke’s journey into the cave), and while most character arcs in any story have them overcoming their struggles and doubts by the end, here, the main characters don’t end up on top. They suffer for their flaws and desperation and barely make it out alive, showing them and the viewers that this is not just some light-hearted adventure anymore. Shit got real.

• Yoda is equal parts fun and wise and a better mentor than Obi-Wan not just because he was a superior Jedi but because he didn’t have to deliver that much exposition. He got to teach, to guide Luke way more than Obi-Wan ever did, since the latter had to serve as the exposition provider for Episode IV. Yoda does further elaborate on what the Force is, but it’s disguised so wonderfully as pure words of wisdom that you can attribute to real life obstacles.

Return of the Jedi

Cons

• Too much time is focused on how the Ewoks live with their savage cuddliness, and the subplot of C3PO being their deity felt like the movie was trying too hard to regain that light playfulness of Episode IV and became just childish.

• Han doesn’t really feel like Han anymore. I know he’s grown from the first movie, but the moment where he suddenly acts jealous of Luke on Endor just felt out of character.

• The ending was very short and seemed to undercut the enormity of defeating the Emperor and the Death Star by having such a limited perspective of the victory. The Special Edition, in one of the very few improvements, actually showed that what the Rebels did really affected the galaxy.

Pros

• The stories of Luke and Darth Vader reach a grand and heart-breaking finale.

• The final space dogfight outside of the Death Star is pretty awesome and intense.

• Despite knowing very little about the Emperor (prior to the release of the prequels), he comes off as quite threatening by doing very little. Perhaps it mostly because of how Vader interacts with him. Either way, the film sold that the Emperor was indeed the monster in charge.

I don’t think we’re in Kansas Anymore: New York Comic Con 2013

Posted by Greg Butler On September - 30 - 2014

20131010_161435Halloween comes  twice a year in New York, so if you wander upon a horde fantastical creatures and maidens, strolling down the avenue, take notice that comic con has arrived. A four day event filled with memorabilia vendors,  nerd dating services, video movie hawkers and cos play shows. There is so much shit to keep every nerd fetishes entertain for days, and unless your focused on a particular subject, the entire experience can be overwhelming, even frustrating as you try to navigate between shows and seminars. Best to download the comic con app and plan accordingly before you go.

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Some snippets of NYCC

 

Animal planet: Finding Bigfoot

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A reality show that really has nothing to do with reality, but certainly has a hard core following, at least with audience I was with. The panel talked a bit with the fans after the presentation.  Ranae Holland with a manly handshake is the resident skeptic, although she seems to be pseudo critical, as if it’s just a performance act for the masses. On the other hand Cliff Barack man seem generally enthusiastic about the subject even has a calling card he gave out. I asked about  about the onslaught of bigfoot videos on Youtube, and if it hampers any serious research about it,  Barack hasn’t an issue with it, the plus side that it keeps the subject going in the public eye.

 

 

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Breaking into Comics right now:

20131012_183228

For those that dream about it, the title alone said it all.  Some quick notes, research company, eight page write up with drawings. Avatar comic might be something to look into. Web comics are another option. All in all, just hook up with some like minded individual,  pull talents together. One novice artist was looking for a writing partner and more than a few (including myself) volunteered. who said networking doesn’t work.

 

NYCC Thursday night kick off:

Everyone was on their game except Janeane Garofalo, she seems to wander in without an act.

 

Meanwhile at the fortress of Solitude……….20131011_200942

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Star wars rebels: the might of the empire:

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Full house on this panel, but what did you expect when it comes to this particular series, a quick design glimpse for ravenous fans.

 

 

CBLDF: The Secret origins of Comic Censorship!

A little history taught by scholar Carol Tilley…….20131012_162138_2

 

 

True blood with Kristin Bakers and Lauren Bowles:

Still wonder why the show was on this long, although the actresses were engaging.

 

 

 

Your opinion sucks! Rotten Tomatoes Critics Vs Fan:

Possibly the biggest disappointment, less of a in depth discussion about the value on film criticisms and its relevance today. Instead  the panel dialed it down to what sucks or didn’t suck. Did speak with Owen Gleibman  of Entertainment Weekly about the saturation of Internet critics on line, he felt it wasn’t a problem to his position,  and counted himself lucky to make a successful career of it.

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Get set for NYCC 2014, seeya there.

 

 

Ebert

Posted by Greg Butler On April - 23 - 2013

 

X

 

There’s  more than enough  stuff about Ebert  on the net without me regurgitating the same crap, I’m here to say simply that he was no angel.  At times he could be vindictive, mean spirited  and overly opinionated.  One time he and Gene Siskel  encouraged  viewers  on their  PBS show Sneak Previews, to  letter bomb an actress  for appearing in a schlock horror film ( actors have to eat fellas), despite all that, Ebert championed  international movies as well  created an accessible forum for the average film goers, both in television or print. I didn’t always agree with him, but he certainly maintained the interest of conversation about what movies are or what they can be as cinema.

Thumbs up Roger

Captain America

Posted by Greg Butler On March - 25 - 2013

Captain America: The First Avenger 4fa6cb6bcdc388ed13f5f68a

 

 

A dedicated but scrawny and sickly Steve Rogers (Chris Evans rebooted from the Fantastic Four) agrees to go through an experimental serum that would transform him into the Iconic, flag waving Captain America. Another in the never ending stable of superhero adaptation for the geek squad

Cap is the counterpoint to the evil Red Skull, played in cackling 101 Nazi-ness by Hugo Weaving.

The film jets back and forth between Captain being used as a prop to sell war bonds, all the while the Skull develops weapons of mass destruction, and trying to tap into the power of  a rubic shaped cosmic cube, imbued with the powers of the Gods (Don’t ask).

The military and especially Colonel Chester Phillip (Tommy Lee Jones phoning this one in from his sleep) have doubts and trepidation about losing their lab rat Captain to the front lines, But help by boring love interest Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and a suave Millionaire inventor Howard Stark ( father of Tony Stark’s Iron man), fly Rogers into enemy territory where he rescues  friend Bucky Barnes ( Sebastian Stan) as well as hundreds of other military prisoners, proving he’s more than a road show commercial. This pushes the evitable confrontation to come between Captain America and the Red Skull.

 

Sounds good on paper, but on film, not much to cheer about.

 

Director Joe Johnston seems clueless in how to make a memorable battle, Action scenes are stitched together with no rhythm, and its all run, punch, leap, surrounded by a background of things exploding. The hero’s trademark speeches of American values while kicking ass, is muted for political correctness for the international film market. He’s just a guy in blue tights that just wants to help out.

Hugo Weaving doesn’t fair much better as the Red Skull, with old school villainy and no dynamic personality to really make him interesting, the trick relies on selling the trademark disfigurement as a makeup gimmick to keep you from not being bored and even that carries no weight, unlike the horrid visage of Nolan’s Two- face from The Dark night. It’s simply a marketing mask for this year’s Halloween.

Probably the biggest issue is Chris Evans as the titled character, he’s plain as un-buttered toast, the Captain is so bland, as to being nonexistent, and in some ways the film is simply a prelude to the video game, although from what I heard, it wasn’t much better.

Psychic (초능력자)

Posted by sean On December - 11 - 2010


“We should never have met,” Cho-in tells a bloodied Gyu-nam after putting him through hell.

Picture yourself with the power to control people just by looking at them. Now picture yourself meeting the only person you can’t control and going bat-shit insane over it. Choneung-Ryukja (Psychic, or sometimes as Haunters) is a Korean film about a battle between two men that delivers a psychological thrill-ride that eventually wanes by trying too hard to be an action movie.

The film focuses on Cho-in, who has the ability to control people with his gaze, and Gyu-Nam, an honest man who’s the foil to Cho-in’s world of control. Gyu-nam is the obvious protagonist while the former is the antagonist, but what the film does is paint each character with shades of gray. Cho-in is introduced as a child suffering from a prosthetic leg and an abusive father, and after his mother tries to kill him to spare him from his “curse,” he lives on his own, surviving off money he steals from small shops. This opens with a sympathetic view of his character that quickly gets overwhelmed by his willingness to kill anyone who gets in his way. This leads to his confrontation and subsequent fight with Gyu-nam when he tries to rob the pawn shop he works in, resulting in the death of his boss. What follows is a cat-and-mouse chase between the two as Gyu-nam seeks revenge, but as noble as his intentions are, the film constantly questions whether or not he should continue his pursuit. As one of his friends says in the film, it’s “[not so much] about fighting the man but the world the man controls,” and the more he fights it, the more people get hurt. Cho-in repeatedly blames the lives he takes on Gyu-nam, and as the movie progresses, there comes a point where you feel that there’s a bit of truth in his claims.

The battle against Cho-in’s power also creates some great tension. Whenever Gyu-nam takes a step forward in defeating the psychic, he’s suddenly hurled three steps back either through the disbelief of the police or through the risking of another life, but this match isn’t completely one-sided. The further they push each other, the harder Cho-in forces the world to do his bidding at the cost of his self-control. The more people he manipulates, the less mentally stable he becomes as he starts robbing large banks with security cameras and killing law enforcements. This back-and-forth exchange should keep you on the edge during the entire movie, but where the film falters is in maintaining its stance as a thriller. Instead, the suspense breaks in a few parts in the first two acts through the goofiness of Gyu-nam’s foreign friends, but while that serves as forgivable comic-relief, it’s the final act that conflicts with what the film set out to be. It switches from psychological to action-based in a shoot-out and a chase between a luxury car and a rusty van suped-up with NOS. The final confrontation afterwards returns to the mindgames, but the out-of-place epilogue nearly cuts its foundation off at its knees by forcing it into a whole different genre altogether.

So far, there are no plans to release this abroad, but hopefully that will change down the road. Psychic has a great concept with a good execution that’s undermined by how indecisive the film ends up being. In our three liquor rating of One Bourbon, one liquor, and one beer, Psychic is a glass of rice liquor watered-down by the lack of direction in the third act and a poor ending.

-Sean

Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Posted by ron On December - 8 - 2010


Even in the most dire situations, the Swedes never seem to panic or show a shred of vulnerability. That’s some health care system.

To recap the recent events of Lisbeth Salander: She was raped and blackmailed by her court appointed guardian, her friends harassed by a former Soviet agent, shot the skull by her own father, admitted to intensive care, and soon to be tried for attempted manslaughter. For most human beings, these events might constitute as the worst time in their life. For Ms. Salander, its just the start of her day as she had awoken to discover she had emergency brain surgery and the police were waiting outside her room with handcuffs.

The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest was the final chapter in the millennium trilogy. While it wasn’t quite as engaging as its first two chapters, it wasn’t meant to be. The third and final act was a character study to understand all the walled layers that Lisbeth built in order to maintain her sanity. By the end of this film, the audience fully understood why Lisbeth isolated herself from her friends and enemies. Before many of the secrets to this mysterious young woman are divulged, she’ll have to do learn to trust men for the first time in her life.

No matter how much he tried to forget Lisbeth, Blomkvist still can’t quite come to terms with still being smitten by her. Perhaps when someone so mysterious has saved your life, one might have felt this compelling need to return the favor but his actions bordered on obsession. The need for answers to the riddle of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo placed every one around him in danger. As Mikael dug deeper, the stakes were raised, and every thing around him could be forfeit if he continued his course of action.

Once again, Noomi Rapace was called upon to carefully divulge another layer to the complexity of Lisbeth Salander. From this film, Rapace worked mostly from a hospital bed as she must rehabilitate her body. While not pronounced, her gaze never wavered towards vulnerability but a busy mind that the audience would pay any fee to spend a minute. Its through silence that there is one constant throughout the three films: Lisbeth Salander will never be a victim again. By the end of her trial, one can fully understand why.

While all the players involved do their part, the film failed to truly incorporate one non-essential peripheral plot thread carried over from the second act. By the time it was resolved in the final act of the film, it felt forced and added little to no consequences.

Its arguable whether or not the very last scene between Blomqvist and Salander was fulfilling. Its pretty clear that the director meant not to end the trilogy on high note but rather on a basis of understanding between two people. For the first time in her life, Lisbeth Salander had to trust her friends and a man she barely met to do the right thing. This time, she wasn’t let down.

In my three liquor scale of one Bourbon, One Scotch, and one beer for movies, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest rated a steady after work Guinness. Consistent, smooth, but not elegant.

Cheers,
Ron

The Devil’s Backbone

Posted by ron On October - 15 - 2010

Cronos, Mimic, Blade II, Hellboy, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army highlights a healthy body of work by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. A master storyteller who mixes bizarre visual language with desperate characters caught in a maelstrom of danger. It’s this fragile emotional sense of loss conveyed by these isolated characters at their most vulnerable moments that gives Del Toro’s films meaning and transcends all language barriers.

Much like its successor Pan’s Labyrinth, the characters were swept up in the middle of the Spanish Civil War in The Devil’s Backbone. A naïve boy named Carlos was given sanctuary in an orphanage haunted by a dark secret. Like Carlos, the audience was isolated from what was going on in the orphanage. What appeared to be an institution with good intentions harbored something evil. A giant defused bomb served as an ominous metaphor that was symbolic of the infidelity, murder, and hidden treasure subplots. More than just a poltergeist, this Spanish film had a lot of rich subtext to its story. It was as much a coming of age story as it was a horror film.

As a brilliant storyteller, Del Toro slowly but surely mixed all the ingredients to a steady boil. At a very young age, Carlos was left in the care of strangers. He was forced to adjust to his new existence. As the new kid on the block, he had to earn his place amongst the other orphans. His interactions with the other characters revealed pieces to the puzzle. What happened to the previous occupant of bed #12? As Carlos delved deeper into the mystery of Santi, it became clear the threat within the Orphanage exceeded the dangers that it was supposed to shelter him from.

The Devil’s Backbone didn’t rely on jump scares but the uncomfortable feeling of being alone and vulnerable. The film was a play on what we don’t understand and what we would rather believe. It didn’t have to rely on the look of the apparition itself because the suspense was generated with care. The horror was in knowing something awful was going to happen but not knowing exactly when. It’s this off balance feeling of terror where the film’s effectiveness was instrumental.

When the story concluded, every character paid the consequences for their involvement as the overlapping storylines drew to a close. No evil was left unpunished and some things cannot be left behind.

In my three liquor grading scale of One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, the Devil’s Backbone rated as a very rich dark beer during the fall as the October nights grow closer towards Halloween.

Cheers,
Ron

Never Let Me Go

Posted by ron On October - 1 - 2010


Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Kiera Knightly caught in a love triangle that none have much time to contemplate the meaning of emotions.

With no parents or idea whom she’s modeled after, Kathy H played by the wonderfully talented Carey Mulligan knew nothing of herself or the world around her besides what she’s taught to act and think at Hailsham, a regimented boarding school for special children. She had roughly 31 years to become self aware and process all the things humans take for granted before she would be harvested like cattle.

Never Let Me Go was a rarity in film. It’s pure science fiction. There were no plot twists to blindside you. No expensive CGI or elaborate action sequences. Instead the film challenged the audience with how much of it was grounded in reality.

If you had a very brief life span without the ability to reproduce, how would you go about it without anyone teaching you? Hailsham students wouldn’t have much time to comprehend or to even experience love. Therefore true love becomes a very rare and sacred for the children of Hailsham. The direction and acting was effective in differentiating sex from love. Sex is something to experience and enjoy in the moment. Love is something you can never forget or let go. The viewer understood the importance of love through Kathy’s memories. The audience understood her first memory of Tommy, the importance of his gift to her, and her stunning awareness beyond her years. Tommy played by Andrew Garfield had a rare gift. His art carried a edge of vulnerable rage that even he couldn’t explain. How could he? He had no parents to explain his gifts but Kathy innately understood him. To complete this love triangle, Kathy had a rival and a best friend in Ruth played by Kiera Knightly. Love can be also painful as Ruth picked up on Kathy’s interest and went out of her way to keep the two apart. They remain apart during much of their young adult life. The naive interplay between the characters didn’t come off as contrived but delicate. Truth is, no matter how much time one has on the planet, you can never forget the one you love. Love is the connection between our soul and our physical existence. It stays with you till your last second of life and that is what is profound about the distance covered in Never Let Me Go.

The cinematography captured the sense of time in the film. When the trio are children, every scene took place in the Spring and Summer. As adults, the Fall and the Winter harvest foreshadowed that their life spans were growing shorter and shorter.

Mortality is a simple concept in life but what made this film so hard to digest was how hard it was to hold onto so many of the good things in life in such a short period of time. By the end, the viewer found him or herself bargaining for more time to get to know these characters. Was there an out? Why not Escape?

The answer simply put, these characters couldn’t escape what they were born to be from the start. They were never given any choice but love was the only thing they could aspire to have in their lives. They were encouraged or raised to be anything else. Its their naivety that made the audience uncomfortable to sit through the screening.

Heartbreaking, profound, and wonderfully executed, I rated Never Let Me Go as a well aged Scotch single malt in my never ending homage to George Thorogood’s One Bourbon, One scotch, and one beer.

Cheers,
Ron

Animal Kingdom

Posted by ron On September - 26 - 2010


Mother knows best in Australian crime film, Animal Kingdom

When an orphaned boy was fed to a dysfunctional family of criminals trapped by their own devices, it’s live to survive in the Australian crime film Animal Kingdom. Meet the Cody family, a narcissistic group of thuggish thieves who pulled off a bank heist so heinous that the corrupt Australian police department has made them out to be more dangerous than the Gotti family. When a random cop crossed the line and drew first blood, the stakes are raised as these criminals caged like animals within their homes plotted retribution that resulted in an all out war between hoods and cops.

Stuck in the middle of this escalating war was Joshua Cody played by James Frecheville, a precocious teenage boy whose mother died from a heroin overdose. Orphaned by his mother, he was taken in by his grandmother played by Jaki Weaver who delivered a surreal performance as a manipulative mother figure. A mixture between past TV characters Mrs. Garret and Livia Soprano, she was both nurturing and ruthless in the face of self-preservation. Guy Pierce lent his star power in a supporting role of a good cop in a bad town. He delivered his best impersonation of Commissioner Gordon. Within this family full of alpha males, Ben Mendelsohn was the Pope, Andrew Cody who was not only the architect of the bank heist but also the revenge plot gone bad main. His paranoia over his actions led to irrational antagonist behavior for most of the tension in the film.

Animal Kingdom didn’t offer any surprises. It’s literally the crime film that followed “An Offer you cannot refuse” to the letter. You can easily draw your own conclusions from the moment a Cody member was killed in cold blood. The acting wasn’t especially memorable and the movie struggled to find to end on some meaningful note. However, it is the one crime film where you never the money or hear the amount taken that every cop in Australia was after. This also might be the first crime film where the criminals did absolutely nothing but sit in their living room watching television and playing Playstation video games for almost a good 2/3rds of the film. In one scene, the young man Joshua left the living room of the Cody family to meet with his girlfriend and her younger brother was playing Playstation as well. If you’re a voracious Tea Party supporter, this film could come in handy to denounce socialist programs because from this film every one seemed to be sitting at home doing nothing.

Animal Kingdom delivered nothing but a predictable plot, uneventful performances, and a contrived ending. In my never ending tribute to George Thorogood’s One Bourbon, One Scotch, and one beer I rated Animal Kingdom a flat warm unsatisfying beer.

Cheers,
Ron

I Am Love

Posted by ron On August - 8 - 2010


Milano and Swinton are captivating onscreen in I Am Love.

Tilda Swinton is precious, beautiful and embodied feminine sensuality lost in the cosmopolitan energy of Italia in Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love. She delivered a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination as an Italian speaking Russian mother to a wealthy Milano family of textile producers that must change with the times. Since her performance in 1992′s Orlando, Swinton has always downplayed her commitment to refining her craft. Irregardless, it’s impossible to ignore her command of the big screen. Like a painter always expanding her palette from a campy theatrical depiction of the angel Gabriel in Constantine to her Oscar award winning performance in Michael Clayton, she has continued her trend of hitting the hightest marks in acting excellence.

Director Luca Guadagnino’s visual language captured the best ingredients of all things Italiano: Excessive wealth, rich tasting foods, self indulgent parties, sophisticated fashion, breathless architecture, and timeless landscape. We are seduced by this lush environment as his visual language was so powerful that the sex felt only natural as next logical dish served in a ridiculous multi-course meal.

Food is communication in Italian culture. Guadagnino emphasized this cultural aspect very well. When Italian families congregate, they dress for dinner in order to show appreciation and respect for this art form. Food has vital significance because it dictated the mood of the conversation as well as it’s direction. A chef might not have the most wealth but he wielded the most power in the film. Is it possible to be seduced by one bite from a culinary masterpiece? Guadagnino seemed to think so. One bite served as an afrodisiac to Swinton’s character Emma Recchi. It reminded her of a time when she had choices as a single woman before she abandoned her identity and became Italiano. Her marriage had provided many wonderful things such as security, stability, a good family, and wonderful children. It did not provide anything that she wanted for herself. Food liberated her temporarily and she wanted more.

This was a film about making a difficult choice between family vs self. It’s an exploration into taking back control of one’s life by accepting change and losing yourself in it. It’s about rediscovering passion, love, and freedom. Guadagnino is talking about what it feels like to be alive vs what it feels like to just live. We are race of creatures who were never meant to be kept, so set yourself free to love.

In my homage to Thorogood’s One Bourbon, One Scotch, and one Beer I rated I am Love a delicious tasting bourbon.

Cheers
Ron

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