Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Short review of "Moana" (2016), Ron Clemens & Don Hall.

The most breathtaking computer animation you have seen until now. It is a fun ride, but, and you will take umbrage at my comment, it is a fully outmoded feminist indoctrination pamphlet. Since animated movies have long production periods, it would be ingenuous to blame Disney for not predicting the conservative/reactionary (and the general population´s) backlash against identity politics and the support for the worldwide Trump times.  

The Ocean, which chooses Moana for her mission, is the Government; Crab is a pick-up artist from the hood/Jersey; demi-god Maui is the alpha dude constantly emasculated until he can prove that is worthy of the despondent dumped Goddess (he stole her heart, dammit!), and Moana is the girl that wants to prove to Daddy that she can find her own path and save the world (or go to New York and make it big in the fashion magazine industry, take your pick). I would love to have been sitting in the executive meetings for this one, just listening to the arguments for and against each plot point from a monetary perspective.

Short Review of "Profondo Rosso" (1975), Darío Argento.

A granddaddy of the modern horror genre, this Dario Argento near-masterpiece has it all. Creepy kids, inventive deaths, mysterious locations, parapsychology, lots of visual humor, suspenseful cat-and-mouse scenes, dynamic camerawork, equally good mise-en-scene and impressive clean colors, especially red. Marred by terrible dubbing in Italian, some stilted performances and a contemporary 1970s score that wants you to kill the inventor of the synthesizer. Socially pretty modern. Or well, European. Well worth of your time.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Short review of "Elle" (2016), Paul Verhoeven.

Verhoeven surely did a number on film critics. Some dim-witted people mistook "Starship Troppers" for a straight action movie, when it was a satire about fascism. This time my favorite subversive director presented a satire about modern feminism. It is in a way the anti-"Fifty shades of Gray". Every dark fantasy is on the screen, from the incredibly beautiful middle-aged woman to the emasculated men, the never-ending female empowerment and the disposable monsters that are the parents. Not to talk about rape (don´t fret, is right in the first scene). I can´t believe somebody took "Elle" as a straight post-feminist movie, but the proof is on the Internet: this dark comedy is being called a "thriller". I wonder if those critics are doubting themselves over a second viewing.


Capsule review of "The Girl with All the Gifts" (2016), Colm McCarthy

And then, the wound opened by "28 Days Later" is finally closed shut by a child. The stupendous "The Girl with All the Gifts" (2016), directed by Colm McCarthy from the novel by Mike Carey, mixes biological fear with zombie survivalism to great effect. It is not horror, but science fiction, a meditative evolutionary Apocalypse. It is the optimistic "Threads" of zombie movies.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Short Reiview of ""I am a Hero" (2015), Shinsuke Sato

An entire zombie movie just to make a Japanese "herbivore" a man. Herbivores are a class of Japanese male that withdraws from society disinterested in social interaction, especially with the opposite sex; or in the case of this movie, a "weak man". If the Korean "Seoul Station" was about social class, in Japan it seems to be about men and their various levels of manhood.


Short Review of "Rogue One" (2016), Gareth Edwards.

NOT REALLY SPOILERS (but some people are spoiled by everything)

 Still a product, this Star Wars entry manages to both infuriate and ingratiate. Many possibilities are lost to the Gods of marketing, however risks are taken and the result is a watchable yarn that fits nicely with the sleeper hit of 1977. It lacks character dept and motivation. It feels short but padded with inane dialogue that yearns for emotion. The outstanding bits are mechanical: Alan Tudyk as the comic relief robot, the Death Star as menacing as it should have always been and Vader as the miniature and personal version. "Rogue One (aka: Suicide Squad)" is meant to be seen in 2D. Watch it that way.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Short Reviews from the 31st Mar Del Plata International Film Festival

Nocturama” (2016), Bertran Borello
An electric (and well shot) first part showing the complexity of organized simultaneous terrorist attacks in Paris gets bogged down by teen stupidity when the terrorist group awaits in an empty mall for the air to clear. Regardless of the morbid goodwill generated by the first part, this film is a clear dangerous provocation to the establishment and to citizenry. It glamorizes terror for a pre-adult audience, there is no escaping it, and the director will not convince me otherwise. I completely understand why it was rejected in Cannes, and if the movie did the same thing with the Nazi Youth, this Borello guy could see the inside of a prison cell if presented in some European countries. Another false progressive opens the way for the extreme right wing counter-revolution of Le Pen.
(The problems of the second and third generation immigrants in the banlieue of Paris are real, but this is another animal).

Monger” (2016), Jeff Zorilla
I was expecting a more elaborated work about sexual tourism in Argentina, and I just got images of an obviously sick-in-the-head American going to ugly prostitutes in the downtown financial district of Buenos Aires with some invitees and a beginner Youtuber; and snippets of a completely different story about a British milquetoast guy with resources that somehow managed to have a son with another bottom-of-the-barrel prostitute, which got some money out of the deal. Disappointing.

Reach for the SKY” (2016), Choi Woo-Young & Steven Dhoedt
South Korea, a near dystopian present reality. Hundreds of thousands of students prepare for the annual exam which will define which university they can choose, and thus their social status, their lives. This is an exceptional documentary filmed as a suspenseful thriller about the victory over a self-imposed societal adversity. We follow three students shooting for the stars, the dwindling day clock a reminder of the crucial moment when students must vomit fleeting knowledge to justify the legal reification of Korean social classes. Not only recommended, it should be obligatory for policy makers as a cautionary tale. But I am sure many of those would take it as a positive mechanism to implement the never properly understood malignant concept of “meritocracy”.

People that are not me” (2016), Hadas Ben Aroya
This one is personal. I was part of a certain Tel Aviv cultural milieu that walked and talked on the streets depicted; I was at the opposite side of the estrangement in a similar relationship as one found on the screen (not telling you which one); I studied in the same faculty that gave us this young director. Hadas film feels fresh (albeit not new) and naturalist. It is small, but she only wants to tell you about one idea: love is impossible in a hipster city of the post-post-modern age. Joy, the character Hadas plays, is both a victim and a perpetrator. Yes, I liked it, but I am too entrenched on the subject and place. Even the building I lived during three years in Tel Aviv appears on the movie (Personal note: I met Hadas in the Festival, she is adorable and smart).

Free Fire” (2016), Ben Wheatley.
Two teams, one warehouse, lots of guns. Mayhem ensues. Set in the 1970s to evade the cellphone issue. The problem is that this kind of movies lives or dies based on the correct use of the limited space. Wheatley, by design or by inefficient preparation, does not present a sharp image of the location of every character and their spacial relations to each other. Also, at some points characters seem to merge in a bloody blob,when you can`t tell apart a couple of guys. The pervading nihilism masked as black humor does not help either. Fun as any filmed shooting can be, but nowhere near “Green Room” or similar Carpenter homages.

Actor Martinez” (2016), Nathan Silver & Mike Ott
Millennial hipster douches exploit a working class aspiring actor by “filming his normal life” but zoning badly into his worst personal moments and insecurities. And that is not the plot, that is the reality of the project. Some zooms work, some compositions and one circular shot say “cinema”. The rest is the unequal relation of power between young directors and a person that deserves better. Infuriating. The directors answered questions after the movie and confirmed that this was an experiment and that they don`t care. Another reason why Trump won the US elections.

Seoul Station” (2016), Sang-ho Yeon
Blunt and effective social commentary. The homeless and destitute become (are) zombies and they are coming to eat “us”. Why me? Says one character that thinks that he did everything right to belong to society. Maybe that is why you. Excellent thinking companion piece to the concurrent action film by the same director (“Train to Busan”).

La Reconquista” (2016), The Reconquest, Jonás Trueba
A broken teen love is answered fifteen years later by the male victim with amusement. This is my interpretation and will crash against the simplistic and literal view from the other side of the gender valley. It has an uncommon structure, the re-encounter with the female guiltless “free spirit” comes first, then the current situation of the male, then the story of their teen love. “La Reconquista” says more about the state of modern relationships than the fake adulthood of Linklater stars. For some free spirits the best years of their lives are in the past, for its victims the best are still in the future. Damn hipsters, dancing in the deck of the Titanic.

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World” (2016), Werner Herzog.
Werner Herzog and the past, present and future of the Internet. What else can define “festival happiness”? The film consists in some ten vignettes about the influence of the interconnected world in our lives, from the point of view of a poet and thinker that was here before it defined our lives. Some segments have been covered by multiple documentary TV shows and articles, some feel fresh, especially those concerning the origin of the Net. Still, when the guide is Werner Herzog, not many things can go wrong on this trip. Features the creators of the Internet, hackers, robots, wave radiation, sickness, Elon Musk and his dreams of a Martian lifeboat, and the coming Apocalypse. Recommendable.

The Dying of the Light” (2016), Peter Flynn
Uber-nostalgic documentary about film and projectionists. It seems to be made for the general unknowledgeable public,which is fine, but the wide scope (from Edison to DCP) lacks focus (wink wink, oh God, I am a hipster,please no God, oh please, take the irony away from me). Yes, many old cinemas in the US are derelict, and no, you can`t explain that phenomena with throwaway names: i.e. “Television”. Still, watchable and the viewer may learn something from it.

Paradise” (2016), Andrzej Konchalovsky
Nazis are bad, but they are people. Aristocrats are people too! And they can be good! Who knew? Useless.

Operation Avalanche” (2015), Matt Johnson
Found footage conspiration tale about the “moon landing”. Justin Long said it well enough in”Galaxy Quest”: “I knew it!” That`s all you need to know about the movie. Mavericks, mischief and finally tension abounds, but the possibilities are crippled by the gimmick. You can actually see the kid inside the director enjoying himself over a personal fantasy finally done on “film”. Nothing groundbreaking, but entertaining nevertheless. Convincing period era technicals, opening credits are special and Stanley Kubrick gets a cameo.

En Busca del Muñeco Perdido” (2016) In Search of the Lost Giant Puppet, Hernán Biasotti & Facundo Baigorri
Looney Tunes comedy is often captured by populist Thai filmmakers complete with “boing boing” sounds effects and cheap CGI. This Argentinean guerrilla filmmaking version comes to the field (sans CGI) with a barrage of jokes, some embarrassing, some that actually work. A group of friends must find their stolen bonfire puppet before the break of the new year`s morning. Tighter editing could make this one a more polished package that can jumpstart a new genre movement in these southern lands. Some aspects of the movie cannot be understood in foreign markets, but the tale of the eternal losers waiting for glory at side of the soccer field is fairly universal. Made by (wait for it) ten thousand dollars and a lot of sweat and friends.

Onión” (2016), Juan Pablo Zaramella
Bookended by crass scenes of white trash behaving badly there is an inspired and funny esoteric acid trip that runs like a tank over a similar “Doctor Strange” sequence, then brakes and puts reverse to bury it a little bit more. Zaramella seems to be a smartass. Enjoyable.

Doctor Strange” (2016), Scott Derrickson.
The conveyor belt of movies for overgrown slow children continues with this outing. The charismatic Benedict Cumberbatch makes the ridiculous work in an origin story for those that never have seen one. The idiotic mythology contains one kaleidoscopic sequence and a couple of place-marker “Inception” bits that look expensive, chaotic and innocuous as hell. Better than most Marvel drivel, still below “Iron Man” or “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Why are you spending money to watch these things, anyway?

Headshot” (2016), Kimo Stamboel & Timo Tjahjanto
Ultra-violent “level-up” Indonesian actioneer, with spectacular coreography by Iko Uwais and mild melodrama scenes. You have seen nothing like this since “The Raid”. There is some certainty in the videogame-like structure of growing difficulty and final bosses, but the realization is novel (enough) inside the parameters of the genre. Think it as a mix of Jackie Chan and his use of objects with a 21st Century dynamic camera of a realist “Scott Pilgrim” scheme.
Seen in the 31st Mar del Plata International Film Festival. Review by Pablo Podhorzer.