Friday, February 9, 2018

"Dunkirk", Christopher Nolan (2017) and "War of the Planet of the Apes", Matthew Reeves (2017). Movie reviews.

"Why so serious?" is the omnipresent question that every filmgoer must do to to the less talented brother of Michael Bay: a guy called Christopher Nolan.  "Dunkirk" is all problematic show, no substance.  A couple of scenes of grandeur does not save this movie from the smart-ass approach to the segmented narrative and the shallow level of characterizations.  As with almost all Nolan films, "Dunkirk" has an artificial heart, a few fake feelings that do not make up for the simulacra of great cinema.  Nolan is such a fascist that even the Nazis are not named.

"War of the Planet of the Apes" is a technological marvel that mixes Trump´s America War on Foreigners with the tale of Moises, the Egyptians and the Exodus, adding sprinkled scenes from the Vietnam War and Amon Göth.  The movie has its share of issues: resolution is swift as accustomed in modern blockbusters, ponderous scenes try to lend gravitas to otherwise popcorn entertainment, comedic character appears out of nowhere as a mean to let the audience escape gas, and trails for the sequel/remake of the sixties´ classic are too explicit to appear organic.  However, "War" is a step above its comic-book siblings by believing that its audience deserves a film and is smart enough to understand a story told by images other than colorful explosions.  The "Apes" series is what should be the baseline for mass entertainment, and we should only chose upwards as we buy movie tickets.

"Altered Carbon" (2018), Netflix, various directors. Capsule review.

Despite some middling reviews this Blade Runner-ish series is quite well constructed, from the neo-noir proceedings to the increasingly deranged ideas that come from its timely device. The rich can live forever, and immortality (as Asimov noted on one of his trilogies) provokes the stagnation of a reified social body and its decadence, both upstairs and on the smelly basement of human society. The tone is not for everyone, and the dystopian ambiance is a staple of the commentary on the current disarray. Still, it is said that the decline of a civilization stirs the waters of creativity. From a simple child´s song in Tim Minchin´s "Matilda" to a detective story set in the far future, artists use the oppressor´s own funds to scream that we must rebel in the end if we intend to survive. Is this a sublimation of our own desires, made to maintain us quiet? Or are these works of fiction the first salvoes on the liberation war to come?

"El Verdugo" (The Executioner), 1963, Luis María Berlanga. Capsule review.

A true masterpiece of black humor, this Berlanga piece is much more than it meets the eye. Done during the dictatorship of Franco, the movie is full of little details and commentary on the dichotomy of life under the iron hand of the "Caudillo". A man must take an immoral job to preserve his family´s living situation, and he will not go quietly to the guillotine. Popular and burgeois happiness are all over the place, but our hero has something more sinister in his mind. A must-see.

Monday, January 8, 2018

"Downsizing" (2017), Alexander Payne. Capsule review.

Disjointed and meandering, the last movie by Payne is preachy and ineffectual in equal measure. It does not work as science fiction, comedy, or social commentary. An initial burst of energy is derailed by a nihilist ecologist discourse that belongs in Greenpeace pamphlets. The high concept had an interesting potential shown in the socioeconomic variables in play, quickly hidden to bring up survivalist American progressive lunacy, even when is spew in foreign accents. Not recommended. And shame on Payne for ruining the concept in the first place.

"Bad Genius" (2017). Capsule review.

The best heist movie that you will see this year was not directed by Soderbergh and has nothing to do with car races, jewels or banks. Thai director Nattawut Poonpiriya has created a spellbinding tale of deception, high stakes, and social class commentary in a movie about high school students and tests for acceptance into universities. A good fictional companion to the superb Korean documentary "Reach for the SKY" (2015). If only we did not know that meritocracy is a lie.
"Bad Genius", watch it however you can.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Short Review of "A Man Escaped", (1956), Robert Bresson

Original title: "Un Condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut"

Minimalist masterpiece about a young man imprisoned by the Nazis during the occupation of France, trying to escape possible death. Actors are non-professional, the plot was taken from a real story, even the some of props utilized are the actual elements used by the man on which it is based. Not a frame wasted, every sound is important, pervasive voice-over is just poetic, tension is unbearable. Highly recommended.

TSPDT Ranking of All Time: Top 100 Film Ranking: 87

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Review of "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" (2017), Guy Ritchie.

It is time to recognize that something is amiss. Childish garbage like "Wonder Woman" is praised to heavens, and anything else that dares to confront the rule of the infantile comic-book sagas gets plummeted to box office death with multiple blows by hipster writers, old critic geezers, and all their followers. Until some years ago, the right-wing fascist ponderousness of Christopher Nolan (Batman trilogy) was heralded as the coming of the Second Christ, preceded by Fincher´s anarchist vein (Fight Club) that would form the new brown shirt consciousness. As fascism became a hard reality, Hollywood tent-poles regressed to kindergarten, accompanying the souls of the frightened Clinton voters.

The adult hero fighting against oppression was cast to the side, classic pulp (John Carter, Lone Ranger) was demonized or directly castrated (Mad Max). So it is not strange that a foreigner, somebody from the outside, with a taste for cross-cutting and condensation, would come to the rescue. I am not asking the reader to love Guy Ritchie´s technique, but at least to appreciate what he has accomplished by its use: the worn path of the origin story is cut in pieces; the visual extravaganza is made effective anew by destroying the meaning of the Hollywood set-piece. Do you want monsters? Here you have them, in the very first act. Do you want a training scene? There is no time for that nuisance, watch a modern montage that dances around the neo-classic drivel gifted to you by the MCU sausage machine (Doctor Strange and many others).

King Arthur” is not without its faults. The chopped timeline segments get on your nerves as its repetition overthrows its initial welcome. Slow-fast motion is well done, but we have seen it multiple times at the Church of the Snyder. What it gets to you tough, is the way on which the working class hero, grown between prostitutes and squalor, comes to save the day from another narcissist tyrant. Deaths matter, evil teaches, and revolution finally arrives. It is necessary to grow up and take back the reigns of the kingdom, and “King Arthur” shows the road to Camelot.

IMDb Page