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:

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Blame! (2017, Netflix)

Copyright: Netflix
Disclosure: I’m a huge fan of the Blame! manga which is easily the best work of art in this genre I ever read and one of the best comics/graphic novels in general. This is why I’m delighted to say that Blame! Netflix adaptation is both true to the spirit of the Tsutomu Nihei’s original and successful in plotting its own artistic course. In the film, Killy as a wanderer comes across a village in the megastructure when local electrofishers might sit on the best clue he came across since he started looking for the net terminal gene, hoping he will stop the rampant Builders and Safeguard, while allowing people back into the system.

If you didn’t read the manga (and in many cases, including my own, even if you did) this will probably make very little sense to you, but the movie manages to come to grips with its complex and odd narrative structure in a very elegant fashion, just like it approaches its animation. The visual style of the manga is distinctive and presented in full glory here, finely combined with CGI animations of the characters and fight scenes. While the film is more talkative than the manga, all of the foreboding feel of it is in there, making this a worthy interpretation of the brilliant work of art made by Nihei almost two decades ago. So, to compress my review, I can only tell you: go see Blame! on Netflix, it’s good.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Nocturnal Animals - Slick Tom Ford

Copyright: Focus Features
Tom Ford, aside from having a really cool name and looking as cool as a vintage James Bond character is also one hell of a director. I didn’t get to see his A Single Man but boy oh boy is Nocturnal Animals a deep-cutting film. Following a double narrative in which one takes place in Susan’s (Amy Adams) shattered life lived in a gilded cage of her own making and the other in a fictional book of her former lover (Jake Gyllenhaal), Ford flows across a strong screenplay like the capital ship of the Zheng He’s fleet. I know, that was one long sentence with a historical reference to boot, wasn’t it?

But, Nocturnal Animals is also a long and often hard to watch film, but it still mesmerized me like something that can only become a future neo-noir classic. A big part of this is thanks to Adams who is definitely one of the true modern genius actresses, just like Arrival showed. Her intellect, emotional range, and simple physical presence makes her a woman that easily covers everything Ford’s tale throws at her, and it does throw some curveballs. At the end, I didn’t really get what occurred before I read some interpretation, but it still made a terrific impact on me. The only downside is the strange visual and thematic loosening of the plot at the very end of the novel part, but it could be that I also misinterpreted that as well.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Two Paragraph Review: Colossal - Emotional Friction and Kaiju

Copyright: Neon
Man, Colossal is a weird film, but mostly in a good way. Here, we get to see that there are original ideas but also the reason why so many  Hollywood producers shy away from them - they're tough to pull off and even tougher to sell successfully. I’m still not sure if this movie ended up being what its director Nacho Vigalondo wanted to create, but it is definitely unique.

In the story of two childhood friends who are reunited later in their small town, where they lead semi-purposeless lives, the audience is shown what friction and damage can come about at small age, but also what personal forest fires can arise from them. Aside from the super-odd script which includes monsters that attack Seoul as its main point, the film utilizes Anne Hathaway and even more Jason Sudeikis (who often, for some haunting reason, looks exactly like Ben Affleck) to bring this very relatable struggle to life, both in human and Kaiju form.