Sunday, August 11, 2019

Two-Paragraph Movie Review: I am Mother (2019)

Similar to Ex Machina, this film has a strong start and quickly establishes itself as a hardcore science fiction work of art. In the world of the distant future, humanity is gone and everything that is left is a bank of frozen embryos, run by an AI and its robotic manifestation. It unfreezes one of these and allows it to gestate into a baby, starting then to care for it as - you guessed it - Mother. The child grows and it is nurtured and attended for by Mother, but in this critical teenage years, the same girl sees her universe drastically change: a human survival appears on the door of their bunker.

The movie takes expected twist and turns from that point and while they are by no means badly done, they are also not much food for thought a hardcore sci-fi film should carry with it. In the last third of the film, the entire notion of the basic emotional triangle becomes strained and somewhat redundant as the girl faces an ever-dropping affection for both the survivor and Mother. In a similar way the movie ends - not with a bang, but with a hint of smart narrative design, but also one that never got a chance to gestate.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Two-Paragraph Review: Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

There’s a lot of stuff going on in Alita: Battle Angel. So much stuff, in fact, that in the end, nothing kind of happens at the same time. This has nothing to do with the ending - which is pretty solid, by the way - but with the general direction where the story wanted to go. I guess it features a story about discovering yourself in a world that is unjust and which you don’t understand completely.

However, the film ended up as something that desperately tries to explain who Alita is and who she wants to be, but fails to achieve the same. Is she fed by anger, vengeance, hope? Some might say all of these things, yet, even then, the movie does not manage to keep up with most of these things. In the end, the movie provides some nice action thrills and a lot of promise for its sequel that will likely never come. All in all, that might not be such a bad legacy in the domain of the modern science fiction blockbusters.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Two-Paragraph Movie Review: Arctic (2018)

Apparently, getting marooned on the plains of Arctic is not as half as fun as it sounds and Mads Mikkelsen is a great choice for an actor to explore the same situation. He plays Overgård, a man in this predicament but also one who managed to find a semblance of stability, rooted in numerous routines, in his terrible form of everyday life. As he waits for the rescue in his downed aircraft-turned-shelter faith drops a helicopter on him, almost literally. Instead of salvation, he is left with a badly injured woman and a series of big and potentially deadly decisions he has to make.

Joe Penna, the director of this minimalist film is steady at his helm and he was able to steer it commendably. Low on words and high on non-verbal explanation, Penna did what J.C. Chandor did with All is Lost, only changing the punishing sea with the punishing snow - it looks like water in all of its forms wants to kill us when we get marooned. But, cinematographically, in both cases, a strong lead managed to push a great setup even further, creating a very impressive story and very quiet adventure film.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Two-Paragraph Review: The Mule (2018)

One of the things I appreciate about Clint Eastwood more and more with the passing of time is the fact that this guy is actually really weird. In other words, I’m still not sure what is going on in his mind after all of these decades of him in front and behind the camera. The Mule is a good example. This film is a thriller about an old orchid grower who becomes a narco-trafficker for the Mexican cartel out of necessity. Slowly, he ventures further into the scheme and this cannot end well.

A standard thriller, right? Yes, but, at the same time, it has a huge number of comic moments, which I’m not sure if they were added by design or by accident. It is also vaguely political in a way that is not desirable to me, even though I know where Eastwood's personal political compass points. This all makes The Mule feel like a strange collage of part of different TV shows that are on air at the same time. Drama, comedy, thriller, and a love story, it’s all in there and it all partially makes sense. The movie is ultimately enjoyable mainly thanks to Eastwood's acting, but where it wanted to take us intellectually remains a mystery to me

Friday, May 31, 2019

Two-Paragraph Review: The Standoff at Sparrow Creek (2018)

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is a smart film, but it is not as smart as it would like to be. It features a classic lifeboat scenario, this time among a band of weekend militiamen who are held up in a warehouse after a massive attack on a police funeral in their area. As they bid their time worrying about arrests, listening on HAM radio about more nationwide attacks, one of them is working hard on figuring out who of them actually carried out the initial massacre.

The movie is all drama and tension between the characters, followed by plenty of dialogue (in fact, that’s most of the film). While I do admire the low-budget approach to this enjoyable thriller setup, it ends up being smug and too self-content at many points. Those long dialogues include some not that great lines, and the actors that deliver them are equally persuasive as a modern militia crew that is inches from committing a new and major terrorist attack. Still, the film holds your attention, which is more than enough for a project of this size.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Indie Showcase: Art of Love (2019)

Art and love might seem like a natural pairing in numerous situations. After all, ever since the days of the ancient past, art did explore in so many shapes and forms the concept of love. Yet, while so many works of art try to approach the subject from a philosophical, grand, and even emotionally detached perspective, some try to observe love and art in the contemporary setting, through the eyes of regular people who work hard to survive and thrive in an often ruthless and uncaring world. Art of Love is a feature-length indie title that tries to do just this. Here is how the film describes its plot: