Saturday, November 30, 2013

Film Review: John Dies at the End

Copyright: Magnet Releasing
Imagination is awesome. Schopenhauer, interpreted by Carl Jung, argued that imagination, or more precisely it’s derivative called a fantasy (and not just the ones that involve trying to rip off Tolkien in some way) can make a bridge between the intellect and emotions, between the purely cognitive and the purely instinctive. We use fantasies (call it daydreaming if you’re still thinking about elves and dwarves) to combine our rational thoughts with different past experiences and emotions that follow them. In daydreams we can do anything. Art is a reflection of this human ability (for me, it’s closer to a superhero power), and John Dies at the End is a reflection of the pure, uninhibited artistic need in people. After ten minutes of the film, I was sure it also could go anywhere. And that is awesome.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Film Review: The New Republic

Copyright: Osiris Entertainment
Imagine a city in the near future. Imagine an another city inside of it called New Angeles, an inner city where the poor, addicted and those who seek a life of crime live together. If someone decided to isolate them by making public transport complicated and bothersome, and the rents low and affordable, would they just slowly implode?

Or would they recognize their real oppressor and organize to do something about it? But maybe there isn’t a real oppressor, or oppressed, just bad life choices and bad luck.

The New Republic is a masterpiece considering its budget was around $25,000. Objectively speaking, it has many flaws, but they don’t matter that much when I think about the amount of money it took to make this film.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Film Review: Captain Phillips

Copyright: Columbia Pictures
In the entrance sequence of Captain Phillips, we witness a conversation between a wife and a husband. The husband is a maritime captain, and his wife is escorting him to an airport, from where he will set out to his next voyage. During their drive, they talk about how the world has changed and who their children will have a rough time in their adulthood.

For me, this was an awful way to open the film. The conversation tells us nothing about Phillips, or his wife. They sound as if they are practicing the lines from the beginning of an SNL sketch, right before one of them declares that she or he wants to join the circus or something ludicrous like that. There is no emotion that rings true, except perhaps a hint of subdued boredom from a decades long marriage. Tom Hanks, who plays Phillips, presents the same thing in this role – something seen and done many times by him, combined with an ever-present feeling of tiredness. The real is described by some of his crew as reckless, but here all of that was condensed into unintended bravery. Because the movie didn’t want to get political, I guess.I wondered to myself in that moment: if Paul Greengras, the director of this film had so much trouble presenting a regular middle-aged man from the US, how on Earth will he depict the Somali pirates?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Film Review: Drinking Buddies

Copyright: Magnolia Pictures
To me it seems odd to call this film a comedy. Although it does contain many awkward social and romantic moments that are so intense that they are unpleasant to watch, I didn’t experience it as a work of art that tries to entertain in any humorous way. For me, Drinking Buddies is a drama about finding a way of living after the fun of the first third of life has ended. While the party mentality still lingers on, in the background obligations, responsibilities and other changes menacingly start to appear on the horizon.

A bunch of enthusiastic, relatively young people work in a microbrewery. One of them is Kate, who is an organizer, and the other is her best friend Luke, who works a blue collared job.  Both are in stable relationships, but both live a really easy-going lifestyle that includes almost constant beer drinking. They hang out during and after work, and seem like an unusual pairing for friends. After they meet each others better halves, the four of them decide to take a weekend trip to a beach house. The trip changes everything between them. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Film Review: Evil Dead

Copyright: Sony Pictures
This picture shows everything that was, and still is great about splatter horror.

Since a certain imaginary hostel in Eastern Europe became a shrine where mainstream modern torture film was born, and Saw franchise began to regularly devise more and more sadistic dilemmas for its characters, humanity received a new phenomenon called torture porn. Yes, we collectively began to use the word "porn" to describe things.

Just as pornography denounces any resemblance to an actual sexual intercourse and chooses to stylize them to the point where they completely lose touch with reality, so have the directors of horror films began to express suffering.

However, while the scenes of real violence cause nausea and leave serious consequences to the viewers (this lesson of human behavior became clear in various army testing laboratories when the military unsuccessfully experimented with violence desensitization), cinematic torture is more acceptable to our eyes. We know it's not real, but it still manages to press the right mental buttons.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Film Review: The Wolverine

Copyright: 20th Century Fox
There is something very satisfying in the X-Men film franchise. I’m not a big Marvel fan, and I’m sure I’m not a scholar of its lore. In spite of that, I found every film in the series really entertaining.

A few years back, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was also an enjoyable experience. Gavin Hood, the artist who created the fantastic Tsotsi directed it and gave it a bit of his unorthodox, not-so-much-Hollywood touch. But this approach wasn’t a sure shot by no means.

Because the same thing backfired before -  Ang Lee’s Hulk was a total flop for both big audience groups that went to see it. Those who wanted to see a green monster destroying everything got an unimpressive Eric Bana drama, while those who wanted to see something like Ride with the Devil with comic heroes got even less.

Hood didn’t fall into the same trap, and wisely joined his artistic sensibility and character development with a pure fun & action pace straight from comic books for 14-year-old.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Film Review: I Spit on Your Grave 2

Copyright: Anchor Bay Films
In one scene Katie (played by Jemma Dallender), now well on her warpath of revenge, begins to torture one of her former captors in a Bulgarian toilet. She ducks his head in the disgusting, overflowing toilet bowl while he cries for help and mercy. In that toilet there are two stalls, and Katie in one point moves him to the next one. In one stall the bowl is full of yellow liquid that is probably urine. The other one is full of brownish goo, most likely feces.In a very neat fashion, the visitors of that broken and godforsaken toilet decided to fill one toilet bowl with one kind of bodily fluids, while the other one gets the second kind.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Film Review: Machete Kills

Copyright: Open Road Films
Machete Kills again shows that exploitation parody isn’t an easy movie genre. This film is in dire need of structure that would be the backbone of the plot. Instead of a story the movie follows one flaccid joke after another, constantly adding new characters and situations.

The movie opens with Machete and his partner-girlfriend taking on the corrupt US military near the Mexican border. One ninja incursion later his partner is dead. Machete is keen on revenge, and the President of the US offers him a way to do murder those responsible while at the same time he saves Washington D.C. from a catastrophic missile attack. After that we see helicopter decapitation in three different forms, boat chases, car chases, rocket piggyback riding and many other crazy stunts. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Film Review: The Hunt (Jagten)

Copyright: Nordisk Film
The Hunt, which is the English translation of the Danish name Jagten, takes place in a small community where everyone knows everyone else. Every person on the street is a neighbor, acquaintance or a friend. In other words, the story takes place in a form of human settlements which for thousands of years was and still is an ideal place for various forms of persecution ranging from public condemnation to open witch hunts.

Mads Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a professor who loses his job. Because of that he gets another one as a teacher in a kindergarten. Despite the difficult period in his professional and private life, Lukas loves his job, and the other kids adore him. One day little Clara, the daughter of his best friend, presents a vague story that might show abuse. The manager of the kindergarten feels obligated to do something. Lucas gets suspended, and instantly his life becomes hell.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Film Review: Bullet to the Head

Copyright: Warner Bros.
If someone created an Action film university, Sylvester Stallone would be a perfect choice for the position of the dean.

In his new film Bullet to the Head Stallone is doing the same thing The Rolling Stones did for decades. He is making art that he knows and loves in a mental place where he feels comfortable. Both may seem like outdated phenomenon. Yet they both understand how the future works. Mick Jagger probably doesn’t plan to invite Skrillex to join his band. Stallone acts the same in this aspect. Few decades after his glory days he is still interested in one thing - action.

The main person behind the camera is also another old Hollywood employee, and his name is Walter Hill. This director is a underappreciated genius that gave the world, in my opinion, one of the best surreal action movies The Warriors way back in 1979. The incredible 81-year-old directed the film that fits Sylvester Stallone like a glove.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: Man of Tai Chi

Copyright: Universal Pictures
To call this movie “action packed” is a grave understatement. Man of Tai Chi is a martial arts movie through and through. It's precisely managed, and it doesn't digress towards a broader action film involving shootouts or any other standard action hallmarks.

The movie is Keanu Reeves's directorial debut. In front of the camera Reeves plays the main villain, a ruthless security agency owner named Donaka Mark. Apart from his day job, Mark is also running an underground fighting operation in Hong Kong. One day while he scouts for new fighters he notices Tiger Chen, a talented Tai Chi practitioner. Mark, intrigued by Tiger's unorthodox use of the ancient martial art, invites him to a meeting. Tiger, an honest and gentle young man, gradually gets drawn into Mark's dark world of money and violence.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Review: Shadow Dancer

Copyright: Paramount Pictures
In a scene from this movie, we see a man who is walking through a peaceful neighborhood. He is wearing his hooey over his head and somewhere on his body there is a gun. In the distance, we can see a man working on his car. He is the mark. At any moment violence will erupt. After it ends, we are left to wait and see who and how pays the price for it.

Shadow Dancer, as I understood it, is about trust. During the Troubles, a period in the history of Northern Ireland, many people had to choose who to trust. The IRA was fighting the British government and this battle quickly moved to cities, roadsides and even families. The others - pushed away or designated as enemies.