Monday, April 17, 2017

The Narrow World







Today's short film is called THE NARROW WORLD.

This film was written and directed by Brent Bonacorso. To the surprise of no one, I'm not familiar with his work, which, according to IMDB, is three other short films.

Here's the thing with that... at this point, I've been posting quick reviews of Short Films for awhile now. I don't know how many of these things I've watched, but there's a good number of them grouped under the Short Film Label. And as the days and short films pass, my now somewhat reliable lack of familiarity with anyone involved in these films has passed from the reality of a neophyte, to a quirk of the blog, and on into a realm where it now feels more like a strange re-occurrence. Honestly, I guess there's no end to these short film guys, because it's god damn rare that I come across someone where I'm actually familiar with their previous work. In fact, I think it only happened once.

That I can remember, at least.

So, I did a little research. It turns out that Brent has an upcoming feature film called YOU GET ME starring Bella Thorne and Halston Sage, the former is apparently the new Teen Queen It Girl for some reason, and the latter is completely unknown to me, despite the fact that I've seen a couple of movies she's in. Brent has also done some music videos for Elton John and Katy Perry, I guess. Plus, he also did the opening titles for the HBO docu-series THE JINX, which is kind of awesome. So, he's an up and comer, I guess, and getting some respectable work too.

Good for him.

Here's the synopsis: THE NARROW WORLD is the story of a gigantic alien that crashes to Earth and takes up residence in Los Angeles. Contrary to expectations, when the alien is neither hostile towards the tiny humans around it, nor communicative in any way, it falls on the populace to decipher what, exactly, this visitor wants and what it means for them. One man sees more to it- a message, perhaps, that may tell us less about the alien, and more about our deepest inner selves, about the mysteries of the soul.

Sounds profound...



That was all right.

The central idea of a massive and supremely powerful alien life-form landing on the planet and turning out to be neither savior nor destroyer is an intriguing one. I like the idea that its indifferent inaction would make the planet either stew in self-reflection, or lash out angrily. There's some interesting stuff there. I don't think the film actually nails the emotional arc it's aiming for, now maybe that's due to the skills of the actors, maybe it's the juxtaposition with the subject matter or genre, or maybe it's just a victim of the time constraints of a short film--most likely it's a combination of all three--but it doesn't quite land. I appreciate the effort, and it's not like it completely failed or anything either, it just lacks the oomph it feels like they were aiming for, y'know?

Opening with a Shakespeare quote maybe wasn't the best idea. Doing so adds an expectation of depth, one that if you don't deliver--especially with genre stuff--it ends up making you look a little bit pretentious.

So there's that.

The documentary style was a good decision, I think, especially for the creature, but the set design of the two male characters felt pretty generic. That being said, the rest of it looks great. It's shot well, with a good use of the city, and other than the "military attack" sequence, the effects are pretty top notch for the small budget of a short film. The wide shots really work, and probably provide the most emotion for the creature, giving it a nice lonely, melancholy tinge. That really amps up the otherworldly feeling.

One thing, I was confused by the part where the other creatures show up. Did they show up? Or were they just on the way? I couldn't tell if the scene that showed the other creatures was a dream/imagined future type of thing, or if it really happened. The film only showed the single giant robot after that, so it's hard to say.

Ultimately, this is an interesting and impressively done short film, but by shooting for the moon, narrative-wise, and falling short, it's not quite as exciting a watch as you'd want a 15 minute short film to be. I recommend it, but I don't expect many people will want to re-watch it.

Neither destroyer, nor savior,
Jon

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Lost City of Z









Today's film is called The Lost City of Z.

The title alone is enough to grab my interest. The type of imagery that the title invokes dovetails nicely with my love of the whole giant monster/skull island type of films. It's the life of exploration and mist-shrouded adventure thing, the journey to the edge of the known world, even if it's all from a very colonial, very Western World POV, I can't help but love the romance of it. And then to find out that it's based off a book by David Grann with the same name, all about the doomed Amazonian expedition of the legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett?

Well, now I'm excited.

Side note: The idea that there was once a time when "Explorer" was a perfectly acceptable job title just kills me. Also, I'm totally going to buy that book.

However, there's a few things with the film that I'm worried about, mainly Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, and writer/director James Gray. Other than Hunnam's appearance in one of my favorite films of all time, Children of Men, I'm not really a fan of anything these three have ever done. I'm not NOT a fan, of course, none of them are awful, but none of them are really great or interesting either, at least in my opinion. These three together are the type of names that would normally be enough to put me off the film, or at least ensure that I made no effort to go see it in theatres, if at all.

The thing is, I'm hearing nothing but good things. Effusive praise, as it were. Lots of it too. I've seen several different reviews calling it an early contender for best of the year. People are going on and on about the film, and loving the shit out of it. They're using the type of language that might seem hyperbolic, were it not for the fact that this film, and the people involved, are not usually the type that critics get hyperbolic about.

So I'm curious too.

Here's the synopsis, which honestly seems like there was little to no effort put into the writing: A true-life drama, centering on British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s.

Well, that's underwhelming. Let's take a look...



Yeah...

That looks interesting. It looks good, but it didn't really impress me.

I still want to see it, because like I said, I love the idea, and the setting, and all that stuff. I'm into this kind of thing. Plus, despite the average-ish trailer, there's the huge response to the movie to keep in mind. For a Charlie Hunnam movie? That's not a usual thing, and yet... people seem to love it. The aggregate on Rotten Tomatoes is 90% with 70-some reviews. That's impressive. I mean, everyone (except certain dark corners of dumb fandom) understands that Rotten Tomatoes is not an exact indicator of quality, it's not a ranking, but when 90% of reviews are positive...? That's a good sign, so I'm going to check this out. You should too.

The Lost City of Z opens on 4/14/17. That's tomorrow, people!

Go see it,
Jon



Friday, April 7, 2017

Colossal





Today's film is called Colossal.

I saw this film at Fantastic Fest, and I loved it. Hands down loved it. It was my favorite film of the festival, and I think that's really saying something as this past Fantastic Fest had an especially impressive list of films. It was positively crowded with great stuff, including such titles as: Arrival, Safe Neighborhood, Elle, Tony Erdmann, Age of Shadows, Down Under, The Crew, The Handmaiden, Shin Godzilla, The Invisible Guest, Raw, Popoz, The Playground, AND The Greasy Strangler. That's an insane amount of incredible films. I loved them. They were great. 

But my favorite was the one with Anne Hathaway.

I'm just saying.

The Writer/Director of Colossal is Nacho Vigalondo. He's a writer, director, and actor that hails from Spain. He mostly does what I'd call "grounded sci-fi" films. They're usually of the "funny, quirky, and weird" variety, mixed with one big crazy idea like Time Travel, or Alien Invasion, or Giant Monsters attacking the city. Y'know, fun stuff.

I've enjoyed the films of his I've seen, although I still haven't been able to catch Timecrimes, which is the one he is so far the most known for. It's supposed to be great. Everyone seems to love it, and everyone says you have to see it, but it's a little difficult to track down a copy. That's not  too surprising, I guess, it is a ten year old Spanish film, after all. I'm hoping Netflix and/or Itunes make it available once Colossal hits. I say Timecrimes is the film Nacho "is SO FAR the most known for" because I think Colossal is going to put him on a lot of people's radar. Deserved so, as he's a talented artist and an actually a nice approachable guy too. Nacho is a regular at Fantastic Fest, and it might be fair to say that he enjoys a good party, and is a bit of a cut-up.


Here's the synopsis: Gloria (Anne Hathaway) drinks too hard and parties too much. Her boyfriend has enough of it and throws her out. Gloria returns to her hometown, dreaming of making a new start, but instead revives her childhood friendship with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who runs a bar. After drinking a night away with Oscar and his friends, she wakes up to discover a gigantic monster rampaging through Seoul and realizes that somehow the monster is connected to her.

Sounds "funny, quirky, and weird," amirite? Check out the trailer...


That's a good trailer, mainly because it doesn't actually show you what the film is really about.

Yes, it looks like it's spilling a huge amount of beans, doesn't it? Anne Hathaway and her drinking buddies are funny drunk, and then she discovers that she is somehow connected to a giant monster that is attacking Seoul, South Korea. Gasp! Spoiler! She's controlling the beast! Awww, the cat's out of the bag, right?

Wrong!

That's not what the film is about. Well... it is, but it's also not. There's a lot more than that. Colossal is a good example of a genre film done right, one where allegory and narrative mesh perfectly. Whether you're a fan of them or not, Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis are not just great in their roles due to their own natural talents, but they're also surprisingly great in their roles for the meta-baggage they bring with them. This film is not just "funny, quirky, and weird," but smart too.

Without giving anything away, Colossal is a film about bad decisions, about regrets, and the mistake that haunt us and define our lives. It's also about taking back control of your life. It's about trying to be better. It's about good friends, and bad friends. It's about funny drunk, and not so funny drunk. It's also about giant monsters.

Seriously. Go see this film. I loved it. I highly recommend it. It's fun. It's funny. It's great, and totally worth your time, and it opens on April 7th, 2017. That's today!

Go see Colossal,
Jon

P.S. Here's a couple of awesome posters





Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Void






Today's film is called The Void.

This film played at the last Fantastic Fest, and I missed it. It was on my list, but c'est la vie, y'know? Sometimes that's how the lottery works. I don't mind so much either, at least, not in this case. Since then... reactions have been a little lukewarm.

But still, I'm kinda interested.

Horror is not really my thing. It's only maybe half my thing, which is kind of a weird position to be in, as most people either love the shit out of everything horror, or they can't stand it at all. A lot of the time it's the gore, or maybe the amount of tension that's the deal maker/breaker. While for me, if it works, if it fits, then I'll take whatever blood or tension you've got, but only if it works, only if it fits. That nuance might as well not even matter though, as inevitably. depending on who you're talking to, you end up getting classified as the default opposite position.

I mention all of this, because The Void is a horror film.

The images I posted above might have tipped that off, but in case there was any confusion, yes, it is most definitely a horror film. The pictures are bloody and weird and pretty monstery, which I like. When it comes to horror, my line is that I generally avoid any of that gleeful gore porn/torture porn shit, and I don't really take slasher stuff seriously, but anything apocalyptic, demon or monster filled, or magical in anyway, I'll probably be in. So, that's what draws me to this particular film, what makes me want to see it, even though the best I've heard from multiple people I know who like this sort of thing basically amounts to a shrug and a "meh". It's the siege aspect. I like that. I also kind of like that it involves a weird cult too. Plus, there's the monsters in the hospital's basement. I'm into all of it, but  I'm also keeping my expectations low.

Here's the nice, robust synopsis: In the middle of a routine patrol, officer Daniel Carter happens upon a blood-soaked figure limping down a deserted stretch of road. He rushes the young man to a nearby rural hospital staffed by a skeleton crew, only to discover that patients and personnel are transforming into something inhuman. As the horror intensifies, Carter leads the other survivors on a hellish voyage into the subterranean depths of the hospital in a desperate bid to end the nightmare before it's too late.

Let's watch...



This is a really short trailer, and maybe there's a longer version out there, but just from watching this, I can say that it is not what I was expecting.

I was expecting something along the lines of a survival horror "trapped in a hospital" kind of thing, or maybe a siege horror situation where a bunch of weirdos are trying to get into a hospital and the people inside have to hold them off, but this film looks like it might be more along the lines of the film Baskin, a portal to hell type of film, which is... all right, maybe. I'm less interested in those. Those kind of films tend to lean more toward the torture porn/existential punishment type of thing, and that's not really something that trips my trigger, y'know? It all looked pretty wet and gooey.

Plus, like I said, I heard it wasn't that great... Maybe I'll see it, maybe I won't.

The Void opens on April 7th, 2017.

Jon