I, TONYA is a brilliant movie

The more I think about I, Tonya, the more I love it. It’s stuffed with great acting, excellent writing and directing. I keep thinking of layers of meaning to the story, its historical context, and the artistic interpretation of those things. It takes some incredibly dark material, and uses brilliant pacing and comedic timing to race the viewer through a chaotic timeline and a perfect storm of shitty, stupid people. It makes Tonya Harding into a sympathetic figure, an abused child who matured into an abused wife while locked into the utterly bizarre world of professional figure skating.

It’s hilarious. Horrifying, probably very difficult or impossible to watch for a lot of abuse survivors, but it’s a hell of a story and I would have found it hard to digest without the humor. There’s an amusingly pissy disclaimer at the beginning of the film that states the the story is “based on irony-free, wildly contradictory and totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly.” It shows Gillooly adamantly denying the claims that he beat her, but follows each denial up immediately with a montage of slaps, punches, shoves, bruises, and one kidnapping with a gun. It’s a very, “Oh, yeah, asshole?” refusal to take this abusive prick’s bullshit seriously, and I found it refreshing.

The late 80’s and early 90’s are meticulously recreated. Old people with rotary phones attached to the wall, the unreasonable behavior of the tabloid press on everyone’s lawns, the magnificent collection of scrunchies that adorned skaters’ hair.

They CGI’d Margot Robbie’s face onto her body double, and it is seemless.  You really cannot tell that that isn’t Robbie out there figure skating. Their FX team should have gotten a nomination for their work. It isn’t flashy and you don’t know it’s there and that’s an incredible victory for CGI.

The performances are excellent. Margot Robbie is good. Allison Janney transformed into LaVona, Tonya Harding’s chain smoking mother is amazing. And Sebastian Stan as her shithead husband is also a fantastic performance.

And there’s Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn, the idiot best friend of the shithead husband who, by all accounts, destroyed Tonya Harding’s career in his delusions of being her ‘body guard.’ He was one of the funniest parts of the film, and also one of the most horrifying. There is real video of the real Shawn claiming to be an international intelligence expert and a consultant to “many” different private intelligence agencies, and a reporter telling him that that isn’t true, they checked. And he just keeps bullshitting that he really is some kind of spy.

Part of me wants to read up on the Shawn part of the story, because it’s a sort of disturbing foreshadowing of what the fuck happened to the United States in the last 30 years. This bozo is confronted with facts, over and over, that contradict every single thing he has said on-record, and he keeps insisting that his story is true. In the version of events presented in I, Tonya, he acts independently of everyone else and upgrades a simple prank to a physical assault, thus destroying Tonya Harding’s entire life. And, in this version of events, his motivation for doing that was tied to his delusions about being a spy. I’d say it’s one of the most bizarrely ridiculous things to happen in decades, except we have the internet to document things now and the real significance of that event was that it was on national television before the internet.

And there are yet more layers to this fantastic movie, because there’s also lots of class consciousness commentary. It feels more authentic than on-the-nose, because a takes-no-shit sort of girl from a working class family would absolutely be pissed about how she is treated differently in the figure skating world than girls from better economic situations. The fur coat solution was one of the funniest things in the whole movie. Her coach keeps telling her waitress mom that Tonya needs a fur coat to fit in with the other girls and have the right look so the coaches won’t be biased against her being poor. So Tonya’s daddy takes her rabbit hunting, and they make her a damn coat. She walks in to practice, one of the girls asks, “what kind of fur is that,” and 8-year-old Tonya just struts on past.

The number of things that scene hits on, it’s brilliant writing and directing. It sets up the shit she had to deal with in figure skating culture, how being poor complicated things, explores her relationships with each parent, and establishes her character as a person who will always find a way to get what she needs.

I, Tonya is a brilliant, many layered movie full excellent writing, acting, and directing. I hope it wins lots of awards.

Fantastic Fest 2016 Recap

text fantastic fest

Fantastic Fest 2016 was, as always, a great party.    I ate too much fried food, was movie critic Leonard Maltin’s personal driver for a couple of days, and had an argument at the bar with a drunk Irish guy who hates Hillary Clinton.

I saw 14 movies, including what is now my second favorite kaiju movie of all time.  Fantastic!

Below is a quick synopsis of the films I saw, and why you should or should not waste a piece of your short time on Earth watching them.  The movie titles link to either their IMDB entry, or a trailer.

I’ll also post updates in the future on how to see anything I recommend, as that information becomes available.

 Colossal

This is my second favorite kaiju film that I have ever seen, topped only by Love & Peace.  A brilliant analogy of substance abuse and the struggle to get your life together, Colossal tells an amazing story of moving back to home, trying to dry out, and finding out that  your Kaiju doppelgänger is destroying a city thousands of miles away.  Directed by Nacho Vigolando, and starring Anne Hathaway.  My favorite film of Fantastic Fest 2016.

A Dark Song 

I loved this slice of occult psychological horror.  A Dark Song is a study in building tension and dragging the audience kicking and screaming into the story.  Nerds of the occult will appreciate the degree to which writer/director Liam Gavin did his homework.

RAW

You need to see this movie, especially if you’re a vegetarian or former vegetarian who made that secret pact about how cannibalism doesn’t count as cheating.  Impossible to discuss without spoiling the whole thing.

The Handmaiden 

The Handmaiden is the latest offering from Park Chan-Wook, the genius South Korean director who gave us Snow Piercer, Lady Vengeance, Old Boy, and so much more.

The Handmaiden is a most beautiful film about revenge, double crossing assholes, and giving the finger to the patriarchy.  There is also lots of really hot lesbian sex.

Bad Black 

First of all, we are organizing a watch party to spread the word about Bad Black and the mind blowing phenomenon that is Wakaliwood.  I’m giving this one a full write up later this week, but in short:

Wakaliwood is the growing film industry  in Uganda.  Their films are ridiculous, wonderful, and full of subversive political subtleties under the rule of an oppressive regime.

Bad Black is a revenge story about life in Wakaliga, the ghetto on the outskirts of Uganda’s capital, Kampala.  It’s hilarious, self aware, and a well-executed story of seeking justice.  So much fun.

Here’s a link to an 8 minute video that is basically the prologue to Bad Black.

Safe Neighborhood 

Do you like Christmas horror movies?  You need to watch Safe Neighborhood.  If you have ever thought about the minor changes in story that would have turned the Home Alone movies into an awesome slasher flick, you need to watch Safe Neighborhood.  One of the best films at the festival.

S Is For Stanley 

This is a documentary about Stanley Kubrick, and it made me cry.  S is for Stanley is an interview with Kubrick’s personal assistant, Emilio D’Alessandro, who was at Stanley’s side for 30 years.  I feel very lucky to have seen this film, as it was done completely under the radar without the Kubrick estate’s consent, and there is a lot of uncertainty about whether or not it will be distributed.  It’s very respectful of Kubrick.

Call of Heroes 

Call of Heroes is basically a spaghetti Western set in China.  It’s a super fun film, and I hope it gets a US distribution.

The Girl With All The Gifts 

If you have NOT  read the delightful novel this film was inspired by, it’s a fun film that zombie movie fans will get a real kick out of. It’s a different spin on the genre.

If you have read the New YorkTimes bestselling novel The Girl With All the Gifts, just picture a frustrated ginger shaking her head, too upset to speak. I’ll write a proper analysis of this interpretation of the original story in the near future.

Don’t Kill It 

Don’t Kill It is so much fun.  To blatantly steal a friend’s description, Don’t Kill It is It Follows, but with guns instead of sex.  It’s one of those over the top cheesy offerings that knows exactly what it is, and has a great time being that.

Dolph Lundgren stars as the demon-hunting drifter who struggles to save a small Mississippi town that refuses to heed his warnings until it’s too late.

This is a movie you should put a party of friends together for, and maybe have a drinking game around every time the host gets killed.

Terry Teo 

Terry Teo is a young adult TV show in New Zealand, and it’s just great. A crime fighting, skate boarding teenager who turned away from a dark path. Well written, high quality production, and well developed characters. I’m going to dig up how someone in North America could see it, it’s really good.

Salt And Fire 

Werner Herzog supposedly wrote Salt and Fire in three days, and it is a weird journey.  Imagine if Jodorowski’s Holy Mountain was funny, and you couldn’t tell if it was on purpose.  Michael Shannon (General Zod) spends most of the movie delivering quotes from philosophical texts in a smooth, hypnotic tone that left me confused that he’s the CEO of a super-evil corporation, and not actually a cult leader.  It also made me giggle.

Salt and Fire is the sort of film you can chew on for a very long time.  I left the theater unsure of how I felt, but after talking with some friends who had also seen it, we realized it was full of one liners and inside jokes that could only be shared with someone who has seen it. Under some definitions, I actually have been initiated into a cult, probably led by Michael Shannon’s voice.

Gather your smartest friends, and ply them with alcohol or other substances of choice before watching.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe 

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a fun ride with plenty of good jump scares, but don’t think too much about it.  If you start asking questions about the plot, it sort of collapses like a black hole.

I had high hopes for this film, as it’s from André Øvredal, the director of Troll Hunter (one of my favorite  modern monster movies), but the script obviously had issues from the start.  The scenes are all good individually, they just don’t quite make a cohesive story.

We Are The Flesh 

We Are The Flesh is a super-fucked up Mexican art film that features black magic and lots and lots of gratuitous incest.  It is on some levels kind of brilliant, and I might have appreciated it better if I was more fluent in Spanish. The director stated during the Q&A that the subtitles are “shit,” and that he didn’t review them at all.  I may write a longer piece about this film in the near future.

We Are The Flesh is basically the story of a post-apocalyptic Mexico City, and an old sorcerer/witch who adopts a young brother and sister  who show up in his hiding place. He turns them into his apprentices, teaches them black magic, and it gets pretty fucked up pretty quick.  The incest is really a repetitive item on a list of Western taboos that are broken throughout all the disturbing black magic rights.

On Junk Food, Suicide Squad, and Story Telling

suicide squad

I really enjoyed Suicide Squad.

I describe it as, “big, stupid fun,” like delicious, carcinogenic junk food. Critics hate it, but most people are calling Suicide Squad ‘fun’. I’ve been trying to figure out what is it about Suicide Squad that makes it fun. What are the structural things that make this movie work despite its many failings?

suicide squad harleyLet’s face it, Suicide Squad is a hot mess; it may be fun, but it is not good. The plot is just barely there, the character development is haphazard at best, and I’m surprised Ghostbusters hasn’t asked for their villain back.

Why are there approximately 15 million flashbacks of Harley and the Joker, but just the tiniest sliver of background on the Enchantress, the villain with the tragic backstory the audience should be super invested in?

There are dozens of such questions about Suicide Squad that cannot be answered by Suicide Squad. Yet people like it. I liked it. Why? Why do people enjoy this shitty movie?

Here’s a little background on what happened to the plot of Suicide Squad:

It has been thoroughly reported by now that after Batman vs Superman imploded into a black hole of hate and despair, Warner Brothers panicked. With a very short time left before the Suicide Squad release, they concluded that movie goers were going to freak out when they saw a movie that was typical DC grim-dark, rather than the poppy-cute-kawaii super villains and kittens trailer that got such a strong marketing response.

In the grip of panic, WB decided that the best course of action was to hire Trailer Park, the company that made the original trailer, to create a brand new cut of the movie. They were to inject humor into the film, edit, and reshoot where needed. This resulted in gutted subplots, the Disney-fication of hardcore super villains, and some ham fisted ‘jokes’ shoved into the first half of the movie. You can tell what scenes were added by the trailer company because they are the only parts of the movie with a pop music soundtrack; seriously.

Anything that would have given the movie depth is gone. What I consider the ‘fun’ parts of the story don’t even start until the popcorn butter fingerprints of Trailer Park vanish, about halfway into the film.

So Suicide Squad was butchered by studio interference, but something of the core must have survived. There’s something there that people are responding to. What is it?

chili cheese friesJunk food is really simple. It has three ingredients; sweet, salt, fat. Anything more complicated is going to bring to attention the fact that you are eating the worst chocolate in the world, or nearly rancid vegetable oil instead of organic butter. Or Cheetos.

Our basic junk food elements in Suicide Squad are some really basic tropes. We have your basic Super Team trope, which brings together a mix of heroes (villains in this case) with nothing in common at the beginning, who maybe don’t like each other, but are forced together by some circumstance. Our super team has a collective arc throughout the film, and by the end they have transformed into the Bad Ass Crew trope, fighting together as a unit to defeat the Big Bad and save the world.

That’s it, that’s the basic structure of Suicide Squad, and why people have so much fun watching it. This arc is told through the interactions of the characters, as they gradually shift from “each villain for themselves” to “hey, you’re gonna die if you do that thing” relationships. Watching a group of people have to work together and grow to care about each other is a very easy thing for most people to empathize with.  It’s just barely enough to propel the movie forward.

Suicide Squad is a surreal example of what makes a movie with mass appeal. It doesn’t have to be good in any sense that critics look for, but if the most essential bones of storytelling are there, viewers will have a good time, and they will tell their friends to see it.

I do think that, because the core was strong enough to survive the bizarre editing decisions, it would have been strong enough to carry that 30 minutes of footage lost to Ayer’s original cut.  Here’s hoping the blu-ray release has another cut, I would love to see if it holds up.

Review: Hail, Ceasar!

men in old navy outfits standing on restaurant tables

I thoroughly enjoyed Hail, Caesar!

I have not laughed so hard at a movie in a very long time. The talent, the writing, the banter, the pacing, the tropes being mocked… Hail, Caesar! is a Cohens Brothers movie in fine form.

The story follows Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a 1950’s Hollywood studio manager, who is constantly putting out metaphorical fires, keeping the talent in line, and the press at bay. His secretary, Natalie (Heather Goldenhersh), is a vital piece of his world, keeping the chaos coming in manageable packages and appointments. Their chemistry helps the story click along at an intense pace.

Eddie weaves in and out of the stories of several studio stars, directors, and press, played by George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, and Alden Ehrenreich. This movie is packed with talent.

I want to point out that they let Scarlett Johannson act. It’s wonderful. Such a rare thing these days. She has this ridiculous part as a 50’s starlet, and she’s hilarious.

Hail, Caesar! is full of references to classic big production films like Million Dollar Mermaid, Ben-Hur, Spartacus, Quo Vadis, and Anchors Aweigh. I had the advantage of seeing the Alamo Drafthouse pre-show for Hail, Caeaser, which was very thorough in providing just the right clips from those classics to make sure everyone got the jokes. I found it all delightfully clever.

Hail, Caesar! is very much a period piece about 1950’s Hollywood. The costumes, the technology, the cars, even the accents and slang build up a wonderfully rich backdrop. And then it uses that backdrop to parody all those classic movies mentioned above. Just wait until the not-Anchors Away gag, you’ll see what I mean.

It’s also not a perfect movie. There’s a lot going on, and you’re kind of rushed from the story of one character to another. It’s not quite an anthology, more a snap shot of a ‘typical’ 24 hours in the crazy other world of 1950’s studio life. Not everything is wrapped up at the end, but Eddie’s had a full arc that ends satisfactorily.

I had one big moment while watching the film where the logic of the story fell apart for me, but the thing they were doing was so fantastically over the top that it didn’t really bother me. I was laughing too hard to get annoyed. That’s saying a lot, as story logic collapses usually ruin movies for me. But hey, they managed to pull off a Communist gag, so I’m going to give the Cohen brothers some slack there.

 

This is a smart, fast paced film. You need to pay attention to really appreciate it and take in the humor. It’s full of weird little jokes for film industry nerds. The sets and costumes are beautiful. The actors are obviously enjoying themselves in the banter and chemistry. You may not get the Communist jokes, but that’s ok. George Clooney hams it up in those scenes, you can just enjoy him being ridiculous.

Hail, Caesar! is a film I recommend, to Cohen brothers fans, to film nerds, to people who enjoy smart dialogue and humor. It’s in theaters now.

Chappie is no Jonny Five and that’s great

I liked Chappie. It’s a very solid contribution to the science fiction subgenre of robot and artificial intelligence movies. It may not appeal to folks who are not well versed in robot movies, and that’s ok.

It makes me sad to see the degree to which formal reviewers have been ripping this movie apart, calling it a tropy ripoff of other robot movies.  It’s a robot genre movie, people, come on! Anyone who insists on labeling Chappie as a ripoff of the 80’s classic Short Circuit hasn’t seen Short Circuit in 29 years.  As a science fiction loving child of the 80’s who owned a VHS copy of Short Circuit, which got pulled out anytime I was tired of She-Ra and couldn’t whine my parents into renting Gamera again, I can state with great authority that Chappie is no Johnny Five, and it’s a good thing.

Chappie and Johnny Five are both military robots who achieve consciousness, but that really is the one connecting plot device, a similar theme being explored.  Johnny Five wakes up sentient somewhat miraculously after basically being hit by lightning, while Chappie’s consciousness was the result of an intentionally installed experimental AI.  They both explore the question of what happens after said military robot becomes sentient and starts learning and interacting with people, but they do it in very different worlds, surrounded by very different characters and influences.  There are probably four shelves worth of books in the scifi section of my local library that explore this very theme, and they are not considered ripoffs of each other.

There is also the fact that pretty much no one who is more than five years younger than me has ever seen Short Circuit, and it really is ok to recycle old ideas for a modern audience.  We have a very different concept of Artificial Intelligence in 2015 than we did in 1986, and I am the sort of person who will probably enjoy any attempt to explore the consequences of AI consciousness in film.

Now that I have defended the hell out of this movie against what I think are empty criticisms, let’s really talk about it.

Chappie is a good science fiction movie.  It is not, however, a great piece of scifi, and it will have little or no appeal to people who aren’t really into science fiction.  It is possible that it won’t really appeal to anyone who doesn’t love almost any movie with a robot in it.

Neill Blomkamp delivers a disturbingly realistic future where a robotic police force is being tested in Johannesburg. The robots in and of themselves are magnificent works of art.  They are covered in minute details from being used in combat, and the way they move is just alien and fluid enough to communicate their status as walking, talking, uncaring weapons. It turns the subtle differences between the normally functioning robots and sentient Chappie into some of the greatest evidence of Chappie’s individuality and character arc.

For reasons I may never understand, Neil Blomkamp and cowriter Terri Tatchell decided to write the stage characters of the South African band Die Antwoord into the film as violent criminals.  It’s more than a little distracting to watch Ninja and Yo-Landi play themselves in this movie, and there are scenes that feel like some of their crazier music videos.  It does detract from the movie, and I would have enjoyed the story more if the gangster couple had been cast by actors inspired by the band instead of actual rockstars taking up much of the screen time.

Dr. Deon Wilson, played by Dev Patel, is a slightly crazy but well-intentioned scientist with some pretty intense naivety about the world.  He has some scenes where he’s trying to imbue Chappie with morals, and I can’t decide whether they were meant to be serious or funny, because they’re right on that line of comical but don’t quite make it there.  Other than that, he’s a great character with a different spin on the mad scientist/Dr. Frankenstein trope.

Hugh Jackman is in this movie, has no sideburns, and he’s evil!  Really, really evil, and the craziest person in this movie.  I found watching him play a different sort of character than I’m used to seeing him cast in to be a delightful treat.  Evil Hugh Jackman let me forgive the weirdness of Die Antwood.

To recap:

This is not a movie for everyone.  It is a movie for people who love scifi movies about robots and have a tolerance for ridiculousness. Two of the main characters are rock stars playing themselves. This is balanced out by Evil Hugh Jackman. Chappie is, in no uncertain times, in any way a ripoff of Johnny Five from Short Circuit, and the five year old version of me will kick anyone in the shin who keeps trying to argue about that.

Mothra vs The Snot Monster

kitten-keeps-sneezing2-450x299Over the weekend I was dying of something flu-like, and the only cure for that is wine and monster movies. My boyfriend, fearful for my life, fired up Netflix and handed me the controller. And then, saint that he is, spent the rest of his evening watching Godzilla vs. The Thing, aka Godzilla vs. Mothra with his sneezy, snotty, wine-drunk girlfriend.

Fortunately, he was cracking up the entire time. This is such a fantastically bad movie, it’s great fun.

Godzilla vs The Thing is a kaiju classic.  It’s goofy and doesn’t take itself very seriously, except of course when the monsters are fighting. There is some great Godzilla-smash to enjoy, from stepping on factories to people panicking in the streets.  Mothra really dishes it out to Godzilla as she fights to protect her offspring.  The plot is fun, following two newspaper reporters and a scientist as they try to expose the corruption of a local power hungry businessmen whose greed nearly dooms Japan to Godzilla’s wrath.

The suit took a serious beating in this film.  In a scene exclusive to the US cut, the suit head is literally set on fire:

mothra-vs-godzilla-head-fire-1024x419

Then, the suit gets drug across some mountains, inevitably birthing a famous gif decades later:

mothra dragging godzilla

 

Apparently (according to Wikipedia) when Godzilla smashes his way into Nagoya Castle, the suit’s lower jaw was damaged and had a bit of a wobble for the rest of the film.  It didn’t get fixed because the SFX director Eiji Tsubaraya loved the look of the jaw wobble and decided to leave it alone.

The English dub translation is kind of weird. There’s a confusing switch back and forth between referring to Mothra as either Mothra or ‘The Thing,’ with zero consistency.  Reed made it halfway through the film before he figured out that The Thing and Mothra were the same monster.  It’s a weird production choice, and it gets weirder when looking at the marketing for the US release.

godzilla-vs-the-thing-movie-poster-1964-1020251143The film was originally called Mothra vs Godzilla, but they renamed it for the US release (but not the UK release), and the bizarre trailer hinted at some kind of mysterious monster it called ‘The Thing,’ which may or may not have had tentacles, or might have been created by humans to kill Godzilla.  Mothra never actually appears in any US promotional material. They treated it like Mothra was some kind of new thing, rather than a monster that already had her own film with a well-received US release two years earlier. Very weird. Kind of fascinating.

Bad 60’s marketing or not, I personally have loved this movie since I was a kid, begging my parents to rent it on VHS on a regular basis. I really was pretty sick over the weekend, and this solid kaiju movie is good comfort.

 

October is the craziest month every year

October is crazy for us, because we throw a huge, themed, Halloween party every year. Right before things kick into high gear, we vanish for a week into Fantastic Fest in late September.  I’ve been gluing eyes into roses for two weeks now and I think the chemicals are going to my head. I ordered an insane amount of LED candles last night so that we can recreate the devil prison altar from Prince of Darkness. And I joined an all women RPG group that’s playing Fate Core, which I’m not very familiar with. Busy time.

Also, I’m tired of trying to find time to write a really great review post for everything I saw at FF, so here’s a list, ordered by the release date if they have one:

Automata

automata_ver2_xlgSet in the middle of a slow burn Apocalypse, Automata does what good science does; Automata asks “What if…?” and tries to answer that question. Humanity struggling against gradual extinction in the aftermath of a solar storm decades ago that managed to rip through the atmosphere, irradiate chunks of the earth, and knock out most of civilization. Where people survive, a vast army of robots, originally built with the intention of working in the irradiated areas to stop the spread of a growing desert, is an integral part of every level of society. In reference to Isaac Asimov’s original Laws of Robotics, a supposedly uncorruptable set of programs prevent all these robots from ever hurting anyone or advancing themselves into a more independent intelligence.

If you’re into apocalypse films, or great robot science fiction, you need to watch this movie.

Limited U.S. release this weekend, October 10th.

 

Horns

hornsSo good! Based on the dark urban fantasy novel by the wonderful writer Joe Hill, Horns is fun, Horns is creepy, Horns an is absolutely heartwrenching. It’s a beautiful love story told in flashbacks while a young man searches for the real murderer of the girl he loved, while being accused himself. He also starts to transform into a monster after turning his back on God for taking his love away in such a horrible way. Only some people can see him as the monster, and those people find themselves compelled to tell him their deepest, darkest secrets. This helps with his search for the murderer.

Great date night movie. Please do NOT take the kids to see it just because Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) stars in it. It’s rated R for a reason.

It comes out Halloween weekend.

 

John Wick

johnwickGreat action movie. Lots of bullets to the head. Keanu Reeves’ character does not one single time question the nature of reality.  Also, the most incredible story of seeking revenge for a murdered dog, ever.

Comes out October 24th.

 

 


Wyrmwood

wyrmwoodposterThis is seriously the best zombie film I have seen in years. I hope, hope, hope that they can swing a full U.S. release, because everyone needs to see it.  Zombies are a source of fuel that have to be captured and hooked up to vehicles, there is the original story of a full zombie witch queen, and it’s hilarious.

It’s also Australian. Australians make really great zombie movies for some reason.

 

 

From the Dark

From-the-Dark-Conor-McMahon-Still-Trench-558x360A decent horror movie offering from Ireland. Creepy, suspenseful atmosphere, slow reveal of the monster. The protagonist is a tough young woman who just keeps making irrational decisions, some of which are so dumb it can knock you out of the movie.  That’s really its only flaw though.  Accept that she’s really impulsive already, and panicked out of her mind, and you’re in for a good ride.

I’m not sure when or if there will be a U.S. release.

Norway

NorwayTitle-thumb-630xauto-48932Trippy vampire movie from Greece. There’s no real story, just a bunch of bits mashed together that seem genuinely interesting but never actually pay off.  It’s fun stylistically, and I’m glad I saw it, but it’s not really worth seeking out. It may be that I lack the necessary knowledge of Greek pop culture to get it. The whole is based on an 80’s Greek pop song about a vampire, and thinking of it like a music video does make it a little bit better.

Review – The Hundred Foot Journey

movie poster for The Hundred Foot JourneyThis is the warm and fuzzy date night movie of the summer.  Grab your person you like to feel happy with and go see The Hundred Foot Journey this weekend.

A sweet story about chasing dreams, tough decisions, and making peace from the director of Chocolat, Lasse Halstrom, The Hundred Foot Journey pulls you in so close that you can almost smell the clash of turmeric against subtle French sauces.

The Kadam family has run a respected restaurant in Mumbai for years, when one terrible evening politics turn an angry mob onto their neighborhood. They lose everything in a fire. The family lands for a time in England as refugees, until the unstoppable Papa, played by Om Puri, decides that England is unsuitable for the new restaurant he dreams of, throws his children in a van and starts driving across Europe.

Happenstance breaks the van down in a small French village.  Papa, and his cooking prodigy son Hassan (Manish Dayal) fall in love with an abandoned old restaurant for sale. Seeing also the amazing quality of fresh local ingredients at the town market, Papa decides to buy the property and settle the family down.  This horrifies his more sensible children, because directly across the street is a restaurant known regionally for its highly rated classic French cuisine.  How could the Kaddam family possibly compete? Unperturbed, Papa is determined to bring fine Indian cooking to the area, fully believing that Hassan, an incredibly talented chef, will soon be renowned for his cooking.

Across the street, Madame Mallory (Dame Helen Mirren) has little patience for either competition or a neighbor who could affect her carefully cultivated classic French atmosphere.  A fierce cold war quickly ensues between the Madame and Papa, the blows ranging from dirty tricks at the market to demanding city code enforcement.  While his father wages war, Hassan seeks out an education in French cooking, befriending Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), the Madame’s sous chef.

These characters are rich and worth knowing, and the Hundred Foot Journey they travel together is a story you will be glad to know.  This is a film about people, and their conflicts, and working things out.  It is both heart wrenching and positive. You should see A Hundred Foot Journey with someone who likes your smile.