I wouldn't have necessarily pegged Alexander Skarsgård as the comedic breakthrough performer of 2016 but then I saw War on Everyone, a film in which he spends the entire film in an exaggerated slouch, at one point turning it into a full-on penguin walk, flapping his arms wildly on his sides, to mock his adversaries. There's also a grand thing to see him complain about how filthy Europeans are using an exaggerated Yankee accent.
Which is all War on Everyone is, really. It's jokes about stereotypes being applied by stereotypes in stereotypical situations. It's very on-the-nose and self-aware of it, but never goes to any meta-levels. It just does that. So if you like watching cops stand over bodies shot by SWAT-officers, happy that at least this time they only shot white people, this is your movie. Some of the material is more poignant than others, some less so. There's a sequence where Skarsgård and Peña have to find a black man in Iceland so they stand in the middle of Reykjavik until he walks past them. In this universe it's a great plan because everyone is basically one step away from each other at all times. Jokes like that land because they fit into the film's world tonally and contextually. The stuff about what constitutes a gay man for example, doesn't, that well. This world seems so asexual it's weird to see a conversation about sexuality.
All in all though, I'd say there are more hits than misses. So if this type of sardonic deadpan humor is your thing, totally go for it.
4 months, 4 weeks ago
Louis Theroux is not the man you send after Scientology. His unique brand of puppy dog -like looks combined with an unending thirst to learn more is the perfect way of coaxing information and opinions, and thus learning the psychology of, religious nuts and people working in fields unusual to others who want to proclaim them outwards. People with a need to be heard or seen. Scientology, despite it's position as a religion, does not want either of those things. It wants to exist as a succulent growth on the world, sucking out money from people who have yet to learn of it through some form of media, who happen upon the promise of eternal spiritual riches in a street corner.
As such, this documentary lacks a central, current Scientology figure for Theroux to latch on to. He does it instead to a former Scientology top-level employee, and whereas the results are occasionally interesting, they never really tell us much about this subject, something Theroux spends most of his film attempting to penetrate. The most interesting footage we ever get are his numerous encounters with Scientology hit-squads who show up at street corners to film him, dodging any and all questions. Louis' persistence to get information out of them provides them with an interesting opponent, someone who doesn't shy away from an awkward confrontation. Alas, they're still fruitless moments, as Scientology does not share anything from within. As a result, the film feels sort of like a failure, and doesn't even approach the level of most Theroux-works.
5 months, 1 week ago
I wrote a Finnish review of this in November and everything I said at the time still holds: http://www.laajakuva.com/the-girl-with-all-the-gifts-2016/
This is the best serious zombie film since the 70s (that's an admittedly low bar) and I admire every inch of how uncompromising it is when it comes to telling this story. There is no hope of communication with the other, no one can survive, and everything is founded on lies. Really, it just tells the story of all our lives!
5 months, 1 week ago
Someone actually gave Damien Chazelle enough money so he could make a lavish color version of a Busby Berkeley -musical and that makes me rather happy. La La Land is a mix between Berkeley's wild, imaginative Broadway show-esque musicals where singing and lyrics barely made any songs but relied heavily on dance choreography and surreal sets, and one of Jacques Demy's musicals, the name of which I won't write here because it would immediately divulge the entirety of the story of La La Land, because it's the same exact thing.
To the Berkeley-aspect of the film, the most vivid differentiation is that it's in color. Which isn't to say some of Busby's films weren't, but it's a refreshing change for a modern musical to actually use color rather than dim it down or use it to heighten some offbeat camp attitude. The way La La Land uses color in practically all scenes to set various moods or create gorgeous visuals seems effortless, which for something that must have taken an immense amount of planning, is quite the praise. The choreography and sets aspire very directly to the Astaire/Berkeley originals, and often reach similar heights. The camera work, almost identical to the latter, with the added ability to fake much longer single shots than in the 30s and 40s, helps immerse you a bit more.
I wish the film was as succesful at being a Demy-pastiche, but the quite direct ripping of an iconic story is, especially as the film copies the closing shots from that film, jarring. It removes the everday aspect of the original by making itself about dreamers (who knew, a Hollywood musical about people daring to be creative and dream) instead of love, a distinction it drives through all the way until the end.
These two parts clash a bit, because the Demy-musical was always explicitly about singing your emotions and creating catchy music where as Berkeley was rarely about emotion or even the music but rather about show, the glitz, the glamour, the imagination he could pour into the dance. There's a definite feeling within La La Land of having your cake and eating it too, but the balls-to-the-wall attitude does make for a highly entertaining experience even if it starts rapidly deteriorating in your head as you spend more thought on it.
5 months, 1 week ago
You know what would've also been a really good title for Kiyoshi Kurosawa's latest? "Abject, Soul-filling Terror" or "Asphyxiating Existential Horror". So yeah, leave it to Kurosawa, one of the few actual masters of modern horror film to make a horror film about trust.
The title of a "master of genre" is too easy to give out nowadays, but this man solidifies his reputation with Creepy, as he seems to understand something so few people do when it comes to horror films explicitly built around a social theme; You don't just take a social phenomenon such as trust and break it to make your film terrifying. You take that idea and instead of breaking it, you twist it. You use it for nefarious purposes it was never intended to be used. Through this, you can achieve levels of terror horror films can only wistfully hope to aspire to.
Creepy absolutely nails that aspect. There are issues with it as a story – more on that later – but when it comes to making you feel like a corpse in a plastic bag that's slowly getting vacuum-sealed, it's on the money. The ever-present ambient hum that prevails over the film is key to it. It might be noises from a street, from a small park, from a university – or it might be high- or low-pitched beats, intensifying as scenes that begin as innocent grow more and more sinister. And when the film goes silent? You know everything has gone wrong.
The other key part is the ways in which Kurosawa manages to twist and turn his thematic focus up and around. This isn't a film that has plot twists in it. It's a very slow, steady progression over two hours. Trust is built over a length of time, and he does what he can to showcase this with the pacing of his film. But like I said, the true stroke of genius, mastery if you will, is hidden within what he does with trust. What his characters end up doing in the name of it, how they mistake absolute truths in their lives to still exist when trust – the typically most affluent and and loyal of human emotions – has eradicated them in their absence. It is absolutely insufferable to watch because it causes you mental anguish on terrifying levels.
This might be the new best Kiyoshi Kurosawa film and I don't say that lightly. The only detractor might be that in order for the trust concept to work, the screenplay has to take some leaps I wish were smoother. The protagonist, at one point, has all the power to stop the ongoings, and all he has to do is speak truthfully and in detail. Instead he rambles like a maniac even before the traumatic event that causes him to do so is revealed. I don't necessarily see it as a major detraction, since in terms of going this balls-deep in a theme some leaps are bound to be necessary. As such it feels as much of a leap as accepting that in the world of Ringu there are ghosts.
As a last note, let it be said that the psychopath in this film is probably the best performance I'll see this entire year and it's the 12th of January. He has the grin of a Brian Azzarello Joker brought to stark reality.
5 months, 2 weeks ago