Little Joe (2019)
Little Joe is a British/Austrian/German-produced film that was selected to compete at the Cannes Film Festival 2019. In this story, Alice Woodard (Emily Beecham) works at a special laboratory that produces genetically-modified flowers for the public market. Alice and her team have managed to produce one type of a plant that requires much attention from their owners, but, in return, is alleged to “make them happy”. The story takes a disturbing turn when Alice takes one of those new plants (flowers) home, gifts it to her son, Joe, and begins to worry that the pollen that the new flower produces may be infecting people in a sinister way. Probably. If that sounds a bit random and confusing, it is because it is, and the film never makes anything in this story compelling or clearer. Though, at first, the idea behind Little Joe sounds intriguing and the memorable production design does leave an impression, overall, Little Joe is nothing more than a very preposterous, excruciatingly dull and badly-acted picture that, in comparison, will make any episode of a British series EastEnders an immediate Oscar winner. Continue reading ““Little Joe” Review”
In 2012, a science-fiction film titled Antiviral hit both the Cannes Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival, and what everybody talked about was that this film is from David Cronenberg’s son – Brandon Cronenberg. People started to look for similarities between Antiviral and David Cronenberg’s films and trademarks, and they found plenty of those. One of the points of this review is that Antiviral is an impressive film debut from Brandon Cronenberg, irrespective of his link to his famous father. That film and that director should be recognised in their own right. Antiviral is not a perfect film, but it has many interesting ideas and a good execution. It also has a feel different from David Cronenberg’s filmography. In Antiviral, Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)) is an employee of Lucas Clinic, a place where the dream of obsessed fans to be closer to their celebrities may be realised by injecting them with a live virus from one of the sick big celebrities. This way, customers will experience a one-of-a-kind union with their idols. One such celebrity which has a link to the clinic is beautiful Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon (Indignation (2016)). When Hannah falls ill after a trip to China, Syd flouts company regulations and becomes a host to her virus, not even realising that Hannah is on the brink of death. Continue reading ““Antiviral” Review”
Fantastic Planet (La Planete Sauvage) (1973)
Once in awhile comes one animation which is so powerful in its message and so unusual in its presentation, it becomes quite unforgettable. “Fantastic Planet” is precisely such adult-themed animation, co-produced between France and Czechoslovakia. A winner of the Cannes Special Prize in 1973, this French-language animation has even been named one of the greatest (Rolling Stone). In its presentation, “Fantastic Planet” is highly imaginative, inspired by some psychedelic art and, as some commentators put it, by “cut-outs from Soviet science magazines” (CinePassion). Based on Stefan Wul’s 1957 science-fiction novel, Oms en série, the animation is about blue-skinned giants, the Draags, who keep as pets a human race of Oms on the planet Ygam. The animation may be a tad too disturbing in its content, but, because the world it creates is so fascinatingly strange, and because its concept of the fight to have freedom is so relatable, it is well worth all the attention and praise.
Continue reading “Classic French Animations: “Fantastic Planet” (1973) and “The King & The Mockingbird” (1980)”
The Handmaid’s Tale (2017)
“There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.” (Atwood, 1985:34)
“Humanity is so adaptable, my mother would say. Truly amazing what people can get used to as long as there are a few compensations.” (Atwood, 1985:283)
The 2017 dystopian web TV series is based on an award -winning novel of the same name written by Margaret Atwood in 1985. It is about a young woman, Offred, who recounts her time living under the totalitarian regime of Gilead, where women have few rights and their main function is to reproduce in a controlled environment. Pronounced “a TV sensation” overnight, “The Handmaid’s Tale” had 10 episodes (although there is still Season II to come!), and starred such recognisable names as Elisabeth Moss (“The Square” (2017)) and Joseph Fiennes (“Shakespeare in Love” (1998)). I will review the series paying special attention to its faithfulness to the original novel and to the philosophical ideas behind the story.
Continue reading ““The Handmaid’s Tale” Series Review”
Silver Screenings and Wide Screen World are co-hosting the Time Travel Blogathon, and my contribution is the review of “Edge of Tomorrow“, a fantastic science-fiction film directed by Doug Liman and starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson. Relying on the now fabled “Groundhog Day” concept, “Edge of Tomorrow” is about a Major (Cruise) who is doomed to relive one particular day of the invasion battle with aliens until he is forced to find a solution to the infinite time loop and save the humankind from the destructive alien force.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
“The empires of the future will be empires of the mind” (Winston Churchill).
“What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge” (Sun Tzu, The Art of War).
“Edge of Tomorrow” is based on a 2004 Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. In near future, as Earth is being invaded by aliens, William Cage (Cruise), a Major with no combat experience, is ordered to go to fight the enemy as part of a landing operation in France. Cage is killed during the battle, but, surprisingly, finds himself again alive and well back on the day before the battle. The time loop then repeats itself, and every time Cage is killed, he again starts the day of the battle anew. Trying to get to the bottom of the situation, Cage makes an acquaintance with a Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski or the Angel of Verdun (Blunt). Together they try to piece together the time conundrum and devise a method to defeat the enemy. As a time-travel movie, “Edge of Tomorrow” is simply great and it is fascinating to watch Cage waking up each day with the hope to make that particular day the one where he will be able to vanquish the aliens.
Continue reading “The Time Travel Blogathon: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)”
Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” has the recipe to become one of a kind movie – thought-provoking, funny and engaging. In the film, Paul and Audrey Safranek (Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig) are a couple who decide to undergo a revolutionary “downsizing” procedure to become four inches’ tall people and, from then on, not only instant millionaires, but also the ones contributing to making environment better by reducing their carbon footprint. This fascinating concept and such stars as Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz and Kristen Wiig all promise a cerebral, astute social satire. What “Downsizing” ends up being? A disappointment. Strangely deviating from its own fascinating concept of small people, the second half of the film shouts bewildering environmental and political messages befitting more a climate or migration documentary, rather than a quality comedy/science-fiction film.
Continue reading ““Downsizing” Review”
Marjorie Prime (2017)
Based on an acclaimed play by Jordan Harrison “Marjorie Prime”, the film of the same name is a science-fiction/drama film directed by Michael Almereyda (“Experimenter” (2015) and starring Lois Smith, Jon Hamm, Geena Davis and Tim Robbins. It tells of a woman in her 80s, Marjorie, who spends her time with a programme which simulates the younger version of her late husband, Walter. Marjorie’s immediate family at first becomes concerned about her close interactions with such a true-to-life replica of Marjorie’s late husband, but they all soon too succumb to the charms of the new technology. Despite the fascinating premise of the film, and a wide range of thought-provoking questions it raises, the film fails to live up to any expectations. This is probably the instance where a material is best to be enjoyed as a play only, because, as a film, it is both dragging and far from being compelling.
Continue reading ““Marjorie Prime” Review”
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049” is already gaining the reputation of being a film which breaks new grounds in terms of creating visual splendour on screen, and its plot is a mix of cerebral reflections, unexpected turns of events and low-key, but effective action. While faithful to the world of the original film of 1982, “Blade Runner 2049” is really a film which is one of a kind, and in almost every respect. Here, it has been thirty years since Deckard’s adventures in “Blade Runner” (1982), and now planet Earth is even more depleted of its natural resources. The use of replicants on Earth increased, and now K (Gosling), a replicant police officer, is on the hunt “to retire” the older versions of replicants. However, one of his routine calls “to retire” has yielded important clues which may endanger the calm societal state whereby replicants and humans coexist relatively orderly. His adventure then becomes the one which involves the search for truth, and, like the original film, the preoccupation here is the issue of identity and the correct identification of false and true memories.
Continue reading ““Blade Runner 2049” Review”
Blade Runner (1982)
“A humanoid robot is like any other machine; it can fluctuate between being a benefit and a hazard very rapidly. As a benefit, it’s not our problem” (Rick Deckard in “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”).
Since its release in 1982, Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” has achieved a classic cult status, and is deemed by many to be the most influential science-fiction film ever made, just behind “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968). It is loosely based on a book by Philip K. Dick and stars Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young and Edward James Olmos. In the film, set in a distant future, Rick Deckard (Ford), an officer at the special police “Blade-Runner” unit is on the mission to hunt down and “retire” (kill) a number of replicants (or androids) who escaped newly-colonised Mars and now wreak havoc on Earth. The film’s superior attention to detail is undeniable; its visuals are original and mind-blowing; and its “minimalist”, “slow-burning” narrative is also admirable, with Ford and Hauer commanding the screen. However, when it comes to comparing the film to the book by Philip K. Dick, “Blade Runner” falls short of being a philosophical, character-focused and narratively-engaging film it aspires to be.
Continue reading ““Blade Runner” Review”
The Discovery (2017)
“The Discovery” is a film which had its first premiere at the Sundance Film Festival 2017, but, arguably, it deserves more attention than it eventually got. Here, Will (Jason Segel) and Isla (Rooney Mara) meet in the strangest of times. It has been scientifically proven that the afterlife does exist, and this fact alone spiralled millions of suicides around the world, with people almost desperate to “get to the other side”. The scientist Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford) is behind the new discovery, and he has another trick up his sleeve: he thinks he can also show what the afterlife looks like before people take their lives. After all, who would not want to look at a holiday brochure before committing to their holiday destination? Although the film’s narrative slops and the chemistry between Segel and Mara is lukewarm, the film is atmospheric, raises some fascinating issues, and has a strong ending.
Continue reading ““The Discovery” Review”
Upstream Colour (2013)
‘Most critics couldn’t stop talking about it’ (Keith Kimbell, Metacritic).
The now Sundance Festival’s favourite, Shane Carruth, came in 2013 with his second major film titled ‘Upstream Colour’, a film to rival his brain-wrecking ‘masterpiece’ – ‘Primer’ (2004). Revered by critics worldwide, Upstream Colour’ starts off with a thief who kidnaps a woman and drugs her into a game of manipulation to relieve her of her possessions. From then on we see the unfolding of probably some of the most confusing and perplexing events on screen in years. The audience is confronted with such deep philosophical/psychological, biologically-themed topics as the essence of nature, cycle of life, free will/determinism, etc. This existential feel is present throughout the film’s 96 minutes’ duration.
Continue reading ““Upstream Color” Mini-Review”
‘Tell you one thing—can’t beat the view’ (Matt Kowalski in ‘Gravity’).
This latest critically-acclaimed film from Alfonso Cuarón comes as the culmination of a four years’ wait for technology to catch up with the director’s ideas, similarly to Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ (2009). In ‘Gravity’, we see mind-blowing visuals of the outer-space, beautiful shots of the planet Earth and exhilarating special effects. The film itself depicts two astronauts, Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who are left stranded in the open space trying to get back to Earth while their supply of oxygen is running out. Meteors and flying debris are just examples of the dangers they have to face on their journey back.
Continue reading ““Gravity” Review”
‘Melancholia’ will either be loved or hated. There is no “in-between”. The film is certain to awaken something in the viewer, be it some inexplicable feelings of unease or awe. However, given that this film is directed by no other than Lars Von Trier (a Danish director known for its controversial films, e.g. ‘Antichrist’ (2009)) and who once said that “a film should be like a rock in the shoe”, nothing less is expected.
Continue reading ““Melancholia” Review”