2014

March 2, 2015

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

PROGRESSING

Wyrmwood – Progressing

Let’s admit it finally; the zombie genre needs to die….again….and again….and again. The days where zombies were a novelty are over, and part of that I blame on “The Walking Dead.” And no, I’m not saying the show is bad, but it simply created the over-saturation of zombies everywhere, and to me, it’s run its course as a horror fan. Here I am, of course, about to rain compliments all over a zombie film, what kind of person am I? This brings me to “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead” yet another quality product from the Land Down Under, which also brought us “The Babadook” last year. What works in “Wyrmwood” is it’s ability to be different, progressing the same old tired zombie flick, while incorporating the best from other zombie films.

Here’s the skinny on this flick; The zombie outbreak has finally hit Australia and the Outback is in ruins. We have Barry and Benny, two guys trying to make it out alive, and we also have Brooke, Barry’s sister, an artist who has been kidnapped by two soldiers and is being experimented on by a scientist with a penchant for KC and the Sunshine Band. Barry has been traumatized by the zombification of his wife and daughter, who he had to kill himself, while Benny is a wild and crazy Aborigine. That is the basic story, and to spoil other aspects of the film would be a disservice.

I know I said I didn’t want to spoil anything, but *SPOILER BEGINS* skip ahead to the next paragraph, or better yet, skip this review for now, watch this flick, and come back and read the rest. What separates this zombie tale from others, is the way the zombies are created and what part they play in the film. While the origin of the infection is relatively tired and true (really, a meteor shower?) and the explanation a little hokey (Biblical) the actual literal fuel of the zombies is a interesting wrinkle to the genre. Basically, when the meteor show occurs, it creates an airborne event where everyone who doesn’t have A Negative becomes infected and all fuel becomes useless and zombie blood becomes the new gasoline….yes, zombie blood is now fuel. It makes you wonder how someone thinks of this type of stuff, but if you are watching a zombie film, you should already be suspending enough belief. Oh, and there is also zombie telepathy. Again, who thinks of this stuff, but again, somehow it works. *SPOILER ENDS*

For genre buffs, “Wyrmwood” is the perfect example of “stealing from the best.” You have the post-apocalyptic craziness of the “Mad Max” trilogy, the over the top gore of “Dead/Alive,” the younger in cheekiness of “Shaun of the Dead,” the screams of “Evil Dead,” and the unrelenting zombie hordes of “Dawn of the Dead;” get the point? This film is every zombie lover’s dream and is the proper homage to everything that has come before it. What is even more impressive is that this is director, Kiah Roache-Turner’s first film and while he borrowed from the best, it’s evident that he not only cares about the genre, but is also interested in expanding it and not just trying to create the same old carbon ops we’ve seen since 1969’s “Night of the Living Dead,” and “Wyrmwood” is far and away the most original and fun “zombie” film since “28 Days Later.”

Bottom line, if you are looking for a take on the zombie genre that will both have you scratching your head at its ridiculousness and leave you with hope for the genre, Wyrmwood is that film. It’s the perfect homage and shows that persistence and people that care can and will put on a product that fans can get behind and appreciate.
Fun Fact: The film took four years to complete since the cast could only shoot on weekends and holidays.
February 23, 2015

Map to the Stars

HOLLYWEIRD

Map to the Stars – Hollyweird

Quick story about David Cronenberg; My earliest memory of his work is actually not even a film he directed, it’s a film that he appeared in. As a kid I remember watching “Nightbreed” and being scared out of my mind. Sure there are plenty of monsters and mutants in the film, but the one thing that stood out to me was a guy in a mask with a zipper and buttons for eyes. Only later would I find out that man behind the mask was David Cronenberg, the same guy behind classics like “The Fly” and “Scanners.” In the past decade or so, Cronenberg has taken a departure form the “body horror” that had made him famous, and has concentrated on more intimate character pieces like “Eastern Promises” and “Cosmopolis.” Now, in what I might call his most interesting work in quite some time, Cronenberg takes on Hollyweird and all of it’s kookiness in “Map to the Stars,” starring Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, and Mia Wasikowska.

The skinny on “Map” is this; young Agatha (Wasikowska) arrives in town and is greeted by limo driver, Jerome (Pattinson). Agatha has just gotten into town via Jupiter, Florida and is looking for Benji Weiss, the young star of the “Bad Babysitter” series of films. Meanwhile, we meet Havana (Moore) the daughter of movie star who died in a fire who is receiving counseling from Dr. Stafford Weiss (Cusack). Havana gets word from her agent that a film is being produced about her mother’s life and naturally Havana feels she is best actress for the role. The film plays out where we learn more about all of the major characters in the film and how weird do things get? Well, this is a Cronenberg film after all……

Based on reviews that I’ve been reading about “Map” this is really a love it or hate it flick. I’ve read that some people are disgusted about the insinuated and pretty much apparent incest connotations, as well as the casual nudity and dark subject matter. This is where I say “grow up!” Sure, some of the content is a little over-the-top, but you’d be a fool to not think things like this happen in Hollywood.

The interwoven plot is interesting and the film is a Chuck Palahniuk, David Lynch, and Bret Easton Ellis mash-up of insane and maniacal proportions. At first I thought this film was actually written by someone of Ellis’ ilk, but upon further inspection the writing duties went to Bruce Wagner, who is best known for writing “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors.” It’s odd for Cronenberg to go with a writer that has so few credits to his name, but the writing is actually very well done, visceral, and perfect for the film.

Now, a lot of people were in love with Julianne Moore’s performance in “Still Alice,” but I would go as far as saying that her turn in “Map” was vastly superior in it’s weirdness and fearlessness. We all know that Moore is a great actress that has been overlooked for awards for years, but wouldn’t it have been nice if she was rewarded for a role that required more than just having an ailment and having to overcome it? I’d say yes, but I’m sure a lot of people would go against me. Outside of Moore, the supporting cast is solid, and it’s good to see that John Cusack is still getting work that matters and not falling into the same trap that has confounded Nicholas Cage for the better part of a decade. I don’t know what it is, but Cage and Cusack to me are almost one in the same. “Map” also shows me more of the talent that I know is residing inside of Robert Pattinson. He had a great turn in “Cosmopolis” and showed me more in last year’s under-appreciated “The Rover” and albeit a small role, he is still good in this film and his scenes with Mia Wasikowska are small, but tragic.

All in all, “Map to the Stars” is an interesting and dark take on celebrity and the toll it can take on those with weak constitutions. While this film does seem more in the wheelhouse of someone like Lynch, it’s great to see David Cronenberg’s take on Hollywood since he is mostly a director who is always on the outside looking in, on his own accord of course. And while I do like that he is taking more chances on projects like “Cosmopolis” and “A Dangerous Method” I would like to see him get back to his older, body horror work one day.

Fun Fact: Hollywood was established in 1853 with a single adobe hut just outside of Los Angeles, California.

February 11, 2015

Simply Indie: Awaken

MUDDLED

Awaken – Muddled

I love it when we receive screeners to review, it’s a lot of fun. It shows that people trust us enough to make a fair assessment of their film. However, here is the sticking point. There is a fine line when you are reviewing a film where you feel a duty of both congratulating a film for it’s merits, while at the same time giving it constructive criticism. This is the crux that I have with 2014’s “Awaken” a small independent film directed by Mark Atkins and starring Natalie Burn. While I do appreciate the production design and some of the performances, “Awaken” is a muddled picture where you have to take the good with the bad.

We begin the film on a mysterious island where we find Billy (Burn) waking up on a beach. Venturing into the jungle, we find out that she isn’t alone. Instantly on the run, Billy meets Nick and Todd who tell her that she needs to meet Quentin, played by Robert Davi, who tells Billy the island isn’t what it seems. Moving to another part of the island, we meet Rich (Jason London) and Kat (Christa Campbell) who are dabbling in organ trafficking and are awaiting the arrival of the mysterious “Mao.” As the film progresses we find out more about Billy’s history and how she made her way to the island as well as who “Mao” is and why she is heading to the island. I’ll leave you in suspense.

So, “Awaken.” I will say that much of the camerawork is fairly well done, including many of the flyover shots that highlight the island and the crystal clear water. The editing is pretty tight and the action scenes are shot fairly well, including the special effects of bones snapping and bullet hits. The acting is decent, and I especially enjoy seeing Vinnie Jones, who plays the tough-as-nails Sarge, and Daz Crawford who plays Stitch, a soldier that has already spent 44 days on the island, evading his captors. Burn also plays the role of the tough female protagonist quite well. While her character might be a little cliché, at least there is some fleshing out of the character. I’ll also mention Jason London’s performance as both goofy, but at the same time something right out of a 1980s film. It’s hammy, but at least it’s entertaining.

One of the biggest issues I have with “Awaken” is the way characters appear in the film, and are never heard from again. I understand that some of the characters are pretty extraneous, but the plot holes are a little hard ignore, especially Quentin’s arc who is working with Rich and decides he is going to leave the island, and I guess he does, because after a conversation with Billy, Nick, and Stitch, he is never heard from again. I even stuck around after the end credits and I got nothing. The other plot line that ended abruptly was that of Daryl Hannah’s Mao character. Similar to Quentin, Mao leaves at a moment of truth and is never heard from again. While I understand how story lines end and a character’s arc can end, it’s odd that it would happen without any explanation.

Overall, “Awaken” is a brisk watch that can be muddled at times, but there are also some memorable performances by Burn, Crawford, and London which will keep you interested. Atkins has a knack for framing and composes some really nice shots as well, but overall, “Awaken” is a pretty run-of-the-mill tale in the vein of TV’s “Lost” and “Turistas.”

For more information about “Awaken” check out the links below:
Awaken Film
Awaken Twitter
Natalie Burn Twitter
Natalie Burn

February 2, 2015

The Guest

The Guest – Homage

HOMAGE

If anyone knows our site you know we have an unhealthy proclivity for the 1980s. It’s what made us the animals we are today. Ultra-violence, one-liners, and many many more hyphenated phrases came from this glorious decade of excess. What’s even better is that the people who are our age are now directing films and a lot of them have the same sensibilities as we do….what a wonderful world we live in. This brings me to “The Guest” another effort from Adam Wingard who has also worked on “V/H/S” “The ABCs of Death” and “You’re Next.” However, “The Guest” is his strongest effort so far and is a true homage to the 80s thrillers of yesteryear.

The film starts with a shot of a man running from something and, BOOM, title card. You already know this film is going to be good. Next, we meet The Peterson family who have recently lost a member of their family, Caleb, to war. There comes a knock at the door and enter David, the good-looking ex-soldier friend of Caleb who has been tasked with helping the family anyway possible. Rounding out the family, outside of the grieving mother Laura is Spencer, the father, daughter Anna, and bullied son Luke. Upon David’s arrival in town things slowly start happening that both benefit the Peterson family and make them very uncomfortable. As tension reaches a boiling point, both the Petersons and their town will never be the same. Going any further with the story would be a disservice.

I’ll preface before I continue. Yes, there is a story in this film, and it’s rather weak and limited, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. So, “The Guest,” yeah, this movie is awesome. It’s an incredible, earnest throwback to anything made by John Carpenter, namely “Assault in Precinct 13” and the unstoppable force theme of “Halloween.” There are also dashes of “Fear” and “Drive.” What makes the film work, however, is the slow burn of “Guest.” You have a feeling right off the bat that something isn’t quite right with David and just when you think there is a logical explanation, the film takes a turn that isn’t quite expected, and that’s where some people might turn away and write the film off. However, if you know anything about thrillers in the 80s and early 90s, this was par for the course. You expected something ridiculous to happen, and eventually it does, with blood-soaked glee (hey, another hyphenated word).

On to more gloating about this film….the soundtrack. Again, if you love John Carpenter or anything other synth-forward (hyphenated again) 80s soundtrack, again, this is the film for you. I’ll be the first to say that while I love the “Halloween” soundtrack, my favorite Carpenter score is by and far, “Christine.” It’s pulse-pounding, driving, literally, and incredibly unrelenting, very much like the soundtrack for “Guest.” While there are some cheesy bits thrown in, the work by Steve Moore is impeccably 80s and it works with the tone of the film.

If I was to criticize anything from the film, it would be the thin plot, or lack there of a plot. This film is strictly for people well versed in 80s cinema, the pacing, and the style. Adam Wingard is obviously well-versed in what he thinks people wants to see in a throwback piece like this, and while some people might knock the film for that, and I understand, that doesn’t make them right.

After singing the praises of “The Guest” nearly this entire review, is it worth the praise. Well, duh, of course it is. It’s a great throwback film with a style all it’s own and it’s super entertaining. Is it zany and lacks sense, of course it does, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fun Fact: In the original screenplay, the story took place in Korea and it had far more action, including a car chase that was 50 pages long.  

January 12, 2015

Open Windows

CLOSED

Open Windows – Closed

It’s strange how a trailer can make you want to see a film, but upon seeing said film, you really have to question your judgement. This is exactly how I felt about “Open Windows.” There is an interesting premise, smart camerawork, and a few other things that standout, but I feel like this could have been a made for TV Lifetime or CW movie.

“Windows” is the tale of Jill Goddard, played by Sasha Grey, who is doing a press junket for her latest film “Dark Sky.” In the wings is Nick Chambers, Jill’s biggest fan, played by Elijah Wood. Nick, having won a contest to meet Jill, receives the bad news from her “manager,” Chord, that Jill is going blow him off for a night with her boyfriend. While Nick is heartbroken, Chord convinces him “don’t get mad, get even.” Add in a group of hackers, a case of mistaken identity, a kidnapping, a car chase, and some explosions, and that’s “Windows” in a nutshell.

Where do I start with this movie. I’ll say this, it’s not a bad film per say, but the fact that it’s so frenetic and there are so many things happening at the same time it’s a little confusing and it really distracts from the movie. It almost seems like the director really wanted to show you everything he ever learned about the Internet, hacking, and spying, roll it into a webpage view, add shaky cam, and boom, you have this film.

While the production is messy, I actually liked the acting. Wood is effective as playing the same character he’s been playing since he finished up the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy; the creepy looking man who still happens to look like a 16 year old kid. The other revelation is Sasha Grey, and I’m just not saying that because she is incredibly easy on the eyes, but she can actually act relatively effectively. Her portrayal as pretty much herself, is fun and just campy enough to be entertaining. Did I mention how good looking she is in this film…..

Overall, the premise of “Windows” has potential, but it trips all over itself with its technological thriller premise and editing style. If there is anything to watch it’s Wood’s desire to keep making small independent films that have promise, and of course, Sasha Grey.

Fun Fact: At one of the festivals the movie was screened at, the director, Nacho Vigalondo, said it was OK for the audience to slap him on their way out if they didn’t like the movie.

January 2, 2015

Foxcatcher

RELUCTANT

Foxcatcher – Reluctant

 As 2014 trickled away, the push for all the potentially Oscar nominated fare slowly arrives in my neck of the woods, or courtesy of the Internet. Until the day arrives that I begin to receive screeners to watch at my leisure instead of “borrowing” from other sources, this is the reality of the situation. Now that that little rant is done let’s get to “Foxcatcher,” a film that wants to be so good, and it is for the most part, but it’s reluctant to be as good as it could be.

“Foxcather” is the true story of the US Olympic Wrestling program and John Du Pont, the eccentric millionaire heir to the Du Pont fortune. Leading up to the 1988 Seoul Summer Games, Du Pont wants to bankroll and make his estate, Foxcather, the official training facility of the US Wrestling Team. Du Pont invites gold medalist, Mark Schultz, and his brother, David, to help train for the Games, and while Dave declines as to not uproot his family, the Mark leaves to join du Pont and carve out his own Olympic legacy. Over the course of training, Mark’s life and career begin to fall apart as du Pont blurs the lines between “coach”, friend, father, and trainer.

Here is the thing about “Foxcatcher,” the less you know, the better off you will be. Personally, I knew next to nothing about this true story and it helped my enjoyment of the film quite a bit. To be honest, it’s the same well I felt when I was watching “Moneyball.” The way that Bennett Miller weaves true stories into tales of mythic proportions is quite amazing and the level of performance he gets from his actors is also something to be applauded. However, unlike “Capote” and “Moneyball,” I find “Foxcatcher” to be Miller’s most reluctant work to date, and perhaps it’s because he is dealing with a much more personal and tragic story, but it feels like something is being held back for much of the over two hour run time of the film.

This isn’t to say that “Foxcather” isn’t a good film; it’s quite good, but similar to the issue that I had with another one of my top films of 2014, “Whiplash” the acting performances outshine the totality of the film itself. While both Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo have been getting the bulk of the accolades, and rightfully so, it’s Channing Tatum, whose turn as tortured Olympic wrestler, Mark Schultz, is the unspoken gem of the film. Tatum has been on a tear lately with great comedic turns in the “21 Jump Street” films and showcasing some real acting chops in “Magic Mike” but his acting in “Foxcatcher” is on another level. He is what makes the film go and his scenes with Carell’s du Pont and Ruffalo’s David Schultz, are amazing. He’s come a long way from “Step Up” if I do say so myself.

Speaking of Carell, he continues to impress and has come a long way from his days as Michael Scott from “The Office.” His take on eccentric millionaire John du Pont is haunting and reminds me a lot of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s take on Truman Capote. It’s taut, creepy, and child-like as du Pont is truly a “man” in need of purpose and finds it in Mark until times get tough.

The last thing I’ll bring up is the actual setting of the du Pont residence which gives “Foxcatcher” an almost horror movie feeling with a touch of “Fargo” thrown in. The Foxcatcher estate is creepy and whether covered in a thick layer of fog or a white blanket of snow, the hollowed grounds add a creepy element where you almost expected a masked killer with an ax to appear from behind tree.

“Foxcatcher” while great, is flawed, and it’s mainly in the pacing. I feel like 15-20 minutes could have been cut from the film and the same story could have been told. With all that being said, however, I truly enjoyed the film and just the acting alone makes it one of the favorites of 2014.

Fun Fact: Wrestling was first introduced in the ancient Olympic Games in 708 B.

December 30, 2014

The Interview (2014)

WAR

The Interview –War

There is something to be said about a film that pretty much destroys the trust and security of a movie studio, single-handedly starts a cyber war, and draws the ire of all social media outlets where everyone is suddenly a film critic and each have the best review, “well, it sucks because it sucks.” I’ve always been a huge fan of those types of reviews. “The Interview” is that film and is by far the most polarizing “thing” to happen this year, besides maybe Kim Kardashian’s “Paper Chase.” Who’d of thought that a stoner comedy, at heart, would cause mass hysteria the likes that haven’t been seen since, well, ever.

Out story begins with Dave Skylark and Aaron Rapoport, James Franco and Seth Rogen respectively, who host and produce “Skylark Tonight” a celebrity-trash interview show. After 1,000 episodes, Aaron is looking for something a little more meaningful in his journalistic career. As luck would have it, North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un is a huge fan of Skylark’s show, as well as “The Big Bang Theory.” Feeling that this could be their big break to be taken serious, the duo setup an interview to take place in Pyongyang where Skylark will interview Jong-un. Upon catching wind of their impending interview, the CIA gets wind and wants in on the action, namely seizing the chance to kill the North Korean despot. Dave and Aaron travel to North Korea, and needless to say, hijinks ensue that include dick and fart jokes, while tossing in stereotypical stoner humor with a dash of “wink-wink-nod-nod” movie reference references.

The simple take away from “The Interview” is this; if you like “Pineapple Express” “This is the End” “Neighbors” or anything else that is within the Judd Apatow inner circle, you will enjoy “The Interview,” it’s that simple. Will this film get ripper apart by critics and the Internet? Of course it will. One, mainly because critics who sit in their ivory tower find it incredibly difficult to understand why a film like this would be a political touchstone. I mean, for a little bit there, it seemed like World War III was imminent. Critics hate when something takes over the consciousness of a people when it clearly shouldn’t. Add in the pile on of Internet trolls who say the movie sucks, because well, the movie sucks to them, and you have the bait set for a film to become something that runs in a 24 hour news cycle days on end. Guess what people, you just got trolled by Franco and Rogen. If you didn’t think this is the response they wanted, well, you need to get your head examined.

Sure, the film has plot holes, underwritten characters, is about 25-30 minutes too long, and has large gaps of just uselessness, but would you expect anything less? With that being said, I was never bored, I laughed throughout much of the film, and you can’t deny the fact that Franco and Rogen like making films together and see film as fun and not just something that needs to be respected and cherished, and worst of all, a landmark event. Christ, the film is about two bumblers trying to save the world from a 3rd-world dictator, is there anything more ridiculous than that?

So, is “The Interview” worth the hype? Not at all, its a typical comedy in the Apatow vein that most people should be very familiar with. Is it a bad movie and does it “suck?” Of course not, it’s very funny, absurd, and has plenty of quotable lines. Unfortunately, the film will be better remembered for the “war” it started, which when I think about it, maybe isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Fun Fact:There is nothing fun about North Korea…..

December 25, 2014

The Simplistic Reviews 2014 Year End Wrap Up Show (Ep. 35)

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY


You thought you might have heard the last of us this year…….uh, uh, uh.  The Best…The Worst…The Most Anticipated…And More!  The boys at Simplistic Reviews close off 2014 with a conversation about the best and worst films of the year. They also take a look into the future and geek out about their most anticipated films of 2015. Justin begs for movies in the future to make him laugh, Matt admits to having a thing for maniacs, DJ’s blood pressure spikes when talking about his most hated film, Julie makes an insensitive joke about North Korea, which more than likely prompts the site’s eventual hacking.  Download and listen…while you can.

NOTES
Sigmund Freud Joke Explanation

We Gotta Get Outta This Place by The Animals…OUR NEW 2015 CLOSING THEME SONG!
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December 17, 2014

Boyhood

TIMELINE

Boyhood – Timeline

Out of the three of us here on the site, I might be the most pessimistic when it comes to most things, Justin running a close second, and DJ bringing up the rear, as per usual. However, there are times when I watch a film, see a news nugget, or have a discussion with someone where my faith in people and humanity is slightly restored, if only for a moment. That moment came recently after watching “Boyhood;” boom, faith restored. While “Boyhood” might not be my number one film of the year, it’s right on the cusp of that designation, and only now after watching it do I understand why this film is so important to so many people, but also an important milestone for film-making. It’s a timeline of events that leads to something incredible and noteworthy and while the plot and storyline is something we’ve seen in several coming-of-age films, there is something special and endearing to behold about a film 12 years in the making, and in a landscape where everything is on Twitter and the Internet ruins everything, it’s even more a wonder to only discover that “Boyhood” was actually a thing only prior to it’s theatrical release.

The long and short of “Boyhood” is the journey of a boy named Mason, who we first see as a five year old kid in Texas, to a 18-year old man. On paper its a rather mundane story, but it’s something that everyone can relate to. It’s the small things in life that make you the person you grow into, no matter how important or how inconsequential. Along the way we also follow Mason’s older sister, Samantha, played by Lorelei Linklater, his mom, played by Patricia Arquette, and his dad, played by Ethan Hawke.

Trying to break this film down simply is an injustice to “Boyhood.” While the storyline isn’t life changing and at it’s base, the characters are simple to say the least…well…that’s life. That is exactly what life is for the most part; simple, mixed with complicated choices. The journey that we go on with Mason is probably not that all uncommon. Many of us have gone though the pain and confusion of a divorce, having their parent remarry, the first day of junior high, the first note passed to you in class, your first camping trip with your dad, the list can go on and on, and the beauty of “Boyhood” is that we’ve all had a moment in this film that we can look back and remember, and some of those moments have shaped our lives.

Aside from identifying with moments in the film, the biggest risk/accomplishment for “Boyhood” is the time it took to make this film a reality. My first reaction to the trailer was disbelief; I couldn’t believe the balls on Richard Linklater. Really, 12 years to make one film? This has to be a troll. How was this not on my radar, or pretty much anyone’s radar. Usually if a film is 13 years in the making, people would have heard or spoken about it at some point. The other major point is the risk of filming for over a decade. What if any of the actors died? What if Linklater died? The gumption and balls to film for so long when in life nothing is certain, is a testament to this film, and literally the whole point. Nothing is life is certain, and even the ending line of the film, “Maybe the day seizes you” is a much better way of looking at life that has been hijacked by the YOLO generation and people’s belief that you should seize the day.

“Boyhood” in my opinion, is the film of the decade. I dare there to be another film that not only captures childhood, adolescent, and early adulthood memories the way that this film does. While the film does clock in at nearly 3 hours, to be honest I could have watched a 7 hour cut and been fully engrossed. It’s like the times when I would watch home movies with my dad of the family trip we took to North Carolina in 1992, or when I graduated the 6th grade and won and award, or graduating college, and of course getting married. Your experiences and memories are all you have at the end of the day, and “Boyhood” is the film that should stay with you for a long time and help you remember those little things that make you the person you are today.

Fun Fact: Had Richard Linklater died during the 12-year shoot, Ethan Hawke would have taken over the directorial duties.

December 12, 2014

Under the Skin

Under the Skin – Alien
Sometimes I simply find it difficult to preface a film. So without further ado I’ll jump right into it. “Under the Skin” is one of those films that defies preconceptions and to be honest with you, just might be one of those films that will surprise many, if said many are willing to give it a chance and really try to understand an alien concept; a woman who is willing to sleep with a man from Scotland…..(I kid, I kid).
“Skin” is the story of a mysterious woman, played seductively and as sultry as ever by Scarlett Johansson. She drives a van, lures men into said van, and leads them to their doom. She is followed by a duo of mysterious motorcyclists who seem to clean up whatever mess she leaves behind. Things start to spin a little out of control after one of her encounters has her letting loose one of her quarries and going on the run. This is where they say, “the plot thickens.”
To go any further would be to do a disservice to the rest of the film, and going cold into “Skin” is one of the best things that you could do for this film. Director Jonathan Glazer, best known for “Sexy Beast” combines the best of art house cinema with trippy effects to create an engrossing, thinking-persons, science fiction weird-fest. What also stands out is the excellent score by Mica Levy, which plays like combination of Radiohead, Aphex Twin, and Wendy Carlos.

What I think has been missing from sci-fi flicks for a while is the notion that a setting needs to actually be alien, or cosmic, in order to make it a real sci-fi film. What I think is the most underrated aspect of “Skin” is the fact that the film takes place in Scotland. Let’s be honest, how much do we all really know about that land of Scotland outside of “Highlander” and Sean Connery. The landscapes and dialect almost become a character in and of itself and add a wrinkle to the story you wouldn’t expect.

Now the elephant in the room; the performance of Johansson, and I’m not just talking about her acting ability. One of the things that got a lot of attention leading up to the release of this film was the fact that Johannson shed all of her clothes for the role. While it’s nothing new for well-known actresses to ditch the clothes and show the goods, it’s a tad more newsworthy considering we are talking about an actress known for playing Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, her disrobing shouldn’t take away from her simple, yet effective performance. Most of her acting isn’t done through dialogue, but rather her movements and body language, and I might go as far as saying this is her best performance to date.

Another misconception is that “Skin” is simply a “Species” rip-off with stronger feminist undertones. Yes, on paper the fact that you have a mysterious women seeking men out and later dispatching them is pretty “Species”-like, but the comparisons can stop there. “Skin” features a very strong female character whose intentions aren’t truly discovered until close to the start of the third act, and even at that point we see that character’s intentions shift after a chance encounter with a specific character she picks up and is ready to dispatch. However, while I do enjoy the power that Johansson wields over her quarry, the third act flips the script and changes who may or may not be in control. I know some of this sounds cryptic, and that is the point. My intention is to entice you to watch a film that is certainly worthy of your attention and is an interesting take on male/female relations and interactions.

So, with that being said; should you see “Under the Skin?” See above please, of course you should. It’s one of the most original sci-fi films in quite a while, with a daring performance by Scarlett Johansson and some of the most “alien” cinematography of 2014. Sure we’ve gone to the far-reaches of the Marvel Universe, Earth under the rule of talking Apes, and even traveled back into Biblical-times on an ark, but the way Glazer created a practically alien world out of something that exists on Earth hasn’t been done since Peter Jackson created Middle-Earth with the help of New Zealand.

Fun Fact: In 1979, Robert Taylor claimed to have been nearly abducted by aliens in Dechmont Law in Livington, West Lothian, Scotland in what has been called the Dechmont Law Encounter.

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