Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring [USA,2015]

Nine Things About the Movie Spring

1. This is a gutsy, intelligent, and intriguing indie film that doesn't really fit into any genre, though it's usually given the awkward category "romantic horror".

2. It's structured very much like Richard Linklater's "Before" trilogy: a young man named Evan travels to Italy and meets a woman named Louise. They spend a week walking around, talking, and falling in love. However, in between the conversations, Louise has some pretty serious problems developing. Horrific moments start poking through the leisurely romantic development.

3. The movie plays with the viewers' expectations of horror movies, giving some clues as to what's going on, but changing them later. The real clues to the movie (including the film's title) are hidden in plain sight throughout the film, but aren't really appreciated until close to the end.

4. Given what this movie is trying to do, the script is very well-written. The budding romance is realistic and believable, but there is also a mounting sense of dread that starts to soak through everything.

5. The movie gets dangerously close to becoming absurd and silly. But at several crucial moments, it just doubles down and forces you to keep with it.

6. Everybody knows the trite saying, "The journey is more important than the destination". This movie plays with that concept on a few different levels.

7. In the end, I don't think this is a romance or a horror movie. It's a unique philosophical meditation on several themes - the nature of love, the fear of commitment, unequal sacrifices between partners, secrets and insecurities. Oh, and the difference between science and the supernatural.

8. The ending is controversial, and your reaction will depend on how you interpret the rest of the movie. I thought it was very smart and satisfying; I actually think that's the only way it could have ended. But others will find the ending to be frustratingly incomplete. It depends on what you think the movie is really about and how literally you take the story.

9. This is an an oddball film that will not be to everyone's taste, and will probably not be seen by very many people. But it's one of the most intriguing and intelligent films I've seen so far this year.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Lazarus Effect (USA, 2015)

Nine Things About the Movie The Lazarus Effect

1. Wow, this movie is dumb.

2.  It's about a group of college students working on a serum to help coma patients. For some reason they use it to resurrect a dead dog. Things go wrong for the group, and of course they have to try the serum on one of their own members.

3. The first ten minutes are kind of intriguing. But once a couple of the college students bring the undead dog home with them, you can stop watching. You've seen the best part of the movie.

4. The film uses a lot of pseudo-scientific vocabulary words in quick conversations, to cover up the fact that what they are saying makes no sense whatsoever. It even uses the stupid "we only use 10% of our brain" myth, and I don't know why. It's not like the movie makes more sense by utilizing that concept.

5. I suspect the script was written a couple of stoned college freshmen, who threw in a bunch of random, disconnected ideas that they thought were cool and "deep". I can't even really explain what the movie was doing. It goes from being "scientific" to demonic with the flip of a switch.

6. This is one of the bigger movie roles so far for Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino). He's probably the best actor in the movie. I felt bad for him; he deserves better than this.

7. There are some interesting individual scenes and surreal moments. This could have been a decent movie, if somebody connected with the film actually knew what they were doing.

8. You know how in slasher movies, when the killer is chasing the people and they always make dumb decisions? This movie is like that, except the people make dumb decisions for the whole movie, whether somebody is chasing them or not.

9. As a movie belonging to the "re-animation" subgenre of horror, I think this movie should have stayed dead.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Clown (USA, 2014)

Nine Things About the Movie Clown

1. In 2010, a couple of friends, Jon Watts and Christopher Ford, made a fake movie trailer about a guy that turns into a killer clown. The trailer said it was directed by Eli Roth (known for Cabin Fever and the Hostel movies).

2. Eli Roth saw the fake trailer, loved it, and decided to put up the money for the two friends to actually make the movie.

3. Even though it's an American movie, it has only been released in Europe, and is already on DVD there.

4. The plot of the movie is simple and direct - a father finds a strange clown suit and puts it on for his son's birthday party, calling himself  Dummo. But after the party he discovers that he can't take the costume off. After a little detective work he discovers that clowns are a modern representation of an old European demon... and there's only one way he can clear himself of his troubles.

5. The movie starts out kind of silly, but as the father's problem gets worse, it gets really serious and grim.

6. The movie follows basic horror conventions and doesn't go to much trouble explaining why certain things happen - you just go with it. The movie is too absurd to be really scary, but it's also too bizarre to be funny. It exists in a unique place among horror movies.

7. When it comes to scary clowns, Dummo is up there with Pennywise. And the doll from Poltergeist, of course.

8. People that are really coulrophobic (which means "afraid of clowns") should probably not watch this movie. People that are sensitive about seeing children in danger should also probably not watch this movie.

9. Even though it's not super scary, this is a creepy movie with some genuinely unsettling scenes. If you go into this movie with no expectations, this is a gutsy and fairly impressive little gem.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Chappie (USA, 2015)

Nine Things About the Movie Chappie

1. This is the third film from South-African/Canadian director Neill Blomkamp. It's also his least cohesive.

2. Blomkamp's first film, District 9, used a science fiction story to discuss issues like apartheid and racism. His second film, Elysium, used a science fiction story to discuss issues like classism, immigration, and health care. Chappie uses a science fiction story to discuss... too many things.

3. The science fiction story is great. Sort of a philosophical successor to Robocop, it follows two employees of a weapons manufacturer. One employee wants to make robot police that can decide things for themselves. The other employee wants to make robot police that can only be controlled by humans. When a computer code is made to create actual artificial intelligence, it is tested in a robot that gets plunged into a very chaotic environment.

4. The movie introduces ideas such as God, consciousness, the soul, ethics, morality, and education. Unfortunately, those issues are too varied and too deep to explore in a two-hour movie, especially when you need to put in a lot of action scenes.

5. What could have been one of the most compelling themes, the development of morality, is turned into comic relief, as Chappie is taught how to be a thug. And another really interesting idea, about the transfer of consciousness, is only introduced at the very end of the movie.

6.  Visually, the movie is edgy and cool. The visual effects are impressive. Some of the action scenes are borderline epic.

7. The movie was partially financed by Sony, so of course the laptops in the movie are Vaios. And while I know the Playstation is a powerful gaming system, I have serious doubts that stringing a few of them together would be able to upload consciousness onto the internet.

8. Any movie about artificial intelligence requires a certain suspension of disbelief; you just accept the premise of the movie and go with it. But this movie requires too much of that. By the climax of the film, you have to throw science and reality out the window.

9. If you are looking for an action movie starring a cute wannabe gangster robot, this is a good time. Just ignore all the things that try to make you think. They will lead you nowhere.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Focus (USA, 2015)

Nine Things About the Movie Focus

1. For a movie that's supposed to be about focus, it sure doesn't have much.

2. The movie starts out promising - Will Smith plays Nicky, who leads a small group of con artists. Nicky meets a small-time wannabe named Jess, and he shows her how their world works.

3. What begins as a fun caper movie loses steam - and becomes predictable - as soon as Nicky and Jess start falling in love. Shortly after that (the football scene, to be specific), it comes completely off the rails. The movie gets increasingly ridiculous and unbelievable; by the end, I was laughing at all the wrong parts.

4. The movie itself doesn't suck. There are some nice scenes, good performances, and the camera work is great. The story sucks, though.

5. It's strange to see Will Smith play a dramatic and romantic leading man, but he pulls it off. His charisma carries the whole movie.

6. Jess is the only female character in the movie. She flip-flops between being a strong female and a sexist stereotype.

7. This movie has one of the longest and most pointless "I'm tied to a chair while the bad guy makes speeches" scenes I've watched in awhile.

8. This movie wants to keep you guessing who is on what side. But the story is so full of nonsense and holes that I stopped caring.

9. I know the movie's message is supposed to be how you can lose your focus and then find a new and better one. But the movie loses track of itself so completely that the message doesn't just get blurry, it disappears.