Wednesday, 18 May 2011
Monday, 21 March 2011
Movies are hardly ever made about mentally disturbed children. I think it's because people envision childhood as some kind of Eden before they grow up, and life gets messy- people get jobs, come of age, and possibly lose their minds- but before that, life is rosy and carefree. Angela, a dark dreamy film from first-time director Rebecca Miller, proves just how wrong they are.he eponymous character (MIranda Rhyne,) who could be diagnosed with any number of psychological ailments, has moved to a ramshackle house with her parents and younger sister Ellie (Charlotte Eve Blythe.)
The girls' mother, Mae, seems to be Bipolar- dark moods come over her unexpectedly and her daughter's would do anything in their power to make her happy. Solemn pre-teen Angela, however, is having internal struggles of her own. Obsessed with religious imagery and sin, she is visited by Lucifer, a pale winged man who tempts her with promises of a better life. When young Ellie sets the curtains on fire, Angela puts her in a protective circle surrounded by dolls to purge her of her sins and save her from eternal damnation.
All right, I'll be downright controversial here- this movie shows how damaging extremist religion can be for children. It is hard to argue (but some people will, anyway) that young children shouldn't be troubled by these things. By the time they can read 'are you saved' slips, even those not born of fundamentalist families will wonder what lengths they should take to follow the right path. This and a chemically unbalanced mind tend to take these things to an obsessive level.
Okay, now that I've offended two-thirds of he audience and driven them away, I'll get to the technical aspects of the film. The sound, as you might of hard, is really bad. This may or may not only apply to the Netflix Instant version of the film, but the actor's mouthes move discordently with the dialogue so that you hear the sound effect ten seconds after the said action occurs. For a low-budget movie, the acting is pretty good, and the little girls do decent jobs. There is some child nudity, which could be artistic or offensive depending on your point of view, but bothered me a little bit- can't these girls afford bathing suits?
I liked Peter Facinelli as the devil- sly rather than overtly threatening, and easy to confuse with a good angel (but watch out for those coven hooves.) Lastly was the sudden, tragic ending, whose implications were more disturbing the more I looked into them. If you like arty, deliberately paced dramas that fly under the radar, this could be a good choice for you. It has a moving message abou the psychological vulnerability of children, especially unstable ones, and what happens when they go unnoticed (Rated NR.)
Tuesday, 08 March 2011
28 Days Later might be one of the last non-sequel zombie movies, excluding George A. Romero. Oh, and it does take the zombie film mighty serious, not only using the plot line for flesh-eating chaos but for the depths of human depravity. And are those zombies fast. They do not come at a slowly labored trudge a la' Shaun of the Dead, but go sprinting- not running, sprinting(1)- toward the victim, roaring and vomiting blood. Sound unpleasant? You don't know the half of it.
During the beginning of the movie, two members of my family started pointed out all they deemed inaccurate in the film. "Yeah, like those corpses wouldn't stink over a few days." "I love it how there are so few cars in a crammed city." Blah, blah, blah. I was stupefied. It's a zombie movie, people. And unless, like my brother, you seriously consider the possibility of the zombie apocalypse in our lifetimes, complete and utter realism isn't really what you're looking for in a film like this.
So, anyway. The film begins in an laboratory, where animal rights activists who accidentally unleash a virus, called rage, freeing a caged chimpanzee. The peciluair primate proceeds to dispatch one, who immediately turns zombie. Sooner or later, they all die. The prologue is somewhat corny, with shrieking monkeys and dark corners, and the viewer shouldn't pay much mind to it if they want to maintain a serious view of the movie.
The next scene shows Jim (Cillian Murphy,) the protagonist, lying in a hospital room in a dissipated room. He leaves puzzled and unsure if he is dreaming, and, to his astonishment, discovers that all of London is in the same condition. He has several high-speed encounters with the walking dead a is thrown into the care of Mark and Selena (Naomie Harris,) two survivors. An unfortunate fate befalls Mark (poor guy doesn't have a lot of screen time,) they pick up a father and daughter (Brendan Gleesan and Megan Burns) and head toward a army base, where they were promised safety via radio and where their 'saviors' may not have the purest intentions.
The movie is a steady mix of good, bad, and sometimes inane. One of the plot lines that fall into the latter varieties is the relationship between Jim, and Selena. In the first twenty-five minutes, Selena tells Jim that 'she will kill him if she has to.' Now, quick, guess... (a She will kill him, (b They will remain platonic friends, or (c they will hook up. Possible? Uh, yes. Predictable? Hell yeah. Selena is kind of a lame character who screams forced female empowerment. My favorite was the teenage girl, Hannah (Megan Burns,) who was vulnerable but strong, and kept herself together despite tremendous losses without being 'tough.' The scene where she plays mind games with one of her human aggressors and watches him turn to butter is a joy to watch.
The strongest assets are the cinematography, which is flashy, tense, and reminescent of Rennt Lola Rennt, the performances, and the undercurrent of philosophy running throughout the film. The gang mentality of the soldiers is shown in their bullying of Private Jones (Leo Bill,) and their taunts against one another. Are these he kind of guys the jerks you avoid at the coffee shop, or are the people you like and admire, who become something darker under stress? After all, many people respect the military, but who knows what crimes some of them are committing over in Afghanistan or Iraq?
But I honestly think zombies have hokey overtones and work better as comedy, and Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead work better as movies. And yes, it is a efficent piece of work, not really as frightening as interesting, and as a social commentary. But "Scary as Hell"? I don't believe so (Rated R.) *1) Reference to Zombieland*
Tuesday, 01 March 2011
Mike Leigh's 2004 effort, Vera Drake, is sure to be controversial, but not for the reasons you might expect. rather than shock value (and the blood and guts of franchises such as Saw and Hostel,) Vera Drake takes a hot-button topic and sets it from a much-maligned perspective. it may put you in discomfort, it may make you angry, and the well made status of the film is hard to deny. The eponymous Vera is a jolly 1950's housewife who lives in post-war Britain and works cleaning other people's homes. She is the proud mother to two adult children, sarcastic Sid (Daniel Mays) and excruciatingly shy Ethel (Alex Kelly,) and wants to find a eligible bachelor for her isolated daughter. She is happily married to moustached mechanic George (Richard Graham.)
In secret, Vera is an abortionist, terminating women's pregnancies for no pay. She uses the same soothing rhetoric for every incident, and is not once caught. The procedure is relatively clean and safe, and as far as she is concerned she does no wrong. I didn't always like Vera. She was blind to the implications of her acts, cheery to a fault. Yet she always tried to do the right thing. I think something horrible happened in her past, but it was never fully explained. Yet, life goes on. Vera and George find a possible 'eligible bachalor'- Reg (Eddie Marsan,) an introvert highly affected by the war. Vera continues her operation, with women who have been put into contact with her friend Lily (Ruth Sheen,) who has untrustworthy motives. But when a near tragedy occurs, Vera is put out in the open and ages ten years in a strenuous couple of days.
Possibly more interesting than Vera are her kids Ethel and Sid. Ethel holds herself hunched and quiet, with zero self-esteem. She meets her match with Reg, who seems as unsure of the courtship as she is. I wasn't quite sure where their relationship would go. Sid and his friend Ronny (Leo Bill) discuss post war issues and try to score a dance at a party, and Sid is the one too reasonably question his mother when the doody hits the fan. The film has a strong sense of place. A rape scene occurs, and it is handled tastefully (as tastefully as a rape can be.) Imelda Staunton gives a great performance, going from a cheery confident woman to a slumped person who can barely drag her feet across the floor.
Vera is not a Liberal Wonder Woman, a superhero who keeps her powers of cheerful strength no matter what. She is vulnerable fallible, can be and will be broken. But somehow, I wasn't as involved the second time I watched it as I could have been. I think the director was pushing me too hard. With the tragedy of it all, with what a great person Vera is. That never helps. Youve got to hand it to Sid though. After everyone else refering to the center of the operations as 'trouble' and 'problems,' Sid offers the first humanizing word- 'babies.' (Rated R.)
Friday, 21 January 2011
Shortly into El Bola, the twelve-year-old protagonist overhears a woman at his family's shop tell his father that 'if we were Pablo's age, we wouldn't have any problems.' If only that were true. Not only is that false on general terms (cartoonist Bill Watterson on said that "People who get nostalgic about childhood were obviously never children,") but Pablo is living with an unbearable load for anyone, in a household where breathing could get one beaten.
El Bolais a full-blooded film about child abuse, yet lacking cheap shock value (Joan Crawford smudged with face cream, screaming "NO WIRE HANGERS!" while her little daughter cowers, comes to mind.) Instead of a larger than life (not to say over the top) performance as the crazy parent that wins a Razzle, this movie concentrates on the children affected, nay, not only that, but directs them well, which is hard to do.
Sad-eyed Juan José Ballesta, as Pablo, is the emotional center of the film. Pablo calls himself 'pellet,' named after a little ball he keeps for luck, which doesn't seem to do him much good. He harbors an almost doglike desire for a close friend, not the group of kids he plays a dangerous game on the train tracks with, further jeopardizing his safety, This security is found with Alfredo, the rough-around-the-edges son of a tattooist, who doesn't take to him at first when he finds his pleas for friendship desperate-bordering-on-the-creepy. They bond a little quickly at an amusement park, but it takes us to the main conflict in the film, which is when Pablo's sadistic pop Mariano finds his aloneness threatened, and tries to drive other people out of his life
Alfredo's family's a wonder, to a kid who has never known a homelife without violence and painful punishment. A Liberal, playful bunch, they talk about just about anything and joke and laugh at the dinner table, a far cry from Pablo's family, with his mother yelling at his incontinent grandmother and his father constantly comparing Pablo to their other son who died in a car crash. But Alfredo's life is far from perfect. His father has a temper as well. His gay godfather is dying from AIDS, and he isn't allowed to see him due to the state he's in.
The amazing thing about this film, which won the Spanish Academy Awards, and the child actors who have chosen to work in it, is the naturalness. The kids are not dumbed down, nor made into pretentious little douches who must read the dictionary every night before bed. They're living, breathing, thinkinghumans (I'll leave the thinking part in underline, for future filmmakers to pay close attention to. They talk about death, about sickness, about food and phallic tattoos (can you get one? I don't know, and i suspect they don't either.) The dialogue seemed rarely scripted, and very natural.
So what? I won't give a four-star rating, because, well, the character development isn't quite strong enough, but it's certainly a impressive debut with kids, who, now that they're grown, are on the way to becoming great actors. It's very much worth watching. The question is, are you up for it? (Rated NR. Although it is rather perversely catagorized as a 'father-son children & family movie' on Netflix, it is definitely not for kids.)