Saturday, 25 July 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: LILA & EVE


31/2/5

Lila (Viola Davis) a grief stricken mother who had just lost her son, teams up with Eve (Jennifer Lopez, who she had just met at the grief counselling session, and together they decide to take revenge of the ones who robbed them of their loved ones.

LILA & EVE is a small film, trying to join the league of many other vigilante films, such us The Brave One and Death Sentence. It may luck the authenticity of the first and extensive gore of the second, but stands on its own, thanks to the great performance of Viola Davis, and, surprisingly, Jennifer Lopez, who looks both natural and enigmatic. The question of "whodunit" is irrelevant, it's all about making them pay. The behaviour of Lila and Eve is questionable all through the film, and the the makers do not shy away from taking sides. In a scene where a grieve counselling group is joined by the mother, whose sons Lila had just killed, she is being shamed for knowing what her sons were doing and Lila stands her ground, even while looking in the eyes of her victim. She has a lot of doubts all through the film, but never shies away from deadly action.

We do feel for our heroines when the true chain of events, that led to Lila's son death, unfold and we are on her side when the criminals strike back. To my surprise, instead of leading up to a bitter and gory showdown, the movie ends on a sentimental note, in a truly emotional scene that I did not expect and that deeply touched me.

LILA & EVE is a few steps away from being a TV movie, and there is an awkward twist towards the end which made sense, but robbed the film of its charm and credence a little. However the script is tight, the melodrama is solid and  fine performances from two leading ladies making LILA & EVE if not superior, but a very fine watching experience.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: STRANGERLAND



1/5

A family is exiled, after a scandal, into a small outback Australian town, just to face even more horrific ordeal - the disappearance of their two children. How to survive the uncertainty, when with every second passing by finding the kids becomes a more desperate task? Old wounds are open and lives shuttered, as time is gradually running out.

STRANGERLAND have a few good things going for it - Nicole Kidman as desperate mother and Hugo Weaving as focused but sensitive cop have great dynamic, building up the characters well beyond what the script had to offer. The cinematography is great and the many areal shots enriched film with an atmosphere of mystery and even dread. Locations for the film were also carefully chosen and beautifully photographed - there’s a lot of eye candy without CGI on offer.

Unfortunately, it is not enough to have great cast and access to a helicopter to make a good film. STRANGERLAND fails terribly to deliver the goods and the script is to blame. This film has the most infuriating ending I had seen in a long time. Covering an all too familiar territory of a missing person mystery, thriller it is not. STRANGERLAND is a drama, a very slow and frustrating one. With no real goal to reach, it is stumbling along without any sense or purpose. Good acting actually making it worse, as you do feel for the people who lost their children. Interesting characters require some sort of a closure, so do the viewers. I would not complain much, if it was just the mystery that remained unsolved, but with so many loose ends the film belongs rather on a clothing line, than in the movie theatre.


It’s a shame to see so much talent, so much effort going to waste. Come on SCREEEN AUSTRALIA, next time you have 10 million dollars to go to the dogs, donate it to the real ones.


Thursday, 16 July 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: ANT-MAN


3/5

Scott Lang, a petty criminal, steals a suit that can shrink him in size, but make him as powerful as a bullet. As it turns out, Scott is just a pawn in a game  - to set in motion the biggest heist of all and prevent a disaster. Will he be able to fill in the shoes of the world's smallest super  hero and find a redemption for the sins of the past?

With the new MARVEL movie ANT-MAN we get some strong performances, great timing comedy and a few very original action scenes. When I say a few action scenes - it is exactly what I mean. ANT-MAN is not all action. In fact, it takes rather long time to take off. It would be fine to throw in some retro action opening scene involving Michael Douglas character - an Ant-Man of the previous generation. The script was asking for it, but ALAS!
 
It takes a good half an hour for the things to get interesting, and as soon as we see the ant man suit in action the imagery gets mind blowing. But, once again, we get a very predictable origin story, and while Paul Rudd as Scott Lang and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym do their best to entertain us, we cannot escape a déjà vu.
 
While the plot is very linear, there are many laughs. Comedy is where the movie really works. There's some fantastic dialogue and amazingly creative jokes through action. It's a great achievement for a movie, to pull out a trick you had never seen before, and ANT-MAN manages to do so on several occasions.
 
A little disappointing is Evangeline Lilly's character Hope, who merely fulfils the role of a romantic  interest for our protagonist. One of the post credit scenes, however, suggests that there may be more interesting things for her in store.
 
ANT-MAN will come back and let's hope with a better story. While visually original, it is still highly predictable and very safe.  

 

Sunday, 5 July 2015

TV REVIEW: AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW




41/2/5

In 1952 Florida a freak show carnival moves into sleepy town of Jupitor. The owner of the freak show is Elza Mars (Jessica Lange), a strong willed and glamorous figure who dreams of a serious success as a singer. The supporting cast consists of her army of freaks, most of them not just carrying a burden of a tragic past, but also harbouring dangerous secrets. 

It's no long before the show attracts the unwanted attention of the police - a killer clown is lurking near by, and freaks are under suspicion. The danger is also coming from psychotic Stanley (Dennnis O'Hara), a con artists who wants the freaks dead and in a different kind of show - in a museum, displayed in glass jars; and from an evil young man Dandy, whose only desire is to be a movie star takes a very dark turn. The show also gets a slightly supernatural angle with Edward Mordrake - a ghost of a freak with a second face on the back of his head, who will drag to hell any freak who performs on Halloween. 

Unlike previous seasons FREAK SHOW follows the same timeline, there are barely any flashbacks, and much more music and singing than before (this tradition started in the COVEN and it seems had become part of the franchise).

FREAK SHOW is a slow burning thriller. The story of a killer clown gets wrapped up too quickly and after that series seem to focus on dispatching to the next life every character, but their deaths are a little inconsistent, and yes, there's a feel that episodes are being filled in, until the grand (and gory) finale.

It is sad to admit that with the pacing, FREAK SHOW also looses its thrills. It is definitely NOT a scary movie, if anything it's a satire and a parody on the early horror films. It seems that this season is just trying too hard to be original, with some grotesque imaginary and twists that would be unheard of in a TV's history, that said, the choice of these twists is not always to the series advantage. 

What series delivers well is drama and character development. We do get deep under the skin of these poor fellas, and when they die it hurts. Particularly tragic is the story of Pepper - reprising her role from ASYLUM. It maybe the slowest episode in the season, but it will bring tears to your eyes.

FREAK SHOW is a thirteen hour affair, and the question arises if it all worth it? The simple answer is - it does. The final episode is just brilliant. It is violent, sad and satisfying. The final scene is so strong and heartbreaking that it will make you want to applaud. FREAK SHOW lacks tension of the first season, story complexity of ASYLUM and fast pacing of the COVEN, but it has the best ending.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

MSFF: DEATH IN BUENOS AIRES (MUERTE EN BUENOS AIRES)


31/2/5

It's year 1980 and we are in Buenos Aires. The wealthy gay man is murdered  and inspector Chaves is on the case. In order to find the culprit he has to plunge into the world of gay nightclubs, drugs and sex. But what is it with the young and handsome officer Gomes, who was the first on the crime scene, and seems to place himself with ease as a mole into a gay community? Is he trying to catch the killer? Or hiding something? As suspicions arise, Chaves is haunted by the feelings he does not understand. Will the fatal attraction to a younger man help him to solve the case, or be his undoing?

First time director Natalie Meta is "spot on" on the upbeat atmosphere of the 80s without too much expense. She cleverly uses the pop tunes, over-the-top clothes and many other ingredients to recreate the time. The murder mystery is secondary, and the movie is focused on the relationship between the two men, full of innuendoes and mistrust. The very simple cinematographic choices at times turn surreal, like the one with wild horses running thought the night Buenos Aires.

Demian Bichir as Chaves, is very much in demand Argentinian actor, struggles a bit with a role of a macho who is also a bi-curios; but his young partner in crime Ricardo Darin is oozing with charisma and is believable as a heartbreaker for males and females alike.

DEATH IN BUENOS AIRES is a lighthearted but unexpectedly dark crime story. With a a murder mystery premise, it quickly spirals into a melodrama and the ending may even take you aback. Nothing in this movie, however, can be taken too seriously. Natalie Meta is a director to watch. THE DEATH IN BUENOS AIRES may not be the best film you see this year, but it is thoroughly original.



Thursday, 2 July 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: TERMINATOR GENESYS


4/5

In future human rebellion led by John Connor wins the war with SKYNET, but just before the fall a terminator is sent to 1984 to kill Sara Connor, John's mother. 
 
Kyle Reese, John's right hand, travels back in time to save her, but finds the past ultimately altered. Sara Connor is not a damsel in distress, she can perfectly protect herself. Bonded with terminator T800, who had raised her and taught how to fight, she rules her own destiny, obsessed with the idea to stop Skynet from awakening. Teaming up with Kyle they give it their best, but then they had to face an enemy so unpredictable that their chances to win the battle are next to none.
 
Director Alan Taylor, who had worked on many TV shows from Sopranos to West Wing, and who was at the helm of Thor: The Dark World movie, knows his business, but he is no James Cameron. Blissfully the script is well written, with just enough mixture of drama and humour to satisfy those who loved the original films. The accents are on the relationship between Kyle and Sarah, and it gets interesting nuances - knowing that they have to fall in love may just turn them off each other. Jay Courtney is best in the roles of baddies, and his charisma as a hero protagonist here is in question, however his character was never a particularly interesting one ( does anyone cares when he dies in the original?)

Emily Clarke had mimicked Linda Hamilton (original Sarah Connor) well (she does look like her a lot from a certain angle), but her story is different from the Sarah we know, so she could really turn this character into anything. She plays Sarah as a strong-willed, but a little childish heroine, with a fixation of breaking free from her fate and crumbling under the burden of guilt.
 
Arnold Schwarzenegger still got it. We will have a brief explanation why he looks old and the script plays a lot around his ageing, turning this, considered by many, a weak plot detail into an advantage. 
Talking about the plot - we get a lot of twists and turns on the way, but not everything is explained and as the film ends, many little questions will remain unanswered.

As an action movie TERMINATOR: GENESYS really kicks ass -  we get relentless fights with many evil machines, get lots of references to the previous films, car chases, helicopter chases and many head to head battles. It takes the best moments of the previous films and turns them on their heads, it relates the atmosphere perfectly and breaks some new ground. If you had not seen the trailer you are up to one hell of a twist. Whether you are a fan of the original or just like a solid sci-fi action flicks, you will not think of TERMINATOR: GENESYS as a time wasted. Unlike so many sequels, it does worth the admission price.