Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Elle (2016)




“Paul Verhoeven is back with a possible satire on boredom”

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is a disturbing story of circumstance about a female video game developer named Elle, who gets raped in her own home. After the fact, Elle begins to receive phone calls from her attacker which leads to a cat and mouse countdown, as to when it will happen again. While this transpires, Elle must deal with disappointment in her son and his abusive girlfriend, disgruntled employees, an ex husband who has moved on, an abnormal mother and her father’s legacy of being a serial killer, whose sinister ideals roped her into a fatal homicidal incident as a 6 year old, turning her into a national pariah.

Elle is a subpar suspense film that reveals it’s self to be an intriguingly complex character study of modern day human clandestine conditioning. The over arching theme being an idea of boredom to reach a certain height, that anything negative yet involved to happen to you, is in some way a blessing to avoid a mundane existence. Such as; garnering a less than substantial job, unexpectedly, excepting a baby that’s not your own and allowing rape to become a sexual fetish of some kind.

The film uses Elle’s video game developing business and therefore video games, as a backdrop to the ordeals Elle and the other characters face. Used as a mocking metaphor of taking on destructive paths within violence and procrastination such as of playing a video game, the idea of real life representing the anti-climatic resolution of beating a video game, and only receiving a title screen/video sequence as a means of reward. As well as an eventual indifference to reoccurring negative tendencies; in relation to the repetitiveness of a video game.

A side plot of Elle is Elle’s relationship with her father, as he roped her into his nihilistic homicidal career when she was a child, instantly creating pathology towards Elle to become a child of nihilism. This adds to the movies theme of invited destruction, as Elle throughout the movie becomes implicit with creating problems between herself and the people in her life for sear pleasure.

This is a mysteriously blunt and clever entry by Paul Verhoeven that organically pushes the point it’s trying to make, while reserved and stylistically stagnant, to make setting contemplations about the films subject matter that can be applied to reality in a modern era.

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       -  Maurice Jones

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Moonlight (2016)





Moonlight is about the career of a black man who from childhood to adulthood, has to navigate his life concealing his gay sexual orientation from the masculine black culture of South Florida.

Barry Jenkins debuted with a quiet frustrated slice of life with Medicine for Melancholy (2008). About a black bike courier who contemplates with a black woman who’s in a relationship with a white man. Barry Jenkins returns to the social struggle of the black experience with Moonlight.

Like Boyhood, Moonlight chronicles the touch stone moments of a boy’s life that add up to who he is. What Moonlight does better is focus in on those moments that turns one into their worst self. Through universal cultural missteps and sub cultural missteps of one’s race. There being a notion of mandatory apparent strength, aggressiveness and violence associated with black males within the black community, also linked to the imperative need for a positive male role model in a boy’s existence. As a partly back person myself, I can a test to this but I would most definitely say this cultural gripe is egged on universally by whites through media as a way to belittle the black experience and once again make being a colored person a caricature.

Moonlight also touches on refusal by the black community to understand gay rights and the possibilities of being black to be more 3 dimensional than 2 dimensional. Having the up-bringing of most black males to be a fight to be who they really are as oppose to an image being projected on to them for societies own indifferent pleasures. The movie’s title reflects on this as pertaining to “moonlighting” as someone during the day and as someone else by night. Also portraying an important scene and plot point of the movie as our protagonist has his first gay experience under the blanket of beach bound moonlight.

Moonlight is a very poignant film for one a like to see, and casts an important light onto the eye opening truths of black stubbornness and incapability to see past a crippling stereotype of their communities, while also being the product of a homophobic and prejudice global society. We need to change things once and for all, towards the betterment of our fellow human beings, young and old.

-        
 -                 - Maurice Jones

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NJj12tJzqc




Monday, November 7, 2016

Christine (2016) “Get out of your head….”



Christine is a 2016 bio-pic about manic determined newscaster, Christine Chubbuck, who shot herself live on air in 1974.

What’s brilliant about Christine is organic way it makes some characters in the film come off a sinister way, based on Christine’s mannerisms, when in reality everyone is just trying to help. It never tries to make Christine into a victim but presents the evidence of her own insecurities as a shining result. Though things get over whelming, unfortunate and laborious for Christine, the movie begs for her to step outside of herself and “see the bigger picture”. Things build up for Christine without any intake of insight and expansive reflection. Whether or not any of the depictions are accurate to the real life circumstances of real life Christine Chubbuck is unknown, but the film creates an important character study of plausible human behavior. And when it gets to the ever so anticipated, heart-stopping trans-gressive climax, it’s handled realistically without sardonic overtones or melodramatic fallacies.

Christine has uncanny touches to David Flincher’s signature style; IE – Zodiac, of creating a sense of dread, but the films atmosphere is extremely straight forward and naturalistic, and if there’s any misconduct, it’s because Rebecca Hall’s performance alienates her world’s intentions.

Rebecca Hall unflinchingly takes hold of Christine Chubbuck and explores the troubled possibilities and apparent neurosis of Christine, using Christine’s infamous speaking voice to expose even further the cognitive emotional battle bubbling underneath her. With Rebecca’s naturally awkward and quietly anxious acting style, she’s able to congruently parallel the pressure of a fast paced newsroom both athirst and unpredictable like an ulcer, which ironically plays an important role throughout the movie. This is Rebecca Hall at her best, honing her talents to conjure the most absorbing performance of her career - Absolute perfection.

The soundtrack is nostalgically amazing and isn’t featured ironically, just appropriate to the times; but displaying the idea of music (especially in a time like the 1970’s) being the one release in where people were free of thought and “man-made” pressure, and were allowed to be who they really are when they were alone.

Christine is one of the few bio-pics that simultaneously portrayed a real person’s life while making a point about stress, self indulgence, western civilization and the importance of self preservation. It cultivates the TV broadcasting experience in all its hyper glory of local and national awareness and spectacle, conjuring a disturbing tone within the lived through past of an actual era, the 1970’s, all thanks to thoughtful director Antonio Campos.

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-         -  Maurice Jones

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Force Majeure (2014)


To quote Dustin Hoffman quoting Lenny Bruce in the movie Lenny, referring to his bit about Jackie Kennedy wanting to flee during the assassination of JFK: “People don’t stay……They don’t stay…” Force Majeure is the exact examination of that quote and theory. That a person’s first instinct is to escape sudden tragedy, rather than stick around and help whoever else involved from harm.

Force Majeure is about a family on vacation in the mountains on a skiing trip. One day while the family is having lunch on a patio, a mountain erupts next to them and a mild avalanche over throws their table. Before this happens, the father immediately flees to safety, leaving his wife and two kids behind.  

A father stuck in his head; a wife and kids disappointed. Force Majeure dives deep into the phenomenon of its title, the idea that we all have an internal need to survive and at almost every soon-to-be tragic occurrence, our first instinct is to remove ourselves from wreckage. What Force Majeure does well is the examination of what an Alpha male is, and what being male is meant to be within society but how those ideals are heightened when added to the label of father. The unwritten laws that civilization has placed upon us all, ignores and negates our own feelings on self-preservation. Force Majeure doesn’t only explore the meaning of being male and being a father, as it presents the idea that even though the mother is upset that her husband abandoned them, she too has the same tendency, but in an observational pre-emptive way before any tragedy can be completely noticed.

The director also uses the cold atmosphere of a snow mountain landscape mindfully, by letting the grey tone of the sky with snow fall to illuminate the phony cover up of its characters emotions. To express the pure dread that haunts this whole vacation, as when it starts things seem bright and as it goes on things look more and more glum stylistically.

Force Majeure is a perfect unflinching exercise in human behavior and a testament to the truth of Lenny Bruce’s infamous joke. Definitely a must see film.


-        -  Maurice Jones

Monday, September 26, 2016

Certain Women (2016) Like a horror anthology about misunderstood women.











Last week the fifth and final movie I saw at TIFF, was also my most anticipated of the entire festival, Kelly Reichardt’s sixth and soon to be most seminal film yet: Certain Women.


 


Certain Women is exactly about that, three mini stories about three different women who work in the same rural counties and whom lives cross paths with unfortunate acquainted circumstances of crisis. Laura Dern is the focus of the first movie, then Michele Williams the second and then Lily Gladstone the third along with Kristen Stewart. Each section is a character study about a certain version of oppression towards a woman and the effects it has on their perspective.


 


Kelly Reichardt creates her best and most thoughtful piece yet of human observation with Certain Women, by naturally presenting the subtlety in the way a woman in a big career position is seen as less assuring next to a man, how a woman is seen more aggressive when she’s being assertive and how woman can’t easily be seen as heroic. Kelly Reichardt’s signature style perfectly encapsulates this, by letting us sit with these characters and absorb their organic emotional reactions, in a rural setting that reciprocates and highlights those exact feelings. The best thing about Certain Women is that Reichardt’s doesn’t only show the plight of these women, but points out these women have allowed their own resentment based disillusions to remove them from realizing their emotional mistakes.


 


Laura Dern does a surrounding job as a broken down lawyer with a troubled client, Michele Williams does a poignant measured job as a wife and mother who cares more about her business than her own family, but Lily Gladstone is the break out performance of the film, as a naïve loner ranch worker who falls for the maniac yet cavalier Kristen Stewart.


 


Certain Women is no doubt Kelly Reichardt’s best film and is a marvel in exposure, and the best way to understand it, is to see it.


 


  • Maurice Jones



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Personal Shopper (2016) A ghostly Technohorror…….



My fourth screening at TIFF was by Olivier Assayas with his newest movie starring Kristen Stewart, called Personal Shopper. I’ve never been familiar with Olivier Assayas’ work, so this was definitely a testing experience of what his movies conjure. I was excited to realize Personal Shopper is an observant venture that begs you to take from what you’re experiencing, and as much as it proves enthusiasm towards making a statement; it’s as enthused to have you piece together your own with unconventional attributes to a ghost story.
 
Kristen Stewart plays Maureen, a personal shopper to a celebrity in Paris, buying her boss dresses, necklaces and anything else needed within the fashion world. Part time Maureen is a medium, escorting ghost from newly bought homes. Maureen’s deceased older brother Lewis was a medium, which leaves Maureen to believe she made have conjured his abilities to speak to ghosts, but what confirms she’s capable is her recent encounters with her brother from the spirit world to the present world.
 
Personal Shopper is a deliberately stagnant observation of our connection to technology and our subconscious desire to relate to something from a pre-technological age that requires only the human soul to get in contact of; IE ghosts. Olivier Assayas does a neat uncalculated view on how someone in modern times does research, through watching videos on Youtube and searching online on an iphone, creating a visually absurd display of disconnect and commerce with advancement and convenience; the result could be that our minds could develop
Personal Shopper also delves into the fact that fashion and material items have gone up in interest in recent years (due to technology), and with the advent of online dating turning relations into order, inanimate objects have replaced sex and intimacy, and being current Is what now excites people the most. The connection with ghosts in Personal Shopper and fashion has to do with Assayas suggests how easily technology can trick us into thinking we’re experiencing something organic, the more we rely on it to get us by, the more we can forget it’s a machine and capable of dysfunction. The idea that technology can erode a soul by making everything so service based and instant, to the point where one loses their imagination and one’s sense of wonder of a natural world, with an obsession of wealth where you can change one’s self with clothing and shiny items in place of a self core.
 
Kristen Stewart is a great choice to play Maureen, as a subtly manic reserved actor as she easily portrays the symbolization of a personal shopper:  the link between tech capital and the self, as she Is the medium between her boss and her bosses self, therefore Maureen also being a mundane machine who transfers an item to another, like an iphone.
Personal Shopper has some strong intriguing themes, and just when you think it doesn’t know what it’s doing as a movie, it waits for you to realize it’s intentions by giving you straight ideas purposely distracted with a ghost tale, all-the-while being truly frightening with the reality it suggests of our present day.
 
  • Maurice Jones
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hghXP4F3Qs
 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Strange Weather (2016) A falsely progressive Lifetime movie.

 
The third movie I saw at TIFF was regrettably Strange Weather. What I thought would be a gritty rural revenge film seen from the female perspective; turned out to be a sugar coated version of a gritty rural revenge film seen from a stereotypically female perspective.
 
Strange Weather is about a woman from the South (played by Holly Hunter) who finds out her deceased son’s friend has stolen his business ideas and was involved with his murder. She decides the take things into her own hands and goes on a road trip to find out the truth behind her son’s legacy.
 
Not to be funny but the best part about Strange Weather is the near end, where it actually seems gritty, intriguing and almost experimental compared to the rest of the movie. Holly Hunter has a gun pointed at her antagonist’s head and by the way the music hits and how direct and strip down the scene is orchestrated, you have no idea whether the trigger will be pulled. That being the only interesting scene in the movie, you unfortunately have to sift through self indulgent, trace the lines scenes with faux liberal imagines intended to seem indie and hip without realizing how obvious this is. To further that, one has to put up with scenes of extended meaningless character involved dialogue, explaining the plot and quirks of its characters no one has asked for. Scenes of enjoying long drives and basking in the summer sun when a easy listening track is played right over! Yeah, in a tale about gun revenge……..Leading to scenes of white understanding where Holly Hunter stumbles upon the aftermath of a Southern flood where black families are gathering their stuff from wreckage, and Holly Hunter asks the one white couple amongst the families as to what happened, not to mention how bizarre the black extras are filmed and how none of them speak a word. Now in the Q&A at TIFF with director Katherine Dieckmann and actor Holly Hunter, Katherine said she wanted to show a white mind being enlightened seeing the reality of black families, being the ones to always suffer in Southern floods. Ms. Dieckmann, I know you had the best intentions in mind, but maybe viewing black people as “other beings” and not giving the people speaking parts isn’t the best way to go about displaying social injustice. Also, obnoxiously holding on a shot of an interracial lesbian couple kissing probably isn’t the best way to show equality if it’s obvious you’re trying to sit at the “cool kids” table.
 
Holly Hunter does a great job as expected, but unfortunately her character clearly was directed to be cartoonish as oppose someone with a death wish who is upset and determined. Now an animated Holly Hunter isn’t a bad thing but in this context made me completely for forget at times I’m watching a revenge plot.
 
Katherine Dieckmann set out nothing more than to create a stereotypical film for middle aged white housewives and wants us to believe she’s hip, liberal and socially aware, but instead reminds us of a white feminist who thinks her antics will relate to a black females outlook. If you have a brain, best to leave Strange Weather at the door.
 
  • Maurice Jones

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Una (2016) The film equivalent of the friend who dumps their problems onto you all at once, to the point they drain you mentally and your fingers physically can’t text them back.













The second movie I saw at TIFF Wednesday was Una, from novice film director Benedict Andrews and written by David Harrower. Benedict Andrews is originally a theatre director having Una being his first venture into films. Una is about a twenty-something female named Una (played by Rooney Mara) who decides to visit a middle-aged man from her past named Ray (played by Ben Mendelsohn) at his place of employment. The terms of the visit turns out to be gravely delicate as Ray was involved in a sexual, skeptically romantic relationship with Una, when she was thirteen.


                                                                                                                                                                                         


Una is an unfortunate misguided headache of a mess that becomes absolutely horrific with its senselessly careless execution of its subject matter.


 


Now it might be cliché and quick to say that the big problem about this movie is the theatre background of Benedict Andrews leading into directing, but sadly this is the case.  As Una starts off subtle and quietly transparent with a European aesthetic (cold opening inside a dim night club), but then immediately displays it’s misunderstanding of its own tone, by having its title sequence open with a scratchy pop song over an uncomfortable scene of a thirteen year old girl staring at the camera, sandwiched in between deliberately frigid scenes with little to no music. This immediately exposed the fact that Benedict isn’t a seasoned director, and may not himself know the tone he is trying to convey with this movie. For second I forgot he was in theatre as that title sequence came off like a music video, clashing with the demure scene to follow. As the moment comes for Una to confront Ray, things seem promising as scenes are taken seriously even with the visual metaphor of a lone women walking into the male dominated atmosphere of a warehouse workplace. This all goes out the window painfully, as the confrontation turns into a suspense thriller execution, and as Una and Ray converse as it urgently becomes a theatre play narrative and direction, camera shots to signify a character entrance and exit and dialogue beats of exposed secrets and unleashed acting beats. Unfortunately it goes beyond that though, as the writing is as obvious as all hell. The dialogue explains every detail of their relationship in a yelling motion, and displays the confrontation in a way that probably wouldn’t be allowed during anyone’s work day to spend an entire day arguing without repercussion. Benedict treats the workplace location as a theatre stage for the actors to play with which completely steals from the realism of the story, with characters running around and even having sex inside the warehouse setting………..so misguided. All this coupled with an ignorance of subplots that are way more interesting than the plot at hand, and directorial emotional shifts that are too sudden to make any sense of, makes Una laborious to watch. Worse of all, playing with material of this kind in this fashion instantly takes away from the seriousness of the subject matter, the idea that an incident like this can destroy a person’s physical and mental well being fifteen years later. A movie like this just leaves one with shock, confusion and unrest knowing there was an allowance for a movie like this to be funded and completed.


Una uses flash backs throughout the movie to explain the past of its two lead characters when Una was thirteen and when Ray was a much younger age himself. In all honesty these flash back scenes would have made a more compelling movie, about a thirteen year old girl who carries an inappropriate relationship with a fully grown man. The acting in those flash backs are way more natural and the writing is straight forward and realistic and non explosive which immediately makes for a far better movie. This movie is like if you gave high school students who just got into Gus Vant Zant movies, the project to make a serious slice of life film about statutory rape without any guidelines of tact.


Rooney Mara proves regrettably to be only effective within movies that have a reserved tone and intention, but when faced with portraying actual emotional and physical stress, she just comes of removed and beyond the material at hand. As some say Rooney Mara is a mask that you can put your own ideals upon, but unfortunately in this instance, that face is just blank. Ben Mendelsohn handles the exertion far greater but definitely doesn’t escape the amateurish out pour of the script written by David Harrower.


Before the TIFF screening the director talk to us (with Rooney Mara quietly standing next to him) about how difficult and complex the subject is to handle and how in some way you have to be careful in how you portray it. So I guess this is how tentative Benedict Andrews and David Harrower could treat the plot at hand? This is a bad movie. Forget about it.


 


  • Maurice Jones



Monday, September 12, 2016

CATFIGHT (2016)





Onur Tukel grows up…………sort of…


 


After seeing Catfight at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) Saturday night, in which I was anticipating to see, I was alleviated to notice this Catfight is Onur Tukel’s turn at a proper structure of story. As oppose to taking an idea that is too small to make into a feature, and bloating it out into a concave of amateur misguided starter film making to make a full length. Onur’s past movies; Summer of Blood (2014) and Apple Sauce (2015) are usually padded out with jokes and conclude in a manner that subtracts from the point of his movies due the overdone miscalculated timing of the film itself. Now whether Onur Tukel always intended to have his films fell longer than they should be or if he’s unaware of how that fact spoils his movies, is up to debate for now as I didn’t get a chance to ask him at the Q&A Saturday, due to the fact I was sitting behind him as he was doing panel. Never the less Catfight has the over length in spades but it actually feels necessary and experimental with making the statement of the monotony and uncertain endlessness of war.


 


Catfightis a deeply sardonic satirical tale about the pointlessness of status, of two middle aged women living impossibly far apart ideologically lifestyles, who we’re good friends in college but haven’t seen each other since then. They both become examples of justification for their opposing outlooks and butts of jokes displaying their disdain of said ideals. The hidden resentment boils over however, when the two reunited unexpectedly at a fundraiser event. Veronica (played by Sandra Oh) discovers Ashley (played by Anne Heche) is now a struggling artist, working part time as a caterer for her girlfriend Lisa’s catering company (played by Alicia Silverstone) and Ashley discovers that Veronica is a strict mother/house wife. The encounter beholds both women disturbed to find out how either person resulted decades later, and avalanches into physical retaliation.


 


Onur Tukel could be known for his jovial social commentary throughout his movies, and with Catfight he takes that commentary to a more politically aggressive level, that reaches a more meaningful plateau beyond all the laughs. Onur expresses his views on social status and how a person’s venture in life can end up affecting someone else’s on the complete opposite site of the spectrum. Assumingly created based race relations. How art and politics can easily clash and therefore have a huge impact on culture. How art to a certain extent, though meant to be free and inspiring, ironically needs financial backing to reach a wide audience and to continue as a career. That though someone maybe rich and seemingly behave with condescension, they can still have empathy and love inside them, especially if they’re selfless enough to parent a child, and the juxtaposition of being an artist of meaning, yet being consumed with the process that it becomes more about the artist than the statement of the work itself. Onur also tackles his thoughts on Donald Trump, throwing in a cackling line said by a side character about a tree……”That’s Donald….he’s a dick.” Going even further, Onur really hammers in his disdain for Republicans and the idea of the war on terror. Craig Bierko (who Onur Tukel has always wanted to work with) plays a “Jimmy Fallon” type tonight show host who’s always broadcasted on North American television. He displays the daily depressing headlines of political war and then counter acts those details with a man farting in his underwear, pointing out our conditioning to laughing at the cruelest low brow humor in order to stomach and forget the reality of current civilization, though suggesting laughter maybe the best thing to have when being left out of the higher level loop. Also, Tukel displays the underlining truth that a war on terror is impossible, but that lots of North Americans just want an answer to what they’re being told and through that believe war has its place. There as well is a theme sprinkled quite often though out the movie, about the need for companionship, that when things seem distance you always have the ones you love and the ones who love you to console you no matter what we think.


 


Catfight has many moments where characters soberly stop the films stride in its tracks, to display realistic grim exact truths towards other characters, very reminiscent of the dark, removed, frigid dialogue from none other than the master of grim: Todd Solondz. Clearly his movies were a big influence on this film, even down to the strict dismal way it was filmed with certain scenes of dark clarity, which also can bring out the hilarity of the scene from the sudden way the dialogue is written; IE A hilarious scene with Alicia Silverstone at her baby shower, coldly and obnoxiously telling off a guest of hers who gave her a present that may not be so environmentally conscious.


 


Sandra Oh is at her peak in Catfight flawlessly going from pretentious, pushy and inconsiderate to frustrated, caring, respectful and lovingly determined and sentimental, definitely the anchor of the entirely film. Anne Heche is a torpedo of anxiousness, giving her all and completely sacrificing herself to her characters plight as a struggling self obsessed artist, very close to the commitment of Ms. Winona Ryder in Stranger Things (2016). Great to finally see again, Alicia Silverstone is as natural as can be as Anne Heche’s girlfriend Lisa, who is emotionally ever changing but is completely fleshed out as a character, played with lots of thought as Anne Heche’s practical centering better half. The film is then rounded out perfectly with some of the greatest amusing support roles of all time with Craig Bierko, Dylan Baker, Amy Hill and a comedic breakout performance by Ariel Kavoussi.


 


 


Catfight is a extremely poignant film of timely importance that spills the mindful contents Onur Tukel has being harboring in the past year. While being so intellectually affective and determined Onur knows when to have fun and knows who he is, a personal joke teller who has mastered his comedic craft while being deeply honest. Though the movie is awkwardly cut at some parts and some finesse could be suggested in the execution of the scenes, this is typical of Onur Tukel, who does come off as an amateur filmmaker but with Catfight is truly coming into his own by taking some tips from some greats but by being even more personal and forthright than ever. Of course all of this substance isn’t lost as the film is supported by brutally hilarious detailed fight scenes between Sandra Oh and Anne Heche, that go on purposely too long and too cartoony to take seriously but that remind us of the essence of Onur’s refreshingly comedic voice and his movie’s point of the over staying of war. Finally Onur Tukel makes a movie with a ending that doesn’t lead to exhaustion, looks professional as can be and is sure to be his breakout film.


 


Check out CATFIGHT!


 


- Maurice Jones



Friday, September 9, 2016

Viral (2016)







Whatever happened to Dimension Films? They’re great.


Viral is a 2016 horror/suspense outbreak movie put out by suspense/horror mavens, Dimension Films. And like most Dimension Films entries, especially of the 90’s. This movie involves teenagers! And in classic Kevin Williamson fashion, they are spunky, overly intelligent and self aware.

 

A mysterious outbreak sneaks into the United States, starting as a cold and ending as a zombie epidemic. The disease first seems controlled until it’s discovered online through viral videos, that there could be alien beings in the form of worms, burrowing into the skulls of humans and possessing them to infect everyone else on the planet. As the symptoms at first only seem like a standard virus, the world is slow to catch on, leaving two young sisters to be hip on the truth of the matter through Youtube conspiracy.

 

Though Viral is essentially your standard Zombie Outbreak Horror film, what makes it special is that it harkens back to the Teen Slashers of the 90’s, with a focus on the problems of the teens everyday lives, as much as a focus on the plot at hand. Like in Scream the characters are very aware of each other and the situation they’re in, responding to each other’s quirks and hang ups in an urgent expressive manner.  Viral contains the classic horror avatars, such as: The good girl, the slut, the cute guy and the fool, but all enthusiastically fleshed out and animated as characters, which in return come off more realistic and adventurous at the same time.

 

There’s a budding romance between the female lead character Emma (played by Sofia Black-D'Elia) and the male lead character Evan (played by Travis Tope) that plays sweet yet playful yet charmingly awkward, perfectly complementing the scares of the film. As those characters gradually depend on each other throughout the film, it feels earned as there is a while of time dedicated to their relationship with witty flair and back and forth emotional beats, Dimension Films can’t quit. You as well get razor sharp biting humor by Analeigh Tipton as Stacey and Machine Gun Kelly as CJ which is reminiscent of Tatum and Stu from Scream.

 

Over all Viral is exciting, cleverly spoken and creatively solitary. The movie doesn’t escalate beyond its means, making it an experience of……..“What if?”. It’s one location of an outbreak in suburbia being seeing through the eyes of teenagers, really lends to the realism throughout the movie and best of all the characters look like they should be in college instead of high school, so again bringing us back to the good ole days of 90’s suspense horror we miss so much, that were fun yet chilling yet somewhat realistic within reason. All I can say is, I hope Viral and Green Room bring back an intelligence and self aware joviality that has been missing in most modern horror. We don’t need more “window knock” frights we just need more raw wit.

 

  • Maurice Jones



 

 


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Café Society (2016)


                                         “A classic Woody Allen point, sardonically bittersweet”

 

It’s that time again…………..that of many special occasions we have through the year!………………..When we loyally anticipate the new Woody Allen movie of the summer!!!

Café Society stars Jesse Eisenberg as Bobby, a young New Yorker who decides to move from home to LA to make it in Hollywood. Knowing he has an uncle in the business played by Steve Carrell, Bobby instances his uncle gives him a job and through that Bobby meets his uncle’s assistant Vonnie, played by Kristen Stewart. Though Vonnie works within Hollywood, she resists the life style and prefers things on a more intimate level and as her and Bobby work together, they bond on these ideals and Bobby begins to fall for her and in return falls for him. Things get fragmented though, as Bobby becomes more and more consumed by the Hollywood business, making Vonnie’s bond with him less enchanting while all the while knowing she had something real with him from the start.

What’s intriguing about Café Society is that most of the movie from the start is an exercise in distraction. Bobby’s career trajectory, Vonnie’s identity struggle and the conquests of the side characters hold no weight and purposely so, in order for the naturally realized epiphany of the movie to strike. Café Society is structured to express its main point; man-made excitement only goes so far in the human mind, because it isn’t tangle, as it maintains survival but isn’t the venture of survival. We pay more attention to status because it’s visible but not towards emotional bond because it’s not.

Café Society leaves to say, that so much can change and improve in your life. So much can go by and flourish, but the end result, no matter how big, falls short, when the couple of moments that lead to it all, can’t be recalled. Café Society will leave you stuck in your chair, realizing it’s those moments we need the most.

This may be Woody Allen’s darkest film yet.

 

-Maurice Jones

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl4X6pFfmTI

Monday, August 8, 2016

Creep (2014)


 
                                                                          “Staring is creepy”

Mark Duplass ventures into Psychological Torture Horror in Creep, a Found Footage film about a guy named Aaron (played by the film’s director Patrick Brice) who takes a job from an anonymous Craigslist ad asking for documentary assistance. Aaron drives out to said persons house to start the day uncertain whether it’s a man, woman or child, but when he gets there things seem eerie until he is startled by Joseph (played by Mark Duplass). Joseph seems friendly and inviting, giving Aaron a bit of a reason to cautiously let his guard down, yet something still seems off but maybe it’s all in Aaron’s head.

 

What Creep does well with this type of style, is put us on edge with not knowing what’s to happen next as everything is played so naturally. At the same time we’re put to easy because nothing is taken to a ridiculous height in terms of what’s possible of what would happen realistically. The Found Footage take on this type of Horror piece makes things more fearfully ambiguous, as Aaron is carrying the camera for most of the movie making you wonder what’s happening behind him, and when he sits the camera down you really get the sense it’s just two grown strangers in a house together and really anything could happen.

 

A knock on the film is the fact that Aaron is played to be nervous the entire movie, if he was more jovial and relaxed, the paranoia would be more palpable as in a sudden realization, but Aaron is constantly on edge making the vibe of the movie one note at times instead of an emotional rollercoaster of disappointment. Another knock as with many Found Footage movies, you feel annoyed that Aaron is documenting everything he’s going through but in this film it makes the most sense than in most Found Footage films to date.

 

Creep over all allows a naturally planned out plot development to make things more realistic and therefore scarier, as it helps to put us in this scenario and question how we would handle it and contemplate it. Mark Duplass does an excellent job playing an anxious psycho who’s somewhat misunderstood and yet vibrant and modern. You feel for him, fear him and are annoyed by him at all points. Only Mark Duplass could be enthusiastic enough to portray what he puts Aaron through, with his relentless energy and antics towards a quest for connection.

 

If you have a late night and want to check something out that’s both fun and intriguingly freaky, throw Creep on and treat it like crime evidence you just found…….you won’t regret it. Creep is an impressive experiment in the Horror genre all based on emotions, comedy and one lone camera that looked like a ton of fun to make.

 

-          Maurice Jones

Monday, August 1, 2016

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)


 
“It’s all fun and games until you think about it…….so why think about it?”

 

Richard Linklater makes a conscientious film about the Jock mentality in Everybody Wants Some!!

The film begins a week before college starts in 1980 with baseball player/college freshman Jake arriving at his dorm, from there he meets his classmates/teammates whom are all on a baseball scholarship. Through the group of young athletes, Jake learns lessons about himself, baseball and the meaning of self identification.

Everybody Wants Some!! Is an analysis on the Jock perspective, Jake and his classmates are fun, charismatic young guys who love the world and what they can have in it, but they’re fun comes from conforming to mainstream culture in order to have a good time and to think about their actions means they’ll have to be isolated, that being the least popular vote in mainstream culture, especially of the 1980’s, so instead they go along with everything. Ironically though, by living for the moment one still excludes them from a large part of alternative culture that becomes more and more part of the norm as the years go by. Thinking they can pretend their way through everything uncaringly as popular culture dictates their lifestyles, which makes them the ultimate consumers through the idea of free sex and false masculinity. These guys aren’t going to change the world nor do they want to. Their indifference won’t allow them and having the best time ever and being the life of the party therefore creates the Reagan generation. While the most effective intelligent and insightful people in their lives fall to the waist side and aren’t taken seriously. They’re drowning in their own stereotype even though some of them are more conscious than they appear.

Though deep Everybody Wants Some!! Is an extremely fun film with jokes all around and very well portrayed characters and no sight of weak actors. It has the classic Linklater insight that allows things to be observed by the audience as opposed told to them. As noticed, the Jocks are the epitome of normal yet they are willing to try new things even if it’s only to get laid, but the film keeps in mind that the reason everyone else on campus strays from what the Jocks are about, is simply because of the needlessly obnoxious abusive neglectful behavior they can’t help be apart of.   

Everybody Wants Some!! Isn’t one of Richard Linklater’s most cohesive works or most original, but one can’t ignore the message here, especially his execution of it.

 

-          Maurice Jones
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6raUs0CiCQ

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Wiener –Dog (2016) - “The reality of owning a pet”












Todd Solondz is back after 2011’s Dark Horse with an anthology film only he can conjure.

 

Wiener-Dog starts off with an upper middle-class family of three adopting a Dachshund. The parent’s son loves the dog to all hell and sees it as another living being with rights, as the parents see the dog as most people see pets subconsciously, as nothing more than accessories to a household that may endure any abuse to conform to the hierarchy of a family. The Dachshund is then passed on ironically to the grown up Dawn Wiener (of Welcome to the Dollhouse) who in her loneliness treats the wiener dog like her baby and her link to widened companionship. The third owner of the hopeful hound is a remorseful screenwriting teacher who would rather sell s script than teach, being the butt of every joke amongst his students. The final owner is a bitter grandmother who’s disillusioned from the experience of being blind and only being visited by her granddaughter years at a time.

 

Wiener-Dog is Todd Solondz’s most adventurously funny piece yet while being straightforward and subtly delivering its point at the same time. Like many of his films Wiener-Dog paints a beneath portrait of the real world, with characters spouting questions and getting direct core truth answers in return like lines such as; “....The breaking of will is to force character and that force of character makes you, you.” Or characters spouting underlining phrases that mark an unconscious social reality like; “I’ve always wanted a leash.” Solondz also takes things further in this film with his use of appointed yet ambiguous meaning with sounds and visuals, such as unconscious racism in all of us and truthfully parody of what we think to be marital life and the next step in a healthy relationship. Solondz also creates a tone throughout the film in which he has become the master of. A tone of dread created from indifferent behaviour and long silences accompanied with an abrupt end that genuinely make you feel the only the worst is to come.

 

Now I wouldn’t say Todd Solondz has ever made a movie that can be considered accessible but I would say in the sense of cinematography and plot this is his most accessible film to date. With bright colors and a story that allows hilarity and jovial touches sprinkled throughout the movie, and not to mention a stellar well known cast, this could very well be the touch stone of a Todd Solondz novice.

 

Wiener-Dog isn’t a complete home run ie; Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness. However its direction and themes are important enough and rare enough to be seen as a home run. As it reminds us more and more that the world is as least earnest as it’s always been and our oldest, most contradictory human ideologies will never change.

 

 

-          Maurice Jones

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Shallows (2016) “Very much this generations JAWS or at least that’s what they’ll say…”


The Shallows is a survival horror film with a glossy finish and modern day antics but with its heart in the right place.

Blake Lively stars as a former medical student whose on vacation and decides to surf on the same beach her mother once did back in the day in solidarity. Things seem serene as can be in the water until she’s runs into an injured whale turned on its side in the water with apparent bite marks. This forces her to come to the conclusion that there’s a shark nearby who will stop at nothing rid of everything edible in its path.

 

The Shallows is a great solo acting vehicle for Blake Lively to showcase her natural acting chops for once. Being from mainly a TV show (Gossip Girl) it’s rare someone gets an original acting gig as intense and inducing and front in centre as The Shallows years down the road. Blake Lively is quite perfect in this role as she plays earnest yet cautious, clever but uncertain and hopeless yet determined. These are all effective traits for a small town girl who doesn’t realize they’ll be up against a giant ferocious CGI shark. Blake Lively makes the character fun to be around which doesn’t allow a movie like this to wallow in dread, but instead carry a strategically driving force such as JAWS that is more about a feverish chess game than animalistic torture porn.

 

Now one would think a CGI shark would be as enjoyable as watching Scrubbing Bubble mascots in a commercial but surprisingly if you use the shark in the most sparingly shot way, it actually can work to an advantage. Featuring a scene where the shark devours a random surfer in mid sea level and well detailed still shots in a found footage format, the shark at times looks real as can be and equally as frightening. Though there are scenes of CGI delusions of grandeur, the fact these are scenes of urgency and not Deep Blue Sea level obnoxiousness make it part of the fun and at the same time interestingly intense mixed with Blake Lively’s performance. Furthermore the effects do reach Jungle Book-esque impressiveness when at the right angles, that give a perfect surreal quality of realism witnessing it all one screen. With all that said this movie entails tasteful attributes of gore and doesn’t skimp on the blood which gives more than enough to make this shark a worst nightmare.

 

A few tonally problems do occur in the movie that lessen the intent of the films score and plot. As the movie starts off you get establishing shots of Blake Lively sexually getting her surf gear on, and showing us her characters surf skills while being drenched in a mainstream EDM soundtrack yet the movie begins with a frightfully preparing JAWS-esque score, making the film feel disjointed almost immediately with what looks like scenes from an upcoming surf documentary or uplifting biopic needlessly thrown into a survival horror flick. If kept with the fearing original score from the start, that would of things more consciously disturbing when things get into gear and not be as slightly lackluster as it feels. Even just toning down those scenes as just one far away surf shot with music over it, instead it’s a music video in the middle of the movie. Accompanied with that is an end credits song that is apparently used to invoke “Girl Power” propaganda, as if the only way to display strong feminism is through an implied mainstream pop song. Not the most intriguing ending ever.

 

So could The Shallows of been darker with a different lead actress? Sure. Could the films soundtrack be more simple and subdued for more theatrical horror effect to enhance the experience? Sure. Could the editing be more focused and less head scratchingly choppy? Definitely! But overall The Shallows is a fun refreshingly scary ride appropriate for an air conditioned escape from these hot summer days in a crystal clear blue ocean on screen. And Blake Lively makes the ride a sweet and comforting one all the well.

 

And just to point out……The Shallows looks amazing, with some of the best cinematography in recent years. Every inch of a scene looks crystal clear and enhancive to the point of crossing realism with surrealism. And while watching this movie I realized The Shallows is a great test run in how Disney could do the live action version of The Little Mermaid. If so, I for one am “hella” excited.  

 

-          Maurice Jones
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHqVva6YyIk

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Angst (1983) “The cognitive wavering of a serial killer”


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Who would of thought in 1983 the most mentally involved and realistically portrayed movie about a serial killer would have been released?

Angst is an Austria Proto-Slasher film about a man who’s imprisoned for 15 years for the murders of his mother and a random stranger. As the movie starts from his prison cell, the murderer tells us his story about why he is the way he is, as it happens to be the day that he is finally and mistakenly released from prison after 15 years. The man goes on a journey of re-self-discovery as he navigates a world 15 years later, finding out that he still has the same murderous urges, well realizing how awkward and self deprecating he actually is around girls of the current time which makes him desire homicidal mutilation even more. As the man stumbles upon a lone house in the woods, evil energy starts to take hold and chaos runs rampant.

 

Angst does something that was never fully delved into with any Slasher-esque films, allow us to accompany the villain on his murderous rampage and almost sympathize and coddle them as they try to go about their creative process of irreversible carnage. To immediately understand where the killer is coming from while at the same time begging them to stop and rethink their choices. The most fascinating part about this movie is noticing that the other characters in the movie aren’t given a voice, everything is seen based on the killer’s perspective, so only emotions are apparent not motives from the otherwise protagonists which gives a hopelessness that hasn’t been explored in type movies such as Psycho, as at same point in those films interference is hailed from outside characters. Throughout Angst you come to the conclusion that our hero is unfortunately the antagonist.

 

The film makes artful decisions in developing a slasher’s strategy that is effective in the sense of watching the human struggle. Trying to get away and stay alive looks more poetic and ironically euphoric as things play out than in anything else in horror film. The movement of certain characters bodies mixed with the killers narrative speaking voice and back and forth contemplation, acts like watching an intriguing visually pleasing puzzle orchestration.

I can’t help but think……..if you were to make a movie about Jeffery Dahmer or Son of Sam without having it to be a crime procedural, this would be the most accurate way to go that is scary as all hell.

Now whether Angst is a Horror-Slasher film or just an Art film is neither here nor there, as it’s a movie that has an idea in mind and plays it out and those are some of the best kinds of movies. If you’re looking for something lethal yet interesting, you’re here.

-          Maurice Jones

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) - “Classic French New Wave”


 
 
 
 
 
 
What happens when a donkey is a signifier for your stupid decisions?

 

Au Hasard Balthazar is a classic of French New Wave cinema that uses a donkey’s life to chronicle the lives of two kids whom fall in love and then grow apart as they get older. Balthazar is a donkey adopted by a little girl named Marie who spends her summers with a family friend, a little boy named Jacque. Marie and Jacque lovingly adore Balthazar being the catalyst of their loving relationship. As kids Jacque promises to always be there for her every summer, but as time goes on that promise means less and less, and in parallel so does the life of Balthazar.

 

This classic film explores what influences someone’s life, what can turn them to a grim path through the vassal of abuse towards animals, the loss of innocence through neglecting something seen childish, class struggle, gender inequality, greed and the perils of youthful rebellion. Smartly directed, shot in black and white, giving light to the emotions at hand, grounding them in a cold straight reality for the most effective scenes. Au Hasard Balthazar brilliantly uses modern music at the time to convey the presence of a sinister character, having cut scenes convey the most unfortunate and lecherous of moments.

 

If Au Hasard Balthazar is your foray into French New Wave of the sixties, be prepared for one of the most hopelessly intriguing of them all.

 

-          Maurice Jones

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbXB3xN35p8

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Ones Below (2016) - “Your paranoia is real”


The Ones Below is a suspicion thriller by director David Farr, about a couple living in a tenement that find out their new downstairs neighbors have something else in common with them, they too are with child. 

 

In The Ones Below David Farr tackles certain themes as in movies like Basic Instinct, Single White Female and Fatal Attraction but takes it down a more artful direction that leads to some scarier results. Using color tones to convey emotions and physical deterioration, adding a warmly charming baby themed film score that becomes increasingly ironic as the film goes on for a creepier experience. David Farr has a great sense for the tenement location, making it seem open yet claustrophobic constantly in sharp cornered up close shots, flawlessly done. Paired with cold quick scene cuts and character movements, paranoid flights of fancy and rollercoaster like emotional dread is accurately portrayed.

 

Clémence Poésy (the protagonist) does a perfect job, seeming sweet, demanding and naturally curious and all the while tortured without notice of trying. Laura Birn (the antagonist) is frightfully malicious while holding a defeated tone throughout the movie all the same.

 

Now even though The Ones Below is another entry in skeptic horror brought up with the same traits, the urgent acting and intriguing direction makes it all feel fresh as can be and you won’t be able to take your eyes off the suspense.

 

…….neighbor beware…….

 

-          Maurice Jones