Sunday, 26 February 2017

The Neon Demon

A 16 year old girl (Elle Fanning) comes to LA and, through her looks, conquers the modelling scene. She quickly attracts all the eyes that matter, brushing aside two other models as well the makeup artist that assumed the position of looking after her. Even the guy who took the first photos that opened doors for her loses touch.
Clearly, something has to give; in the absence of a trade union to turn to, our neglected models apply an approach that classifies The Neon Demon as a psychological horror film. Oh, and as a bonus, drop Keanu Reeves in for a small “guest appearance” that's actually very effective in emphasising the horror element.
Style matters in a movie about models. Proceedings are slow and carefully articulated through occasional electronic music, quiet & slow dialog, but otherwise deafening quiet. Rarely do our characters blink.
As the movie progressed, and more and more opportunities for nudity were denied, I started to think The Neon Demon is another of those American cinema samples of puritanism. Actually, that's probably good, given Fanning’s age. However, that last act breaks the traditions of the preceding hour and a half with some gruesome stuff, necrophilia included.
Ultimately, the question to ask in this movie about beautiful women is just how important the external image is. Do we care at all for what's on the inside? Just how shallow are we? I often think such thoughts when I examine a piece of computer code, but The Neon Demon’s approach is more sexual. Its is a male dominated society where the females have to fight for the scraps.
Overall: Generally speaking, The Neon Movie is not my cup of film; I'm no fan of horror. However, there can be no denying its style and careful crafting. It is a work of art, not another product in the production line. 3 out of 5 crabs.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Arrival

Arrival is Amy Adams. This is a point worth making because Adams appears in every scene; it is also important for the fact that rarely does a female character dominate a Hollywood movie to such an extent. All the better for the movie, because Arrival is good, original, science fiction.
A lot like Contact in themes and feel (as well as in clunkiness), Arrival deals with humanity’s handling of first contact by aliens. In Arrival’s case, these take the form of mysterious spaceships touching down at 12 places around the earth. For the American spaceship, military authorities pick on a credible linguist (Adams) for the task of establishing communication with the aliens. She is joined by a physicist (Jeremy Renner), whose main role in the movie is to supply that secondary role females tend to provide to the male lead in most other movies. Only that Adams’ character is heavily burdened by losing her teenage daughter to cancer, therefore putting to question her professional abilities. Or perhaps enhancing them?
I will not delve further into the plot. Suffice to say Arrival is driven by interesting science fictional ideas. Ultimately, though, Arrival is not an aliens genre movie but rather a very human centric movie about the choices us humans make on a daily basis.
Which renders Arrival into proper science fiction. The type that takes rarely considered concepts off Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and projects elements of fantasy into them so as to make a point about our world of today.
Overall: While never truly thrilling, Arrival is one of those movies that make one think. Coupled with Adams’ performance, it is a film well worth watching at 3.5 out of 5 crabs.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Space Pirate Captain Harlock

Although Japanese anime and anime based live action movies tend to disappoint me lately (check here for an example or two), I will never forget the impact Star Blazers had on this child. And in the Space Pirate Captain Harlock anime I managed to find the closest thing to that anime series of old.
This space opera takes place in an era where humans have depleted the resources in space and are fighting for control over earth, the home they spread out of. The ruling class that beat pretty much everyone else sends an infiltrator into the ranks of the space pirate Captain Harlock, whose magically powered spaceship remains its last significant threat. Through this infiltrator and the crew he mingles with we learn the secrets of the ruling government as well as those of the notorious pirate.
The result is a story of conflicting emotions that often trouble the Japanese but tend to be too complex to be told before Western audiences. Personally, that initial excitement that came through the realisation I am dealing with a space opera here disappeared through the movie’s second half, as I found myself disengaging from the story and the characters.
Worst scene: In a very typically Japanese way (think: Dead or Alive), proceedings break in order to offer us a nude zero gravity female shower scene. The scene is completely unrelated to the rest of the film and involves a relatively minor character. So yeah, chauvinism.
Overall: Suffering from the classic problem of having too much to deal with in the course of a single movie, this translation of an anime series into a movie fails to move yet again. 2.5 out of 5 space crabs.

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Shallows

Lowdown: A shark turns a girl into a woman.
Review:
An American woman in Mexico. Alone on a personal quest, to be achieved at a pristine beach. What can go wrong?
The music video like scenes of a photogenic girl on a surfing board are interrupted when a whale carcass appears, accompanied by a shark.
Our girl is left stranded in the water, on top of a rock, accompanied by a volleyball. Actually, an injured seagull she refers to as Steven Seagull.
A good, exciting, tale of girl against nature follows. Our hero is analytical, fact based and cool minded in her struggle. Only problem is that unlike The Old Man and the Sea, The Shallows turns to the ridiculous as it nears climax. Also, unlike Hemingway’s, the happy ending is all but inevitable. There is no way our young Texan will lose at Mexico!
Note: Although set in Mexico, The Shallows was filmed in Queensland. Yours truly believes he actually knows the specific beach, or at least one of the beaches, put into use.
Overall:
I am not into horror; on paper, The Shallows is not my type of movie. Yet it is not a horror movie per se; this is not a movie that tries to scare its viewer but rather a movie that tells a story.
Despite clearly targeting younger adults of the Insta generation, it is a well made feminist movie. 3 out of 5 sharks (crabs) for this one.