duminică, 30 septembrie 2018

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind by Charlie Kaufman - Nine out of 10

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind by Charlie Kaufman
Nine out of 10

Provocative, celebrated, sophisticated, popular, complex, challenging, intriguing, absurd, absorbing – these and more can all be associated with Eternal Sunshine…

By the way, the title itself is a miraculous achievement!
In fact, this motion picture may be the ultimate “Rara Avis”.

The narrative is so complex, the fabric so challenging that there might be no other film that could engage so many viewers in the context of a very difficult to absorb structure, plot and characters.
That the critics have loved it is understandable, indeed it is perhaps one of the few “normal, expected „aspects of the feature, but that the public has placed it at 85 among the Top Rated Movies on IMDB seems almost an oxymoron.

Difficult, hard to comprehend narratives do not have a habit of being extremely popular with large audiences.
The Lord of the Rings I and II are at number 7 and 11 respectively on the same list and this makes much more sense.

To be fair, those who take the trouble to consult, rate and engage with IMDB are not the same who flock to see The Avengers, The Fast and the Furious I through to XXIV…
Joel Barish is the hero of the motion picture and the inexhaustible Jim Carrey portrays him.

He falls in love with Clementine Kruczinski aka the Oscar winner and nominee for this role Kate Winslet.
The relationship is complicated for in this narrative, there are some “scientists” who can erase the memories you do not like and ask them to wipe out for you.

The complexity of the proposition resides mainly in the simultaneously amusing and tragic consequences of removing parts of the memory, while the hero establishes a communication with a woman that resides in and is the product of his brain, if yours truly has grasped it, which is rather optimistic.

Clementine wants to erase the facts, emotions, interactions…everything connected with Joel and Dr. Mierzwiak aka the always-phenomenal Tom Wilkinson and his team are able to offer this service…
Well, most of the time and not without some side effects and eventually a series of Unfortunate Events.

This is tragic for they seemed to be destined for each other, when they first meet they have a chemistry and an evident attraction for each other, with a difficult to match, outré, strange Clementine immediately accepted and welcomed by a more restrained, normal Joel.
Alas, his ordinariness, the apparent balance, if not the Aristotelian Golden Mean achieved by the hero make him unacceptable at one point – Clementine accuses him of being boring.

She has a blue painted hair, her appearance and attitude is much more than unorthodox, she loves it when they wake up in the bed, but in the snow…near the edge of the ocean, in what must be an imagined scene.
Here is one of the multiple provocations of the Academy Award winning script written by the creator of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind among others:

How can we explain the presence of the bizarre couple in bed, on the beach covered in snow?
For they cannot have the same fantasy at the same time…is it just Joel imagining this? It certainly seems to be the most obvious explanation…only there is a Hungarian film that purports that two different people have exactly the same complex dream at the same time…that is actually the key to the plot

When trying to erase Clementine from the memory of Joel, things get out of hand and become both amusing and calamitous – again – for Stan aka Mark Ruffalo and Mary aka Kirsten Dunst have fun together instead of concentrating on the work taking place in the brain of the subject.

Furthermore, another young employee, Patrick, becomes attracted to Clementine while she is under “cleaning” takes advantage of this unethical opportunity to steal objects and even phrases from the common experience of the woman and her ex-boyfriend and becomes her lover.
When Joel Barish wants to see and talk to the heroine, she is attached to and kissing Patrick – who had stolen her – clean – underwear, together with the other possessions, even the special gift for Valentine that belongs to the hero.

Even Dr. Mierzwiak has been involved in some terrible actions – if we leave apart the very idea of wiping clean memories – for he had been involved in an extra-marital affair with Mary and then would clean that out for her, only to cheat on his wife again…
Apart from the humor, there is a dark, serious message here – well, quite a few in fact – that suggests that dealing with new technology – artificial intelligence for instance – should be handled with care.

Hold the Dark, based on the book by William Giraldi - Seven out of 10

Hold the Dark, based on the book by William Giraldi
Seven out of 10

Hold the Dark does not exactly fail to deliver the drama, mystery excepted of a film of this genre, but it does not render memorable scenes.

There are unexpected moments, the setting is also if not unseen or unheard of, at least somewhat rare and the mixture of Alaskan wilderness, primitive, obscure superstitions, Iraqi fighting and trauma, wolves and a scientist who studies their behavior is original, if not altogether unheard of.

There have been some recent revelations which purport that the now classic tale of the “Alpha male „is false and the original researcher who proposed the term has in the meantime distanced himself from it.
In hold the Dark, we have some surprises, one of which is not on the scale of the refutation  of the “Alpha male „myth but still a disturbing assessment, like the statement that wolves would kill one of their own, if food is unavailable and they face starvation.

Medora Slone is the mother who writes a letter pretending that wolves had taken her child and she addresses it to Russell Core aka the excellent Jeffrey Wright – very present these days on CNN, BBC as the hero of a commercial for Dell.
The grieving mother lives in the northern part of Alaska, in a small village which has its own witch, and she wants Russell Core, who is a scientist researching wolves and their behavior, to find the animal responsible for snatching her son and killing it.

When the two meet, the woman has a very outré attitude, she takes a bath while the guest is trying to sleep, and he sees her in the tub, she stands up, comes to his bed and enters it, naked, taking his hand and apparently trying to suffocate herself with it!
Meanwhile, her husband, Vernon Slone aka the actor who may now specialize in roles of evil men Alexander Skarsgard, is fighting in Iraq, where he shoots up a vehicle that seems to have endangered the American troops and when it finally blows up in flames, a man tries to escape, while he is burning and the heartless enemy is killing him without hesitation.
That must be an indication of the profile, the vicious fiber of Vernon Slone, who will soon take up the role of the villain of this strange, rather bizarre narrative, that will make the sagas of Iraq and Alaska intersect.

Later on, Russell Core is walking about in a city – the previous scene took place in the wilderness, an open space where it made no sense to kill the opponents with such cruelty – when he sees through a window a man in uniform having sex with a civilian woman.
For yours truly it was unclear if the man was American – those who are familiar with the uniforms may now, indeed, even someone attentive enough to see that the protagonist and the stranger wear the same outfit – but the fact is that the continuation is gruesome.

Our villain takes a knife out and stabs the presumed rapist multiple times and at the end, he offers the weapon to the woman that seems to finish her attacker after she is left alone with him.
This may have been an attempt to bring justice and some people may applaud this act, but it was brutal, committed according to the letter, perhaps also the spirit of the Old Testament when a court martial should have been the path to take.

Russell Core returns home to find that his wife is missing and in her absence, Russell Core has found the body of the child that the mother had falsely claimed to have been snatched by wolves.
In order to take vengeance into his own hands, the retuning service man – wounded as he walked out of the ghastly punishment of a supposed rape – kills police officers in a macabre action that is the final confirmation – if one was still needed – of the mental disorder and the horror that is still to come.

To make matters worse, there is another deranged individual in the same small village, one that has some scores to settle with the law and those who defend it, Cheeon, seemingly a Native American who would kill more people than even the master villain, although the latter has been to the Middle East, where we cannot know for sure the number of casualties he had caused.
In the scene where the horror reaches a climax, Cheeon mounts a heavy machine gun in an attic and kills – after causing terrible pain in most cases – almost all the law enforcement agents that come to his neighborhood.

When compared with the wolves, the actions of Medora and Vernon Slone and Cheeon appear so much more repugnant and monstrous, even if in one dialogue, the scientist tries to explain what the wolves do as a last resort:

“They kill their own, take the weakest down
We are not dealing with animals”

The response was correct in some ways, but the calamity brought about by humans – not animals in the view of the local police officer – is much worse, senseless, tragic, and almost epic in scale.
Hold the Dark has some interesting moments, but not enough to make it a landmark or even a worthwhile motion picture ultimately.

sâmbătă, 29 septembrie 2018

Eighth Grade, written and directed by Bo Burnham 8 out of 10

Eighth Grade, written and directed by Bo Burnham

Don't Talk to Irene, written and directed by Pat Mills 9 out of 10

Don't Talk to Irene, written and directed by Pat Mills
9 out of 10

This independent motion picture has the merit of being amusing, entertaining and educational.

Irene becomes if not the ultimate role model, a heroine and a Wonder Woman of sorts anyway.
She is an overweight teenager that has a passion for cheerleading.

Alas, this occupation seems to be reserved for slim, perhaps anorexic girls.
Even worse, at her school, the protagonist has to confront some vicious colleagues.

One of the cheerleaders is Sarah and she says that Irene could certainly join their team, but only after passing some tests.
One of them is to lick the floor!

Given that the heroine has had a worm as a good pet - forced though by her mother to flush it down the toilet - we can see that she has the stamina and grit to cope with it...
Up to the point where she rushes to the desk of an alcoholic teacher, who keeps his drink in class and the protagonist takes a good swallow.

The teacher catches her and she is brought in front of the principal, with Sarah and Tesh, the latter a boy involved in this evil farce.
They are punished and sent to work for three weeks in a retirement home.

It all seems depressing, but Irene is a strong character and has a creative mind.
Furthermore, Charles arrives on the premises and if initially he is very unhappy with the new home, he would become essential in a daring project.

It helps that two of the elderly women already retired in the home find him very attractive and therefore would accept his propositions, even when they involve great risk.
Irene wants to have a cheerleading team with the octogenarians as members.

It is as a brave a concoction as anything else one might conceive.

Having said that, it must be stated that first, dancing is proved to be the Most Beneficial physical activity, with improvements in intelligence that have been demonstrated.

There are positive psychology studies that also show that the elderly who are engaged in an activity, even those who have just the responsibility to water some plants, would live much longer than those who have nothing to do.

The group of elders starts preparing and Irene is enlisting them for a contest, on a television program.
When the supervisor - manager of the retirement home disagrees with the project, they decide to steal the bus, like in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Sarah does not want her foe to have any success, informs Irene's mother about the punishment she was unaware of and the cheerleader is grounded.

Charles comes to the house with the bus full of enthusiastic cheerleaders and instructs the leader of the group to jump from the window...

I will catch you
You will be killed...indeed, Irene is heavy...

There are some good lessons to be learn from this meditation on what is really important:

Good looks or a beautiful spirit, a generous attitude and perseverance?

It is also worth mentioning that someone should tell the role model that she should lose weight.
If not for some elusive, maybe old fashioned image of the ideal beauty, then for her health.

In the long term, her life expectancy would be diminished, she could have multiple problems with her physical well being.

Nevertheless, a Wonder Girl as Irene would find the best solution!

Shoot 'Em Up, written and directed by Michael Davis 7 out of 10

Shoot 'Em Up, written and directed by Michael Davis 
7 out of 10

This action - crime movie has three main arguments speaking for it:

Clive Owen aka Smith
Monica Belucci as Donna Quintano
Paul Giamatti as Hertz

Otherwise, the storyline is rather forgettable and not very convincing...some might say it is in line with The Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco, the ultimate master of the absurd theater.

However, all the aforementioned stars are among the best we can see in cinemas and their performances can be convincing even if they just read from a DaDaist script.

The debut of the film is forceful.
Smith is waiting for the bus to arrive, when he sees a woman running.

She is followed by a vicious thug holding a pistol.
He walks out of  the car he crashed against another vehicle.

Smith intervenes and we can see that this man is something of a cross between James Bond and Jason Bourne.
Not only he can shoot right on target, but he has an exceptional intuition and ability to react in a split second.

He hits targets that create a space for him, anticipates with a few moves ahead what he has to do, where the enemy is coming from and eliminates a series of killers.

Alas, the woman is dead.
She has a baby and the gang of monsters want the baby dead as well.

The hero runs with it in a toilet, where he has to place the infant on the floor.
That was rather insalubrious!

But what can one do when chased by professional hit men.
Hertz is the loathsome leader of the villains.

He kills without emotion.
Which means he is a psychopath- those are the individuals who feel no emotion and can speculate what others feel and they don't.

To save the infant and feed him, Smith takes him to a prostitute, or sex worker as the politically correct name would be today.
Donna Quintano aka resplendent Monica Bellucci is lactating.

The clever, if abhorrent, Hertz understands that he needs to find the lactating women in the town.
All in all, the plot does not seem to be the strong point of the film.

On the contrary, it seems somewhat preposterous to have this tough, ruthless specialist go to extreme pains to save the baby.
I mean, it is possible to envisage hard men attached to children, but it still seems improbable.

Shoot 'Em Up is interesting to some extent, mainly because of the lead actors and actress, but without them, it would be completely avoidable.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado by Taylor Sheridan 8 out of 10

Sicario: Day of the Soldado by Taylor Sheridan 
8 out of 10

I think a sicario was a foot soldier, well...actually riding a motorcycle and killing people, in Columbia, during the wars with the drug cartels.
This is an image I seem to have from Loving Pablo, with Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem in the role of Pablo Escobar.

The Day of the Soldado does not seem to bring much, if anything new to the matrix of action movies.
The federal agencies, the FBI in particular, are clashing with the Mexican drug cartels - when they are not busy upsetting the fool in the White House.

The most recent scandal has the man who is supervising the special FBI investigation into the Russia collusion cited as willing to wear a wire when seeing the demented leader of the free world.
Rosenstein is likely to go on Thursday, tomorrow that is.

With him, the Muller probe may also be finished.
Come to think of it, what happens in real life these days might be more interesting than Sicario.

Nevertheless, this film is worth watching.
Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro, Josh Brolin in the role of the special FBI agent Matt Graver and Isabela Moner as Isabel Reyes are very good.

The plot involves the kidnapping of the daughter of a drug lord, Isabel Reyes, and the long journey she has to travel to get safe...
Evidently, if she makes it.

Alejandro is there to help.
Only he is recognized as he tries to pass for an ordinary Mexican, trying to illegally cross the border into America.

He is tortured and left for dead.
It is to be expected that he would not die so easily.

Otherwise, the film is credible in that there are blunders made by both sides.
We do not have super humans as the good people, fighting and always winning against the evil, the villains that ultimately cannot rise to the standard of the Ubermensch.

There are shootouts with the Mexican police, who may or may not have been corrupted...it is not entirely clear for your truly.

Soldado is watchable, if not memorable.

Damsel, written and directed by David and Nathan Zellner 8 out of 10

Damsel, written and directed by David and Nathan Zellner
8 out of 10

Damsel is an amusing, intriguing, at times absurd motion picture.

It was classified as a western, but apart from the geography of the film and a few gun shots and and arrow shot by a Native American, there is little that this feature has in common with The Wild Bunch or Red River.
Samuel Alabaster is in love with Penelope.

He would do anything to marry her.
Samuel has brought form far away a miniature horse, Butterscotch, that is very rare and expensive.

He will give it as a gift to his bride-to-be.
The hero brings over a man who would conduct the religious ceremony of matrimony, Parson Henry aka David Zellner, one of the writers - directors of this fine motion picture.

The young aspiring groom is enchanted, elated at the thought that he would soon meet and marry his loved one.
On the way, they encounter Rufus Cornell aka the other writer - director, probably the two are brothers.

Samuel hates this man and pushes him into a ravine, thinking he died.
They continue to the middle of this forest, where in a clearing, Penelope lives.

Using his rifle, Samuel Alabaster kills his most important rival, who had had no idea this was coming.
Alas, shots are fired from the house...which is actually more like a cabin.

Eventually, an infuriated, aghast, violent and full of grief woman comes out from the cabin.
This is Penelope aka Mia Wasikowski.

She is terribly upset, mad really, because she loved the departed.
Penelope makes it clear that she was very happy.

This is both confusing and amusing.
Samuel has come to find his loved one, but she loved someone else.

She had no intention to marry him, which is logical given her love for someone else.
Penelope shoots the man who has killed her beloved and Samuel Alabaster dies in the most gruesome, absurd, abject place of all...

In the privy, the outhouse.

Parson Henry is now in danger, for the Damsel is still mad with pain.
He tries to explain and absolve himself of any guilt, explaining that he had no knowledge of the reality.

The late Samuel had told him that it is all arranged and all he needs to do is to perform the religious rites.
There are quite a few scenes where the audience laughs, for in all this tragedy, the pain of the protagonists can be ridiculous.

The pastor tries to get close to the woman, only to get not just rebuked, but most likely a broken nose.
Then the preposterous brother in law appears, for he had not died.

He wants revenge for the death of his brother.
He attributes the assassination to a conspiracy organized by his widow.

A Native American has the wrong impression watching this confrontation and he decides to act...
A good, entertaining film.

Borg vs McEnroe by Ronnie Sandahl 8 out of 10

Borg vs McEnroe by Ronnie Sandahl
8 out of 10

Even if one is not so keen on tennis, this motion picture still has much to offer.

Two very different personalities clash, in a dispute that is not about good versus evil, but it presents two different styles of playing, perhaps seeing life.

A very good introduction to the feature is a quote from Andre Agassi, who states that tennis is life...
It has "love" among its terms and everything else.

With flashbacks, we see the two stars from the title in their childhood.
Bjorn Borg aka Sverrir Gudnason was interestingly and unexpectedly a child with issues.

He was very agitated and violent whenever he lost.
The school officials proposed some very harsh punishments, because the parents of other children refused to let their offspring play with him.

The headmaster even says:

"Let's face it, tennis is not for all classes"

The smug individual wanted to say that only the upper classes could understand and play it and Borg would better try something else.
Indeed, the adolescent was just as good at hockey.

But he is lucky that Lennart Bergelin aka the excellent Stellan Skarsgard sees him playing.
This is the manager of the Swedish Davis Cup team and he can see that Borg is extremely talented.

This couch though would insist on the need that the teenager changes his attitude.
Lennart Bergelin has reached the advanced stages at Wimbledon, but lost because he failed to keep cool.
He explains that losing control is equivalent to losing the game.

He teaches Bjorn Borg to show no emotion, no fear, nothing.
Indeed, the number one tennis player of the seventies was called the Iceborg.
Many felt he is a machine.

But few understood that behind the appearance of calm, absolute self possession there was a volcano.
In the climax of the film and of the career of the Swedish master, he plays at Wimbledon, trying to win it for the fifth time.

He had been the youngest player ever to win this tournament and the French Open.
He has a special program and rituals.

Harvard Professor Tal Ben-Shahar emphasizes the importance of rituals.
The Swedish star has rituals for his equipment, moves, training...even socks.

He has married one of our own...Mariana Simionescu.
John McEnroe has been also a child prodigy.

Whereas people thought Borg might be stupid, when he was a child, McEnroe could multiply in his head complicated numbers.

The American had however a bad reputation as a player.
He was not just vocal, but incredibly aggressive, insulting and loathsome at times.

He would shout at the umpires, curse people in the public, or even the whole audience, would spit and complain all the time.
Before the Wimbledon tournament, Bjorn Borg was at number one and the rising new American star at number two in the world.

They reach a final that would become historic.
McEnroe wins the first set with ease.

People think that Borg may be an easy prey and he is probably descending and making room for the new king.
But the second set belongs to the Swedish superstar.
When Bjorn Borg has a match point, the resilient McEnroe wins it.

And the it happens seven times!
Each time the rebellious, pugnacious, determined American pushed back.

It was unprecedented.
And it feels like a very good action movie, where we wait to see breathlessly what happens next.

Who will win?

Borg vs McEnroe is a very good motion picture.