Film Review : Obvious Child (2014)

IMDB Score – 6.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 90%
Amazon Watch Instant

Directed By – Gillian Robespierre
Starring – Jenny Slate, Gabby Hoffmann, Jack Lacy, Richard Kind, Polly Draper, Gabe Liedman, and David Cross

A twenty-something comedienne’s unplanned pregnancy forces her to confront the realities of independent womanhood for the first time.

Rom-Coms. Like the ever so fragile horror genre, there is a very small window of success when it comes to romantic comedies. At least for me. I know a few people that can’t get enough of them. A few professional critics I read laud films like Love Actually and 500 Days of Summer. I’ve seen the latter. I thought it was okay. One of my favorite films of all time, Lost in Translation, could possibly be categorized as a Rom-Com but I wouldn’t say so. That film is a dream like look at empathy and loneliness but surprisingly establishes the exact quality that I look for when I watch something romantic, realism. Whether it’s funny or not, realism is what makes a good film from a bad one. I also think that tragedy can be a very useful but overused tool when it comes to these films. The Apartment had heavy tones dealing with adultery and suicide, yet was still hysterical and endearing. Blue Valentine was devastating as we see two people spiral out of love. Obvious Child is hilarious but deals with unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Maybe I’m just fucked up, but I just can’t like a romantic film unless something horrible happens. I guess that’s why I don’t consider Lost in Translation to be a rom-com. Nothing bad really happens. It’s just two people hanging out and developing a relationship.

Obvious Child does the opposite. It starts with the end of a relationship which catapults the films protagonist Donna, played INCREDIBLY by Jenny Slate, into a bit of a spiral. Donna is a comedian and brings her life on stage every time she gets up there. She eventually meets Max and here is where the films starts to develop into what ended up being such a pleasant surprise.

Like I said before, realism is important to me. I have to be able to feel like the characters in the film could actually exist in real life. No woman that Jennifer Lopez or Cameron Diaz have ever existed outside of Beverly Hills, Miami, or the upper west side. The majority of rom-com female leads make up the smallest percentage of what real women are like. Jenny Slate brings realism to this film. She’s awkward, anxious, and has no idea what she’s doing in her life. She reminds me of Greta Gerwig from Frances Ha except a little less hipster cool. Donna lives in Brooklyn, somehow pays only $500 in rent (which totally contradicts this whole realism theme), and works at a failing bookstore. She’s an everyday person. Thankfully, she’s also hilarious. I had a few laugh of loud moments while watching this. Slate, who appears regularly on comedy central shows such as The Kroll Show, has a natural sense of comedic timing which really helped me connect with her character. She just seemed like a person who is struggling to make an impact at 26 years old just like everybody else who is 26 is.

As the film progresses, Slate’s acting chops really start to show. I was surprised. I had heard that she was great in the film and saw that she was nominated for a Spirit award but she still caught me off guard. The tornado that her life ran into required some serious emotional cutbacks and Slate handled it perfectly. She was able to convey a girl who has no idea how she got herself into the situation perfectly. I was impressed.

The film tackles some sensitive subjects with honesty. Abortion isn’t a very widely used subject for film, especially comedies, but Obvious Child was able to take it on without getting too heavy, but also not insulting the situation with humor. I’m the type of person that cracks jokes at funerals and is laughing while being taken to the ER. I always have been. I use humor as a defense mechanism when things are too serious to handle, at least in public. When I’m alone or with family, the true feelings come out, and they did in this film. Those scenes were touching.

The supporting cast was good, but this is really Slate’s show. She didn’t carry the film because I think it was a very well written and directed movie, but I don’t think it would have been the same without her. The film is currently streaming on Amazon Instant and I’d totally recommend it.

4/5




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Quick Review : Force Majeure (2014)

Rotten Tomato Score – 93%
IMDB Score – 7.5

Directed By – Ruben Östlund
Starring – Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Kristofer Hivju, Fanni Metelius, Vincent Wettergren, and Clara Wettergren

A family on a ski holiday in the French Alps find themselves staring down an avalanche during lunch one day; in the aftermath, their dynamic has been shaken to its core, with a question mark hanging over their patriarch in particular.

What would you do in a situation where your life could be in immediate danger? It’s the classic fight or flight scenario that really can’t be answered until the time has come. Tomas and his family found the answer to that question after their vacation lunch is interrupted by a controlled avalanche, or so it seems controlled. What follows is a unique, entertaining, cringe worthy film that deals with the aftermath of such an event. I didn’t expect it to be so funny.

I like to think that I would be the kind of man that stares danger in the face and puts up a fight. Fact is, I have no idea if that’s true or not. I’ve been in some situations where I was able to handle myself. I was in a car accident, helped rescue a hurt ATV rider calling for help in the woods, and two friends pass out on me, one from heat stroke and one from exhaustion. All these however were instances where I wasn’t involved or wasn’t involved minimally. The car accident was a low speed rear ending. My life has never truly been in danger. The lives of my friends and family have never been in danger. I’m waiting for the day that I’m walking down the street with somebody I care about and get approached by a man with a knife. Would I run? Would I shield my loved one? I’d like to think the latter, but can I be sure? The reaction is pure instinct and that’s where this film stores all of it’s interest. It provokes these thoughts in the viewing while simultaneously conjuring thoughts about the characters in the film. It was very entertaining.

The film should have been included in this years Oscar ceremony, but what are you going to do? There were so many scenes where family members and friends are trying to get a hold on what happened and how they feel about it. Those instances show the true person behind all the presentation we show other people. It was fun getting to see how this is handled, by both the people affected by the decision, and the person who made it.

Did I mention Tormund Giantsbane is in this? His beard is still amazing. Don’t know what I mean? That’s too bad, I’m not telling.

The film is also shot very well with many standing shots of the Alps with the action happening around the frame, like a moving picture. There was so much white filling every space that it really made you appreciate the darkness and the shadows, much like how we explore the parts of ourselves that aren’t bright and in your face.

It’s a great film.

4/5




Quick Review : Honeymoon (2014)

IMDB Score – 5.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 70%
Netflix

Directed By – Leigh Janiak
Starring – Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, and Hanna Brown

A newlywed couple finds their lake-country honeymoon descend into chaos after Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of their first night.

Gross. Let’s all I have to say after watching the last 20 minutes of this film. Gross.

You’ll understand if you watch it, and you should. I didn’t expect much from this. It’s the first film from director Leigh Janiak, who moonlighted as an assistant for a couple years. The plot is very simple. “Yay, we’re married! Let’s go up to my families old cabin in the woods. That should be fun”. Guess what, not fun. Who would have thought that? Rose Leslie was okay in Game of Thrones but the thought of her carrying a whole movie left me a bit cautious. However, I hadn’t seen a horror film in a while and Netflix just started streaming it so I gave it a go.

Pleasantly surprised.

Rose Leslie wasn’t that great. I was right in that regard. She gave the Canadian accent a good try but her true Scottish accent broke through a lot. It can be distracting at times. Treadaway however was very good. He was totally believable once shit started to go downhill for the newly married couple. The other two actors really weren’t in the film enough for me to comment. This was all Leslie/Treadaway.

I like slow burns, especially when it comes to horror films, the good ones anyway. When it comes to b-movie horror, please, up the blood and guts every minute until the film ends. The serious ones though, make it slow. I want to feel the tension. I want to get relaxed only to have something happen that puts the hair on my neck at a standstill. We got that with this film. It’s a slow descent into what seems to be madness but turns into something more mysterious and creepy. I loved how we were never given much of a glimpse of what was going on. Trust me, it was obvious what was happening, but I like the film kept it a mystery for the characters. Did I mention the last 20 minutes were gross? Holy shit, don’t watch this film is you’re going to have sex in the near future. Just don’t.

It’s totally worth the watch on Netflix.

3.5/5

Film Review : Selma (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 98%
Nominated for Best Picture

Directed By – Ava DuVernay
Starring РDavid Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi, Oprah Winfrey, Tim Roth, Andr̩ Holland, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Colman Domingo, Omar J. Dorsey, Common, Lorraine Toussaint, Dylan Baker, Wendell Pierce, Stephan James, Keith Stanfield, Henry G. Sanders, and Stephen Root

A chronicle of Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.

Pencil me into the group that is upset that both Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo were not chosen as nominees in this years Academy Awards. I don’t think it was politically fueled like some people are claiming, but rather just an injustice to superior work in the film/acting industry. They flat out should have been included.

Man, this was a powerful film. It took me a long time to see this because I knew it was going to be a powerful experience. I guess I just didn’t want to go through such a thing until I knew I was ready. I wasn’t ready though. I was choked up throughout most of the film. It’s funny how just the presence of David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. was enough to get me emotional. The man was almost identical to Dr. King. That wasn’t enough though. His performance is what drove this thing home for me. He’s mesmerizing in every single scene that features him. My eyes focused on him as if I were really looking at the man who fought so hard for equality years ago. I would never go as far to call myself an activist. I’m far too lazy in my life right now to appoint myself with that title. Ideally though, I stand tall for equality. I believe that every person in this country deserves equal rights. I’m a big supporter of the LGBT community and the legalization of gay marriage. I’m a supporter of a government that creates laws for the people and not their own gain. I’m in favor of a military and police force that would just fucking relax. I do this all from my bedroom though. I know in my heart that if the opportunity arises where I can help make a change, I’d do it. I guess it just hasn’t presented itself yet. Watching David Oyelowo portrayal Dr. King stirred up a lot of these emotions inside me though. It takes a tremendous performance to do that and Oyelowo accomplished that. It may be the performance of the year for me.

There is still some political hoo-ha that I need to get off my chest. I’ll try to relate it to the film as much as I can.

Ferguson was fascinating/revolting to me. When the big riots were going on, I was able to watch on my computer thanks to the miracle of iPhones. This film couldn’t have come at a better time. People think that what happened in 1965 is ancient history. Ha. That shit ain’t over and it probably never will be over 100%. We still have rampant racism going on all over this country. We have military police lining the streets with assault rifles and tanks to try to “defend” themselves against protesters armed with and harsh words and numbers. Sure, we aren’t lynching black men in the streets anymore. There are laws now that says we can’t do that. I have no doubt in my mind that if those laws weren’t in place, they’d be happening every weekend like Bingo. Racial crimes are still being committed out there on both sides. That’s what gets me about Ferguson and why this film is so important right now. The film focuses on the non-violet march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama. Non-violent. Hell, not only were they non violent, but they were polite in doing so. That’s why Martin Luther King is remembered today in the same way Ghandi is also remembered. Fighting violence with violence is never the answer long term. I remember seeing video of the riots in Ferguson. There were people antagonizing police. They threatened them and covered their faces with bandannas as if they were going to rob a house. Oh wait, that’s what they did. They looted the business of their city because they could. They didn’t care about what was going on. They just needed a reason to fuck shit up. It’s a horrible way to look at things.

This is still happening. Racism isn’t over. It’s hiding in the shadows. Selma is a film that brings light to the darkness I feel.

It’s a beautifully shot film. I haven’t seen Foxcatcher, The Theory of Everything, or The Imitation game. I can’t comment on those directors. I can say however that this film couldn’t have been filmed better. There isn’t any exposition in the beginning of the film. This isn’t a bio-pic or a History Channel movie. The film doesn’t insult our intelligence by giving us the back story on how Dr. King became who he was. This was about the march on the capitol. I liked this way of telling the story. I was able to be drawn in more with the attention to detail being focused on an event that took place over the course of a couple weeks. You lose a lot of the power when you’re telling a story that spans years. This film stayed focus on the march and in doing so kept me focused on the message at hand. The camera work was also impressive. Many shots involving Dr. King bathed in back light were just a beautiful thing to see. Emotional scenes didn’t feel forced or unearned. I was fighting back tears in most of the brutal scenes of what went down during these marches. None of it felt heavy handed or too dramatic.

There were other great performances besides David Oyelowo. Tom Wilkenson and Tim Roth did fantastic jobs portraying LBJ and George Wallace.Both are actors that in my opinion don’t get enough work for how great they are when they do. Stephen James, who had a smallish role as a young John Lewis, was also very impressive.

I’ve always been an admirer of Dr. King and what he did for equality in this country. I always viewed people with racism in their hearts and speech as confusing because I don’t see people as divided. I’ve always laughed at people who claim that we live in the greatest country in the world. It takes some pretty big balls to make that claim while there is so much wrong still going on. I don’t know which country is the greatest. I like to think that we have the potential to stake claim to that title. There is a lot of work to do though. A lot of work. Political activism in the media comes and goes. People, including myself admittedly, get bored and move on to the next story. Ignorance makes us think that just because something else is happening that the previous news stories just kind of went away. Ferguson is still a mess racially. There may not be riots in the streets every night, but it’s still a city full of ignorant people on both sides of the argument. We’re a country in debt. We’re a country who can’t decide if we should be teaching Creationism/Evolution, whether we should grant gay people the right to marry, or even whether we should be at war or not. How can a country with so many divided segments call itself the greatest country in the world? It confuses me.

What gives me hope however is the arts. As long as films like Selma are being released to the mainstream, there will be new people with views that they never had before. Dr. King started a new way of thinking for a lot of people and granted new rights to people who already had it figured out. It’ll never end though. Hopefully people will see this film for what it is, a beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, powerful remembrance of what we were at one time as a country, what what we still are today.

5/5




Quick Review & Discussion : Borgman (2014)

IMDB Score – 6.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 86%
Amazon Watch Instant

Directed By – Alex van Warmerdam
Starring – Jan Bijvoet, Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval, Alex van Warmerdam, Tom Dewispelaere, and Sara Hjort Ditlevsen

A vagrant enters the lives of an arrogant upper-class family, turning their lives into a psychological nightmare in the process.

I’m going to break this up into two parts. One, a short review, and the other a short discussion. The discussion will have spoiler elements to it so don’t read it if you haven’t seen the film.

This creeped me the fuck out. Like, really did.

Borgman is a psychological thriller/overall creepfest of a movie from The Netherlands. There is a certain creepy I’m pertaining to when I describe this film. It isn’t creepy like how Zodiac, The Innkeepers, or any run of the mill ghost story is. This film relies heavily on the unsettling nature of German folklore. I’ll get to that in the part two discussion. There is just this extreme sense of unease that washes over you while you dive further into the film. There are no explanations and very few answers at first glance. It’s kind of a mystery.

The story is rather simple on the surface. A man, who doesn’t seem to really have a home, job, or purpose, successfully invades the home of an upper class family by appeasing to the wife. He stays on the property, just out of sight, getting to know the family better. What follows for the rest of the film is an assortment of what the fuck with a side of nightmare fuel. Seriously, nightmares are a big part of this film. You know, I can’t remember if there was a score or not, but if there was it was minimal. Alex van Warmerdam, the films director and supporting cast member, carefully constructs his shots that not only look beautiful, but completely add to the sense of dread and darkness that permeates from the film. It’s been described as a black comedy but I didn’t find anything funny with it. It’s also been described as a cross between Dogtooth and a Haneke film. The only real comparison I can see with Dogtooth is that it mostly takes place on the property which is very out of the way. The Haneke comparison is spot on though. There is just something about his films that etches into the brain and causes all sorts of unsettling emotions. The way Cache, one of my favorite films of all time, plays out is on par with this. We aren’t given any answers to what is going on. Any violence is disturbing, fast, and realistic. It’s unsettling because it feels real.

Haneke however has not really delved into the supernatural. This is where Borgman is unique. Sure, there aren’t creatures flying around or portals being opened. There are events and progressions that just can’t seem to be explained any other way though. It’s a genre blender and a half.

I urge you all to see this one. It’s on Amazon Watch Instant and most likely VOD. It’s a nightmare on screen without the fire and brimstone of a trip to hell. It’s thought provoking, unique, and wildly experimental. You’ll finish it without a clue in the world as to what you watched but if you’re like me, the answers will start to slowly creep in. Are these answers correct? I have no idea. It’s fun to find out though.

4.5/5




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Spoilers ahead

So I wanted to talk about this a bit, only because I seem to have stumbled across something on my own and I really want to share. Now, since I’ve written this, I’ve learned that there are a lot of other people that have come to this conclusion and that it is regarded as the intended understanding that the director wanted from his viewers.

I was watching the Netflix series “The Fall” last night. It’s a wonderful detective mini-series set in Ireland starring Gillian Anderson. Check it out. Anyway, in one of the episodes a suspect breaks into one of the police officers hotel rooms and does some snoping. When the officer returns, she finds this image as her background on her laptop…

That is a painting by Henry Fuseli called “The Nightmare”. I was fascinated by it so I decided to Google it. What I came across was that this painting was a depiction of a German folklore creature called an “Alp” or “Incubus”. This si a creature that targets mostly women and while they are sleeping, straddles them on there chest until the weight is so much that the victim wakes up and can’t move. Alps were commonly referred to as the cause of things we know now as “sleep paralysis” and “lucid dreaming”. The alp has the ability to control the nightmares of it’s victims and cannot be seen when the victim wakes up in fear.

In the, we see Borgman straddling Marina in a way that suggests he could be an Alp. Marina has nightmares that depict her husband either beating her or even attempting to murder her. This causes Marina to grow an intense hatred for her husband and a love for Borgman.

Now, my theory on who Borgman is and who his companions are is this. Borgman is an Alp and is the leader of other Alps. This explains why they all have a scar on their back. As for what is under the scar? I have no idea, but it seems to be an indication that they’re all alike. In folklore, these Alps have been connected to vampires which would kind of explain why they were sleeping underground in the beginning of the film. I think the priest and his gang find out about them and know what they’re up to. They try to kill them.

This just makes sense to me. It’s a fascinating allegory to German folklore and is just mysterious enough not to give too much away. I loved the film and and wondering if anybody else who has seen the film has any other theories as to what the fuck is going on.