Film Review : A Single Shot (2013)

IMDB Score – 5.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 51%

Directed By – David M. Rosenthal
Starring – Sam Rockwell, Jason Isaacs, Kelly Reilly. William H. Macy, Ted Levine, Joe Anderson, and Jeffery Wright

The tragic death of a beautiful young girl starts a tense and atmospheric game of cat and mouse between hunter John Moon and the hardened backwater criminals out for his blood.

Ahh, back to my old roots of watching bleak films about backwoods crimes and the fight to survive. I rode the feeling I had from watching “The Lego Movie” for as long as I could before I got back to the more gritty cinema that I seem to find myself watching a couple times a week. I hope this isn’t a statement of my personality but light hearted comedies and children’s films just aren’t really in my interests. I’ve always gravitated towards dark drama/thrillers and my most recent film “A Single Shot” is a perfect example of the genre. It is not, however, a perfect example of a superior film of that genre.

I’ll be honest, there are just some things that peak my interest. Dark forests and Sam Rockwell are two of these things. The film centers around John Moore, played in typical magnificent fashion by Sam Rockwell. John is out hunting and accidentally pulls a Dick Cheney except instead of a mouthful of birdshot, the victim gets a shotgun blast to the chest and dies. This is in the trailer. This is in the synopsis. This is in the first two minutes of the film. The following two hours is a “wrong place in the wrong time” scenario that we have seen countless numbers of times. There isn’t anything new being presented in this film. The films director, David M. Rosenthal, is not known for many films, but is a talent behind the camera. This is a nice looking film. Most of the film has a dark, ominous color to it that only adds to the already suspenseful atmosphere of running around what I’m assuming is backwoods Kentucky. They may have stated where the film took place but I’ll be honest, I didn’t pick it up. The film reaks of similar films released in the last couple years including “Out of the Furnace” which was released at nearly the same time. The plots may be different but the feel is exactly the same. Everybody is dirty and talks like “Boomhauer” from King of the Hill. I almost turned the captions on because I couldn’t understand what the hell people were saying and it only got worse because as soon as I started to get the gist of what somebody was saying, they pop in chewing tobacco and it all turns to gibberish. Maybe this is why I don’t know where the hell this all took place.

Like I mentioned earlier, the film is nice to look at. The camera paints the bleak backwoods very well and the minimalist/dissonant score actually kept me from clocking out of the film. Sam Rockwell was also extremely good as he continues to prove he should be starring in more films instead of stealing scenes as secondary characters. In the end the bland, redundant, and sometimes unintelligible script was what did this film in for me. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before and it’s nothing we won’t see again. I suppose it’s worth a rental but don’t expect to be amazed by what you end up getting.


Related FilmsWinter’s Bone, The Hunter, Deliverance

Film Review : Man of Tai Chi (2013)

IMDB Score – 6.0
Rotten Tomato Score – 71%

Directed By – Keanu Reeves
Starring – Tiger Hu Chen, Keanu Reeves, Karen Mok, Simon Yam, and Iko Uwais

A young martial artist’s unparalleled Tai Chi skills land him in a highly lucrative underworld fight club.

This was crap.

I don’t really know another way to put it. I pretty much hated it. This film marks the first time Keanu Reeves has ever been behind the camera and while the camera work is promising and occasionally impressive, the end result of his labor is a complete corn fest that seems like it was written by a 8th grader who likes karate. It’s a B level script that makes sense but takes the same generic story arcs from every bad American TV show and terrible 80s kung fu movie. We have one of the following…

1. Ambitious but naive protagonist that falls down the wrong path only to see the error of his ways
2. A gritty detective that will stop at nothing to avenge the death of an innocent, EVEN IF IT MEANS THROWING THE BOOK OUT THE WINDOW.
3. A villain who is never ever seen fighting who just so happens to be the hardest fight of all.
4. A comic relief henchman who likes American slang and rap music.
5. A disappointed master.

It all just felt so silly. If this was all just an homage to old fashioned kung fu movies and not to be taken as a serious attempt at a film then I owe Mr. Reeves an apology. Somehow I don’t don’t think that was the case. Tiger Chen happens to be an excellent and legendary martial artist so the impressive fight scenes were enough to keep my attention but just not enough to keep this film from spoiling. This also might just be the worst acting role from Keanu Reeves. He’s comically bad. The whole thing was comically bad. Maybe I didn’t get it.

No, I got it. It was bad.


Film Review : Post Tenebras Lux (2013)

IMDB Score – 6.6
Rotten Tomato – 55%
Netflix Instant Watch

Directed By – Carlos Reygadas
Starring – Adolfo JimĂ©nez Castro, Nathalia Acevedo, Rut Reygadas, Eleazar Reygadas, and Willebaldo Torres

Juan and his urban family live in the Mexican countryside, where they enjoy and suffer a world apart. And nobody knows if these two worlds are complementary or if they strive to eliminate one another.

Hmmmm. Ummmmm, well….hmmmmmm.

I don’t really know what to write about with this one. I heard about this film from and their annual “25 Films of 2013” montage. I forget what number they had it listed as but the fact that they included it on the list at all is telling. I have no idea what I really just watched. I like ambitious cinema. I can deal with experimental films that don’t necessarily have a plot or story but basically rely on scattered ideas. I just couldn’t with this film. It was like it was trying to be edgy and deep and only came off as pretentious and stupid.

Mexico’s Carlos Reygadas seemed like he took very personal events in his life and tried to symbolize them in the form of this film. The problem is that nobody but him has any idea what the hell he is trying to say. There were red glowing devils, people tearing their heads off, random ass rugby games in England, sex parties with the joy of sex completely taken out of the equation, robberies gone wrong. All of these things were just strewn together as if they were supposed to scream something but I just didn’t get what they were trying to tell me.

I will say thought that the only reason this wasn’t a complete bomb was that there was some great still camerawork in the film. Shots of a Mexican forest and dark thunderstorms were the highlight for me. The filmed opened with a gorgeous shot at dusk as a thunderstorm came roaring through. A little girl is wandering through a damp muddy field looking for her parents and at one point it’s so dark that you can only see the silhouette of her during each lightning strike. That was gorgeous. It’s on Netflix so if you’re adventurous enough to check it out it is readily available. You can at least take in the wonderful opening scene as it’s really one of only a few highlights.


Film Review : Leviathan (2013)

IMDB Score – 6.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 78%

Directed by – Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel

A documentary shot in the North Atlantic and focused on the commercial fishing industry.

Part of the reason I started this website was to let some of you people into my world of weird films I come across. As of let, I really haven’t been watching many bizarre or less seen films. It’s Oscar season and I’ve been busy getting out to the theater as much as possible to get in my viewings of some of this years award chasing films. My Netflix dvd queue is now at the point where I’m starting to get some of the films that have been backlogged that are a bit more obscure or challenging. This is one of them.

As you can see by the vague synopsis brought to us by IMDB, Leviathan is a documentary about the fishing industry. One view of the trailer tells you that we’re not going to be watching a run of the mill doc narrated by Mike Rowe. Leviathan is a visceral experience. Comprised of no dialogue besides a few strewn sentences muttered by the crew at times that are barely audible, the film shows us what happens on a fishing vessel. A real one. No producers. No rewrites. No jump cuts. Twelve cameras were strung across nets, fastened onto bodies, and tossed in and out of water. What we see is a completely raw look at life on the ocean, for man and for fish. I’ll tell you this. It is not pleasant. It is gruesome and ugly but necessary for your fish tacos at Chipotle. They serve those there right? I think they do.

There’s a “scene” that I don’t mind describing as there is no real plot to spoil which involves one of the few steady shots in the film. A crewman, tired and exhausted, is in the kitchen watching TV. He is defeated. Sagging eyes and heavy breathing accompanies the sound of “The Deadliest Catch”. Yes, he is watching a show about fishing after he just spent a whole day fishing. The show goes to commercial and we here an ad about an energy drink. “You ever get the 2:30 tired feeling? You know where you just want to go to sleep?” It’s funny. The people on the commercial had a tough tennis workout and want a nap. This guy has just spent 18 hours hauling rigging and cutting the fish off heads and this is the inane commercials he’s watching. The dude falls asleep. Deep shit here guys.

That last line seemed a bit negative. I enjoyed the film. It is a one of kind look at whats it’s like battling the ocean day in and day out and what it takes for your fish sticks to become lunch. It’s not a political statement but just a raw visual experience. I don’t know if I’ll watch it again, but it was a one of a kind viewing.


Film Review : Side Effects

IMDB Score – 7.1
RT Score -84%

Ahhh, Steven Soderbergh. The man apparently has retired from directing films but I don’t think the man can stay away. I think he’s just burnt out. He’s made ten films since 2007 and has been a producer on countless other productions. I hope he doesn’t stay away from the camera for too long because he’s a one of a kind director that is constantly doing unique projects one after the other. He has directed films such as The Informant which cause me to walk out of the theater early (which never happens) and has directed films that have hooked me in like Contagion, Traffic, and this film…Side Effects.

The story follows Emily Taylor played by Rooney Mara as she deals with her depression and sees a psychiatrist played wonderfully by Jude Law. This is all I can tell you without going into spoiler territory. The film twists and turns that much.

I thought the film did a good job fitting into the “Hitchcock” mold that most thrillers try to adhere too but most end up failing to accomplish. The mystery that Jude Law is trying to uncover is a well written mystery that had me guessing. It managed to flip itself around multiple times without giving the viewer the spins although the final act was a bit muddy at times. Also, was Soderbergh trying to make a political statement about pharmaceutical companies trying to make money at the expense of the health of others? It’s certainly possible the way the plot progressed but what we have here is a classic mystery story that would have worked great as a Noir film which was a pleasant surprise to me considering how much I enjoyed my last film, The Third Man. The acting was good borderline great with Law really shining.

Don’t quit making films Mr. Soderbergh. The business will miss your versatility.