Film Review : I Origins (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 52%
Metacritic Score – 57/100

Directed By – Mike Cahill
Starring – Michael Pitt, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Brit Marling, Steven Yeun, and Archie Panjabi

A molecular biologist and his laboratory partner uncover evidence that may fundamentally change society as we know it.

The fan made trailer above was include instead of the official trailer because it doesn’t give away the entire film like the official one did. I just wanted to point that out.

Wow. Emotions guys…lots of emotions right now.

You can just sign me up now to watch anything that involves Zal Batmanglij, Mike Cahill, or Brit Marling. Anything. I don’t care what it is. They make films with such an emotional punch to them that it doesn’t matter if there are some glaring scientific plot holes/inconsistencies. I’m not watching a Ted talk. I’m watching a movie. I can be a little hypocritical of this ideal sometimes however, especially when discussing zombie films. I guess what it comes down to is if there is a powerful story going on, I could give two shits if the science adds up. Cahill’s previous film Another Earth falls into this category. The likelihood of an identical Earth appearing in our solar system seems improbable but the story of Brit Marling’s character makes that film special.

This is why I loved I Origins.

Michael Pitt plays a scientist trying to create a human eye from scratch to prove that intelligent design is false. Brit Marling plays his lab partner. Honestly, this really doesn’t matter until the second half of the film, and I’m not going to spoil anything by describing why. The first half of this film is where the money is at. It’s what sets up the emotional gut punch that is delivered at the end. Pitt falls in love with Sofia, heartbreakingly played by Astrid Bergès-Frisbey. Their relationship and where it takes them was masterfully written by Cahill. I cared for these characters. I cared for them a lot. Sofia is this free spirit who may not fall into one religion, but believes in the spirit and soul of human beings. She is the perfect contrast to the scientific ideals of Pitt’s character Ian. Cahill tells their story with passion and great attention to little details in relationships. It also helps that both Pitt and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey had wonderful chemistry and impressed me with their acting.

The second half of the film is more of a mystery that needs to be solved. The premise of the film, that our eyes can be scanned and used almost as fingerprints, doesn’t really get explained too much which is where it probably threw a lot of people off. I didn’t need explanation. It was just enough to get me on board emotionally.

This is why I love films like this. They take a science fiction idea, which more often than not creates a unique environment, and then on comes the feels. Upstream Colour hit me the same way. There will always be room on my film collection for films like this. Like most films I love, I can’t really explain much more than I already have. I Origins is a science fiction film that goes light on the science fiction and really heavy on the ol’ heartstrings. The exploration of humanity and the mysteries that go along with that are what really made me love the film. I highly recommend it.

4.5/5



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Quick Review : Love is Strange (2014)

IMDB Score –
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%

Directed By – Ira Sachs
Starring – John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marissa Tomei, Charlie Tahan, Darren E. Burrows, Cheyenne Jackson, Manny Perez, and Chrstina Kirk

After Ben and George get married, George is fired from his teaching post, forcing them to stay with friends separately while they sell their place and look for cheaper housing — a situation that weighs heavily on all involved.

Today is Easter, and while I’m waiting for a succulent ham to enter my mouth, I’ve got a few words to say about this cute little movie. That’s right, it’s cute. I don’t care.

Love Is Strange is a little indie film from last year from writer/director Ira Sachs. The film features Lithgow and Molina as longtime partners who get married and immediately have their lives uprooted after the marriage. Molina works at a church as a music instructor and gets fired after the church finds out about the marriage, even though they knew of the relationship. This cause them to lose their apartment and have to spend time apart as they stay at their respected family members houses. The distance apart, and the drama at their temporary places of residence tests their love for each other in different ways.

I really liked this. Like I said before, it’s cute. That isn’t to say it’s a bunch of roses and happy endings. The film deals heavily on family, personal art and dreams, and age. Lithgow and Molina at first don’t have much chemistry, but as the film continues, their bond is very apparent. Both actors portray their characters with class and realism instead of stereotypical mannerisms that an older gay man may posses. Think the opposite of Christopher Plummer’s character in “Beginners”. I liked this better. It’s a subtle film that doesn’t put too much on the fact that they are gay, even though it’s basically the whole reason the film exists. The background story dealing with the family of Marissa Tomei’s character was a bit frustrating. The mother, played by Tomei, is a self centered bitch that farts out nice toasts about her uncle, played by Lithgow, and then seems to be annoyed by his existence when he has to stay at their place. The father is always absent or a ghost when present, and the son is a little shit, but young enough to get away with it. Their story is almost as important as the relationship between the two leads. It just pissed me off how much I hated them, especially the mother.

The film is well shot. I’ve been trying to find a still of one of the last scenes of the film were Ben and George are leaving a bar late at night. The streets are empty in what I presume to be the east village in NYC. They live on opposite ends of the city so at an intersection, one goes one way and the other another. The shot is stagnant and pretty as hell. I’ll try to find it and stick in in here. That being said, it’s a wonderfully made film.

It’s totally worth your attention. It’s a small, subtle, and ultimately heartbreaking film about love and what it all entails. Molina and Lithgow are fantastic in it and it’s pretty to look at.

4/5



Film Review : It Follows (2015)

IMDB Score – 7.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 95%

Directed By – David Robert Mitchell
Starring – Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi, Jake Weary, and Daniel Zovatto

A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after getting involved in a sexual confrontation.

*Insert STD joke that everybody seems to be making here*

There. Now that THAT’S over with…

I feel the need in every horror review I write to point out that modern horror movies are hard to do correctly. First off, studios have trouble greenlighting a lot of horror films because the great ones almost HAVE to be rated R and rated R films hurt box office sales. If your film does get on its feet, then it’s got to be pretty unique or else it’s going to come off redundant and stale. As of late, there has been an almost “rebirth” of 80’s style horror/thriller films that take simple premises and make them unique with style, atmosphere, and callbacks to horror classics of the 70s and 80s. Films like Drive, House of the Devil, The Guest, Cabin in the Woods, and The Innkeepers have done unique things with either tired tropes or dated plot devices. Cabin in the Woods did this perfectly and then spun us onto our head with the 3rd act. House of the Devil fully embodied an 80’s slasher flick. The Innkeepers took a typical ghost story and through atmosphere and brilliant camera work, made it unique and special. That being said, I’ll always respect and applaud films that try to do something different, or try to spice up something familiar. It Follows is a film that I respect, am intrigued by, but am left wishing it gave me a little bit more.

The film has a relatively easy premise. Whoever has “it” is followed by people, seemingly random people, and if they are caught, they die. They have to sleep with somebody and then “it” gets passed along to that person and the chain continues. If that person dies, “it” goes back down the chain of teenager sex until nobody is left. The followers only walk, and can’t be seen by anybody else. Off the bat, that’s a creepy premise. We all have been walking home late at night and notice that somebody is walking behind us. Even if that person is harmless, the sense of unease is there. So an entire film based on random people coming for you dead eyed at all hours of the night scares the shit out of me. I was disappointed though, not so much with the film, but rather by own self. You see, I wasn’t scared, not once, throughout the whole film. Save for one scene, I was watching this film no differently than I would watch a Pixar film. I guess the suspense just didn’t grab me or some outside forces from the day just numbed me to being scared but I just honestly wasn’t tense at all. I did however appreciate how one could find this suspenseful. They certainly did a good job keeping the camera flowing at the right places and still at others. There were many 360 pan shots that revealed some horrible thing or a stagnant show with something coming closer in the distance. I liked that. The film is well made. I just didn’t really get it.

Like I alluded to earlier, the film definitely paid tribute to classic films and directors. The score, which was amazing by the way, is straight from Carpenter himself. The night shots and horror scenes look like they were shot by Wes Craven. Hell, I was even reminded of The Shining a couple times when a scene would concludeand I was left scratching my head as to what the hell I just saw.

I think that’s what is eating at me with this film. It’s not as if I didn’t like it. I liked it plenty. I just didn’t get it enough to really love it. It’s a film that could definitely change my opinion of it over time, but I’m just not there yet. It’s flawed. The 3rd act was kind of a let down. There wasn’t a satisfactory end. Ambiguous is fine, but I needed a little bit more from it before it ended, which it abruptly did. There seems to be a lot of underlying themes that have NOTHING TO DO WITH FUCKING STDS that I just can’t seem to grasp. Is the film about relationships? We have Jay, a girl, played by Maika Monroe, running away from “it” while her friend Paul, played by Keir Gilchrist, is only trying to get closer to her. I enjoyed this dynamic. Is the film about the youth of adolescents? Are these kids literally running away from death which is slowly inching its way towards them? Like I said, “it” walks very slow. Whatever the main theme is, it’s not obvious, which both excites me and frustrates me. I like challenging films. I also like to figure things out. I haven’t figured this one out yet.

You should see the film. Why? Maybe you’ll understand it more than I did. If you’re a horror fan and have been waiting for a unique film that hasn’t been done before, then go see it. It’s a stylish film that does something completely different. Michael Meyers may have started the slow walk killer thing, but this film takes it to another level. I’ll always pay to see films like this. I love ambition. I just may not always get it. I need to watch this again.

3.5/5



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 : St. Vincent (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes – 76%

Directed By – Theodore Melfi
Starring – Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Kimberly Quinn, and Terrence Howard

A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door.

There are very few things in life that instill a complete sense of tranquility whenever they’re present. A nice roaring fire on a cold night, a juicy burger and a tall cold beer, a nap during a rainstorm…and Bill Murray.

I love Bill Murray. I know everybody generally loves Bill Murray but I ignore them all and just savor the fact that this man is still making me laugh in movies. Ever since I heard him explain to the mayor of New York that Walter Peck had no dick in Ghostbusters, sarcasm has been a friend. Sometimes it doesn’t go over as well as when Bill uses it. I’ve been in some awkward situations in public situations where my sarcasm has been laid down too strong and prompts me to explain how I’m not really a jerk. Bill never has to do that though. He’s Bill Murray. He’ll always be Bill Murray and nobody else will ever be Bill Murray. That doesn’t make sense. I don’t care.

St. Vincent, a film that I obviously wanted to see ended up being a sweet, cute, very funny film that didn’t do anything special in terms of story of style, but just raked in the smiles from the on screen cast. It reminded me a lot of Chef earlier this year where we have a young actor playing opposite of a more known actor and letting the story kind of run in the background. Sometimes you really just need a relaxing comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s what we have here. Don’t get me wrong, there are some emotional scenes in the film that landed as being sincere. The film tackles divorce and Alzheimer’s pretty seriously but the film never drops into it too long before coming back with a laugh.

Bill Murray was obviously awesome. There was a scene that was in the trailer so I don’t mind talking about it here, involving Bill sitting in a lawn chair while Oliver (Lieberher) mows his dirt. McCarthy asks him if he’s drinking alcohol and we get this long Bill Murray stare and response of “I honesty don’t remember”. I died. I had seen the scene in the trailer but honestly it’s so funny that it surprised me when it happened. Bill turns on and off a Brooklyn accent for the duration of the film and REALLY did a phenomenal job at the end of the film. I won’t say what happens, but I’ll just say it was really a perfect interpretation of what people really go through after such an event. Speaking of accents, Naomi Watts may have done one of the worst accents in the history of film. Her character is Russian and her attempt at the accent is just laughable. She sounds like if Niko Belic and Yakov Smirnoff decided to be a lady. It was horrible. Chris O’Dowd is amazing. I could have watched the scenes with him in the classroom for two hours. The cast was great.

The film was delightful while not being a special snowflake. Does that make sense? It’s like comfort food. Mashed potatoes aren’t special but sometimes they’re the perfect thing. Also, Bill Murray.

3.5/5