6/20/2016

Film Movement DVD Review: Second Coming (2014)


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A big believer in stream-of-consciousness storytelling, director David Lynch once likened his creative process to sitting in a chair and going fishing in his mind.

And although the latest release from Film Movement is easier to follow than Lynch’s Inland Empire, within the first half of Second Coming, it became obvious to this reviewer that Lynch just might have a potential fishing buddy in acclaimed British playwright and fellow visual thinker Debbie Tucker Green.

Leaving vital pieces of information out of the script and drifting in and out of Second's scenes mid-conversation without explanation, Green opts to reveal things to the audience indirectly. Treating us more like eavesdroppers than participants, the director's fly-on-the-wall approach enables us to identify even more to adolescent boy in the film (played by Kai Francis Lewis) who’s trying to decipher what it is that’s going on right along with the viewer.


It’s a great idea in theory and I applaud the way that she respects our intelligence enough to piece together the circumstances surrounding the seemingly biologically impossible pregnancy of the movie’s matriarch rather than spoon feed us with unrealistic, exposition filled dialogue.

However, Green’s mind-boggling decision to clue us in through everyday conversation where the audio is often mumbled and/or parts of exchanges are drowned out over dinner makes it much more challenging than it needed to be.

Suffice it to say, Second Coming is a far cry from the dialogue drenched feature debuts of most playwrights who have struggled to adapt to the “show me” medium of cinema.


With so much kept off the page, out of frame, and on the cutting room floor, the film’s veteran leads (Nadine Marshall and Idris Elba) do what they can with what’s written to try and fully flesh out their roles in passionate turns that – much like the film’s gorgeous visuals from cinematographer Urszula Pontikos – do much to enhance the often maddening experience.

A Sirkian kitchen sink drama given the Resnais Marienbad treatment, Green’s Second Coming marks an admirable if ultimately uneven attempt to blend the rich fantasy of magical realism with the harshness of contemporary neorealism.

Unfortunately while it’s full of symbolic, allegoric, and intellectual potential, the film never fully comes together as something beyond an exercise in experimental filmmaking or a David Lynch style fishing trip.

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Text ©2016, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.

Movie Review: Alienated (2015)


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It's Close Encounters of the Marital Kind in this, the second feature film from Uptown writer/director Brian Ackley.

After setting the stage for science fiction in a bravura opening that consists of eerie music, startling sketches, and what we believe is a U.F.O. sighting, Alienated buries the lead until the last act of the movie by transitioning instead into a claustrophobic relationship drama better suited to stage than screen.


A popular indie hybrid over the past few years in films like Enemy, Under the Skin, and The One I Love, while there's obvious potential in the juxtaposition of genres and using the idea of a U.F.O. to make a worthwhile metaphorical statement about romantic alienation, unfortunately this time around, it's stronger in theory than execution.

Heavily influenced by Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and heavily consisting of fights that play out in various rooms of a young couple's two-story home over various nights, Alienated is anchored by the award-winning performances of actors George Katt and Jen Burry as a self-centered artist and his long-suffering wife.

Adding authenticity to this chronicle of what mathematically (and thematically) amounts to one hell of a seven year itch between the unhappy couple, the rich, lived-in turns of the actors help bring Alienated back down to Earth when it ping-pongs awkwardly from its dominant mode of Cassavetes style realism to Shyamalan-like New Age.


However even the cast can't save the film from an ending that seems to belong to an entirely different draft of the script or the decision to incorporate a stereotypical blind character with the ability to "see" into the soul of Alienated's insufferable lead.

An ambitious experiment to link and filter a War of the Worlds style narrative through a war between a married couple, even though Alienated winds up feeling like a war of too many ideas, at least we know we can count on Ackley to try and bring something genuinely new and different to the screen.   


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Text ©2016, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.

6/03/2016

Movie Review: High Strung (2016)





  
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Having arrived in New York to pursue their passions, a brooding British violinist and beautiful ballet student learn to face the music and dance over the course of this pleasant if admittedly predictable Fame meets Once style musical romance.

Named Ruby after a Balanchine ballet and seemingly destined for a life on the stage, in High Strung, Keenan Kampa’s first year Manhattan Conservatory of the Arts student struggles to dance with her heart instead of her head – similar to the way that Nicholas Galitzine’s busking violinist Johnnie does while composing by ear with the world as his muse.

 

Nonetheless believing that “dancers dancer no matter what,” once the two cross paths in the midst of a robbery that finds Johnnie’s beloved grandfather’s violin stolen, Ruby is more determined than ever before to follow her heart and make things right.

After some early push-and-pull which is vividly brought to life in a terrific tango sequence that gives the film a much-needed shot of adrenaline, Ruby joins forces with the initially reluctant musician to compete for a prize that could pave the way to both of their dreams.

 

While fans of the well-tread genre know precisely where the film and its characters are headed, fortunately for director Michael Damien (who penned High Strung alongside wife Janeen Damian), few audiences are as loyal or forgiving of flaws as song and dance movie devotee, as this fan can personally attest.

Hindered by blandly written characters and (everything but the dance numbers) by-the-numbers dance picture predictability, although the film’s otherwise talented leads don’t exactly set the screen ablaze with their less than fiery chemistry, the affable cast never fails to give it their all.

 

Shining its brightest when High Strung’s musical performances take Center Stage, the high in energy yet low in originality movie manages to distract us from the inevitably triumphant conclusion with Viorel Sergovici’s lush cinematography, Nathan Lanier’s stellar score, and Dave Scott’s innovative choreography.

Having graduated to features after helming a series of memorable TV movies and direct-to-disc hits (including a few terrific Flicka sequels), High Strung marks an admirably ambitious undertaking by director Michael Damian.

A refreshingly clean spin on Dirty Dancing-like material safe for the High School Musical or Teen Beach Movie set, while perhaps it’s only mildly successful in its own right, High Strung will undoubtedly to appeal to genre lovers eager to Step Up for another opportunity to Save the Last Dance.

   

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Text ©2016, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.

DVD Review: The Entity (2015)


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While a feature length running time of eighty minutes is short by anyone’s standards, in the case of The Entity, eighty minutes is still far too long.

Although it’s not to be confused with the 1983 Barbra Hershey starrer of the same name from director Sidney J. Furie (that Martin Scorsese famously listed as one of the scariest films ever made), much like the earlier Entity, this Peruvian import is also said to have found its inspiration in true tales.

Taking a much looser approach to the facts, the film – which marks Peru’s first foray into 3D horror filmmaking – has been unceremoniously released onto two-dimensional DVD in the states nearly a year after making its festival debut at London’s Film4 FrightFest.

A lackluster cross between The Ring and any number of found footage features that have hit screens in the United States or abroad since The Blair Witch Project premiered more than fifteen years ago, The Entity belongs to that new subgenre of horror movies so predictable that they might as well be dubbed “The Call is Coming From Inside the House.”

As such it’s easy to see precisely where the film within the film about film students (making a film about filmed reactions to other films) is headed after only a handful of scenes.

Practically introducing the film's villain by name during the character's first scene, while it does occasionally feel like a film school project in its own right, to screenwriter Sandro Ventura’s credit, The Entity opens with a screen full of text so eerie and full of untapped potential that you cringe when moments later, everything starts to go spectacularly wrong.

Still it is possible to look past the rubble of 3D intended special effects and messy meandering excess (all of which makes the eighty minute Entity feel twice as long) to see the ghost of a superior chiller hiding in plain sight.

And while we’ll never know if director Eduardo Schuldt’s Entity would’ve been more successful if he and his scripter would’ve ditched the shaky camera documentary approach, the film is at its strongest when it places its narrative emphasis on cursed videos from the dark web.

A chaotically structured picture stretched far beyond its breaking point, The Entity breezes by its promising premise so quickly that – much like the no-frills videos the film’s characters find online  – Peru’s thematically spooky Entity would most likely have been better served as a kickass twenty (or so) minute short.

While undoubtedly made in the hopes of netting Peru its own piece of the internationally successful found footage film pie, unfortunately with so many choices in this oversaturated horror market, most viewers will lose interest long before The Entity reaches the halfway point of its improbably long eighty minute running time.

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Text ©2016, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.