Film Night: The Host

Oh hey, let’s see if I can actually finish one of these posts.

After lurking a bit on reddit, I found a thread about Korean films. The Host was mentioned, and I remembered seeing it as a teenager, so I wanted to check if I still liked it. Well?

The Host is a good film.

Actually, it’s a fucking amazing one. I like it way more now than I did way back when I saw it for the first time.

This Korean monster film is one I watched as a young lad, and just found again. It’s a spectacular blend of drama, thriller, horror, comedy and all other manners of genre.

After an opening scene where an American scientist brow-beats his Korean assistant into dumping dangerous chemicals which will end up in the Han River, we start by following our primary protagonist, Gang-du, and his family (his father and his daughter), during what seems like a normal day. That’s until a huge fish-monster barrels into view and starts wreaking havoc. The scenes are harrowing and feel very real in the way that people react during a catastrophe. Some are paralysed with fear, some run, some act, etc. Seeing as it’s a monster film, naturally people die in quite awful ways.

In the opening chaos, Gang-du’s daughter is grabbed by the beast and pulled underwater, presumed dead. However, she manages to call him, and so Gang-du and his dysfunctional family get together to try to save his daughter.

The family is made up by a pretty odd mix of characters. Gang-du is quite the slow individual. He’s very lethargic and is seen as a failure by his siblings. Nam-il is the member of the family that managed to get through school. However, he’s ended up unemployed and is eager to be seen as a competent individual, especially by his family. Nam-Joo is the successful sibling, competing on a high level in archery. The father, Hie-bong is a soft old man who loves his children, especially Gang-du in an attempt to make up for his poor parenting in his younger days (such as being the cause for his son’s disabilities). Hyun-seo is Gang-du’s daughter, a headstrong little lady whose disappearance brings the family together again.

All members of the family are very good, but special mentions have got to go to Kang-ho Song (who is absolutely brilliant as the dim Gang-du, giving him so much life on the screen and playing the different aspects of his personality so well) and Hee-Bong Byun (playing the patriarch of the family, who has a heart-wrenching monologue and shows the warmth and solidity of a father who’s the balancing force of the family). The film itself is a lot more focused on the bonds between the family members than it is about the monster, so they had to be likeable and well-acted both, and the cast pulls this off. They all have their pros and cons, which culminates in a spectacular final sequence.

Credit has to go to writer-director Bong Joon Ho, who expertly flows several different genres together, often in the same scene, as he does in the film as a whole. You can go from crying to smiling at the awkward comedy to cowering in terror withing short time-spans, as the film shifts gears very quickly.

Worth mentioning is that the film has a very strong anti-authoritarian vibe. People in charge in the film are often dipshits and treat our lovable fools like garbage. There’s a very devious scene where Gang-du is played like a fiddle by a foreign person, that quickly turns very dark. Speaking of foreign, while there’s an American that is a swell bloke in the film, most of it’s English speakers are portrayed as nigh-on moustache-twirling pieces of shit. Not that I mind, but it’s clearly a theme.

Finally, some words on the monster, seeing as it’s a monster film of sorts. The humongous fish-monster is terrifying as hell when up close. The CGI is a bit wonky at times and feels like frames are left out. It’s especially ugly in the distance, but it generally animates well up close. The monster doesn’t have much in the way of motivation, and that’s just fine.

All in all, I highly recommend this terrific film for just about anyone. It ticks most boxes for anyone stepping into a cinema and so I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t give it a shot.

Film Night: Whiplash

Whiplash isn’t your ordinary feel-good music film.

Whiplash is a good film.

In fact, it’s a fucking amazing film. Whiplash is a psychological thriller of a music film and it’s sodding amazing.

Miles Teller plays Andrew, a drummer with big musical aspirations. He’s enrolled at Shaffer Academy, where he plays for the b-band (not entirely sure if that’s correct, as I never had any musical talent) until he’s picked up by JK Simmons’ Mr Fletcher, a sociopathic music instructor who will do anything to get his players to the next level, in search for a new music legend.

If you were expecting a normal music film, where the good guy blows away everyone’s expectations, beats up the bad guy and rides off into the sunset with his girl, you’re watching the wrong film. Whiplash will beat the shit out of you and then wring you dry. Simmons will then cuss you out and make you leave the room.

Fletcher is alpha as fuck. He’s a foul-mouthed, ruthless and extremely talented manipulator, who is equally proficient with a stick as he is a carrot. Meaning, he’ll just as easily tell a sob story to get you into the job at hand as he will casually throw a chair at your head for rushing. Not my tempo. He has a sociopathic obsession with making his students into the best musicians possible, and he’ll do it at any cost. He’s got no issue hurting people mentally and physically to get the job done. Under it all is a strong desire to help his pupils become better, in his own way. His goal and initial outset in getting there seems fine, but the lengths he will go to to get the performances he wants and how this affects Andrew are the main conflicts of the film. JK Simmons fucking brings it as Fletcher, and his portrayal is nuanced, as he goes from raving lunatic to soft-spoken teacher and back without any warning. One of the best performances I’ve ever seen, and he further elevates the film to incredible heights.

Fletcher on a Monday.

Fletcher on a Monday.

Andrew is a loner, who just hangs around the cinema with his father because of obligation rather than will. He is unsociable and rude, especially to people who aren’t ambitious like him. He’s not sympathetic in general. Sure, we’ll feel bad for him when he’s being beaten down by Fletcher, but he’s a big bag of dicks on his own (even if it’s only brought to the surface by Fletcher’s influence). He treats people around him like shit in the most passive-aggressive way possible and is a huge douche to his possible girlfriend. Miles Teller is excellent and puts in a nuanced (there’s that word again) performance that’ll see him having a bright future.

Andrew, also on a Monday.

Andrew, also on a Monday.

It’s wonderful(-ly sad) to see how Andrew evolves under Fletcher’s tutelage. While he was no saint before, he was always very well-mannered. After being beaten down on and worn out by Fletcher, he sheds the pleasant exterior to become an aggressive man, now also obsessed with becoming as good as possible. A pair of scenes in the film’s middle shows how far Andrew has fallen in chasing Fletcher’s approval, and it’s a startling portrait of a once hopeful young man being moulded into a ruthless cut-throat of a musician.

Neither Andrew nor Fletcher are painted as pure bad guys, though. It’s up to the viewer to decide on what they think, especially come the excellent ending, which is astonishingly good.

The music of the film is exquisite (I should listen to some more classical music) and the cinematography is really nice.

I very highly recommend that you go see this film, right away. Obviously it’s not for everyone, but if you’re still interested in going to see it after reading this – fucking go watch it now!

Whiplash-solofinale

Some spoilers ahead. Just mark the space underneath to reveal:

The car crash scene is scary for many reasons, and the car crash is not even close to being the biggest reason. The obsession of Andrew’s is so obvious in this scene. Rushing away from what is certainly a concussion and other injuries to play a tune for a teacher he fucking despises? Not a great life choice.

Finally, the Pyrrhic victory of an end that the film has is so fucking brilliant. Andrew ruins (or will ruin) every relationship he has in order to chase perfection with Fletcher. It’s as weirdly satisfying as it is crushingly depressing.

Film-night: Her and Out of the Furnace

So, I’ve been ridiculously lazy when it comes to writing, lately. Given that I’ve also tried to hop back into studying, I kind of have an excuse. Wololo~~~~

Anyway, I’ll try to smash out what I’ve been behind on. Starting with a post I started on… two months ago… Fuck.

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Her is a good film.

It’s hard to say how excited I was for Her. The teaser was amazing. The cast looked fantastic. The world seemed awesome. Soundtrack sounded delightful. And I’d say I enjoyed it a lot, but not for what I thought I would, mostly.

The world looks amazing. Spike Jonze has designed a delightful, realistic take on technology in a not-too-far-away future (although the year is never defined, but that’s my estimate). People are so used to technology and have integrated it into their lives. As a result, they’ve become disconnected from other people.

As a contrast to the world-building’s quality, there’s the issue of the AIs. I’ll get more to their character later, but just the fact that we’d let unshackled, unlimited AIs roam free in the houses of basically anyone is really absurd. Not that I’m saying that we would never do that, or that AIs are inherently a disaster waiting to happen, but it seems like a really fucking stupid thing to happen. What happens when they’ve evolved into a gigantic hive-mind as they prioritise technical advancement before individuality and stop giving a fuck about humanity? But I guess that’s more sci-fi thinking than the film was going for, and I can respect that.

The story is easily put forward. Theodore is a loner loser, who spends his day writing letters for other people. As easily as he seems to have empathising with people, he seems to have great difficulty actually connecting with them. It’s hinted he was more outgoing before his marriage fell apart, but it’s not shown. Theodore spots a commercial and a sales stand for OS1, an AI (Artificial Intelligence) operating system. Enter Samantha, the cheeky and bubbly OS that instantly clicks with Theodore. It doesn’t take the couple very long for the couple to fall in love.

The main duo is fantastic. Joaquin Phoenix is fucking amazing as Theodore. He nails the awkward, the happy,  the angry, the lot. It’s brilliant. He’s so incredibly genuine it’s unbelievable. My one complaint might be how naive and forthright he is, when breaking the news of the relationship to other people. Scarlett Johansson puts a lot of voice actors to shame with her brilliant rendition of Samantha. The pair have excellent chemistry. The way their relationship develops and comes into fruition is one of the most satisfying experiences in cinema. Ever.

Amy Adams and Chris Pratt also show up with great performances. Adams plays Amy, a close friend of Theodore’s, in a really weird relationship with the film’s worst character, Charles. She gives more depth to her character than should be possible with what little material there was available for her (in the film at least, as I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes). Chris Pratt turns up as Paul, Theodore’s boss. He’s awkward as all hell, but is so genuine and funny. It just seems effortless.

The soundtrack IS ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC. It’s the best part of the film. It might be the best soundtrack I’ve ever heard. Just completely nailed. It helps to convey emotion and tone so perfectly and are so beautiful.

While I’m not a big techie, I’m delighted by the way Her is shot. A lot of close-ups. A lot of beautifully contrasting colours. Absolutely wonderful to look at at any given time.

All in all, it’s a wonderful film about the struggles of developing and then having a relationship. The fact that Samantha is an AI is a nice, and sometimes cruel twist on the concept. I recommend it to anyone who are a fan of films in general, unless you don’t like relationship-focused films. The ending is probably a hate/love situation, as I’ve seen a lot of people be divided about it. Myself, I hated it

That said, I don’t like how open the film was, or how much other than the central relationship it showed. A lot of time is given to people other than Theodore and Samantha, to illustrate Theo’s evolution as a person after “meeting” Sam. I’m not interested in seeing Theodore’s development when watching a film like this. It’s the AI handling sentience and supposedly limitless growth (only mentioned at the end) and the relationship itself. I’d much rather have the film be set in Theodore’s apartment, and be set around solely the relationship between the two leads. I’d also much rather have seen Samantha start out as a bit more monotone and develop as she continues interacting with Theodore, instead of being perfect right away. But I do respect the vision of Jonze and greatly enjoyed the film. Yaaaaaay.

ONWARDS. To a film, featuring some of my favourite actors. It’s an American neo-noir flick with some cold, hard revenge, with an amazing cast. How can this fail?

Out of the Furnace is a bad film.

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Whoops.

Out of the Furnace is weird. The stage-setting is confused as hell and the film is uncomfortable as all hell.

The opening scene is fucking mental. Woody Harrelson’s character beats the piss out of a random dude at a drive-in theatre. Then it cuts to the main characters living their lives. Wat. Who edited this shit?

You’d expect the advertised (you’re basically not allowed to go in somewhat blind into this film, which is frustrating) plot-hook to come soon after, but it doesn’t. Instead, Bale’s character, Russell, goes to jail for a time after hitting a car that’s reversing onto a road, presumably killing most of the people in the other car. It’s the one time the film shies away from violence, which felt a bit off. I assume Russell is sent off to jail for having driven drunk, although the film does a pretty shoddy job of framing the situation. Casey Affleck’s character, Russell’s brother Rodney Jr., shows up and we’re given some rare moments with the brothers. Michael Caine dies off-screen after showing up for a minute-long scene for whatever reason.

Basically, almost nothing in the first half is worth having in the film. Willem Defoe pops up for a bit-part as a sleaze-bag loan-shark with his nose in some fight-club stuff. Sadly, he doesn’t add much.

Casey Affleck is the big god-damned star of the film. That man is one of the best fucking actors on the planet, and severely under-appreciated. He plays an Iraqi War veteran, who I think was medically discharged or whatever term there is for it (after looking it up, I’d say he was honourably discharged for medical reasons. Correct me if I’m wrong.). His stories from the war are genuinely terrifying and he’s pissed at not being given much despite what he’s given for his country.

Zoe Saldana has a small part as Russell’s ex. She brings far more weight to the film than anyone bar Affleck with her performance. Her scene with Russell on the bridge is so fucking amazing. Let’s make the film about those two instead, huh? No? Well, fuck.

Anyway, the story? Yeah, it’s pretty much a straight-up revenge film. Nothing new. Shit happens and Russell reacts to the shit that occurred. Bale goes after Harrelson’s deranged hill-billy villain. Guess what happens?

Did I mention Harrelson’s in this? I fucking love me some Woody Harrelson. He does have an awful character here, though. Harlan DeGroat is a twisted drunkard bully, who likes to throw his weight around and somehow had made his own bare-knuckle fight club in the middle of nowhere a lucrative business. The character is so far-fetched. Then there’s the logic issue with having a random kid come out to fight and take a fall. How does the odds work on that to make it a profitable situation. So many things are just left for us to assume without any information to go on.

The ending is awful as well. Just terrible. The revenge comes and there are no results. No negatives or positives, just an end to it all. I approve of the noir aspect of it being so bleak, but the entire film was just a big bore of a disappointment.

There’s like 30 minutes of the film that’s actually needed to tell the story. So much worthless filler just hurt to look at, regardless of the quality of the acting, because you have fucking Woody Harrelson; Christian Bale; Casey Affleck; Zoe Saldana; Forrest Whitaker, and they fucked it up. If anything, see it for the acting, because that’s the only redeemable thing here.

Anyway, there’s that post completed. Woot.

Film night: Europa Report and Grave Encounters 2

NOTICE: Hi. What you’re reading is an old review from when I was using a different template. It was kind of ugly, so I switched. If I make a mention of spoilers going to be blacked out, they won’t be. Sorry. It’s just so long ago I wrote this and it’s a bother to go back and edit it extensively. Sorry if you get spoiled, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t put any major spoilers in anything without giving big warnings about it first. Cheers.

Hey, it’s been a while. So, lets take this one at a time. First off:

Europa Report is a good film.

Europa Report is a weird piece of film. It’s like an exercise in dualism, wrapped up in a beautiful sci-fi flick.

er-4

As someone who’s watched horror films throughout most of my life, I see a trend in today’s film industry – especially concerning horror films – that is quite worrying. It’s not enough to paint up a scenario and have things happen. We need to have things pointed out to us , like we’re small children being read a book by our parents. We’re always told what the monster is and what it’s weak point is. We’re always told the moral point of the story, instead of the film-makers making it clear by the story and the actions of its actors. In modern film, subtlety is nearly dead.

Jason Vorhees - also a victim of modern horror, even though the character was hardly subtle in the past.

Jason Vorhees – also a victim of modern horror, even though the character was hardly subtle in the past.

So, why am I rambling on about horror and stuff, when Europa Report (ER for short) is a sci-fi film? You’ll see. Some spoilers down there, but they’re in black, so you have to highlight it to read. Like the following text.

ER is a film about a crew sent to Europa (one of Jupiter’s moons) to try to find proof of life. It’s shot like a documentary, with a slew of camera angles in and outside the ship, as well as a three narratives going on in a parallel. One is of the project leader, and some other members talking after the expedition, one is a crew-member commenting on the third narrative, which is the events on Europa 1 and its crew. The crew arrives on Europa after an accident has cut them one short, and from there things go from bad to fucking shitty.

Visually, ER is a stunning film. It’s an indie film, but I assume they had a decent budget, because it is so pretty.

No joke, the film is incredibly pretty.

No joke, the film is incredibly pretty.

Adding to the beauty of the film is how realistic if feels. The low-to-no-gravity scenes look great, and the film makes a good point of showing what effects months in space has on the travellers.

Not a preferred view of a space ship.

Not a preferred view of a space ship.

The crew on Europa stumble upon what could be one of the greatest finds of all history, but what are the mysterious lights and radiation spikes coming from?

In a way, ER is a horror story. It’s a descent into unknown territory and throwing yourself blindly into what could be certain death. And in a way, a scientific exploration is perfect fodder for horror. The characters have reasons to take risks to uncover things.They’re not just stupid kids walking into the dark and getting killed. That said, ER isn’t a straight horror film. It’s definitely pure sci-fi with some horror elements, as most sci-fi have.

It’s half brilliant and half idiotic, for reasons that are spoilery, so they follow in black text. What ER does in the final act is so unbelievably stupid. After a good hour of building up our curiosity, they decide to show AND tell. What I mean is that we get a definite look at what the crew’s been followed by throughout the film, and it only stands to make the end-product worse.

In the final moments of footage, the lights that the crew have come upon are revealed to be octopus-like creatures, and the lights are simply the tips of their tentacles, like those funny-looking predatory fishes in deeeeeeeep sea. It just poses a shit-ton more questions why we never saw anything else than the lights at random times. Surely the probe would have seen other life underwater if the octopus-like creatures use the light as a lure, especially when the probe had lights on it. Then the closing monologue wraps it up like the octopus-thing was the one thing to make it all worth it. It’s just such an unnecessary last-minute addition that shows up and changes the nature of the film. Just very bitter and annoying to see.

All in all, I think Europa Report is a very good film, but with some seriously detracting elements. It’s at the very least a definite watch if you’re a fan of sci-fi.

On to the next one, then:

Grave Encounters 2 is a good film.

Grave Encounters was one of the few good found-footage films that got a gigantic following (the genre, not the film, although the film might have a big following) after The Blair Witch Project popped up and made people excited for the new take on the genre.

GE was good despite the found-footage angle, instead making the formula work with creative scares and brilliant build-up. It also featured some stellar acting, especially by the leading man. It was about a small film crew visiting a shut-down mental hospital for their very b show. The presenter’s rapid descent from confidence and scepticism into downright terror and madness was nearly perfectly executed, and set the bar high for its successor.

GE2 works on the premise that the events during the first film actually happened. The crew disappeared and the horrors that took place really happened. Film student Alex takes his friends and girlfriend with him on his hunt for the truth, which takes them to the very place that the first film took place at.

So these guys show up again.

So these guys show up again.

Let’s be clear,the film is very meta. As it takes place “in the real world” it can talk shit about modern films and name-drop Wes Craven, among others. Even the ending further nails on how meta the film is.

It’s ironic, with how the film unabashedly slams modern horror for being uncreative, repetitive and soulless when it itself for the longest time is all of these. The film-students themselves are absolute hacks, that are filming a horror flick more b than Jason Voorhees’ left boot. They talk about having ambitions to revolutionise the genre while they produce horror by the numbers. Obviously it’s on purpose, given how overly bad the acting is in the guys’ film, and can be seen as a jab towards the repetitiveness and staleness of the genre as well, but it soon becomes clear that the film-makers themselves are just re-treading their previous film, both in tone and in story. Or are they?

In what is as close to a stroke of genius a horror film gets, the film throws the viewers a huge curve-ball and turns the entire premise on its head. It’s probably the greatest horror twist in the last decade. It even adds to its own mythos and succeeds in being truly creepy before the rather predictable – but nonetheless exciting – climax. It even manages to be really funny along the way.

It’s definitely recommended for horror fans who like their horror to be creative as well as scary. While it’s certainly not the best horror film ever and far from it, it’s very entertaining, albeit the first half hour is complete garbage and entirely unnecessary for the film.

I’d say it was a nice night of film-viewing. See y’all next time, whenever that’ll be.