Cinema-Maniac: All Is Lost (2013) Review

All Is Lost is about a resourceful sailor who finds himself, despite all efforts to the contrary, staring his mortality in the face of formidable storms at sea. About 150 words (a rough estimation on my part) are ever said in “All Is Lost” and a majority of those words are used wisely in the opening; a narration in which the nameless protagonist writes a letter to someone. Who this person is never is the true question, but rather how to interpret our nameless protagonist letter is. An important question that goes unanswered is a considerable flaw yes given it’s a key moment; however, the writing respects not only its sole character and his natural obstacles, but also the viewer. There’s no half baked back story, no narration, no force messages because it’s a story that does not need it. In the truest form it is a minimalist survival tale that details a man struggle for survival through his actions not words. What we see our protagonist do to survive, how we see him react to his obstacles, and why are convey expertly through actions. Through the protagonist action on his environment we understand his knowledge and through his reactions we understand his attachment to life. Never is a scene simply written, but created as an essential to be able to apply it themes and character’s struggle. What this film does perfectly is give us a character whose compelling to see his journey to the end and open enough apply ourself in his position. In all ways it’s expertly written developing its characters, exploring it themes, and containing multiple interpretations accomplished nearly in complete silent.

Robert Redford delivers a performance for the history books. A role so demanding physically and psychologically to the point that if done wrong collapses the film. So much depends on the audience being able to get inside the sailor’s mind without his needing to vocalize his thoughts. His perpetually weathered skin essaying experience and resourcefulness rather than tiredness and bitterness. Redford, then, needs to use his facial expressions and other means to keep us in the loop. Aside from a few spoken narrative sentences and we see his attitude oscillate between helplessness and determination. Redford is the tent-pole that keeps the film afloat with his battered visage, calm determination, and detachment from existence. From the calm opening shots through to the fragile end, the cinematography is exquisite, painting vistas that excite and threaten life. Shots taken from under the life-raft; schools of fish lyrically darting back and forth among the menacing activity of sharks, moonlight creating the only semblance of light in the inexhaustible darkness actualized the ordeal. The resonance and beauty of the accompanying music and atmospheric sounds of a moaning sound of a craft in distress, falling apart – accompanied by the slapping of the waves which can be both benign and harrowing depending on the weather’s temperament.

All Is Lost is the pinnacle of minimalist filmmaking. A film perfectly in tune that it doesn’t require the basics necessity of an average film to be multilayered and rich in studying its character. Defying traditional narrative conventions “All Is Lost” is an intelligently crafted film that expresses many things by saying very little.

10/10

Advertisements

Cinema-Maniac: The Protector 2 (Tom yum goong 2) (2013) Movie Review

Back in 2003 Tony Jaa (or Panom Yeerum in Thailand) starred in the bone breaking martial film “Ong Bak” becoming an international sensation. Drawing comparisons to many legendary martial artists such as Donnie Yen, Jet Li, and most evidently Jackie Chan. Unlike those he was compared to Tony Jaa success didn’t lead him in the right direction. Every new film Tony Jaa starred in he failed to recapture the quality of “Ong Bak”. His films gradually kept getting worse and dull with the occasional out of place goofy moment (in “Ong Bak 3” Tony Jaa magically gains the power to reverse time). Now with a resume of mostly forgettable films Jaa only guarantee for success is to turn his only original film into a franchise. Copy and pasting have never been so wrong before in a sequel serving as a “Best of Moments” from Jaa previous films.

The Protector 2 sees Kham’s pet elephant has being abducted (again) and he must fight anyone in his way to find him (again). Usually it would take longer for a film plot to not give a damn about the story, but the premise spoils that since it’s the same exact premise from its predecessor. Although unlike its predecessor where there was some essence of story if sloppy had a complete narrative. Not here as quickly as Kham elephant is kidnapped it goes in a hurry to get to the action. Attempting to justify having even less plot this time it throws politics between two warring countries in the beginning of the film which has little relevance in the plot. Around reaching the twenty minute mark you’ll have to endure one giant set piece that last around twelve minutes. This single action scene has Kham fighting motorcycles hooligans on top of a roof and eventually getting chased across the city surviving one over the top scenario after another. If it sounds like I’m skipping on plot details it’s because there is barely any sufficient material for a story. It’s basically a series of excuses for action scenes even if the context is not strong enough to support it. As for characters they remain the same not evolving in any noticeable way. There’s no story to be found here. Just nonstop action in the worst way possible.

Plot has never been a strong point in most of Tony Jaa films (or Thailand action films in general) and the action fares no better either. The main problem being dodgy CG and green screen that stick out. Doggy effects lessen the impact of fight scenes that would have been cooler to seen done in a practical manner. What could have been a highlight seeing Tony Jaa fight in a burning building ends looking like unfinished test footage for a video game. Fight choreography is so so. None of the fight scenes contain a sense of brutality. As oppose to the original where Tony Jaa impressively performed a four minute fight scene in one take in this film there’s no effort to out do that accomplishment. All the fights scenes require the actors to jump around their location like rabbits. Often times resembling a cartoon (there’s a fight scene in a subway in which Jaa’s opponent gets the power to conduct electricity after dipping his shoes in water).

Tony Jaa performance is so so. Not really having to rely much on his acting chops he serves his main purpose of doing stunts and fighting. While it is unnecessary to see him perform a stunt in first person view Jaa certainly knows how to stage a stunt. As for his fighting it remains simple though he moves quickly as always has showcasing impressive physical abilities. JeeJa Yanin suffers the same fate as Jaa. Although Yanin has proven she can act her role here only requires her to fight, fight, shout, and fight. Actually she spends most of the film getting beaten up by baddies until the finale. Petchtai Wongkamlao (who seriously has appeared in most of Jaa films) serves the same purpose in comedy relief. Once again due to the nature of the script Wongkamlao doesn’t get many moments to do comedy, but at least he has plenty of dramatic scenes which are wasted too. Marrese Crump only job is to look mad and fight not requiring to do much. RZA on the other hand attempts to act though he never sells a single line. He never gets into his character nor is the allusion of him being an actor disappears.

The Protector 2 provides more of the same thin plot rushing to get to its many overabundant action scenes. Unlike the original it doesn’t contain anything as memorable leaving you with an action film if seen even with no brain cells is difficult to enjoy the absurdity that occurs. Tony Jaa is a talented man who knows how to fight and no doubt his fans will continue to see him regardless what the quality of the film is. However, Tony Jaa should be taking more risk and attempting something new because if not he’ll end up in the same place as Steven Seagal who to this day uses his same old tired formula.

1/10

Cinema-Maniac: Koroshiya 1 (Ichi the Killer) (2001) Movie Review

Ichi the Killer is a live adaptation of the seinen manga (a subset of manga that is generally targeted at a 15-24 year old male audience) which I haven’t read. This film (like the cannibal genre) came to my attention through extensive reading on controversial films. Capturing my attention for being known to be heavily edited in several countries because of its depiction of violence. The controversy warrant towards “Ichi the Killer” is debatable given the whole film is comically over the top, but is an interesting odd film even if it is a mess.

Ichi the Killer is about sadomasochistic yakuza enforcer Kakihara searching for his missing boss when he comes across Ichi, a repressed and psychotic killer who may be able to inflict levels of pain that Kakihara has only dreamed of. The general idea plot is easy to track, but the pieces in between are told awkwardly. Pacing is not this film best friend simultaneously providing long scenes that move the plot and poorly establishes a large cast of characters and their background. While the main character of Kakihara and Ichi have a bizarrely interesting personality secondary characters leave plenty to be desire when the only two interesting character aren’t on screen. With the exception of one secondary characters bridging the plot most of them present something and then disappear leaving viewer interpretation to fill the blank. Given the nature of the film to be comical the acts of the yakuza and the anti-hero might not end up being a laughing matter to some. Instead of playing things for laugh in self awareness it play things over the top. One of those of moments being the anti-hero killing a rapist, leading to a misunderstanding in which he tells the woman he just saved to beat her up instead of her husband, and ending in a bloody result. Dark comedy is tricky to pull off and in this there are situations in which a dark moment can easily be mistaken for crucial drama. Where it suffers most is the climax which overstays its welcome. While narratively interesting it’s not strong enough to support itself making the final stretch of the film hard to sit through. Here’s a story whose tone, humor, and commentary no less provide a series of good and bad feelings that makes the journey interesting to see unfold.

Takashi Miike direction is comparable to Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers”. The beginning of “Ichi the Killer” employs a lot of extended cinematographic techniques in rapid succession ala Oliver Stone–different film speeds, stocks, tinting and processing methods, and so on. While these are interesting, Miike forgets about them quickly as he works his way into the story. They pop up occasionally later in the film, as do a couple shots in the vein of Dario Argento, such as a tracking shot through someone’s ear. Both also aimed to view violence in a sophisticated way; however, whereas “Natural Born Killers” intentions were clear in its discussion of glamorize and commercialism of violence “Ichi the Killer” is the confused little brother unsure on how make his statement. Miike establishes scenes with stoic emotions. For example, in the beginning of the film Ichi sees a woman getting rape and does nothing about it. Similar scenes are done throughout the film that demand the viewer to input their interpretation of the scene. Interpretations and reaction will differ, but the substance to work on by itself is not evident. Asking the audience to fill in too much giving the film an artificial feel to it. Not everything feels like it belongs for every gory scene there will an out of nowhere comedy that challenges what the last scene was attempting to do. Style and narrative is cohesive, but not so much the director intention. Grabbing you when it attempts to say something, but gives up half way through on saying anything at all. Making the film aim inconsistent in whether or not its wants a position in its own purpose.

Tadanobu Asano is brilliant as Kakihara. His performance is charismatic and terrifying, he does a great job of making the role his own. Nao Omori plays Ichi perfectly. Tormented, childish, and merciless all in one scene is a sight to watch. Balancing comedy and drama transitioning smoothly in between tone despite the script failing to do the same. Alien Sun is is good in the way she speaks more than one language in an almost random fashion adding further mystery to this film. Shinya Tsukamoto is also very good as Jijii. His character is unravelled throughout the film and Tsukamoto is very convincing in his portrayal of what turns out to be a very complex character. Gore hounds will be impressed with the practical effects with the gore. There’s a scene early in the film in which Kakihara cuts off his tongue in one shot and another scene when a criminal is hanging on fish hooks while being tortured. Sadly most of the gore appears spontaneously exiting the film quickly, though when there is gore it never fails to deliver a memorable moment.

Ichi the Killer is bizarre, interesting, contains spontaneous gore, and a mess of a film that’s hard to look away from. There’s so many things wrong about enjoying a dark comedy in which people’s death are played for laughs in a stoic direction. Yet there’s hardly many films like it taking an wholly unique to its material that makes it standout. One thing is for certain while the director emotions aren’t clear yours will be on a film that’s rarely like many other.

7/10

Cinema-Maniac: Ninja: Shadow of a Tear (2013) Movie Review

Two years ago I saw the original film simply titled “Ninja” (2009) which had solid action scenes for a low budget film, but that’s where the compliments end. Nearly any film with the titled “Ninja” is guaranteed to be awful. Either being ninjas are difficult to modernized or most of the ninja titled films tend to go in a downward spiral in their writing. “Ninja: Shadow of A Tear” is one of the better ninja movies while its simple plot won’t amaze a good pacing prevents the action from becoming tiresome and a better direction elevates the production sides.

Ninja: Shadow of A Tear tells a basic story about Ninjitsu master Casey out for revenge when his pregnant wife is murdered. As action movies goes it’s as straightforward as it could be. Wasting little time on character development, building up the villain (an evil drug lord no less), or challenging the character’s morals. All of which is done in a hasty matter to advance the familiar plot threads if spend too much time on would have lead to boredom. Benefiting it’s clear rehashing of plot points is good pacing. Being simple enough to follow spacing the action enough for it not to become tiresome. Allowing enough room to setup the many action scenes it has in a somewhat justifiable manner the serves the plot some purpose. In terms of characters it’s filled with stock characters from the lone wolf hero, Indian accent taxi driver, the former rival, and the classical last minute villain switcheroo. The same rule also applies to the scenarios the hero is put in. You’ll know the hero will fight behind a bar, get tortured, escape from a prison, go looking for hidden military base in a forest, eventually kill drug lord soldiers, and the rest action genre veteran or not can predict what’ll happen next. Resembling a setup more fitting for a video game the plot won’t stick to mind in any form, but if it does anything correctly aside from pacing is working towards the production team strength.

Scott Adkins as an actor has little range, but thanks to the script he’s mostly required to be angry, focused, and leave his martial art do the talking. Adkins just like in the previous film is a solid fighter who knows how to perform a good fight. He’s agile that his fight scenes are fast performing elaborate moves that shows his skills even while wearing a Ninja suit. This being a Adkins film vehicle he’s merely here to show off his fighting abilities. The cast are adequate to not ruin the film. Being aware of what roles they’re playing the cast do what is required in them. Director Isaac Florentine knows how to frame an action scene and puts a bigger budget to better use. Unlike it’s predecessor this sequel has night scenes that actually look like they take place at night. Also a plus is the non use of shaking cam during action scenes. Everything on the production side is as solid as it could be delivery the goods in satisfying results. Much like the story nothing will inherently stand out, but the commitment from the production team to strive for better is clear.

Ninja: Shadow of A Tear is an enjoyable brainless action film and not as bad as it could have been for a film that went straight to DVD. The plot is typical and simple, but is a complemented by good pacing, solid action scenes on a low budget, and solid production values. For a film with “Ninja” in the title they’re certainly worst out there, but few ninja films are as watchable even with your brain turned off.

6/10

Cinema-Maniac: House on the Edge of the Park (La casa sperduta nel parco) (1980)

Ruggero Deodato name will forever live in infamy in the horror genre. Stirring outrage and countless debates with his most influential film “Cannibal Holocaust”. Challenging audiences stomachs on it contents becoming a film where someone else thoughts on the film won’t tell you if you’ll like it or not. “House on the Edge of the Park” comes across as the polar opposite being insultingly boring with a twist ending that attempts to justify the lack of characters, nonexistent narrative pretext or context, and nothing validating it should even exist.

House on the Edge of the Park is about two lowlife punks inviting themselves to a party holding everybody there hostage. Beginning the first two minute of the film with a rape scene is manipulative. For starter the film tells us nothing about the rapist, nothing about his victim, nor even establishes our location in the story. Since we know nothing about the rapist we immediately must hate him because the first thing we see him do in the film is rape an innocent woman. This opening is cheap solely created to make this character despicable. The rest of the film is constructed in similar fashion. Characters are introduced with an intent to be innocent, to be unlikable, and downright questionable. It’s plot is so thin I’m having a hard time thinking of an object thinner than the plot to compare it too. Characters do not receive basic development, only have one characteristic, and a singular purpose in the story. We don’t receive a single character instead we get artificial beings more intent to fulfill a mundane function. Carrying over with tropes from the horror genre there dumb character choices, opportunity to escape that aren’t taken, villains despite causing a ruckus does not cause any suspicion to neighbors, and the final nail a twist that downgrades already bad material. All the while nothing in the plot is ever elevated. Becoming even more underwhelming with each passing minute.

The clear intention of the film is to disturb the viewers, but with abysmal writing that intention is never realized. With nothing to latch on to the actors don’t earn any sort of sympathy or hatred. How could David Hess come off as menacing when being force to utter dated phrases like a “It’s too late to boogie” is the we most ever learn about him. Also working against him is the fact the film tells very little and what it does tell us is made up on the spot. Leading to David Hess to awkwardly transition from playing a creepy nice guy too clumsily impersonating what acting is. Having nothing work with regardless what the actors do nothing is convey across aside from pure boredom. Music is used to play a theme what the rapist that what he’s doing is seen as innocent in his eyes. In a much better movie this is would come across as a disturbing insight, but here it feel tacked on even though it clearly not.

House on the Edge of the Park is more thinly plotted than air itself, contains horrendous acting, and a sense of astonishing loathe from gaining nothing from it. It’s neither thought provoking, disturbing, competently made, but it is a piece of filmmaking that’s easy to avoid.

0/10

SPOILER: The Film’s Twist

After enduring around an hour and twenty minute of thin plotting the film finally reveals the twist. Apparently one of the party member made the party as a setup in order to kill his sister rapist to pass it off to the police as self defense. This brings to mind several questions that are never answered. Like if the mastermind knows the identity of his sister rapist how come the rapist doesn’t face any sort of consequence? Did the mastermind sister not tell the police she was raped? If so, why not? How in the world did the mastermind discover his sister rapist location? In what way did the mastermind convince his friends to go along with his plan? All of these questions and more are to be left a mystery.

Cinema-Maniac: Sunday School Musical (2008) Movie Reviews

Sunday School Musical is about a soulful African American singer-dancer who brings life to straightlaced, slightly off-key white choir. Containing an abundant amount of cliches you’ll know everything that will happen without devoting all your attention to it. Something the film does poorly is understanding the idea of conflict. Every conflict introduced is dealt nonchalantly fixed easily within minutes or within the same scene. Even the major conflict of Zach (the film’s protagonist) not being able to sing at his Church is unintentionally resolved eliminating the film reason to have a plot. At the start of the film we learn that Zach’s mother lost her job and the entire family has to move with their aunt on the other side of town. Now according to dialogue within the same scene that would be forty five minutes away. Forty five minutes that Zach would spent to get back to the same side of town just to pout on a roof and makes frequent return to this one roof where apparently all the hip Church choir singers go to hang out. Creating a film that has nothing going for it. All that’s left is a serie of tire cliches (two opposing team working together in the finals, shoehorned in testaments, and the results of who wins). With no real conflict the characters have nothing to learn from, nothing to conquer, and nothing that to make them rounded characters. Blinded by constructing a series of bad narrative choices the film’s has an unintended undertone message that the blacker you are the better you are at singing. It comes across that way as in the beginning of the film a white choir doesn’t improve until Zach joins the team making them better and the reigning champions is an all black choir. Intentional or not the film seems to be unable to do anything correctly even doing the most basic of story elements correctly is too difficult for it.

Now like all musicals the songs themselves are just as important as how they are incorporated into the film. Music is prominent in the beginning of the film only to mess up its own pacing going long duration without a musical number. Songs in “Sunday School Musical” have less depth than the most generic pop songs. Lazily written the songs meaning are easy to grasps, but never come across with the intended purpose. One song titled “You’re Not the Boss” is literally about two characters singing about who’s more annoying. Singing the following hurtful insults “If I play the piano louder than they’ll never hear a thing.”, “You’re the not boss. A high school superstar.”, “We need more talent if want to compete”, and my favorite one “Zach can crack a egg and make swell pie.”. These lyrics alone out of context are goofy, but together in a single song it becomes painful to listen. All the songs in the film suffer from the same rhythms of problems. The lyricist of these songs I’m convinced and you will too after listening to a single track know nothing about music. Easily the worst song titled “In My Shoes” best embodies everything that is musically wrong about the musical aspect. Being a self proclaim “Maniac” I was crazy enough to listen to it multiple times to include a partial outline of the song in my review. So after Zach explains to his friend Savannah situation that led him to moving to the other side of town the followings lines of text are sang. Now tell me if these sound like good people.

Zach: ♫Hold up one minute! Do you think I want it this way? Gotta leave my friends. Dis my plan. Pack and move away. I thought that you would hold me down. I see now it’s all about you. OHOHOHO!♫

Savannah: ♫Wait, wait, wait a second boy. You’re not going to turn this around on me. When you’re the one skipping town. Right before we finally get the chance to go to state. Guess that ain’t important to you? Oh boy.♫

Zach: ♫If you really cared than you wouldn’t talk that way.♫

Savannah: ♫And if you didn’t want to leave than you would to stay.♫

Unable to overcome its low budget restraints everything ends up looking cheap. The school Zach attends are empty that one could have easily mistaken the film to have taken place post apocalypse. Choreography is limited to the location as actors will mostly move around in circles in the same location. Performing dance moves that have been done a million times. Acting leaves plenty to be desire since the actors have no personality they come across as unlikable. Delivery every lines in monotone voice. The line delivery in this film is more lifeless than a cemetery. As for the Christian elements of the film they are all shoehorned in. Christianity is hardly discuss in the film nor are its belief ever touch upon. As an audience we never understand the reason for behind the characters choosing this religion. The most Christian this film gets is with the forced Bible quotes.

Sunday School Musical has nothing for the audience its trying to appeal for. The songs are lazily written quickly forgotten from your thoughts once they end, the actors lack personality with mediocre performances, and there’s hardly any kind of Christian content in the film. It’s a cheap cash grab that while laughably bad at times only encourages viewer to stop watching. Ending up bad song that loops for ninety mintues.

1/10

Cinema-Maniac: Osombie (2012) Movie Review

Action movies overuse terrorists and horror movies overuse zombies for various of reasons. Both archetype can not guarantee whether or not the quality of a story will be good, but gives a good indication of what to expect when they come into play. The violent nature, the scale of danger, and the heroes developing methods to defeat their foes. It’s high body count of victim also equals the numbers of flaws and yawns the audience might give to the film.

Osombie is about NATO special forces on a secret assignment to…find the plot. Within the first twelve minutes the plot already puts off some immediate red flags. Starting off with the assassination of Osama Bin Laden is acceptable, but the film depiction is historically inaccurate. According to the film apparently Navy Seals are experts on zombie killing, Osama Bin Laden kept pet zombies to kill intruders, and created a serum that would resurrect him back into zombie form. Though the film is fictional the liberty taken with Osama Bin Laden assassination don’t amount to much instead of infecting the US Osama Bin Zombie somehow swims back to Pakistan after killing a couple on a beach. That is later followed up with the introduction of our NATO special forces. At first glance the group has personality making the most killing Pakistani zombies only to go downhill quickly. Immediately after being introduce to the NATO special forces the film plays up a character death with overly heavy dramatic music. Unlike the characters, as a viewer this scene should have been saved in the second act to come across more strongly instead of a throwaway plot device. Within these twelve minutes the film has a rocky start only to reach the destination in worse condition than it began.

Each character personality is copy and pasted among the NATO special forces. All are a little comedic, all spout out expositions, all have weak characterization, and everyone of them is idiotic. Forget about serving the country what these NATO special forces needed was better training. It’s hilarious that a character who’s an ordinary man (whose perk allows him to be explosion resistant) thanks Call of Duty for his proficiency in armed combat has better aiming than the NATO special forces. From combat maneuvers the NATO operatives are unaware of their surrounding that every other battle scenario results in a death no longer shocking them. More questionable is not carrying a melee weapon of any sort. The only woman on the NATO special forces has the right idea bringing a sword to not only carry out quiet kills, but also a back up when ammo run up dry. This decision is made more questionable when the NATO special forces clearly know of the zombies existence (yes the 9/11 attack and government is needlessly involved in this too). Even falling into the zombie plot device trap of splitting up into groups. Leaving you speechless that a character who fight zombies with his shirt off survives longer than someone with proper equipment. I feel sorry for this fictional America in “Osombie”. I would never trust these clowns with my own life yet if these clowns are the best we have serving than America is doomed.

Director John Lyde works on a low budget and does impress in some areas. His shot position was that of an expert able make little appear as grander than it actually is. Zombies carnage is in huge supplies as well as some decent practical gore effects. These effects could be taken for granted whenever blood spurts out from a gunshot it’s in CG and the shoddy CG is made more evident when in the last minutes with plastic looking air vehicles. Acting leaves plenty to be desired, though that’s mostly from a poor script. Most of the performances are monotone and much like the characters personality the performances are copy and pasted. Paul D. Hunt being the exception with his charismatic persona on the stale material. Giving a scene a comedic value even if it’s unintentional (one of his jokes is so bad it made zombies appear). Now the biggest strike against film is the editing by Airk Thaughbaer and Kurt Hale. There’s several occasion when a gunshot or sword slashing off screen would drown out conversations making it difficult to listen to even the most basic of conversations. Another issue with the editing is the usage of music being bombastic. Some scenes would have left a bigger impression without hard rock music playing. Taking the fun of seeing zombies murder is also by the power of terrible, terrible editing.

Osombie provides a huge body count at the cost of competent editing making a bad movie harder to watch. Like the zombie terrorist themselves whatever life the script could have taken is beaten to the floor with poor characterization, editing that drown out what the actors are saying, and the utter lifeless essence of providing anything resembling joy. Infuriating the viewer instead of providing some dumb fun escapism.

1/10

Cinema-Maniac: Celluloid (2013) Movie Review

History and time are bound to lose or completely forget important pieces and people that had a hand in a major contribution. That sad truth also applies to films; for every classic film enthusiast know about, there is bound to dozens of hidden gems just as good or even superior that don’t share th-e same spotlight. In the case of “Celluloid” it’s a person by the name of J.C. Daniels who name was almost to history. J.C. Daniel life story is not a story that will fascinate film enthusiasts, but one that shares the passion for films as much the audience does.

Celluloid tells the story of J C Daniel, who made the first ever Malayalam film ‘Vigathakumaran’ in 1928, resulting in his exile and eventual downfall. Its linear narrative structure spends the first half chronicling the production of “Vigathakumaran” while the second half chronicles the aftermath of the film’s production. Tonally the two halves could have created an uneven shift, but is well handled that the tonal shift is not jarring. Its usage of humor in the first half is subtle always being the background while the true heart of the crew behind the film is on the forefront. You’ll get a detailed depiction of the film’s production and its aftermath alongside knowing the people who made it and their struggles during production. It’s as much a film about the making of “Vigathakumaran” as much as it is about life itself. Themes such as chasing difficult dreams, facing class discrimination, losing yourself in your art, your passion destroying you, and many relatable themes that are easy to connect with. The film never paints the film crew as ever being significant themselves, but seen as average people like the common film lover. Liking them for their passion and good spirit. As a standalone film it could be seen as a film about chasing dreams and as a biopic teaches the uninitiated about the “Father of Malayalam Cinema”. J.C. Daniel story is one film lovers will easily get behind. You have an youngster burning passion for the art of filmmaking wanting to make a film. His journey is fun, inspiring, and tragic. Much like a great film J.C. Daniel story becomes more than a film to watch and more of a reflection one’s similar passion towards their dreams filled with well developed characters and story that’s easy to identify with resonating to film lovers on a personal level.

Prithviraj Sukumaran comes up with a stupendous performance as the young and ambitious Daniel as well as the old, ailing and resigned version in later years. Looking and behaving like the actual J.C. Daniel capturing the psychological turmoil that Daniel goes through in the later years of his life with great competence. Mamta Mohandas, who essays the role of Daniel’s wife, gives a fine performance as the supportive and later suffering better-half. The innocence that spurts out of the corner of her lips as they stretch into a hesitant smile defines the person that Rosie must have been; unimaginably daring and yet immensely terrified. Sreejith Ravi and Century Jayaraj give commendable support as Daniel’s friends who aid him in making his dream come true. Chandni gives a stunning performance filled with naiveté, excitement, anxiety and genuine curiosity for this never-before-seen phenomenon called Cinema. Her innocence and wonder at her new surroundings practically leaps off the screen. Venu’s cinematography and art-direction by Suresh Kollam contribute a lot towards recreating the past in the best of manners. Editing by Rajagopal is also good. Anyhow, it’s the cinematography and the art-work that require special mention taking back into the audience back to Travancore of the late 1920s and late 1960s, thanks to the able support rendered by all technicians involved. M Jayachandran has come out with music that gives us an old-time feel. There may be some who’d vouch against songs in a bio-pic like this; but there is no point denying the fact that the songs do add to the appeal of the film as a popular and commercial venture that don’t hamper the flow in any way.

Celluloid is a passionate film about the art of filmmaking and a reminder how it could be a lost treasure. Touching upon the importance of preserving a film no matter if the majority hate it and giving respect to those who deserve it. It’s a film that will make you laugh, that will inspired, make you sad, and give a sense of accomplishment that an important figure wasn’t a mere footnote in history. No matter how insignificant his impact is known to the world the same could be apply us. However small our influence is those inspired by us will leave a big impact to strive for better things.

10/10

Cinema-Maniac: Fruitvale Station (2013) Movie Review

“Based on a true story” is not a reliable label for film in authenticity when it comes to the facts of any true story. Either over dramatizing or fictionalizing events in order to fit the framework of a film and get across whatever goal is set out for it. With this film essentially get what you get. A simple story that doesn’t delve too much in the person of interest life for dramatic purposes instead getting to know the person as a common everyday individual. Sure that doesn’t sound like allot to care for, but in reality sometimes you don’t need allot to go on for a true story to leave an impact.

Fruitvale Station tells the purportedly true story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008. Characterization in any film is essential none more so than in biopics with a heavy empathizes of getting to know the person we’re following. Going against the norm of developing protagonist Oscar Grant III beyond what we’re given. It spends little time exploring his past focusing on what Grant was like on a daily basis. Traditionally a lack of character development would be a narrative drawback especially from someone who dissects the plot of every film he views, yet here it’s not a drawback. The film remembers Oscar Grant III was an actual person receiving most of his development through his action on his final day. His daily routine, his conversations, his life style, are all things shown as small moments in the film with no hint of any of it being a plot point. Because of how the film open we know where the story is headed thus making these moments powerful we know the outcome to Oscar life story. Becoming a tragedy that he’ll never be able to experience his routine like the ones we have of our own. Taking culture out of the picture and what you’re left with is a common individual. Not more so evident to remove itself from the common train of thought than once again through Oscar action. On the outside a Hollywood film would have immediately made Oscar Grant a hoodlum by way he dressed instead of his personality. By doing so the story aims out to defeat not just a label put on Oscar, but also remove idea that Oscar was extraordinary in any way. What comes across is nothing extraordinary, nothing dramatically heavy, nor even a traditional film narrative in that sense, but a day in the life of a regular person who like of all us can lose it at any time and the tragedy behind that.

Michael B. Jordan plays Oscar Grant III with the true humanity and power necessary to make a character like this work. Jordan switch from sensitive father to hardened thug seamlessly. He is a layered soul in this film, on one hand a convict and a known offender, but on the other, a true human spirit, sometimes immature, sometimes contradictory, but invaluably loving and compassionate to his friends and family. Director Ryan Coogler makes Fruitvale Station more than a film or a basic dramatization, but an event in itself. He doesn’t sensationalize any particular aspect. Coogler’s maturity accentuates as he doesn’t make the accusation that Grant’s death was racial in any way. He leaves that up to us to decide. Yes, Oscar and his friends are black, and racial profiling certainly may have played a part in what happened. But the movie doesn’t exploit America’s racial tension. There are characters that deal drugs, but they aren’t depicted as violent, greedy thugs. Some are characters that are single mothers, but they aren’t bitter welfare queens whose lives are crumbling around them. Most of the scenes are captured as if the viewer is a voyeur, or a fly-on-the-wall, the scenes at the train station take on a special kind of observant focus. We are almost a passenger on this train, in an unblinking, but often foggy and unfocused view of a situation that gets out of hand and ends with a senseless death of an innocent man.

Fruitvale Station is a masterfully crafted biopic that while not as in depth as some might hope it to be gets across the person of interest as a common person and removing the culture from the equation. It’s a film that shows the true essence of enjoying the routine that is our life. In any tragedy sometimes all we get to know about a person is through a couple of sentences sending across a series of emotions. As simple as it might be its understanding on people transcends beyond its small scope.

10/10

Cinema-Maniac: I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle (1989) Movie Review

Looking through my countless review drafts I notice I’ve seen too many good movies recently (mostly ones I would award 100% to). In hindsight that doesn’t like a problem of any sort, except for as much as I love to write about good movies there’s only so many praises I could give out before repeating myself like a heavily cliche film. Thus with a title like “I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle” do you really need any other reason to see it? No and sadly it’s goofy nature is what ends up killing itself in the end.

I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle loose narrative is about an evil spirit inhabiting a motorcycle for vengeance on the bikers that killed his fellow vampires. First and foremost the opening of the film gives no context for the bikers murdering vampires. Much like the writers of the script things just happened in the film just because they can. Protagonist dreams about getting killed by his own talking feces is one notable example. Nothing about the narrative feels connected as comedy overtakes the horror elements that the film was so eager to mix together. Emphasis on comedy is done poorly as the script demands you give up three things; 1.) continuity in plot , 2.) your brain to oversee it flaws, and 3.) interesting characters. Shutting off your brain is easy, but difficult while viewing the film. Plot points created on the spot contradict earlier scenes logic (like never explaining if a vampire motorcycle runs on blood, oil, or both). Characters are nothing more than archetypes not committing an single word for a variation on the archetype. An annoying girlfriend who does little in the story, a priest who performs an exorcism on a possessed motorcycle and gets crucified (no doubt a secret metaphor that represent the writers desire to be forgiven for their sins for creating such as travesty), the best friend that’s murder (don’t worry, his best friend doesn’t care either), the incompetent cop, and vampires weaknesses. These are some of the elements that are chosen only for the approach to be straightforward comedy. Problem being that a comedic situation is given a horror treatment. Since the characters goofy nature imbalances the horror tone and without a care for death there’s no fun when a killer motorcycles goes on screen. Treating it nothing more than a everyday occurrence.

As for the true horror side of the film it’s uninspired. Creativity is lacking for a film titled “I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle” when it comes to its kills. Severely decapitating most of his victims heads is tiresome, although the gore effect are adequate in small numbers. Adding to the tedium are when its victims are given large windows of time to avoid death. Not only are most of the death easily avoidable, but most of his victims aren’t important to the plot. One of the best aspect about horror is fearing which character might die. Here it’s made abundantly clear which main characters live. Painfully moving at a high velocity for of four miles per hour is a lack of speed. Everything in the film is slow from actors performing physical movements even spoken dialogue is done slowly (especially in delivering its punchline). Don’t worry about the bad dialogue as the sound editing is even worse. Music tracks play on way to long, vehicles sound are compress or at times sound like a train, and whenever an actor is talking background noise can drown them out. Everything from the look, the editing, the acting, and the poor writing are scream cheap. Unlike some films were a cheap look can add to the appeal in this case it serves only to further to highlight everything wrong with it. Deciding to do nothing with its premise including having fun with its goofy concept.

I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle bad comedy overshadows uninspired horror elements. Mixing both of the horror genres negative aspects (logic gap, continuity, desire for heroes deaths) and bad comedy (nothing ever becomes of anything, no characters cares anything, a single trait reused as jokes) that you’ll be left without a laugh or scare.

2/10