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Rob Carraher
CONTRIBUTOR

Julia Docournau’s feature debut “Raw” has been the subject of film festival controversy despite being received as highly regarded cinema. The horror genre is known for making those with the strongest of stomachs a bit squeamish, but Docournau’s “Raw” takes the gore to a surprisingly new level.

It’s not that such gore hasn’t graced theaters before, but the way that Docournau presents it, allowing for eyes to feast on all its cannibalistic glory. But what separates “Raw” from past cannibal flicks is its desire to place storytelling at the forefront rather than relying simply on shocking images but nothing of substance.

“Raw” opens by introducing Justine (Garance Marillier), a vegetarian teen entering her first year of veterinarian school. The college lifestyle is a dramatic change for Justine as she becomes the target of “rookie” hazing. Her older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), gladly takes part in breaking Justine into her new environment.

When Alexia pressures Justine into eating a rabbit liver as part of the hazing festivities, Justine’s life begins to change. The taste of liver awakens an overbearing satiation to consume even more meat–including human flesh. Justine juggles the responsibilities of being a college student, or lack thereof, with her new-found cravings.

Docournau not only directed but also wrote “Raw.” Her twist on the classic coming of age story and cannibal story creates a familiar yet original approach to the horror genre. Her craft is seasoned to the point where it seems almost impossible to believe this is her first feature film. Very few directors manage to capture the terror of the genre and still land on their feet by the film’s end. Docournau does just that. This is a sign of an aware filmmaker.

One of the high points of “Raw” is the way it handles the theme of lust. In a handful of scenes, Marillier brilliantly personifies lustful emotion. In the context of the film, lustful incorporates more than just sexual desire. In that sense, these scenes become ever more uncomfortable and awkward for viewers, but there is an allure that more than imprisons the mind.

The juxtaposition of this woman-coming out of her shell on a college campus and the engrossing, unexplainable realization of being a cannibal is a work of genius, and a creative way to deliver this sort of content. Neither situation could be very comfortable for the individu-al experiencing such extreme life changes, but once again Marillier brings her very best to the role. Rumpf’s more relaxed portrayal as Alexia helps to contrast the two sisters, and drives the urgency for Justine to understand her new life.

There is certainly an undercurrent being displayed about feminism in Docournau’s construction of “Raw.” As the film comes to a close, it becomes very apparent of such message. It’s not a “in your face” sort of message, and that is what makes it all the more effective. Docournau’s characters are female and strong, and they aren’t trying to be something they are not. It is very difficult to walk away and not be enamored with Justine and Alexia as rich characters in a thrilling tale, much to the credit of Docournau’s writing melding perfectly with Marillier and Rumpf’s performances.

As excellent as the storytelling and performances are in “Raw,” it would be a mistake to not talk about the gore. There are some simply stunning exhibits of the gnarly, bloody aftermath of cannibalized events. If an appetite was present prior to the film, it certainly goes missing before exiting the theater. Few films go as far as “Raw” does, and the design element is extraordinary. It makes one wonder if these visuals could possibly be fake, they look so real. Mix this with an intense and haunting soundtrack, and Docournau has constructed the complexities of the cannibal-horror genre that are often missing from many other films.

The gore may bring audiences to the theater, but Docournau’s craft will leave them witnesses of something special. “Raw” will likely finish as the year’s best horror film, and deservedly so. For a bunch of unknowns to come onto the cinema scene with such strong first effort is quite rare. Whether a fan of horror films, foreign films, or films with exquisite sense of construction and delivery, “Raw” will surely please.

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DISCLAIMER.
THE TOPICS AND ISSUES COVERED IN THIS EDITION ARE NOT REAL NEWS.
… HAPPY APRIL FOOLS DAY.

Photo Courtesy of hollywoodreporter.com

Jeff Turner
SENIOR STAFF WRITER

1. Taxi Driver
Travis Bickle is a great character, and it’s impossible not to relate to him. But in an animated kid’s movie he needs to sing, and he needs to not be so down–even if that’s what every day of life is like when its unwise to talk about who’s in the basement.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road
This thrilling piece of the Mad Max series was gruesome and brilliant–but it could of truly thrived as a family oriented animation.Max’s passion sets a great example for impressionable children.

3. Seven
This movie would have been so much better if it had a happy ending. What if Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman all hugged and they forgave Spacey for killing all of those people? Spacey didn’t even do that much to hurt them. He’s a good boy. Kevin Spacey should have been forgiven in a family friendly animated remake of “Seven.” He’s a good boy.

4. Blue Velvet
My lord, David. Too violent. Does Dennis Hopper have to breathe from a gas mask and hurt that poor girl? Why can’t he help the children instead? And who is Jeffrey Beaumont supposed to be a role model for? He just kills Frank at the end and that’s how he solves all his problems. Imagine if everyone dealt with their issues that way.

5. Boogie Nights
This movie is about. SEX. UN. BE. LIEVABLE. Just when it seemed movies couldn’t be a more immoral, they go and make a movie about sex. Instead of making “Boogie Nights” about S-E-X, let’s make it a remake of “Explorers.” Fun for the whole family and no satanic behavior!

6. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Why make a movie about a serial killer and market it to children? Really, studios? He should be a serial juggler. He goes around, and he juggles balls and oranges for all the kids and everyone’s happy. Henry should learn a lesson at the end about how to be nice. Make a nice movie. These movies are unacceptable for role models like Hollywood producers.

7. Midnight Cowboy
This Oscar winner about a male prostitute was good, but it was just too inappropriate for kids! Why not make him a professional juggler? That’s much more fun. Mov-ies these days are way too inappropriate, not like the old days.

8. A Clockwork Orange
This Stanley Kubrick classic was too inappropriate for kids in its original form. What if instead of brutal sexual assault, Alex and his Droogs gave people hugs? That’s not all, instead of being addicted to sex, Alex can be addicted to puppies. Here’s a puppy. He’s really loveable, his name is Sheldon

DISCLAIMER.
THE TOPICS AND ISSUES COVERED IN THIS EDITION ARE NOT REAL NEWS.
… HAPPY APRIL FOOLS DAY.

 

Jeff Turner
SENIOR STAFF WRITER

Last week, the hotly anticipated conclusion to the Paul Blart: Mall Cop trilogy was released. Controversy ensued as directors were afraid to take on such a daunting project. Francis Ford Coppola’s effort behind the camera for the second film was nominated for 13 Oscars, taking home 7, including best supporting actor for Michael Caine as Blart’s estranged father, Adrian Lestrange Blart.

The first shot of the trailer is Blart standing by a grave. This is a reference to the cliffhanger ending of the last film, where Blart’s daughter, Elizabeth (Jennifer Lawrence) was murdered by his archrival, Demetrius Excalibur (a three-tier performance ala “I’m Still Here” with Leonardo Dicaprio, Michael Fassbender, and LL Cool J).

This new film appears to focus on Blart assembling his old team to seek vengeance. He is seen briefly speaking with his old friend from the previous film, Arthur Hendrix (a CGI Orson Welles). Hendrix was the enforcer on Blart’s squad, an old Vietman veteran who successfully cut the head of the great drag-on Antopholomolopous. A living legend in this universe played by a living legend.

“Getting Orson was tough” said Jack Charles, animator at Industrial Light and Magic. “We had to get the rights from his estate, and then we had to break into the cemetery where he was buried and dig up his bones.”

Also in the trailer, Blart’s cyborg-bear sidekick Harold (voice of Dwayne the Rock Johnson). Harold died in the previous film, but rose from the tomb near the end.

“It’s symbolism,” STET director Francis Ford Coppola said. “It’s, like, religious, and stuff. You know what I mean?”

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 3, in the tradition of the other two, will be handed off to a new director. That director is acclaimed auteur Rob Cohen.

“I want to bring a lot of youth to the ‘Blart’ movies. Before they were just dry and stuffy. Stuff for intellectuals, or, like, whatever,” Cohen said in a public statment. “Well I’m taking a stand. No more intellectuals at Paul Blart movies!”

Pedestrians applauded.

The movie’s plot appears to center around the Blart finally facing down his nemesis Johnny Loiter (Kid Rock) and seeing justice done for his family. There is a glimpse of a fist crashing into Johnny Loiter, but we see no more past that. Kevin James worked out a considerable amount for this, as he does whenever a new Blart movie makes the rounds.

“I’m used to the routine” James said. “I eat twelve eggs a day, drink a gallon of milk, and then snort raw protein. You didn’t think that was possible, but science found a way. It always does.”

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 3” comes out July 25, opening opposite Avengers and Justice League. Critics eagerly wait to see the thrilling, an likely smash hit, conclusion to the Paul Blart series.

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Photo Courtesy of unomaha.edu

Will Patterson
A&E EDITOR

Film Producer Chris Moore spent March 15 at the University of Nebraska at Omaha,giving film industry insight to students and faculty. His trip to UNO concluded with a public lecture in which audience members had a chance to ask questions.

Some of the best-known films Moore’s been a producer for include “Good Will Hunting,” “American Pie” and the recent movie “Manchester by the Sea,” which was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

Moore’s lecture took place in the theater of the Weber Fine Arts Building, surrounded by the set used in the UNO Theater’s last production, “The Guard.”

A primary focus of the lecture was about the film industry’s current relationship with the general audience. As an individual who has the seen the film industry change dramatically over the past couple decades, Moore explained how the platforms are changing his job and subsequently the future careers of film students.

“You’re behavior is actually effecting my job,” Moore said.

With a variety of streaming options becoming available to people, audiences are being exposed to more content than ever before. Moore said that an issue associated with this was a large amount of original content that goes unwatched and fails to make back the cost of production.

Much of Moore’s advice from the lecture targeted students and young movie creators. He gave realistic examples of what may prevent a film from being created, and how writers can try to avoid those issues.

“Young people or people who are young in the business should stay wherever they are and tell their stories,” Moore said. “I don’t think you need to move to L.A. or New York. I think it’s actually negative to do those things.”

Moore left the audience with words of encouragement, stating that those seeking careers in film should actively seek out movie producers to review and critique screenplays in the making.

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Photo Courtesy of ew.com

Jeff Turner
SENIOR STAFF WRITER

The Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, “I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore,” the directorial debut of frequent Jeremy Saulnier collaborator (“Blue Ruin,” “Green Room”) Macon Blair, is a charming, dark and rapturously entertaining effort, often evoking Blair’s mentor Saulnier, as well as the Coen Brothers.

Ruth (Melanie Lynskey), a depressed nursing assistant, comes home from a bad day at work (including an interaction with Blair at a bar where he spoils a book she was reading, only to then immediately leave) to see that her house has been robbed. She gets nowhere with the police, and the following day goes to ask the neighbors some questions. There she meets Tony (Elijah Wood), who is obsessed with nunchaku, heavy metal and shuriken. They then indirectly get involved with a heist.

The specific Coen Brothers films Blair is evoking are “Raising Arizona” and “The Big Lebowski.” The usage of dark themes meshed with a lot of farcical humor is often evocative of what the Coens will refer to in films like those. Oftentimes, it seems to have “quirky indie comedy syndrome” (think “Garden State” or “Jeff Who Lives at Home”), but it never goes too far overboard. The film is funny, but it is a crime picture first.

The acting is capable, with Wood as the standout. His Tony often carries shades of many Nicolas Cage characters, offbeat and weird, but never once stepping over the line into becoming irritating. Wood is a strange actor, in that he often reinvents himself. Wood, or his role on “Wilfred” are indistinguishable from, say, Frodo Baggins. It’s just interesting that he started as a lead when he clearly seems to be more comfortable as a character actor.

Melanie Lynskey is affable and charming as Ruth, for those who may not know of her, she start-ed out alongside Kate Winslet in Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures,” and her most recent and well-known effort would be her role on the HBO show “Togetherness.” She has a likability and relatability to her though, one that might encourage people to look through her oeuvre.

Blair started out much like Saulnier, the two were childhood friends and both frequent consumers of movies and film. Blair is accustomed to playing roles in the background, as, before this he mainly acted in Saulnier’s three films and other small projects. The Coen comparison comes into play once again, and this can be said about “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room” as well. He has a screen presence that reminds one of frequent Coen collaborators Steve Buscemi and John Goodman. As a director, he is similarly content to hang in the background, stating in an interview that he, for the most part, let Lynskey and Wood get to work, as they had 20 years of experience.

“I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore” is slight but a constant delight and a bona fide independent marvel. While Blair is trying a lot of different things, the viewer never feels that the film is disconnected or doing too much. It operates on its personality, and that’s more than good enough.

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Photo Courtesy of latimes.com

Rob Carraher
CONTRIBUTOR

Jordan Peele has made a name for himself doing sketch comedy. It was only recently he starred in his first feature film as a lead character in Keanu, which Peele wrote. When it was announced he would be making his directorial debut, one would have assumed that it was likely to be similar to his previous work. But Peele decided to do something entirely different by making a horror film.

“Get Out” is that film, and though technically a horror flick, it taps into other genres as well (including comedy). But what makes “Get Out” stand out as a first film for Peele is its well-crafted handiwork, an excellently constructed cast and a controversial message on race. It is these characteristics that make Peele an interesting director to keep an eye on for years to come.

Rose (Allison Williams) has planned a trip home to introduce Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) to her parents. Chris fears they won’t accept him because he is her first black boyfriend. Upon arrival, it is apparent that Rose’s parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) are okay with Chris, but other aspects of their family home seem a bit off, including the family groundskeeper and maid. The longer Chris spends with Rose’s family, the stranger things become as he attempts to figure out what is going on.

The cast of “Get Out” is comprised of seasoned but relatively unknown actors. That is not to say that audiences wouldn’t recognize them because they likely will, but they aren’t your typical household names. The film’s main actors are very believable in their roles. Although Kaluuya is good as Chris, it’s Williams that makes a star turn in “Get Out.” Her layered portrayal as Rose is nuanced and intense all in the same. It would be a shame if the world didn’t get to see more of her in a starring role. The other character that is particularly interesting is Chris’ friend Rod, and that is much to the perfect delivery by Lil Rel Howery. His involvement is one of the more entertaining contributions to the film.

Craft can be a blurry line when it comes to film. It seems easy for filmmakers to choose big budget concessions over art-house risks. Peele shows his patience as a first-time filmmaker in the way his film is constructed. Almost every decision appears to have motive, many of which don’t connect until the narrative is complete. His exquisite attention to detail is apparent from the opening sequence to the final moments. Certainly his work from the director’s chair on “Get Out” should garner anticipation for future projects. If craft remains a priority, Peele should be in for a long, comfortable career.

What is truly remarkable about “Get Out” is its ability to effectively work in multiple genres. Its Twilight Zone-like tone incorporates the bizarre attributes of science fiction, while capitalizing on classic horror movie tactics to send viewers jumping in their seats. But never is it lost on either Peele or audience members that at its core, “Get Out” is a satire. Immediately the film should draw positive comparisons to a trio collaborations between Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost known as the Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End).“Get Out” digs a little deeper, emulating the genres it is honoring more than simply spoofing them.

Some are arguing that “Get Out” is an anti-white movie. Where-as that statement is a bit over the top, it opens up a conversation about the use of race in the film. Is there a purpose for the film’s framing of the “black vs. white” dialog? That is a bit unclear. There doesn’t seem to be a clear motive for making the premise based on race, except to make a statement. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but from a narrative standpoint, it doesn’t serve as integral of a purpose. Regardless, it shouldn’t be seen as offensive. If anything, viewing the film with the race angle should make the audience rightfully uncomfortable. There is too much history to ignore the conversation no matter how it is presented.

Aside from the controversial angle on race that seems to be hogging headlines, Peele has crafted a film worthy of being appreciated by film lovers of all backgrounds. His ability to dip his toes into several different genres is quite impressive as it never feels overcrowded or overwhelming. He rides his cast to a well-executed final product. And without much doubt, his first directorial project was a huge success. The question is whether what was a surprise this time around can be translated into a streak of successes with his next project. It certainly will be worth keeping an eye on.

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Photo Courtesy of fandango.com

Jeff Turner
SENIOR-STAFF WRITER

Fifty Shades Darker
The sequel to the commercial success “Fifty Shades of Grey” sees a new director and the premise getting sillier. Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson get back together after their split in the last movie. But a figure from Christian’s past (Kim Basinger) starts to get in the way. Presumably there’s discipline involved.

Jackie
A portrait of one of America’s most famous relationships, “Jackie” is fundamentally about a woman needing to demonstrate great poise while she is in deep mourning over her husband.

A Dog’s Purpose
What’s more romantic than an animal cruelty controversy? (A joke, please don’t take a date to see this movie on Valentine’s Day.)

La La Land
The leading frontrunner for Best Picture is still in theaters and is just as good the second and third times as it was the first. Damien Chazelle has established himself as a director for the ages and “La La Land” is a surefire future classic.

Moonlight
Re-released into theaters, “Moon-light” chronicles the sexual awakening of a young black man in Miami, and his eventual romance with a childhood friend, which extends well into their adult lives. “Moonlight” finds peace in chaos for these characters, and there is an affection for them and their love.

Lion
After getting lost on a train at age 5, Saroo (Dev Patel) is adopted by a loving Australian family. 25 years later, in his adulthood, he gets a growing urge to find his original parents. “Lion” is fundamentally about the love a child can share for his family, and about how an adopted family can come to know and love a child that was never thiers. It is about familial bonds, and the good things people are willing to do for one another.

The LEGO Batman Movie
Another light outing guaranteed offer a lot of laughter. The film just looks like fun, and sometimes that is enough to justify date night. The film follows Batman as he adopts an orphan (voice of Michael Cera) to cope with his loneliness. Early reviews are praising it as a fun Batman movie.

Paterson
“Paterson” is a gorgeous film with a couple who sincerely love each other as a centerpiece. Plus, that dog deserves an Oscar. It follows the poetry of everyday life, and the couple at its center never get mad at one another as they each continually make sacrifices to keep the other happy. It’s a film with a mature understanding of relationships, and a total delight.

The Space Between Us
Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) was born on Mars and has an online relationship with a girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson), when he pressures his dad (Gary Oldman) into letting him come to earth to be with her, his dad opposes the trip, but eventually it works. However, eventually Gardner is unable to handle Earth’s atmosphere, so he runs the risk of being sent back. He and Tulsa now must find out what is the best option for him going forward and why he is the way he is.

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Photo Courtesy of gizmodo.com.au

Rob Carraher
CONTRIBUTOR

The career of M. Night Shyamalan started with so much promise. “The Sixth Sense” redefined what audiences expected for thrillers. “Unbreakable” and “Signs” managed to keep the hype for Shyamalan’s work high. But then it started avalanching from there. What seemed like a career destined for greatness was disappearing little by little. What appeared to be a long career, filled with blockbuster hit after blockbuster hit, turned into one ridiculed on the basis of one box office bomb after another. That never stopped him from continuing to put out films. “Split” is his latest attempt to regain some of what made him a relevant director/writer. It can certainly be argued he has found his groove once again.

“Split” follows the life of Kevin Wendall Crumb (James McAvoy), a man with dissociative identity disorder. Crumb captures three teens: Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula). In interactions with Crumb, the three girls begin to realize there is something particularly strange about him as various personalities begin emerging. Between his visits with the captured girls, Crumb visits his psychiatrist, Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley). It emerges that Crumb has a total of 23 separate personalities, some of which are more prominent and dominant than others. In a race against time, the girls plot an escape in hopes of avoiding a run-in with Crumb’s newest rumored personality, “The Beast.”

If for no other reason than to see McAvoy’s stellar performance, “Split” is well worth viewing. Not many actors are given the opportunity to play eight different roles within the same film, but McAvoy does so with ease. He is especially on point when he is portraying the personas of Barry and Hedwig. McAvoy’s face enamors as he captures many of the personas in his expressions. The way he postures himself allows the audience to buy into the differences displayed on screen. If “Split” were a slightly more respected film, there are no doubts that McAvoy would be in the conversation for an Academy Award.

Taylor-Joy holds her own opposite McAvoy. Adding to a growing resume, which includes the main role in last year’s critically acclaimed indie horror film, “The Witch.” Her nuanced mix of sadness and confidence keeps viewers asking questions throughout. In a couple scenes where she is left alone with McAvoy’s numerous characters, she is believable as a young woman desperately negotiating her way out of the nightmare she is living. Not to the same extent as McAvoy, but Taylor-Joy provides an impressive performance that should coax people into seeking out future work.

Most not to his credit. Shyamalan is known to unleash some rather bizarre characters and experiences upon his audiences. In “Split,” it almost works to perfection, but lands just a little bit short. The climax of the film brings out one of those bizarre experiences. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why it doesn’t quite work, but it’s somewhere between not preparing the audience for what transpires and just being a little too over the top. Because of the film’s PG-13 rating in place of an R rating, these moments come across as being anti-climactic. Shyamalan had a chance to really etch his film into viewers’ minds, but may have let it drift away for some.

Not well advertised, “Split” has a connection to one of Shyamalan’s previous works, and it makes a difference. What seems to be a forgettable ending brought much greater appreciation in the context of its relation to the other film. It certainly sets the stage for an opportunity to thoroughly connect the two plots with another film. The intrigue of what might come next makes this experience well worth it. The twists of Shyamalan’s early work made him a house hold name in the early 2000s. He has since lost that credibility. His precise conclusion here not only connects “Split” to that time when things were good for him, but shows that magic isn’t completely gone.

Although not his best work, Shyamalan has seemingly found a little bit of what captured audiences almost two decades ago. “Split” is worth seeing to witness premier performances from its leading actors and regain faith in Shyamalan as an innovative filmmaker. It is rare to find an entertaining film worth seeing during the lull before the big stuff starts emerging in the spring. January and February typically are reserved for those films that didn’t quite cut it, but are being released to make some money back. “Split” shouldn’t fall into that category. Whether it is seen in the theater or at home, “Split” is a worthy watch for movie-goers of all kinds.

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