Monthly Archives: March 2014

Netfix: Antiviral

Brandon Cronenberg, son of the one and only David Cronenberg, has finally (okay, two years ago) made his full-length directorial debut, Antiviral.

In a society obsessed with celebrity culture, adoring fans have no resorted to paying for infectious diseases, in order to bring themselves one step closer to those they admire. Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) acts as a disease-mule who works at the only clinic that offers ailments straight from starlet Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). When Hannah suddenly dies, Syd is cast into his own personal hell, caught between devotion and survival.

Personally, I think that the trailer was better than the movie.

Stylistically, this film’s golden. The choices of light and composition clearly reflect a materialistic world with an eerie underbelly. The visuals (and physical props) are admirably grotesque, but made me yearn for more.  Additionally, given the pleasure of at least one fever-dream sequence, but not much else.

They went for a gaze/spectacle motif, but unfortunately overshot so far they missed the mark.

They went for a gaze/spectacle motif, but unfortunately overshot so far they missed the mark.

At first glance, the grim celeb-obsessed future plot seems kind of interesting, but it doesn’t carry the story at all. In fact, there’s very little story to be had. I can’t even describe the protagonist that well. He’s a creepy ginger fellow…and Jones does a great job at faking sick.

His obsessions are only acknowledged in dream-form, and even then we’re not given much more to work with. Maybe that was the point – people are so obsessed with other people that there’s literally no individual personality left in the world? The character design would seem to suggest this, but it just comes off as kind of lame and misguided.

The Good
Like I said, gorgeous composition. I really wanted to know more about this world and how society and science took this perverted turn. I loved the grotesque visuals and sci-fi involved here – more of that, please.

The Bad
Unfortunately, when you have a story that is about obsession and only obsession, it gets old kind of quickly. It’s clear that the plot/ending was only going to turn into a gory shock-factor, and that’s really a dirty shame.

The Ugly
Antiviral had the oomph, only to flop over as a one-trick pony.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

In the heart of Europe lies the Republic of Zubrowka, a fictional  land of provincial villages and ski resorts, that is threatened by a looming war. A beacon of escape and repose still remains despite this trouble: the Grand Budapest Hotel.

Pure, unfiltered, Wes Anderson.

Pictured: pure, unfiltered, Wes Anderson.

When debonaire and devoted concierge M. Gustave H. (an amazing Ralph Fiennes) is charged with the murder of an elderly hotel guest (Tilda Swinton), it is up to his faithful lobby boy Zero Mustafa (Tony Revolori, later F. Murray Abraham) to rescue his beloved mentor from certain death. Many years later, a young writer (Jude Law, later Tom Wilkinson) learns the story of Zero and Gustave, and now the tale is bequeathed to us, the audience.

And of course, Bill Murray.

And of course, Bill Murray.

Of all the Wes Anderson movies, Grand Budapest is easily the most Wes Anderson-est: we have the costumes and the actors (an incredible ensemble, I might add), every multi-layered set and centered shot, all wrapped up in a color-scheme that makes your sweet tooth squirm with delight.

A new convention utilized in this film is the multi-framing of the narrative. Not only is the story told to us from the Author’s perspective, but we’re given M. Mustafa’s iteration as well. Anderson conveys this to us by switching up the aspect ratios, one viewpoint at a time – thus fitting the dialogue and visuals to suit respective needs.

Personally, I would have loved to see this concept challenged more often throughout the film, but it is understandable not to do so, being that the narrative could have easily been disturbed otherwise. Additionally, by keeping this meta-perspective in mind, the visual spectacle we’re subjected to is completely understandable, if not expected.

"She's charming. She's so charming."

“She’s charming. She’s so charming.”

The other issue to be taken is that the relationship between Zero and Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) is more implied than experienced. But because Zero himself is telling us about their adventures, the very mention of Agatha is pained and in a sense, neglected – unless their interaction is directly related to the main plot.

I’m not going to spoil anything this time around, but there is a reason Zero does not want to talk about her – and thanks to the genius of F. Murray Abraham’s Oscar-winning story-telling ability, we as an audience understand his hesitance completely. More so, this tonal shift compliments the underlying theme of combating loneliness – a trait carried by both Zero and M. Gustave.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I love Wes Anderson movies. I understand that for those unfamiliar with his work or style, watching something like Grand Budapest is like witnessing an inside joke. Similarly, I obviously carry a favorable bias. Despite these possible barriers, I find these facts to be certain: The Grand Budapest may be a character profile film, but below its colorful candy shell is a core of loneliness and longing. While these darker matters are often distracted by shenanigans, there is a resinating desire for closure while not being totally bogged down in the process, resulting in a tale of whimsy and well, humanness.

Witty, colorful and shenanigans abound, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a satisfying reminiscence of love, loss, mystery, escapism, and most importantly, etiquette.

Final Grade: A

The Lego Movie

If you’re like me and a little behind, The Lego Movie is the story of Emmet Brickowski, voiced by Chris Pratt. Emmet is a generic-faced construction worker who learns that he may be the key to stopping the insidious President Business (Will Ferrell) from turning the universe as we know it into permanent, sterile “perfection.” Better late than never to see what all the commotion is about, eh?

I am never not impressed by the use of lighting in this movie.

I am never not impressed by the use of lighting in this movie.

Hype aside, the animation on this movie is pretty spectacular – there were times that I actually thought that stop-motion was being implemented (which was intentional). I’d be surprised if the animation alone doesn’t earn The Lego Movie a nomination next year. Unfortunately, with the incredible amount of detail put into each scene, it’s a shame that the film’s pacing was so frantic.

Now that I think about it, this movie really held itself back in many ways, which is ironic, considering that the entire plot is built on the idea of imagination. It’s also ironic that the film jokes about consumerism, while a covetable Lego set costs about $50, but I digress. The story beats you to death with the idea that everyone is a special and unique snowflake, but doesn’t really have any more depth than that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s super sweet, but not that interesting after the 50th time.

It’s also incredibly disappointing that the chance at an original badass female character is wasted on a complete Mary Sue…but then again, there may be a reason for that, as well as the inclusion of other characters, but I’m not sure if it’s a good reason or just a cop-out. Nope, no spoilers here. I just feel as if the movie decided to dumb itself down to be more kid friendly or something, but they really didn’t need to.

Metalbeard (Nick Offerman) was easily the coolest original character - he had to rebuild his body out of ship parts. Well, okay, I like Bad Cop a lot, too.

Metalbeard (Nick Offerman) was easily the coolest original character – he had to rebuild his body out of ship parts.
Well, okay, I like Bad Cop a lot, too.

Perhaps I’m just thinking a little too hard about it, because The Lego Movie really is a good time. Perhaps it was a little too spastic for my taste at times, but I could easily see how there’d be something for everyone in this movie. After all, the intent of the toy has always been to inspire imaginative creation and play.

Yes it’s spastic and the story stretches thin, but the sheer amount of goofy enthusiasm is something to be admired. And if Toy Story taught me anything, there’s a definite joy in sentimentality, and The Lego Movie has plenty of that. Personally, I just think it’s worth watching for the animation alone.

Final Grade: B