Sunday, August 20, 2017

Film Review - Detriot

With the current climate in the United States where race relations is front page news, competing factions are fighting in the streets and politicians are obligated to state where they stand. Detroit is a timely film that looks at subject two generations back at the tail end of the sixties. The tension between the black community and the police was a tinderbox waiting to ignite in what was at the time the fifth biggest city in the U.S. That spark was a police raid of a 12th street speakeasy. As the occupants were marched out and lined up the neighbourhood began to circle the area raising the temperature until the last paddywagon filled and left. The police retreat prompted smashing of store windows, looting and days upon days of rioting. The authorities responded with the National Guard, State and local police. Under the declared state of emergency and curfew many liberties were taken culmination with the events at the Algiers hotel that is the centre of the film.

Dismukes (John Boyega) works as a security guard protecting a store. He sets up for the night shift across from the Algiers hotel. Feeling the tension he brings coffee for the guard troops across the street. Into the situation comes the cop trio of Krauss (Will Poulter), Flynn (Ben O'Toole) and Demens (Jack Reynor)who are treating the city like the wild west intimidating, strong-arming and abusing citizens with impunity. The members of the Dramatics are disrupted trying to get home. Two of the crew Larry Reed (Algee Smith) and Fred (Jacob Latimore) end up taking a room at the Algiers to hunker down for the night.

Kathryn Bigelow flanked by her regular writing partner Mark Boal focus on the July 25th, 1967 events at the Algiers building the narrative it out from the Dramatics failing to hit the stage at the Apollo for their audition on earlier in the evening to the three renegade cops heading back out on patrol after a reprimand for an earlier incident that day then over to Dismukes heading out to work that double shift to protect a store. The shooting style consists of very long takes that makes the confrontation at the hotel excruciating physiological terror thats hard to watch.

John Boyega takes top line status as Dismukes. His strategy as a security guard is to use kindness and cooperation with the  authorities in order for everyone to go home safe. Will Poulter another Brit playing American is the off the rails racist cop Krauss. His first instinct is to uphold the law but that soon degenerates to a paranoid delusion that he is being disrespected and deadly force is not out of the question to teach someone a lesson. Look for Hannah Murray another other Brit from Game of Thrones and Skins fame as Julie one of the two white women in the hotel that winds up the cops even further as they would apparently rather spend time with African American males then them.

Detroit is the retelling of significant historical event that may have been the start of several seismic shifts. It could have been the signal that started the decline of the City from 5 to 23 where it ranked last year. The riots, looting and confrontation with police would multiply in the time period morphing to police shooting plus left right violent conflicts that are front page news today leading news cycles on cable TV. Bigelow concentrates on a couple of key events to present a story that brings the audience right into the issues, prejudices and feeling of the time. It's a look at social protest from the past that can be a lesson with value to use in today's society.

*** Out of 4

Detroit | Kathryn Bigelow | U.S.A. | 2017 | 143 Minutes.

Tags: Detroit, 12th Street, Riot, Raid, Algiers Hotel, National Guard, State Police, Trial.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Fantasia '17 Film Review - A Taxi Driver

The 1980 Gwangju Uprising is the subject of Jang Hun’s new film A Taxi Driver. At the flim opening Kim Man-Seob (Song Kang-Ho) is a struggling taxi driver in Seoul. He's behind in his rent, his fares often short pay him or beg to pay the next day and his 11 year old daughter has anger issues stemming from the untimely death of her mother.  Mr. Kim tries to maintain a standard keep by keeping his cab in good working condition and returning home to have dinner with his daughter each evening by a reasonable hour. When news circulates at the taxi stand that a German Foreigner Jurgen Hinzpeter (Thomas Kretschmann) is willing to pay W100,000 for a ride from Seoul to Gwanju and back before curfew, Mr. Kim steals the fair to take the reporter on his journey.  

The spring of 1980 was a very turbulent time in South Korea. The military dictator Park Chung- hee  had been killed but the military still had a strong hold on the country ad martial law was in place with a strict curfew being enforced. The worst of the conflicts were in Gwanju where the student opposed the paratroopers and plain clothed army in the streets in alleys often being beaten within an inch of their livers or dodging a hail of bullets as they sought democracy.  Peter got word of the events in Gwanju while working in Tokyo grabbed his passport and video camera hopped on a plane and headed to the scene. The government forces had blocked the roads into and out of the city. Had army units stationed on the secondary roads, censored the newspaper and media reports and cut all of the phone lines. To the rest of South Korea and the world, the students were violent protestors, communists and the instigators of the violence that resulted in minor casualties.

Director Jang Hoon tells a story that is violent authoritarian that inhabits a critical point in South Korean South Korean history. The storyline of army soliders shooting  students in the streets is more what one would expect from the neighbours to the North.  In taxi driver Kim Man-Seob the narrative gives the steps in one individual to parallel the nation realization of the truth of the situation. At first he is completely unaware of the events in Gwangju, then having served on the army himself sympathetic to the solders but as his eyes see what's actually occurring moves firmly on the side of the students knowing that the military has to be stopped. Thomas Kretschmann's journalist is the perfect counter balance to the taxi driver. Hinzpeter speaks few words is calm and cool keeping his eye on the task at hand; record the events and get the story out. 

A Taxi Driver recounts historical events that were suppressed at the time by the South Korean government and media. The two lead actors communicate to the audience and each other the urgency, danger and difficulty of the situation despite a hefty language barrier. Its a story which needed an outlet that director Jang Hoon forcefully provided.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

A Taxi Driver | Jang Hoon | South Korea | 2017 | 137 Minutes.

Tags: Gwangju Uprising, Martial Law, Democracy, Military Dictatorship, Paratroopers, Foreign Reporter, Germany, NDR.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Fantasia "17 Film Review - Night is Short Walk on Girl

Senpai (Upperclassman) has a crush on The Girl with the Black Hair (Underclassman) but he is unable to tell her. Instead he arranges to be where she is and continue to run into her by coincidence. He is hopeful that all of these chance meetings will make her see that they are meant to be together. The film opens with a wedding for a university friend. Senpai's handsome friend who can pass as a girl mocks him for his cowards towards the girl. His other friend Don Underpants so named because he refused to change them until he meets a girl that he saw once and fell instantly in love drinks one beer after another slamming his mug on the table. The wedding is nice but the after party is the main event. Senpai plans to sit next to The Girl there and tell her his feelings. However the pair end up on separate paths The Girl at a drinking competition Ri Haku while Senpai is pants by Ri Haku's henchmen leaving him searching for a replacement pair of underpants.

The narrative is split into four parts: the drinking competition, a book fair, a school festival and a cold outbreak. Director Masaaki Yusa blends the elements of Tomohiko Morimi's novel together to bring a seamless transition into each new chapter.  Each section of the production has a peak the above mentioned drinking competition in the first, the eating of life altering hot food in the second, The final scene of the school musical in the third and The Girl's attempts to get to Senpai's house in the fourth.

Yusa fills the screen with colour, moving pieces and multiples. He seems to have a thing for Carp in this film as they continue to show up repeatedly in the visuals and as part of the narrative. His best work displaying the different elements battling in Senpai's head as he learns that the Girl is coming to his house showcasing his decision making process as what he should do. The story features many comedic moments the pinnacle being the final scene in the student play. Where multiple characters hit the stage professing love for one another including Don Underpants finally learning the truth about his long missing love.

Night is Short Walk on Girl is a musical jaunt through the seedy and fun section of Kyoto. The party is non stop as the nightlife rages leading to the tipping of many classes. The spector of Ri Haku is always present and the device of watches spinning faster the older you are to signify time passing faster is a nice touch.

*** Out of 4.

Night is Short Walk on Girl | Massaki Yusa | Japan | 2017 | 93 Minutes.

Tags: Kyoto, Nightlife, Erotic Woodblock Art, Sophists, Watches, Clocks, Book Fair, Musical, Epidemic,

Fantasia '17 Film Review - Mayhem

Derrick Cho (Stephen Chen) started out as a fresh faced employee at Towers & Smythe Consulting. His firm was responsible for finding a loophole in the law that allowed Nevel Reid to skate on a murder charge because the infectious red eye virus causes victims to loose control of their ID, want to have sexual relations in public and are willing to beat up or kill anyone that looks at them the wrong way. The virus is not fatal and there is a cure but it takes a while for the antidote to take effect,

Derrick is framed by The Siren (Caroline Chizkie) called so because she has the ear of the C.E.O. John Towers (Steve Brand) Derrick is blamed by The Siren for a million dollar error on a file he never touched but was assigned to him in an outdated system. Derrick tries to plead his case but is fired. His last act was to deny an appeal of a foreclosure for Melanie Cross (Samantha Weaving) The CDC descend on the Towers building as reading show that the Red eye virus has broken out in the he building. The antidote has been piped in but the premises are under full lockdown for the next 8 hours. Derrick is thrown into a basement room where he's met by Melanie. As the virus starts to take effect they both realize that they have 8 hours for Derrick to get his job back and Melanie to reverse the foreclosure order.

Director Joe Lynch working off Matais Caruso's script takes a big run at corporate culture, backs up and runs over it again. TSC Legal Structure is literally a corporate elevator (ladder) You need a level card or a key code to get to the 8th Floor then a level three Card to get to the next step then further cleanse to get up to the Penthouse where the Boss and gang of 9 board of directors reside. The virus brings out the hidden emotions to the surface. Co-workers and beating , strangling and stabbing each other. Others are shouting at customers and breaking equipment while out duo load up with hammers, drills, saws and axes in the basement then begin their climb up to the Penthouse to set thing right.

Stephen Chen of walking dead fame is clearly at home in a chaotic situation where a virus effects the general population. As the movie progresses he throughs off his corporate restraint looking to do what right for himself and fixing Melanie's dilemma. Australian actress Samantha Weaver shines as the wronged, no nonsense or mercy property owner with a rage on for all suits as she tries to get her foreclosure reversed. Steve Brand is brilliant over the top billing obsessed, cocaine addict C.E.O. that uses corporate perks to pit employees against each other at they battle to climb the floors at Towers & Smythe.

Mayhem is a dark view of the corporate world. Employees betray each other, treat clients unfairly, cover up their errors and if they can't sweep mistake under the rug find someone junior to take the fall. It's a film for anyone who every worked in a dysfunctional office or wanted to punch a co-worker or boss in the mouth. And since its lawyer tearing each other apart theres some satisfaction for all of you out there who hate lawyers as well.

*** 1/2  Out of 4.

Mayhem | Joe Lynch | U.S.A. | 2017 | 86 Minutes.

Tags: Virus, Foreclosure, Key Card, Termination, Billings, Nail Gun, Code, Elevator, Painting.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fantasia '17 Film Review - Jailbreak

Underworld moneyman Playboy (Savin Philip) has been arrested forced to do the perp walk in front of the T.V. cameras. Facing a lengthy sentence in Prei Klaa maximum security prison he's agreed to flip spilling the beans on his business partner Butterfly Gang leader Madame Butterfly (Celine Tran). Wanting the threat eliminated the gang leader sets up a multiple pronged plan to take him out before he can testify starting from holding, on the road to the prison then if need be in the prison itself. An elite team of police officers skilled at Cambodian Bokator Dara (Dara Our) Socheat (Dara Phang) and national female MMA champion Tharoth (Tharoth Sam) are joined by visiting French Cambodian officer (Jean Paul Ly) are assigned to bring Playboy safety to the prison.

Once inside the walls gang contact Bolo (Sisowath Siriwudd) fakes a realistic looking seizure that get sets in motion the Butterfly Gangs Plan C to get to Playboy with the added consequence of setting off a full blown prison riot.

Dara Our and Jean Paul Ly also serve as the fight choreographers for the film. The pair whip up elaborate complex intricate moves in tight quarters using mainly baton, knives and blunt object as weapons. Director Jimmy Henderson camerawork flowing from one to the next police officer as they each battle 5 or 6 inmates heightens the battle. The odd switch to the point of view of an inmate is thrown in giving the viewer the feel of being on the wrong end of a first person shooter video game. The visuals work well with the work of the sound mixing team isolating and amplifying the thuds of fist or blunt objects hitting bone plus the swish of knives as they cut through the air or flesh.

Henderson who's previous film Hanuman that also started Savin Philip has made his last three films in Cambodia making him possibly the man that will lead a resurgence of the countries movie business. Jailbreak will undoubtedly be compared with other South East Asian martial arts fests The Raid and Ong Bak but the strengths and originality of its fight scenes will give the piece its on space in the genre.

Jailbreak is a non-stop cat and mouse game between rival gangs, the police and an outside puppet master with a whiney cowardly potential snitch s the prize. Just about all of the production takes place inside at the space of the prison with fighting and retreating occurring as rivals turn each corner.  The story and action are raw mainly because the bulk of the cast are amateurs but viewers come to this  type of a film for the action which Jailbreak exceeds twice over.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

Jailbreak | Jimmy Henderson | Cambodia |  2017 | 92 minutes.

Tags: Riot, Informant, Crime Boss, Bokator, Police, Prison Guard, Gangs, Canibal, Swat, Baton, Knives, Samurai Sword.

Fantasia '17 Film Review - Fashionista

April (Amanda Fuller) and Eric (Ethan Embry) have carved out a satisfying existence for themselves. They are co-owners of a thriving vintage fashion store in Austin, Texas, married living in an unique space that doubles as their storage facility adorned with an excellent set of classic movie posters. April has an addiction to fabric and clothes that she's managing to keep under control until a new girl Sherry (Alexandria DeBerry) starts to work at the store and catches Eric's eye. April becomes convinced that her husband is having an affair following him and checking up on his appointments. When her suspicions are proved to be true she retreats further into her addiction as she starts up a destructive relationship with rich playboy Randall (Eric Balfour).

April goes deeper into Randall's world of strict control and fetish sex. When she's not with him she's lashing out at Eric first by cleaning out all of inventory for the store from the flat then burning them in a field as she keeps in contact with him but continues to push him away at critical times.

Director Simon Rumley continues his run of gritty guerrilla filming with this production. His decision to treat a fashion addiction on the same plane as an alcohol or drug one could have went into the world of camp if not handled delicately. He's brought back Amanda Fuller from Red White & Blue for her most challenging role to date. The narrative Alex allows the seedier sections of Austin to play their part helped by a vibrant vintage culture due to the cities strong music culture. A curious thread features a young woman (Alex Essoe) whose residing in a psychiatric hospital. She's walking the halls meeting with health providers then released from the facility. How she works into the main story is not revealed until deep into the third reel.

Fashionista is a look into the world of clothing addiction that is a real debilitating habit for more people that you would expect. Rumley treats the subject very seriously as does Amanda Fuller who excels in the role of April as she goes into any situation openly if it will feed her addiction. Rumley shoots in Austin again a setting he is familiar with allowing it to shine and play a major supporting role in the film. The subject matter and presentation may not be for everyone but if you have an interest in or experience with addictive personalities you will find those elements presented her possibly fostering a very emotional reaction. The end goal of the project to show that if you are suffering from addiction of any fashion your are not alone.

** 1/2 Out of 4.

Fashionista | Simon Rumley | U.S.A. | 2017 | 110 minutes.

Tags: Addiction, Fabric,Vintage, Austin, Affair, Franchising, Abuse, Alais, Homeless, Fetish, Retail.

Fantasia '17 Film Review - Spoor

Janina Dusjezko (Agniezska Madat) is a fierce animal rights advocate who insisted on being referred to by only her right name and you better get the pronunciation correct. The retired civil engineer turned part time school teacher lives outside a town in a remote region of Poland near the Czech border. Her day starts off waking up in her small cabin with her two dogs at her feet. She takes them out for a walk and run then sets about to see what the day will bring. Dusjezko is at odds with many of the villagers and most of the town leaders. Her community is heavily into hunting with the seasonal calendar having a prominent place in the police station. The local priest tells her not to worry about them so much as animals do not have a soul. One of leading townspeople who lives nearby keeps animals in cages alongside his country brothel. Dusjezko is seen as either harmless or annoying with the police and government officials giving her a little time to voice her concerns but mainly avoid her and do not respond to her letters.

The temperature changes with the death of a recluse neighbour who is a poacher. The elderly Matoga (Wiktor Zborowski) who she likes and has a shady past himself tells her of the news leading both to the cabin to investigate. There Dusjezko finds a photo that takes her advocacy to an even higher level. Other members of the local hunting club begin to turn up dead with evidence of animals near the bodies. Dusjezko believes its a sign that the animals are taking their revenge. The law is not so sure as Dusjezko seems to be entangled with these events in some way.

Writer Director Agnieszka Holland blurs right and wrong on a story based on Olga Tokarczuk's novel Driving Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead. The hunters have the law on their side. Hunting serves the purpose of culling herds thus leaving enough resources available for a strong group to survive. Dusjezko sees hunting as murder especially the practice of the local club to poach and kill animals out of season. She has support from her Matoga, local police I.T. wiz Dyzio (Jakob Gierszal) and a local girl who she calls good news (Patricia Volny).

Madat's performance is the skeleton and muscles on which the piece is built. Her impassioned pleas to anyone that will listen is touching and valid but in increasing exchanges ventures towards hysteria. Miroslav Krobot's entomologist Boros appears part way through the film. He may be the only character more passionate about animals then Dusjezko. He's studying cucujus beetles for the local Czech University considering deforestation that upsets the beetles larvae a holocaust.

Spoor is a murder mystery set in a remote Polish Valley. At first animals are being killed unjustly in some eyes. Then the victims switch to humans all from the same hunting club. The hunting calendar serves as the introduction of each new chapter announcing the type of animal that is now in season. Lead by an impassioned performance by Agniezska Madat the narrative is a compelling piece of film work that is well worth a watch.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

Spoor | Agnieszka Holland | Poland/ Germany/ Czech / Sweden / Slovakia | 2017 | 128 Minutes.

Tags: Klodzko Valley, Hunting Club, Hunter's Calendar, Poachers, English Teacher, Deer, Boar, Beetles, Caged, Murder, Arrest, Astrology, Epilepsy.