REVIEW: Monsters

25 01 2013

MonstersGareth Edwards, helmer the latest reincarnation of the Godzilla franchise, is about to work with monsters on a very big scale (and budget).  However, if you want to see the skill and directorial poise of Edwards on a more modest, personal level, there’s no other option than to check out his debut film, “Monsters.”

It’s not quite found-footage, but “Monsters” offers you the intimacy that the emerging subgenre always attempts to provide and usually fails to deliver.  Edwards makes the rare movie whose exposition might be more complicated than the story.  But if you decide to take the plunge into his subtly nightmarish world, you’ll discover that such simplicity of story is a noble quality, not a flaw.

The film follows the journey of Scoot McNairy’s Andrew Kaulder, a photojournalist sent down to Mexico to recover and return his boss’ daughter, Whitney Able’s Samantha Wynden.  And no, his search for her is not the main plot of the film.  In fact, he finds her within the first 10 minutes.

The titular monsters barely appear, and when they do late in the film, it’s anti-climatic and not exactly thrilling or terrifying.  “Monsters” is a movie about the effects of these creatures, extra-terrestrials who landed in Mexico six years before the events of the film.  There’s now a large “infected zone” that Andrew and Samantha have to pay a great deal to go around – or risk their lives to go through.

There are, of course, some allegorical implications for the alien invasion (creatures that Americans try to confine in Mexico by a giant fence along the border, anyone?).  But the thrill of “Monsters” is not in the political but in the personal.  It’s fascinating to watch the natural relationship and rapport develop between Andrew and Samantha in ways that are subtly affected by the presence of these monsters.  Though watching them becomes slowly less and less interesting as the movie progresses, the clever and subversive filmmaking on display from Gareth Edwards makes this 90 minutes fairly well spent.  B2halfstars

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What To Look Forward To in … October 2010

18 09 2010

In less than two weeks, we are headed into October.  More quality fall entertainment, more Oscar contenders.  But really, “The Social Network” leads off the month and it’s all downhill from there.  Sorry, every other movie coming out in my month of birth.  AND PLEASE TAKE THE POLL AT THE END … I blanked and left it off for a few days, but please vote!

October 1

I’ve stated twice that I’m dying to see “The Social Network,” and I’ve predicted it twice now to win Best Picture.  I’m counting on a great movie, and I’m planning on catching the first showing after school on Friday.

“Let Me In” reminds us of a time when vampires were still scary, not sexy.  Chloe Moretz (best known as Hit Girl) plays the blood-sucking child in question in this remake of the 2008 foreign horror flick “Let the Right One In.”  I think subtitles make anything creepier, but Hollywood sees English-language versions as a way to make things more accessible.

I love the book “Freakonomics,” and I think the documentary montage without any particular focus is a perfect complement to the bestseller.  If it’s anything like the book, it will be fascinating and incredibly thought-provoking.  It’s an interesting tactic to put it on iTunes before releasing it in theaters, and I’ve been asking myself whether or not I should wait for the big screen.

And on another note, poor Renee Zellweger has dropped so low as to start doing low-brow horror like “Case 39.”  To think she won an Oscar just 7 years ago…

October 8

Ugh, “Secretariat.”  Inspirational sports movies now give me an averse reaction.  And there’s also more gross horror in 3D with “My Soul to Take.”  Way to sell your soul, Wes Craven.  With the only other wide release being a corny Josh Duhamel-Katherine Heigl romantic comedy, “Life as We Know It,” it looks like I may be seeing “The Social Network” for a second time.

On the indie side of things, I’ll be happy to see some of the offerings.  For example, I’m sure “Inside Job” will be an illuminating (and probably slanted) view of what really went down with the economic meltdown in 2008.

“Stone” looks intense, much like “Brothers” appealed to me this time last year.  With an impressive cast of Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton (Milla Jovovich to a lesser degree as well), it could be a pretty good under-the-radar movie.

Tamara Drewe” has been playing at a lot of film festivals this year to mixed/positive reviews, most of the praise going not to director Stephen Frears but to leading lady Gemma Arterton.  “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” has also been playing film festivals recently albeit to much less success.  Despite the widespread acclaim the filmmakers’ past two movies, “Half Nelson” and “Sugar,” have received, this just hasn’t caught on.  “Nowhere Boy,” the story of John Lennon, premiered at Toronto this week, but I didn’t hear anything about it.  No news is NOT good news at a festival.

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