REVIEW: The Girl with All the Gifts

21 02 2017

the-girl-with-all-the-giftsFantastic Fest

As much as I strive to provide as close to objectivity as possible, some subjective factors do sometimes get in the way and exert an outsized pull on my response to a film. “The Girl with All the Gifts” was the sixth film in a marathon day of binge moviegoing at 2016’s Fantastic Fest. Colm McCarthy’s film had to contend for my attention with the perennial reigning champion of sleep.

This zombie flick mostly managed to hold my attention, though its contention with some high-quality shut eye led me to nitpick away at its flaws and banalities. Glenn Close’s near-constant regurgitation of exposition would be bad enough. But her shaky British accent made nearly every line she spoke like nails on a chalkboard. (Also, Gemma Arterton kind of looks like she could be related to Mads Mikkelsen. Look for it.)

“The Girl with All the Gifts” is not going to move the needle in its genre of horror. Mike Carey’s screenplay, adapted from his own novel, brings one interesting feature to the flesh-eating creatures. A group of young children can live with the fungus that creates zombies but maintain basic functions of a sentient human. They are sequestered away from the rest of the plague-infested earth by military personnel, although new developments involving the particularly gifted “hungry” Melanie forces a coalition out into ravaged areas of Britain to do … something. I’m not entirely sure, and that lack of certainty stems both from my own tiredness watching the film as well as unclear character motivations. Stick around for the ending if you can endure the familiar feeling of the rising action. B2halfstars

REVIEW: Macbeth

13 12 2015

MacbethRoger Ebert once famously quipped, “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” This maxim seems to apply doubly so to Justin Kurzel’s take on the Scottish Play, William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

Scripters Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie and Todd Louiso take five acts from the Bard and condense them to under two hours on screen. Though no film need overstay its welcome, these screenwriters seem a little too eager to abridge the rich source material. Part of the experience of “Macbeth” is being able to observe the gradual changes in Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as the quest for power corrodes their souls. With fewer opportunities to see that conflict play out, it follows that their journeys feel a little less complete.

Having less Shakespearean verse tossed around plays to the strengths of Kurzel, a director whose films thrive on mood and ambiance. In both “Macbeth” and his debut, 2012’s “The Snowtown Murders,” collaborations with director of photography Adam Arkapaw have set brooding, haunting tones from expertly calibrated shots. Here, they focus on the landscape of the Scottish Highlands and how effortlessly it dwarves the characters who pass through it. At the very least, this helps differentiate his take on “Macbeth” from anything one could see on the stage, shrinking actors to mere cogs in the cosmos.

Unfortunately, he never quite finds a cinematic language that makes Shakespeare’s soliloquies feel as natural as the countryside vistas. Try as he might, Kurzel still remains at a bit of a loss as to how to present long stretches of uninterrupted dialogue, a convention audiences have decided to accept when framed inside a proscenium arch. The challenge has escaped many filmmakers, so he’s in good company. Fortunately, Kurzel has two incredible actors in Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard to deliver the dialogue and distract from any staginess.

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2 02 2015

Perhaps the most tragic dissonance in film occurs when ideology and filmmaking prowess fail to match.  Say what you will about the frightening Nazi propaganda of Leni Riefenstahl’s “The Triumph of the Will,” but the picture is undeniably well-made.  More recently, “The Homesman” and “Big Eyes” offered appealing feminist viewpoints, yet both were rather tediously assembled.

Matthew Warchus’ film “Pride” details the unlikely coalition between British miners and LGBT activists to protest the destructive policies of the Thatcher administration.  These are good people fighting for what they think is right, so the natural reaction would be wanting to support them.  But, overall, the film fails to capture the swelling spirit of a fellow progressively minded film like Gus Van Sant’s “Milk.”

It is not a particularly enlightening look at the nature of successful activism.  It lack insight into discrimination and homophobia on both the institutional and the individual level.  It does not provide any strong emotional pull towards a character (though the story of closeted Joe embracing his identity has some touching moments).  Although, I will say, seeing Imelda Staunton (best known as Dolores Umbridge from “Harry Potter”) breaking it down at a gay club was quite a sight.

I simply watched “Pride.”  I did not feel it.  C2stars