IR In-The-Trenches: THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS [Netflix]

Advertisements

IR In-The-Trenches: THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCKS IN ITS WALLS [Universal Studios Home Entertainment]

IR DVD Review: BROTHERS [Well Go USA]

The essence of mainstream Chinese cinema reflects in certain values and textures of the mythic. In Brothers, the ideal reflects back in the war in the 1920s between the nationalist and the communist factions in China. While the ideology is not specifically addressed, the specific story is integrated between two brothers indoctrinated into the army but ultimately through circumstance they find themselves on separate sides. The filmmaking structure of the technology according to the behind the scenes bonus features began in 2010 and the film was purely made on a stage with green screen. The look of the film reflects that mostly of “Sin City” and, to a lesser point, “300” (made in 2005 and 2006 respectively). Creating whole battle sequences on water and on mountains in this way is interesting but obviously labor intensive as the film didn’t come out until 2016. The conflict involves the older brother Wang and the younger brother Chen coming to terms with the men they have become and their loyalty to those they serve. The underlying narrative structure involves Chen being assigned after a particularly brutal battle to escort some female musicians to a place called High City for a performance. His brother, now part of an assassin squad, finds them and their conflict of ideals begins. While the dialogue is very matter of fact, the texture of the relationship makes definite sense as it does rouse to an almost blindsided conclusion until the resolution is structured. The bonus features also speak to the two actors’ approach to their perspective characters but the enclosed trailer does give away too much of the plot. “Brothers” shows the continually evolving market’s ability to try new things while remaining in certain element of mythic themes resonant to the individual.

C

By Tim Wassberg

IR Blu Ray Review: PAPILLON [Bleecker Street/USHE]

The accessibility of a remake always depends on the people making it and the necessary ramifications for such a pursuit. The ideal behind “Papillon” which was previous made as a movie in the 1970s starring Steve McQueen & Dustin Hoffman is one of showcase. Most younger generations wouldn’t have had a perception of such a story, especially one that begins in the 1930s. But like most great stories worth telling, the essence borders in the mythic. Charlie Hunnam portrays Papillon. Hunnam definitely has an eye for unusual material with literical overtones which might not necessarily give breathe to his marquee value but definitely marks him differently. He turned down “Fifty Shades Of Grey” right before he was to shoot it. While “King Arthur” didn’t succeed, “The Lost City Of Z” was an interesting choice. The challenge is obvious within “Papillon” for him but like “ A Prayer Before Dawn” from A24 earlier this year, the power of the story might not have been enough to connect with audiences. The aspect of Rami Malek, who now has reached a mainstream perception with his lead role as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody”, playing Louis Dega nicely complements Hunnam’s Papillon much like Hoffman to McQueen. Malek brings a quite reserve and nervousness to Dega which again shows his dynamic range as compared to say his work on “Mr. Robot”. The locations are interestingly vague yet specific. It starts out in Paris in the 1930s, all shot on soundstage. Most of the actual prison and interiors seems to be have been shot in Serbia. There is an old world dirtiness to the proceedings while including a sense of history. The essence of Malta is definitely felt in Devil’s Island (who many may recognize from the ending of 1980’s “Popeye”) The themes of escape and abandonment versus a sense of belonging resonate throughout the film. The film does get a bit esoteric during Papillon’s isolation time which is a creative choice but unbalances the progression. In terms of extras, there are a nice selection of deleted scenes though only two specifically give a specific enhancement to the film in terms of detail: one being the escaping band of criminals negotiating with a village of lepers and the other being Louis finding a sense of piece in gardening and caring for animals. Both scenes show a sense of gentleness both in Papi and Louis that maybe gets lost at times in the savagery of the prison. “Papillon” didn’t necessarily need to be made but those involve definitely show their passion in these continuing stories that need to be told.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR Blu Ray Review: MILE 22 [STX/USHE]

The integration of global cinema is finding the right balance that appeals to all corners while still remaining edgy. For most places, this involves moving towards the center and not necessarily to the darker elements. Director Peter Berg seems in his movies with Mark Wahlberg (who also produces) to find that interesting mix between personal story, political underpinings and essential practical action. Their previous collaboration: “Patriot’s Day” was more specifically encompassed with a certain idea of an American style response within the Boston Massacre in a town that is very close to Wahlberg’s heart. But like Berg’s “The Kingdom”, what their latest “Mile 22” does is push the idea of the edge of the zone while still embracing new ideas. While Wahlberg is the marquee star here, it is the breakneck pace of the film which allows not just him but the other actors, especially Iko Uwais, the star of the breakout Indonesian action film “The Raid” to shine. The fact that this film can operate on that level as well as the film Wahlberg is trying to make is admirable. Some of the facts get muddled since the script is somewhat scitzophrenic and trying to move too fast but the action is just as frenetic and almost overtakes what Berg is trying to do. At its core, “Mile 22” is a stopwatch action film; point A to point B involving the need to deliver an asset. However using different places and streets to its advantage is key. As shown in the bonus features (and in its initial release) part of the big street scenes were shot in Bogota, Colombia. Having been to the city for a wedding, there is so much possibility to its back and main streets (although it is set to mirror at Southeastern Asian fictional city). Bogota is used to a point but also as a angle to bring more film production despite the country having a somewhat checkered tourism past from decade to decade. The stunts are interesting but most of the material on the Blu Ray was originally created as publicity material for the original release so no new material is here though what is included should be fodder for any regular cinema collector. Another stand out is Lauren Cowan, who brings to mind a 2018 version of Bridget Moynahan (who starred with Al Pacino and Colin Farrell in “The Recruit” in the early 2000s). This reviewer has not experienced her screen presence as Maggie in “The Walking Dead” but her steel here hopefully bodes for more focal elements on the big screen as well. “Mile 22” is an expert exercise by two filmmakers wanting to push the boundaries but also understanding the need for entertainment, however hard nosed, within the audience.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR Film Review: THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB [Sony/Columbia]

The essence of Lisbeth Salander is in her ability to be almost detached from her emotional state. Her effectiveness is based on her coldness. “The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo” operated in this world in an almost uncomfortable way, as is the nature of David Fincher’s approach in many of his films to human behavior. “The Girl In The Spider’s Web” is a much more mainstream approach and, while not as starkly original as the previous entry, is nevertheless very effective in its point. Claire Foy, mostly known recently for her work on “The Crown”, obviously does a 180 pivot but her Salander never feels as lived in as Rooney Mara’s version. She is nonetheless again very specific and effective in the role but in a more mainstream way. The triggers of the script especially in the logistics of certain sequences are quite good. Even though this film was made for a price versus “Dragon Tattoo” including lesser known actors, the script doesn’t betray that. Like the vastly inferior “Snowman”, “Web” does capture Stockholm & Scandinavia quite well. The only idea that has a little bit to move on is the assumption that most of the audience knows some of the story with Mikael Blomquist (played by Daniel Craig in the previous version) which came before.

The focus here is family and a NSA defense mechanism that offers a good amount of power to whoever possesses it. The mechanics of how that is revealed and tested is both sloppy and oddly consistent at the same time. Director Fede Alvarez, who directed the “Evil Dead” remake and “Don’t Breathe” has a steady hand and doesn’t move away from the grotesque but also plays for the most part within the lines which should provide some response from audiences. The stand out simply because she can disappear so well is Sylvia Hoeks who was undeniably luminous in her darkness within “Blade Runner 2049”. Here she plays the sister of Lisbeth: Camilla through which there is undeniable pain and darkness which makes itself known as the story progresses (while also being its framing mechanism). Hoeks will eventually be given her own platform in the next couple years because her character work can be stunning. “The Girl In The Spider’s Web” is effective and offers a more accessible vision into the Lisbeth Salander universe with a paced and detailed story and some good character turns despite some lapses in progression.

B-

By Tim Wassberg