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Moonlight – A Review by Kyle Jonathan

Moonlight

2016.  Directed by Barry Jenkins

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An urban lullaby, Barry Jenkins’s second feature film is a turbulent emotional epic.  Using subtlety and overwhelming restraint, Moonlight tells an all too familiar story of an urban youth struggling to find himself in a manner that is not only realistic and respectful to the culture, but also overcomes any sense of conformity by dismantling the very essence of
what it means to be human.

Told in three acts, with each focusing on a pivotal moment in the main character’s life, Moonlight uses the sun washed streets of Miami as a backdrop for it’s bluesy examination of heartbreak and the unquenchable thirst for acceptance.  Chiron comes of age on the tough streets of a ghetto in south Florida, tortured by his peers for his quietly delicate mannerisms.  His mother slowly loses her battle with addiction and Chiron finds a surrogate father in Juan, a drug dealer who teaches him the importance of self.  During high school, Chiron has a sexual encounter with one of his best friends and in the aftermath is involved in an assault that sends him out of state.  In the final act, Chiron has become a drug dealer like Juan, and yet still craves for a connection like the one from his youth.  A fateful phone call brings Chiron home where he comes full circle with his past, confronting his ghosts with a soft spoken sense of courage and hope.

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The strength of this phenomenal directorial effort is in its fragility.  Chiron’s odyssey is a quiet broken mirror, reflecting his pain and ostracism by contrasting them with a world of characters who have each accepted their fates.  Mahershala Ali’s Oscar worthy supporting role as Juan brims with a cool complacency, a street king who not only understands the game, but fundamentally surrenders to its inevitability.  He teaches Chiron not only to be self aware, but urges him to make peace with the beauty that surrounds him while also deciding for himself who he is going to be.  The father son relationship is highlighted through some wonderful shots in the first act by James Laxton.  Chiron’s hand floats out of car window, reminding the viewer that this is a child forced into the cruel realities of adulthood.  Juan and Chiron’s scene at the beach is a blissful tangent that harmonizes the concepts of self reliance and spiritual rebirth with a dazzling pallet of blues and crystallized light.  The unforgettable denouement of the first act is unforgiving and candidly raw, setting the tone for Chiron’s tribulations to come.

Naomie Harris stars as Chiron’s mother, whose transition from caretaker to fiend is abrupt and tragically realistic.  She runs the gambit of maternal desolation with ease, floating from frustrated concern to violent disgust in an instant, communicating a furnace of self loathing with a handful of lines, the most important of which is muted by Nicholas Birtell’s score.  Every part of his musical design is applied with a beautiful mix of uncertainty and longing, using a classical arsenal to wage Chiron’s personal war to find a place in world that doesn’t seem to want him.  Ashton Sanders as teen Chiron and Jhareel Jerome as teen Kevin have the film’s best scene, a sexual encounter that is handled with such grace and attention that the entirety of what is happening isn’t felt until long after.  This is where Jenkins’s script comes to life, using the two actors to communicate a budding understanding of pain and alienation.

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Trevante Rhodes arrives in the final act as an adult Chiron.  This young actor’s ability to harness the unstable torment in Chiron’s heart with virtually no lines is not only an outstanding byproduct of a formidable talent, but a matter of fact capstone on a film that is already momentous.  He portrays a man who is, in essence, still a teenager on a beach searching for the love of his life.  Every shy look, hesitant breath, and wanting stare is infallible, a perfect summation to the life the viewer has seen unfold.  Laxton used different film stock for each act, with the final being the most vibrant.  There is one scene in particular that uses a deep shot to show the beach from Chiron’s point of view that is heart stopping, dovetailing the rejuvenating colors with Chiron’s anxiety.   As Chiron reconnects with Kevin, the mood is cautious, and yet undeniably hopeful.  Andre Holland’s Kevin is the the missing piece in Chiron’s shattered heart, a warm and self aware shard that contrast’s Chiron’s eternal bereavement.

Moonlight is being touted as one of the best queer films ever made.  While this is certainly true, the magic of Jenkins’s unforgettable story is that is defiantly human.  It highlights an already uncomfortable and foreign demographic and then adds the homosexual element as a means to remind the viewer that we are all in the same struggle.  No matter your race, economic status, religion, or sexual preference, every human has often found themselves in the darkness overcome by grief and uncertainty.  It is the power of love that is the Moonlight, the one universal constant that can repair even the most broken of things.  Chiron and his soulful journey is the face of that truth.

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In theaters now, if you see only one film this year, Moonlight needs to be that movie.  This is a deep film that is not only thoughtfully engaging, but it also makes it remarkably easy to do so.  In a time where fear of ideological opposites dominates our electronic intake, Moonlight shines through the adversity with a message on the importance of compassion and the ameliorating powers of unconditional love.

Highly.  Highly Recommend.

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The Handmaiden – A Review by Kyle Jonathan

The Handmaiden

2016.  Directed by Park Chan-wook.

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One of the most remarkable things about watching films is when you get entranced by the world within the story.  Park Chan-wook’s erotic noir, The Handmaiden, is a sterling example of storytelling made possible by an elaborately constructed environment filled with mysterious pleasures and unspeakable evil.

Petty thief Sook-hee is handpicked by the Count, a Korean grifter looking to get rich posing as a noble during the 1930’s Japanese occupation.  The con involves Sook-hee serving as a handmaiden for Lady Hideko, a despondent heiress who is rumored to be engaged to her reclusive uncle Kouzuki, a purveyor of rare and deviously risque literature.  Sook-hee is to assist with ensuring Hideko falls in love with the Count so that they can marry, allowing her partner to have the lady committed to a sanitarium, and leaving him as the sole inheritor of her immense fortune.  Told over three painfully detailed acts, depicting conflicting points of view, The Handmaiden unfolds into a sexual free fall, in which unbridled passion, tenuous loyalties, and unsettling truths converge into a graphic parable on the cost of desire.

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Chan-wook adapted the script from Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith.  The first act is deliberately slow, introducing the players and casually drawing the viewer into the anachronistic world of Hideko’s sinister household.  While the narrative slightly drags during the overlong introduction, there are endless details whose relevance, once revealed, shows the genius of Chan-wook’s malicious design.  Ryu Seong-hie’s art direction is meticulous and engaging, with the composition of antique relics and unusual sexual devices hiding danger and wonder in equal amounts.  Sang-gyeong Jo’s costume design is a temporal paradox, blending the modern suits of the faux nobility with the pristine kimono’s of the Japanese elite.  Every item, location, and character has an alluring quality, with each individual element concealing an abyss of shadows waiting to be explored.

Chung Chung-hoon’s cinematography has a conspiratorial vibe, capturing various scenes from different angles, with each representing a different player in the macabre contest.  Featuring some of the most vivid sex scenes ever filmed, the camera hovers and spins over top of the couplings, mimicking the heady dizziness of sexual release.  This a gorgeous film populated with gorgeous people, and Chung-hoon encompasses every sexual encounter with an uncomfortable lingering eye that perfectly encapsulates the beauty of forbidden consummation.

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Kim Min-Hee as Hideko and Kim Tae-ri as Sook-hee give excellent performances, completely submitting to Chan-wook’s vision, but also giving each of their roles a personal touch that is vulnerable and empowering throughout.  Ha Jung-woo as the Count delivers a wonderfully subtle turn, whose fatalistic tendencies deliver one of the best surprises.  Cho Jin-woong’s portrayal of the uncle evokes a skin crawling reaction in every scene, simulating a monstrosity in human guise, desperate to shed his skin and revel in the darkness underneath.

While the Hitchcockian influences are undeniable, The Handmaiden defies ordinary constraints due entirely to Chan-wook’s trademark panache.  Taking a base concept of deceit and infusing it with sexual audacity and unsettling insinuations, this is a film that uses every technical aspect to create a poisoned fairy tale, in which normal conventions are inverted so that the viewer is never able to predict the outcome as the story unfolds in three very unique segments, where  atypical archetypes are the weak sister and the underdog is the apex.

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In theaters now, The Handmaiden is one of 2016’s most artistic films.  Featuring beautifully unabashed sex scenes, a dream like world filled with wonder and terror, and a host of strong performances, The Handmaiden delivers on every level.  A potent love story, a noir mishmash of betrayal and violence, and subtle critique on the Japanese occupation of Korea, this is a film that will arouse and repulse in equal amounts, everything that Park Chan-wook’s brilliantly vicious filmography is known for.

Highly recommend.

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Arrival – A Review by Kyle Jonathan

Arrival

2016.  Directed by Denis Villeneuve.

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A slow burn science fiction epic, Arrival is one of the most artistic big budget films to ever be produced.  Featuring an unforgettable lead performance, jaw dropping visual effects, pitch perfect sound design, and somber, one of a kind cinematography, Arrival is a cerebral and extremely relevant film experience.

Twelve alien spacecrafts descend upon Earth, spread across the globe in a random configuration.  The American military recruits language expert Dr. Louise Banks and physicist Ian Donnelly to communicate with the aliens in order to discover if their intentions are hostile.  The pair slowly decipher the extraterrestrials’ complex language, in which visual symbols are used in place of traditional phonetics.  As Louise delves deeper into the alien dialect, she begins to experience a form of transcendence that not only holds the key to the alien’s agenda, but also a contains a power that could either redeem humanity or utterly destroy it.

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Amy Adams gives the performance of her career as Louise.  This is a heavy film. packed with imagery and subtext that could have overshadowed a lackluster performance and Adams’s immense capabilities shine not only in her delivery, but in her total commitment.  She portrays Louise as an outsider, a master in communication and yet a novice in human connection.  As the narrative progresses, the viewer can’t help but identify with her creative weariness, a scientist who believes there is always a non aggressive option, even in the face of annihilation.  She’s supported by Jeremy Renner, who does an excellent job as her academic opposite.  It’s one of the many things about Arrival that is so telling.  When the scientists disagree, they are respectful and use their contrasting viewpoints to find a consensus, offsetting Forest Whitaker’s army officer, whose focus is on the threat.  He takes what could be an opposing force and portrays his character as a concerned collaborator, willing to give science a chance, but always remaining pragmatic.

Bradford Young’s cinematography is pure visual splendor, showcasing a remarkable understanding of a larger than life undertaking.  The shot of the initial approach to the vessel is breath taking, capturing fog as it tumbles across a vista, gorgeously symbolizing the mutual confusion of first contact.   There is a transitional shot involving Louise’s memory, offset by orange emergency lighting that has to be seen to be believed. The shots outside the craft are filled with deep blues and thick shadows, mimicking the  fear of the human world.  The interior of the ship is framed with mind bending angles as the team ventures inside and then saturated with ghostly whites and institutional blacks, using color to evoke the strangeness of the visitors.

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Isabelle Guay’s art direction portrays the otherworldly vessel without complicated gadgetry and ominous corridors, allowing the camera to focus on the interactions.  It is this simplistic and respectful approach that makes it work.  Once the parley begins, the attention is on the participants, with Sylvain Bellemare’s sound design stealing the focus.  Repetition and subtext are key with alien sounds vibrating through the speakers, echoing within the viewer’s mind as they try to piece together the mystery.  Johann Johannson’s score is an intimate companion, being a force unto its self when the action requires and then delicately receding, like the memory of a first kiss   Ryal Cosgrave’s sublime visual effects present the alien dialect with beautiful inky characters, while his vision of their physical form is one of the most unique creature designs ever attempted.

Eric Heisserer’s script, based on the award winning short story by Ted Chiang, will capture gold this awards season.  This is an intoxicating, patient film that respectfully holds the viewer’s hand while also giving them room to explore their own conclusions.  Using the base concepts of communication and alienation as a means to combat inter species conflict, Arrival teaches, but never lectures.  It uses the narrative to present the universal concepts of acceptance and tolerance through a scientific filter but never goes beyond the essentials, remaining accessible to the audience if they are patient with the slow release story design.  There are a few elements related to natural human paranoia that are used to add tension that could have been excised, but their presence only enhances the feeling of desperation that pervades throughout the final act.   While astute viewers will see the conclusion coming long before it happens, Arrival is an experience where the journey of discovery is paramount over the summation.

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Debuting in theaters today, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is one of the best films of 2016.  Continuing his amazing streak of thought provoking and challenging movies, Villeneuve proves that he is more than capable of delivering greatness.  His control over the potent elements is evident in every frame, with the final product being one of the most thought provoking and genuinely heartfelt films in recent memory.

Highly, highly recommend.

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Night of the Slasher – A Review by Kyle Jonathan

Night of the Slasher

2016.  Directed by Shant Hamassian.

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Night of the Slasher is a wickedly sharp homage to the unstoppable killer genre that dominated 80’s American Cinema.  Using a one shot approach and ten minutes and change, Night of the Slasher manages to outshine other masked killer clones with excellent craftsmanship, a surprisingly emotional lead performance, and a script that not only hones in on the essence of stalker horror, but is also a brilliant revision of the Final Girl concept.

Teenager Jenelle begins her night by dancing, half naked and alone in her house.  She then embarks on a metaphysical checklist, engaging in various risque activities, each of which is an ingredient used to summon a relentless manifestation of slasher flick villainy.  Using her suicidal bravado and quick thinking, Jenelle confronts her tormentor in a desperate showdown, hoping to break free from a prison of cliches.

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Eli Tahan’s jittery cinematography captures the entire film with the appearance of one continuous take, abandoning traditionally slow transitions by rapidly moving the camera between different vantage points, deftly following Jenelle’s panic stricken point of view while perfectly harmonizing with Simon Michel’s synth infused score.  Using what is absent from the viewer’s perspective, Hamassian’s editing gives the killer an ethereal quality as he seems to vanish into thin air and then reappears just as suddenly, charmingly emulating the quasi-mystical attributes of prolific 80’s boogeymen.  Hamassian’s script has virtually no dialogue, relying on the outstanding body work of Lily Berlina as Jenelle and Adam Lesar as The Killer.

While Berlina’s physical work is outstanding, her approach to the subject matter is remarkably original.  Her Jenelle has been brutally victimized, but she has no interest in being a victim.  She is adroitly aware of her predicament, and rather than surrender to hopeless platitudes or sexual exploitation, she grabs the horror conventions by the throat and viciously fights back, furiously taking control of a destiny that has classically been a foregone conclusion.

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The entirety of Night of the Slasher could play as the intro to a longer film, except Hamassian has a more devious goal, completely obliterating tradition and giving the viewer just enough to whet their appetite.  The conclusion comes abruptly, and there’s a telling look by one of the characters that is shockingly resonant, a perfect summation for an ultimate love letter to the genre, featuring an outstanding choice for The Killer’s mask that will have Carpenter fans cheering in their seats.

Available now on Vimeo, Night of the Slasher is now eligible for an Academy Award nomination for Best Short Film.  By Using every possible second to maintain a tense atmosphere, portraying its female protagonist as aggressively competent, and through the use of a wonderfully original approach, Night of the Slasher is essential viewing for horror fans.  Even if horror is not your preferred genre, fans of creative approaches to tired subject matter will find something to marvel at in this bravely self aware renegade.

Highly Recommend.

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Suture – A Review by Kyle Jonathan

Suture

1993.  Directed by Scott McGehee & David Siegel.

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A minimalist neo noir that flirts with the morality of memory, Suture is a black and white psychological thriller that separates the classical archetypes of good and evil through the use of color.  From afar, Suture plays like an art house piece on identity and racial consciousness, however, its spartan atmosphere uses the representations of colors to subvert these concepts, delivering a cyclical story on the nature of consciousness.

Clay is a blue collar worker who is invited to visit with his half brother, Vincent, after the murder of their father.  The two brothers are nearly identical, and Vincent uses this to his advantage, faking his own death by blowing up his car while Clay is driving and ensuring that Clay is identified as him.  Clay miraculously survives the explosion, but with amnesia.  He begins to undergo rigorous psychological treatment while the police clamor for explanations into the father’s death.  As Clay slowly begins to understand his predicament, he falls in love with one of his therapists and Terence returns to the family’s palatial estate, looking to silence Clay once and for all.

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Dennis Haysbert stars as Clay, while Michael Harris portrays Terence.  The directors chose to use a black actor for Clay and a white actor for Terence, making the entire narrative design appear to be a statement on race, but as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that this was done to set the two characters completely apart.  Aside from the last few lines, most of the story remains grounded in Clay’s ordeal with him instantly accepting his new persona while slowly beginning to realize that something is wrong.  This is a slick film that takes great pains with stylistic choices, valuing cool aesthetics in place of depth.  There are several uncomfortably hilarious scenes, with Clay being the only black man in a lineup taking the crown.  Suture knows exactly what it is doing, and its constant decision to stay focused on the mystery rather than the social implications is what makes it work.

Mette Hansen’s costume design is pivotal.  Clay, begins in a flannel and denim, but as he accepts his role as Terence, he switches to crisp white suits, fully symbolizing his true nature.  Terence abandons the white garb in the final sequence, opting for coal black attire that mimics his heart.  The attention to detail shines in virtually every scene, with Greg Gardiner’s blissful cinematography winning top honors at Sundance, capturing the action with Hitchockian emulation.  There are gorgeous wide shots of mysterious Arizona buildings, one of which is an abandoned bank, brilliantly decorated by Nancy Wenz to appear as a lonely stronghold of decadence.

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Steven Soderbergh viewed an early cut and came on board as an executive producer.  McGehee and Siegel’s outstanding script pilfers from Frakenheimer and Teshigahara casually evoking deeper concepts but never fully committing.  This is a noir film, through and through, and it’s this conceit that is perhaps the film’s greatest weakness.  The racially motivated casting is purely to create division between “hero” and villain.

Available now on an outstanding blu ray transfer from Arrow Video, Suture is a unique independent thriller.  Taking an overdone premise and using color to visually remodel the Cain and Abel parable into a slick neo noir that brims with attitude.  If you’re looking for something unique that doesn’t overshadow it’s story with deafening symbolism, Suture is an excellent choice.

Recommend.

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Taxi Driver – A Review by Kyle Jonathan

Taxi Driver

1976.  Directed by Martin Scorsese.

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A cinematic journey into an urban purgatory, Scorsese’s masterpiece Taxi Driver is not only one of the most influential American films in history, but also continues to be one of the most artistically important movies ever created.   Using the concepts of mental illness and post Vietnam paranoia, Taxi Driver unequivocally presents a salient exploration of the lone gunmen mythology that continues to remain disturbingly relevant 40 years later.

Travis Bickle is a veteran who suffers from depression and insomnia.  He takes a job as a cab driver, working endless night shifts on the haunted streets of New York, traversing even the most dangerous neighborhoods.  Travis becomes enamored with a political operative working on a presidential campaign, however the relationship rapidly erodes due to Travis’s odd predilections.  In the wake of his emotional distress, Travis begins to plot the assassination of the presidential hopeful, while simultaneously trying to liberate a child prostitute from the clutches of the street, hurtling him towards one of the most brutally iconic climaxes in history.

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Winning the coveted Palm d’Or at Cannes, the film’s brooding script was penned by the legendary Paul Schrader.  Using Travis’s disjointed voice overs to narrate his descent into madness, Taxi Driver has a devilish quality, ruthlessly critiquing societal mores with a blistering cacophony of senseless monologues, whose uncomfortable notions slowly evolve, matching Travis’s mental undoing with verbal harmony.  All of the characters that exist in Travis’s orbit are shadows, petty dispensers of street curb wisdom, tainted Madonnas, and suits full of empty promises.  Each interaction, including an unforgettable cameo by Scorsese himself, is a dangerous escalation, slowly moving Travis closer to his murderous finality.

Michael Chapman’s cinematography captures the cigarette stained locales of a fallen New York with diabolic neon reds and lonely blues and greens.  This is a film that wears the heart’s blood of the Big Apple on it’s soiled Army jacket sleeve, eloquently capturing the symbiosis of a festering inner city with the privileged echelons that trample upon it.  The bulk of the shots are from the interior of the taxi, mimicking Travis’s longing to be part of a world he holds in contempt because he doesn’t understand it.  The infamous tracking shot (which took several months to complete) uses an overhead point of view to present the aftermath of the finale as an out of body experience, further enhancing the often debated conclusion.

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Using a vicious conflagration of primal instinct and last ditch endearment, De Niro creates a living urban legend in the performance of a lifetime as Travis.  Within minutes, you know how the story will most likely end, but De Niro’s formidable incarnation of the troubled outsider garners a tenuous empathetic relationship with the viewer.  You care, but are always questioning why and this the definition of acting.  The famous “You talkin’ to me?” line is so powerful because of the way De Niro wields it, challenging the viewer to accept Travis’s deadly plea for attention, a flawless interpretation of the character’s wounded soul.  Jodie Foster’s virginal Iris is a poisoned breath of fresh air, portraying an all too real child casualty of the unforgiving metropolis.  Her role was so controversial that she was required to undergo a psychological evaluation prior to accepting the part to ensure she was mentally capable.  Both De Niro and Foster would go on to be nominated for Academy Awards.

Peter Boyle gives a broken fortune cookie turn as Wizard, the cabbie veteran whose counsel for Travis is ill advised and perfectly simulates the false concern of bandwagon camaraderie.  Harvey Keitel spent time with an actual pimp in preparation for his portrayal of Matthew, and his handful of scenes are masterfully woven into the story to ironically give Travis’s ire a legitimate target.  Bernard Herrmann’s saxophone laced score is the fallen Angel on Travis’s shoulder, taking what would conventionally be a jazz infused New York love note and subverting it to display a false grandeur, fully encompassing Scorsese’s vision of a tarnished and counterfeit American dream.  Herrmann’s work was also nominated for an Oscar.

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Scorcese’s direction is the epitome of control.  The entirety of Taxi Driver could easily be construed as a fever dream, but even the most expansive parts of Travis’s litany of hate remain grounded in the nocturnal underbelly of New York, with each street representing an infected vein feeding into a rotting heart.  Scorsese’s ability to take a deceptively simple premise and produce an atmospheric chamber piece in which the prison is a city without limits is a one of kind experience.  There have been many films about vengeful outcasts, but none have managed to capture the unrelenting darkness of the mind quite like Taxi Driver, a feat made possible by Scorsese’s mastery of the malign.

Available now for digital rental, Taxi Driver is an essential American film that uses the mental disarray of a lone wolf as an expose’ on a fractured, post war America.  From the way veteran’s were casually discarded to the political distrust that gripped the nation, Taxi Driver depicts a plausible Hell on Earth in which the devil is not only very real, but nihilistic and motivated, a concept that continues to remain frighteningly realistic to this day.

Highly.  Highly. Recommend.

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Speed Racer – A Review by Kyle Jonathan

 

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Speed Racer

2008.  Directed by Lilly & Lana Wachowski.

A bacchanal of cheesy excess, the Wachowski’s Speed Racer is a unique incarnation of the family film, bringing the eponymous anime serial to life.  Featuring the directors’s patented theme of artistic rebellion against authoritative control, Speed Racer also delivers a blitzkrieg of CGI visuals and a heartwarming story about familial love conquering all.

Speed is an 18 year old racing prodigy, living in the shadow of his brother Rex who died on the track.  He races for his family’s independently owned company, valuing his personal tribe and the art of racing over fortune and fame.  Speed is approached by Royalton, CEO of a mega corporation, and offered the contract of a lifetime.  After he rejects the offer, Royalton retaliates by placing a bounty on Speed’s head, one that other drivers are eager to collect.  Speed finds an ally in another independent racing company who asks him for help in The Crucible, the circuit’s most notorious race, in order to ensure that their company will not be consumed by Royalton’s empire.  Things become further complicated when Speed is joined by Inspector Detector and the mysterious Racer X, a crime fighting duo who are desperate to put an end to Royalton’s schemes once and for all.

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The film took 60 days to shoot entirely on green screen.  David Tattersall’s trippy cinematography captures the the cartoonish action in an explosion of neon.  The framing is all over the place, with the backgrounds melding with the characters to optically dazzle and confuse whenever the cars are engaged in vehicular combat. Kym Barrett’s costume designs are flawless reproductions from the show, while Hugh Bateup’s art direction recreates not only iconic scenes, but double’s down on the outright insanity of the visual acrobatics.  Stephanie Fowler’s makeup has a synthetic quality, allowing each character to mimic their animated counterparts with frightening accuracy, a quality that takes some time getting used to.

The turbulent editing during the race scenes captures the CGI mayhem with a lightning cadence, doubling down on Speed Racer’s relentless visual assault.  The action is mostly harmless, with peril never being a factor, but that is part of the charm.  The technical gadgetry of the race cars has a neo steampunk feel that is one of the many intriguing aspects of the world Speed Racer creates.  Despite the epic run time, many details of the actual universe in which the saga takes place are sadly never explored, using the bulk of the narrative to focus on the contests and the internal struggles of Speed’s family.

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The Wachowski’s script has a infectious B movie vibe that replaces traditional acting with ludicrous pantomiming.  Every cast member is playing a preconceived role with virtually no freedom to explore the depths of their characters. However, this is not so much a weakness as it is a testament to the directorial vision.  The idea was to make a living cartoon and the result is exactly that, complete with the logical flaws that accompany an animated universe.  Roger Allam as Royalton chews up the excessive scenery by portraying his character as a walking symbol of corporate greed.  Matthew Fox gives a surprisingly good performance as the tough guy Racer X and it’s his story line that elevates the entire affair above the endless clones of family films.  Speed Racer has a lot to say when it gives the time to think on its themes of family and artistic freedom, but these moments are few and far between.

Ultimately, this an overlong confusing mess of a film that is a perfect representation of the Wachowski’s volume of work.  They consistently pick interesting concepts that, if accomplished, would completely change the game with respect to the medium.  Like Cloud Atlas, this is one of the most unique cinematic experiences out there, offering of the first attempts at creating a live action film that is a complete copy of its predecessor.   Sometimes, too much, is too much, and the film suffers as a result, collapsing in the final leg of it’s bloated story line.  Despite these concessions, witnessing this film for the first time is truly an unforgettable experience.

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Available now for digital rental, Speed Racer uses a painfully loyal adaptation as a means to once again allow the Wachowski’s to saber rattle against authority, while also presenting a touching story about the sacrifices we all make for our families.  A one of kind visual delight, Speed Racer is a flawed, but poignantly resplendent experiment that succeeds far more than it fails.

Recommend.

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