Tag Archives: Andrew Garfield

David Robert Mitchell’s Under The Silver Lake

David Robert Mitchell’s Under The Silver Lake is for sure going to repel, frustrate and test people’s patience as I can already see by the hordes of nasty reviews, but I loved this thing. It’s one of those scintillating, fractal LA neo-noir flicks like The Big Lebowski that seems somehow well oiled and deliberately scattershot at the same time. Mitchell marched onto the scene five years ago with his acclaimed horror debut It Follows, but Silver Lake is a brand new bag and shows he can switch up tone, setting and genre pretty adeptly.

Andrew Garfield plays against type as Sam, a meandering loser who seems more interested in following a never ending path of hidden clues that only he seems to be able to make sense of than worrying about his heinously overdue rent. He plays the role like one of Neverland’s lost boys out on the skids, a sheepish, constantly perplexed flunkee who just can’t seem to get his shit together. After catching feels for a mysterious girl (Riley Keough) in his motel complex who promptly disappears the next morning, he believes he’s onto a secret society of people who leave cryptic messages in plain sight, on wall graffiti, stadium score screens and within popular music tracks. Is he actually onto something big, or is he just as crazy as the conspiracy theorizing comic book artist (Patrick Fischler, whose very presence cements the Mulholland Drive homage) and the paranoid drinking buddy (Topher Grace) whom he associates with? Well, he’s certainly unlocked something, and whether it’s Hollywood’s deepest set ring of secrets and conspiracies or simply emerging mental illness chipping away at his grasp on reality is something that Mitchell maddeningly and deliciously leaves up to us.

This is one unbelievably ambitious and stylized film, so much so that it’s two and a half hour runtime isn’t even enough to bring every story thread, subplot and circus sideshow to a conclusion, but there’s a nagging inkling that Mitchell meant to do exactly that and it wasn’t just because he didn’t know how to cap every idea off. By not telling us exactly what’s up with everything, we wonder more about the deeper layers behind Sam’s journey and the Byzantine forces that are somehow always just out of reach. What’s the point then, you may ask? Well, it’s a good question, and there may not even be one, which has obviously been a deal breaker for many who saw this. The journey, and the episodic silliness is what you come for I suppose, and your ability to deal with the nihilistic senselessness of it all is the barometer on whether you stay, and have positive words after.

Sure, it even irked me a bit that we never learned the identity of the mysterious serial killer of dogs (watch for a freaky Black Dahlia nod), or found out more about the Machiavellian Songwriter (I don’t even know who plays this guy as it’s clearly a younger dude under gobs of old man makeup a lá Jackass) who pulls unseen strings in the music industry, but did that stop me from enjoying and being stimulated by these sequences? No, and they’re some of the most memorable stuff I’ve seen onscreen in a while. The film may be all over the place and certainly trips over its shoelaces here and there, but it’s something bold, unheard of and even feels unique in the sub category of sunny, drunken and dazed out LA noir. There are moments of hysterical comedy and instances of blood freezing horror that both had me in stitches and genuinely spooked me out more than any film this year so far, and when a piece can lay claim to both in the same runtime, you know you’re onto something. This is probably headed for cult status, the marketing hasn’t really been kind and even seems to have tried to bury it (it’s on Amazon Prime) but I hope it finds its audience and endures, because it’s really something unique and special. Listen for another achingly beautiful score from Disasterpiece, who also did It Follows but switch the synths up for something even more retro and inspired by golden age Hollywood, like the film itself. My favourite of the year so far!

-Nate Hill

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Mel Gibson’s HACKSAW RIDGE

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Most of HACKSAW RIDGE is so conventional, it is admirable. It is a sweeping period piece epic that really doesn’t get made anymore, and if it does, it lacks the heart and soul that Gibson brings to this film. The battle sequence that is prominently featured in the trailer is truly awesome; it showcases Gibson’s supreme talent as a visual storyteller, blending CGI effects with practical explosions.

Gibson cast this film well. While at times it is strange seeing so many Australians and Europeans playing American GI’s, but never once does their native accent bleed through. Each actor selected for their respective role looks and feels the part, particularly the GI’s battling on Hacksaw Ridge. Vince Vaughn’s rebirth into dramatic roles is not getting enough attention. He really does America this film up monumentally, and he steals every single frame he is in.

The sweeping score by Rupert Gregson-Williams is fantastic, and the music wonderfully supports the epic visuals that Gibson carefully crafts. Simon Duggan’s cinematography is near perfect, making every shot in the film seamless and organic. The props, set design, costumes, and battlefield aesthetics are so on point, it makes the viewer wonder how much time was spent making sure they got everything just right.

The film certainly runs the risk of its religious conviction subject matter becoming overbearing, the point is clearly made, and made again, yet regardless of your personal beliefs, you cannot help but admire and applaud Desmond Doss as a hero. Andrew Garfield’s turn as Doss is very good, but in a year of overwhelmingly solid performances from male leads, it is a bit surprising he got nominated, but considering the Academy’s abundant love for the picture, it makes sense.

A lot has, and continues to be said about Gibson and his previous transgressions. But for those of us who can separate a person’s personal life from their art – this is a flat-out welcomed return from a cinematic titan who has been sorely missed. HACKSAW RIDGE may not be more worthy than other films that missed being nominated for Best Picture, but after viewing the film, you can’t be upset that the film and Gibson were nominated.

 

The Red Riding Trilogy: A Review by Nate Hill

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The Red Riding Trilogy is one of the most dense, absolutely impenetrable pieces of work I’ve ever seen, let alone attempted to dissect with my clunky writing skills. It’s also fairly horrifying, as it chronicles the tale of the Yorkshire Ripper, an elusive and mysterious serial child killer who terrorized this area of Britain through the late 70’s and early 80’s. Viler still are the strong implications that very powerful people, including the brass of the West Yorkshire police, made every disgusting attempt to cover up the crimes and protect the killer, who’s murders included that of children. It’s a brave move by UK’s Channel 4 to openly make such notions obvious within their story, and commendable the level of patience, skill and strong ambition in the undertaking is quite the payoff, whilst simultaneously taking a toll on you for sitting through it. The sheer scope of it must be noted; it’s separated into three feature length films, each vastly different in setting, character and tone, and each blessed with a different director. The filmmakers even went as far as to film the first, which is set in 1974, in 16mm, the second in 35mm being set in 1980 and the third makes a leap to high definition video and takes place in 1983. Such a progression of time is a dismal reflection of the sticky corruption which clings to societies, decaying them stealthily over years, and the few keen individuals who will not let the truth die as long as there is a glimmer of uncertainty. Now, if you asked me exactly what happens over the course of this trilogy, who is who, what has happened to which characters and who is guilty, I simply wouldn’t be able to tell you. It’s a deliberatly fractured narrative told through the prism of dishonest, corrupt psyches and has no use for chronology either. Characters who you saw die in the first film show up in the subsequent ones, actors replace each other in certain roles, and there’s just such a thick atmosphere of confusion and despair that in the 302 minute running time I was not able to make complete sense. I think this is a great tactic to help you realize that the film means to show the futile, cyclical nature of reality, as opposed to a traditionally structured story with a clear cut conclusion. Events spiral into each other with little rhyme or reason, until we feel somewhat lost, knowing full well that terrible events are unfolding in front of our eyes, events that are clouded and just out of our comprehensive grasp in a way that unsettles you and makes you feel as helpless as the few decent people trying to solve the case. One such person is an investigative reporter searching for the truth in the first film, played by Andrew Garfield. He stumbles dangerously close to answers which are promptly yanked away by the sinister forces of the Yorkshire police, brutalized and intimidated into submission. He comes close though, finding a lead in suspiciously sleazy real estate tycoon Sean Bean, who’s clearly got ties to whatever is really going on. The level of willful corruption demonstrated by the police is sickening. “To the North, where we do what we want” bellows a chief, toasting dark secrets to a roomful of cop comrades who are no doubt just as involved as him. The kind of blunt, uncaring dedication to evil is the only way to explain such behaviour, because in the end it’s their choice and they know what they’re doing. Were these officers as vile as the film depicts in the real life incidents? Someone seems to think so. Who’s to know? Probably no one ever at this point, a dreadful feeling which perpetuates the themes of hopelessness. The second film follows a nasty Police Chief (David Morrissey) who is bothered by old facts re emerging and seems to have a crisis of conscience. Or does he? The clichéd cinematic logline “no one is what they seem” has never been more pertinent than in these three films. It’s gets to a point where you actually are anticipating every single person onscreen to have some buried evil that will get upturned. A priest (Peter Mullan is superb) shows up in the second film only to be involved in dark turns of the third. Sean Bean’s character and his legacy hover over everything like a black cloud. A mentally challenged young man is held for years under suspicion of being the Ripper. A disturbed abuse survivor (wild eyed Robert Sheehan) seeks retribution. A Scotland Yard Detective (Paddy Considine) nobly reaches for truth. Many other characters have conundrums of roles to play in a titanic cast that includes Cara Seymour, Mark Addy, Sean Harris, James Fox, Eddie Marsan, Shaun Dooley, Joseph Mawle and more. The process in which the story unfolds is almost Fincher – esque in its meticulous assembly, each character and plot turn a cog in a vast machine whose purpouse and ultimate function are indeed hard to grasp. I need to sit down and watch it at least two more times through before the cogs turn in a way that begins to make sense to me, and a measurable story unfolds. It’s dark, dark stuff though, presenting humanity at its absolute worst, and in huge quantities too, nightmarish acts that go to huge levels of effort just to produce evil for.. well, it seems just for evil’s sake, really. The cast and filmmakers craft wonderful work though, and despite the blackness there is a macabre, almost poetic allure to it, beauty in terror so to speak. It’s rough, it’s long, it’s dense and it thoroughly bucks many a cinematic trend that let’s you reside in your perceptive comfort zone, beckoning you forth with extreme narrative challenge, an unflinching gaze into the abyss no promise of catharsis at the end of the tunnel. There’s nothing quite like it, I promise you.

RAMIN BAHRANI’S 99 HOMES — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Ramin Bahrani has made five feature films thus far in his fascinating career, and all of them have been some of the best films of their respective years, with the trio of Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, and Goodbye Solo forming some sort of personal trifecta of small, less-is-more-inspired filmmaking, almost the American answer to the Dardenne brothers. His latest, the viciously angry social drama 99 Homes hits some of the same keys of maximized melodrama that his previous film did, the underrated At Any Price with Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron, while telling a topical, important, and thoroughly engrossing story that will likely be too intense and too real for some viewers. Concentrating on the financial and housing collapse of 2008 and centering the action in Orlando, arguably the epicenter of the sub-prime mortgage disaster zone, Bahrani and co-writer Amir Naderi have fashioned a compelling and provocative narrative that finds a struggling young man named Dennis Nash (an impassioned and excellent Andrew Garfield) learning just how far he’s willing to go to put food on the table for his son and mother, let alone a home over the heads. Michael Shannon is the real estate shark named Rick who has figured out how to take advantage of an already corrupt system, exploiting the failures and misery of others for his own financial gain; he sits at the same table as Gordon Gekko and Blake from Glengarry Glen Ross. The image of Shannon incessantly ripping his E-cigarette is one of the more searing visuals I’ve seen in any movie this year, and the effectively restless and propulsive music was scored by Antony Partos and Matteo Zingales, giving the film a level of anxiety that Bahrani ratchets up through his controlled and vigorous direction. Tackling topical themes and plotlines in works of Hollywood-based fiction can sometimes be a tricky proposition, but here, Bahrani and his skilled team knew precisely how to calibrate all of the elements.

The film kicks into high gear after Nash, his son, and his mother (the reliably fantastic Laura Dern) are evicted from their life-long home by Rick and two police offers, in an emotionally harrowing scene which is repeated throughout the story to underscore just how many people were affected by the greed and duplicity of financial managers, bankers, the federal government, and themselves. The superb cinematographer Bobby Bukowski can lay claim to having shot two of the most socially relevant and topical films of the year, with groundbreaking work done on Oren Moverman’s homeless drama Time Out of Mind, and incredibly intense lensing on 99 Homes. The film pulses with an immediacy, heightened by Bukowski’s smart widescreen framing, with the hazy Orlando sunlight offering the false promise of a happy day. The opening steadicam shot is nothing short of bravura, introducing the audience to the reprehensible but magnetic character of Rick, with Shannon shredding the screen with predator-like energy and endless answers to the various situations he’s found himself in. And while Garfield is undoubtedly convincing as a man pushed to his moral and ethical limits, all throughout, we’re constantly reminded that this is the Michael Shannon show, with this tremendous actor delivering an utterly ferocious performance that feels all too possible and realistic – you know there are plenty of people out there just like Rick, ready to swoop in and grab any and all of the pieces that they can line their pockets with; the agitated screenplay constantly stings and reminds us of how vulnerable many of us truly are at any given moment in life. This is the REAL horror movie for the month of October, and one of the best strengths of the film is its ending, which feels logical, understandable, and rational, as it takes into account everything that has come before it, with the final, mildly ambiguous beats suggesting nothing simple or happy for anyone. 99 Homes is tough but vital cinematic medicine that goes down smooth while leaving an appropriately bitter aftertaste. It’s one of the best films of the year.

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