The Raven is a sci-fi short about a guy (known as the Raven) with paranormal abilities who is on the run from the state authorities. The episode starts with him being discovered in Los Angeles and then trying to flee the city.
I suppose, the story as such is okay – at least, it’s internally consistent and also coherent. But it looks to me like a teaser to a much larger action movie rather than aт independent and complete story. It is also a pure action, with no drama (or comedy) whatsoever, so it’s not all that interesting. Of course, the execution is absolutely wonderful, with all the special effects, a very well thought-through universe of discourse, and more than decent acting.
Paradies: Liebe is an arthouse drama about an elderly woman from Austria named Teresa who came to Kenya in search of some kind of compassion. She gets lured there by the tales of her friends, who enjoy the opportunities of a strikingly poor country, but unlike them what she’s looking for is love. Instead she finds nothing but deceit and greed.
The film indeed depicts a rather realistic world of unpleasantly fat european ladies and Kenyan hunks who pretend to like them in order to cadge money from them. The heroine of the story does not want pleasure, which she can totally get for money, what she wants is something that cannot be bought, but the men of Kenya got so spoiled by easy money they are no longer capable of that.
The story is pretty sad, for the main conclusion one could draw from it is that love is extremely hard to find, if possible at all. As most arthouse movies go, it consists mostly of air, of empty space, and because of that could seem excruciatingly long to some people. I can’t say that I particularly like the artistic method presented, but I believe it has every right to exist – especially considering that it does allow to develop an internally consistent story, which this film is. But, just like life, it doesn’t end with anything – we can surmise that Teresa had enough of it, and maybe even would kill herself due to general hopelessness of her life, but even if she would, it would take place outside of the bounds of this plot; there is no action there to symbolize a dot at the end of the sentence, which left me unsatisfied. I guess, that could have been the idea, but if it was it wasn’t pronounced enough – not for me, anyway.
The execution is pretty good – everything looks nice from the technical point of view; the acting is alright, for the off-speed pace of the story that is. Be prepared to see plenty of flesh in the form of excessive weight, as well as private parts – the film tries to be as realistic as possible in that respect as much as in all the others.
All in all it was okay for me – I’ve definitely seen much worse; however, I’ve seen better as well. There is some point to the story, and there is some point to the way it was shown. I suppose, the best word to describe it would be recherche. Take it or leave it.
Night Night Nancy is a horror short about a girl who wakes up and realizes that she’s not alone in her house. While texting with her friend, she sees a girl in mask with a huge machete wandering around, apparently in search of her. She hides in the closet and dials the friend she was texting with only to discover somebody else right there with her holding her friend’s phone.
You know, even after recounting the plot of the story, I still can’t figure out what it’s about. Is it about some kind of serial killings? Is it about her friend’s plot to murder her? Is it something mystical? All in all looks like a sequence of shots only put together with an intention to frighten the viewer, but without any particular idea behind it – or with more than one idea, which is just as bad. Not even decent execution saves this thing. It’s just too random.
Water Wrackets is yet another one of Greenaway’s experimental shorts. Against the background of running water and “droning music” an offscreen voice narrates “the history of a fictional tribe in the distant past (or is it the far future?).”
Maybe it’s because the story narrated has nothing to do with known history (i.e. pure fiction), and because it’s quite tangled, it’s pretty boring to listen to. The visual sequence is indeed a bit hypnotizing, but unfortunately it doesn’t help to get the meaning of the story – if anything, it helps to lose the thread of it rather quickly. Definitely not the most interesting, nor most meaningful, work of the director.
In the 3rd season of Superstore the Cloud 9 store gets rebuilt after the tornado, and things pretty much get back to normal in just a few months. Amy and her husband decide to get a divorce; she experiences some trouble in her relationship with her daughter Emma; more importantly, she tries to deal with her feelings for Jonah, but notwithstanding her attempts at dating they only keep brewing. Jonah starts dating a newcomer, Kelly, while at the same time trying to figure out his thing for Amy. In the second half of the season their mutual attraction finally comes out into the open. Glenn realizes that he wants to have a child of his own, but his wife turns out barren, and so they decide to get a surrogate; after a few unsuccessful variants, Dina agrees to carry their baby. Marcus finds out that it’s possible to make cheese out of human milk and starts a business based on that idea. Mateo gets slight injured on the job and is offered a significant sum of money, but is forced to reject it due to his legal status; eventually he tells Jeff everything, which forces him to quit his job and restore their relationship. Jonah briefly moves in with Garrett, because his house was destroyed by the tornado; Dina stops a robber; Amy tries a dating app; Glenn gets a mole on his private parts; Mateo gets an ear infection; Jonah tries to establish a health fund and fails miserably; Cramy gets born; social media issue gets tackled; Mateo gets baptized; Amy throws a Golden Globe party; Kelly believes in angels; Amy almost kills a groundhog and goes on a date with Tate the pharmacist; Jonah and Amy find a stash with recalled merch; Amy is forced to go through safety training; Myrtle gets fired; Amy gets pregnant; CEO visits the store; Amy rediscovers her latin background; a body gets found in the wall; the story almost becomes Quadro A; everybody gets a one-day amnesty; new regional manager Laurie comes instead of Jeff; the unbecoming policy of agism almost gets uncovered.
So, the season is rather good. The show demonstrates a steady, albeit slow progress – the humor became richer and more diverse; all the episodes are now stitched together quite tightly with several continuous storylines presenting altogether a solid, integral whole.
The execution also becomes better: while the technical side of it remains on more or less the same level of professionalism, the show becomes bolder, especially with destroying stuff, and therefore – brighter. The acting is pretty good – the drama gradually becomes deeper over the course of this season, and the actors proved quite convincingly that they are up for the task. Jonah, Amy, Dina and Mateo are, perhaps, the most interesting characters of the cast.
All in all I enjoyed the show quite a bit – it’s interesting enough, and much funnier than it used to be. It may be incapable of reaching the stars, but it’s quite good in flying just below the sky level.
The Brain Hack is a pseudo sci-fi short film about two guys who discovered a visual sequence that can alter neural paths of a human brain in a way to allow a person to see the true essence of the universe (or submerge into a state of perpetual hallucinating). In order for the sequence to work, however, a subject has to experience fear of some kind, because otherwise the brain would simply stop reacting to it half way through. And so the experimentators fabricate a story about evil religion officials who try to prevent them from leaking this thing into the world, and make a short film based on that story (with an idea that it would make a viewer susceptible to the influence), attaching the sequence at the end of the film.
Frankly, this story seems to be like a big pile of bullshit. For one thing, all the crap with the ominous churchmen (or whatever) is extremely far-fetched for multiple reasons, the most significant of which is that there is no way they could’ve found out about the experiments. More importantly, though, the ‘filmmakers’ reveal in the end (but before the actual sequence) that the whole thing was a hoax, thus nullifying the desired effect entirely – that’s on top of the fact that the manhunt storyline was mediocre at best. Finally, the director made a mistake of showing the ‘sequence’ at the end, which, of course, does not work (the whole idea is quite ridiculous, but that’s beside the point), and that brings the credibility of the story to complete naught.
That being said, the technical execution is quite alright: the special effects are very impressive; and the acting is good, although it would’ve been better if the actors had anything worthy to perform.
All in all, the drawbacks outbalance the pluses significantly. Ultimately, the brainlessness of the story matters much more than how it was made.
Bee is a CGI animated video with a bee approaching a flower. No story here, just this act of a bee – drawn with exceptional skill, very beautifully. Definitely shows the talent of the author as an artist, but has nothing to do with storytelling.
Blinkende lygter is a sort of existential drama. It tells a story of the 4 professional low-level criminals, one of whom (named Torkild) just turned 40 and, upon realization that he not only haven’t achieved what he hoped for, but found himself without anything substantial in life and up to his neck in debt, decided to flee at the first opportunity, which was the assignment to steal a briefcase from a particular safe. He discovered that the briefcase was packed with money and so he persuaded his friends (Peter, Arne and Stephen) to come with him. They headed off to Italy, but failed to reach the border and settled temporarily in an abandoned house in the middle of the woods, because one of them got shot during the robbery and required time to heal. To diversify their stay, Torkild bought several thousand worth of culture – videotapes, books and the like, – and over time nourished the idea of opening a restaurant right there in the woods. He spent most of the money to buy the land, and gradually restored the building and bought necessary equipment. It took him some effort to persuade his friends not to leave, but in the end each of them found some reason to stay.
The story here is kinda weird, mostly because of the characters. All the 4 heroes are depicted in a way that prevents me from sympathizing with them. They have past (shown in the flashbacks), but it doesn’t seem like they have any kind of future, so when the story turns to the finale where they actually do have future, it feels strange. Their level of decision-making is so low it seem that all of them are mentally challenged. The motivation of the 3 Torkild’s friends are highly dubious – Torkild doesn’t seem like a strong enough leader to hold them near (in fact, he seems just as weak and stupid as the rest of them), yet they still stay by him. Moreover, the story is filled with manifestation of violence, some of which seem rather random, while others – poorly substantiated.
The execution is nothing particularly interesting: it’s a typical european semi-action movie that dwells of the subject of existential crisis. It is quite professional, yes, especially with the acting, but in the light of the aforementioned drawbacks, this doesn’t feel like a significant plus.
All in all, the film is not exactly worth watching.
Seam is a sci-fi short film set in the near future, when the uprising of the machines has already taken place as well as the first war between the humanity and the robots. It resulted in appearance of a detached region, separated from the rest of the planet with a border called the seam, where the smart machines could do as they pleased. Shortly after the war it turned out that some people are not actually human, but humanized cyborgs that could blow up in case of extreme emotional tension. As the story goes, one such cyborg – a woman – is on a mission to get to the machine’s district, in which is helped by a human person. But the military are already at their heels.
The technical execution here is really great: the camerawork coupled with powerful use of special effects results in a tremendous picture, highly enjoyable for the eye. The acting is really good also.
But the story has certain problems. For one thing: the development with the pilots disobeying the direct order that was repeated to them multiple times seems like a stretch to me – or, rather, a not very logical solution, because the military are usually more careful with the personnel responsible for many-million-dollars worth of technology and try to select truly disciplined people for assignments such as patrolling a highly critical area or pursuing highly dangerous subjects. More importantly, however, is the underdevelopment of the concept. We know that there are sleepers, but we don’t know why do the machines need them, what’s their purpose. Instead of clarifying details such as this one, the authors are focused on the love story – so much, in fact, the film becomes more of a romantic tragedy than a sci-fi one. The balance is shifted too much towards the love side of the story, which makes it more emotionally engaging, but also less interesting.
All in all, though, it is a rather worthy spectacle, albeit not because of the plot.
Preposterous: A Short About Absurdity is a short video indeed, only it’s not about anything. Rather it shows a number of absurd images, unconnected and without any context at all. Just random absurd situations involving things. Cute but meaningless.
The 7th season of Homeland revolves primarily around the russian interference into the domestic politics of the US. [spoiler alert] First several episodes are dedicated to the possibility of newly elected president Keane turning into a dictator due to her resorting to not exactly constitutional methods of investigating the attempt on her life undertook by a small group of military officers in the previous season’s finale. But after a little while she releases those arrested and makes Saul Berenson her advisor on the matters of national security. At first Saul is forced to deal with the O’Keefe’s issue: the journalist has been on the run for two months until he settled in a community of his supporters, that was soon sieged by the FBI forces. Because of a viral video, later linked to the russian spy network in USA, things went south and people died. Saul starts looking into the events and assembles an off-campus team specifically for that purpose. In the meantime Carry, who is struggling on the one hand with her medication not being effective enough, and on the other – with contradiction between her desire to be with her daughter and her calling, stumbles upon the same problem from a different angle: trying to prove that the president is becoming usurper, she became convinced that it’s not the case, and, having connected certain dots, came to the same conclusion Saul did. Eventually Carry rejoins Saul’s team, and they try to counter the russian threat together – up to visiting Moscow to retrieve an important asset of the russian GRU service.
As far as I can tell the show keeps the mark. The story is very well thought-out and is based on enough realpolitik circumstances of the actual reality to seem plausible. Carry’s internal conflict is just as acute as it was before, only this time she manages to resolve it by ceding some of the things she desires, because she comes to understand that it would be the shortest path and takes hold of her still powerful emotions. Her relationship with Saul gets slowly repaired over time after the fracture, which process is gradual enough to be believable.
And same goes to the president Keane lightening her grip on the assassination attempt investigation – we can see how hard it was for her to let go, which is why it seems credible, even though her tendency to overreact kinda got pushed to the sidelines of the story. It was, however, later absorbed by her personal growth that resulted in the grandiose gesture in the season’s finale, so in a way the issue was addressed – I suppose, in a satisfactory way.
As for the most interesting thing about the season – the involvement of the russians – it was really beautiful. For one thing, the split between the old-school spies and those who started to believe their own propaganda seems very real, because there are in fact many people who do believe all that crap the russian government is constantly cooking up, including some presumably smart people, so why not spies? Also, the way the americans managed to use contradictions between different power groups within the state structure (by hitting the sore spot – the money) is exceptionally realistic – after all, Russian Federation now is a kleptocracy. Admittedly, the writers of the show give the russian spies a little too much credit – the operation they pulled on the american soil with the murder of the general and all is quite elegant, and only failed because the americans were a tiny bit better (at that things trembled in the balance more than once); in reality russians operate much more crudely – just think about the poisonings of Skripal or Litvinenko, or their actions related to the presidential election in the US, – but all in all the image of the enemy is drawn in a realistic fashion.
Generally speaking, the 7th season of the show is just as good as all the previous ones, and at the same time is quite unique. It’s filled with action and high quality drama; the elements composing the story are very well-implemented and coexist with each other in perfect harmony. Recommended, as always.
Abiogenesis is an animated short about some entity that arrives on a planet not exactly prepared for appearance of life and pushes forward its development using local resources.
There are no characters here, but there is still a story, even though it’s mostly readable through context. I suppose, it’s pretty good, but the strongest side of it is the beauty of the execution – the animation looks really great, plus the physics of the world of discourse seems to be adequate, which produces a very positive impression in combination.
Tríd an Stoirm is an animated short drama about a woman, whose loved one died in the sea. A banshi comes to tell her about it, and she forces the creature to help her get down to hell in order to rescue the man from there.
This is basically the reverse-gender Orpheus story with a bit of personal touch. As such it’s not too original, but still rather fascinating, mostly because the animation is really great – it feels a little heavy, but is very beautiful. All in all the execution is superb.
Straw Dogs is the remake of the 1971 movie of the same name and/or the screen adaptation of the Gordon Williams’s novel. As the story goes, a recently married couple, David and Amy, comes to stay in the wife’s hometown in the deep US South. As soon as they arrive they encounter a group of locals, who have some history with Amy, and, unlike her, haven’t managed to make something of themselves. Because they have some contracting experience, David hires them to fix the roof of the barn, which work takes several weeks. Over that time the tension between the newcomers and the locals keeps on brewing and eventually starts to burst out. At the same time, in a completely unrelated story line, tension rises also on account of one of the local inhabitants, a mentally challenged guy who had a history of accidental violence before, and who keeps getting shown affection from a young daughter of an ex-football coach, also an unstable character. In due time all these components mature enough to eventually result in a bloody nightmare.
I haven’t seen the original movie, which had something of a cult following, as far as I understand, but from the second-hand evidence I can surmise that the story barely differ between the old and the new version – if at all.
Be that as it may, the 2011 movie is a comparatively good thriller, albeit quite predictable – that is, in the sense that the story has been building up in a quite particular way that ought to end in a particular manner, which it totally did. The development is logical and natural enough – at least, nothing in it triggered my built-in harmony detector.
As for the execution, the technical side of it is nothing much to talk about, as it is as professional as can be expected from a serious studio work. The acting is very much decent, but the only acting work that truly catches the eye is that of Alexander Skarsgård – he definitely outshines the primary characters, who are, to be fair, are also rather good.
All in all, it’s a pretty good movie. It is designed in a way to keep you of your tiptoes almost the whole time, and the final showdown is violent and exciting.
Mute is an animated short film about the world inhabited with people without mouthes and, correspondingly, the ability to produce sounds. Once a baby accidentally drops a knife on itself that cuts a hole in its face, and this is how the world changes forever.
This is a strange, even bizarre story, very bold, smart and funny. Some pieces of it may seem too much. or too strong, but
not to me all in all it’s a powerful surreal tale – exactly the kind where people tend to find things deeper and more complex than the authors intended.
This Unnameable Little Broom (also known as Little Songs of the Chief Officer of Hunar Louse) is a Quay brothers’ animated short loosely based on the Gilgamesh epic. In this version the hero is a little broom that circles around his tiny boxed universe on a tricycle.
Here’s a more detailed description written by <firstname.lastname@example.org> for IMDB:
A red-clothed puppet lives in a room with a missing wall. He rides a tricycle. Gadgets surround him. He eats dandelion tufts. A painting lies on a table in the middle of his room. He hides. A bird-man flies into the room curious about the vaguely erotic painting. Something in it moves: the bird-man looks closely, the painting clamps shut, he’s ensnared. Trike-man emerges from hiding, frees a cricket from inside the table and throws the cricket into the night. He pulls a bolt of cloth through a hole in one wall, yard by yard. Trapped in the cloth is the bird-man, whose wings the trike-man clips; he cages the bird-man in his table and rides his trike maniacally around the cage.
I don’t really know how to characterize this work. In the discourse of the Quay brothers’ animation it’s quite good, I suppose. It’s just as surreal and ambiguous as the rest of their works, but also quite comprehensible – with a little effort, that is.
However, the more I watch their films, the more I’m certain that I’m not really a fan. Which doesn’t prevent me from acknowledging the quality of their work.
Happiness is an animated short metaphorically depicting the humanity’s pursuit of happiness by way of consuming promoted goods.
The metaphor is, of course, nothing new, but it is developed much further than it usually gets to be, and in a very smart way, too. The animation is truly interesting – the style is quite distinctive and original; the execution is really superb. Highly recommended.
Another Period is a period comedy set in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1902. It follows the story of the insanely rich Bellacourt family, that is at the bottom of the 1% of the 1%. The head of the family, Commodore has a lover, an ex-prostitute Celine, who joins the working staff of the house as a new maid while already pregnant with the Commodore’s baby. Commodore’s wife, lady Dodo is a heroin-addict; his eldest daughter Hortense is a suffragist and an old maid with no hope of marrying anybody; his next daughter Lilian is married to a Bavarian gay man named Victor; his youngest daughter Beatrice is married to Albert (who is in relationship with Victor), while having an incest connection with her twin brother Frederick. The working staff includes Blanche, the maid who dream of working on factory; Peepers, the butler, who is secretly of indian ancestry; Garfield, the underbutler; Hamish, the groundskeeper, and the most disgusting of the servants; and, as a new addition, Celine/Chair. Over the course of the 1st season the sisters Lilian and Beatrice repeatedly try to make their way into the highest society of Newport, always unsuccessfully. Hortense takes the issue of the women’s rights close to heart. Beatrice and Frederick is in love with each other, and fail to be subtle about it. Celine plots to overtake the house as the new mistress. The stories feature multiple real-life characters, including Hellen Keller, Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Ponzi, Thomas Edison and others.
Frankly, I haven’t seen a comedy so audacious in a very long time, or maybe never at all. It is so impudent it crosses a line of good taste quite often, which, on the other hand, is well compensated by the degree of self-irony, ingenuity, and the quality of humor. It can be slapstick sometimes – especially in the first episodes, – but this quality actually fades away over time.
The principal method here is simple enough: it’s a mix of Downton Abbey and reality TV (represented, relying on Wikipedia, by some Kardashians show) – i.e. the blend of two solutions completely opposite by their qualities, so much so, in fact, nobody before even though about mixing them. Yet, it turns out, that the approach works perfectly – that is, creates a unique and original new form filled by the creators (and other writers on the crew) by fresh and bold material.
The execution is flawless – the harmony between the design and the result is absolutely perfect; professionalism of the technical implementation is beyond doubt; and the acting is superb, for lack of a better word. The humor is really strong; the show is truly hilarious at times; some of its capacity comes, naturally, from the mocking of real historical figures. Perhaps, the essence of the show is such that it can easily offend a lot of people. I, however, enjoyed every second of it.
For the show is astonishingly refreshing in its disregard of everyone and everything that today’s traditional culture urges us to respect. This thing alone is a reason enough to watch it at least once, and it’s also really funny.
Dive is a short film about a girl who walks through life taking whatever she pleases without asking, and only apologizing after the fact. It’s as if she slides between the layers trying to remain unnoticed.
The description above is a pure guesswork. I have no idea what is it about. So the girl does stuff and then leaves notes with apologies. So? What was the author’s message remains a mystery. On the other hand, the execution is quite professional. And still the vagueness of the story trumps the professionalism.
The Snap is a short video film about a girl and an accident.
Although internally consistent and well-executed, it offers no conflict and therefore no story. It’s quite alright, of course, especially considering the length.
Sissy-Boy Slap-Party is a short film about a group of guys slapping each other, primarily in the faces, so hard all of them eventually fall unconscious.
It is a weird one, obviously, but what else would you expect from Maddin? Unlike most of his shorts, though, this one has talking in it – Louis Negin speaks a little bit in the beginning and in the end. Perhaps, because of this if makes a better, more comprehensible impression than most of Maddin’s works. Whatever the case is, it is fun to watch.
The Devil’s Double is a drama based on the story of Latif Yahia, who was the double of Saddam Hussein’s oldest son Uday. Iraq’s top echelons of power in the first half of the 1990s are shown through the eyes of an honest soldier who found himself in a position he couldn’t get away from, for not only his own life was threatened, but also those of people close to him. Dealing with the Hussein’s heir, a deranged psychopath, Latif witnessed torture and rape, and was even forced to participate in some of Uday’s crimes. He quickly grew to hate the man, and, after he found some support from one of his mistresses, eventually managed to escape.
This is a pretty powerful story right here. On the one hand, there are no so many films on the contemporary history of the world, especially – that of the arab countries. Events, some of which are rather well-known (such as the Desert Storm military operation) are shown from a completely different point of view, and it is by itself quite refreshing.
On the other hand, the story that involves a double of a famous person (and we all know that they use doubles) and at the same time is a drama and not a comedy is a rare treat; moreover, it is very well-composed and exquisitely written.
And, finally, the execution is truly great. The picture is bright and hot, perfectly reproducing the generalized atmosphere of the region. The camerawork is very much professional, just as the rest of the technical aspects of the implementation.
But the acting is, by far, the most interesting thing here. Dominic Cooper plays, basically, three roles: the Latif, the Uday, and Latif who plays Uday; and he manages to make them all distinctively different from each other. Hats off to this astonishing work! Of course, the rest of the acting works are very good as well, but none can compare to Cooper’s mastery.
All in all, this is a very unusual and truly fascinating drama. Highly recommended.
Monophobia is a horror short about a girl, who stayed alone at home, and got pursued by some unknown perpetrator.
At least, the director believes it to be a horror film. In reality it’s so stupid and non-scary, it’s not even a film at all. Things in this story just happen, with no reason whatsoever behind them. Moreover: the events are totally far-fetched – at some point the girl calls 911, the operator answers they way it usually happens, and then turns out to be the perp. The finale is even more lame than the overall development. All in all, it’s a terrible movie, poorly conceived and executed; there’s not a single thing in it that would make it worthwhile.
H Is for House is yet another short from the Greenaway’s collection of things presented through the prism of alphabet. Unlike most of the others, this one includes shots of people doing stuff, although there’s still no story outside of the narrated episodes, which, however, are just as bizarre and curious as can be expected.
Black Soul Choir is a music video clip the only interesting thing about which is that it was created with participation of the Quay brothers. However, their animation takes up a lesser part of the clip and is not particularly outstanding – just stuff one would expect from them. The music is fine, I guess. I didn’t really care for it, but, perhaps, it’s just not my piece of pie.