Author Archive: shoomow

Common Wealth / La Comunidad (Álex de la Iglesia, 2000)

La Comunidad by Álex de la Iglesia is a story about Julia, who was forced to become a realtor because he husband got laid off recently and they needed money. First time she came to pitch an apartment in the seemingly regular building, she was surprised at how good it actually is. She even decided to throw a romantic dinner for her man, and they ended up spending the night. The next day the flat got flooded, and following investigation revealed that the neighbor above has died. By accident Julia comes by scheme of some sort; she follows it, and finds more than 300 million pesetas hidden under one of the floor tiles. Overjoyed, she starts making plans immediately, but the behavior of the neighbors grows increasingly weird: while treating her nicely on the outside, they keep whispering among themselves when she’s not looking, and generally give an odd vibe. Turns out they all knew very well about the dead old man, about his lottery winnings, and they draw an agreement to divide his money after his death. But with Julia in the picture things started to get out of hand…

This is actually not a bad action movie. There is a good share of chases and fights – more realistic than spectacular, but still; – the story in general is quite plausible and engaging; the characters are relatable; the dialogs are well-written; the situations are exciting enough; and the development is relatively logical. The writing all in all is good.

The direction on the other hand leaves much to be desired. It may be a budget issue, but in a lot of scenes the physics of the movement was way off – like in the scene with the man trapped in the elevator, where the angle at which his body was positioned was completely wrong; or the scene with Julia climbing to one of the high points during the roof chase, where her fingers and the effort with which she lifted herself did not correspond to the situation. Not to mention the unfortunate suitcase that in many, many scenes was handled not at all according to its supposed weight.

These are, of course, small things, but they kind of jump out  at you, and create a sensation of fake – only a little bit, but that’s enough to spoil the impression. On the other hand, the execution otherwise is pretty good. The acting is certainly great, with Maura being an obvious star performer here.

Even though the movie is far from perfect, I enjoyed it more than I was irritated by the drawbacks. Evidently, this is not de la Iglesia’s best work, but it’s not the worst one either, and it’s quite captivating, all things considered. Recommended.

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[s] Bao (Domee Shi, 2018)

Bao by Domee Shi is a short Pixar/Disney animation about a woman suffering from the empty nest syndrome, whose dumpling that she made for breakfast once came to life.

Most of this description is taken from 3rd party sources; personally I wasn’t sure that the main character is a woman, or that she was suffering from absence of her child. The format of the story makes it rather hard to guess (or, maybe, I’m just too stupid). In and of itself the story seemed to me more ridiculous than amusing. Seems like it aims to render some real-life emotional states through the mix of fantasy and realistic elements, which is a little confusing. The absence of dialogs doesn’t help either.

The animation is certainly cool, but that alone simply can’t save the day. All in all, I was somewhat irritated after watching this film, and I don’t think that should be the outcome.

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[s] Opening the Door / Otkryvaya Dver (Vadim Goetz, 2016)

Otkryvaya Dver is a short drama about a teenage girl named Sasha (Alexandra) who, instead of being to school, robs apartments together with a gang of hardened stray boys. Using tips on the possibly rich apartments, she climbs there through the balcony and then lets in the others. However, during one such run, the son of the owners comes home early, and soon after than other members of the family return as well, so Sasha has to hide in the wardrobe. While sitting there, she becomes an unwilling witness to the boy’s tragedy, when he finds out hard truth about his father. She manages to get out later on, but instead of leaving, she stays nearby and, as if by accident, meets the boy personally.

I have very mixed impressions about this film. On the one hand, I really liked it: the story is interesting, quite original and emotionally deep; it is well-directed and very nicely performed. In all respects but one it’s a really good work of cinema.

On the other hand, that one respect kind of ruins the whole thing. On the postproduction stage new soundtrack was recorded for the film, and it was an incredibly shitty job. I mean, the audio mixing is just terrible: often it seems like the dialogs are out of sync with the lip movements, even though there aren’t; the order is channels is wrong (or so it seems);  the background noises are all messed up. I’m not a sound director, but I don’t have to be to detect this problem. It’s pretty big one, but the good news is that it’s essentially a technical issue and can be corrected. I really hope it would; because otherwise it has no chances.

All in all, I liked the film, but with this sound it’s almost unbearable.

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The Man in the High Castle (s.03, 2018)

In the 3rd season of The Man in the High Castle Joe Black gets tortured after the arrest so that eventually he becomes Himmler’s assassin, and kills his own father as a show of commitment. He then gets sent to San Francisco by way of New York as a trade attaché, but with a mission of killing some of the Nazi defectors, including Diels and Wexler. He also targets trade Minister Tagomi, but fails to complete the mission before his time runs out. In SF he reconnects with Julianna, who gets some intelligence off of him, but if anything certain that encounter shows is how far their paths have diverged. Julianna lives in Colorado, in the Neutral Zone, with Trudy, who can’t seem to go back to her universe due to unwillingness to leave her sister. Together they travel to San Francisco with the help of one Wyatt Price, an Irishman and a black market dealer. In SF they turn for help to Tagomi, and he provides it, specifically, teaching Trudy meditation, so that she eventually manages to cross over. Julianna becomes aware of the Nazi scientific project called Die Nebenwelt, which is aimed at opening a pathway between the parallel worlds so that they could be conquered; by connecting to the memories from her other lives she finds out the exact location – Mine #9 in Lackawanna, Poconos – and takes it as her mission to destroy the machine. She uses the film with the Allies winning the war as a means to wake people up and succeeds in attracting supporters this way, specifically, Wyatt and some of his New York friends become crucial parts of the mission. Some time in the season it turns out that Frank Frink survived the explosion and is hiding in the Neutral Zone, in a place not far from Denver, where some Jews founded a commune disguised as a catholic monastery. While recovering there, he turns once again to painting, and creates a few images that spread all over North America, albeit without author’s name attached. He also learns his Torah and gets a bar-mitzvah at one point. After reuniting with Ed and, briefly, with Julianna, he decides to get pro-active, and goes with Ed to Denver, where they together put a few large murals on the buildings before Franks gets taken by Kido’s people. Ed has been gathering things with Childan; at some point they decided to get back to SF, but got robbed on their way there, and Ed stayed behind, also because he found a boyfriend there, named Jack, with whom he could be himself. Nicole Dormer was sent by Himmler to New York, where she took over the propaganda department, and became one of the principal figures behind the brand new cultural program Year Zero, which was about eliminating the pre-Nazi american history, and under which the Liberty Bell was melted down, and the Statue of Liberty was bombed. She also found herself a girlfriend, with whom she was happy, but who ultimately became her undoing. John Smith became the first American to be promoted to Oberstgruppenfuhrer and later, not without some struggle, replaced George Lincoln Rockwell as Reichsmarshall for North America. His son Thomas became another Nazi myth (up to his statue to be erected in place of the Statue of Liberty). His wife Helen went through a hard patch, and even went to psychotherapists for a while; she got disillusioned along the way; and ended up running away from her husband, even though himself he was not a threat to her.

Evidently, this one is a very rich season story-wise, but probably not particularly richer than the two previous ones. As before, the story consists of multiple lines that evolve in a logical and ordinate fashion, and intertwine with each other in neatly calculated points creating a well-balanced and strong narrative. The sci-fi component is a bit stronger this time, but that is hardly an erosion; if anything, it makes the show even more interesting. In the course of this season two major characters were killed off; in both cases it was a big deal, and it was masterfully used by the writers to create additional tension. The internal development of the characters is plausible, as well as their relationships with each other.

The execution is just as great as before – barely anything has changed in that respect. The acting may have become even more powerful – the story kind of calls for raising the stakes, and the performance corresponds with that.

All in all, a fascinating show – was so from the beginning and remains until the end of the 3rd season. I enjoyed it immensely, and I really loved the finale – this time the cliffhanger is even more invigorating that usual, but then again, the development of the story in general is so, too. Highly recommended.

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Gates to Paradise / Bramy raju (Andrzej Wajda, 1968)

Bramy raju by Andrzej Wajda is a screen adaptation of the Jerzy Andrzejewski’s novel of the same name. It’s a story set in medieval Europe, when Jacob de Cloyes, a teenage goat-herd, proclaimed that he had a vision sent by god, and that the holy city of Jerusalem must be liberated from Turks by the hands of the innocent children. He urged everybody in the hearing range to join him, and this is how the Children’s Crusade of 1212 started. Along the way a monk joined the march, a former crusader himself, who turned to religion trying to redeem the evil he’d done. He started taking confessions from the participants of the Crusade, and to his terror discovered soon that the motivation of the children is utterly false; that many of the girls decided to join simply because they had a crash on Jacob (a very handsome boy), that closest Jacob’s associates have their own thing going on that has nothing to do with pious declarations, and finally that Jacob himself is not at all who he claims to be.

This is a pretty rare movie – I was able to find it only with German voiceover; the original doesn’t seem to be available. The story is kind of curious; it is about religion on the outside, but really is more about tangled system of relationships within a small group of very young adults – and when you put it this way, it does seem somewhat weird. The narrative consists of a number of personal stories, which combined give a complete picture by the end of the film. It is moderately interesting, but not particularly exciting.

The direction is pretty good: at least, the representation of the epoch seems to be authentic enough. On the technical side, it’s all very simple, for most of the time everything happens on the outside, in the middle of wilderness. The acting is alright, although nothing too spectacular.

All in all, the film doesn’t leave a very vivid impression; it is mostly interesting as a part of Wajda’s legacy.

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[s] Dayz: End of the Road (James Hope, 2018)

Dayz: End of the Road is a horror zombie short, possibly based on some video game. It describes an altercation between two individuals, whose paths crossed soon after the outbreak; one of them has something in the trunk of his car that he doesn’t want the other to see; the other is looking for his companion with whom he got separated shortly before.

Story-wise, it’s a rather typical zombie film, except, perhaps, that zombies in this version can move very fast, which might be coming from the aforementioned game. I liked the general execution of the conflict, and didn’t like that it wasn’t revealed what it was in the trunk after all. Still, this is a very decent work of cinema, not too original, but well-implemented and very well-performed.

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[s] Angst (Timofey Velikodny, 2018)

Angst is a horror short about a little boy, who got left alone at home when his parents went clubbing. He heard some noise from the wardrobe, went to check and got attacked by something.

The story is completely worthless: not only it’s unoriginal, it’s also poorly thought-through, not scary and not interesting. In the end we have no idea what was that thing in the wardrobe; we only see that boy sitting in front of the TV with some stupid mask on his face. Moreover, the direction and the acting are pretty lame, too.

All in all, a total waste of time and effort.

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The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (s.03, 1992-93)

In the 3rd season of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air aunt Vivian gets pregnant for the last time in her life, shows various signs of being pregnant through-out the season and gives birth closer to its end. Uncle Philip decides to run for the Superior Court judge, against his old mentor, goes through a difficult campaign, looses, but gets appointed judge anyway when his opponent dies of a heart attack. Ashley starts going to the high school (in the beginning of the season), and Carlton and Will graduate from there (at the end). Also: Will briefly owns a beeper; and gets arrested twice; the family comes back to their old neighborhood to help rebuild it; Hillary becomes a weather girl for a local TV channel and starts dating Trevor the news anchor; Carlton almost becomes a father (Cindy); Will goes out with Lizzie because of the presents she buys him; Will breaks up with Jazz, but later makes up with him; Phil and the boys take a trip to nature and find some money in a cave; the family goes to the Oprah show and almost leaves Will out of it; Will goes out with Carlton’s ex; Will decides not to go back to Philly; Geoffrey doesn’t win the lottery; Phil’s assistant Edward robs his house; Will makes a tape for the baby; Will fake-marries girl named Monique; Will gets invited to Princeton and Carlton blows it; Carlton accidentally does speed; Will and Carlton travel for college interview and Carlton takes up gambling; Will gets visited by his friend Keith, the stand-up comedian; Will also tries to do comedy and bombs badly; Phil and Vivian renew their vows; and Will almost fails music.

Unlike in the previous season, in this one there are distinct cut-through storylines that impart the season a stronger structure. All three persistent lines – the pregnancy, the election campaign, and the upcoming graduation – develop in a logical enough fashion and are interesting enough to follow. The humor seems to be becoming subtler – there were fewer of the clowning and intentionally bad taste pieces. Plus, there was one great episode – the one with the Oprah Winfrey show; it doesn’t reach the ‘amazing’ status per se, but so far it’s the only one that got pretty close to it.

The execution is more or less the same deal we had before, except that it evolves, even though very slowly. I got the feeling there were more outside-the-house episodes than before, which on the one hand betrays the bind with in-the-house stories, but also is a sign of desire to grow. On the technical side there weren’t any particular omissions worth mentioning. The acting is certainly becoming better, especially when it comes to Will Smith and Tatyana M. Ali (Ashley).

All in all, the show demonstrates slow but steady growth while preserving the core and the essence at the same time. Hopefully, the tendency will have been preserved in the further seasons as well.

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Waiter / Ober (Alex van Warmerdam, 2006)

Ober is a story about Edgar, who worked as a waiter for 25 years, and about Hermann, a screenwriter who writes a story about Edgar the waiter, and also about Susie, Hermann’s girlfriend, who has her own opinion about what is supposed to happen with Edgar. Through their uneven, conflicting relationship Hermann and Susie make Edgar’s life unbearable: they give him a terminally ill wife, a needy lover, then another, beautiful lover, only to take her away almost immediately; they unleash an abusive neighbor on him, and then an even more abusive businessman wipes his feet with him in the restaurant where he works; and then he has to harbor a Japanese hitman; and then… well, suffice it to say, the further it goes, the more tangled and confusing the story becomes, and even when Edgar begs the writers to give him a moment of happiness, they always have a trick up their sleeve.

This is a curious experiment with mixing realities: two different plains – that of Edgar and that of the writers composing a story about him – intertwine here in a rather interesting way, creating a bizarre, sometimes quite surreal narrative. It is well-written and interesting to follow, even if there are gaps in the fabric of the story that do not exactly fit with the concept. The characters are three-dimensional people who sometimes make unexpected decisions, and that is one of the thing that makes the movie good. There is a decent amount of humor in the dialogs, too.

The execution is good, that is – for a not the most heavy-budgeted European indie. The direction is certainly a nice work; the technical side of the production is implemented on a decent level. The acting is very good.

All in all, this is not the best Warmerdam’s work, but it is still pretty good.

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[s] Frame Break (Christos Apostolou & Dimitris Papadimitroylas, 2017)

Frame Break is a video about a photographer who walks in a park.

Completely meaningless thing. Apart from certain meditative quality (and pretty views), there is nothing here whatsoever that could’ve been a reason to watch this.

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[s] Études About Freedom: A Dangerous Man / Etyudy o svobode: Opasniy chelovek (Vladimir Mirzoev, 2018)

A Dangerous Man is the 2nd novella of the Études About Freedom miniseries dedicated to possible developments in the social life of future Russia. As the story goes, a screenplay writer gets invited to a voluntary interview with the Anti-Extremism Commission. It turns out that they gained access somehow to his latest work, even though he never shared it with anyone; their primary grievance was about the number of scenes where it rained. The process of following negotiation did not pan out well for the poor writer…

A nice idea, – of course, it’s merely an extrapolation of current tendencies into the future, but still. Rather well-written, with interesting characters: you really want to sympathize with the unfortunate writer, and you really despise and hate his tormentors. The development of the story is also quite interesting. At that, the plot all in all seems exaggerated – with details only, but the impression still gets formed.

The execution is really good. Basically, it’s a chamber film, apart from the fact that everything happens outside of any premises; but the number of characters is very limited and they pretty much stay in the same place. Yet, there is a feeling of development, and tension, and conflict. The technical side of implementation is quite good as well. The acting is excellent.

All in all, the story is in line with the general tone of the series, and quite good in and of itself, too. Recommended (if you can find it online).

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Doctor Who (s.11 + Resolution, 2018)

The 11th season of the revived Doctor Who is the first one to feature the Thirteenth Doctor played by Jodie Whittaker, the first woman to appear in this role. Reflecting the changing times, the show underwent certain changes as well: Tardis renovates itself, and instead of one companion there is now a whole gang that includes Graham O’Brien, his step-grandson Ryan Sinclair and Ryan’s ex-schoolmate and now friend Yasmin Khan. In the 1st episode of the season, when the heroes meet, Graham’s wife (Ryan’s grandmother) Grace dies from the hands of yet another alien, Dzim Shaw, who has mistaken Earth for a hunting grounds. After her demise each of the companions have their own reasons to keep on traveling. Ryan and Graham try to deal with the loss of a loved one; on top of that Ryan also deals with the absence of his father. One of the episodes gets solely devoted to exploring Yasmin’s family’s past (which also touches on the consequences of the division of India in 1947. In the course of the season the heroes meet Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, protect witches from king James, help out giant spiders, participate in the planetary race, get to work in a giant delivery corporation, visit the Solitract (conscious universe that exists in parallel with the normal one), and defeat the Dalek recon scout.

Also, apart from the New Year’s special, there weren’t any Daleks or Cybermen; even in the special the Dalek was for the most part without its recognizable vessel. All these indicates the desire to evolve, which is a good thing. I suppose, this might be coming from Chris Chibnall, the author of great series Broadchurch, who was running the show this season.

But as far as I can tell, the changes are basically cosmetic. What I would like to see in this show, and was missing this time, is the depth of the drama, and also smart sci-fi ideas. Instead, a lot of effort is dedicated to raising significant societal issues, such as equality or the consequences of not realizing that any actions, but especially large-scale ones, inevitably affect other people’s lives, and usually not in a good way. Not that it’s a bad thing, but that is not why I watch this show.

Some of the standalone stories are alright, but there weren’t any mind-blowing ones, – admittedly, previous season also weren’t always full of those (and some were pretty lame in that respect), but I want to expect more, and I want my expectations to be met. As for the depth of the drama, which is, perhaps, the most important component, – there were attempts, but always unconvincing: the new characters are way too fresh to really relate to them, and the secondary characters are never the same thing.

At the same time, the new Doctor is really great, I liked her a lot; I think, she does a tremendous job. The same goes to her companions and all the fleeting characters – the execution all in all is pretty good. Of course, the technical side of it is also nothing to complain about.

All in all, this is a medium good season of Doctor Who – far from being bad, but also nowhere near the best ones. I got the impression of very careful and, because of that, timid development; seems to me, Chibnall should be bolder, more adventurous and even mischievous, to really make a difference with this show. Hopefully, we’ll see some movement in that direction in the following season.

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‘The Heart’ 40 Years Later / ‘Serdtse’ 40 let spustya (Evgeniy Golynkin, 2016)

‘Serdtse’ 40 let spustya is a documentary about cardiovascular surgeons in Russia, their craft and their everyday struggle. It includes a number of interviews with doctors of one of the most efficient heart clinic in the country, as well as the footage of their regular activities, such as meetings, surgeries and communication with the patients. The title comes from one of the very first documentaries about heart surgeons that was filmed in the USSR some 40 years ago and was called simple ‘The Heart’.

On the one hand, the film is totally fascinating, for it opens a window to an area of human activity that is not particularly common knowledge, and also deals with life and death matter, which certainly adds poignancy. As far as I can tell, the state of this medicine field is conveyed adequately and without any significant omissions, – that makes the film objective and sincere enough to be taken at face value.

On the other hand: the striking subject is pretty much the only thing that makes this movie tick. Otherwise it lacks structure; basically, the whole film is just a collection of relevant materials bundled up into a semblance of narrative – but it is exactly a semblance. It may be alright, of course; after all, the theme is interesting and kind of moves itself, but at the same time it feels difficult, and not for reasons of blood stains or anything like that: it’s as if you’re trying to walk in the thick syrup, doable but tiresome.

Also, the execution leaves some things to be desired: the camerawork was sometimes less than perfect – the shots were out of focus, the camera was caught in the mirror reflection, that sort of thing. Not that big of a deal, sure, but nonetheless.

And still, all the (possible) drawbacks notwithstanding, the film is a riveting account of a highly important part of reality that usually stays out of sight. As such, I highly recommend you get acquainted with it.

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[s] Procrastination (Aaron Rhodes, 2018)

Procrastination is a short film about a procrastinating young man. He needs to submit an outline by the end of the day, but instead he just… well, procrastinates.

Quite a meaningless movie this is. There is no story, just a situation with no development. Ends with nothing. I have no idea what is the purpose of this short. There is no point in watching it.

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[s] The War and Peace of Private Litvin / Voyna i mir ryadovogo Litvina (Evgeniy Kalinin, 2016)

The War and Peace of Private Litvin is a short documentary film about one Litvin, formerly a soldier in the World War II, who was 90 at the time the production started and turned 92 by the time the film was finished. It touches upon his participation in the war, and his memoirs about that period of his life (they were used to publish a book called 800 Days on the Eastern Front), as well as his relationship with the members of his family, both immediate and extended.

I’ve been thinking about this film just now, and I realized that I have no idea what happened to the hero of the story between his years in the great war and his 90th birthday. Of course, telling his whole life was not the purpose of the film; rather I see this as a symptom of most people who survived the WWII: for them only that war exists, for it was a life-changing trauma of magnificent scale, and the present, and that’s it. Nothing in between.

The film is actually pretty good. I loved the composition; it is ingeniously edited; obviously, a lot of time and thinking went into this work, and, combined with a rather significant directorial gift, they resulted in this, quite interesting and significant, work. The choice of the hero is also successful – while being not too smart, the man managed to preserve a relative clarity of mind; at least, there is not a sign of dementia in his behavior, which is already great.

The execution is rather good quality as well – the film is pleasant and easy to watch; whatever little flaws there are, are too insignificant to make a difference.

All in all, a good work – may not be the best I’ve seen, but still very decent.

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The Good Place (s.01, 2016-17)

The Good Place is a comedy about Eleanor Shellstrop, who died and went to heaven. Well, not exactly heaven – the good place. The thing is, the reality of the afterlife is different from any version any of the earth religions ever came up with. The truth of the matter is that there are good place and bad places; that only exceptionally good people go to the good places (like a saint level of good), while everybody else to the bad ones; that every good place is a neighborhood where exactly 322 people live, each in his or her separate house, each with a soulmate nearby. And Eleanor was good enough to get into one such good place. She met her soulmate, Chidi, formerly a professor of ethics, and made a few friends, specifically with Tahani, who spent her life gathering money for people who need them more, and her soulmate Jianyu, a Buddhist monk who took the vow of silence. She also met Michael, the architect of the good place, for whom this was his first independent project, and his computerized helper named Janet. And she probably would’ve been able to enjoy her new position, but there was one tiny problem that made her extremely anxious – she wasn’t a good person Michael thought she was. A mistake took place; she has somehow gotten into the good place instead of a different person, and now she has to hide it, because once exposed she would be sent to the bad place, and you don’t wanna go there. To preserve her position, she starts taking ethics classes from Chidi, and she even makes progress, but her mere presence there makes the existence of the whole neighborhood turbulent and uneasy; on top of everything, it tuns out that Jianyu is also not a Buddhist monk, and his name isn’t even Jianyu, – he’s a mediocre DJ and drug-dealer from Florida named Jason, and instead of being Tahani’s soulmate, he falls in love with Janet.

I’ve said enough, maybe even more than enough. But there is still plenty of developments and story turns for you to really engage with the show – and believe me, it’s absolutely worth it. The Good Place is totally awesome. I mean, the idea alone is brilliant: it presents a consistent and compelling concept of the afterlife (more so than any of the religious versions), it builds a highly original and strong story on top of that concept, and it manages to hide surprising twists inside that story until the very end of the season. I don’t know what is to be expected later on, but, man, this first season is fascinating.

The story is exceptionally well thought-out; the script is amazingly written; the characters are awesome, and relationships between them are engaging and relatable. The execution, i.e. the direction, the camerawork, the special effects, all the technical things, is flawless. It really is impeccable. And the acting… I don’t know. It’s brilliant. All the primary characters are implemented with astonishing mastery; I loved them all, but Kristen Bell and Ted Danson definitely were the best.

I’m just blown away with this show – I’ve seen a lot of great things, but this one, by far, is in the top 5. I can’t wait to see what’s gonna happen next – and that doesn’t happen to me very often. Highly recommended.

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[s] Voices (Ella Fields, 2018)

Voices by Ella Fields is a propaganda video trying to disguise itself as a short film. Basically, it’s a short almost-documentary about the issue of gun control and position of some of the very young adults on the matter.

It’s not interesting – it’s not even a film per se. Just author’s position formulated in the form of video sequence and substantiated by the opinion of few others. It is probably a characteristic mould of the state of mind of the current younger generation about the guns, and as such has certain historical or societal value, but as a work of cinema, even a documentary one, it’s nothing interesting at all.

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[s] The Fringe / Marginal (Dzerobi)

Marginal is a short amateur film about a mentally disturbed person with multiple personality disorder and violent tendencies towards himself.

I think, the video has been taken down already. And no wonder: first of all, the author is a YouTube channel holder with a specialization that has nothing to do with cinema; and also – the film is pretty terrible. Although, the idea, I have to say, is not half bad, albeit not very original – but the execution is monstrously awful. All the characters are played by the same person, who doesn’t know one thing about acting, not to mention directing. The technical side of implementation is also blatantly talentless and tasteless. All in all, if nobody would see this film anymore, the world would be a tiny bit better.

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Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: The Flash (Ethan Spaulding, 2018)

Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: The Flash is a superhero animated film based on the multiple DC universe characters, including Batman, Superman, Wonderwoman, Cyborg and others, but most of all – the Flash. As the story goes, Flash, who was the most beloved member of the Justice League and got a bit over his head because of this, suddenly encountered an enemy the likes of whose he had never seen before – and neither had any of his friends. Presented at first as a blurry dude who can run faster than Flash, this new villain orchestrates Flash’s banishment from the League and public’s disdain of him; than he manages to strip him of his powers; then he replaces the League altogether with himself, – all with a goal of invading the world. And now Flash, slow and miserable, has to reach the center for all the speed power, save his friends and the universe, for which he would require some help from Dr. Wisdom and his magic, as well as from Atom and the super pets.

This is an absolutely adorable superheroes cartoon that can be watched by both the children (because it generally benign) and by the adults (because it’s a smart and subtle parody of the genre (and of some current trends in its development) with a really good script). The story is, on the one hand, recognizable – especially for people familiar with the superheroes culture, and on the other – original and ingenious. Action, some bits of drama appropriate for an animated movie of this sort, and humor are joined here in a rather harmonious and engaging combination.

The execution is better, more technically resourceful, than one would expect; the animation is smooth enough, and not without the Lego touch at the same time; the special effects (which are, admittedly, are easier for animation, but still) are quite great, and so is the voice acting.

I gotta say, I enjoyed it a lot. It’s a truly great entertainment and a very decent work of art. Highly recommended.

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[s] Dark Area: Justice / Rayon tmy: Pravosudie (Arseniy Gonchukov, 2017)

Justice is the 11th episode of the 1st season of the Dark Area horror anthology. It’s a mockumentary short designed to look like a journalist’s report that wasn’t allowed to air on account of containing highly sensitive material. It’s based on the current state of justice system in Russia, and tells about a gang of black realtors, who allegedly committed a series of murders, mostly of elderly people, for financial gain; they were arrested and tried, but then the case was dismissed. Offended by this mistreating of justice, a group of civilians calling themselves ‘People’s Retaliation’ kidnapped the realtors, who all were members of the same family, and executed them.

The story is based on issues very relevant to the current state of affairs and very engaging, as such matters are close to any sane person’s heart. In that respect the movie is pretty good, because it adequately reflects a painful social issue. At the same time, I felt like the style of execution is only conditionally mockumentary and lacks consistency; also, the system of relationships within the retaliation group seemed implausible to me: basically, the leader there does everything crucial, while everybody else is just standing there, watching. Doesn’t seem right to me,

On the other hand, the execution in general – the special effects, the acting, etc. – is quite great; as director Gonchukov did pretty great here. All in all, a very worthy piece of cinema, all the flaws notwithstanding. Recommended.

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[s] Hada (Tony Morales, 2015)

Hada by Tony Morales is a short horror about a little boy, who’s afraid of the dark, because he knows that should the night fall, Hada will come for him, for his has lost his last baby tooth. And so she does…

The film is indeed somewhat scary, but it’s also confusing. There are two dark entities, a boy wearing a yellow raincoat, and the old lady; I guess Hada is the latter one, but what is the deal with the boy, I didn’t quite get – why was he there?; did he warned the boy about Hada?; if so – why?, etc. Plus, there were a number of moments when Hada was literally centimeters away from her supposed victim, but nothing happened… In short, the story seems to be a trying to scare the viewer just for the sake of the process, with no consistency. The execution, on the other hand, is pretty good – most of the special effects, the technical maintenance of the story, and the acting are of rather good quality. Still, the story is weird.

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The Man in the High Castle (s.02, 2016)

In the 2nd season of The Man in the High Castle Julianna suffers from her decision to help Joe escape. She almost gets killed by the Resistance, but manages to negotiate an audience with the Man in the High Castle, who turns out to be named Hawthorne Abendsen; on that meeting they establish that a particular person, who appears on most of the tapes, is somehow connected to possible elimination of San Francisco by an a-bomb. Notwithstanding Abendsen’s orders, the Resistance still wants Julianna dead, so she has to escape, and eventually – deflect to the nazis. She gets an asylum sponsored by John Smith personally, and begins adapting to the New York society, introduced to Smith’s family, as well as to Helen’s friends, all the while working with the NY branch of the Resistance, and one George Dixon in particular. Joe, after his escape from SF, returns to New York, but doesn’t stay; instead he goes to Berlin, where lives his father a reichsminister Hausmann. He learns the truth about his origin, and about his mother, and, when Hitler goes into coma and his father becomes an acting chancellor, decides to stay and help him. He meets a girl named Nicole and, believing that Julianna is dead, falls in love with her. Frank, who thinks that Julianna is a traitor to the cause, becomes hardened. He manages to save Ed from Kempeitai but making a deal with Yakuza to produce high-priced forgeries and sell them to the Japanese collectors; after this the three of them – Frank, Ed and Childan start working together, and even become sort of friends. At the same time Frank, sometimes with the help from Ed, works on several missions of the Resistance, including the procurement of explosives material and following manufacturing of bombs, one of which he uses to blow up the kempeitai building, killing general Onoda. Trade Minister Tagomi develops his ability to cross between realms and goes to stay in the one, where Japan lost the war, but his family is safe and sound. He lives with them, learning things, specifically about the nuclear blasts, and at the same time trying to mend the harm that that world’s version of himself managed to do. He later goes back, and takes a tape with him that he gives Kido. John Smith decides not to give up his son Thomas, and when doctor Adler brings up the issue, kills him instead. His wife Helen soon finds out about the whole deal; and when Smith comes up with a plan to send Thomas to South America and then organize his kidnapping, she eventually comes along. Thomas’s illness, however, manages to become a point of interest for the Resistance, where Dixon sees it as an opportunity to bring down Smith – but Julianna disagrees, thus allowing for John Smith to go to Berlin with the tape given to him by Kido in order to uncover the devious designs of Hausmann, who was behind the coup attempt all along.

While the story develops in an orderly fashion, in terms of quality nothing has changed. The 2nd season of the show is just as ingenious, fascinating and remarkable as was the first, maybe even more so. As far as I could tell, the season is internally consistent, and, of course, consistent with the previous developments. Story includes some hardcore, basically inextricable, conflicts, such as murder of one good person to prevent a nuclear war, or leaving the family situation of your dreams because you are not only redundant there, but tend to make things worse. They certainly add nice accents, making the show all the more compelling.

Execution also hasn’t changed: the setting, the clothing, the makeup, etc. are just as amazing, and so are special effects. The acting is quite brilliant, too; in fact, it’s pretty much flawless.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show’s 2nd season, same way I did the 1st one, and, hopefully, will be enjoying the 3rd. It seems to be an outstanding work of cinema so far. Highly recommended.

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[s] Night Terrorizer (Erik Boccio, 2018)

Night Terrorizer is a tiny short horror about a girl having recurrent nightmare about somebody lurking in the night in order to kill her.

Not particularly scary, and not particularly interesting – the story is too short to make any sense, and the execution doesn’t seem to be anything special as well.

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[s] Smoke / Dym (Ivan Plechev, 2017)

Dym is a short drama about a young man named Max trying to figure out his way in life. His father is a policeman, so he is considering that alternative, but at the same time he tries to make some money by selling hashish in bulk. At a regular deal he and his friend get robbed – a man with a gun takes all their stuff and takes off; instead of letting it go, Max follows the guy to a remote garage complex on the outskirts of town; using the gun Max took from his father’s safe, he tries to make the robber to give back what he took – but the guy doesn’t take him seriously – and that becomes his life’s biggest mistake.

I didn’t really expect it, but the film turned out to be very good. The story, on the one hand, is realistic and touches upon certain aspects of modern life that are usually avoided by authors, for one reason or another, and that makes it quite original. On the other hand, it’s pretty hardcore and just as ruthless as a true work of art should be. The execution is quite good, as well: I haven’t noticed any particular flaws on the technical side of things, and the acting is sincere and strong. There is nothing fake about it; the only thing I can think about is, perhaps, a rather peculiar visual style of implementation, which might not be to everybody’s liking, but that is not an objective parameter, but a matter of taste.

All in all, this is a highly interesting work of a very promising director. I look forward to watching more of his stuff. Recommended.

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Skin / Kozha (Vladimir Kozlov, 2015)

Kozha is a drama about a provincial girl who comes to Saint-Petersburg to solve a problem: because she refused to intimate with a deputy mayor of her town, he got offended and cooked up a criminal charge against her. In SP there lives a man, her former lover, who used to live in the same town, and has necessary connections. On the train on her way there she meets a young man, who’s coming to the city for sports tryouts, and falls in love with him. After the arrangement the man with the connections worked out falls through, she has to escape, and so they ran away together. They try to reach a city on the sea shore, where the young man has relatives, and get into various unpleasant adventures along the way.

The story is nothing special – it’s a variation of boy meets girl set in the scenery of low-life Russia. None of the components of the story is very original; their combination is rather trivial and boils down to we together against the world type of story. I suppose, with the right talent in the director’s seat, it could’ve been a tolerable (at least) movie.

But this particular execution is absolutely terrible, with most of the blame falling on Vladimir Kozlov, the director. He obviously has no sense of harmony, no sense of rhythm, no understanding of the cinema language, and no ability to work with actors. Every single element of the implementation is awful: the camera movements, the sound (100% natural), the lighting (absent), the music (bad) – everything is horrible. And the acting is, too; at that some of the cast members seemed to be quite alright – but only in theory, because, again, the director, has no idea how to help an actor do better.

All in all, this is a 100% amateur work, in the worst sense of the word. A complete failure in everything; I really hope Kozlov would give up film directing and get back to being septic car driver or whatever it is he does for money.

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