What Lies Subepidermal – A review

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DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A MOVIE CRITIC. 

That Scarlett Johansson, she’s so hot right now!

Under the Skin (2014) is a science fiction movie, starring Scarlett Johansson and set in Scotland (of all places). She plays an alien. The movie is about her, and why she’s on Earth isn’t really explained, unless you’re able to conjure up some inference from the “underwater” scene. This film is definitely in my top ten favorites of the last decade, and certainly top 3 in all science fiction. It seems to be very polarizing due to its style, which is very Kubrickian at times, both in feel and how it doesn’t explain everything because you aren’t entitled to know everything, so it’s understandable if some people don’t like it or don’t understand it. That said, you should watch it.

What I liked:

This movie is very engrossing. I watched this with noise cancelling headphones. I waited until it was dark so there’d be no glare on the computer screen. I went pee beforehand. I wore dark clothing so there’d be no reflection on the screen. Even if I hadn’t went to such geeky levels of fanatic preparation this film still would have made it difficult to turn off or turn away.

As stated above, this film shows its influence from Kubrick’s 2001. Especially in the beginning. I like Kubrick films a lot, my most favorite being 2001, so more than likely I’ll enjoy any film that is influenced heavily by it.

At times the feeling is tangible. I can think of two scenes (the man with Elephant Man’s syndrome and the baby with the sweater) where I actually had empathetic feelings (loneliness and dread/tragedy, respectively). It’s difficult for me to feel empathy or sympathy for movie characters, so movies that can do so are all right with me.

This movie is weird and I like weird movies.

We aren’t given all the answers. We don’t deserve all the answers. Who’s the biker dude? It ultimately doesn’t matter. You’re an adult, you can figure it out. Or you can make up your own story. It’s science fiction. This isn’t a pander-to-the-lowest-common-denominator film. The people who didn’t like this film probably didn’t like the ending in 2001, they probably didn’t like the briefcase from Pulp Fiction, they probably didn’t like the origami unicorn in the director’s cut of Blade Runner, they probably didn’t like the spinning top at the end of Inception.

There is little dialogue. I appreciate that.

In quite a lot of shots the shadows are pitch black, and I love darkness. There are also a lot of sulfur-yellow street light scenes. Also, cool shots. All around, cinematography was killer.

I dislike it when music is used as a filler between scenes, and instead appreciate it when movies use music as a motif that stays throughout the scene and recurs throughout the movie, as this movie did. Also the music was good.

 

What I disliked:

The beginning is a little too heavy handed in its Kubrekianism, but I’ll take it. The rest of the film felt unique to me.

And the winner for best foreign language film goes to………Under the Skin! Apparently some of the actors weren’t actually actors, just random people who then later signed non-disclosures. And apparently not everyone in Scotland speaks English. However, what they actually say isn’t relevant to the film story, so I’ll take it.

There wasn’t enough about the film that I disliked, so now my critique list is too short. What is this, 2001? I’ll take it.

 

Final verdict: 

I liked it. You should see it and decide for yourself whether you like it. I give this movie one de-sexualized Scarlett Johanson and one HAL9000.

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Not Another Buddy/Roadtrip Comedy – A Review

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DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A CRITIC.

“You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

If you haven’t yet seen the movie The Trip (2011), in brief it is a movie about nothing that follows two comedians, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, as they play themselves in a loosely fictional movie where they are going on a week-long trip acting as food critics in the north of England. Or some such thing. That wasn’t the point of the movie. The point of the movie was to have two comedians have largely improvised banter scenes take up the bulk of a movie, the food critic trip thing acting as a far-and-away backdrop as to why. It’s a movie about nothing, and much like Seinfeld it is hilarious.

The Trip to Italy (2014) is its sequel that uses the same pretense; two comedians playing themselves on a fictional trip for a magazine. If you liked the first one, the second is much of the same. If you didn’t see the first one, it doesn’t matter. There are only a few things that might cause confusion but they end up being of no consequence anyway.

What I liked:

Despite the jokes not really being as funny as in the first movie, it is still rather humorous.

The accents and impersonations. They are quite amusing, especially since I also enjoy throwing my voice.

The plot holes can be overlooked because the point of the story is not the plot, but rather, the conversations between Steve and Rob. Why is the character doing that? Oh it doesn’t matter, look! He’s doing another funny accent! Haha!

The scenery in Italy is much more spectacular than in the north of England. The scenery in the end of the movie is my favorite (mountains, fog, mountain villages), but that which is in the beginning (seaside beaches and fishing villages) is equally breathtaking. I wanna go to a italia right now-ah.

What I disliked:

There are a lot of inconsistencies. As I mentioned above, the plot matters not since that’s not the point of the comedy, but it’s the simple things, like one of the characters saying he isn’t going to drink, he hasn’t had a drink in about nine months, and then a few scenes later starting to have a drink with dinner (they never get drunk), with not much more of an explanation than “when in Rome.” And that in and of itself is not bothersome, but the accumulation of these little quirks irks me.

At times the characters laughing in the conversations are a little overwhelming, almost like they’re bashing you in the face, screaming, “OK NOW IT’S TIME TO LAUGH YOU WANKERS!”

The ending is abrupt.

 

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Overall, I enjoyed this movie. I didn’t find it as enjoyable as the first, but only slightly less so. I still recommend it (to the 4 readers of this cobby-wobby relic blog). I give it 4 Michael Caines, 2 Sean Connerys, and a Small Man Trapped in a Box.

Snowpuncher – A Review

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WARNING: FLAGRANT SPOILERS AND CRUDE EXPLETIVES TO FOLLOW. IF YOU STILL HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE AND PLAN TO SEE IT, AVERT YOUR EYES.

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A CRITIC.

When old people get up and leave the theater on account of the violence, it’s intense. When people stick around when the credits roll to discuss the film, it’s affecting. When a film can make me say, “ah fuck it,” and I stop caring about the little errors, it’s a good film.

That’s how I felt about the movie Snowpiercer. Essentially, it’s a movie about some assholes on a train, the last remaining humans after some global warming global freezing bullshit that happened 17 years ago. Everything outside the train is frozen, and the train never stops moving, because of some wizardry they never fucking explain (probably because they can’t, because physics). Everything inside the train is some Aldous-Huxley level Brave New Train shit, except the impoverished lower class is unemployed. Fucking freeloaders. The conflict of the movie is that our Fearless Bearded Hero Captain America (Chris Evans) leads a revolt against his bourgeoisie oppressors, who, represented by the Glorious and Ever Flexible Tilda Swinton, have relentlessly (and in an openly condescending manner) relegated the lower class to the back of the train.

As with any post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie set in the future, one must first start by steeping oneself in old media clips or sound snippets as it introduces how the state of the world declined to where it presently is. Blah blah blah. Why can’t movies just find a more subtle way to provide context and bring us up to speed, like through dialogue? I must say that it’s certainly better than Avatar-esque monologue (fuuuu…), and it’s something to do while the opening credits show, but c’mon, it’s a little trite.

What I enjoyed: Maybe I’m just too jaded from other movies failing to live up to the level of depth of Citizen Kane, but every time I see something I consider as foreshadowing, and then it never comes through, I get a little more cynical. Thus when they put in foreshadows in this movie, and then didn’t immediately explain them, I didn’t expect them to, and said, “f you.” However, they tied everything up nicely at the end, so all is forgiven. I’m a little ashamed to admit I didn’t see it coming.

Chris Evans has a beard.

Tilda Swinton’s teeth, glasses, costumes, and hairdressing. And her acting. I fucking hated her. She played the villain well.

I also enjoyed the unbelievable goriness. It’s not the Hostel/Human Centipede/Saw I-VII type of gore that makes you writhe in your seat, but rather the most terrible of “I’ve got an axe, you’ve got a crowbar, let’s be done with this,” type of violence. I’m not necessarily a fan of blood splatter as an art form, but I don’t mind it. Especially when it’s so violent but it doesn’t make me uncomfortable. Further, there wasn’t really that much violence in it. However, like I said before, there were old people who left during the first especially violent scene. Apparently they couldn’t take it. Fucking casuals.

Some of the fight scenes reminded me a lot of the hallway scene in Old Boy, which is probably my favorite fight scene of all time.

It’s a simple story, and straightforward, both in it’s delivery and physically moving forward on a train.

Finally, there were some scenes that were weighty (actually there should be a name for this, I just haven’t discovered it or I haven’t yet coined it, but it’s the feeling that a film has whenever a door opens and the enemy is revealed, the enemy who has a katana, like in samurai films, like in Fellowship of the Ring’s Moria scene when the goblins are starting to gather and Boromir says, “they have a cave troll”, like in The Phantom Menace when the doors open to reveal Darth Maul. That feeling of weightiness), the most traumatic scene being when our courageous proletarians open a large compartment door and are met with 100ish dudes with black balaclavas, fucking axes, full battle-rattle riot gear, all packed into the compartment and ready to fucking deal some death.  Steel yourself for imminent geriatric departures.

What I didn’t enjoy: The scene in which the peasants fight a bloody battle royale with trained axmen was cool and all, but when they were staring each other down, the axmen passed a large fish to the front, and the man front and center cut down it’s belly then bloodied his ax edge on it, then passed it around for his battle buddies to do the same. Why they needed to bloody their ax blades is unexplained, the safe bet being that they just wanted to be intimidating. And crazy. But why be crazy? The rest of the fight was a standard melee; the axmen didn’t do any special maneuvers, and they died like everybody else. And the hero Chris Evans even says to his fellow plebians, “be careful.” Thanks, Chris, as if they didn’t know. What I didn’t like about this part is that they could have at least explained it, it would have been much cooler if they said the axmen used the fish blood as a poison so even the people who get nicked by the axes are fucked, which is more badass than just, “loo’ at how fookin’ crazy we are!”

In the beginning of the revolt, the camera was really blurry and diminished the impact and gravity of the violence. Boo.

Dialogue written by a 3rd grader.

I’m all for accepting the use of a universal and fully functional translator device in a sci-fi, but its usage was somewhat inconsistent.

Chris Evans is to Neo as Ed Harris is to The Architect. Sort of.

Assuming the girl Yona and the lil kid Timmy survived that massive train wreck (highly fuckin’ unlikely), 1) that means other people might have survived as well, because let’s face it, if you’re on a train wreck it doesn’t matter whether you have a man-sandwich protecting you, so maybe search for survivors? 2) great, you’re in the middle of nowhere with zero survival skills and zero familiarity with the local terrain, good luck, 3) even if a 17-year-old and a 5-year-old go on to survive, how likely is it that they’re able to procreate and save humanity? do they know how to deliver a baby or take care of it for its first few years of life?, 4) that fucking polar bear, who clearly just saw you, is going to come down and eat you because he’s hungry, 5) fucking polar bears are at the top of a food chain that revolves around marine life, what the fuck is he doing on a mountain range 6) if we’re going along with the story’s proffered facts, the seven people who tried to escape the train a few years prior made it 50 fucking feet in a dead-out sprint before they froze to death mid-stride, there’s no way that any mammal could survive that extreme of a temperature. Even if we’re talking the harshest of climates on our planet, frostbite still takes about 5 minutes, but that’s not freezing to death, 7) if there was life enough on earth to sustain a polar bear, wouldn’t the people on the train notice and try and send out expeditionaries to establish colonies or some shit?

Despite Kang Ho Song telling Chris Evans that the snow is starting to recede, Evans still proceeds to get miffed at Ed Harris and attempts to snuff out humanity’s last wisp of breath.

Also Evans admitted to Kang Ho Song that he ate a baby and almost ate another in his tale that illustrated how far he was willing to go back when he was starving but also how much he’d changed since then, and then in the next scene with Ed Harris he seems to be on the brink of accepting Harris’ offer of employment, which at the time would mean Evans would fill the roll that propagates the caste system and forced natural selection, the very thing he was revolting against, and finally when he discovers through Yona’s clairvoyance that child slavery is involved he suddenly becomes vengeful, socks Ed Harris and tries to stop the train. So…from baby eater to reformed baby eater to considering being Chris Evans Almighty to Chris the Destroyer of Humanity all in about 15 minutes. Nice.

And how the fuck did Yona have clairvoyance? In this world they set up, there were no unrealistic aspects, aside from the Little Engine That Could Run Eternally. Also, her clairvoyance was rarely used, and certainly never when it would have been useful for saving some lives. Seriously, her clairvoyance only informed people what was behind doors, but why couldn’t she see into the egg basket??

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Final Judgement:

Despite the long list of critiques, it still has a gripping, single-track story that oppressed my cynicism, I found the movie to be worthwhile in a very base sense, i.e., it was a rather violent film that the grown-up-12-year-old in me found quite enjoyable. I recommend it, but not for the squeamish.

I give this movie 4 bloody axes, 6 uncut blocks of Kronol, and a trout.