Film Review: The Fifth Estate (2013)

Also known as: The Man Who Sold the World (working title), The 5ifth Estate (alternative DVD spelling)
Release Date: September 5th, 2013 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Bill Condon
Written by: Josh Singer
Based on: Inside WikiLeaks by Daniel Domscheit-Berg; WikiLeaks by David Leigh, Luke Harding
Music by: Carter Burwell
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Stanley Tucci, Laura Linney, Moritz Bleibtreu, Peter Capaldi, Dan Stevens, Alexander Siddig

Participant, Reliance Entertainment, Dreamworks Pictures, 128 Minutes

Review:

“Man is least himself when he talks with his own person. But if you give him a mask, he will tell you the truth. Two people, and a secret: the beginning of all conspiracies. More people, and, more secrets. But if we could find one moral man, one whistle-blower. Someone willing to expose those secrets, that man can topple the most powerful and most repressive of regimes.” – Julian Assange

Wow! This movie was an utter disappointment and honestly, a fucking disaster!

I should be clear from the get go that the performances were good and the shitty end result of this picture didn’t really fall on the shoulders of the actors. Hell, this film actually has a tremendous cast and that’s why I finally decided to give it a watch despite all the bad things I’ve heard about it since it came out.

I haven’t read the books that were used to write this film’s script but I know enough of the WikiLeaks story to know that this was a lot of bullshit. Also, I’m not sure how you can take such an exciting story and turn it into something this fucking dull! I mean, it’s got to take a real cement brained dullard to make the WikiLeaks and Assange story this damn boring!

Yes, I expected it not to be up to snuff but I at least expected the cast to kind of make up for the film’s technical and narrative shortcomings. Again, the cast is good but everything else is so bad that it barely even matters that they’re there.

In fact, I have to give this film a low score and the final tally is still going to be well below average, even though I gave it two bonus points for the actors.

This was a long, sloppy, boring film. It didn’t look that great and visually came across as really pedestrian. There weren’t any shots that stand out in my mind, as everything seemed to be shot like a television show that was on a tight schedule.

I don’t know how you can make a completely uninspiring movie out of a very inspiring person. But kudos, I guess.

This is shit.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other films and documentaries about cypherpunk culture and whistleblowers.

Film Review: Revenge (2017)

Also known as: Vendeta (Portugal)
Release Date: September 10th, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Coralie Fargeat
Written by: Coralie Fargeat
Music by: Robin Coudert
Cast: Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, Guillaume Bouchède, Jean-Louis Tribes

MES Productions, Monkey Pack Films, Charades, Nexus Factory, Umedia, Rézo Films, Neon, 108 Minutes

Review:

This is a film that critics loved. The audience score for the film has been much lower, however. But Hollywood insiders like these type of movies and tend to look past whatever issues it might have because the film carries some sort of political or social message that is long overdue. Of course, that just makes them look ignorant, as this is hardly the first film of its kind. It’s just the first that is “artistic” enough and with the right kind of polish for them to want to put their stamp on it. Because they certainly didn’t feel that way about I Spit On Your Grave in 1978. But when you scroll through the top reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s almost completely made up of white men. White men feeling the guilt of their peers for whatever social justice code they all have to live by for fear of being called a “misogynist” or a “bigot” and being ousted from their insider community.

Anyway, sociopolitical rant aside, looking at this as a body of work it isn’t as great as the professional critics want you to think it is. It’s also not bad and it’s mostly well made.

The story is simple, a mistress and the married guy she’s fucking go to Morocco where he meets up with two of his buddies for their annual hunting trip. The girl turns the sex appeal up really high and gets all the men sexually worked up because it’s three dudes, one sexy girl and a desolate location. So it’s obvious where this is going, right?

Anyway, when her married boyfriend leaves for a few hours, one of his friends rapes her while the other guy seems pretty damn indifferent to it. The married boyfriend gets back, finds out, shit hits the fan, the girl runs away but then the married boyfriend shoves her off of a cliff where she is impaled by a tree, dozens of feet below.

Somehow she survives though, with a branch stuck through her. She then painfully traverses the desert picking off the three men with no sort of real survival skills in her repertoire.

This type of film has existed for a very long time and there are dozens of movies like this. Hell, look at Kill Bill. There wasn’t a rape in that one but she was murdered by her lover and friends and had her baby stolen from her. Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and 2 are much better movies than this. But those didn’t come out at the height of all the #MeToo stuff. That’s why this film has gotten the admiration it’s received. It’s all timing and politics.

Now the film is well acted, the cinematography is pretty great and this does an incredible job of building tension. However, it also overdoes it with the tension by the time you get to the end. The final scene where the girl and the last guy are running around in circles was so drawn out that I wanted to hit fast-forward. This turned from a suspense revenge thriller to a Looney Tunes cartoon in the last five minutes.

A lot of the critics also talked about how gory this was. It isn’t gory in the way that gore films are gory. There is a lot of blood and a few cringe-worthy scenes like one guy pulling glass out of his foot but if you’ve gotten through Blood Feast or something like Hostel, then you’ll be fine. I’ve seen more blood in an episode of True Blood, honestly.

Anyway, I only have two actual complaints.

One, the editing was strange in some sequences. When the girl is sexy dancing and grinding on her future rapist, they keep cutting to a professional wrestling match on the television. I don’t know, is this some artistic way of implying “toxic masculinity” or something? When a girl grinds on a dude’s dick, he suddenly wants to slap her into a figure four leglock?

Two, the film could have been more effective at 80 minutes instead of 108. Big portions of this film are too stretched out. There were chunks of the movie where I was bored. It generally did a good job building tension but it felt as if it was trying too hard to do that and it brought that build to a screeching halt too many times. The sequence of the girl writhing in a cave should have been trimmed down.

Realistically, this has the same problem that a lot of modern movies do. Everyone in it is a shitty person. It’s hard for me to care about a character when there isn’t something pure in their spirit. I wanted the victim to get her revenge but when she’s just some mistress that only cares about going to Hollywood to be a star, I’ve already started the film not liking her. Obviously rape is fucking terrible and that guy should have his dick cut off but it’s hard to get invested in an unlikable, one-dimensional character no matter where the story takes her. She really had no story and just represented an archetype. An archetype that most people look down their nose at.

Revenge is a film that had a lot working for it but it doesn’t deliver in the ways that it should have. It’s not all that original and it doesn’t live up to some of the films with a similar theme and plot. However, it’s still nice to look at and it shows promise for the director, as this was her first feature film. Had the pacing been fine tuned more, this could’ve been much better.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: What it borrows heavily from, the original I Spit On Your Grave and its remake, as well as Thoroughbreds, Unsane and Under the Skin.

Film Review: Mandy (2018)

Release Date: January 19th, 2018 (Sundance)
Directed by: Panos Cosmatos
Written by: Panos Cosmatos, Aaron Stewart-Ahn
Music by: Jóhann Jóhannsson
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Bill Duke, Richard Brake, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouere, Sam Louwyck, Hayley Saywell

SpectreVision, Umedia, Legion M, XYZ Films, RLJE Films, 121 Minutes

Review:

“You are a vicious snowflake.” – Red Miller

Everyone is raving about Mandy. Most of the comments I’ve seen have painted this as a modern surreal horror masterpiece. Well, it’s definitely not a masterpiece but it was a serious mindfuck and pretty enjoyable.

It’s almost two movies though, perfectly split down the middle and broken into two solid hours.

The first half of the film is romantic, sweet and then very fucked up and disturbing. It tells the story of Red and Mandy, shows their love for one another but also brings in the evil Jeremiah Sand and his cult. Sand has an obsession with Mandy, after seeing her walking through the woods.

The second half of the film deals with Red, having watched his woman burn alive due to the actions of Sands’ cult, walk into the mouth of hell for a one man revenge killing spree. And as enchanting and mesmerizing as the first half of the film was, this is where shit really hits the fan and it’s a balls to the wall blood feast.

What makes the film so surreal is the mixture of it’s bizarre plot and evil characters along with the use of color, lighting and overall cinematography. This mixture of narrative and visuals makes this feel like early David Lynch meets recent Nicholas Winding Refn. It’s a pretty interesting marriage of styles but at the same time, that alone can’t carry a film and this thing is more drawn out than it needs to be.

There isn’t as much action as the trailer might imply but the action is pretty good where it occurs. This is a bloody film and it really hits a raw nerve in several places. But one could make an argument that this is style over substance. I won’t necessarily say that but I will point to the fact that the things I found most interesting weren’t really expanded on or fleshed out enough, in my opinion. I definitely felt like I needed to know more about Sand and his minions.

The film’s score by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, this was his final film, was a perfect compliment to the film’s visual and dark allure. Jóhannsson’s work here magnified the effect of key scenes.

This is definitely a memorable film that I know I will watch again in the future but it isn’t so compelling that I’ll fire it up again anytime soon. I do, however, wish that I could have seen this on the big screen.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Panos Cosmatos’ Beyond the Black Rainbow.

Film Review: Daughters of Darkness (1971)

Also known as: Les lèvres rouges, Erzebeth (original titles), Blood On the Lips, Children of the Night, The Promise of Red Lips, The Red Lips, The Redness of the Lips (alternate titles)
Release Date: May 28th, 1971 (New York City premiere)
Directed by:  Harry Kümel
Written by: Harry Kümel, J.J. Amiel, Pierre Drouot
Music by: François de Roubaix
Cast: Delphine Seyrig, Danielle Ouimet, John Karlen, Andrea Rau

Showking Films, Maya Films, Ciné Vog Films, 100 Minutes, 87 Minutes (edited cut)

Review:

“Love is stronger than death… even than life” – Countess Bathory

I was surprised to find that this is the first Belgian film that I’ve reviewed. I better start showing Belgium some more love.

Daughters of Darkness was one of the thirteen films featured on the recent horror marathon Joe Bob Briggs did for Shudder. This is streaming on Shudder, by the way, for those of you that have the streaming service.

This is a pretty artsy horror movie but the director was a bit of an uppity self-important tyrant that liked to slap his actresses around and take himself and his “art” way too seriously.

That being said, this isn’t in any way a great or memorable picture except for in one regard: cinematography.

This film is beautifully and magnificently shot. It would have made a spectacular music video had the scenes been used for that but as a motion picture, this falls pretty flat in every other way.

This was made in a time when lesbian vampire movies were all the rage. Okay, maybe not “all the rage” but they were at the height of their popularity, especially in Europe.

The story follows a young newlywed couple that stays in a creepy hotel on a Belgian beach. They are then preyed on by a gorgeous vampire woman and her vampire lesbian lover. The guy starts acting out of character, beats up his new bride and eventually everyone is banging everyone and then everyone dies. It’s predictable and derivative. It might not have been derivative for 1971 but by 2018, we’ve all seen this story a dozen times or more.

This isn’t so bad that it isn’t watchable. It did keep me engaged and the cinematography, especially the outdoor stuff, was genuinely captivating. But I can’t recommend it unless you’re just really into visuals.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: MalpertuisThe Blood Spattered BrideVampyresVampyros Lesbos and Vampire Lovers.