Bienvenido, Welcome, Bienvenue

Hope you enjoy my travel blog, comments are not necessary but much appreciated.

Monday, July 28, 2014

My Travels And A Little Bit of This And That: Lucy film review The Beginning of the End

My Travels And A Little Bit of This And That: Lucy film review The Beginning of the End: Lucy the latest opus by director Luc Besson telegraphs its lofty ambitions pretty early on,Lucy our oldest female ancestor is the underlying...

Lucy film review The Beginning of the End

Lucy the latest opus by director Luc Besson telegraphs its lofty ambitions pretty early on,Lucy our oldest female ancestor is the underlying heroine of  the film which begins and ends with her....sort of since at that point she and the other flesh and blood current Lucy have morphed into one all encompassing consciousness.  I did say lofty in my opening sentence.  Besson is the French equivalent of Michael Bay with a Gallic twist, he's a little more "intellectual"  in his pursuits which doesn't necessarily mean he's successful in his various filmic endeavors some are pure pulp fiction and some are Lucy.
Through a series of unfortunate circumstances and choice of lousy friend/boyfriend Lucy who just wants to have a good time in Taipei while pretending to study (mid to low IQ- lol) ends up an unwilling mule with her stomach sewed shot filled with a new designer drug of an electric blue hue destined for the voracious appetites of the European market.  Three other male mules are in a similar predicament and will all be landing in different European cities to unleash their illicit "treasure".  It's never made entirely clear why Lucy ends up in a cell somewhere possibly for the enjoyment of low-level jailers before being sent out, that much is hinted at with the lecherous looks and groping.  In the process of resisting her freshly opened stomach is kicked and the drugs released in her system.  These drugs have the power to increase brain capacity from zero to hero ok maybe not zero I'm exaggerating for effect here and maybe not quite hero either although Lucy does take her revenge on those who have wronged her which includes the main bad guy played by Choi Min-sik with scenery chewing relish.
With the experimental drug coursing through her system Lucy's brain cannibalizes itself and everything around her,neurons firing exponentially till she's absorbed all that is knowable in the world and returned to a state of pure awareness.
The film opens with a central question:  All these years of evolution and what have we done to the world, this followed by a quick montage of positive and less desirable outcomes. Here Besson won't get much argument from me, the bad far outweigh the good  look at the state of the world right now and be afraid be very afraid.  At this precise moment in history things are going to shit pretty fast and the end is nowhere in sight, it's downhill all the way.  Does Lucy answers this fundamental question, i.e. does increased brain power to 100 make a difference well it turns out it's pretty awesome and fun what will at the telekinesis,telepathy,supernatural stuff and general mind fuck control but that's about it, the basic question is left unanswered and it's back to square one with the original Lucy for what we can suppose will only be a repeat.  It turns out all Besson wanted was a kick ass woman in a gorgeous body with some pretty trippy pictures thrown in, your brain on fake cinematic acid no more wiser or smarter.
Quite a few things broke the spell for me along the way.  Lucy's phone call to her maman while being operated on to get the drugs out of her system, drugs which she will  later have renowned scientists pumping back intravenously so she can get the full payload and achieve the desired 100.  Morgan Freeman lends his voice and not much else to supply the desired gravitas and make it sound like it's real science with lofty goals and not a matinée popcorn movie.  Another shot really got to me.  Lucy on her way to the airport changes her hair color and style  with a flick of her wrist from blond to black, why stop there and not change her whole appearance, the point is it's a gratuitous shot in a film filled with them add that to a shot of her feet shod in Leboutins with the signature red signaling that there's always time to shop for the best and most chic regardless of brain power.
I wasn't bored, the running time is short Besson likes to hit you fast and hard.  Had to admit it was fun seeing a woman hitting back for a change too bad it takes superhuman brain power in order for that to happen, we're royally screwed if that's what it takes.  Always did have a fondness for Besson's earlier female incarnations in Nikita and The Fifth Element, for that reason and Scarlett Johanssson he deserves a pass, recommended with some reservations, it's perhaps the dumbest film about increased brain power around.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

My Travels And A Little Bit of This And That: A Curious Oddity called NOAH- My take

My Travels And A Little Bit of This And That: A Curious Oddity called NOAH- My take: I never intended to go see Noah.  My curiosity got the better of me for two major reasons.  I'm a fan of the director Darren Aronofsky, ...

A Curious Oddity called NOAH- My take

I never intended to go see Noah.  My curiosity got the better of me for two major reasons.  I'm a fan of the director Darren Aronofsky, he had never worked on a such a huge, symbolically loaded canvas plus a mostly positive review in Salon tipped the balance in Noah's favor.

Noah is not a complete disappointment, some elements of the film especially the brutality of men,the destruction of the environment, the whole ecological message still resonate with passion and profundity. This is a serious, somber film because the destruction of planet earth by man made forces and then by divine intervention are not mere trifling matters.  These are survival issues and they are accorded the respect and treatment which they are due.

Russell Crowe returning to the passion of his earlier roles plays Noah a man destined for great things, Jennifer Connelley is equally excellent as Noah's resourceful wife.  The tale is the first well known apocalyptic tale but it's presented in the film without any sense of grounding in biblical times save for a brief introduction highlighting the fall of Adam and Even and their banishment from the Garden of Eden.  Other than that the word God is never mentioned, the word creator is used instead.  When the film opens Noah has witnessed the murder of his father after having been told by him of portentous things to come.  Later on an older Noah now played by Crowe is seen living a semi bucolic seemingly idyllic life with his family consisting of wife and three sons.  They are vegetarians one might even call them vegans since they only eat the greens and fruits which nature provides.  They do not eat meat.  They have retreated from the world of men whose punishing activities have slowly destroyed the earth and all its bounties.  At this juncture the script asks us to follow a somewhat tortuous path, machinery is glimpsed, mining is alluded to, the term industrial might have even been used.  It's obvious that the script is a mash up of biblical allusions and tales of modern man in the modern world.  For people who are deeply religious and consider the Bible to be gospel this might be viewed as offensive.  I didn't have any such problem, on the contrary, it was interesting to witness a novel take on such a well known story.

Noah and his family leave after one of Noah's visions.  He seeks the help of his grandfather played with a lot of panache by Anthony Hopkins.  A flood will come, Noah must build an ark big enough to house all of earth's creations. The ark is built with the help of a sacred seed giving rise to a bountiful forest and the Watchers, great lumbering stone giants who are pretty awesome in terms of the CG effect.

That's the story in a nutshell.  Here are some of the things which didn't work for me.  I kept being distracted by the costumes which I would term artistically deconstructed.  A lot of woolens, some leather, buttons, great coats with hoods which I could see myself wearing (haha), these distractions kept me wondering who was doing all the sewing.  It seems trivial but it took away from the seriousness of the message pointing out the fact that this was an ambitious work of creative fiction which fell short of igniting a debate about the ruinous path which man and woman, ancient and modern, had been set on.  The fakery of the clothes was merely symptomatic of the fakery of everything else.  All the animals in the arc, once they're in there they're put fast asleep by some kind of aromatic herb dispensed like incense via smoke.  That's all it takes for the animals to keep from eating each other.  The arK feels more roomy than it actually looks from a bird's eye view and not entirely convincing when you start to break it down.  Lastly I was appalled at the brutal choice which Noah was prepared to make , gender discrimination at its most disturbing.  I should have been more moved than I was yet in the end all I felt was a bemused indifference.  In closing I would also like to mention Ray Winstone as the tribal Lord Tubal cain.  He infused each scene with a ferocity which was palpable. For him the choice was always clear man is destined to put his imprint on the earth, the creator is an absent landlord. This is not an entirely misguided view of the creator since he's not much of a presence in the film, he is often invoked but seldom answers leaving Noah and us to puzzle things out on our own.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Travels And A Little Bit of This And That: Travels are over- back to film criticism - Review ...

My Travels And A Little Bit of This And That: Travels are over- back to film criticism - Review ...: Québec director Denis Villeneuve has certainly proven himself to be very eclectic in his choice of subjects so far. From Polytechnique about...

Travels are over- back to film criticism - Review of film ENEMY

Québec director Denis Villeneuve has certainly proven himself to be very eclectic in his choice of subjects so far. From Polytechnique about the University of Montreal massacre to Incendies nominated for an Oscar in 2011 to the recent very well received Prisoners  starring Jake Gyllenhaal and a scary Hugh Jackman to his more recent baffling offer, Enemy also starring Villeneuve's new muse Jake Gyllenhaal.
Honestly I still don't know what to make of Enemy.  I didn't dislike it but I didn't love it either. There are some things to admire about it and other things which are simply monotonous and frankly quite boring.  I would not qualify it as an entertaining film, certainly a challenging one which in this age of sugary confections which pass for movies can only be a good thing.  It reminded me of early David Lynch at his most opaque with a dollop of scary Cronenberg thrown into the mix.  Not a bad combination, certainly a very volatile one.

Based on Portuguese Nobel winner José Saramago's book The Double the story is a fairly straightforward one.  Adam Bell (Jake G.) leads a monotonous existence.  His life is an uninterrupted set of every day repetitive occurrences.  He takes the bus, teaches a course on history where he expounds on capitalism/power and how to maintain a stranglehold on the masses virtually verbatim with little passion or inclination to provoke discussion, walks back home, has semi-indifferent sex with his not quite live in girlfriend Mary and starts all over again the very next day.  It's your average mind numbing sad sack existence from which, seemingly there is no reprieve.  All this is filmed in a brown,beige,off white, sickly green palette accompanied by an ominous tonal music which portents of strange things to come.  As an aside I am getting very tired of this kind of sepia only tones creeping into so much of today's cinematography, I long for vibrant splashes of technicolor, in this film even the green of the grass or the trees is muted. It doesn't help that Toronto has never appeared this ugly or this forbidding. The endless towers dwarfing the life below them and the strange appearance of a giant billowing spider floating above the city do nothing to ease the spectator's unease.  Spiders and or a presumed arachnophobia are a component of the film which opens on an all male private sex club where spiders such as tarantulas are squashed by 8 inch heels, the act is suggested rather than carried out to its logical conclusion.

After viewing a film suggested by a colleague, Adam wakes up nagged by an image he has seen in the film.
Yes there it is, his exact doppelganger posing as a bell boy.  Adam is startled but at the same time suffused with unsuppressed excitement, finally something unusual happening in his life.  After some research he discovers the actor's name is Anthony St. Claire. Anthony has a pregnant wife named Helen.  The two end up meeting and their lives become entwined as each of their partners become pawns in a game of guess who this is although it's unclear if Helen knows or is just on a fishing expedition when she asks Adam posing as Anthony "how was class today?"  Personally I think that's a red herring meant to confuse and obfuscate.

There are a lot of shots of the actors pensively staring out into space.  The characters don't appear to react in what I would term "normal" ways.  Upon seeing Adam, Anthony's doppelganger  Claire doesn't immediately tell Anthony about it, instead she lies on the sofa mute, teary eyed and then finally accuses Anthony of "knowing about it."  It's all very meaningless and improbable as a reaction. Furthermore the characters don't actually talk to each other,they don't listen to music, they don't watch t.v. (how very mundane) they don't engage with any other characters (or ever so briefly) they don't eat, they have sex more as a penance than an actual joyful short they merely exist to be captured in front of the camera as static and unwilling participants in their own dull existences.  Gyllenhaal is fine in both roles.  He captures the lumpy,bored professor Adam  and the swagger and intensity of the actor Anthony very well.  He can be both handsome and ordinary, that's his physical gift.
The women are also captivating both bringing vulnerability and strength to their respective roles Sarah Gadon  as Anthony's wife Helen is an especially luminous presence.

The film pulses with a menace which is never completely realized or fulfilled, as such it's more style than substance but the style does carry it along for most of its viewing. The film can be summed up as metaphysical  horror, more intellectual unease than actually physically frightening.  The alluded too reference of spider as woman one squishing the id of the male psyche (Anthony) the other inhibiting and power draining (Adam) could have been better explored instead of being given a rather oblique treatment forcing us to put the pieces together in ways that aren't always satisfactory. The end is either a joke or a grotesque in your face punch line, as for me I haven't decided yet which it is but the image does stay with you long after the film is over.