Netflix Film Review: Ghost Story (2017) @Netflix @ghoststorymovie #GhostStoryMovie


Starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, this is A Ghost Story told from the perspective of the ghost. But unlike classic Oscar winner Ghost, where being a ghost is portrayed much like being alive, A Ghost Story paints a more realistic picture (if ghosts are realistic at all, which they aren’t): the ghost is silent, unable to effect change in the world, and robbed of all that made him a personality in life, such as voice, memory, and that dreamy Patrick Swayze quiff.

Ghost Story makes some interesting choices. It’s shot in 4:3, although it’s not apparent why. The ghost is portrayed as a man with a sheet over his head which, believe it or not, does actually work and isn’t ridiculous as it surely deserves to be. And our spectral protagonist never utters a word in death. The film is a tale of loss and how you struggle to come to terms to loss.

Well, “protagonist”, “tale”, “struggle”. Perhaps those aren’t the best words. The film actually has no plot whatsoever, let alone “tale” or “struggle”, and the “protagonist”, such as he is, doesn’t “tagonise” anything. And when I say “no plot”, I don’t mean in that hyperbolic jargonised English that “his head LITERALLY fell off”; I mean, quite actually, there. is. no. plot. Therefore I can plot spoil without plot spoiling for there is no plot to spoil. The unnamed couple cuddle in bed for several minutes without talking. Affleck’s character dies, which we don’t see. Mara’s character then sits around doing nothing, and I mean nothing: we see her eat a pie, in real time, for a full ten minutes. Eventually, she moves out of their house, someone else moves in, then they move out, then someone else in, and so on, until the house is knocked down. The ghost silent watches all of this. Fin. Literally nothing happens, and there is no character arc for our ghost or plot development.

Aristotle wrote in his Poetics, some 2300 or so years ago, that drama needs the following elements: a beginning, a middle, an end; plot, character, diction, thought, spectacle, music; a single central theme whose elements are logically related; that the dramatic causation and probability of events hangs on the characters’ actions and reactions; and catharsis of the spectators, that is, “to arouse in” spectators “feelings of pity and fear, and to purge them of these emotions so that they leave the theatre feeling cleansed and uplifted”.[1] A Ghost Story has none of these apart from “spectacle” (nice cinematography and visual effects) and “music” (sound effects, which were effective in building atmosphere). The whole film, in fact, feels exactly like a five minute A-Level student’s film project which has been inflated to 92 minutes and a massive budget.

Here are some snippets from IMDb user reviews.

“Worst film I’ve seen in a long, long time. 1/10”
“What a total waste of time. 1/10”
“Like watching paint dry. 1/10”
“Enough to make you think you have died! Do not bother! 1/10”
“Truly awful. 1/10. Boring, pretentious, irritating, amateur, self-indulgent”
“High rating on IMDb is inside joke about this movie. 1/10”
“The director thinks he’s Bergman and he is not. 1/10”
“A wonderfully hypnotic and philosophical film exploring the enormity of life. 8/10”
“A mind-alteringly realistic depiction of human life. 10/10”

This film isn’t so much “Marmite: love it or hate it”, as it is “hate it, or brainwash yourself into thinking you love it”. Do not believe the many wanker reviews or critics that have boosted this to a very respectable 6.9 on IMDb and, extraordinarily, a 91% Fresh Critical Consensus on RottenTomatoes.com, who declare that this film is “powerful” with a “passionate couple” at the core. The film is no such thing. It is self-indulgent crap at its worst. This really is a case of “the Emperor has no clothes”; fearful, mindless, cretinous film critics rate it highly as they are scared that to do otherwise would make them appear uncouth and uncultured and probably get their next schmooze fest invitation cancelled. Above all, nobody wants to say the emperor has no clothes.

The film’s not even saved by the “so bad it’s good” factor; this is the most tedious, boring piece of shit I have ever watched. And I do mean “ever”. Good news, though; that I managed to make it through the film without turning off or tearing my own eyeballs out means that the instanews social media whizz-bang world we now inhabit hasn’t completely destroyed my patience. One out of five — for spelling its own name correctly.

1/5

[1] https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/a/agamemnon-the-choephori-and-the-eumenides/critical-essay/aristotle-on-tragedy

© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://image.tmdb.org/t/p/original/sD94aixD7fMAc2e9ugbv4KQprBL.jpg

 

 

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Netflix Film Review: The Circle (2017) #150WordReview @Netflix

check out my film review and Netflix blog at https://filmmovietvblog.wordpress.com

The Circle is the world’s number one tech business, a Facebook-Google-Apple mash-up led by a kind of Steve Zuckerjobs (Tom Hanks). Young intern Mae (Emma Watson) scores a dream opportunity to work for the firm, but the dream quickly turns into a nightmare. The set-up is compelling: the darkside of social media and modern technology, the invasion of people’s privacy and the loss of anonymity, as perpetrated by floppy-haired, latte-supping, trendy technologistas, under the guise of techtopian idealism.

Sadly, a well-realised world deserves a well-realised film. Most characters are cardboard cut-outs that we don’t care for. The development of Emma Watson’s character is illogical; the more she suffers the folly of this Brave New World, the more she seems to buy into it. And the ending is unfulfilling and makes no sense; Mae’s reaction is the literal opposite of the logical end point of her story arc. Watson does the best she can, and Tom Hanks is compelling, but the lack of through-line in the script makes for a frustrating what-might-have-been mess.

2/5

© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4287320/mediaviewer/rm2345938944

 

Sci-Fi Musical Instrument: Yaybahar #Yaybahar #GörkemŞen @HostilesMovie #Hostiles @KermodeMovie

Mark Kermode mentions that a unique musical instrument called the “Yaybahar” is used in the film Hostiles. He said only one existed in the world at the time the film was made and that the sound is unlike anything else; this piqued my interest. So I looked it up on YouTube. Seriously, the inventor of this musical instrument, Görkem Şen, is some kind of genius. I’ve never heard anything like this before. Incredible. Watch and enjoy.

https://youtu.be/_aY6TxC1ojA

© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://i.ytimg.com/vi/j_LW-eUYt7Y/maxresdefault.jpg

Netflix Film Review: Annihilation (2018) #200WordReview @Netflix #Annihilation @AnnihilationMov @AlexGarland

check out my new film, TV, and Netflix review blog at www.filmmovietvblog.wordpress.com

An isolated area of countryside is cut off from the world by an eerie shimmering light which surrounds it; no one who enters “the shimmer” is heard from again. Communication in and out of the shimmer is impossible. And with the shimmer slowly growing in size daily, engulfing the surrounding area, the government is called in to carry out a classified investigation under the guise of a chemical clean-up operation.

An all-female team, led by a biology professor (Natalie Portman) and a psychologist (Jennifer Jason) Leigh, each with their own agendas and ulterior motives, are the latest to enter. The world they find within the shimmer is an Alice-in-Wonderland, LSD trip gone wrong. A nightmarish hallucination, which is both utterly unlike anything you’ve seen before, and completely convincing.

The film is a genre-defying science fiction-horror-thriller-psychological thriller-creature feature which shares genetic strands with Sphere (1998), Event Horizon (1997), Contact (1997), and Cloverfield (2008). But this is all par for the course for writer-director, Alex Garland, whose previous accomplishments include Ex Machina and 28 Days Later.

This film is tense and, yes, genuinely scary. A horrifying slow-burn with some first rate acting.

5/5

© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://media.aintitcool.com/media/uploads/2018/big_eyes/annihilation-movie-poster-snippet_huge.jpg

 

Film Review: The Blind Side (2009) #100WordReview

check out my new film review blog at https://filmmovietvblog.wordpress.com/

The Blind Side is the true story of a wealthy WASP family, headed by Mater Familias Sandra Bullock, who take in a seventeen year old homeless black kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Battling social prejudice, lavishing him with clothes and an education, this is altruism at its best — or is there an ulterior motive? A prestigious football scholarship is at stake.

This fish-out-of-water tale has plenty of heart. Success is never a foregone conclusion. Tight scripting earnt this flick an Oscar nom for best screenplay, Bullock herself won Best Actress for her subtle, humane, and convincing portrayal.

4/5

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix RE-view: Fire in the Sky @KermodeMovie #FireInTheSky #TravisWalton #NetflixReview

Fire in the Sky is the 1993 screen depiction of the 1975 alleged alien abduction of lumberjack Travis Walton while out working with his crew. A slowburn, the film is notable for its focus. Rather than gratuitious shots of ETs, the drama revolves around how the disappearance of a local man affects a small town. His crew are villified as murderers, and mob tyranny ruins their lives as the towns tears itself apart.

This film seared itself into my memory as a kid. The petrol station scene (I won’t ruin it) genuinely disturbed me. And the tension throughout builds to that sequence: the single most believable portrayal of an alien abduction I have ever seen. As utterly convincing, visually impressive, and skin-crawlingly disturbing as it was when I saw it some twenty-odd years ago.

But was he abducted? Some have criticised the ambiguity of the film: it never gives us a clear yes-no answer. But I think this is the feature’s strength. The picture’s concern is how people cope with traumatic situations.

Still so fresh. Please give it a watch on Netflix.

4/5

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-wJ_UpP7EG1s/TYJ5F0FcTXI/AAAAAAAAA3E/rJCapE-uPC0/s1600/fire-in-the-sky-original.jpg

Netflix logo from http://contestpatti.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Netflix-logo.png

 

Netflix Review: Under The Shadow (2016) @UTSFilm @KermodeMovie #UnderTheShadow

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Under the Shadow (2016) depicts a mother and daughter struggling to maintain a normal life in war-torn 1980s Tehran. After their father and husband is conscripted, Iraqi bombs start raining down. In a visually striking moment, one bomb lodges in the building’s roof: it doesn’t explode, but it seems to bring a mysterious evil with it that begins to tear the family apart.

This BAFTA award-winning horror has long been on my “must watch” list. Sadly, I’m no longer a freeloading undergraduate with cash and time to spare, so I couldn’t catch it at the cinema. Luckily, Netflix bought it — a surefire sign that the film was gold — and I got to watch it this weekend.

Called an “Iranian Babadook” due to its slow build and psychological horror element, this film holds a 7.0 on IMDB and 98% fresh on RottenTomatoes — rarely heard of scores for a horror. Foreign language? Check. Original setting? Check. Social commentary? Check. Mark Kermode approved? Check. It’s everything that a latte-supping cosmopolitan liberal like myself should love. And how I wanted to love it. But this was the single-handed most disappointing film experience I have had in years.

Where The Babadook was a nerve-shredding slowburn, Under the Shadow was just a patience-shredding slow. 82 minutes never felt so long. The film wasn’t awful: jaunts to the basement bomb shelter were creepy, the sound design was at times deeply unsettling, and the evil presence was original and truly scary. But unlike The Babadook which nigh-on perfectly balanced psychological terror, monster scares, and possible mental breakdown in a is-it-isn’t-it-real stylee, Under the Shadow just felt like a going-nowhere social commentary on the state of women in post-revolutionary Iran with a bit of bump-in-the-night thrown in. Tension wasn’t maintained, the film didn’t feel like it was headed anywhere, and our mother and daughter, strangely, never truly seem imperilled by the menacing presence. The picture juggles several themes, yet never delivers on any of them. Smaller productions often suffer from fewer rewrites, Under the Shadow is no exception: this is a screenplay crying out for another round or two of redrafting. It never fulfills the ample potential it hints at.

However, the acting, direction, clever construction, and originality save the film somewhat. Memorable, note-worthy, but sadly Under the Shadow just doesn’t hang together.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/18/Under_the_Shadow_%28poster%29.jpg

Netflix Review: Under the Shadow (2016) #100WordReview #Netflix @UTSFilm @KermodeMovie #UnderTheShadow

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Under the Shadow (2016) sees a mother struggle to maintain a normal family life in war-torn 1980s Tehran amidst Iraqi bombs and a mysterious evil presence.

BAFTA award-winning, foreign language, original setting, social commentary, Mark Kermode-approved: everything a latte-supping cosmopolitan liberal like myself loves. Yet this Iranian The Babadook doesn’t quite work.

Where Babadook was a nerve-shredding slowburn, Under the Shadow was just a patience-shredding slow. Babbadook‘s is-it-isn’t-it-real psychological terror has been replaced with going-nowhere social commentary on feminism in post-revolutionary Iran. A truly scary “monster” and creepy apartment building can’t hide the lack of focus or peril. Disappointing.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/18/Under_the_Shadow_%28poster%29.jpg

Film Review: Arrival #100WordReview @ArrivalMovie @TheFilmReview @KermodeMovie #AmyAdams #ericheisserer #DenisVilleneuve

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Arrival sees a linguist tasked with making first contact with extraterrestrials. Based on an award-winning short story, the film can only be described as this generation’s Contact or 2001: A Space Odyssey. Same epic feel, familiar dark featureless monoliths (spacecraft). Yet it’s no rip-off.

Truly alien aliens, a tension and uneasy terror that surely would acccompany first contact, a disturbing sense of realism. All achieved without wobbly camcorder shtick.

Just like its illustrious spiritual forebears, Arrival is beautifully understated, deceptively straightforward plot-wise, and handles deep themes without pretension or pomp.

The anti-Independence Day. Found Contact snooze-inducing? Miss it. I say: instant classic.

4/5

(see the full-length review here)

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.space.com/34783-stephen-wolfram-arrival-interview.html

Film Review: Arrival @ARRIVALMOVIE @THEFILMREVIEW @KERMODEMOVIE #AMYADAMS #ERICHEISSERER #DENISVILLENEUVE

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Arrival, based on Ted Chiang’s 1998 Nebula award-winning novella  Story of Your Life, can only be described as this generation’s Contact or 2001: A Space Odyssey. There are even shades of 1998’s Sphere. It’s not derivative of those great works, but has the same epic feel — and by “epic”, I don’t mean bloated and poorly plotted, which is what so often passes for epic nowadays (see Superman v Batman, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, and a 300 page book being turned into a three film, eight hour monstrosity, The Hobbit).

Aliens have landed, but they keep quiet, safely ensconced in their ships. What’s their intention: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or more War of the Worlds? The film sees linguist Dr Louise Banks, so well-played by Amy Adams that I forgot I was watching a well-known A-lister, tasked with deciphering the alien’s language and making first contact. Her job cannot be underestimated: these aliens are no humans-with-rubber-ears.

Truly alien aliens, a sense of tension and uneasy terror that surely would acccompany first contact, a disturbing sense of realism. And it achieves this without wobbly camcorder shtick. With a nod to 2001 and Sphere, it even has its own monoliths — gigantic, featureless, silent, dark spaceships which float mere feet from the ground.

And just like its illustrious spiritual forebears, Arrival is beautifully understated, deceptively straightforward in its plot, and deals with deep themes with no hint of pretension or pomp. It even raised a few laughs from the audience. Perfectly pitched mind-candy. The only minor criticism is that the film might have benefited from upping the personal and global peril in places.

It really is the anti-Independence Day. If you are one of those people who described Contact as snooze-inducing where nothing happens and “in the end it turns out her dad was an alien” (quote from South Park, not actually what happens!), then give Arrival a miss. However for me, as a fully qualified linguist, I hope this is the start of a glut of films where knowledge of valency changing operations and morphosyntactic alignment in obscure New Guinea languages saves the world. Grammar has never been this exciting, or important. An instant classic.

4/5

(see the 100 word review here)

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.space.com/34783-stephen-wolfram-arrival-interview.html