IO, Review By Case Wright


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New beginnings and adventure versus intimacy and connection is the theme of Netflix’s latest straight to stream scifi think piece- IO.  It makes sense that human connection is the main theme because this movie was written by a team.  Rule of thumb: if you see Writer 1 and Writer 2 that was rewritten because writer 1 kinda sucked, BUT, if you see Writer 1 & Writer 2, this was written as a creative team.  In this case, there were three writers working together: Clay Jeter, Charles Spano, & Will Basanta.  I can’t imagine how challenging that would be for a film script mostly because I’m very solitary as a writer.  I’m an extrovert in every other way, but my ideal writing space is a well-lit isolation cave.  What is impressive to me  is that Netflix took a chance on these writers because it was their first real feature.  Normally, I would make a parenthesis next to the writers’ names, but here they haven’t really done anything prior.    The director, Jonathan Helpert, has done short films, never a feature. Despite this being everyone’s first feature, they executed well and attracted some real talent to their piece: Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers) and Anthony Mackie (Captain America: Winter Soldier).

The film takes place in just two locations, has two principles, and essentially just a cameo by a third actor.  The special effects were so minimalist that it made Another Earth (Lisa’s Review) look like Star Wars.  90% of the film takes place on a campsite, 5% in an empty neighborhood, and 5% in a museum. This film really ratchets up the intimacy and nothing can make two people closer than not having any other human beings around to distract them.

At first, I thought I was in for some Al Gore environmentalist porn because the film begins with a mass exodus of humanity from earth to an outpost to IO because runaway pollution changed our air to ammonia.  Obviously, there’s not enough fabreeze in the world to get rid of that smell.  Our heroine, Sam (Margaret Qualley) is up on a mountain campsite where the air is still breathable.  She is working alone to further her father’s research to adapt bees and plants to the new atmosphere in order to make the world habitable for humans again.  She makes trips down to the city below to scavenge for parts and to finally get decent tickets to see Hamilton.  This sounds like it would be dull, but it’s totally engaging because Margaret Qualley is such a talent that she plays the claustophic loneliness so you can feel it yourself.

Sam has a REALLY long distance relationship with Elon her engineer boyfriend who is determined to find humanity a new home.  His life is in the unknown and the stars; whereas, Sam’s is one earthbound and lonely.  Her loneliness is ended with the arrival of Micah (Anthony Mackie) a much older man than she, but there are obvious sparks.  They share an interest in the humanities and mourn our lost paradise.  Micah followed Sam’s father’s advice and attempted to stay on earth and survive and adapt, but doing so cost him his wife’s life and anyone else’s who listened to him.  He spent years floating around earth on a hot air balloon, seeing humanity’s fall from above.  When Micah met Sam, their age difference, the poisoned earth, or the uncertain future didn’t matter because they made a connection and developed concern for one another.

A lot has been discussed about the quasi-ambiguous ending because I suppose people are really good at missing the point.  It never was about whether humanity retook the earth or colonized a new home beyond the stars; it was about humans rediscovering their humanity.  In fact, the last lines of the film discussed exploration, coming to where you began, and re-discovering your starting point as if it were new because it is: you have changed, you have grown, the meaning has evolved.  By the end of the film, Sam and Micah had learned that they were still human.  These connections are why we fight a Trojan War to bring our loved ones home because we are connected to them, they matter, and because we are human.  The end was not about whether she survived and lived on earth on not; it was heartbreaking because alive or dead, we knew that the roads Micah and Sam would walk would not be together.

 

Trailer: Velvet Buzzsaw


A few years ago, Dan Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rene Russo excited film viewers everywhere when they collaborated on Nightcrawler, a portrait of a psychologically damaged man who proves to be quite adept at playing the media game.  The combination of Gillroy’s atmospheric direction and satirical script with Gyllenhaal’s wonderfully unhinged lead performance made for an incendiary and prophetic film.  Just why exactly Nightcrawler was totally snubbed by the Academy continues to be one of the most perplexing mysteries in recent Oscar history.  Despite strong support from the critics, not even Gyllenhaal picked up a nomination.

Dan Gilroy followed Nightcrawler up with Roman Israel, Esq., which was as forgettable as Nightcrawler was memorable but which still managed to accomplish what Nightcrawler didn’t.  It received an Oscar nomination for its leading man.  One gets the feeling that nomination had more to do with Denzel Washington’s reputation for award-worthy work than for anything that actually happened in the movie.  Gyllenhaal went on to give award-worthy performances in films like Southpaw and Stronger but the Academy has continued to snub him.  As for Russo, she’s only appeared in three films post-Nightcrawler and none of them were worthy of her talents.

Well, this year, Gyllenhaal, Russo, Gilroy, and Nightcrawler‘s cinematographer, Robert Elswit, have reunited for Velvet Buzzsaw!  That’s right, they’ve got the band together again!  The film appears to be a mix of horror film and an art world satire.  As the film’s plot description puts it: After a series of paintings by an unknown artist are discovered, a supernatural force enacts revenge on those who have allowed their greed to get in the way of art.  The trailer would seem to suggest that paintings themselves are coming to life to enact revenge on sell-outs, everywhere.  The idea of haunted paintings has been explored by everyone from Oscar Wilde to H.P. Lovecraft to Lucio Fulci and I look forward to seeing what type of spin Gilroy puts on it.

Along with Russo and Gyllenhaal, this film also features John Malkovich.  Honestly, I don’t think you can do an art world satire without finding a role for Malkovich.  Much as how Bill Paxton simply belonged in Nightcrawler, it seems that Malkovich would just belong in Velvet Buzzsaw.

Velvet Buzzsaw will be playing at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and it will be officially released by Netflix on February 1st!  I get the feeling that we’re either going to love it or we’re going to hate it.  I don’t think there’s going to be much in-between.

Check out the trailer below!

Trailer: The Punisher – Season 2


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The first season of The Punisher on Netflix ended up being better than what had been advertised. The series and it’s ultraviolent tone became a divisive factor in how the show was scene.

Some saw it as the true adaptation of the titular character and his anti-hero status within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Others saw it as poor taste considering the rash of mass shootings and gun violence that’s plagued the country the last couple of years.

There was no disagreement in that Jon Bernthal owned and seemed born to play the role of vengeance-fueled and grief-stricken Marine veteran Frank Castle. His portrayal not just of Frank Castle but his vigilante alter-ego, The Punisher, was like watching a force of nature on screen.

It was a no-brainer that a second season of the series would be set into production and Netflix didn’t hesitate. It’s a bit bittersweet knowing that no matter how good season 2 turns out there’s a high probability that this will be the final season of The Punisher on Netflix as every Netflix-produced Marvel show has been cancelled the past year with only the upcoming seasons of The Punisher and Jessica Jones left.

Season 2 is set of a January 18, 2019 release date on Netflix worldwide.

Trailer: Netflix’s Kingdom


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Yes, I know it’s another trailer for a zombie series. Even with my love for all things zombie fiction, I must admit that we’ve reached beyond the point of oversaturation. There’s more and more bad zombie fiction (in TV, film, books, etc.) than there are good ones. Once in awhile we will get something that puts a new spin or adds something new to the zombie genre.

We saw this with 2016’s The Girl with All the Gifts and South Korea’s Train to Busan. Even the darling of all things zombie fiction, AMC’s The Walking Dead has hit a new low in ratings (yet still continues to be the highest rated cable series).

Netflix is now jumping into the zombie pool to take it’s pound of flesh with it’s South Korean production of a zombie series set during Korea’s medieval Joseon dynastic period. It’s a blend of court intrigue and survival horror.

The series is called Kingdom and from all promotional materials released since it was first announced, the series looks to bring the zombie genre into a time period we rarely see the genre appear. Rarely do we see zombie fiction on the big or small screen set in a time period other than modern times.

Netflix will release Kingdom worldwide on January 25, 2019 with a second season already set for production early 2019.

What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been: Orson Welles’ THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (Netflix 2018)


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The day has finally arrived. November 2, 2018. I ordered a free trial of Netflix specifically so I could watch the completed version of Orson Welles’ final film, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND . Welles worked on this project for over a decade, and the footage sat for decades more before finally being restored and re-edited. A film buff’s dream come true – perhaps. There were questions I needed answered. Was there enough salvageable material to make a coherent movie? Does it follow Welles’ vision? Would it live up to the hype? Was it worth the wait?

The answer: OH, HELL YEAH!!

Welles shot over ten hours of film, utilizing different film stocks (Super 8, 16mm, 35mm), switching back and forth from color to classic black and white, to create his movie, which is a documentary about the movie-within-the-movie’s director – a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie. It took six years (from 1970-76)…

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*SPOILERS* Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S1 Ep 7: Feast of Feasts, (Dir. Viet Nguyen) Review-


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Happy Horrorthon Home Stretch!!! Devil’s Eve is today.  Devil’s Eve is the day before the Great Samhain rises from the ground and goes door to door selling auto insurance at competitive rates…as the Druids taught him.

Those last reviews by Lisa were awesome as usual- Check them out, like them, and get Mia Farrow to live tweet while reading them!

Episode 7, Directed by Viet Nguyen, focuses around jealousy, betrayal, and corruption. Viet Nguyen is typically a film editor who occasionally directs.  I’m not sure if horror is where he is best suited to direct.  He usually directs action iZombie/The Flash/Legends of Tomorrow, camera shots that zero in on main characters with long still shots from below to reflect their larger than life hero or villain status.  The problem is that these long shots tend to diffuse the suspense that horror needs.  Take a look at the horror directed by Guy Norman Bee or Josh Stolberg.  The shots are at eye level with a slow push-in.  These people at your level and can get YOU.  Viet has done great work, but as I have written in other reviews Horror directing is a specialized art form where building suspense is its beating heart.

The story focus was narrowed.  Instead of an overarching drama piece where Sabrina straddles two worlds like a witchy Gilmore Girls, it’s a personal story of a father betraying his daughter with courtly intrigue.  The Feast of Feasts commemorates the bodily sacrifice to her fellow starving witches to eat her.  This story gives another piece to the backstory of the town vs the witches and how the townsfolk massacred the witches years ago.  It’s like the Taylor V Sutton feud, but with more goth makeup.

Each witch family in the coven in Hunger Games style has to send in a tribute to be “Queen”.  The Queen embodies Freya by getting massacred and eaten by the coven to celebrate Freya’s sacrifice.  The main course is chosen by lots.  Sabrina’s annoyed that her Aunt Z participates in the drawing and insists on being part of the drawing to see if Aunt Z will speak out that the ritual is barbaric.  Does it work? Not so much.  Sabrina and Prudence go head to head and Sabrina is picked to be Prudence’s servant and Prudence draws the dinner card.

The storyline meanders a bit and it focuses around courtly intrigue and headmaster ascension… yawn.  Turns out the drawing was rigged by the Headmaster’s wife who knows that Prudence is the Headmaster’s illegitimate child and threat to her kid because of a possible inheritance dispute….boring.  When I reviewed Stranger Things, there was a mediocre episode too.  Overall, this episode is not perfect, but good enough. The episode ends with Prudence’s toadies causing a mine cave-in, which sets off a very cool story arc!!!!

Cheers!!!

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 1.6 “Chapter Six: An Exorcism In Greendale” (dir by Rachel Talalay)


So, I’m just going to start this review out by honestly admitting that the sixth episode of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina didn’t do as much for me as the previous episodes.

A lot of that, though, is because any show would struggle to follow up an episode as brilliant as Dreams In A Witch House.  The show didn’t do itself any favors by following up that episode, where Sabrina had to battle and trap a viscous demon, with another episode in which Sabrina had to battle and trap a viscous demon.  That similarity alone makes it impossible not to compare the two episodes against each other and, unfortunately, there’s no way to really top what went on in Episode 5.

Episode 6 does start out with an interesting example of psychological manipulation on the part of Ms. Wardwell.  With Sabrina confronting her about both being a witch and spying on her, Wardwell is quick to claim that she once wanted to marry a mortal and that she was an acolyte of Sabrina’s father.  Wardwell claims that she’s only been spying on Sabrina because Edward Spellman requested it.  Since Sabrina is still struggling to work out her feelings towards her deceased parents and their legacy, Wardwell told exactly the right lie to keep Sabrina from completely dismissing her.  However, Wardwell then took it too far by claiming that she had been in love with Edward.  Sabrina tells Wardwell to stay away from her but, by the end of the episode, Wardwell has once again go Sabrina confiding in her.

How does Ms. Wardwell accomplish this?

The answer is right in this episode’s title.  Wardwell helps Sabrina to do something that no witch has ever done before.  Wardwell helps Sabrina to exorcise a demon.

It turns out that Susie’s Uncle Jesse has been possessed by a demon, one who claims to be named Maerceci.  (Write it down on a piece of paper and then stand in front of a mirror.  As Ambrose puts it, demons have got a terrible sense of humor.)  Not only are Roz, Susie, and Harvey being haunted by visions of Uncle Jesse but apparently, the demon is going to possess one of them as soon as it gets finished devouring Jesse.  Despite being told that witches are not allowed to perform exorcisms, Sabrina, Wardwell, Hilda, and eventually Zelda do just that.

(It turns out that, in another case of deus ex Edward, Sabrina’s father just happened to come up with a exorcism ritual for witches, which leads to the question of whether there’s anything that Edward didn’t do before he died.)

The exorcism is a success, though Sabrina soon learns that it takes more than just successfully casting a spell to make people happy.  Even after he’s freed from the demon, Uncle Jesse still dies.  (He’s killed by Wardwell, though Sabrina doesn’t know that.)  Thanks to the demon, Roz fears that she’s losing her eyesight because her faith isn’t strong enough.  Harvey is still scared to death of going into the mines and worries that Sabrina thinks that he’s less of a man as a result.  The demon may be gone but Susie remains traumatized by the demon’s taunts and, by the end of the episode, is declaring, “I won’t be an abomination!”  In the end, that’s the main lesson of an Exorcism in Greendale.  Just because a story ends in with special effects and a temporary victory, that doesn’t erase the pain that came before.

Anyway, this was an okay episode.  It moved forward Sabrina’s relationship with Wardwell so, if nothing else, it served its purpose.  I hate to say it but I probably would have had a better reaction to this episode if the demon had been taunting Hilda, Zelda, and Ambrose as opposed to Sabrina’s friends.  The witches are just more interesting than the mortals.

Case is going to be reviewing the rest of this season so I’m going to wrap up this review by sharing my thoughts on the show as a whole.  As the first season of any show will, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has its flaws.  Overall, though, it’s a good show.  I go back and forth on whether I like Michelle Gomez’s stylized performance as Ms. Wardwell but Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Davis, Miranda Otto, and Chance Perdomo are all perfectly cast.  (Kiernan Shipka simply is Sabrina.)  Ross Lynch also deserves a lot of credit for making Harvey into a compelling character.  I’m looking forward to seeing where this show goes in the future.

Oh — and, of course, I absolutely adore Salem!

(photo credit: Stewart Cook/REX/Shutterstock)