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Flawed but stands above many recent Swedish horrors
Henrik Möller is a name I've heard of for years due to his crude animation films - something I made a conscious decision not to watch. It wasn't out of spite or any ill-meaning, I simply never found myself interested in watching them. It's with something like this debut feature, "Lokalvårdaren" (or its English title, which speaks more about the movie but stands out less, "Feed the Light") that I really got curious. It's a low-budget horror from the Southern part of Sweden (made obvious by the accents, of course) that's akin to psychological/supernatural stories like "Session 9".
Storywise it keeps itself somewhat familiar. The whole supernatural activities at a weird place/facility/whatever. Sara takes a job as a cleaner at a strange place where her daughter got lost after following her dad to work (he also works there). She comes to learn that the co-workers are far from the most bizarre things she's about to meet. She hears about "the light" - and a supposed other dimension. It strays away to some interesting places here and there, but mostly it remains easy to follow while still keeping us curious. That's possibly one of the main strengths here, that it's not always easy to predict what will happen next.
My general distaste for modern Swedish cinema doesn't have much to do with the country or language itself. It's as simple as this: we're mostly horrible at making movies. We're unoriginal and unaware of it. When decent ideas come along, they're usually failing elsewhere. "Lokalvårdaren" stood out with its trailer and it gave me some hope for Swedish independent cinema, and I think it's a lot better than movies like "Mara", "Vittra", "Den som söker" and "Marianne" (all recent Swedish horror/thrillers). It shows a lot more talent and originality (despite feeling familiar in story) than the rest, that's for sure.
But what is my overall feeling of the movie? Fact is that I still struggle to fully enjoy it. There are several things that distract me from being fully involved in it. Sometimes it's the characters, sometimes the actors, sometimes it's the few leaps it takes. There are great characters, like Sara herself is quite good, but I'm not entirely sold on the boss character (or the bizarre, nude gimp-like man she has in her office). Acting is also mostly decent, but I felt the dialogue came off as a bit stale or even comedic at times. As for the leaps... well, I'm not entirely sure why certain things happened (and maybe that's on purpose), but without spoiling the scenes I simply felt they brought out more sighs than curiosity.
I'm glad the movie has an experimental approach, but at times it felt like means to add something more of interest to the movie, to give it a little unique touch, rather than fully using the style. Simple things like having blood and the daughter's coat in color when the rest isn't is just an old trick that needs some heavy thought behind it to actually mean something. At the same time though, I feel Henrik Möller certainly does best when the movie gets odd.
I guess I have to take on the role as a grumpy man yet again, and I guarantee that it's not my intentions upon watching Swedish movies. I will be watching more of Henrik Möller if he comes out with more features, I think he has a few great ideas in him and he's a bigger hope for Swedish horror than most filmmakers right now. The cinematography also stands above most low-budget supernatural horrors that I review. "Lokalvårdaren" might not have won me over, but it has a lot that almost all other Swedish horror movies are missing. If you want a decent supernatural mystery then you should give this a shot though!
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Cassandra Sechler's "Wireboy" is straight to the point, showing itself to be an entirely visual experience. It's as if the short film is an experiment of style - a test for future project - rather than focusing on deliver much of a story. In fact, if anything it tries to deliver an atmosphere. Going into "Wireboy" with this in mind, it's a lot easier to settle down and appreciate what it manages to bring forth rather than the lacking story.
There is story, but you have to read the synopsis to get it. That's the first warning that, storywise, it's weak in its presentation. With "Wireboy", we kinda have to build our own version of the intended plot. The intended plot being rather vague, essentially showing a cyberpunk nightmare where a character named Wireboy is seeing and experiencing relationships and other figures. As thin as metaphors come, this tries to show a representation of where we're all going as technology becomes more and more important to the everyday life.
Again, this is what it delivers as a story, but I didn't watch it that way. I think it's a lot stronger when just experienced, just turn your mind off and go into it appreciating the things it does succeed with. Its "Tetsuo: The Iron Man" meets performance art (or, if you will, meets "Dandy Dust") and you can't help but admire the great ambition behind every character design, which is its key feature. In fact, it's something which has me extremely psyched to watch Cassandra Sechler's upcoming "Blue Noon". If this level of ambition can be put on character design in a 15 min short, then I can only imagine what can be achieved in a feature. Whether it's similar in style or not, it shows the true passion of its filmmakers.
Other than the story, which was a tiny bump in the road for me (I never expected to get into a storyline with this one), I couldn't help but be distracted by the jumping between looks and some editing choices. It seems to have been shot with different cameras, it jumps between excessive colors to black and white, all while being in VHS quality. Sometimes it works to mix it up, but usually it is a more giving experience if it doesn't jump too much. It was as if I was watching several different films (where I much preferred the black and white footage, but couldn't help but love some of the completely red ones).
The soundtrack was a bit too ambient for my taste, I would've loved music that could have helped keeping us in touch with what's on screen. Something with a bit more force when needed, which ambient music rarely does - instead it makes it feel slower and more dragged out than it should. But overall the sound design is good, it fits the short, and it does establish it as the experience it was intended to be.
"Wireboy" is far from the perfect cyberpunk experience, it all depends on how you choose to watch it. It's rough around the edges, there's not a story to follow, and so forth, but it shows what the filmmakers are capable of. It's very ambitious, which has me excited for the future of everyone involved. It's daring to make a movie like "Wireboy" and I don't think many similar films have been made since perhaps "Dandy Dust", so I definitely think you should give it a shot (in the link below). It shares the depraved, sexual nature of "Dandy Dust" and Austrian performance art, making this an experience for adult eyes only. Whatever this short film is lacking, it makes up in ambition and passion, and that proves to me that Cassandra Sechler is a filmmaker to look out for in the future. "Wireboy" has true underground attitude, grand ambition and a care for design often lacking in independent science-fiction.
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Stress Position (2013)
I'm sure most people are familiar with the feeling that you know something about a person that they don't themselves. A.J. Bond's feature film "Stress Position" is an uncomfortable discovery of what two friends can do to each other just to prove something. It doesn't take the typical route of torture, but it delivers something a lot more powerful than any "Saw" ever could. Perhaps it reminds me more of "The Bunny Game" taking place within the world of "Cube".
"Stress Position" begins with an explanation in front of cameras of what it about to happen. A.J. and Dave (both playing fictional versions of themselves, I believe) describe the reasoning behind their planned experiment - by bringing up their own personal issues with each other. The idea for the experiment came about when A.J. said he'd be able to get out of Guantanamo Bay using reasoning and wits, which Dave sees as complete bullshit. The two friends - and the clearly are friends - definitely have some unsolved issues with each other, and they decide the way to do it is to make a bet. The bet is that they will give themselves over to the other for psychological torture over the course of 7 days, or until they break down and give out the secret code to an account where they've put in $10,000 for the other to take. Dave loses a good ol' rock-papers-scissors and is the first person to go into the "chamber". Meanwhile A.J., as a filmmaker, wants to film the entire process in hopes to find something about a person rarely captured on film.
At first, this was a fun movie to watch. We're excited to see whatever psychological terror they will treat each other to. Slowly you start to get unnerved by the ways that A.J. is torturing Dave, but things take a darker turn once Dave shows himself unmoved by a certain experiment and A.J. becomes more desperate. During Dave's week of being tortured, A.J. is getting more and more bizarre and mean-spirited. But is it still just a game of breaking his friend for the money?
Without revealing to much of what's to come, I'll say that eventually is it Dave's turn to torture A.J., and he comes even more prepared. I could go on about the story alone, as I find it both fascinating and thrilling, but I had to find a balance between giving enough and too much away.
"Stress Position" exceeded my every expectation. This is a movie that really challenges you. It doesn't do it in the most typical way, instead it does it by forcing you to dig deep into yourself and the people you know. It's an awkward, uncomfortable and psychologically heavy movie. It undergoes several twists to make it just as hard for the characters as for the audience. Without actual shocks (especially graphically), the movie still presents an experience which can most accurately be described as "shocking". It shows a part of friendship that many know is there, but hopes will never come out. For being such a stylish movie, it always manages to keep its feet on the ground, keeping it small and simple to truly unnerve you.
This is a movie which wouldn't work if it wasn't for the great performances by A.J. Bond and David Amito. They're equally outstanding, and before the movie ends you don't know who to root for even though A.J. Bond often took the role as the antagonist (if there is one here). They make you believe that they are friends that know each other too well, which is hard to show unless you want it to come off as the over- used "bromance". You believe it instantly, but they also make it damn clear that they feel superior to their friend, and believe that they know more about them than they do. A.J. Bond deserves recognition for directing, writing, producing and starring in something so powerful as this debut feature.
Its "Cube"-like set design makes it much more than just a game between friends, it shows how serious they are about the experiment. There's nothing in the room but a strange metal sculpture-ish object in the center, all white walls and just a cup to do your "needs" in. Trouble was brewing the moment Dave stepped into the room. The set might be very typical for a "torture chamber movie", but it does the deed. It seems to deliberately planned, constructed to truly be able to push each other too far.
"Stress Position" shouldn't be missed out. It's a nearly flawless debut feature which jumps head first into psychological terror. There's something darkly methodic, almost evil, in "Stress Position". A selfish experimentation of friendship, where someone is more interested in how far they can go to achieve something, than they care about their relationship. At times this is a very emotionally hard movie to tackle, but you're rewarded if you do. It makes you think, not just about yourself, but others. It almost forces you to open up, and we're all uncomfortable with the idea of that. As a director myself, it's very interesting to watch this as an experiment between a director and an actor, and not just friends, and it succeeds just as much when seen that way. A.J. Bond needs to make some spectacular movies in the future to ever top this debut feature.
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North Circular Road (2014)
A slow mystery
I'm yet again happy to get to watch another independent Irish movie, thanks to our good buddy Michael Parle, who also co-produced this movie. In the lead we see the great Patrick O'Donnell and a new face, Lorna Larkin. This new Irish ghost movie doesn't offer the scary kind of ghosts. It's not a horror movie with jump scares, nor is it quite as unique as "I Am a Ghost". What it is, however, is a slowly developing drama that focuses on a ghost mystery, which gets you involved in its lead woman and her search for the truth.
As many ghost stories, a couple moves into a new house. A large, gorgeous house. One that they'll be living in until they're six feet under, if things go as planned. But things are on a slippery slope when Janice cheats on Matthew, and she's going through a personal crisis due to her big mistake. Things go for the worse when it turns out that Janice and Matthew are now living in a house that is haunted by the ghosts of a couple, but only Janice is the one seeing them. Matthew's busy with his job, while Janice begins to get invested in the mystery of her new house. What separates the movie from the usual ghost stuff is the drama approach, that Janice isn't attacked by these ghosts, that they're not out to haunt her. What's happening in their new house is a vision of domestic abuse, and Janice decides she has to find out what once happened in the house. She finds that she can help more than she ever expected.
It sounds like most ghost movies, and I wouldn't say it's groundbreaking, but it is nice to not get the typical scare fare. For a movie which is quite traditional in its build-up, it's just fresh to be treated to something calmer. It's all about how Janice witnesses something horrible and wants to find the truth behind it - who were they, when did they live there? There is one point in the plot which fell for me, and that was most parts involving the medium. I understand anyone believing they are haunted by ghosts would seek out a medium (or at least in movies), but it felt more like they moved the story there because they had to, that it was expected, rather than actually making it an interesting part of the story. I'd rather see them just skip it, because I had a hard time enjoying the medium as a character even.
Besides that small bump in the road, this is a nice movie. It's not spectacular and perhaps you'll leave never to return to the movie again, but with that said I also find it hard to dislike it. Lorna Larkin gets us interested in the mystery and shows that she certainly has acting chops. Hell, she's even shining over Patrick O'Donnell in this movie, and that says a lot since we're big fans of him here. In this one, he plays the difficult husband - the non-believer, the naysayer. He's a good man, but one that's there to tell Lorna's character to get her crazy ideas out of her head. Lorna Larkin portrays Janice as someone both strong and vulnerable at the same time, and that makes a very realistic character.
"North Circular Road" offers a large mystery delivered slowly. There isn't a ton of effects, scares or that much oddity at all. It's a drama. It's a movie worth watching but not necessarily one you should spend a day trying to track down. If you cross paths with it, give it a shot. While it might have a fresh drama approach to the supernatural, it's not a movie that stands out a lot. It has good performances, namely from Lorna Larkin, and is a great start for director Donal Nugent, so I am psyched to see more from both of them after this - and continued great work from Patrick O'Donnell who convinced me to become a fan after "Tin Can Man" and "The Looking Glass".
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Ghosts of Empire Prairie (2013)
Where some filmmakers like Rob Zombie bring out the south in a rather cinematic, exaggerated way, Blake Eckard shows it exactly how it is. He doesn't butter it up. What you see feels uncomfortably real, and there's a reason for it. He doesn't make good and bad people, he makes people. He puts them in a real setting and let them communicate. There's most certainly intrigue and a script, but it's subtle and creeping out at you. Sometimes it's a friendlier experience, like "Backroad Blues", but sometimes it gets unnerving like in "Bubba Moon Face". And it's all so easy to relate to. Even out in the country here in Sweden I can relate to how people behave and simply how things are in Blake Eckard's movies. That's why "Sinner Come Home" and "Bubba Moon Face" worked so well, and that's exactly what kept me excited that I was given the chance to watch "Ghosts of Empire Prairie".
Ryan Harper Gray returns to Blake Eckard's world, this time as Lonnie Enright who returns to him home town Empire Prairie. It's a small place, calling it a town is even pushing it. Lonnie leaves his girlfriend to go back for a while. Back home, Lonnie has his drunk-ass asshole of a father and his loser brother, and his return is stirring up drama in the family.
"Ghosts of Empire Prairie" offers exactly what I've come to expect from Blake Eckard. Not in a bad way, but because he has found his style and it's oddly rare. The atmosphere of the movie is very uncomfortable. Though not that much happens in terms of plot, there's a lot going on within our characters when Lonnie comes back to mess things up. The longer he stays, the more stuff's going on, slowly growing darker and more mean- spirited. Its redneck, don't-give-a-crap, hand-me-a-beer atmosphere really works for me, I'm instantly locked in.
I like that we're not watching the movie from Lonnie Enright's perspective. We're not there to pat him on the back. He's a sly and egotistical ass, just like most people in the movie. Hell, just like most people in real life. We're left on our own to decide who we want to care for, and in my case I had the most care for the little brother. It's interesting to be left on your own as a viewer, it's a style I appreciate a lot more than being forced to love someone I never would like in real life. Some movies do this. I understand that if you follow a bad person long enough, you get sympathy for him because you see what makes him tick, what makes him the bad person. But "Ghosts of Empire Prairie" has a different style altogether, it's not a personal portrait. It's the portrait of the people in Empire Prairie. Blake Eckard successfully gets that through to us.
"Ghosts of Empire Prairie" isn't my favorite of the Blake Eckard movies, "Bubba Moon Face" still takes the cake. But this is pretty tied with "Sinner Come Home". You need to keep in mind that this is a very independent and rough movie. It's not flashy, it's not about the grand production. It's about character drama and portrayal, and this is the strength of the movie. The story isn't remarkable at all. Hadn't the characters been so well-written and beautifully acted, this would have been a complete waste. Luckily that's what Blake Eckard and his cast (Ryan Harper Gray, Jon Jost, Frank Mosley and the rest of the gang) do so well. In the role of the father we see prolific independent filmmaker Jon Jost, who started making movies back in the 70s, which is an interesting side-note. If you're interested in the work of Black Eckard you should start with either this or "Bubba Moon Face". If they don't interest you, then this isn't for you. If they do, then you're in for a treat because it doesn't seem like he will stop making these movies anytime soon.
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Love Eternal (2013)
Drains you emotionally
"Tin Can Man" might have some competition as my recent favorite Irish movie. Though two completely different movies, so I am ready to let them split that spot, I can't even begin to explain what a surprise "Love Eternal" was. Based on a novel by Kei Ôishi called "In Love with the Dead" (a.k.a. "Loving the Dead" I believe), directed by a name that's completely new to me - Brendan Muldowney. It's no surprise that he has a bunch of short films and a somewhat known feature behind him ("Savage"), neither of which I have seen, considering what he managed to create in this dark drama.
Ian's a troubled young man. He spends his days researching which way to end his life. This is something that his entire life has been leading up to. When he was 6 years old his father died while they were outside playing, something which hurt him a lot because of how much his father meant to him. He became a very secluded kid after that. In his teens he discovered a girl who had hanged herself in the woods. Every day after school he went to visit the girl, starting something of a relationship with her due to his loneliness. His mother finally dies when he's a young adult, leaving behind a notebook to help him live on his own. Everything from recipes to general help such as what to buy at the store. It's the final nail in his coffin, he's ready to end his life. He finds the perfect location for his planned method of suicide, carbon monoxide poisoning. He sits in his car, ready to end it all when he witnesses a van of people arriving to do the same thing. He waits until they're dead and grows fond of one of the girls in the van - and brings her body home with him.
There's something very Japanese about "Love Eternal". I know, I know, it's based on a Japanese novel, but that doesn't automatically mean it will feel (in atmosphere and style) like a Japanese movie. "Love Eternal" does that, which I found to be very interesting. It actually reminds me of Shunji Iwai's "Vampire" in more ways than one. Oddly enough there's a lot of similarity in the suicide aspect of the story and the dark themes. I even had to check if the two were based on the same novel because there's really striking resemblances in certain parts of the movie. I don't mind as they differ enough, but it was interesting to notice. In their entirety they're two difference experiences.
While "Love Eternal" has some brief necrophilia in it, it'd be stupid for that to be what you take from the movie. This is an extremely emotional movie about death of all kinds. Death of a relative, suicide and mortality in general, but just as much about love and loneliness. And not the good, happy part of "love". The movie got to me really fast and it had moments that were very rough to get through emotionally. I might be a softie when it comes to certain things, but it's still somewhat rare for movies to have a personal effect on me. "Love Eternal" left me feeling very insignificant and made me question mortality in a way few movies do. Similar to what "Breaking the Waves" did to me, it's not that it's bleak, but it makes you appreciate what you have but also realizing that tragedy can strike at any time to anyone.
There are two things making this an incredibly beautiful movie. One is the very sensitive cinematography, which complements the dark themes perfectly. The other thing is the actors. This is filled with class acts, but mostly I admire Robert de Hoog in the lead, Pollyanna McIntosh as Naomi who tragically loses her son, and Amanda Ryan as Tina who wants to commit suicide with Ian. Every role is important and portrayed beautifully, but these three made a strong impact on me. They're deserving of any praise given to them for this.
Initially I got into "Love Eternal" not knowing what to expect, but it was a movie that instantly sucked me in and completely messed me up emotionally. It was a hard movie to watch because it brought out the dark themes in the most careful, beautiful way imaginable. Brendan Muldowney's "Savage" isn't a movie that sounds like it would appeal to me, but I know that if he ever makes a movie that sounds even remotely like this, I will be fighting to get to see it. He made something incredible here. I hope others will get the chance to experience this powerful movie. I realize it won't have the same effect on everyone, but I hope it does. I'm emotionally drained by it.
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Nymphomaniac: Vol. I (2013)
Review of Part I and Part II
Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) lives as a loner in a relationship with his books, his knowledge, his fishing. One day on his way back home from the store he finds a woman, Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), beaten and bruised on the pavement in an alley. He walks to help her, offering to call an ambulance or the cops, but she stops him. She doesn't mind his help, but a cup of tea and some rest is all she needs, so he brings her home with him. They quickly begin a discussion about her, as she claims she is a bad human being - which Seligman does not believe. She begins to tell her life story of nymphomania. During all of this Seligman ties everything back to math, books, religion, fishing, Frued in an attempt to understand Joe.
There is no doubt that Lars von Trier wrote this with a childlike enthusiasm, eager to empty his mind of any idea he could discover along the way, while tying it all back to Joe's nymphomania. "Nymphomaniac" is a very sad movie and with sad characters, but it's also very funny, often poking fun at itself and the unbelievable - almost fantastical - story that is being told. The movie also comes back to many of Lars von Trier's past movies, ranging from the devastating opening of "Antichrist" to the haunted halls of "Riget", and sometimes only to mess with the audience.
Seligman also makes sure that the movie is filled to the brim with symbolism, metaphors, associations to literature, religion and all that. Perhaps to an extent that takes it too far, but that kinda becomes a joke in the movie as well. Is it to actually give a deeper meaning to Joe's nymphomania, or is it to show how easy it is to find meaning where, perhaps, there is none? The Joe character cleverly ties back to her character in "Antichrist" without making it too certain if it agrees or disagrees with the statements of "Antichrist", but it ties a nice knot to this trilogy. The many symbolisms in "Nymphomaniac" are illustrated often with stock footage, images, text and numbers on the screen, which yet again gives this a more fun and childlike touch, helping us getting through 4 hours of this devastating, provocative, depressive, sex-filled life story.
This 4 hour version is supposedly the cut version. It's likely that a ton of explicit sex has been edited out, but there is plenty to be found in this 4 hour version. I don't think the movie, 4 hour version or otherwise, will have so much explicit sex that the movie becomes ABOUT that. Even though you have watched penetration, blowjobs, vaginas, asses, penises, many times over, graphically, during these 4 hours, it never takes the upper hand. And despite what I think many will say, I think all of it was needed to tell this story. Joe isn't addicted to sex because of past problems, she's addicted to sex because she loves it. Nymphomania becomes her personality, that's what her days are all about - planning when to see the next man, looking for ways to get to another level, and so on. Not showing explicit sex in this movie would cut the movie short of how straight forward it wanted to be about the subject.
Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stacy Martin both do a great job as Joe. Stacy Martin takes good care of the youthful side, the rise of the nymphomania and finding love. She plays the stronger, rising side of Joe. Charlotte takes care of Joe's fall, wisdom and darker sides. Charlotte Gainsbourg is a great actress and have proved herself to be a great asset to Lars von Trier's stories in these three movies, and this seemed like it was her time to have fun, as she lays the trilogy to rest.
There are many tricks done to enhance the movie without being a visual-obsessed creation which you could argue "Antichrist" was at times. The opening is fantastic, many of the illustrative shots would perhaps serve more purpose on the big screen, and as Joe climbs a mountain to discover a lonely, naked and twisted tree on the very top I'll admit I was happy I saw it on the big screen.
"Nymphomaniac" is a very long movie to get through, but it has a lot of things going on. The story is quick and Seligman keeps us busy with his intellect (which brings a lot of the comedy), so it's hard to be bored. People are always split when it comes to Lars von Trier's movies, and that will be the case here too. Some will see it simply as smut, some as pretentious garbage, but if you manage to care about Joe then odds are you will be interested from start to finish. It's strictly about Joe, the actresses portraying her makes her likable even when she shows how little she cares about anything but her sexuality. We're all our own judge whether she is the bad, horrible person that she claims her nymphomania makes her, because I don't think a clear message is to be found. Even down to the finale it can be seen from different angles, which works as she tells her story to Seligman, her complete opposite in every way. You'd need to losen the tie a bit for this movie, because it might be pretentious, provocative and pushing buttons for the sake of it at times, but it's actually an entertaining movie that shows many sides of Lars von Trier. It has a million things going to make it an interesting, captivating movie. I'll need time and rewatches to know how well it stands up against his filmography. We went to see the life story of a nymphomaniac, and that's what you get.
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Tomorrow Night (1998)
TOMORROW NIGHT was an early step in the direction of LOUIE
Louis C.K. is a bit of an idol - certainly the funniest comedian out there. I've been following him since the start of the "Lucky Louie" show, which I personally loved, but he found his perfect style with the newer "Louie". I'm aware of some of his earlier short films, which are all strange in their own way but I wouldn't say I'm a big fan of them overall. But there is no doubt that Louis C.K. returned to his earlier style with "Louie". Let's be fair, "Pootie Tang" doesn't really count (nor should it, as it was essentially being messed with without Louis C.K.'s consent). It's interesting to me to see "Tomorrow Night", his first feature now available on his website, as you can so clearly see how "Louie" could develop from that.
Like many independent comedies, "Tomorrow Night" isn't about the story it has to tell, but about situations and characters. This one is about a whole truck load of messed up people. In the center is Charles. He owns a photo/camera store, he's not very social and he keeps the store very neat (so everyone automatically hates him). After noticing his stack of processed photos that haven't been picked up growing too big, he says no to new orders and starts calling the customers to get their stuff. Most of them do, and this forces him into many strange meetings. Among them are Lola Vagina (she's a sex fiend, as you might understand), an old lady who hasn't seen or heard from her son for 20 years since he went into the army, and so on.
The old lady is the other main plot, and some of the funnier scenes. Her husband, father of her son, is an annoying asshole who doesn't let her do anything, constantly screams and laughs at her misery and gambles all the time. Her only friend is Tina, a very sexually open woman (played by a man familiar to many Louis C.K. fans, Rick Shapiro). Her son is stuck in the army thinking that his mother has never returned his letters, but in reality he has been the bottom of a joke for 20 years. The mail room guys are throwing his mail away while laughing hysterically (maybe one of Steve Carell's best roles, simply just laughing). Funny joke, guys! This old lady is living quite a miserable life, and Charles is soon in the middle of all that.
It's hard to explain why this movie is funny and entertaining, because sometimes it doesn't even make you laugh out loud. Most of the time, actually. Yet I found it to be hilarious in an odd, "what-the-hell-am-I- watching-and-why" way. Louis C.K. does the same in "Louie", just perfected, but in that show it's also less weird. This gets very weird at times, and it honestly pleases my artsy-fartsy-surreal-like mind at times too, which is just great. Is the movie great simply because I am a fan boy of Louis C.K.? No, because I have admitted to not enjoying his shorts that much, and it took a while to get into "Tomorrow Night", but once I understood it and got into its style, I couldn't get enough. It's just bizarre!
Had "Tomorrow Night" been released around the time it was made it could have been a cult hit. I don't think it can in 2014. It had a few screenings back then (apparently also in Sweden, which proves to me that we're not completely useless here) and then went nowhere, stuck in Louis C.K.'s personal archives, along with the debts to his friends that helped him make the movie. But now that it is here, I don't think it will make the mark it could have - but boy am I glad that he released it. It's fun as hell without always making you laugh, because it's just such an oddity. There's a definite proof of talent in it, both comedy- wise and strictly because it looks great. Quaint, but great - some shots are actually done with the eye of an artist, which can't be said for every comedy. "Tomorrow Night" is not only for fans of Louis C.K., it's for people who thought "Clerks" didn't have enough people sitting bare- butted in ice cream. It's so absurd that I find it hard to hate it.
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Toad Road (2012)
An existential experience
I admit it, I get a kick out of movies that distort reality. I don't mean strictly surreal movies, even though I like that too, but movies that take on a rather realistic style and then twist it around - much like the previously reviewed "Ape" did. "Toad Road" takes a slightly more subtle way of things, especially since it deals with drugs as well. Yes, if a movie deals with drugs I am more likely to accept the way it bends reality as still being realistic. F*ck it, I don't need to explain why, do I? It's drugs! You all kids do it, so you know exactly what I mean.
The movie is based around the legend of the Toad Road, a long road through the woods that has 7 different gates. It has been said that no one has came to the 7th gate, and that after the 5th some seriously strange things start to happen and that's the furthest anyone has gotten. A group of friends get high in all the ways they can, and just seem to enjoy the life they are living, albeit going nowhere. The movie is about James and a girl he meets, Sara. Sara sees the drug use as something bigger, and after James tells her about the Toad Road her curiosity is piqued. She needs to go there, she has to try and reach the final gate. She manages to get James with her, and that's the last time Sara is seen.
The movie is very real and simple a lot of the time, but it still manages to get creepy once they go to the Toad Road. The last part of the movie is spent only with James and it's hard not to reflect on the past events in a similar way to how James does it. It feels even more odd knowing that the actress playing Sara, Sara Anne Jones, has since passed away. Her part in this movie is so important to keep it steady - James Davidson is fantastic too, but he needs a co-star that carries just as much strength, and Sara did that. It's a shame to lose someone like her.
"Toad Road" brings up a lot of questions while still working as a creepy story of a missing person. Most of all it's existentialistic and the use of drugs in the movie is just spot on to put every piece where it belongs. The movie doesn't need to go over board with anything, and the pace becomes one of the most important things about it. It's slower than your typical Hollywood movie, but still not a movie that literally struck me as "slow". It's hard to describe it, but it's a movie that keeps its audience busy and hooks us in to the experience. It's a movie that makes you question your choices, your past, your future, your curiosity and your mortality, and that's probably one of the biggest compliments a movie can get. A really strong effort!
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Wild Girl Waltz (2012)
Looks aren't everything. I mean of the actual covers. Anyone who has been buying/renting horror movies for a number of years will know that a great cover often means crappy movie. It's just how it is! But when "Wild Girl Waltz" arrived and I saw the cover, I was pretty sure I was in for a crappy independent bore. No disrespecting the filmmakers, I just doubt a lot of time was spent on the cover. When it came to the movie itself, I was in for quite a treat - to my great surprise.
It's another one of those "a day in the life" movies, which I think is a fun concept. There's just a certain character development when you're following them during a short period of time (much like when it's all taking place in one small space). Independent film has been doing this kind for a while, it's hardly anything new, but I really feel "Wild Girl Waltz" had something to add. The story is essentially that two girls take some pills after one of them had a bad morning. The girls are Angie and Tara. Tara's boyfriend is Angie's brother, and he (Brian) is left to take care of these two party girls (very nerdy, silly party girls with "party" in quotation marks). Their day is spent just having fun, escaping everything for a while. Though Brian seems to hate it, he's actually having quite a good time.
Not as peculiar as something like "Clerks", this one requires you to watch it for a while before there is anything that stands out about it. A few minutes in I still expected it to be a boring indie comedy that would be very light on the comedy (simply due to a difference in taste). But I kept on watching it, and after a while I really liked the characters and especially the actors behind them. They are really the single thing that lifts the movie, other than the writing probably. The directing isn't bad, but it's just a very stale movie in many ways. And maybe intentionally so, to bring out some realism. The actors play their parts really well. So well that it was cringe-worthy at times to see them being silly. We all know how goofy people are in real life among their friends, right? It was refreshing to watch a movie where the characters actually are THAT silly, and the actors don't give a sh't how stupid they seem.
The comedy is hit or miss, but I did find many scenes to be genuinely funny. Those that weren't usually worked in other ways. I didn't expect much from the movie, which might contribute to how enjoyable it was for me. It was a really nice movie. Nothing dark about it, the use of drugs isn't glorifying but it's still taken lightly, the comedy is sincere and the actors bring it out perfectly. It's not gonna be for everyone, but perhaps those who have no idea what it is will enjoy it the most. Quirky, simple entertainment that also brings out some everyday concerns.
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