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Arcana - Flawed Magic
'Arcana' is a story about a young man who discovers he is the centerpiece of an ancient magic ritual known as the gambit. As "the runner" he plays a key role in the politics of the new mystical world he is forced in to. If that sounds interesting to you, and you can get over the fact that the main character's name is "Stairs", then the first episode is definitely worth checking out.
However, 'Arcana' is not without its flaws. Accompanying it are the poor sound quality and sub-par cinematography that typically accompanies no-budget independent filmmaking. While the audio is mostly excusable, the cinematography is not. I won't go into specifics, but I will say: yes, this is one of those indie films where the camera person is "the guy who happened to own a camera." It's not all bad-looking, though. The first episode has very decent art direction, which was unfortunately mostly devoid from the second episode. Here's hoping they bring back more of what the first episode had to offer.
Script-wise, it's both mediocre and bordering on brilliant. The writing is definitely par for most no-budget indie films and can get quite boring at times. Get ready for monotonous scenes of phone-talking and blatant exposition. Director Morgan also seems to have a difficult time coaxing decent performances out of his actors. Actors Meredith Adelaide, Austin Hillebrecht, Dennis Fitzpatrick and McKenzie Coffee all attempt to give good performances, as they did in other films I have seen, but seem to fall short due to Joe Homes's blandness (frequent desire to glance at the camera) and directorial inexperience.
So, why would I consider Arcana brilliant? Because, once you get past all the quirks that are typically apparent in all films like this (which many note: gives no-budget indies their charm) you start to realize that there is a truly deep back-story at play. The detail and background, which was put into this charmingly no-budget web-series, is more than is typically placed in feature films. It's a shame Morgan doesn't possess the screen writing skills to match his storytelling abilities, because I would have rated this much higher. I will continue to watch and push past the web-series's shortcomings so I can learn more about the world in which it takes place.
'Arcana' does have its quirks. However, they're getting far enough into their production that a decent fan-base might allow them to hire a cinematographer and possibly a script consultant. If that happened, I'd be ecstatic. For now, I'm just going to grin and bear it as I continue to watch this quirky little show about deception and magic. If that sounds good to you, then I suggest you check it out.
-The Portland Independent Film Reviewer