December 14, 2019

Review Pet Sematary (2019)


“PET SEMATARY”
By Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer | USA
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There’s a reason why King has rose into the cult status that he is. His stories, more than any other horror, really focuses on a single most primal fear; childhood fear to be exact. Whether it be clowns, vampires, or a washing machine (yes even that), his monsters are mostly goofy on paper but through his honest delivery on that irrational fear, he convinced us that it actually is pretty rational.
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In “Pet Sematary”, King turns his focus to these same terrors; dumbwaiter, disability, and household pets being some of them. But the biggest subject King brought here is one that is more universal and also haunts adults as well: facing mortality and death. However, with such motive being more common these days more than ever (“Hereditary” and “The Haunting of Hill House” both walked the same ground), “Pet Sematary” just felt too short to compete against the others.
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Too rash and too clumsy in building its sense of dread, it feels as if the film is too childish for adults yet too scary for kids to enjoy. But then again, that should’ve been the charm for King’s work. It threads the uncanny valley of being a sometimes ludicrous horror stories that you would tell your friends as kids, but it secretly packs a disturbing idea. The balancing of these two tones seems lost in this adaptation of “Pet Sematary”, that feels a bit too much like the countless mainstream horror films we’ve been barraged with. Reliant on jumpscare and violent, without no actual build up and substance.
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“Pet Sematary” fell closer to the territory of the recent “Dark Tower” than the brilliance of “The Shining” when it comes to Kings adaptation. Bland, forgettable, and unsatisfying; it’s only right to let this one to rest in its graveyard.
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Review Punch-Drunk Love (2002)


“PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE” (2002)
By Paul Thomas Anderson | USA
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“I don’t know if there is anything wrong because I don’t know how other people are.” So said Barry, a struggling small time business owner who seems to be lost alone amidst all the noises in his daily life. Like the others, Barry happens to be yet another protagonist in Paul Thomas Anderson’s continuous search of meaning and purpose. But here the chameleon director gave another angle on the eternal philosophical question he seems to be obsessed with, a much simpler one than that in “Magnolia” and certainly more innocent than “Boogie Night”.
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But first let’s go back to Barry. We first meet Barry in the very opening shot of the movie, hunched back in his office table in the corner of an empty warehouse. The image immediately gave us the impression we needed of his character: he is alone and even more unfortunate, he doesn’t know why or what to do about it. This is what makes Barry not your typical PTA protagonist; from the start Barry admits his defeat. He is not a character who represents an ambition but rather confusion that arises in the absence of the omnipotent longing of purpose. For the same reason, Barry also became PTA’s most endearing protagonist yet, for he reperesents the same unsatisfaction and powerlessness we felt. And as the film progresses each of Barry’s small triumphs became a journey I personally find to be so profound and its end destination to be a touching victory against the cynicism of our world.
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A lot of the credits should certainly be given to the surprisingly brilliant Adam Sandler. Not to undermine him as an actor — I am fully aware of his dramatic chops prior to watching this (“The Meyerowitz Stories” for example is wonderful )— but Sandler really outdid himself in this one. No matter how much brilliance Anderson did brought to the crafting of the film, it really was Sandler who brought those emotions alive. Him and also not to forget Emily Watson were so genuine onscreen, it’s impossible not to root for them as a human with a heart. There’s also an unhinged Philip Seymour Hoffman worth praising but then again, he is never not worth praising is he?
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There isn’t much else to say about “Punch-Drunk Love” apart from all the theories and analysis that has spread over the years. Though it remains as perhaps Anderson’s smallest venture yet, it is undoubtedly one his most profound. Rich with metaphorical imagery, moments of blissful fantasy, and an emotional high that wraps it like a warm blanket. This is, like a lot of critics said, the cinematic equivalent of surviving a mental breakdown. “I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine.”
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Comment “chocolate pudding” to recieve flight cupons!
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December 13, 2019

Review Safe (1995)


“SAFE” (1995)
By Todd Haynes | USA, UK
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Suburban cultism has always been a prominent theme in cinema that is now quickly becoming one of my new favorite subgenres. There’s just something so unnerving and terrifying when you associate the safe space of a seemingly quite neighborhood with the toxicity of a seeded dangerous that actually succumbs it. In “Safe”, that toxicity itself became a literal danger to our protagonist, Carol, the most affluent and at the same time ignorant member of the pristine white american neighborhood she lives in. She is the manifestation of normality, of sickening perfection; the kind of person who complains on the wrong sofa color and goes to yoga exercises without dropping a single sweat. And so it would only be natural for her to be the main target to the looming threat this suburban flick presents, one that disguises itself as an environmental message that at its core carries a more personal and psychological weight than we might expect.
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“Safe” has been described as a horror film within its soul — a description that director, Todd Haynes, relishes on. And to be honest, it’s easy to see why. There’s a sense of mystery that surrounds the film especially in its jarring opening. Without introduction or exposition, the story kicks off immediately as if it assumed we would automatically associate the normality of its world; the world of your typical normal suburban life. The characters we get to meet also embodies the stereotypically ‘normal’, where people treat anything outside of their routines as threats or disturbance, which quickly becomes a problem as Carol, our lovely sample of a white housewife started to feel irrationally ill. Instead of taking action, we see both Carol and her surroundings respond to this irrationally with confusion, followed by justification. “Must be your diet,” a friend of her said before suggesting her to start a fruit diet. But clearly it isn’t enough to justify nor to run from these disturbances. There’s something wrong with Carol and she eventually has to face this.
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At this midpoint does the film reveals itself to be something else entirely than the meditative exploration on suburban life that we initially expect it to be. Although I wouldn’t disclose what’s the plot point here (it’s way more interesting to discover it yourself), the issues the film touches on after that ranges so widely that it may even seem random at first. From environmental awareness, self-acceptance, all the way into cultism, these points of interest all adds up into a very layered character driven story that immensely grips your attention until its very end. Yet instead of giving you the definitive answer, Todd Haynes sneakily ends this second film of his with a question. Where do these sudden yet deadly problems we could encounter at any moment comes from? Or more importantly, where is it hiding when all seems normal?
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“Safe” is a great example of using normality as a contrasting statement to the abnormal. It is a study on danger and how it can easily invade the stability we created to keep us comfortable; one that usually takes form in the neighborhood and the houses we put ourselves in.
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Review Shadow of a Doubt (1943)


“SHADOW OF A DOUBT” (1943)
By Alfred Hitchcock | USA
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Hitchcock can really do no wrong. “Shadow of a Doubt” is yet another prove of this statement; a common display of his mastery in building tension and in this case, mystery, to a jaw clenching degree. His understanding of the cinematic language — as to how he uses his shots, editing and soundtracks — are impeccable and should forever be held in the same regard of his contemporary, the legendary Orson Welles or even some of cinema’s first innovators such as Albert Smith and Eisenstein.
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What’s unique about “Shadow of a Doubt” however, lies with the fact of how strikingly relevant the premise is. The story of a beloved public figure who secretly hides a dark secret waiting to be exposed is unfortunately, a common occasion in these recent times. Yet it is not the surface of such stories that raises the most concerns, it is the fact that it’s often harder to let go of the person we’ve come to love them to be in order to acknowledge the monster they are capable of being. Spacey, Louise C.K., and even recently, fan favorite superstar Michael Jackson, being some examples of such unfortunate cases. Where the question of legacy versus justice became scarily blurred and delivering the deft hand of the law carries the biggest weight. Uncle Charlie may just be a monster, but its too painful for his family to see to the truth of that fact. And as a family such doubt is certainly the right choice, is it not?
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The dilemma that the film brought works well as a reflection of the struggles that many victims of these heinous figures must’ve felt at some point. Similarly to the more recent film, Jennifer Fox’ “The Tale”, it discusses the topic of a predatory individual in a complete and rounded way. It doesn’t paint an easy picture and potrays all the complexities of knowing a predator personally; how much you are morally challenged and broken with disappointment. Especially — such as this case — that person is a figure you’ve based your persona on.
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“Shadow of a Doubt” is a film that cohere to our current social climate and epidemic of predatory behavior in Hollywood and, in every where in fact. Accidental or not, it is these values that made this 70 years old Hitchcock classic not only stood the test of time, but even rose through its age. Now it’s time for us to decide whether the same story shall goes on another 70 years from now, or shall we swallow our guilt and dilemmas in order to serve justice — the only thing that matters.
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December 12, 2019

Review Shazam! (2019)


“SHAZAM!” (2019)
By David F. Sandberg | USA
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Yet another completely different looking film than their previous entry, “Shazam!” shows the direction DC is wisely bringing into their cinematic universe. To combat the repetitive and safe approach Marvel has seemingly fallen into with their latest film (we’ll see if that changes with Endgame), DC decided to went the opposite way and to churn out the most outlandish and ludicrous ideas they can gut out of their decades long of comic book stories. We first felt this change with last year’s “Aquaman”, a film bursting with energy that were lost god knows where during the shaky start of the DCEU. With that film’s release the company promises us more, bold and genre centric films. “Shazam!” is the first we got from that promise. And to put it simply, it does deliver in terms of breaking the mold. Yet it also unfortunately (at least to me) fell a bit shorter than what people’s been hyping for.
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It baffles me so to see how people finds this to be refreshing, witty, or innovative. With an absolutely cliched plot and message along with it, also not that interesting visual not stylistic quality, “Shazam!” is I’m afraid, underwhelming and, dare I say, cheap at times. Though its admirable how it kept the promise of doing things differently, it kept failing at standing out from other films of the genre that has done it better. We’ve seen already films that humanizes superheroes; films that deconstruct comic book adaptations; and films with the good ol’ message that tells our protagonist “you already have a family better than your real one”. These all adds up into a broken record of a film. And although it certainly is not a generic pop album record — its more of an underground alternative rock — it still is broken. Which ultimately cuts short the innovative promise it brought.
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I think one of the problems I had personally is that the film completely missed the mark on giving its best qualities to me. The biggest praises for “Shazam!” would probably be how entertaining it was, both thanks to its comedy and endearing characters. But I sadly found both to be annoying. The humor, which sounds more like it came out of a 12 year old mouth than a 14 year old one, is beaten to death. It’s funny I guess, for the first fifteen minutes until it became too loud for its own good. And the characters, my god, were they annoying! And I know that’s the point because that’s the arc of the story. But how Billy (the supposed hero) starts of with almost zero redeeming qualities really makes it difficult to click with him immediately. And after a while resonating with him becomes tiring and I was tempted to just root for the way more entertaining screen presence that is Mark Strong’s Dr. Sivana.
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“Shazam!” is a different superhero story for sure but it’s also an underwhelming one. But in this day and age where comic book films feels as industrialized as a fast food burger, an averagely cook home made one just feels all the more rewarding than the usual forte. If this is what DC is going to do in the following years, I predict many would jump the ship from the ever homogeneous factory line of the MCU.
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