Posts Tagged ‘cannibalism’

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Colossal

Anne Hathaway stars in this pseudo-monster story, in which an adrift woman moves home after a break-up and discovers that she shares a mental link with a Kaiju terrorizing the people of Seoul, South Korea.

It sounds like the set-up to a quirky dark comedy but “Colossal” remains paralyzed between genres, managing only to be too serious to be funny and to offbeat to be taken seriously. The result is an off-putting mishmash of tone that wastes what minimal goodwill is brought by the cast, including Jason Sudeikis and Tim Blake Nelson. The plot itself hinges on a series of plot contrivances that make less and less sense as the conclusion nears.

Grade: C-

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Raw

In “Raw” a bright, talented and unflinchingly vegetarian student,¬†Justine, enrolls at a veterinary school and struggles to find her place amidst a tradition of byzantine and tiresome hazing rituals. After one such task requires her to eat a rabbit kidney, Justine takes a liking to the taste of meat, which slowly escalates to an insatiable and (ahem) taboo extreme.

It’s an impressive slow-burn and an increasingly unsettling piece of work by director Julia Ducournau. It take a minimalist approach to the grotesque, creating squirm-inducing images with an air of high art. Under a different director, particularly an American one, “Raw” would likely be a vapid, gore-porn slog. But with its European sensibilities and restrained amusement in the unpleasant, the film makes for something truly special.

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Ingrid Goes West

Think of it as “Instagram Millenials: THE MOVIE!” Aubrey Plaza stars as Ingrid, a delusional and social-media addicted stalker who, after seeing a magazine profile of a California socialite (Elizabeth Olsen), decides to move to Los Angeles and become best friends with her new internet obsession.

“Ingrid” keeps things light, plumbing the comedy out of its protagonist’s mania, while also keeping a hard edge that churns under the surface of its characters seemingly blase narcissism. Olsen, who got her start in the excellent and Sundance-premiered “Martha Marcy May Marlete” is able to flex dramatic muscles that have been kept in a box while she endlessly hand-waves in Marvel Movies. But her character is largely caricature, leaving a vacuum for supporting actors Wyatt Russell and O’Shea Jackson Jr. to steal every scene they’re in.

Grade: B

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Oklahoma City

The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing is the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history, and in “Oklahoma City,” it gets the documentary treatment it deserves.

Director Barak Goodman’s piece is a disciplined, thorough and haunting examination of the event itself, while also paying due diligence to the connect the threads that led to the killing of 168 people in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. From Ruby Ridge to Waco, Texas, Goodman connects the threads with elegance, showing the rise of anti-government extremism and white nationalism that motivated Tim McVeigh, all backed up with an impressive catalog of archival footage and first-person testimonials.

Grade: A

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Killing Ground

A couple on a camping trip arrive at a picturesque bend in the river, with a tent standing where another group is camping nearby. But when those campers fail to return to their possessions, the couple begins to worry that something has gone wrong.

The set up is great, as is much of the execution. One tracking shot, in particular, is perfect, shifting from Act I to Act II like a bolt of lightening.

But the film is also too eager to show its hand, doling out information in abundance when mystery should be preserved. The fate of the other camping group, best left for a later reveal, is all but disclosed immediately in broad strokes, leaving nothing but the specific details to work out. “Killing Ground” also makes several wise choices with the relationship of its central characters, but those strengths are undercut by brutally violent scenes that tend to distract more than strengthen investment in the story.

Grade: B-

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Before I Fall

In this mashup of “Groundhog Day” and “Mean Girls,” based on the YA novel of the same name, Zoey Deutch stars as sam, a high school senior who is trapped in a one-day time loop after her friends are involved in a car crash after a party.

The device allows for the type of evolution you would expect, as Sam is forced to reevaluate her loyalty to her rude and WASPy best friend and her treatment of her family and classmates. But what “Before I Fall” does well is allow for all of its characters to evolve, from two-dimensional archetypes in the first act to sympathetic and layered personas by the film’s end. It’s still hobbled by its YA mood, where high school is life and death and mean girls are dictators, but it has more in its head than its peers and Deutch is a winning lead, making for an altogether positive results that exceeds expectations.

Grade: B

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L.A. Times

Much like “Ingrid Goes West,” “L.A. Times” has a lot to say, and mock, about modern young adults, but doesn’t quite have the substance to hold it all together. There’s plenty of smart parody and satire to justify the price of admission, but it never quite adds up to anything.

Telling several separate stories simultaneously, “L.A. Times” follows a group of friends as they navigate today’s dating scene. One couple breaks up after comparing themselves to seemingly successful relationships, another woman fights off the impulse of a bad relationship while being consistently stood up by her cousin’s coworker. The plot is largely irrelevant, and it’s used to serve up commentary on love and living by writer, director and star Michelle Morgan, who is not as clever, nor as good an actress, as she thinks she is.

Grade: B-

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You could argue that the Serial Killer Era of television that we’re currently living in began with Showtime’s Dexter, but NBC’s Hannibal is so clearly and obviously designed as an answer and competitor to Fox’s The Following that it is impossible to not compare the two.

Following, starring Kevin Bacon and an ever-expanding host of relatively obnoxious secondary characters, has the advantage of arriving first, putting Hannibal in a position of catching up. Following centers on a serial killer (James Purefoy) obsessed with and inspired by the work of Edgar Allen Poe who, having been caught once and imprisoned, orchestrates a prison break with the help of cult of followers ready and willing to kill and orchestrate general mayhem at his command. Bacon, then, is the emotionally- and physically-damaged FBI agent charged with catching him, he being the one who caught him in the first place.

Hannibal, on the other hand, is a prequel to the Hannibal Lector tales immortalized by Anthony Hopkins, in which a brilliant psychiatrist (played by Mads Mikkelson) who moonlights as a murderous cannibal aids the FBI in catching other, lesser evil-doers. He is hunted, unknowingly at this point, by an emotionally- and mentally-damaged FBI agent (Hugh Dancy) who has a knack for getting into the heads of killers but subsequently has trouble getting out of them afterwards.

*Fun side note: Dancy and Mikkelson both played knights of the round table in Antoine Fuqua’s 1994 “King Arthur,” an underrated sword-and-sandals flick starring Clive Owen as the titular King of the Britains.

Having only seen one episode of Hannibal it is hard to declare an outright winner in the Killer Wars, but if the pilot is any indication Hannibal is the superior series for one simple reason: Showmanship.

Much like the dueling magicians in Nolan’s The Prestige, both Following and Hannibal are performing the same trick, but the NBC cannibal flick knows how to dress it up better. The visuals of Hannibal, particularly the macabre fantasies that play out inside Dancy’s mind, have an eerie artistic quality and the scene progression is stitched together in sometimes-jarring jump cuts that evoke the unstable nature of both the hunter and the hunted.

Then there’s the central dynamic of the show. Where Kevin Bacon’s Agent Hardy knows full-well the man he is pursuing (absent a few anonymous henchman that pop up from week to week only to be quickly dispatched without providing any information) Dancy’s Agent Graham and Hannibal the Cannibal are locked in a Cat and Mouse game where the cat doesn’t know who, or what, the mouse is.

It is that dramatic irony, the viewer knowing something the protagonist does not, that infuses Hannibal with an nervous unpredictability as the two men throw psycho-babble at each other over a suspicious home-cooked plate of protein scramble.

As for the violence, both shows have made it clear they want to push the envelope. So far on the Following we’ve seen stabbings, eye gougings and strangulations with an amount of blood typically reserved for pay-cable fare whereas in a single episode of Hannibal we had three slit throats and a naked woman, fully displayed, impaled on the antlers of a stag.

Whether or not the violence is used as a higher commentary on society remains to be seen, but suffice it now to say that neither show is for the faint of heart. The content of Hannibal, while I suspect it will be of lesser quantity, is perhaps more objectionable simply because it is presented in a darker, sociopathic lens compared to the relative smash-and-grab superficiality of Following.

Kevin Bacon’s character is more likeable, while Hugh Dancy’s agent is more interesting. Likewise, Joe Carrol is a more charismatic presence while Hannibal Lector delivers more chills, despite being at times unintelligible behind Mikkelson’s thick accent. Lawrence Fishbourne, as fellow FBI handler on Hannibal, also presents more gravitas compared to the FBI team at Fox which is diluted among more faces than I care to count.

Hannibal: B+ 

The Following: B

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