December 6, 2019

Green Frontier





Green Frontier (Frontera Verde) is a Netflix limited-series from Colombia and it’s the metaphysical crime thriller I’ve always wanted:

Helena Poveda, a young Bogotá-based detective, travels deep into the Amazon, on the border between Brazil and Colombia, to investigate a series of bizarre murders. Her investigation leads her into the heart of the jungle where she discovers a mysterious indigenous tribe with an extraordinary secret that they will go to great lengths to protect.

If this sounds remotely in your ballpark, give it a watch, because it’s very good: beautifully shot, well-acted, the pacing is on-point, there are some great twists, it’s topical without being preachy and it’s spiritual but completely approachable.

I really hope Netflix funds something else from these filmmakers.

November 29, 2019

Carnival Row? More like Carnival No.





I know it’s already been renewed for a second season, but unless they change showrunners and get a new writing team that learns from their mistakes, I will be surprised if Carnival Row makes it a third.

Spoilers
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This is a show I wanted to like. This is a show I should like. One part fantasy, one part Victorian era murder mystery, one part political allegory should all be up my alley. Plus, Amazon obviously spent a ton of money on it, so everything looks great.

But I didn't.

I pretty much hated it.

Here’s the problems:
* From the trailer and the premise, you think this will be exciting. It’s not. Even though it’s only 8 episodes, the whole thing is a tedious slog that had me watching the clock. Fantasy should always feel otherworldly and fantastical. This show gets too bogged down in the grim and the grime. So the whole thing just feels like depressing work and becomes aching dull.

* Somehow the world-building manages to be both complex and yet underdeveloped. So while you’re getting hit with tons of exposition, you’re also left scratching your head, wondering how does this work? Why is that like this?

* The love story between Philo and Vignette doesn’t work and also makes little sense (a cookie to whoever can explain why he had people tell her had had died during the war). (Also their love scene was one of the worst sex scenes I’ve seen since Showgirls).

* I called Philo’s secret almost immediately.

* No one should be more into the politics/class struggle angle more than me. The problem is none of it is clearly explained or very well developed and it’s just kind of nebulous and there. The racism is given no basis or grounded in anything other a very simplistic and very childish—because they’re different.

* The show tries to pack too much in without developing any of it. Some of the most interesting characters get virtually no time.

* Other than coming from money and having been a model at one time, I do not understand why Cara Delavigne continues to get acting jobs, because she is all around terrible in everything I’ve seen her in.

Ever. 

And this is no different.

* Orlando Bloom is not cut out to be a leading man. He’s just doesn’t have the acting chops or the charisma. He’s a supporting actor at best. And unfortunately, this entire series hangs on him and his character.

* I literally do not care about what happens next.

* The best thing I can say about the show is at least the writers resolved the main plot.

November 25, 2019

Movies for Adults




I watched Witness last night and I haven’t seen the film in forever.

I was struck by how good it was, but I was also struck by several other things. First, how the film could never be made now and if it were, Hollywood would screw it up completely. Second, I was struck by how it manages to effectively be so many things at once—a fish-out of water story, a romance, and also a thriller (a pretty good thriller actually despite all the plot turns being completely familiar). It’s just gorgeous to look at—the opening alone is mesmerizing. It’s well acted (I think it’s Ford’s best acting—seriously watch everything he manages to convey with just expressions in the dancing scene with Kelly McGillis). The showdown at the end is so well done too, and manages a couple of things you don’t see nearly enough in gun battles.

But I was also struck by how it was an adult movie—not an X-rated film or a film with tons of sex—but a movie about adults staring adults (a child may be the witness to the crime in Witness, but he’s not the focus or the main character) where they have to make adult decisions for adult reasons and take into account adult things. I’m talking films where adults, normal feeling and looking adults (man, I miss the days when movie stars weren’t all just ridiculously good looking)—living normal adult lives confront the things we must confront as grown-ups and they do so in a way that feels authentic because their choices matter to them and to others.

I feel like we used to see those kind of movies a lot more. If do we get a grown-up movie now it’s usually specifically geared at someone 65 and older, an obvious attempt at Oscar bait, painfully dull or ridiculously depressing (depressing doesn’t automatically give something meaning any more than gritty does).

I’m talking about the movies your parents would rent and you’d read the box and maybe you couldn’t see past the thriller or crime or horror or even science fiction (grown-ups used to have all kinds of films) aspect of it but once you started watching it, you knew this was a grown-up movie and if you watched too, if you stayed focused you’d have a kind of a peak into an adult insight into life, romance, death, the choices we make and the choices that are made for us.

I don’t know if that makes sense but I feel like we need more movies like that.

This isn’t me pulling a Scorsese—frankly, I found his tirade silly and tiresome, especially when he admitted to having never actually watching a Marvel film. I like genre films (Witness is technically a thriller) or just fun movies or escapist movies, those all have their place and those can all still be about something bigger and truer than magic and monsters and powers and aliens. And those can all still be authentically about adults.

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