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On this week’s podcast episode, we review Neil Marshall‘s new Hellboy reboot and the Netflix original Motley Crue biopic, The Dirt. We also read some listener email responses and we each present our seven picks for an all-night movie marathon made of different parts of existing film franchises! 

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The post Episode 06 – Hellboy & The Dirt written by Cassidy Robinson appeared first on The MacGuffin: Film and TV Reviews, Interviews, Analysis.

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The Curse of La Llorona (2019) is based on the Spanish/Mexican folktale where a woman – acting out of pain and anger after her husband leaves her – drowns her children in a river. Soon after, she is found dead herself. Legend has it that the woman was not permitted into the afterlife until she found the souls of her missing kids, and thus must spend an eternity looking for them. “La Llorona” translates to “The Weeping Woman,” because hearing her cries is a signal of her presence. The story is used as a warning to kids so that they will not misbehave or stay out too late, because that is when La Llorona will come for them.

It’s a pretty engrossing tale, and I can see how it can rattle youngsters by triggering their imaginations. It’s too bad the film doesn’t do it much justice. Outside of the popular folk roots, The Curse of La Llorona is yet another forgettable horror entry into The Conjuring franchise, joining the ranks of The Nun (2018) and the Annabelle series. There’s not a lot going on here that we haven’t seen before: a ghostly figure (almost always a woman) terrorizing a group of people with ghoulish make up and plenty of jump scares, with the camera cutting away at the high point of the scare so that we are saved from seeing anything gruesome or disturbing. It’s a weird trope: just as soon as we see something scary, the camera is always too eager to turn away from it.

Another interesting point is that – despite La Llorona obviously being influenced by Hispanic culture – the lead character is not of Latin descent. Director Michael Chaves and co-writers Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis try to work around this issue by making the protagonist, Anna (Linda Cardellini) the widow to a Hispanic husband. I suppose Cardellini was cast for the name recognition (and to her credit, she does the best she can with the material), but it feels like a missed opportunity given the cultural elements at play. It makes one wonder who target audience is.

Anna is in the middle of a constant balancing act: maintaining her work in Child Protective Services and raising two kids (Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) all on her own. After her latest case with another single mother (Patricia Velasquez) goes horribly wrong, Anna’s home gets invaded by none other than The Weeping Woman, who has set her sights on the souls of Anna’s children. Throw in a Catholic Priest (Tony Amendola) and a rogue shaman (Raymond Cruz), and we have all the trappings of your usual haunted house, chock full of breaking mirrors, slamming doors, and light switches that stop working at the most inopportune moments. You know, the basic stuff.

Right off the bat, this is not a very convincing horror movie, it gets progressively worse the further it moves along. However, there are some promising bits early on. Michael Burgess’s cinematography starts out with a bravado opening shot that careens through Anna’s home as she prepares the kids to go to school. The single shot take does a nice job of establishing the geographical layout so that when the terror arrives, we have a good understanding of where everybody is in relation to each other. There’s also another extended camera move once Anna starts hearing the mysterious bump and creaks late at night, following behind her as she explores every shadowy corner and dark hall, as though she’s never been in her house before. It’s a nice little sequence that creates suspense because of how it delays the inevitable “boo!” moment.        

But besides those two examples, the narrative doesn’t offer much in terms of ingenuity. For anyone who’s seen more than five horror movies in their lifetimes, you’ll come to recognize a lot of your Basic Horror Clichés: how characters will investigate a scary noise instead of running away from it, or how someone will say “Do not open that door!” and yet the characters will do so out of sheer stupidity. One late scene had a character do something they were told not to, and the audience in my theater let out a unified groan because of it. There’s also the issue of seeing children in peril. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older, but seeing kids getting burned, drowned, and thrown across a room isn’t really my cup of tea.

Things do pick up when Raymond Cruz shows up. Some of you may remember Cruz as the coked-up villain from Breaking Bad. While he is not the over the top caricature here as he was on that show, Cruz does bring a sense of energy to every scene he’s in, even managing to garner some laughs in an otherwise dour affair. His character Rafael – an ex-priest turned healer and shaman – is not much more than an exposition dump, guiding Anna along and trying to help her get rid of La Llorona. But Cruz performs with an extra bit of flair, having some of fun despite his character being one-dimensional. I would much rather have seen a story of Rafael’s experiences with La Llorona (or any other ghost for that matter) than what we ended up with.

There’s not much more to say about The Curse of La Llorona. It offers cheap thrills with little substance, taking advantage of a folktale but not enriching or expanding upon it. Some may walk into this and hear cries, but not in the way they may be expecting.

The Curse of La Llorona - Official Trailer [HD] - YouTube

The post Film Review – The Curse of La Llorona written by Allen Almachar appeared first on The MacGuffin: Film and TV Reviews, Interviews, Analysis.

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Ebenezer Scrooge may have started out as a money hungry monster, but Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall) – the protagonist of Little (2019) – is a whole other beast. She may be the wealthy CEO of a startup company, but she runs it with the iron fist of a dictator. Her demands are that of a crazy person, forcing her loyal assistant April (Issa Rae) to bend to her every whim. Jordan expects April to organize her home so that her slippers are a certain distance away from her bed. In the office she orders employees to work like diligent mice, with the thought of “having fun” never entering her vocabulary. She verbally abuses everyone, cuts to the front of the line at the coffee stand, and erupts like a volcano whenever any carb-filled food is within her sightline.

Oh, and did I mention this is a comedy? Director Tina Gordan (who co-wrote the script with Tracy Oliver) fashions this narrative like a mix between A Christmas Carol and Freaky Friday (2003). Our lead character comes to the realization of how cruel and unusual they are while dealing with a magical curse that transforms her into the thirteen-year-old version of herself (played by Marsai Martin). And so, with Jordan caught up in her predicament, April must run the company in her absence while Jordan deals with the biggest obstacle of her life: being a teenager again.

Regina Hall and Marsai Martin deserve praise for really committing to the Jordan character. Both seem to be having a blast in the part, being as outlandish as they want. And boy, do they really lean into her attitude. Jordan – throughout the first half of the film and the majority of the second – is really mean to everyone around her. Gordon and Oliver try to set up her personality by establishing a childhood embarrassment that fuels her anger, but the effect backfires. Jordan’s incessant determination to put down everyone really makes her off putting. You would think that being bullied as a child would help her understand the importance of treating others with respect, but instead it inspires a spiteful bitterness. It makes one wonder how she could have become so successful given how awful she treats people.

Some of the better moments have nothing to do with Jordan. In fact, Issa Rae comes forth as the surprise, shining in almost every scene that she’s in. April has tons of personality, talent, and potential, but being Jordan’s assistant has filled her with an enormous amount of self-doubt. It’s the balance of knowing her worth and the fear of taking a risk that draws our attention to April. Rae also gets the majority of the laughs, spouting one-liners with an excellent comedic timing. The way she very discreetly mentions her availability to any good-looking man was hilarious. Issa Rae was the saving grace here, and I hope to see her in more high-profile roles.

The main plot is a mish mash of underdeveloped side stories and character arcs that don’t really go any place significant. Because Jordan was changed to a kid, she and April are visited by a Child Protective Services agent (Rachel Dratch) who orders Jordan to go to school. Dratch shows up in one scene, and the danger of Jordan being taken away is barely an afterthought. Back in school, Jordan meets three kids (Tucker Meek, Thalia Tran, JD McCrary) who all want to participate in the big talent show, but Jordan’s childhood trauma causes her to dissuade them from performing. Take a wild guess how that turns out? There’s also the complication of Jordan’s on again/off again boyfriend (Luke James) who comes home wondering where the adult of the house has gone off to, but just like everything else, that story doesn’t really have any weight or impact.

The editing has some really odd choices. During a scene in which Jordan and April have a chat at a restaurant, their conversation cuts in mid-sentence to showcase a musical number where Jordan and April sing Mary J. Blige’s “I’m Goin’ Down.” Look, I love musicals, and I’m all for characters breaking out into song to express themselves. But this scene is badly forced into the narrative, sticking out like a sore thumb without any proper explanation or context. Plus, seeing a teenage girl performing the song while doing a dance routine on top of a bar comes off as awkward and uncomfortable. Sure, the moment is supposed to make us laugh, but I think the effect is more of a nervous one than anything else.

We’ve seen this type of story before, and most of us can deduce where things will inevitably go. But Jordan’s emotional realization comes way too late, and the supposed “redemption” feels like a cop out. This is a person whose insecurity has brought about a lack of maturity, and by the time she understands that, the damage has already been done. There’s no gradual development – don’t show us a terrible person for such a long time and then suddenly expect us to believe that she can right all her wrongs in the time it takes to toast some bread. Little may want to be a redemption story of a bad character doing good, but instead it ends up rewarding the bully.

Little - Official Trailer (HD) - YouTube

The post Film Review – Little written by Allen Almachar appeared first on The MacGuffin: Film and TV Reviews, Interviews, Analysis.

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On this week’s podcast, we discuss DC’s new superhero comedy Shazam! with our guest, friend of the show, Patrick from the Michigan-based Almost Educational podcast. We also discuss the most recent movie news, and at the end of the recording, we review the 2014 Netflix documentary The Battered Bastards of Baseball.

Download Episode Here

News stories covered in this episode:
Macon Blair to direct that mainstream Toxic Avenger reboot 
Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington to Lead ‘Macbeth’ from Joel Coen and A24
Live-Action ‘Cowboy Bebop’ Series to Star John Cho

Check out Patrick’s Almost Educational podcast here

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The post Episode 05 – Shazam! written by Cassidy Robinson appeared first on The MacGuffin: Film and TV Reviews, Interviews, Analysis.

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The Brink lacks clear purpose in its observations of Steven Bannon, Donald Trump‘s onetime adviser and now a nationalist spokesman. Bannon is a controversial figure, to say the least, with those who admire him thinking he is aiding the United States and promoting nationalist ideas around the globe, while those who hate him believing him to be at best a racist and at worst a fascist. In watching this year in the life of Steve Bannon it’s doubtful that anyone will change their opinion. That is mainly because there isn’t a lot to learn by viewing this.

To get bias out of the way, I am not a fan of Steve Bannon and what he stands for. But dislike of a political figure doesn’t mean that he cannot be fascinating to observe and to try to understand what makes him tick and how he operates and succeeds or fails. There can be much to learn by observing those different from us in their beliefs. Jesus Camp allowed people to see Evangelical Christians doing their work with the young and seeing their goals and methods while really getting to know the kids that are being taught and those preaching to them.

Yet we never really get to see what Bannon believes or even how others perceive him. If you do not already know who Bannon is then you are not provided a lot to grab onto about who this man really is. We just know he was in media at Breitbart News, worked for Trump in the campaign and White House, and was fired. We see him speak a few times and get yelled at by a protester, he takes meetings in Europe with other far right leaders, and talks strategy about uniting as a group of nationalists. His goals are made abstract in the film and those around him are made even less clear about who they are and what they are about. All we learn is they are all far right nationalists. Bannon is not really a focal character in his own movie. He barely talks with the director and when he does it is more boilerplate patriotism such reading a quote by Abraham Lincoln— without further explanation of what it means for Bannon personally.

The only really interesting scene is during an interview when Bannon is asked about the “dog whistle” phrases he uses that are really an anti-Semitic code to attract racists. After the interview Bannon asks the journalist if he seriously believes that is what he is doing, to which the journalist replies, you would have to be stupid not to realize it. Bannon looks exasperated but also perplexed by how to respond to that observation. His bafflement was intriguing but it was never further explored. What were the terms Bannon was using in this campaign? Bannon and his nationalist allies keep talking about an ad campaign yet we never get to see it or any responses to it. I wanted to know more but the film never dug into this subject.

Director Alison Klayman seems to think that by following Bannon around those who like him will be intrigued to see him working and those who dislike him will enjoy watching as he puts himself out there for losing Senate candidate Roy Moore, or seeing the midterms go the Democrats. But we just go from meeting to meeting, a few tidbits dropped here or there such as financing from a Chinese dissident that is touched on but then quickly discarded. Over and over that is all we are given and it isn’t enough to make this compelling

Love him or hate him. Bannon should be interesting to watch. For those who love him, it’s a chance to get passionate about seeing a hero do his job well. For those who hate him, it’s an opportunity to really understand him and see why he does what he does. And for those with no opinion, it’s the possibility to learn about someone new. Sadly none of this comes to pass and we end where we started, wondering who is Steve Bannon? Yet we’re too bored to really care to find out for ourselves

The Brink - Official Trailer - YouTube

The post Film Review – The Brink written by Benjamin Rendall appeared first on The MacGuffin: Film and TV Reviews, Interviews, Analysis.

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On this podcast, we breakdown all the events and panels we attended at last week’s WonderCon in Anaheim. We talk about Batman‘s 80th birthday, exclusive footage of the upcoming Dark Phoenix, and at the end of the program, we review the indie biopic Tolkien, which is set for release later this May. 

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The post Episode 4 – Tolkien + WonderCon 2019 written by Cassidy Robinson appeared first on The MacGuffin: Film and TV Reviews, Interviews, Analysis.

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The Best of Enemies focuses on the racial tensions and discrimination in 1971 Durham, North Carolina. It is based on the true story of what happened when the possible integration of the city’s schools came to the forefront and quickly due to a school fire at the black elementary school. The film is based on the book by Osha Gray Davidson, and the script is by Robin Bissell who also directed it.

The film focuses on two people: Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) and C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell). Ann is an activist and runs Operation Breakthrough. She is someone who gets things done and stands up for the inequalities and hardships of blacks in Durham. C.P. is a gas station owner who is president of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan (the KKK). They both know each other already and are obviously not fans of each other. When the issue of integration is pressed by the judge on the community to decide, a “charrette” is held, led by Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay). Ann and C.P. reluctantly choose to accept the positions of co-chairs of the charrette, leading the separate black and white sides of integration.

There is nothing inherently wrong or bad about The Best of Enemies. It’s just that I have seen this film so many times. Well, not this particular film, but those exactly like it. The ending is predicted after the first minute of the film, or even just from the film’s trailer. The event depicted in this film is an important social moment in our country’s history and while I do agree that it is important, was this a film that needed to be made. Could The Best of Enemies have been better served to its audience as an HBO television film? It may have reached a wider audience and thus educated more people about this event.

We are living in a divisive time in this country. As much as I find it educational to watch films such as these, and be shocked that this event happened only seven years before my birth, I really do not need to go to a theatre to hear characters being racist. It exists in real life right now and can just be seen by going on social media. This film may be trying to show how far we have come, but honestly, it is not that far from where we are now in history, especially if you live in the South.

Regardless of my feelings towards the film, Taraji P. Henson does a wonderful job portraying Ann Atwater with her tough exterior, no-nonsense attitude, and a large amount of courage. Her costumes, wig, and the adjustment of her bust are the added cherry on top to Henson’s performance. She rose to the occasion to envelop herself in Ann’s image, and she is truly a pleasure to watch. Sam Rockwell took a chance playing C.P. Ellis, considering he played a character of similar morals in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Both C.P. and Dixon partially redeemed themselves by the end of their respective films and had a change in how they see the world. The difference with C.P. is that he was the president of the KKK’s local chapter and went out of his way to denigrate those of color and refuse their patronage. C.P. becomes somewhat likable by the end, suffering financially for his change of heart, and those he chose to hate take pity on him for the chance he took. There was obviously something interesting about playing C.P. that drew Rockwell to such a similar role. Rockwell was at least masterful in showing his uncomfortableness with his slow change in his position in the community, ultimately making his family proud.

The Best of Enemies will suffer at the box office due to how little promotion it received from its studio, its competition in the theatre, as well as the subject matter. Had this film been released four years ago, it may have fared better. Now, it is not something I see the public seeking out to experience. Aside from its historically accurate use of the N-word, the film could be used in an educational setting. The film at least has a strong and spirited performance by Taraji P. Henson that should make it something to see in the future.

The Best of Enemies | Official Trailer [HD] | Now In Theaters - YouTube


The post Film Review – The Best of Enemies written by Sarah Ksiazek appeared first on The MacGuffin: Film and TV Reviews, Interviews, Analysis.

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Thirty years separated from the mediocre original film, a new take on Pet Sematary has arrived in theaters to further push the narrative that Stephen King adaptations are good again, damnit! And what do you know, this one mostly is. Keep it up, Hollywood.

Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes) stay close enough to the source material to please the King diehards (self-professed Constant Reader here) while also shaking a few things up, mostly to good effect. Arguably the biggest of these changes is spoiled in the trailers so I’ll let them take the heat and avoid specifics.

Louis and Rachel Creed (Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz) tire of their hustle-and-bustle city lives and decide to move to rural Maine in order to spend more quality time with their two young children, Gage and Ellie (Jeté Laurence). Their affable, grizzled new neighbor Jud (a very game John Lithgow) takes an instant shine to the family and Ellie in particular. No wonder, then, he offers a unique form of help when Louis discovers her beloved cat Church (full name Winston Churchill, naturally) has been ran over and killed.

See, on the Creeds vast property is a homemade pet cemetery, but just beyond it, as helpfully explained by Jud, is a different kind of burial ground. A burial ground that allows those you love who have passed to “come back.” Louis assists in the kitty burial, seemingly just to appease Jud’s kooky eccentricities, and plans to tell Ellie that Church simply ran away. Before he’s given the chance, though, Church is back. And..different.

A familiar horror movie trope is a cat leaping from off screen to provide the requisite jump scare/false alarm. Pet Sematary gets to have its cake and eat it too, making Church a volatile if pint-sized threat. A scene in which he invades the crib of toddler Gage is particularly unnerving.

With a plot device this deliciously wicked, it’s only natural to presume the movie won’t end without a human being buried there. The question then becomes, when overcome with grief and despair, what are you willing to overlook in order to make your family “whole” again?

Kölsch and Widmyer have settled on a decidedly modern approach to this new incarnation. Aside from the obvious addition of smartphones and other useful technology, they’ve borrowed several elements from modern films of this mold. Is our antagonist scarier when donning creepy masks ala The Strangers and moving suspiciously like the girl from The Grudge? Not really, but it sure is familiar.

If you’re going into Pet Sematary hoping for some gruesome imagery and decent scares, you’ll likely walk away satisfied. Easter eggs aplenty for those in the know as well. (That closing credits song sure seems familiar.) This adaptation lines nicely with this recent spate of good-to-very-good King adaptations; It, Gerald’s Game, 1922, not The Dark Tower, never The Dark Tower.

This may be the only time I’ll be able to write this in a positive light so here goes: This thing is dead on arrival. Just don’t count on it staying dead.F

Pet Sematary (2019) - Final Trailer - Paramount Pictures - YouTube

The post Film Review – Pet Sematary written by Nick Ahlers appeared first on The MacGuffin: Film and TV Reviews, Interviews, Analysis.

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In the realm of superhero films, DC and Warner Brothers still have a long way to go to catch up to the success that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has established and fortified. But lately, there seems to have been an interesting change of pace coming out of the DC Extended Universe. Instead of the dark and gritty stories that plagued the likes of Batman V Superman (2016) and Suicide Squad (2016), we are now starting to see properties that are taking a more lighthearted approach. We saw it in the gonzo zaniness of Aquaman (2018) and now with Shazam! (2019).

It’s as though the filmmakers realized that a large portion of the fanbase are kids, and that appealing to them along with adults might be actually be a good thing. The characters we see in suits and capes are meant to inspire, and some can accomplish that without having to be a brooding stick in the mud. In fact, Shazam! operates much more along the lines of a comedy than what we are used to with modern day blockbusters. Screenwriter Henry Gayden and director David F. Sandberg approach the material with a little earnest satire, following the path of a traditional “Hero’s Origin” but doing so with jubilance.

It makes sense, given that the character is a bit silly to begin with. We are introduced to a young orphan named Billy Batson (Asher Angel), living in a foster home with five other orphans like himself. After a series of events, Billy comes face to face with an old wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who bestows upon him the power of the Greek Gods. When Billy utters the phrase “Shazam,” he is magically transformed into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi), fixed with a red suit, white cape, and a glowing thunderbolt on his chest. His powers are near identical to Superman’s – with the ability to fly, have super strength, speed, and invulnerability to bullets. He also has the added bonus of shooting lightening out of his hands.

The interesting twist is that, while Billy is a full-grown man as Shazam, mentally he is still a fourteen-year-old kid. And this is where Gayden, Sandberg, and Levi get to have some fun with the character. The film knows that the body-swapping gimmick will remind us of Tom Hanks in Big (1988) and even goes so far to toss in a clever reference to it. One of the joys of Shazam! is seeing Billy adjusting to, exploiting, and then coming to terms with his newly acquired powers. Levi’s “Gee Golly” performance feels right. He acts just as a kid would, with sincere reactions to everything happening around him. Let’s be honest with ourselves: when we were kids, if we had the ability to pretend to be adults, what would we do? We would do all the things that only grownups could: buy alcohol, go to bars, etc. Some of the funnier moments deal with Billy (as the adult Shazam), hanging out with his foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), juggling between figuring out Billy’s powers and going out and doing adult activities.

A surprise element comes within the family dynamic. Billy’s foster siblings (Grazer, Faithe Herman, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Grace Fulton) along with his foster parents (Cooper Andrews, Marta Milans) all come from different backgrounds, but there’s a tenderness and care that connects them together. While they may bump heads, they do so without any sense of maliciousness. They’re open with each other, and everyone has an opportunity to speak their mind. As the newest member, Billy initially has trouble adjusting to this way of life (understandably), but as his character arc developments throughout the story, the theme of family grows as a motivating factor for him. There’s pretty nice twist that happens that I wasn’t expecting but was glad to see take place. I’ll leave that for you to discover.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a superhero movie, and there are plenty of spectacular feats in which Shazam saves lives just in the nick of time. These scenes are done moderately well, the direction and CGI doing just enough to entertain, but nothing really standing out. None of the set pieces here will go down as some of the best action scenes of the genre. Another unfortunate setback is the villain Sivana (Mark Strong). Sivana suffers from the “Forgettable Bad Guy” syndrome, in which his character works simply as a force for our hero to fight against and nothing more. Strong does the best he can with the character, and admittedly there are some noteworthy details to him – I liked how he is able to summon the Seven Deadly Sins from his body in the form deadly smoke monsters – but besides that, Sivana is just kind of there to be toiled with. Even the tumultuous relationship he shares with his father and brother doesn’t really play out with much significance to his character.

Marvel may be sitting at the top of the superhero genre at the moment, but with each passing year the entries feel more and more attached to “the brand” – adhering to a look, tone, and style that doesn’t leave much room to differentiate. What Shazam! does so well is that it establishes itself unlike most other forgettable superhero movies. It doesn’t reach the heights of Wonder Woman (2017), nor is it as outrageously goofy as Aquaman, but it has an identity all its own. A had a lot of fun with this one, and sometimes “fun” is all you need.F

SHAZAM! - Official Trailer 2 - Only In Theaters April 5 - YouTube

The post Film Review – Shazam! written by Allen Almachar appeared first on The MacGuffin: Film and TV Reviews, Interviews, Analysis.

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Grief.

It’s both simple and all consuming. It can define a person and overwhelm them. It can dictate one’s actions. After living with it for a prolonged period, while you try to learn to live with it, it can also color the way you see the world. On occasions such as World Wars almost everyone was forced to deal with grief after surviving intense horrors. That’s what the new film The Aftermath is all about. How does one carry on after losing someone close?

World War II has ended. Jason Clarke is a British Colonel who has moved his wife played by Keira Knightly to join him occupying a former German aristocrat’s home. Alexander Skarsgård is the former owner of the home who has a teenage daughter. They weren’t actively involved with the Nazis. But being part of a conquered nation they are forced to yield their mansion to the British couple.

The Colonel is tasked with working with the local governing bodies to reconstruct what they can in Hamburg where the war has left nothing but bombed out rubble and countless dead. Resentment surrounds the British soldiers as they are attempting to clean up the city. Meanwhile, Knightly’s character is stuck pining away at home trying to get over the death of their son. They had lost their child during the war and it becomes apparent that they haven’t dealt with it as a couple. Similarly, Skarsgård’s character is allowed to live in the attic with his daughter while they mourn the loss of his wife. He is doing his best as a single father, but his daughter is angry and disappointed in him. He attempts to do his best to appease the new ruling order of Brits, but his very existence raises suspicion.

During this time of living together, the British woman at first is resentful of the Germans she is forced to live with. She is obviously harboring some misplaced blame and projecting it onto them. She and her husband aren’t connecting though. She wants him to work on their marriage. But he feels a responsibility for the carnage that litters Hamburg. So as both she and the German man work through their feelings, they end up striking up a sexual relationship based as much in manic grief as it is in love. A genuine love triangle develops as Knightly and Skarsgard sneak around behind Clarke’s back.

This movie is surprisingly strong. The performances are universally heartfelt. All 3 of these people wear their mourning on them all the time and it is totally believable. Keira Knightly is a talented actress who is simultaneously repressed and desperate. She has turned in so many performances set in historic periods at this point that we are likely to take her for granted. But she continues to be one of our finest actresses. Alexander Skarsgård is one of the most sympathetic WW2 era Germans one is likely to see in a film. The sense that he was very much just trying to survive and not make waves during the war speaks for an often under represented faction in war stories. There is a measure of guilt to be placed on those who stood by and didn’t stop the Nazis from performing their heinous acts. But you can also empathize with a family that seemed genuinely stuck in the middle as likely some were. Finally, Jason Clarke is often an under-appreciated asset. He has quietly been doing Yeoman’s work in movies and TV over the years yet seldom gets mentioned as top billed talent. He was terrific as a Rhode Island politician on the TV show Brotherhood and was quite strong on an unsung TV gem The Chicago Code. He performed well in the terrific Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. He was part of the ensemble in one of last year’s best films First Man. Here he is quite relatable as a conflicted and basically decent soldier who merely tried to stuff his own grief way down. That self-repression ends up being the fatal flaw in his marriage.

What is quite refreshing about this story is the fact that there are no villains. It would have been quite easy to turn any point of this central love triangle into a stereotype. Yet all 3 people are actually working their way through their feelings. The fact that none of it devolves into some sort of macho showdown between the two men with them duking it out over the lady is a testament to how The Aftermath wants to deal with this situation maturely.

The title of the film obviously has a double meaning. While physically dealing with the fallout from the War itself, these people are also dealing with the fallout of their own tragedies. The Aftermath is an apt title and well worth a watch.

THE AFTERMATH | Official Trailer | FOX Searchlight - YouTube

The post Film Review – The Aftermath (Second Take) written by Edward Davidson appeared first on The MacGuffin: Film and TV Reviews, Interviews, Analysis.

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