Tag: Elizabeth Olsen

Kodachrome

3Digital giant Netflix’s bankrolling of a film that champions all things analogue is an anachronism that some might smirk at. Others will nostalgically nod at Netflix whose roots lay in the twilight of physical media.  But when Ed Harris says “We’re strictly analogue here” Kodachrome not only makes clear its belligerent stance on the world’s love-affair with all things digital but also underlines the 35mm celluloid that it was shot on—a rarity these days.

Directed by Mark Raso (Copenhagen) and based upon a New York Times article written by A.G. Sulzberger, Kodachrome explores father-son relations against the backdrop of the titular film stock’s death knell.  

It is a pleasantly predictable film that centres on Matt (Jason Sudeikis), a grumpy record exec, who is reluctantly coerced into joining his estranged father to drive cross-state.  His father, Ben (played by the superb Ed Harris), is a renowned photographer who has to reach Kansas before the doors shut for good on the last Kodachrome processing facility in the world.  What adds to the trip’s urgency is that Ben is terminally ill with only weeks to live. His last few cherished roles of undeveloped Kodachrome film provide narrative direction but at its heart, Kodachrome is more concerned with exploring the frail emotional bonds between Ben and Matt.  The always-engaging Elizabeth Olsen (Wind River) plays Zoe who comes along for the ride as Ben’s nurse, and for all the father-son bickering she becomes more a mediator than Ben’s medical attendant.

Ed Harris’s performance can best be described as “nuanced”.  Oh how I cringe at the overused word, but in this instance, it so aptly describes a masterful portrayal that is brimming with subtle shades of expression. Harris sublimely encapsulates Ben’s bitterly cynical demeanour that is fleetingly betrayed by moments of existential joy.

Kodachrome is a warm and beautiful film—Cinematographer, Alan Poon, having made the most of the media it was filmed on. And although it is a touch predictable at times Kodachrome remains an Ed Harris masterclass and worth seeing for his performance alone.
 

See my reviews for Witchdoctor here.

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Avengers: Infinity War

avengersinfinityI’m unapologetically lukewarm about the superhero genre having long suffered the much-maligned superhero fatigue.  And while many fans will bemoan such critics and explain how the superhero genre differs little (in quantity) from other celebrated genres, I must highlight one notable difference; the dreaded word “universe”.  Attach that word to a large grouping of open-ended narrative arcs and it’s a recipe for trouble.

Rather than the episodic nature of other genres, the superhero genre has, for some reason, decided to create giant cross-pollinated mythologies of characters who share the same “universe”—every so often tying them up in one big tentpole movie.

Beholden to Marvel’s “universe” Avengers: Infinity War tries its hardest to corral its many denizens into narrative alignment. You can almost hear the cogs turning as each hero is conveyer-belted onto the screen and plugged back into the Marvel “universe” system.  Despite such difficulties, directors Joe and Anthony Russo have done an admirable job of wrangling it all together.

Understandably, the plot is fairly shallow in order to fit in the numerous heroes and villains. The infighting of previous Marvel films is largely forgotten as the Avengers are all forced to contend with a larger, outside threat: Thanos (Josh Brolin), an enormous, galaxy-trotting warlord who believes the universe would be better off if half of the population was exterminated. His genocidal plans depend on obtaining all six Infinity Stones, their combined power would allow him to reduce life in the universe by half with the literal snap of his fingers.

The action is predictable, with plenty of the usual punchsplosions, collapsing walls, and CGI overload that we’ve become accustomed to. But thankfully the fight sequences aren’t too long … there simply isn’t time for them.  Curiously, a by-product of accommodating an enormous cast seems to be the reduction of tedious fight sequences. However, character development also takes a back seat—a mere luxury squeezed as small as Antman’s undies (who ironically isn’t in this film).  What’s left, however, is Marvel’s intoxicatingly funny brand of humour which keeps pace with the film’s sheer kinetic momentum and culminates in a bold and risky ending (of which my lips are sealed).

Fair to say, I was not expecting much and had to muster all my super-reviewing powers of critical impartiality.  And although Avengers: Infinity War is far from perfect, the result was better than I had anticipated and should satisfy even lukewarm superhero fans.


See more of my NZME reviews here.

Ingrid Goes West

ingridIt’s always a sobering experience when a film knowingly holds a mirror to modern society.  Director, Matt Spicer, has done just that with his first feature film, crafting a modern tale that is astute, cynical, and very self-aware—a cinematic selfie of our social media woes, so to speak.

Ingrid Goes West jumps boldly out of the starting gate with an opening montage of self-indulgent Instagramming, hash-tagging, duck-face selfies, foodie pics, emojis, the kind of stuff we all roll our eyes at despite ringing true for many of us. It then paints the titular Ingrid as an emotionally frail slave to the intoxicating lure of this social media landscape. It is a post-satire comedy where its characters’ outlandish behaviour is both abhorrent and yet completely believable.

Ingrid, played by Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed), is always on the outer and desperately craves the attention of those who are popular on social media. Unfortunately, her sociopathic tendencies hamper her ability to gauge social norms and it’s not long before she finds herself in trouble. After burning her bridges with her old friends she develops an unhealthy social media crush on Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). Taylor, a socialite with many Instagram followers, is popular and everything Ingrid wants to be, but Ingrid finds it increasingly difficult to maintain her “perfect” life which is perpetuated by her appetite for social media.

Ingrid Goes West is nothing short of a damning comment on the ills of pretending to be someone you’re not and presents a world where perceived popularity is measured by your number of followers. As Taylor’s husband says, “it’s exhausting”.

The film descends into some fairly dark places but its exploration into the murkier waters of social media and mental illness is unfortunately met with a noncommittal ending that doesn’t do either topic justice.  Nonetheless, Ingrid Goes West confidently struts a fine line between twee and brooding and still manages to expose the dark underbelly of social media with a few chuckles along the way. #stillworthseeing.

You can see my published reviews here.

 

Wind River

windTaylor Sheridan’s proclivity for scripting stories that shrewdly observe troubling American social issues has provided an interesting mix of genres. Wind River is no different, offering a heady blend of modern western, thriller, and neo-noir sensibilities.  Having previously penned Hell or High Water and Sicario, the talented scriptwriter has turned his attentions to the Director’s chair for Wind River—the fledgling Director wisely scaling things back with a simple murder-mystery set among the windswept snowscape of a Wyoming Indian Reserve.

Inspired by true events, the film centres on the rape and murder of a teenage girl found in the snowy wilds by professional game hunter Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner).  The mystery proves too great for local tribal Police with their meagre resources, and the Feds are clearly disinterested, offering a sole FBI agent to help on the case. Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is a slight and seemingly inexperienced young agent, who conspicuously doesn’t belong among Lambert and his wind-beaten companions. Unfortunately, her character never conquers this imbalance, much to the detriment of the story’s gender concerns.  Although, as Lambert explains, the landscape is harshly indifferent to all that go before it, reducing everything down to survival. And it appears that Banner cannot survive without the help of her male companion.  Banner represents a missed opportunity that contemporaries such as Silence of the Lambs’ Clarice Starling (to which Wind River owes a great deal) comfortably navigates. Its racial ideals fare no better, with Lambert again being the great white saviour applying the mop to an impotent cultural minority unable to deal with their own problems.

Despite the race and gender misfire, the cinematography and score elevate the film beyond mediocrity, evoking a palpable sense of isolation. Sheridan’s script maintains a robust structure throughout, keeping the plot humming along and offering some genuinely thrilling moments; even occasionally stepping aside to offer some poignant insights on grief and loss.  Sheridan’s Directorial strength clearly lies in ratcheting tension, but he makes a good fist of the more nuanced moments by getting excellent performances out of his cast. 

Read my reviews on the NZ Herald’s website here.