Kill them, baby, one more time; Alien: Covenant (2017), dir: Ridley Scott

Alien poster.jpg

Prepare yourselves to repeat the ritual of alien penetration in the fellowship of the space exploration or as is the case in Covenant, colonisation. You’ve surely being here before, even if you’ve only watched the first film of the Alien trilogy but that doesn’t mean you will leave the theatre unsatisfied.

alien.jpg

The film deals with the origins of creation and the creator-creation relationship parallel to raw and cruel scenes against humanity in an adventure where the stronger prevails. The Covenant consists the bridge between the end of Prometheus and the events in the original Alien, by diving into the origins of the alien blood-thirsty beasts that first appeared in theatres in 1979.  Good flow of scenes that are smoothly connected and executed with great performances and excellent directing from Scott who is a masterful expert on the sci-fi genre.

alien6.jpg

In Covenant, Scott is using the cult cinematic myth of the Alien with no desire to innovate and invent. The film feeds upon the nostalgic feeling of the genuine scares of the original movie without adding something new or remarkable to the classic story. A smarter approach to the scenario would have saved me the disappointment provoked by certain scenes; such as the one where the Captain willingly looks into an opening Xenomorph’s egg when treacherous David  – who minutes before has flipped out when the Captain shot a Xenomorph that had just beheaded a member of the crew – suggests so, or the ending scene that shockingly reveals something we saw coming, if not since the beginning of the film, then by the moment David and Walter are left alone to fight and only one makes it back…

alien2.jpg

However, it was a great choice to locate the story on a macabre-looking place, a planet with great vegetation that hides the city of the dead in its core. Aren’t these the perfect surroundings to prepare you for doom?!  And so the rain falls non-stop and the creatures wandering around seem to have made killing and impregnating our misfortunate travelers their life mission.

My favourite bits of the film are its real stars: the Xenomorphs. Similarly to their 1979 predecessors, the monsters in Covenant are more faithful to Giger’s original art and as elegant as the angels of death are a horrifying spectacle indeed. Although, Scott patiently prepares the viewer by slowly setting the atmosphere of terror for the time that the crew will fight for their lives in blood and naivety, the overall predictability of the structure fails this build-up. In an interview, Scott mentions that his goal is giving us time to identify with the characters and care for them but in the 45 minutes (almost the ½ of the film as it last 122 minutes) before the deathly action begins, I felt boredom instead of sympathy…

alien1.jpg

However, it was only when Xenomorphs made their appearance that my stomach got tight and one thought governed my mind; had I been them, I wouldn’t last a minute! Oh wait… neither did they!

The choreographed attack by Xenomorphs in a field of tall grass in the first half and the visceral hunting that follows and sees blood and gore gush from every pore of the film are thrilling. Our very first scene of a Neomorph bursting out of a human and the subsequent panicking and killing is gripping and utterly transporting. I particularly loved the scene where David approaches the Xenomorph in an attempt to communicate and gain the creature’s respect.

alien3.jpg

Xenomorphs have an elegant shape and a relentless appetite for screams, blood and human flesh, which makes their presence a menace of disproportionate dimensions for the poor, fragile humans. The fact that the opponents are so unfairly unequal made me loose interest when almost all heads dropped down and it was only Daniel’s character that reassured me for the upcoming – and single in the entire film – victory in the final battle. Katherine Waterston is a force of nature and an artful actress that takes you with her in her emotional pain at first, and then in her stubbornness for survival and escape.

alien8.jpg

Michael Fassbender’s dual performance is the perk and the differentiating element of the Covenant compared to the other Alien movies.  He acts against himself and delivers an interesting performance. A good example is the scene where an ecstatic David attempts to prove his point to his look-alike Walter and manages to set scenery charged with homoerotic energy and ample narcissism that is actually – and I hope intentionally – rather funny.

The film failed to immerse me into the existential and religious Odyssey supposedly experienced by the characters. David despises his maker and the entire humanity in fact, considering them a weak and rightly dying bread. He resists to a servant’s life that was destined for him and thanks to his appointed talents and abilities David manages to do plenty of harm. David is technically and emotionally more evolved than Walter but suffers from a delusional fever of creation obsessiveness and a severe God complex. Although, he is not a relatable character he is admittedly the most interesting one.

alien9.jpg

After the film you might wonder if you’d ever consider taking part in a space colonisation mission, think of the way you’d like to be killed by a Xenomorph (probably the least painful or the most eccentric..), pick which one you’d like best: being a human or an android, start appreciating the flute, never take a shower listening to loud music again and think how cool it would be to have a look-alike to take your place whenever you fancy!

Advertisements

Tunes, feelings and colours; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 (2017), dir: James Gunn

poster.jpg

One thing’s for sure; James Gunn knows how to capture our fantasy and engage us with laughs and effortless cuteness right from the opening credits. Baby Groot’s dance number is performed in a CGI celebration of colour, humour and music, and sets you in the right mood for the adventure you’re about to witness.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 is great fun thanks to the striking visuals, the chemistry among  the  cast and  also, because the action plays on character development by taking advantage of everyone and splitting screen time almost equally. And so the diverse gang that protects the Galaxy returned with Vol.2 to bring a spectacle of robust CGI scenes, a breadth of feelings and clever, well-written dialogues that respect the characters evolution. Needless to say I loved the film because in its plot’s simplicity and predictability, it’s a fun ride to yet another strange and fun Marvel Universe.

g5.jpg

Michael Rooker delivers a memorable performance as the blue-skinned buccaneer Yondu. He is a man of multiple layers and that makes him incredibly relatable and likeable. Yondu’s biggest mistake was to betray the trust of his fellow Ravagers which leaves him exiled by their community and utterly hurt, regretful and tormented. Nothing compares to the effect on the audience when a crude and shielded character unveils his emotions and unspoken truths, by revealing where his heart truly lies and by seeking redemption by all costs.

Mantis (Pom Klementieff), the empathic sole companion/habitat of Ego is fresh, funny, sweat and surprisingly strong. Her flourishing friendship with Drax is heart-warming and amusing. Bradley Cooper does once more great voice work with Rocket, the piece-of-work modified raccoon whose wild nature and bad temper tries the patience of his friends. The scene where Yondu confronts his trouble-making nature and pushes him to admit his vulnerabilities is impactful and memorable.

g7.jpg

The film has weaknesses like any other; every time Chris Pratt, the Star-Lord himself delivers a line on a dramatic tone, I find it funny, I can almost see him smile while yelling at his Ego-maniac father, or blaming Gamora for not being a supportive friend, or freaking out over Rocket’s theft… I simply can’t take him seriously. Although, I understand the rationale behind casting him as Peter Quill, I believe he is a comedy actor who fails drama, as it was recently proved in Passengers (2016). In addition, Guardians Vol.2 doesn’t achieve the laughs of its predecessor, with sarcastic hints and jokes that are dragged for too long and were not that funny to begin with, e.g. the Taserface teasing that had the whole crew bursting in tears of laughter (?), Drax’s share of funny comments (nope…), etc.

g8.jpg

Speaking of striking scenes, I believe the film gives one of the most colourful and heart-breaking funerals in cinema. Baby Groot’s torture and subsequent mission serves laughter upon tears, Yondu’s revenge is diabolically satisfying, Nebula (Karen Gillan) sharing her plans with Kraglin (Sean Gunn) is oddly devastating and funny and finally, Yondu’s ascend to space with Peter in his arms draw the simplicity of love and silence. Also, Groot (Vin Diesel) is the most adorable, one-sentence speaking, constantly teary-eyed wooden baby ever created and I feel constantly manipulated by how this little cute twig makes me feel…

g9.jpg

Guardian’s USP consists of the stunning spectacle of colourful visuals along with incredible 70’s mixed tapes that mark the action and inner dialogues. The film also emphasises the absolute need for respect to diversity and explores the concept of family, by placing friends as surrogates in the absence or incompetence demonstrated by blood-relations.

g14.jpg

After the film you might listen to Fleetwood Mac’s anthology, put on your most colourful outfits, think how cool it would be to be blue, green or purple (or any other skin tone of crazy colours and shapes you can imagine), try to imitate the way Mantis and Yondu talk and finally, think of the “crazy shit” you would built if you were a half-Celestial.

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales/ Salazar’s Revenge (2017), dir: Rønning and Sandberg

 

pposter.jpg

Low expectations had already infested my mind when I entered the theatre to watch the fifth film of one my most beloved franchises. I fell in love with the first film in 2003, watched it countless time and dreamed of white shores, boats, rum and crazy, lowlife companions. I liked the second and third but they didn’t quite live up to the fun and the thrills of the original. As to the fourth film, we can all pretend it never happened. Coming now to the fifth time that Jack Sparrow’s adventures are brought to the big screen, I have to tell you it’s a film worth watching if like me, you follow the characters since the beginning. Being a loyal fan, you will be able to experience all the breadth of emotions, laughs and victories with the characters along the way. 

Salazar’s Revenge is directed by the Norwegians Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, known for their Academy Award-nominated high sea film Kon-Tiki who managed to bring back some of our favourite elements of the first films, mostly their simplicity and humour. There were also many artful shots that reflected their expertise in using water as the perfect setting for creating engaging visuals.

p8.jpg

The plot lacks twists, the alliances formed are easily-followed and the ending although predictable is source of pure joy for fans. There is a new ‘couple’ of course, Elizabeth’s and Will’s son, Henry Turner, played by Brenton Thwaites and the accused-of-being-a-witch astronomer Carina Smyth, portrayed by Kaya Scodelario both of whom do a great job, being fresh, witty, and convincing by setting the right tone of romance, friendship and rivalry. 

p7.jpg

Captain Hector Barbossa, my personal favourite, is in a fantastic state of wealth and sea-domination when Jack’s past sins take a toll on him too, being a pirate and all… Geoffrey Rush is once more an absolute master of the art, and revives a character that has shown multiple layers through the series. In Dead Men, his devotion and protecting nature emerges once more and not only for his beloved Black Pearl. His signature laughter and scornful grimace can rightfully compete with Depp’s zigzaggy and rock n’roll persona. 

p6.jpg

Speaking of which, if there was one thing I didn’t feel as familiar here that was Jack Sparrow! Bizzarely, he felt heavy and tired, as if he was reluctantly awaken in the middle of a good dream and went along with the action only because there was no other choice (just like in his actual opening scene in the film). What I mean is that there wasn’t much passion in the performance that the teasing and cunning look he delivered every sentence with in the past is missing here. Perhaps it was intentional, as part of the character’s development and in order to reflect his downfall given that he hits bottom when in the absence of the Pearl, his crew and his rum, he trades his once most precious possession after his ship, his magic compass. 

p4.jpg

Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem) is a dark, tormented and merciless figure that has been consumed by hate all his life and all his death! Salazar and his crew, who have fallen victims of a curse – just like Barbossa and his own in the Curse of the Black Pearl – that turned them into ghosts and kept them trapped in the Devil’s Triangle and we all guess who was the culprit… Having read reviews that accused the film of being overly surrealistic, I expected outrageous additions to the Pirates’ universe however; I found more similarities to the first film than contradictions. If surrealism and fantasy is not your cup of tea and you expect an accurate depiction of pirate life then I suggest you not to watch it or if you do, to not criticise the film for not being something that it has never pretended to be! The whole franchise is based on mythology, magic, curses and monsters. In my case, it was only the fish-like crew of the Flying Dutchman that seriously challenged my aesthetics and posed a threat to identification with the character of David Jones, as it was simply too hard to see the man beneath the mollusc. However, it didn’t feel far-fetched because I’ve embarked on the adventure with the Pirates on a ship of skeleton-looking fellas under the moonlight, admitting there were supernatural creatures in the unknown sea…

p3.jpg

Salazar’s Revenge is an entertaining vision with memorable bits, including the bank robbery attempt, finding the stunningly sparkly island where Poseidon’s trident lies, hearing the tale from Salazar’s mouth and all the ending scenes basically (yes I cried, so what?!). It is also rich in funny moments, like when Jack encounters the very French guillotine, when Carina is trying to explain to pirates that she is an astronomer and a horologist, when Jack is brought into a horrifying marital engagement etc. 

Love of many kinds is touched upon again in the franchise: the father – son/daughter bond and sacrificial nature of the relationship, friendship, romance, and of course the love for the sea/freedom and for the beauty that captured both Jack’s and Hector’s heart, the Black Pearl. 

The ending brought me tears because I’m soft, a sucker for romance, sacrifices, reunions, and that signature score of the Pirates of the Caribbean that is embedded in my brain and brings about strong emotions every single time it touched my ears without fail. 

p2.jpg

After the film, you might want to watch once more your favourite Pirates of the Caribbean film (chances are it’s The Curse of Black Pearl), start counting the stars, you might develop an interest about astronomy, have a drink with rum, say “hombre” with unprovoked hostility, call your dad to declare your love for him and fantasise that your next holiday will involve a boat. 

Bite the flesh and loose control; Raw (2016), dir: Julia Ducournau

raw-poster.jpg

I very much anticipated the film that made viewers faint in Toronto Film Festival as a result of the realistic depiction of cannibalism. Horror and cannibalism have never been my cup of tea on the screen – with the glorifying exception of the Bryan Fuller’s NBC TV series, Hannibal – so I wasn’t sure how I would react to young Justine’s cravings. My stomach was tight throughout the film but I genuinely liked it. Raw has an incredible energy as the tension and the horror build up slowly from the beginning only to climax towards the end. It scares you, disgusts you, shows you the darkest corners of human sexuality, upsets you and terrorises you at a very realistic level as you gradually spot the similarities between the protagonist and yourself.

The film’s French/Belgian title is Grave that means serious, important and is connected to a vital scene in the narrative. And a serious condition it is, the one Justine, our heroine finds herself into. Triggered by a bite of raw meat as part of the initiation ritual for sophomores by the veterinary school’s fraternity, she is experiencing for the first time (having being a vegetarian all her life) an unquenched desire for flesh.

raw5.jpg

Ducournau’s first attempt to direct is heavily inspired by the 2000 Canadian horror Ginger Snaps and the erotic French 2001 Trouble Every Day. The cult films explore the relationship of two teenage sisters that unite against the threat of an unwanted transformation. In the case of Raw, it is not the myth of the Lycanthropes (aka Werewolves) or that of Vampires that messes with the siblings’ lives but their cannibalistic desires. Our two sisters, Alexia and Justine have an imbalanced relationship, charged with antagonistic feelings that spur violent confrontations.

raw.jpg

Justine enters a new world much crazier and brutal than what she can take. Initially, she lowers her head and undergoes the fraternity’s hazing in silence. It becomes clear from the first scene at the school – the raid of dorms by the masked elder students that reminded me of a hostage situation or an attack at gunpoint – that violence is the weapon of power. At the beginning of the film this weapon is at the hands of the fraternity that terrorises Justine and makes her everyday life insufferable (when she has to wear pampers in class, her mattress is thrown under the window, etc.). Later on however, it is Justine who is handed the power thanks to her transformation. She is the most dangerous being amongst them and she is no longer in absolute control. The veterinary school therefore, functions as the platform of personal growth and self-discovery for her and she manages to enter adulthood in a reluctant and horrifying way.

raw3.jpg

Ducournau’s script gives us a story about transformation that cannot be interrupted once it starts and perhaps, it shouldn’t be anyways. Surely, it is not a sweat deal for Justine and her sister (and their mother as we learn by the end of the film in a shocking moment of revelation) to be possessed by their yearnings for fresh human flesh but it is part of their identity, of who they truly are. This is a coming-of-age film that doesn’t judge its heroines but praises their empowerment instead.

The craving for fresh and the physicality of the outbursts of this desire can easily be a metaphor for sexual awakening. The metamorphosis of an innocent teenager who is shy, quiet and feels awkward around boys into a strong, sexy and untamed woman with taboo desires touches upon the female empowerment and sexual liberation in today’s society.

raw2.jpg

A proof for the above in my case was the unexpected level of identification with the character that I experienced. Her vulnerability and insecurity when new sensations and urges overwhelm her on the one side and her force, courage and lust for life on the other make Jusitne a highly relatable heroine who you can root for because she goes through an ordeal that remind you a lot of your own adolescent troubles. Finally, the much talented 19-year old Garance Marillier (Justine) gives a brave and dynamic performance that is imperative to the film’s quality. She captivates the viewer as she mirrors their reactions to what is being unfold before them because her heroine seems to be one of us, just like us or could she simply be us?

 

 

 

Erotic Thriller or A Tale of Sadistic Deceit; The Handmaiden (2016), dir: Park Chan-wook

Park’s recurrent themes are prevalent here as well as sadism, deceit, violence, sex, revenge and freedom intertwine, by weaving a thrilling and sensual tale of dramatic proportions.

For weeks I’ve been passing by the film’s poster and each time it caught my eye! I was curious but I remained stubbornly away from trailers and reviews until I finally visited the theatre this evening. I needed a genuine thrill for a change but as the Rolling Stones wisely mark, you can’t always get what you want….

I might not have had the most intense experience but I liked the film as a whole. It was engaging for the most part thanks to the stirring narrative and the surprising twists and revelations. The visual art of its photography, the aesthetically masterful shots and the purposefully created costumes are some of the strongest elements of The Handmaiden. The film is a psychological thriller with a sufficient character study and sparkling sensuality. The photography is amazing by praising landscapes and interiors and by indulging us with portraits and aesthetic sexual frames.

Although, I recognise that The Handmaiden is an artful creation I did not achieve immersion into the story, or identification with any of the characters. As a result, the end arrives and despite the classic conclusion where ”the good prevail, the evil are shattered”, I am not experiencing catharsis or satisfaction (with the exception of the destructive activities that take place in the library).

The acting style adopted in the film matched inappropriately overtone facial expressions with scenes that would have benefited of strict focus on sensuality and sexual tension. As a matter of fact, I believe the last sex scenes (that also happen to last the longest) did not add to the story or the character study. The film is ultimately sweet and romantic with scenes that spur laughter in the place of tension and focus, interrupting transportation into the narrative and disconnecting the senses.

Image result for the handmaiden lovers

In contrast, I particularly enjoyed Hideko’s (the lady’s) theatrical readings of Marquis de Sade’s works. Her performance is spotless, stunning and gripping. Also, the bathtub scene where Sook-hee employs her amateur dentistry knowledge to smooth her lady’s tooth provokes titillation and excitement far more than the more graphic scenes that the protagonists share throughout the film.

Finally, the way Park chooses to deliver the story is brilliant and the three-part storytelling reveals the different perspectives and inner instincts of our two heroines (1. the handmaiden’s, 2. the lady’s, 3. the story’s epilogue). The first two parts consist of repetitions that enhance the cinematic experience instead of tiring viewers (an arguably rare thing!) as moments are revisited from different angles and previously concealed facts are revealed.

Related image

After having watched  The Handmaiden don’t be surprised if you want to wear colourful gloves, have sex, visit South Korea, read a chapter from one of Sade’s scripts, or if you happen to have a nightmare about wet, dark basements and gigantic octopuses.

The ‘Doris, Rock and Tony’ Trilogy; three ‘delicious’ romanctic comedies celebrating the battle of the sexes

How could I describe how I feel about the films that this amazing Hollywood trio made together?  Well…

blue-cake-cupcakes-pink-purple-favim-com-416418

Cupcakes! They are easy, fun, smooth, sweet, old-fashioned, colourful and interesting-looking sweets..eh..films! Just like with cupcakes, you never realise how soon they are over, and you always crave more than one. You enjoy them with a hot brew, and they surely lift your spirits.

The “Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Tony Randall Trilogy”, as I enjoy calling it consists of three delightful, romantic comedies; “Pillow Talk (1959), “Lover Come Back” (1961), and “Send me no Flowers” (1964). In these wonderful, light cinematic creations you can expect to find; phone conversations, antagonism among the sexes, stereotypes, advertising accounts, intoxicating candy, annulled marriages, sexual harassments, divorces, pregnancies, moose photography, product inventions, classy and colourful wardrobes, bromances, funeral arrangements, golf cart malfunctions and many, many more memorable moments.

Pillow Talk (1959)movie-pillow-talk-big

Brad: Look, I don’t know what’s bothering you, but don’t take your bedroom problems out on me.

Jan: I have no bedroom problems. There’s nothing in my bedroom that bothers me.

BradOh-h-h-h. That’s too bad.

Jan Morrow (Doris Day), an interior decorator, has to share her party line with Brad Allen (Rock Hudson), a womanizing composer with a fetish to make long, romantic calls to his many lovers, to whom he dedicates the same ballad, changing only the lucky lady’s name in the lyrics each time. They are both single, independent and passionate; Jan is serious, hard-working, and composed, whereas Brad is playful, superficial, and afraid of commitment.

Jan can barely get a call through due to Brad’s endless calls and decides to confront him, and so begins their antagonistic relationship. The dialogue is quick and catchy, resembling an enjoyable ping-pong match (the usage of split-screens during their phone conversations were truly unique at the time). Being two strangers who fight over their line, and exchange ironic remarks, they have never actually met. One night, when Brad’s on a date with one of these delightful ladies, discovers that Jan is sitting in the next table. Knowing he stands no chance with her if he reveals his identity, he decides to pretend to be Rex, a Texan rancher who is visiting New York for the first time on business.

Except for the party line, the two protagonists have another thing in common;  Jonathan Forbes (Tony Randall). As Brad’s best friend, and Jan’s client and wanna-be boyfriend, Jonathan interferes when he discovers his friend’s deceiving plans, and remains the most comic figure throughout the film (the highlight of which is the scene at the diner with a crying Jan, in my opinion…). Jonathan is a rich, spoilt, sweet, spontaneous and goofy boy who employs a hilarious deep-voice to project the serious image of authority and prestige.

pillow-talk-1

The story is simple and the ending predictable, but sharing a party line serves as a convenient and yet, pretty original storytelling mechanism and won the film the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay). Rock and Doris are a radiant couple on-screen, as a result of their captivating chemistry that is both visual and intellectual. They are arguably more shiny and sophisticated than the average couple you see on the street but it is as if their real-life friendship Doris and Rock had is transparent through their characters on-screen, making them the coolest and funniest couples in Hollywood comedy.

The film managed to transform Doris’s image from the ‘girl-next-door’ to the ‘classy, independent and sex symbol’ of her era, and the legendary costume designer Jean Louis played a major role in that. Pillow Talk was also Rock’s first break from melodramas, and revealed his potential to do comedy, which is unexpectedly natural and refreshing. Doris’s shocked goggling and Rock’s sweet smirk become their comic signature that spreads laughter. Even after having watched the film several times, Brad’s masquerade still gives me a good laugh, and especially Rock’s imitation of the accent and macho-ways of a Texan man.

Lover Come Back (1961)

lover-come-back0-none

Carol Templeton: You kissed me and I was thrilled!

Jerry Webster: A kiss? What does that prove? It’s like finding out you can light a stove. It doesn’t make you a cook.

Jerry Webster (Rock Hudson) and Carol Templeton (Doris Day) are both Account Executives working in rival advertising agencies in Madison Avenue. Jerry’s unethical tactic of winning clients over is relied on partying, drinking and visiting strip clubs with them, which comes in complete contrast with Carol’s work ethic and thus, makes him a despised figure in her eyes.

The main idea behind the film doesn’t differentiate from that of Pillow Talk as mistaken identity works once again as a key plot device. The two characters have never met, and a simple circumstantial accident gives Jerry the chance to masquerade this times as a Nobel Prize-winner chemist, Dr. Linus Tyler who is the inventor of a promising new product for Jerry’s agency. Carol jumps at the opportunity to steal the account by trying everything to please the sensitive, intellectual, and too innocent scientist.

Irene, the Award-nominated costume designer for her work in B.F.’s Daughter (1948) and Midnight Lace (1960), created Carol’s wardrobe as a favour to her close friend Doris Day. Irene was one of the greatest fashion designers of old Hollywood and has dressed  Ginger Rogers in Shall We Dance (1937), Constance Bennett in Topper (1937), Carole Lombard in To Be or Not to Be (1941), Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), and Esther Williams in Jupiter’s Daughter (1949), to name a few.

Send Me No Flowers (1964)

send-me-no-flowers

Dr: Is it a sharp pain, is it a dull pain, or does it grip like a vice.

George: Yes, yes!

Dr: Nonono, pick one! 

George: I guess it’s a sharp pain, hurts like the dickens when I press it.

DrThen don’t press it!

In this one, Rock and Doris are no strangers bound by mutual contempt but a happily married couple; George and Judy Kimball. The only problem is that George is a hypochondriac who lives on countless pills, enough to fill an entire bathroom cabinet! George visits his doctor after experiencing chest pains and although he is reassured of his well-being, he overhears a conversation that leaves him convinced he has a terminal disease. After the initial shock, he takes it upon himself to makes sure Judy is taken care of after he is gone, which in the 1960’s naturally meant that she find a new rich and loving husband to replace her late one. So George attempts to find that new husband for Judy so that she doesn’t fall in the wrong hands and in all this he has his loyal friend and neighbour Arnold Nash (Tony Randall) by his side.

The film thrives off of confusion and a chain of amusing misunderstandings that provide a pure and simple avenue for comedy. The two funniest scenes by far are delivered by Paul Lynde who plays Mr. Akins, the operator of the funeral home that George visits to buy a burial plot (another business he had to take care of before his final hour…). 

 

 

The golden apple in the garden of video-game films; Assassin’s Creed (2016), dir: Justin Kurzel

assassins_creed_ver4

Prepare yourselves for the exception in video-game film genre. Take it from someone who is unfamiliar with the games, and detests video-game movies, like Warcraft (2016), Lara Croft and Resident Evil (well..all of them), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010 – sorry Jake…) etc. The trio (director Justin Kurzel and actors Michael Fassbender – who is also one of the producers and Marion Cotillard) that created Macbeth (2015) returns with an utterly different story and format. Mythology, Apple of Eden, highly-trained assassins bearing an important deadly mission, scientific, the Spanish Inquisition (stakes, persecution etc.), eagles, parkour, fights, chase, Sinister figures, conspiracy etc. These are all included in the film that seems to have been conceived in the Dan Brown conspiracy universe with the addition of impressive parkour chase acts and a little bit of Marion/Fassbender magic.

ac

Cal (Michael Fassbender) becomes an orphan and a runaway when his father murders his mother. Thirty years later, he is sentenced to death for murder. He is about to be executed when his life takes an unexpected turn. Abstergo Foundation transports him to their facility in Madrid where Dr. Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) offers him a new life, if he agrees to help her find a relik of the past. This item is none other than the Apple of Eden, which contains the genetic code for free will. Why he is the guiding map to the relic? Because of his blood line, part of his DNA belongs to his ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha who is also the last man who is known to have had the Apple in his possession. Dr. Rikkin’s machine, the Animus allows people to relive genetic memories of their ancestors so Cal’s mission takes him to Aguilar’s and Maria’s (Ariane Labed), his partner’s path in ensuring the safety of the Apple.

ac10

There are several things I loved about this film: it would be unfair to dismiss its strengths out of holes in the storyline. First, it has a brilliant score signed by Jed Kurzel (the director’s brother), which sets the accelerated rhythm of the fighting and running with the addition of dark and mysterious turns that match perfectly the colour pallet of the haunting Andalusia of torture and fear.

In addition, the Assassin’s Creed is different from its video-game peers in the sense that it has a cast that adds prestige to the simplistic story plot. Apart from the aforementioned protagonists, Jeremy Irons plays the sinister British figure (stereotypical but ever pleasing), Brendan Gleeson is [once more – Trespass Against Us (2017)] Fassbender’s overly dutiful and sullen father, Charlotte Rampling is the queen of the vicious Christian Templar that controls humanity throughout the centuries and finally, Michael K. Williams plays the humorous and passionate descendant of yet another assassin.

ac4

The dialogue is subtle and clever, and the film’s atmosphere successfully transports you in the Spanish Inquisition era. The dark colour pallet and the costume design achieve the recreation of the 15th century era with the same detail found in a masterful painting [the cinematographer is Adam Arkapaw, another member of the Macbeth (2015) team]. The frenetic action (roof parkour chase mostly) is particularly refreshing as it is imaginatively choreographed and beautifully executed. The energy the film projects, whether it is achieved through the performances, the dizzying action, or the use of colour and movement in its composition compensates for the weak core story.

Assassin’s Creed is not a massive hit but unlike its own kind, it is not a boring and outrageously unreasonable film either. As a whole, it may disorient, confuse and provoke complete indiference for the Assassins’ life mission, probably due to a great dosage of fetishism. It is a pity because its themes of identity and duty (“A man grows by the greatness of his task” ~ Cal justly claims) are universal and everlasting. While watching the film, and not having been able to identify with the characters (Oops…) I had sparse thoughts and questions around these themes. Questions, such as ‘Will you follow a predetermined path, or draw your own?’, ‘If free will is so precious then why do we deny it on a daily basis?’, ‘Why people feel the need of believing in something so completely (whether it’s science, violence, religion, another person, work, a bad or a good habit) that their existence is absorbed in it?’.

assassins-creed-gallery-04-gallery-image

Finally, my most intense thoughts were about this Animus machine that I would crave to have. Undoubtedly, given the chance I would use it all the time until my friends held an intervention. It must be thrilling to experience the memories of your ancestors and have access to everything that accounted to your existence. According to M. Szyf’s and M. J. Meaney’s body of research in behavioural epigenetics, alterations in brain neuron pass down from one generation to the other. The idea of accumulated experiences of you past generations is scientifically proven and that is what makes the film’s concept intriguing.

According to the new insights of behavioural epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA (http://discovermagazine.com/2013/may/13-grandmas-experiences-leave-epigenetic-mark-on-your-genes). Wouldn’t you love to go back and witness everything that shaped you into who you are (genetically at least) and become a natural historian in the meantime? Experience the danger of a battlefield but without being inflicted a single scratch?! Redefine yourself through the fragments of time that are inside you anyway?

In spite of being a somewhat mediocre film, in the Assassin’s Creed can be found scenes of excellent acting and action that redeem this period piece; Fassbender’s physical acting approach to the execution scene, the mental game of influence/ trust between him and Cotillard, Fassbender singing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”, and all these juicy Andalusian parkour chase scenes.

I suggest you take the “Leap of Faith” and watch this one because….

“Nothing is true, everything is permitted.”