Editor’s Note: Below is the first piece in a new film series here on the Jet Fuel Review Blog, written by Yana Moberg, which will focus specifically on foreign film reviews.
Demon, a Polish-Israeli film written and directed by Marcin Wrona, presents a haunting story centered around a young couple, Zanetta and Piotr (Agnieszka Zulewska and Itay Tyran respectively). Piotr’s an English-born groom just trying to fit in with his new Polish wife’s mildly xenophobic family. His attempts at speaking their language is rather awkward, but still, Piotr perseveres to become accepted in this new culture, including his insistence on moving into and renovating the rural home that the bride had inherited from her grandfather.
Piotr also plans to make a positive impression on his in-law’s by having a traditional Polish wedding reception (something the married couple never experienced because they previously only had a court wedding), which will also take place on the new property. But in the process, Piotr discovers a skeleton in the yard. From here, things progress rather expectedly.
Following several delays and months of speculation, the first look at the new entry in executive producer J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield franchise came in the form of an ad spot during the Super Bowl. It was the first-ever official announcement ofJulius Onah’s The Cloverfield Paradox, and with it came the surprise that just two hours later, the film would be released worldwide on Netflix. It‘s an absolutely unheard of, crazy marketing strategy that worked, instantly making me as interested in watching the new film as I was in continuing the excitingly close football game that, for a mere 30 seconds, a brief trailer had managed to steal the spotlight from.
But with the film’s unique release aside, Paradox unfortunately watches quite pitifully. Stocked with a complicated mess of a plot, a large cast of insubstantial characters (even more damning due to the sheer talent of the actors that comprise the roles), and barely any driving force behind its uninteresting narrative, Paradox as a film remains stranded — not so much unlike its focal-point space station and its crew when they’re seemingly left helpless in a separate dimension from their own.
Netflix’s first big foray into blockbuster filmmaking, Bright, comes courtesy of End of Watch director David Ayer, Chronicle scribe Max Landis, and prominently stars the Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith. I’ve previously enjoyed the works of these three men, but haven’t felt quite right in recent years regarding each of their respective output in the industry. I mean, Ayer was also responsible for the absolutely reprehensible Suicide Squad from last year, Landis is now potentially (and perhaps unsurprisingly) a piece of human garbage, and Will Smith hasn’t made a truly good film since The Pursuit of Happyness all the way back in 2006 (I Am Legend is alright too, but that’s also 10 years old now). After viewing Bright, I may have to reconsider the quickly fading fandom I have for any of the people responsible in the making of this movie (except in regards to Landis, because if what is coming out about him is actually true, then there will be no reconsidering — only regret). What I’m trying to tell you, is that Bright really is as bad as all of the critics are saying it is.
But let’s start with the little that Bright does get right, shall we? Well, the film actually introduces a compelling enough premise; one in which the lore in fantasy stories like The Lord of the Rings aren’t only relegated to the Middle Ages, and have instead been fast-forwarded to a present-day Los Angeles that’s not too dissimilar to our very own version. Of course, what makes the film stand out is that this world inhabits humans among orcs, elves, and fairies, as well as the magic that come with them. In one of the film’s only noteworthy pieces of dialogue, we are even presented with the idea of a great, millennia-old war having been fought between the humans and the mythological creatures that still live beside them today. When you realize that this single, seemingly throwaway line is among the only notable pieces of dialogue in this thing — outside of the many quotable bad ones — you can truly begin to understand why Bright is as awful as it is.
Over the course of two weeks in the summer of 2003, an indie film called The Room made an almost nonexistent splash when it screened at only two theaters in the heart of Los Angeles, returning a mere $1,800 on an apparent $6 million budget. The film should have likely disappeared from the annals of pop culture altogether, but The Room is one of those “so bad it’s good” kind of movies — one commonly (and deservedly) referred to as the greatest worst movie of all time. Its destiny would be to soon become a beloved cult-classic of larger-than-life proportions, with many of its biggest proprietors among Hollywood’s most well-known stars — one of which is James Franco, whose latest endeavor is based on the film’s ludicrous production.
Directly inspired by a 2013 novel of the same name and written by The Room co-star Greg Sestero, James Franco’s The Disaster Artist is Ed Wood for the millennial generation. Like the infamous film it is based on, James Franco directs, produces, and stars in The Disaster Artist, and is unbelievably brilliant in his portrayal of the film’s notorious creator, Tommy Wiseau. Franco absolutely nails every aspect of the man from his accent to his mannerisms — almost to the point that it seems he was quite obsessed with Wiseau. His co-stars are similarly wonderful, with his A-list friends and frequent collaborators making up many of the supporting roles (including Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, and Josh Hutcherson).
“My movie is born first in my head, dies on paper; is resuscitated by the living persons and real objects I use, which are killed on film but, place in a certain order and projected onto a screen, come to life again like flowers in water.”
— Robert Bresson, Notes on the Cinematographer
The 1959 film directed by Robert Bresson, Pickpocket, is a mosaic of human complexity as much as it is a defiance of morality through a character that is uncertain of life. The film is incredibly literary in its executions — being heavily inspired by Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment —with a director puppeteering his actors to escape his opinion of superficiality and including a main character that narrates throughout. Relating to my previous post on the auteur theory, Bresson was one of the directors that these theorists actually admired. He has a distinct presentation of his philosophy in his films, making him a quintessential image of an auteur. Pickpocket is no exception.
The Bressonian style emerges with its presentation of lifestyle, specifically one of a person who identifies with the profession of a pickpocket. The image of this specific pickpocket is what Bresson and his cinematographer, Léonce-Henri Burel, present through exceptional camerawork, which consists of tightly framed close-ups that make the viewer pay witness to these crimes. The camera also places no negative opinion on these crimes, being indifferent to these sequences and allowing the audience to create a positive or negative judgement.
Below is a review of the recently-released Thor: Ragnarok, written by Lewis University student Jerry Langosch.
Since 2008 with the release of Iron Man, Marvel Studios have been, like clockwork, pumping out energetic, focused films in their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). They tell the tales of their plethora of superheroes and villains to the tune of millions of dollars in production costs, but billions in return from the box office, with 2012’s The Avengers being the shining star (making $1.5 billion on a $220 million budget). The Thor franchise, though, sticks out from the most from the bunch, as it is rooted in real Norse mythology. And though it is a tall order to hand over such material so heavily-rooted in mythology to any filmmaker, Marvel’s decision to put New Zealand’s Taika Waititi behind the third entry in this series is, astonishingly, the best move that the company has made in tapping directorial talent to date.
Found below are four reviews of the the 2012 Oscar-winning documentary, Searching for Sugar Man, written by Lewis University students Cynthia Saucedo, Andrea Ecarma, Star Quiroz, Jerry Langosch.
Searching for Sugar Man: A Modern Fairy Tale
Searching for Sugar Man (2012), directed by the late Malik Bendjelloul, tells a story that would be considered a modern fairy tale. Rodriguez is introduced as a mystery, untraceable man, and a prophet. The film’s mystery is built-up by using low-key lighting, shadows, and foggy images. Furthermore, when sound is utilized, it creates an eerie feeling and generates excitement, while the lack of sound highlights the importance of a scene. Playing Rodriguez’s actual soundtrack makes the audience recognize the true beauty in his music and leads them to wonder why he never made it in the music industry.