Archive for ‘Film Review’

December 4, 2011

A Seoulful Effort


Fear Eats the Seoul debuted in the United States last night to a quaint group of twenty-to-thirty-somethings, who could not have known what to expect from the cherubic NJ Calder on his maiden feature film effort.  With a budget of $4500, Calder skillfully pieced together a horror flick, ripe with depth and subtle original twists to the genre.  Set in Seoul, South Korea, it is about four English teacher transplants trying to survive a sudden zombie apocalypse, while facing their own unsavory character flaws.  Mirrors are a prevalent symbolic presence, representing a forced reflection that the protagonists must have of themselves if they are going to deal with the “demons” and get along with each other.  After locking themselves into a safe haven, the foursome find that, aside from hunting for food and debating what their next move will be, there’s not a whole lot to do.  The stress and tension build as the realtime vignettes pull viewers into a setting saturated with conflict.

In the spirit of 28 Days Later, Fear Eats the Seoul is better characterized as a drama with zombies as opposed to a traditional gore fest, like Dead/Alive and Dawn of the Dead.  With expected budgetary constraints, Calder knew he had to piece together images that suggest devastating violence instead of putting it on gratuitous display.  The result proves Calder a prodigy in that often overlooked editing portion of the filmmaking skill set.  Couple the quick cuts with near seizure-inducing focus shifts, throw in a sickly tense score, and voila: a highly entertaining, gripping movie emerges.

Another applaudable aspect of the film is Calder’s awareness of the need for the zombies to be stylized.  He challenged himself to be original.  Though inspired by Freddy Krueger, the “demons” as they are called (a play on the “inner demons” that the characters must face), are different from the monster predecessors that fans of the genre have seen countless times before.  Once transformed, the demons develop a predatory tool with their fingers having turned into elongated root-like claws.  The faces of the demons resemble a somehow even more horrifying version of Heath Ledger’s Joker of The Dark Knight fame and these zombies are fast and smart too.

Calder appeals to the horror die hards though by lifting the premise that once a human’s skin has been broken by a demon, they too turn into one.  This sets up the inevitable moment where a character must choose to become malevolent towards someone who, moments earlier, were quite dear to them.  Perhaps the best example of Calder’s ability to be true to the genre, yet unique is the kill method that must be employed, which involves pinpoint blows to an undead head, originating from the unquestioned foundational film Night of the Living Dead, but with a symbolic variation that astute viewers will find themselves pondering in between late night shuddered looks around their apartment.

Opportunities to view NJ Calder’s Fear Eats the Seoul may be limited, but should you over the course of the next year or so find it listed on the queue of a local indie film festival, a download of a couple of etickets to your smart phone should happen as quickly as you can say “Soju Hangover.”

February 22, 2011

Everybody’s “Blue”?


As I walked out of the theater that had thankfully showcased Blue Valentine for me, I overheard a conversation between a couple of girls in their early twenties.  The centerpiece of their discussion was: “Don’t go and see this with a new significant otherrrr…Yah! It’ll be, like, awkwarrrrrd!”

I loved the movie.  It’s about a struggling married couple on the verge of divorce, but Derek Cianfrance and his post-production crew dexterously edit in heart-warming, delightful scenes that are highlights of Dean’s (Ryan Gosling) courtship of the very receptive Cindy (Michelle Williams), which serve as a mighty juxtaposition to where they fatefully end up as a couple.

Viewers of this film, be they verbally eloquent or not, will be naturally inclined to judge it as a real downer.  Like most couples, Dean and Cindy begin on quite a high note.  The boy, painfully devoid of self-esteem, uses his wit, charm, and smile to actually land the blond girl of his dreams.  But then, time and choices plague them to the point of destruction.  And there’s a kid involved.

Many may think this film is a testament to the death of love, the idea that it’s all a myth.  Not so.  One needs to consider the fact that this couple was quite young and immature when they sealed their respective fates.  The best segments of this work, in my opinion, are when the two first meet.  The positive energy they emit radiates off the screen and into your heart.  Dwell on this. (Somehow Ryan Gosling has not earned a Best Actor nod.  He, like many before him, may be on his way to a “Career Oscar.”)  Sure their shit gets all fucked up, but that doesn’t have to be you either.  Thematically, “Go with your gut” rings true, but, at the same time, “Learn from your mistakes” is triumphant.

True love takes time to develop.  Blue Valentine, with hints on the corruption of the American Dream as well, discusses this point.  So, don’t think about breaking up with your “significant other” after watching this flick.  Instead, take marked appreciation of the good times because they may not, or just may, last.

December 28, 2010

Amendments to “Inception” and “Coen Bros.” Posts


My Previous Coen Bros. Post

Inception Part II

I got a chance to see Barton Fink and Blood Simple – the other two Coen Bros. movies that I conveniently left out of my post on their canon.  Barton Fink, in my opinion, is a film that you, like I did til last week, can skip.  It was a decent movie, relatively speaking, but by far the worst work of the Coens.  However, as it also turned out to be the case with True Grit (I Told Ya So), Barton Fink too falls within the observation I made about the Coens’ running theme of the consequences of excessive desire.  In this film, the title character seeks to have commercial and financial success as a writer while maintaining artistic integrity.  With that set up, the Coens state their gripe with Hollywood and the idea of selling out through the film.  Again, not a bad film, but this has been said quite a few different ways in quite a few different places.  With Blood Simple, the Coens’ first feature-length work and breakout release, all four major characters suffer from overzealous want.  Ray wants a married woman, Abby.  Abby wants Ray, but is married to Marty.  Marty wants Abby to continue to be his trophy wife.  And the P.I. wants money for a job he is unwilling to do.  With multiple Macbeth allusions, madness ensues.  This is a must see.

A couple of things have been brought to my attention about the Inception posts.  The biggest one being that Miles is, in fact, Mal’s father, not Cobb’s.  The plot synopsis on IMDB.com says as much, though I don’t know how that is made terribly evident in the film itself.  It is also strange considering that seemingly everyone in the film thinks it was Cobb’s fault that Mal “committed suicide.”  Yet his father-in-law would not, even after Cobb flees?  My feelings on the film working better as a miniseries are still maintained.  However, I’ll say that some tweaking to the new story lines in the early episodes that I presented is due.  Perhaps Miles becomes acquainted with Cobb in the military and takes a liking to the boy; there’s something innocent and pure about him.  Then, obviously, this makes way for Cobb’s relationship with Mal.  The other oversight in my posts was that Yusuf was a new addition to Cobb’s network.  Still, the point I was trying to make was that over the course of the 13 episode miniseries, the audience would have a chance to have greater sympathy towards all the characters, thus building tension and excitement as the plot progresses.  If Yusuf were introduced earlier, then this would hold up for his character, along with Eames, Arthur, and the like.

December 23, 2010

True Grit – I Told Ya So


The latest of the Brothers Coen was released nationwide today and it did not disappoint.  True Grit had a lot in it that was expected, but some very pleasant surprises as well, the first being Matt Damon’s performance.  The LaBoeuf character presented a lot of challenges for him; there’s a paradoxical confidence about him, trimmed with an awkward dorkiness due to his pride in being a Texas Ranger.  But Damon pulls this off wonderfully.  If you see the film, you’ll find it shocking that I’d list Damon’s part here over the newbie Hailee Steinfeld’s offering as Mattie.  She is perhaps more impressive than Damon considering, obviously, her age and the fact that she took on what is essentially the lead role in the film.  However, Damon’s character could have easily been a throw-away and he saw to enrich the piece as much as the script would possibly allow with a high degree of success.

Then there’s Bridges.  He is the main reason why viewers will call this movie “character-driven.”  He won the Oscar for his role in Crazy Heart-a great performance in a not-so-great movie-just last year.  I wish the Academy had waited 12 more months though.  I doubt they will give him back-to-back statues and I argue that he would be more deserving of one this season as opposed to last.  Bridges masterfully mixes subtle movements and one-eyed looks with blatant comedic timing, bringing Cogburn’s flawed, yet heroic character to life.  I’ve heard some commentary on how well-written the film is, but that Bridges delivers a lot of great dialogue with an excessive garble.  Not so.  Just pay attention and you’ll catch some lines that could turn out to be legendary.  And Bridges’ speech patterns are there for a reason: to characterize Cogburn, which he does most deftly.

Lastly, as anticipated, and without giving too much away, Mattie’s character (maybe all the characters, come to think of it) certainly does find herself embattled with excessive desire.  I was in awe of her strength of character (again, incredibly well-delivered by the actress).  The Coens make this overtly apparent in the opening sequences of the film.  This made me a bit anxious to see if my prediction from my previous article on this film and filmmakers would prove correct.  I’ll simply say that it does.  To find out how, go see the flick.  I would strongly urge you to do so.