Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...
On this page: BLUE RUIN | TARZAN
< <
I N D I E S > >
last update 27.Apr.14
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Blue Ruin
dir-scr Jeremy Saulnier
prd Richard Peete, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani
with Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, Eve Plumb, David W Thompson, Brent Werzner, Stacy Rock, Sidne Anderson, Bonnie Johnson, Ydaiber Orozco, Erica Genereux Smith
blair release US 25.Apr.14,
UK 2.May.14
13/US 1h32

sundancelondon film fest
Blue Ruin There's a moral complexity to this brutal, low-key revenge thriller that gets under our skin, even if the characters feel somewhat simplistic. But then, these are people whose reactions are based on emotions rather than deep consideration. And filmmaker Saulnier takes us into their world in some extremely harrowing ways.

Dwight (Blair) is living in his bullet-riddled rusty blue Pontiac when he hears that Wade, the man who killed his parents, is out of prison. So he quietly stalks him, discovering that killing him is harder than he thought it would be. Afterwards, he runs to his sister (Hargreaves) to wait for the other shoe to drop. Surprisingly, Wade's relatives never call the police, opting instead to get their own revenge. And battling off this heavily armed family of rednecks isn't easy. So Dwight turns to his old pal Ben (Ratray) for help.

Blair is terrific as this hapless, woolly loser whose life has been off the rails since his parents died. Taking baths in empty homes while keeping a low profile, his sudden focus is a jolt, as he fixes his car, shaves his beard and buys a gun. This adds a level of emotion to what follows, creating gut-wrenching tension as well as some genuinely grisly moments of freaky, unsanitised violence.

Writer-director Saulnier tells this story with minimal dialog, letting the characters' faces reveal everything. Cleverly shot and edited, the film continually surprises us as these desperate people go about the messy business of evngeance. It's certainly not as clean-cut as the version Hollywood usually depicts; these outbursts of nasty violence are deeply shocking, offering a parallel political interpretation about how the rush to violence only makes things worse for everyone involved.

It's fascinating to see Dwight change as these events unfold. He's like a different person with each new set of clothes, and yet it's clear that he's not moving forward: he's caught in a cycle of violence in which everyone is attacking without thinking first. Where this goes is deeply personal and darkly visceral, revealing a sense of desperation that's intriguingly undefined. And even as we discover what sparked all of this hatred, we despair that there's no happy ending possible. So we just hope someone gets out alive.

15 themes, language, strong violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir Reinhard Klooss
scr Reinhard Klooss, Jessica Postigo
prd Reinhard Klooss, Robert Kulzer
with Kellan Lutz, Spencer Locke, Les Bubb, Trevor St John, Brian Bloom, Mark Deklin, Robert Capron, Anton Zetterholm, Craig Garner, Jeff Burrell, Jaime Ray Newman, Brian Huskey
tarzan and jane
release Ger 20.Feb.14,
UK 2.May.14
13/Germany Constantin 1h34
Tarzan Edgar Rice Burroughs' iconic hero celebrates his 100th anniversary with this German-produced animated adventure. Although aside from updating the story to the present day and using performance-capture technology, there's little to set this version apart from the other 89 Tarzan movies on record. Still, it has its moments, with some thrilling action and engaging characters.

The only survivor of the helicopter crash that killed his parents, 4-year-old JJ Greystoke (voiced by Garner) takes the name Tarzan, meaning "ape with no hair", as he's raised in the African jungle by a kindly gorilla. As a teen, Tarzan (now Zetterholm) has his first run-in with humans, meeting Jane (Locke), the daughter of his father's former colleague Jim (Bubb), who still runs a research centre nearby. And a few year later, Tarzan (now Lutz) runs into Jane once again, accompanied by new company boss Clayton (St John), who has a nefarious plan.

It's this plan that gives the movie a bit of trouble, since Clayton is after a mythical meteor that has freakish powers. This requires a primordial prologue showing the meteor wiping out the dinosaurs, followed millions of years later by the Greystokes getting caught in its moody power surge. The idea seems to be that we must care about this vast hunk of angry rock, which should remain undisturbed by humanity. But we never buy it.

Fortunately, there are far more engaging plotlines to hold our interest, even if everything feels deeply simplistic. First, there's a violent usurper in the gorilla community who makes Tarzan's life difficult while growing up, leading to the expected challenge for authority, which is startlingly brutal. There's also the "Me Tarzan, you Jane" romantic thread, which has some pungent moments of sexual attraction in between Jane's wearily constant need to be rescued.

The animation is a mix of awkwardly stiff movement and creepy dead eyes, but it's livened up by bracingly realistic motion-capture, gorgeous settings, whizzy 3D gags and references to iconic moments from Tarzan's back catalog. Voice work is solid, bringing the sometimes corny dialog to life. And the most intriguing element on-screen is the relationship between humans and the more-realistically rendered gorillas. This gives the film's environmental message a nice kick that would have been even stronger without the otherwise ridiculous plot.

PG themes, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
A Thousand Times Good Night
dir Erik Poppe
prd Finn Gjerdrum, Stein B Kvae
scr Erik Poppe, Harald Rosenlow-Eeg
with Juliette Binoche, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Larry Mullen Jr, Lauryn Canny, Adrianna Cramer Curtis, Mads Ousdal, Chloe Annett, Bush Moukarzel, Eve Macklin, Najat Azgar, Zoubida Afik
coster-waldau and binoche release US Oct.13 ciff,
UK 2.May.14
13/Ireland 1h51
A Thousand Times Good Night Provocative themes and complex characters make this politically tinged drama resonate in ways we never see coming. Anchored by a transparent performance from Binoche, the film might be too prickly for the mainstream and too emotionally pushy for arthouse crowds, but it's involving and ultimately haunting.

When intrepid war photographer Rebecca (Binoche) is injured in a Kabul bombing, it's the final straw for her husband Marcus (Coster-Waldau). He's tired of waiting for that dreaded call, then having to tell their two daughters: sullen teen Steph (Canny) and demanding youngster Lisa (Cramer Curtis). After Kabul, Rebecca is happy to change her life and stay at home in Ireland. But she's too politically aware not to care about what's happening, so when Steph asks to travel to Kenya for a school project, Rebecca goes along, quickly sniffing out the bigger story.

While the plot is rather too insistent, pushing the characters here and there in ways that aren't particularly organic, it still manages to focus in on issues that bolster the story. Rebecca's personal journey is remarkably provocative, refusing to take a simple route as she struggles with her conflicting inner yearnings. And the bigger picture is breathtaking, as her photographs reveal the truth that Westerners prefer to ignore about events around the world.

"Readers are more interested in seeing pictures of Paris Hilton without her knickers on than what's happening around the world," Rebecca rants. "I want people to choke on their coffee when they open the paper - to think, feel, react." Binoche plays Rebecca with an astonishing internal fire. Even in her softer scenes with the terrific Coster-Waldau and sparky Canny, she exudes curiosity and compassion that are both selfless and self-serving at the same time. This doesn't always make her likeable, but we understand her urges.

Even more important is what's at stake: the world needs people willing to risk their lives to tell the truth. Filmmaker Poppe overstates this idea in an unnecessary (but admittedly moving) sequence, but the power of Rebecca's photographs is undeniable. Not only do they move us to consider the real situations of our fellow human beings, but they can force political bodies to react. This is just the edge this film needs to counter-balance its dramatic excesses. Well, this and Binoche's magnetic eyes.

15 themes, language, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir John Curran
scr Marion Nelson
prd Iain Canning, Emile Sherman
with Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver, Roly Mintuma, Rainer Bock, John Flaus, Robert Coleby, Emma Booth, Jessica Tovey, Melanie Zanetti, Carol Burns, Tim Rogers, Felicity Steel
aiken and mcinnes release Aus Oct.13 aff,
UK 25.Apr.14
13/Australia 1h52

london film fest
Tracks As an account of an incredible true journey, this film can't help but hold our interest, especially when the central figure is so beautifully played. But director Curran opts for glossy warmth rather than expansive nature, which leaves it feeling more like a movie and less like real life.

In 1975 Australia, independent-minded Robyn Davidson (Wasikowska) decides to walk nearly 2,000 miles across the Outback from Alice Springs to the western coast. She knows she'll need at least three camels to carry her supplies, so she spends nearly a year working for camel dealers (Bock and Flaus), building her knowledge while earning money to buy the camels themselves. She also gets sponsorship from National Geographic, which sends photographer Rick Smolan (Driver) to document her along the way. Of course, the journey is packed with adventures and colourful people.

Wasikowska is terrific in the role, a fearless young woman who puts herself through an outrageous feat of courage and endurance, trekking 1,700 miles over nine months as a response to events from her childhood (her explorer father disappeared on a similar journey). And Robyn's ultimate observation is a sobering challenge: "I'd like to think an ordinary person is capable of anything." Wasikowska finds real grit in Robyn's determination, even as director Curran portrays her childhood in Malick-style sun-drenched flashbacks.

At least these visual touches add colour to the film, and Curran catches the hues of the Outback in all their glory: red, brown, white, tan, green and blue. So it's odd that the film feels relatively small by comparison, focussing on warm, homey emotions and the ragtag collection of eccentric people Robyn meets along the trail. Even so, all of this adds texture to the story and imagery, and Robyn's intrepid spirit can't help but be inspirational.

It's also enjoying to watch this gritty loner as she is forced to rely on other people for help, both physical and emotional. Wasikowska creates a terrifically prickly chemistry with Driver, and her scenes with the Aboriginal elder Eddie (Mintuma) are particularly lovely. But the film feels like it skims over the surface of her journey, showing bits of culture and small discoveries without capturing a sense of either the big sky or Robyn's deeper motivations.

12 themes, language, grisliness
15.Oct.13 lff
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< < I N D I E S > >

© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall