Archive for the Sci-Fi Category

SITGES PT. VI: AND THE WINNER IS… ANTIVIRAL, Brandon Cronenberg (2012)

Posted in Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller with tags , , , , , , on October 20, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

And this is the last chapter of my Sitges experience 2012. Not bad, huh? I’ve left the final touch to talk about Antiviral, Brandon Cronenberg’s full-length debut film. Whay can I say? The family ties attract me too much as to miss the screenings in Sitges. I didn’t want anyone to tell me about the film, I had to see for myself and judge. I tried to ease down my expectations, clinging to the idea that despite who his father is, it doesn’t mean that he receives the baton and is able to go on with the tradition. No matter how I tried to deny myself, I knew I wanted Brandon Cronenberg to succeed as the new baron of blood.

Those who are in regular contact with me, and also because the title of the post is quite self explanatory,  you already know my verdict: EPIC WIN.

As soon as I left the room after the screening, I immediately wrote this tweet:

One thing is for sure. Taste for blood and twisted stories is hereditary. Long Live The New Flesh! Hail to the Young Cronenberg!

In a not so remote future time, Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) works for the Lucas Clinic, a company specializing in inoculating its patients with virus samples taken from the hottest celebrities they adore. This is the ultimate fan experience, to develop and pass through the same illness as their idols.

As security is so strong, the only way to smuggle some of these virus to develop into another sub-products to be sold in the black market, Syd shoots himself with leftovers, in order to sell blood samples.

Things get rough when after visiting the super gorgeous Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon) for some samples of an unknown disease she probably caught in China, news announce her sudden death, and he find himself in danger infected by the same disease. March’s body will be pursued as if gold, for many parties will be interested in taking as much advantage as possible from him.

If at this point you don’t think this plot is twisted enough as to be worthy of admiration and recognition as the extension of David Cronenberg’s legacy, now that he’s evolving to more conventional stories, then I’m making you waste your time, because from here you’re only going to read praise to this son’s work.

This is a critic exercise against the fan phenomena happening lately, with the massive media coverage, the narrow line separating fans from stalkers, the pursue of trespassing the intimacy of popular people… women dress like their idols, soccer players are the inspiration for many men, kids named after actors, sportsmen or just yellow press characters… Right now, as in the film, celebrities don’t have to earn it. If they become popular for no reason and people worship them, they go on doing nothing, getting richer and being just famous.

Antiviral goes one step beyond, turning the screw another time: now a guy wants the cold-sore of Hannah Geist, a woman wants to experience the genital herpes of an actress, the man who wants the flu of his idol… and so on. The client pays for suffering, and both the company and the celebrity make profit out of an illness. Could you imagine if that was for real considering what some people are capable of doing for money? Getting rewarded for catching illnesses… it would get out of control, I’m sure.

The film is very aseptic and minimalist, so much it’s disturbing. Blinding white locations are very present, thus any element in contrast, is highlighted. Blood is very intense in the film, for example.

The recruitment of Caleb Landry Jones to play Syd was a great choice, the perfect candidate for that role. His physical features provide the character of more personality. Ginger, freckled, super pale, skinny, and androgynous, with this cold expression as if insensitive… he behaves like a robot, dresses in the same way everyday, sandwich and orange juice are his daily meal, no hobbies, no personal items in his flat but the hidden virus processor, he’s also an aseptic character, only worried for his health as if he was hypochondriac, even though he’s actually monitoring the illnesses he’s submitting to in order to get extra money. The progressive decline, accelerated by this last lethal virus is noticeable: he’s weak, his physical appearance is severely affected, he suffers from paranoia episodes… and cannot get proper help.

Sarah Gadon means perfection in this film. The Cronenbergs’ muse, this time is the celebrity everybody worships. Blonde, perfect, warm and close in the eyes of her fans, adorable… but if you think of it, she’s a rat making money of her illness.

Visually speaking, there are very Cronenberg elements. At some points I thought of Videodrome, eXistenZ and Dead Ringers. Antiviral is suffocating, and those moments when reality conveys with insanity are a clear example.

It has to be hard for Brandon to be constantly related to his father, but the truth is that David Cronenberg is one of the greatest influences in horror sci-fi films, and no matter how hard you try, you’ll always be compared. Beside, Brandon had taken part of the cast of some of his dad’s projects. You’ve learnt from the master in first line, and we the fans love you’ve been so diligent, because the results have been outstanding, surprising everybody with a remarkable debut film. The future of young Cronenberg is promising, and Antiviral has opened the doors to another mad scientist into the business. We only have to wait and see, and hopefully Brandon will be delivering interesting projects which won’t leave us indifferent.

Again, Antiviral is an excellent job, and I just can shout:  LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!


Posted in Action!, Romance, Sci-Fi, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

These two stories have nothing in common but just one remark: they are not bad films but I didn’t feel enthusiastic about them either.

I watched The Tall Man on Wednesday morning, after the suffocating and insane Antiviral, I needed something more dynamic , so it was ok. Aurora on the other hand, was the first one of the marathon, right after having a quick lunch while waiting in the queue, and I was lucky not having succumbed to the classic nap, because the dialogues in the original language were too monotonous, the rhythm was super slow, and the atmosphere was perfect for it.

THE TALL MAN, Pascal Laugier (2012)

I have to admit I expected much more from The Tall Man, having in mind its director Pascal Laugier had shocked  the audience in Sitges few years ago with the film Martyrs. This was the first time he directed an English spoken film supported by a remarkable budget.

Right before the screening of the movie, the attendants were given an amazing small book of the film, including the plot, press reviews, the cast and their roles introduced, how the crew was gather, so as the selection of settings. Very interesting and a nice (and expensive) gesture.

Things in the mining town Cold Rock, in Washington State, are rough. Not only unemployment and poverty strike the neighbors, but also the alarming amount of children disappearing in the area, as if abducted. Everybody talks about The Tall Man, it’s become a popular legend which terrorizes Cold Rock.

Julia Denning (Jessica Biel) is a nurse performing as the doctor in town, who happened to be her husband dead some years ago. She remainsthere even though she’s still seen as a stranger by the locals. She lives with her son David (Jakob Davies), and her friend Christine (Eve Harlow), who looks after the kid while she’s working.

One night an intruder breaks into the house to take David with him, but this “Tall Man” doesn’t know what Julia is capable of to recover her beloved kid. When she informs the authorities on the disappearance, some doubts and evidences point her as responsible for the disappearance of the children, thus she will have to carry on with reckless search for David, getting away from the locals at the same time. Eventually the truth will be discovered.

Pascal Laugier has explained that this project was born years ago, and was interrupted when he worked on the shocking Martyrs. This time he wanted to focus on a real subject as the source of horror, again the starting point is the abduction of children, but this time The Tall Man is a dark thriller. The director thought of Jessica Biel remembering her performance in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. She is an angel face but also has a very athletic body being great in action scenes, in which she tried to avoid being stunted, being more realistic.

It’s true that for most of time the audience is finding their own conclusions that are not valid due to the change of the events and perspectives. The most interesting aspect is that we always tend to identify and label the characters, the good guy, the bad guy…and here this labeling is not suitable till the end. Still, many characters are not relevant, if you pay attention you notice things valid for the final conclusions, but there are other aspects which could be omitted without affecting the final result. The initial plot is not bad, but the development is not convincing.

AURORA (VANISHING WAVES), Kristina Buozyte (2012)

Aurora was the opening film to the marathon at Retiro movie theatre. I didn’t have any idea of what it was about, just the mocking remark of a friend of mine saying he had read somewhere it was erotic.

So there I am, front-centered, ready to enjoy the experience of several movies in a row for about 9 hours, and curious about this Aurora. For no reason, the title was making me of Solaris, something very funny because in essence, the two hours of story were too Solaris inspired.

To start with, the main language in the film was Lithuanian (I thought it was Russian, quite similar and monotonous), with very few lines in English, included in the dialogues among scientists.

Lukas (Marius Jampolskis) has volunteered for a series of experiments consisting  of neuron-transfer transmissions in order to get some response from Aurora (Jurga Jutaite), a young beautiful woman, who is into deep coma after a car crash. The transmissions would be as if travelling into another dimension where Lukas and Aurora will star a secret love affair he will not report to his superiors, putting all the experiment into risk, and also the life of the patient. Of course these strengthened ties will bring out other feelings and situations completely unnoticed in the real world, up to a point all this will be negatively affecting both Lukas and Aurora.

The language, the rhythm, the story in a different dimension, the behavior of Aurora, the sound effects, the work with cameras… everything reminded me as an attempt to create a modern Solaris. It’s undeniable that Tarkovsky’s film was the main inspiration.

It was a rough film to start the marathon, dense, slow, a bit twisted, but the story was quite interesting. Erotic? Nah, you can see boobs, naked bodies and sensual scenes, but not big deal. There were these moments the actors try to create an ideal and allegoric scene of beauty, but the way they move ends up being quite of funny, lessening the effect. Definitely modest in the impact on the audience.


Posted in Directors, Events, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

I woke up this morning with my body still stiff after my first film marathon at Sitges Film Festival yesterday, trying to put things in order so I can tell you about my experience this year.

First of all I have to admit Sitges is the perfect festival for me. There’s too much trash, as it compiles horror, sci-fi, Asiatic films… this is, mostly those non suitable films for standard festivals, but in essence the concept is as if tailor made.

This year I’m unemployed but unfortunately money matters here, and no press registration was available, thus I planned Tuesday evening to watch Chained and The Lords of Salem, and a morning to enjoy Antiviral and The Tall Man. That morning I added one more title, Grabbers, and in the last minute, I could attend this marathon featuring Aurora, Sightseers, Maniac and Johnny Dies at the End.

I still don’t know how to approach the 9 films I saw, because there were great ones I’d like to talk about individually in order to extend the review in depth, and others which, frankly, don’t deserve more than just a few lines. I think I’ll update these minor titles first, to go on with the good stuff.

What I can confirm is that there are several conclusions I reached this time. On one hand, talent and taste for the twisted are hereditary, as Jennifer Lynch and Brandon Cronenberg showed in their visions, and on the other, that great names are not guarantee of nothing anymore, as in the cases of Rob Zombie and Don Coscarelli. And yes, one more remark, there’s still redemption for Alexandre Aja, responsible for the script of the remake of William Lustig’s Maniac, together with his horrorsoulmate Grégory Lavasseur,  one of the best movies I saw last week.

Sitges 2012 has come to an end, but I still have lots of things to tell about, and of course, I’m counting the days already for October 2013.

COSMOPOLIS, David Cronenberg (2012)

Posted in Directors, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

The reason I probably started Popcorn and Movies almost four years ago was David Cronenberg, one of my favorite directors, if not the first one. I’ve revised my earliest posts and damn! They are short and terrible. I’m glad this is something I think I’ve improved  as I’ve been feeling more comfortable with what I wanted to do here. Regarding Cronenberg, , I’ve discovered that right after my first post introducing myself to the world, I immediately talked about the Canadian director. Mine is irrational passion for his work.

It’s been many years since the Baron of Blood started working into more conventional projects, such as A History of Violence or Eastern Promises, receiving sharp criticism who were charmed by his entrails, frightening tools, and twisted stories, in which you as the viewer had to put your senses to work in order to differ what was reality and what hallucination.

With a Dangerous Method, many fans gave up on him as there was no action, no sci-fi, and the story about the triangle relationship among Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein was too philosophical and very heavy to stand for many. Since I love subjects related to psychiatry, I enjoyed the film lots, but I knew immediately that fans would despise it.

Cronenberg is presenting  his last work Cosmopolis at Sitges Film Festival these days, before being released at cinemas in a couple of weeks, and I’ve managed to watch it already. After the trailers and despite the presence of Robert Pattinson, I was really excited about the film. I haven’t finished Don DeLillo’s book yet, but as far as I’m concerned, the script is quite loyal to the original story.

Cosmopolis basically tells the story of the decline of a 28-year-old powerful and hugely wealthy Wall Street shark, in just one day.

Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) has so much money, he can buy everything in life. He’s the atypical man who can hardly understand NO for an answer, so used to have all kind of yes men around. He has barely slept last night and decides he needs a haircut at his favorite barbershop downtown. On an average day such errand would not take much time, but these are restless times, and the city is affected by the presence of the US president, a large funeral, and hordes of anarchists trying to put Capitalism to an end, rioting on the streets. All these events determine the car route to take, which has to be modified at any risk signal Torval (Kevin Durand), his security chief, receives. Thus, most part of the action takes place inside the car, a huge armed  limo equipped high technology, capable of isolating Packer from any outside threat. He receives visits from several counselors and advisers, who consider themselves at a lower lever than their employer, who is defined as a seer. Today Yuen, is behaving beyond his prediction, and the young billionaire is losing large amounts of money at the smallest time measure you might think of, but still he’s calm. Eventually “it will chart”.

He crosses ways with Elise Shifrin (Sarah Gadon), his new wife, a gorgeous poet who barely remembers his physical features and doesn’t feel like having sex with him. Their marriage was actually a transaction, as her family is even wealthier. No matter how much effort Eric puts in having average couple conversations and behaving normal towards her, she’s continuously rejecting and avoiding him. There’s no love nor affection, everything’s a fake. He only seems to be affected by the deprivation of sex, which he quickly eases sexual encounters with a former mistress (Juliette Binoche), who is his art consultant, and a security staff member. It’s remarkable they are both his employees.

Cosmopolis is a series of encounters with different kinds of people, and the cathartic ride of Packer from control and safety to the unknown and dangerous, a ride that he deliberately forced into motion, probably looking for a reason to live and many to keep on doing what he had been doing all these years. As the day advances, not only he’s losing his fortune, but also the unstable situation in the city begins to affect him, and the death threat to his persona is becoming real, so he starts looking forward to facing it the soonest possible.

Again David Cronenberg delivers a work too controversial from the fan point of view. Cosmopolis will never let you indifferent, but there’s one thing for sure: you’ll love it or hate it, but there’s no grey scale you can stick to. My choice is totally predictable: thumbs UP.

If there is something I’ve found disturbing in DeLillo’s book is precisely the coldness of Eric Packer. He’s a control freak and a visionary, and his counselors, real statistics and financial nerdy experts, are way behind him. Every time he asks a question they avoid answering to safe themselves from humiliation for not delivering a smart enough answer. Of the acquaintances he meets throughout the day, nobody stands at his same level, but his barber, Anthony, probably because he’s the only attachment to his past, and consequently to his father. “Destroy the past, make the future”.

His relationship with women is also peculiar. Recently married to Elise, they have nothing in common, and since the very beginning such marriage is doomed to fail. It’s another deal, another transaction, too aseptic, with a complete lack of confidence and affinity. He forces himself to act like an average husband to get what he really looks for in a woman, sex, and she’s constantly rejecting him, as she doesn’t depend on him but on her family, and is free to do so, as she’s not of his property. Eric hardly accepts this, and keeps on pushing, while in the meantime submit his female employees to his will. For instance, Jane Melman (Emily Hampshire), his chief of finance, is summoned to the limo on her day off while training, and she has to discuss yuen issues while he’s having his daily prostate exam, something which brings out a highly sexual tense situation. The only woman who perhaps receives all his attention and we could say respect, is Vija Kinski (Samantha Morton), his chief of theory, during the anarchist riots started by the rat men yelling the spector of capitalism” happening outside the car. No doubt their conversation, her analysis of what going on with capitalism, remarking that the future is inconsistent and something might happen that very same day, is the key of the whole story, the confirmation of Packer’s world collapsing.

In order not to spoil the film, I cannot extend much talking about another essential character, Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti), a loser who used to be enthusiastic about currency analysis. He aims to see Packer suffering for certain reasons, however, he’s at lower level, he cannot compete in dialectics, and no matter how hard he tries, he’s uncapable of impressing his former boss, it is the other way round.

Packer’s personality and behavior can be easily compared to American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman, leaving aside all the serial killing. They are both neat, powerful, cold, detached from reality and current society. While Bateman is unable to fit in because of his mental issues and his thirst of blood, Packer is unable to establish boundaries to real world due to his power. When he’s offered a piece of art by Rothko, he doesn’t show any passionate interest, he only wants to purchase a whole chapel to be rebuilt in his apartment just for his own pleasure, regardless the public interest. Everything has a price, and he will yield to his will only if outbid. The billionaire’s actual status would be reduced to his own sentence: “show me something I don’t know”. His wife Elise at some point realizes his main occupation is knowing things. The more you know the more you control, right?

The limo and the city are also relevant in the film. I’d say the limo is an extension of Packer himself, and all the damages it suffers during the riots are a reflection of his own decline. Inside the car remains intact, alien to what’s happening on the streets, protecting and isolating Packer from reality. The car works as an office, a private surgery room, a bachelor pad, a therapy room…and a toilet. The movement is almost unnoticeable, the city is burning while he inside is cold and silent.

Manhattan has been always a traffic mess, however the visit of the president, and the mourning and  funeral of Packer’s favorite rap artist Brutha Fez, seed chaos, which turns into complete mayhem with the riots. The unpredictability, combined with the man’s stubbornness, results fatal for someone who has everything under control to the detail.

I’ve been reading all kind of comments and reviews already, and seems that there’s not a firm and common verdict, which I particularly enjoy. There are aspects very criticized, I personally feel enthusiastic about. The cold tone of dialogues, the succession of visits and characters creating this one to one scenes, the rhythm of the story as a long ride, and the claustrophobic setting of the car…

My taste for this journeys to the lowest level of the human being is known. I also think of Shame here. Characters living a perfect and under control lives till there’s some twisting point which drives them to free falling into fatal decadence.

The story of Packer is the tale of a guy who never paid attention to improbability, the tale of a non so far away inconsistent future, and he fall of the values society was stuck to.

Can’t think of anyone better than Cronenberg to depict the above mentioned. The presence of Peter Suschitzky responsible for cinematography, is essential to deliver such an impressive visual film, beautiful in technique and outstanding in aesthetics, the participation of Howard Shore once again with the soundtrack, is subtle yet fully intense. The director’s special taste to adapt DeLillo’s work in a magnificent way, managing to develop his personal insane atmosphere is out of question. You watch Cosmopolis and even though Cronenberg has diverted from earlier works, or it should be about time to change the term to EVOLVED, you clearly notice his trademark. It’s difficult to recreate a complex story with your personal features remaining almost intact.

It’s taken me many years to understand and feel comfortable with David Cronenberg’s works at first glance, and because I don’t trust myself when dealing with him, I reckon more screenings are necessary in order to hog as many details as possible and be able to announce a final verdict. All I can say 24 hours after my first approach is that once again, Cosmopolis is not an easy film, and lots of people will end up disappointed. I wouldn’t pay too much attention to reviews and critics and would recommend you to enjoy/suffer the experience yourself, trying to isolate yourself in the Packer way form comments and anything which might influence you.

If I get the chance to see the Canadian director in Sitges tomorrow, I will only say to him BRAVO!

Ah! Before I forget… Seems that Pattinson can act.



Posted in Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , on May 15, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

Mood affects activies beyond our understanding. Not only that, but also the atmosphere, the companion, the weather…many external factors influence on the impact we receive when listening to a record, observing a painting or watching a movie.

I had seen this film 3-4 years ago, and didn’t understand why such cult around it. I thought it to be boring, abstract, and not very clear, you can add that I’m not a big fan of Jim Carrey, then the final verdict was thumbs down.

The fact that one of my best friends digs a lot, and considering he’s quite rough and extreme in his judgments, black or white and not much of grey in between, made me go for a second chance. This time Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind made a great impression.

Having the story still very fresh, I don’t really know how to label this film. Many references  come to my head. On one hand, all the memory erasing procedure brings me to Total Recall, and all the love and lack of love story makes me think of Blue Valentine.

Among other qualities and features, chaos and impulsiveness reign in Clementine’s life (Kate Winslet). Sick of her relationship with Joel(Jim Carrey), contracts the services of Lacuna, experts in memory erasure, and undergoes this deleting and resetting procedure. Her decision is irreversible and unilateral, and Joel, after trying to contact her to see why she’s acting so erratic, eventually finds out what she’s done.

Miserable and devastated, he can’t cope with the situation, thus submitting to the memory erasure seems the only logic solution to overcome his pain. He bursts into Lacuna office demanding a quick and urgent action, as they are already involved in his misery.  Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) promises the effective remedy for his suffering, assisted by Stan (Mark Ruffalo), who will conduct all the procedure while Joel is sleeping, together with Patrick (Elijah Wood).

In order to erase any memories, which include the tiniest details, Joes is required to collect any single item which reminds him of Clementine, thus, thanks to a mapping procedure collecting all the bran movements or reactions towards these objects, Stan will be able to reach any corner in his brain which might contain Clem in it. Mapping aside, as standard, an extended interview with impressions, explanations related to the erasing process and the reasons is tape recorded, to be included in the personal file of each client.

It’s the perfect job, with no claiming afterwards, as patients never remember their visit to Lacuna, and they’re responsible for notifying acquaintances of this procedure, so there won’t be any future side effects.

Joel is ready. he buys new pajamas, follows the instructions advised by Dr. Mierzwiak and quickly passes out. It’s time Stan and Patrick take care of business, but distractions related to women will prevent them from performing professionally. On one hand, Patrick had a crush on Clementine and thanks to his knowledge of her situation and things she confessed during her interview, he’s managed to become her boyfriend. But she, for no apparent reason feels awkward and estranged, and needs him to be by her side. On the other, Stan and the gorgeous nurse at  Lacuna, Mary (Kirsten Dunst) are secretly dating, and she stops by to make some companion and have some fun.

The sedatives are not working as they should and within his dream Joel notices something weird is going on. At the same time he’s recalling all those good and bad moments with Clementine and eventually he realizes he doesn’t want to lose those great past times they lived. That’s not the solution for easing the pain. So his dream and his conscious part will turn into a huge struggle against memory loss, trying to hide what le loves most, Clementine, in hidden corners of his mind memories, not related to her.

Things are happening at the same time both inside Joel’s mind, and in the real world. Events and feelings which prove that mind erasing is not the magical solution for certain problems, and all the characters involved, eventually suffer the consequences.

When I started watching the film this last time, and the concept of memory erasing was introduced, I thought that was something that would have perfectly worked for me, and even nowadays, when I can say I’ve overcome my sentimental wreckage but still scars aren’t totally healed, I thought of it as perfectly valid.

Considering an inner mechanism has blocked most of my memories of a 10-year relationship naturally, and I’m talking serious, I found it workable. Truth is that in a relationship you share  experiences such as travelling, shows and many other events I love, and partial erasure is not conceived.

Memory erasure would work  if you never had contact with the source of those memories again, but, and this is the reason why all this procedure fails, memories are highly influenced by feelings, and your sensitivity remains intact. Therefore, Clementine feels weird because she doesn’t know she still misses Joel, and after Lacuna’s intervention, when they meet on the train the attraction is instant. Relationships among human beings are said to be pure chemistry combination of hormones, right?

No, deleting memories is not fair, otherwise people making mistakes or choosing wrong, or hurting people, would be abusing of this method, that would become kind of artificial reset. Whatever causes you pain or sadness must be faced and overcome from within yourself. What would you do if one morning you received a letter confirming your best friend has erased you from his memories and consequently from his life without your consent and acceptance? You wouldn’t react positive, that’s for sure.

The dynamism of the film, the mayhem and unsteadiness of the camera, and the different levels of narration, past-present-future, past within past, and these time combinations, can contribute to a sense of chaos if you’re in the right mood, you won’t definitely enjoy. I remember the first time I saw the film, Clem’s hair color changing, cars crashing on the asphalt, things vanishing… Christopher Nolan’s Inception  was the opposite, with the adding and the creation of a fake world, but carefully explained and detailed, highlighting those changes of stages, however, in Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, that separation is subtly marked by lights, settings and attitudes.

The story of Joel and Clementine is as standard as many others. A couple which reaches that point in which monotony and routines reign. Clem as an unstable woman can’t endure that situation any longer and carries out her personal choice without considering Joel’s feelings nor even hers. Too sad and ridiculous, the miracle, the easy way out,  eventually fails.

Progress and the power of our minds sometimes do not work fine mixed, luckily for us!

THE DEAD ZONE, David Cronenberg (1983)

Posted in Directors, Drama, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , on June 9, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

Sorry fellas! I hadn’t realized it’s been near a month since I don’t post anything, time really goes fast and I’ve been quite busy.

As already told, my idea is to review as many possible Cronenberg’s as possible, but it’s going to take a little longer than supposed, because this is the excuse to purchase all of them, despite the fact that I commented on many in the past I don’t have with me any longer.

Anyway, now it’s time for The Dead Zone, probably my favorite of the Canadian. Imagine how much I love this film, I’ve bought it like 3 times by mistake thinking I didn’t have it in my collection yet, however I got a collector’s edition 3 years ago or so.

Cronenberg was assigned to adapt Stephen King’s best-seller, a fact that could had affected negatively to the final result, but wasn’t an obstacle to deliver an amazing film.

Book adaptations are tough tasks, to  summarize hours of reading into a script into 100 minutes, keeping all the essence and portrait what’s in the characters’ minds. Most times I find myself often thinking movies lack of the intensity of the books, yet I cannot stop watching them. Disappointment is an often feeling.

I think I first saw the film ages ago, and then read the book, which I felt in love with, however I must admit I adooore Johnny in the film the most.

Johnny (Christopher Walken), is a literature teacher at a high school, an average good man very in love with his girlfriend Sarah (Brooke Adams). On a rainy night, he’s involved in a fatal car crash which leaves him out of play in coma for 5 years. Obviously, when he awakes, everything has changed…for worse. To start with, his girlfriend eventually gave up on waiting and got married. Physically crippled, soon he discovers he’s able to somehow foresee the future by means of visions, but these violent episodes have side effects, and his health is weaking progressively. Thus, the unfortunate Johnny is able to change the future, but because of this condition, cannot get along with his personal life.

Johnny’s story is told, since he wakes up from coma, as if divided into the most relevant chapters in his life, stories totally different one from the other, involving different people, and showing the increasing depression Johnny is submitted to, unable to find his place in this changed world.

The only two characters somehow present from the beginning to the end, are Sarah and the ambitious politician running for senator, Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), both essential in Johnny’s fate.

Personally, I find Cronenberg’s decision the role of Johnny should be assumed by Christopher Walken was a complete success. Can’t conceive any other actor being Johnny, to be honest. The way Walken shows this man’s misfortunes, his increasing sadness, impotence, and frustration is none of this world. I’ve found myself crying sometimes while watching this film, Walken moves me too much, his performance as a tortured man is awesome, his tears, his hopeless eyes, his anger…you don’t see him as the typical loser, the audience feels truly sorry for Johnny, he definitely does not deserve all what’s happening to him. At some point in the film, there’s a spark of temporary happiness which will last for few hours in his life, and for him, that is worth having woken up from his dead state. It’s really sad, poor man.

Visions remind me of the insane memories of Spider, another character of Cronenberg’s. Johnny predicts future of people he gets physically (initially) in contact with by means of visions in which he’s also takes part, as if he was present. What I mean is that he’s a kind of witness, he’s there although he’s actually not, because whenever he tries to warn people taking part of them, obviously they cannot see him nor hear him.

The intensity of his visions increases all the same as the episodes in which he gets involved. First of them are casual, by chance, and have to do with just helping someone in imminent danger, but later on, the stories will get more complex, affecting Johnny both physically and emotionally.

His love story with Sarah is one of the saddest, an unfinished one, or better said, an extremely heartbreaking relationship, impossible to find guilt or jealousy encouraging  them to end up splitting ways. For Sarah, Johnny’s extended coma was impossible to bear, and loneliness and lack of faith pushed her to find relief in someone else. If you think of that, she cannot be blamed for that decision, how the hell was she to know eventually Johnny would wake up? For Johnny, on the other hand, It was yesterday when he was kissing he goodbye under the rain, his feelings for her hadn’t changed at all.

I’ve never known any acquaintance who’s passed through a similar experience. I know some induced into coma for a week or so, but never more than 2-3 weeks. You think of people asleep for months or even years and, waking up, rather than being joyful, must be a nightmare, especially when starting been aware you’ve been gone for long time, and the world has kept moving, with you not noticing it. Your reality has vanished, and you have to catch a new wave again. Guess this has to be hard to swallow and manage to overcome.

I don’t intend to spoil anything, in fact I’m not telling half the things I’d love to talk about here, but I’m going to speak out loud something moving in my head, a moral question. In case you felt rejected by people, considered a misfit and a freak, and for some reason you were the only one to change the fate of society, at an unconscious risk, would you risk your life by all your means, to change the course of fate, despite the fact that all those people don’t deserve a shit? Or would you go on with your life, pretending to be unaware too?

The Dead Zone is clearly a sci-fi film, but as many of them, there are many subjects beyond you could interpret as a critic against society, politics and more.

The sad story of a guy whose life changes dramatically and receives a gift, which we could say at the end of the day is a curse. Marvelous film, really, you should watch it.

VIDEODROME, David Cronenberg (1983)

Posted in Directors, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller with tags , , , , on May 15, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

I’ve just realized it’s been too long since I last reviewed a film of Cronenberg for this blog, one year and a half. Can’t believe time goes so fast.  Been checking and lots of good titles need to be commented, so I’ll have to fill the gaps ASAP.

Few weeks ago felt in the mood of watching Videodrome. It was no longer available in my collection because the criterion edition was my ex’s, thus I found it quite cheap and bought it. I want to have  all his films, the Canadian director is one of my favorites, and love most of his works, thus, little by little, I’ll be investing  few bucks in completing the collection. Right now I think I already have four or five. I’m not in a hurry either.

Videodrome is not an easy film. It took me at least 3 times to start enjoying it, and guess at the 5th time I realized I loved it. With this film, the typical Cronenberg’s couple of fiction and reality, is exploited at its most, really putting the viewer on a tense situation of not being able to identify at which point the film is. That’s why I honestly recommend, before making a final judgment on the film, to give it more than just one chance, in order to get a clearer picture of the story.

Don’t panic! My words might sound a bit discouraging, but I can tell you now, I love Videodrome, and the story is terrific, my intention is to advise you properly, so you don’t miss anything.

Max Renn (James Woods), the president of Civic TV, a trashy station in Toronto, focused on porn and softcore, is seeking desperately for new fresh stuff to offer the audience and increase viewing rates. Definitely new product must be shocking, better if extreme, as to catch people attention.

The answer to his prayers is discovered by Harlan, a sort of IT guy in the company, who also runs an illegal station equipped with a satellite able to intercept signals of broadcasts. He’s found out something Renn is definitely going to love: Videodrome. The show doesn’t follow a plot line and is based on extreme torture and death, recorded in a red-orange horror chamber, seems so realistic, Renn can’t stop looking for more of this amazing material, very addictive.

When participating as a guest on a talk show, Renn meets an attractive psychiatrist specialized in S/M named Nicki Brand (Debbie Harry). Sexual attraction among them appears immediately and eventually they’ll start dating. By chance, Nicki finds out about Videodrome and really the tapes get her really hot, putting into practice her knowledge on S/M with  Renn.

On the other hand, when looking for more information regarding the extreme tapes, Marsha, a long term collaborator and well connected in the porn world, advising him first to forget about Videodrome, addresses him to Professor Brian O’Blivion, the only person able to enlighten on the subject.

The more Renn deepens into Videodrome dark secrets, the more he suffers hallucinations, up to a point he’ll barely recognize reality from delirium.

No doubt the plot is genuine, in fact it’s difficult to summarize the film briefly, there are too many events  and concepts bringing out, impossible to refer to all of them without spoiling.

What it’s compulsory when watching Videodrome is you to stay focused, otherwise it’ll be Greek to you.

Cronenberg deals here, with all his typical resources. Loves playing with insanity and reality, the scientific part is also included, and the bizarre is very important feature here. The combination is a bomb, not so clear at the first glance.

And there’s also the subject of brain manipulation by means of images, something not so far from reality nowadays. We’re slaves to images, we’re bombed with so much information, in order to create an impact on us, more shocking stuff is unconsciously demanded. We get used to everything, we swallow and bear cruelty, roughness, and eventually we reach a point where that doesn’t mean anything, therefore, in order to catch our attention, media is constantly innovating and offering new shit so we get shocked.

Remember the innocence of 50’s horror movies? I remember once, a friend of mine started questioning whether people in those years were treated as idiots, and couldn’t believe audiences were impressed or scared by poor disguised monsters. She thought them to be ridiculous. It was a matter of ignorance and innocence, something I don’t find to laugh so much at. People weren’t familiar to certain contents, and didn’t have as much info as we receive now.

Radically opposite is the current situation. We see blood, murder and execution on a daily basis, we’re not so impressed by bombs, blood or death, it’s just normal. Media tends to focus on morbid contents so we can feel moved or disgusted.

And there it goes the issue of  morality and respect. These concepts have been manipulated and they’re actually vanishing. A corpse is just a corpse, a thing, a piece of chunk yet interesting to fill gaps on the news. I find this sick and disgusting.

Cronenberg creates a sci-fi story, yet he’s able to develop some kind of critic. Dichotomies are in constant movement in Videodrome, and at the end, what’s the conclusion?