Tag Archives: existentialism

Cosmopolis – Review

30 Aug

Anyone with a real interest in film has seen a David Cronenberg film at one point in their lives. From what I’ve seen of his filmography (ScannersA History of ViolenceThe FlyVideodromeEastern Promises), my own opinion of him is a real mixed bag. I love some of his movies and I hate just as many, so I went into Cosmopolis with a blank slate. I wasn’t expecting to love it nor was I expecting to hate it. I was merely going to see what happened without any pre-judgement. Well, unfortunately for me… very unfortunately for me, Cosmopolis is Cronenberg’s worst movie yet and shows almost no sign of how talented he really is. This movie is just abysmal.

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Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) is a 28 year old billionaire who’s interests for the day lie in an investment in the yuan that may crumble his entire fortune, but more importantly, he needs to get across town so he can get a haircut by his favorite barber. Packer’s trip to the barber soon becomes an odyssey into himself and his beliefs that is complicated by the funeral procession of his favorite rapper and also high security due to the president being in town. As Packer travels through the streets in his high tech stretch limo, he comes in contact with advisors, friends, and lovers that he shares deep existential philosophies with in order to better understand his feelings as a human being. After these conversations don’t help him better understand his own existence, he resorts to violence in order to truly feel something real.

What really pisses me off about this movie is that it had real potential to be something really awesome. It’s like Bret Easton Ellis, William S. Burroughs, and Stanley Kubrick had a baby, but something went really wrong during the pregnancy resulting in this mess of a movie. I hardly even want to call it a movie because at times it really didn’t feel like one. Have you ever been reading a book and thought that a particular passage was boring so you kind of just half read it, but mostly skimmed over it? That’s what I wanted to do with a handful of scenes from Cosmopolis, but couldn’t. Instead I had to sit through these scenes and listen to these people talk and not give a shit about what they had to say. This movie was based off a book, so it makes sense that it feels like one and I’m not sure how good the book actually is, but the translation from page to screen just didn’t work at all.

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It’s so disappointing to see this movie fail since the cast and the other talent involved are more talented than this movie would begin to let on. I’ve already said that Cronenberg is much better than this, even though I really don’t like all of his movies. I still respect him as a film maker, but this movie is a bad example of his work. I also don’t have a problem with Robert Pattinson, although I know a lot of people do. He tries his best in this movie, but he just can’t do anything good with what he’s given. I actually enjoyed watching him though. That’s one thing I will say good about this movie. The only persons who actually function well in this movie are Paul Giamatti, who doesn’t even show up until the end, and Kevin Durand who plays Packer’s bodyguard. Everyone else besides the three I just mentioned are terrible. Every performance is stale and annoying, but I don’t think that it’s all of the actors’ faults.

What is really troublesome about this godforsaken movie is the writing. It’s shot nicely and I firmly believe that the actors try and do their best with what they were given, but the writing is just so horrendous that it’s almost unbearable to listen to. It’s like  encyclopedias on finances and basic existential philosophy were giving me half assed lectures for the entire two hours of my life that this movie made up. Listen, I’m happy to sit through a movie that’s loaded with philosophy. Hell, I loved watching Richard Linklater’s Waking Life, but Cosmopolis has no soul or heart. It was so dead pan and detached, that I couldn’t connect with any of the philosophy that Cronenberg was shoving down my throat. If you want to make a movie that’s heavy on philosophy, it’s kind of important that people can connect with it.

Cosmopolis is ultimately a failure on David Cronenberg’s part, which is upsetting since he had a lot of cool ideas to work with. Instead, what I got was a lecture by characters who had no personalities. And you know what? I get it. It may seem cool and edgy to make a film with a rich character who is completely detached from society. Just look at American Psycho and The Social Network. What made those movies great? There was still humanity in them that allowed the audience to connect. Cosmopolis is completely devoid of any humanity making it one of the most boring and pretentious movies that I have seen in a while. I don’t think I could hate this movie anymore than I already do.

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Enter the Void – Review

25 Sep

There are plenty of movies out there that are completely unique and provide the viewer with a different sort of experience. This is normally done through narrative tricks or special visual effects to really separate itself from other movies. In my opinion, there has never been a film as different and inventive than Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void, a film that he calls a “psychedelic melodrama” that seems to defy all conventions of film making and takes a different approach at an art form that seems to have seen it all.

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Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) is a small time drug dealer and junkie who lives in Tokyo and mingles with the other assorted junkies and dealers. He shares an apartment with his sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta), and shares a very special connection with her. One night, after trying to complete a deal with an old friend, the police burst in and shoot Oscar. What follows is Oscar’s consciousness or soul leaving his body and flying over the neon world of Tokyo, examining his past, and observing the lives of others that have been affected by his death with the ultimate goal of achieving some sort of resurrection.

The way Gaspar Noé tells the story in Enter the Void is unlike anything I have ever seen. The movie’s psychedelic mayhem begins right with the opening titles that shock the viewers mind like a defibrillator. Once the titles end, it is strangely calm and the next odd choice by Noé is to have the first half hour completely in a first person POV of Oscar. After he is shot, we travel with him out of his body to experience his life flashing before our eyes and also see the effects of his own death. In this way, the film is still first person, but it’s a strange trip flying over the neon hell of Tokyo.

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Where a lot of film makers use CGI as a crutch and a tool to draw in audiences to see spectacular things, the CGI in Enter the Void is for a much more visceral experience. A large part of the story is the usage and effects of a drug/chemical called DMT, which is released by the brain en masse to a dying individual or to the user of the street drug. The effects of this is a vibrant, colorful visual experience which is recreated with the sights and sounds of Enter the Void. As a result, this is a very colorful movie at times, only to be momentarily defeated by the grime and darkness of the deepest alleys of Tokyo. It’s a beautiful contrast, but certainly not the only unbelievable part of this film.

Fortunately, this Noé did not rely on visuals alone to make this movie compelling. The story and theme of the whole things made me revert into my own psyche and think about everything I believe is to be possible after we die. The thought of death is frightening, to simply not exist anymore, and there are so many thoughts as to what happens after our life ends. In Enter the Void, we are presented with one of the thoughts and is put on screen. It’s hallucinatory and even though the themes might be beyond our understanding, it’s still a deeply personal journey.

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This movie has polarized audiences since it was shown on the festival circuit, and was hurt a little after it’s poor box office return. This isn’t a mindless piece of entertainment. It is an art film through and through that really makes you think. I know I say that a lot, but it’s been about a week since I watched this and it’s still fresh in my mind. I can not recommend Enter the Void enough.

Prometheus – Review

31 Dec

The question of our existence can only be outmatched by the infinite amount of unknown questions that the universe still has in store for us, most of which we will probably never have time to ask. Prometheus is a movie that dares to ask, “what if?” To me, this is more than a science fiction movie that happens to take place in the same universe as the Alien franchise. This is a movie about philosophy, religion, and science with arguments for and against all of these points.

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After finding ancient cave drawings that point to the existence of much more powerful alien life forms that have a special connection to humanity, scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and  Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) lead a voyage funded by the Weyland Corporation to the moon LV-223. The moon definitely shows signs of life, especially a biosphere that contains hundreds, if not thousands, mysterious canisters. David (Michael Fassbender), an android, takes an especial curiosity to these canisters. Unfortunately for the crew of the Prometheus ship, both natural disaster and exposure to unknown biology starts to spread panic and death leaving little hope of anyone getting off the moon alive.

The plot to Prometheus is a little weird. Not the story itself, but how it’s presented. I hear a lot of complaints about how it’s slow or disjointed, and even that not enough is revealed. To me this just shows how desensitized audiences have become to straightforward storytelling. Yes, the movie is slow at points, but then erupts into satisfying sci-fi mayhem. Does this mean it’s disjointed? Not at all. Finally, of course not a lot is revealed. This is all a set up to a bigger picture. There’s going to be a Prometheus 2 and maybe even a third entry. Revealing too much would ruin the suspense and the surprises we have in store.

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Ridley Scott has never shied away from epic film making and this isn’t his first science fiction either (Alien, Blade Runner), but this is what I call epic science fiction. This movie looks absolutely huge. LV-223 looks so desolate, but also strangely majestic. I can’t take my eyes off the beautifully bleak scenery. Not only is the landscape and the ships huge, but also the feeling that one should feel while watching this movie. Nothing can get bigger than the universe, and Prometheus takes me to places I haven’t yet been in a movie. I feel like LV-223 is the farthest I’ve ever been from home. The movie also got me thinking about the absolute insignificance of our existence compared to everything else, and also made me curious as to what actually happened in the beginning and what will happen in the end. Questions that I will never know the answers to.

Let’s get out of the existential territory and talk about something more real: the performances. Noomi Rapace is a great leading lady and definitely does not have an easy part. Charlize Theron is pretty typical as the corporate ball buster, but Idris Elba does a great job as the pilot who realizes he is into something way stranger than he ever thought he’d be in the middle of. The person you’re really going to remember is Michael Fassbender as David the android. Talk about a difficult role. Fassbender is mesmerizing. His ability to make an android character who is mechanic, yet bizarrely human, believable can not be a simple task. Massive kudos.

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Prometheus is one of my favorite science fiction movies that I think surpasses Alien. It seems that you either love it or you hate it without any middle ground, and I can imagine that some people will think that the last sentence I wrote is some sort of film blasphemy. It’s existential themes and questions that still need to be answered are interesting and super intriguing. The special effects are only matched by the performances and the tie ins with the Alien universe will make any film buff squeal with excitement. I loved this movie very, very much and I can not wait to see what Ridley Scott does next with this story.

Also, to set the record straight, Prometheus is not a prequel to Alien. It is a spin off, or a tie in if you will. Things happen in it that relate to the events of Alien, but nothing that is directly connected.