Tag Archives: mary elizabeth winstead

Swiss Army Man – Review

12 Jul

Listen, I’m all for big budget Hollywood productions. If there’s a movie that’s a sequel or another comic book adaptation, chances are I might be in that theater seat adding to what some people might call “the problem.” That being said, it is mighty refreshing to come across a new movie that is overflowing with imagination, creativity, and though provoking content. The movie I’m referencing right now is Swiss Army Man, a film circuit gem that has finally gotten a wider release. I’ve seen a lot of great movies this year, and I’ve also seen some garbage, but Swiss Army Man will more than likely remain in my top picks of 2016.

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After being shipwrecked on an island for who knows how long, Hank (Paul Dano) has decided he’s had enough and creates a makeshift noose to help him end it all. This plan abruptly comes to an end when a dead guy who Hank names Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on the beach, and through the power of extraordinary flatulence, whisks Hank away to the mainland. Still trapped in the middle of nowhere, Hank and his new deceased friend start their trek back to humanity, but soon it becomes clear that Manny is slowly coming back to life, even though he has no memories of his life or customs that humans hold so dear. As this odd couple makes their way through the woods, Hank gives Manny some lessons about what it means to be human, which includes some of our positives and lots of our negatives.

I have to give all the credit in the world to Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan for having the guts to actually write and direct this movie. When you think of all the movies out there right now, none of them really compare to the absurdity that is seen in Swiss Army Man. It takes a lot of imagination and skill to actually pull this movie off. While it is a fantasy, it also works as a social commentary. Might I just remind everyone that this social commentary is discussed between a guy that’s been stranded on an island and a dead guy that washed up on the beach and is slowly coming back to life. What a ridiculous concept, and yet it is pulled off so well. There’s a lot of overt criticisms, but the ones that are more subtle are the ones that work the most. I don’t want to say it’s a pessimistic view of the world we live in and the rules we are “forced” to follow, but it kinda sorta is.

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So, yeah this is a pretty pessimistic movie that I would argue continues throughout the entire story. Paul Dano’s character has a backstory that is pretty upsetting, even though what can be interpreted as upsetting is actually pretty minor. This is because we can all relate to those little things that always seem to bring us down the most. In that way, Dano’s character is extremely relatable and I really just wanted to see him finally find something to be happy about. On the flip side, Swiss Army Man is also an incredibly funny movie. I laughed a lot at things I never thought I’d ever see. There’s humor as low as fart jokes all the way to some really clever satire. The way Radcliffe’s character is used adds a lot to this humor as his corpse seems capable of pulling anything off. What I’m trying to say is that this movie works well at making you feel sad one moment and then making it seem impossible to stop laughing the next.

Throughout most of the movie, the only characters we see are Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. Needless to say, this movie wouldn’t have worked it their chemistry wasn’t exactly on point. Thankfully, it was and now we have one of the most hilarious odd couples to ever grace the silver screen. Dano is great as Hank, the straight man, who is forced to explain even the most basic things to the screwball corpse, Manny. Radcliffe really steals the show, though, as he brings Manny to life more and more as the story progresses. He’s absolutely hilarious and gives one of my favorite performances of the year so far. The only other person worth mentioning is Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who is only really in the movie near the very end. She’s fine, but she doesn’t really have much to do. If you wanna see Winstead really show what she’s capable of, just watch 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Swiss Army Man is packed to the brim with ideas, imagination, and adventure. It’s certainly a one of a kind movie in every sense of the word, and might sit pretty well in my top 10 movies of the year. Of course, it is only July, but on the other hand I loved this movie a whole hell of a lot. This is normally the part where I would say that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that may be true, but I can’t really see how. This is a movie with characters that anyone can relate to, and a premise that is guaranteed no one has ever seen before. It’s independent film making on a grand scale.

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10 Cloverfield Lane – Review

26 Mar

What kind of black magic did J.J. Abrams have to perform to bring Alfred Hitchcock back from the dead to make a sequel to the beloved monster movie, Cloverfield? Of course that’s not the case, but 10 Cloverfield Lane has all of the suspense and tension found in Hitchcock’s best films. This movie, however, is directed by Dan Trachtenberg, who has made a few short films but this is his feature film debut. While 10 Cloverfield Lane can be considered a sequel to Cloverfield in some ways, it more so builds upon a universe shrouded in mystery. I really wasn’t expecting much when this was first announced, but this was a great movie.

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After being in a major accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up in a bare room that she’s never seen before. It turns out that she was pulled from the wreckage by a farmer named Howard (John Goodman), who brought her into his doomsday bunker after he claims that the United States has been the victim of a mysterious and catastrophic attack. Michelle isn’t the only one down there with Howard, however. Soon she meets Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), a local guy who helped Howard build the bunker and claims to have seen the attack first hand. As time in the bunker passes and the trio get to know each other a little better, more distrust of Howard begins to build as strange evidence starts piling up that begs the question of wether he’s completely sane or not and wether it’s worth risking contamination to escape the bunker.

Take everything you know about the style and mood of the first Cloverfield and just toss it out the window. You don’t need it for 10 Cloverfield Lane. This is a completely different movie than its predecessor. In fact, this movie can be viewed as a stand alone film because the connections are so hidden, it’s easy to miss what they are. More on that later, though. What I learned about Trachtenberg from this movie is that he works really well with space. Most of this movie just takes place in Howard’s bunker, which really isn’t all that big, but there’s so much tension and suspense present that you could fill 5 bunkers. What’s also great about the suspense is that it isn’t drawn out too long or too slowly. This movie is actually very quick paced, so I felt like I was really being thrown into an intense situation before I was even prepared for it. Not only that but I had this overwhelming desire to figure out everything and know what happens. That kind of viewer engagement is a sign of a really great m10 Cloverfield Lane

One of the most entertaining things about this movie is the interaction between the three characters in the bunker. It’s really the driving force behind the entire movie, because without the interactions written exactly right (like they were) and performed with the utmost believability (which the were) this movie wouldn’t be nearly as effective. The screenplay by Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle (who also wrote and directed Whiplash) is fantastic and full of memorable dialogue and suspense sequences. I also have to give the acting a lot of praise. John Goodman, in particular, steals the show and is one of the most memorable antagonists I’ve seen in recent movies. Mary Elizabeth Winstead also gives a strong performance as a protagonist determined not to give in. The only person who is a little underwhelming is John Gallagher, Jr., which has more to do with the attention given to his character in the screenplay rather than his performance in the movie.

What was great about the first Cloverfield was the mystery behind it. Sure, it’s essentially a monster movie, but the entire time it’s on you feel like you aren’t getting the whole story. This is because it doesn’t treat the audience like a child. There are clues all over Cloverfield as to what’s really going on, and there’s the same kind of clues in 10 Cloverfield Lane that are sometimes hidden in plain sight for you to find. These both give the story some more mystery and answers, but also serves to tie this movie in to the original. It’s just really nice when a movie doesn’t condescend to an audience and treat us like we can’t figure anything out for ourselves.

At first, I had very low expectations for 10 Cloverfield Lane and when I saw the praise that it was getting I was relieved. I really can’t stress it enough that this movie is nothing like the original in terms of its style, but the mood and feeling of mystery and paranoia still hold strong. J.J. Abrams really knows how to market a movie, but this wasn’t just clever marketing that makes this movie a success. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a success because it is smart, suspenseful, and superbly crafted.