THE GREEN KNIGHT (2021)

A cinematic Arthurian heroic poem, complete with knights, woodland creatures, saints, spirits and mythic quests.

Run all of that through the sort of slow-burn style and striking visuals that A24 is known for and you’ve got The Green Knight.

Incredibly well crafted, the sort of tone that the fantasy genre is sorely missing more of.

Dev Patel brings exactly the right blend of gravitas and arrogance, the scenery and production design are gorgeous, the tale weaves and meanders perfectly as fables should.

The sense of world and myth is huge and dense — it chooses contemplation and symbolism over action and succeeds massively in presenting something thoughtful and strange. More akin to Pan’s Labyrinth than The Lord of the Rings.

It’s slow and mostly ambiguous, but if that’s your thing then this comes highly recommended.

THE STAND (2020)

Ironic that this released just as the world was dealing with a very real pandemic, so understandable that it was largely ignored or passed over given the circumstances.

Stephen King stories are best treated as limited series such as this, as it gives the characters plenty of room to exist and be human within the story.

As post-apocalyptic tales go, this is more mythical forces of good and evil acting through human conduits than say, your standard meditation on the nature of humanity in a world gone to hell.

Plus, the production quality really sells the end of the world and the casting is all excellent.

A solid and faithful adaptation of King’s epic, tweaked and modernised just enough to play to modern sensibilities.

Recommended.

SWEET TOOTH s01

A tremendously sweet and strange tale about a human/deer hybrid boy traversing a post-apocalyptic world.

Each episode feels like a chapter from a storybook. The characters are endearing and the cast is great. The connection between the hybrids and The Sick which has ravaged the world is a solid, dark mystery.

Production values are excellent too — it was a good move to handle the hybrid elements with a mix of CGI and prosthetics/animatronics, as it really grounds the fantastical elements.

Deceptively sinister, but infectiously heartwarming.

Highly recommended.

SOUND OF METAL (2019)

A metal/noise drummer suddenly experiences almost total hearing loss and has to deal with a complete upheaval of his nomadic life.

This came in with the 2021 Oscar for best sound design, and for good reason. Never treated like a gimmick, the audio design switches seamless from traditional cinematic mixing to diegetic character perspective to atmospheric sound that many of us would have taken for granted.

Riz Ahmed drops a fantastic performance as Ruben, drawing parallels with the drummer’s heroin addiction and the sudden withdrawal from that which had saved his life once before — music itself.

Comparisons are apt for 2004’s It’s All Gone, Pete Tong (a great mockumentary about a DJ undergoing a similar seachange following the loss of his hearing), but the ultimate trajectory, tone and message of the two stories are vastly different.

A powerful and moving, and at times abrasive, sensory experience. Well recommended.

FOR ALL MANKIND (s01/02)

An alternate history drama where the Russians landed on the moon first, kicking off a prolonged, multi-generational space race of one-upmanship sustained by the wounded pride of the United States.

It’s bloody great.

Moreover, it’s a fascinating exploration of human motivations to greatness and high ambition as well as being a very grounded look at the hardships of space travel and what might have been but only for a few key moments of our own history going slightly one way or another.

Highly recommended.

THE THIRD DAY (2020)

A decent entry into the “creepy isolated cult” sub-genre, told with plenty of breathing room over six episodes.

Not as fantastical as I was hoping it would turn out, but nonetheless a fairly effective thriller told in two parts: three days (episodes) each of someone arriving on the island of Osea and things getting progressively worse for them, they things tend to do when you ignore all signs telling you to leave immediately.

Of course, the causeway connecting the island to the mainland floods over with the tide so the windows of escape are always narrow, but it’s often hard to sympathise with someone who sees creepy, bloody paintings on the exteriors of buildings and gets extremely chilly vibes from the locals and doesn’t just nope right the hell out of there immediately. There were too many points, especially in the second half where I was yelling “Fuck this place! LEAVE DAMMIT!!” at the television and yet the characters always managed to miss their chances to escape again and again.

Unfortunately, it does a bit more telling rather than showing us why this place holds such mythic portent. We hear it a lot but it’s never really explained or justified why it’s special or how it’s special.

In the end it comes down to the two leads of each of the sections (titled “Summer” and “Winter” ), and their emotional through-lines are what keeps it from falling off the rails thanks to Jude Law, Naomie Harris and the excellent supporting cast. Much is shot in a disorienting, uncomfortably close style that makes the character journeys harrowing and anxious to follow.

Supposedly there was an interim “Autumn” section which was broadcast as a 12-hour single-take live event between the two parts during the Osea festival that we only saw the lead up to and the fallout from in the show itself. It does feel as though something is missing, though if I hadn’t looked it up you’d never know it was missing.

For me it didn’t quite tip over into being really excellent, since something like Midsommar or the original Wicker Man handled similar material in a much more unsettling way.

Still, it’s a pretty decent little thriller, I was just expecting some elevation or reinvention of the genre when all it was offering was a good execution on worn ideas with nothing dramatic to reveal at the end.

ISLE OF DOGS (2018)

A little late to the party on this one, but glad I got around to it.

All the charm and personality of Fantastic Mr Fox plus all the usual trapping of a Wes Anderson flick.

Positively dripping with style and meticulous production design. The plot is tight and quirky and heartwarming, the voice cast is A+.

So, yeah, again… a Wes Anderson film. You generally know what you’re in for and this doesn’t disappoint.

Recommended.

New art!

I’ve been learning 3D software in my spare time the past few months and it’s been awesome to be able to start producing concept pieces so fast and have them look so awesome!

I build the models in Blender, then export to Substance Painter for texturing, then back into Blender with the Botaniq add-on to populate trees/grass and to compose, light and render, then final touches are done with Procreate.

More to come, I’m just excited to have work to share that came purely from my imagination!

You can follow me on Instagram @_nervesquidpilot for updates.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY (s02)

Now that introductions and an initial conflict in the first season are out of the way it’s much more fun just to let the characters be themselves… while scattered across the timeline of 1960s Dallas, Texas.

Of course, there’s another apocalypse looming and a trio of time-hopping Swedish assassins to deal with, but really the show shines when it’s letting the family play off and support each other.

Feels a bit more loose and creative this time around, and the soundtrack is bangin’, the whole cast puts in great, hilarious, dysfunctional performances.

A case could be made for spreading the show out over weeks instead of dropping the Netflix binge model all at once, since something like this is fun to keep in conversation rather than to burn through and promptly forget about, but that’s a broader conversation on streaming strategies.

All up, better than the previous season even if the pacing is a little strange at times. If you liked the first one you’ll have a good time again here.

El secreto de sus ojos (2009) // VS // The Secret in Their Eyes (2015)

While at first blush the two might seem to be the same story, really only the broadest of strokes have been retained in the adaptation from Argentina to North America, and all the richness of character has been drained out for a by-the-numbers crime thriller with an overqualified cast.

EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS (2009) won awards and acclaim as a mystery wherein the investigation into the murder of a young woman twenty-five years in the past stirs up old relationships when the investigator returns to town to try and write a book about his experience on the case. We slowly learn what went wrong, why he was forced to leave, and the life he was forced to leave behind — framed around an unconsummated romance with his superior and the deep vein of corruption running through the Argentinian legal system.

It’s very much sincere and charismatic and takes time to show how the incompleteness of the case has worn on everyone involved, that they have fallen into incomplete lives even now, two decades on, and you sincerely hope for them to find solace or closure.

There’s also an incredible single take chase shot that flies into a soccer stadium, sweeps around the crowd and then pursues the invesigators through the chaos after their mark. That shot alone is a technical marvel worth the price of admission.

Being a mystery, I’ll stay as light on the details as possible, but it’s deserving of the praise and Ricardo Darin is a treasure.

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2015) takes the skeleton of the case and a passing glance at the romace framing the narrative and reshuffles everything else so that nothing fits together in the same way nor approaches anything like the engagement of the original.

The cast is excellent — indeed, this is dream casting for the story and I don’t doubt they were able to pull Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Alfred Molina in simply by screening the original for them. But that’s about as far as my compliments will go.

First and foremost: almost all of the actual detective work happens off screen. The bonding of the investigative team originally came from working out how each of their personas lent something of value to the case and they grew closer through it. In the 2015 version we’re shown a few brief flashbacks of people “being friends” and that’s meant to suffice. It doesn’t.

The politics in this version is a strange shoehorning of post-9/11 anti-Muslim fear involving a stakeout at a mosque that ultimately lends nothing to the story at hand. It can’t possibly have been twenty-five years worth of time between the two parts of the story, and very little effort was actually made to make either time period distinguishable or distinct from one another.

And that impressive chase shot I mentioned? It becomes a single drone shot coming into a baseball match and then as soon as the chase starts proper it just cuts like a normal chase. No single take. Why even bother adapting something if you’re not going to pay attention to the things that made the original unique?

I would highly recommend watching the Argentinian version, and then come back here to find out a little more on how the American remake fucked it up.

SPOILER WARNING

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