Tag Archives: AFI

What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

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How do vampires really work in the real world? Do they truly sparkle in the sunlight? Do older vampires adapt to the fast paced life of the modern life? Documentary film makers, Jemain Clement and Taiki Waititi, bring us a glimpse at the life of four vampires who share a home and struggle to keep up with the fast pace of modern times. Running at a length of 86 minutes, this mockumentary manages to be one of the most memorable vampire movies in the last few years.

From a visual standpoint, What We Do In The Shadows is not the most eye pleasing film. Often times the movie will look like it was done over several weekends instead of being a feature but it actually helps authenticate the feel of watching a documentary. The actors, or subjects, also do a great way of portraying the different quirks and irritations that each of these vampires has with each other whilst sharing the same home. Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) is the roommate who used to be the terror of Europe until “the monster” humiliated him ages ago. He’s lost his touch and a good portion of power since then. Viago (Taiki Waititi) is the roommate who moved to New Zealand in search of his beloved. He does his best to keep harmony and cleanliness throughout the household with various degrees of success. Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is the irresponsible peasant turned vampire. His transformation was through the hands of Petyr (Ben Fransham) the eldest of the four flatmates.

The comedy in this movie is unlike anything I have seen recently. What We Do In the Shadows revives old vampire lores and uses them to poke fun at the more recent renditions of vampires. The way each characters dresses denotes what time period they are from while at the same time providing humor at how absurdly they are dressed. The addition of other characters throughout the movie are never dull and offer a good amount of laughs. Even the camera men are not safe as they are often targeted by other dark entities throughout the course of their filming. What would it be like for a meeting between vampires and werewolves on the street really be like? The movie explores these things and even more.

The “best” two documentary film makers (try and name two others) of New Zealand bring a brilliant new glimpse at what the life of a vampire is truly like. Solid performances and a plethora of humorous situations make it seem like the footage of this movie is just too short. Any fan of Flight of the Conchords or Monty Python’s Flying Circus will absolutely enjoy What We Do In the Shadows. With any luck, we might even get a documentary about the werewolves.

TL;DR: Classic Formula, fresh result. What We Do In The Shadows takes the classic vampire lore and brings us a hilarious spin on what it’s like to live in the shadows.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 8.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

IMDB: 8.0/10

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The Wind Rises (2013)

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Hayao Miyazaki’s final movie before his dreaded retirement is none other than The Wind Rises. The film takes us into the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man responsible for designing Japanese Fighter planes during World War II. Amazingly enough, Miyazaki finds a way to dance all over the subject of war without being too obvious. Jiro’s story begins when he was a young boy, his obsession: aircraft. He gets his hands on the latest aviation magazines and goes through them no matter what language its in. This fascination with aircraft follows him into adulthood where he finally achieves his dream of designing aircraft but at a cost.

The animation in this movie is almost impeccable which has been customary of Miyazaki but the heart of the story doesn’t rely on the character’s surroundings like it does in some of his other works. Apart from a few dream sequences that Miyazaki uses to transition through Jiro’s life, the bulk of the story takes place in an ordinary Japan. Jiro and the company he works with are presented as normal people with no ill intentions which is something refreshing to see when it comes to WW II stories. Throughout the film, the audience not only gets to experience Jiro’s struggle, they also get a glimpse at Japan’s work ethic during the time. This isn’t just the story of a aircraft designer, it’s the story of an artist who is bound to meet the demands of his government.

The Wind Rises is a great conclusion for an artist like Miyazaki. It is not one of his most imaginative stories, but it’s definitely one of his most emotional ones. Joe Hisaishi’s score was a little familiar but had a special place in this movie. All of the characters were memorable and despite not understanding Japanese, the voice acting was moving enough to stir the audience’s emotions. The only thing that bothered me about this particular film was the fact that Miyazaki would jump from one scene to a dream sequence too often in the beginning. I know this was done to move the story forward (since it’s a chronicle of Jiro’s entire life), but it felt jarring at times. Hayao Miyazaki has left a legacy of stories for everyone to watch and despite his retirement from films, I feel as this isn’t the last story we’ll hear from this talented artisan.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 8.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 83% (as of Nov. 30, 2013)

IMDB: 8.0/10

Metascore: 84/100

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The Green Inferno (2013)

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The Green Inferno is Eli Roth’s return to the director’s chair after Hostel: Part Two (2007). Before its screening in the AFI Film Festival of Los Angeles, Roth requested something of the crowd. He asked the audience to keep an open mind and dispel any preconceived notions or expectations of the film. I felt obliged to set aside my expectations of the movie. This review is the fruit of my observations as I tried my best to set aside any biased opinions.

The movie follows a group of teenagers who want to stop a rainforest from being cut down. They fly over to Peru in order to chain themselves to trees and stop the crew from continuing to destroy the forest. The plan succeeds despite a small situation that develops.  On their flight back to civilization, their plane crashes in the middle of the forest. There, half of the teenagers die while the rest are captured by a group of cannibals.

To start off, I will say that there were some well crafted scenes in the movie and one major villain of the film is extremely well written. There was also one scene where the dialogue seemed to go deeper than just your average horror film. Despite this, most of the movie seems to fall flat. Characters are very bland for the most part, you have a stoner, a chubby guy, jock, and the innocent girl among others. This description alone seems to be sufficient grounds in which to describe most of the characters. Right from the start, the dialogue seemed clunky and the actors seemed robotic. Thankfully, this seemed to disappear only to be replaced by insane amounts of blood and gore.

It’s very clear that this movie is a tribute to all the cannibal films before it but it just seemed unnecessary. Eli Roth once again plays into his trademark use of carnage to make the audience feel queasy. I found myself laughing more often than feeling horrified at the actions on screen and this speaks to the root of the problem I have with this movie. This flick wasn’t funny in a clever way but in more of a this-is-incredibly-unbelievable type of way.

It’s always tough to write about a horror movie because everyone has a different sense of what scary is or what is essential to horror. Overall I thought that the movie was dying to make a political statement that never came. The characters felt tough to sympathize with and the “horror” seemed more laughable than scary (which I recognize is a trend with most horror flicks).  To add insult to injury, the one time the audience is meant to feel pity for the native cannibals falls flat. Instead of feeling sorry for them, I questioned why anyone would try to save them. Roth seemed to be trying to push the standard of a cannibal film which is not bad, it just simply didn’t seem to work this time around.

TL;DR: Typical Eli Roth movie. Other than being a tribute to cannibal films, a very generic B-movie.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 70% (as of Nov. 10, 2013)

IMDB: 6.5/10

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Blue Ruin (2013)

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A revenge story that follows Dwight (Macon Blair), as he returns to his hometown and proceeds to become a very inept assassin. At first glance, this may seem like a very dull and predictable  film but the synopsis is a vague look at the content in the movie. For the most part, movies tend to end when the protagonist defeats the villain of the story. In Blue Ruin, the bulk of the story happens once the antagonist is killed. After the man that murdered both of his parents is released from prison, Dwight, a beach bum, goes out to murder the ex convict. This is where the majority of the story takes place. Throughout the rest of the film, Dwight has to deal with the repercussions that come with murder. The movie features a lone protagonist and scarce dialogue between characters much like Drive (2011).

Having a good amount of experience being a cinematographer, Jeremy Saulnier does a great job at making all the scenes of his movie look beautiful. Saulnier heavily uses open areas, beaches, and forests in his film. The limited dialogue in Blue Ruin also force the viewer to appreciate the cinematography and have a more intimate understanding of Dwight’s world. There are few instances where blood and gore were used in this movie but when it is used, it is extremely gruesome and intense. A very intentional and interesting choice for a movie of this genre. Revenge stories like this thrive off of a lot of action and gore but because the protagonist that we follow is such a regular guy, the amount of gore illustrates how foreign this type of violence is to Dwight.

What is even more impressive about Blue Ruin is the fact that despite being low budget, the movie does not fail to deliver. Having a budget of about $35,000 that was collected from a Kickstarter project, it does not feel as if the film is lacking much. Macon Blair’s portrayal of Dwight is perfect, a man who resorts to violence but is human enough to react in disgust or horror when he sees  the blood that he has spilled. Saulnier has only directed one other feature film before Blue Ruin but the way he was able to build tension throughout the 90 minutes of the movie show that he has years of experience doing this. There was hardly a moment where I was not at the literal edge of my seat.

As if it was not enough to have great cinematography to accompany a well made film, Jeremy throws in an amazing twist at the end of the movie. Blue Ruin will inevitably be one of those amazing movies that only a few people will see because of the director’s lack of hierarchy and star power. It would be imprudent to say that Jeremy Saulnier will be a household name in the future but I will say that he has certainly demonstrated that he has the talent to be among Hollywood’s A-listers.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 9/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 100% (as of Nov. 11, 2013)

IMDB: 7.2/10

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