zuhause: Vivarium

In the early going, Vivarium contains what might be seen as some minor logic issues, but the film leaves little time to dwell on it. Glenn Kenny of the Times:

…its commitment to the inexorable horrors of its story line is actually surprising. (The sci-fi angle of the story is suggested by its title.) There’s a consistent inventiveness — and grim humor — to this treatment of a seemingly well-worn theme.

And Clarisse Loughrey of The Independent (UK):

Vivarium imagines the horror of being trapped inside your own home. What a concept! Though its atmosphere of delirious claustrophobia may now cut a little too close to the bone, the nightmares director Lorcan Finnegan wants to conjure are of an entirely different nature. There’s no pandemic here – only parenthood, suburbia, and the slow asphyxiation of heteronormative society.

I was happily surprised by Vivarium, a solid, compelling, taut sci-fi effort. Jesse Eisenberg is turning up in more and more intriguing indies, isn’t he? On the high end of 7/10

Comparison Notes: Cube, We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Twilight Zone (multiple episodes), The Cabin in the Woods, PoltergeistSplice, Moon, and The BoxEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Synecdoche, New York

VOD Log: In Fabric

So there is definitely something different going on with this one. Very highly stylized with retro 70’s cheese. Is it horror? Not exactly. Definitely channels those old Vincent Price movies.

I was very much liking In Fabric, even fascinated by it, but then — SPOILER ALERT!!


Then the central character dies halfway through the movie, and in a most unsatisfactory way. Just when I was really getting to know her and become invested in the story. That completely broke the movie.


I certainly appreciate the novel concept here, but the event spoiled above, plus a general ineptitude in conveying a cohesive story arc, puts me in the minority among critics as not being able to recommend In Fabric.  5/10

PS — This was another film previewed in cinemas (in 2019) but then never shown in any theater. And this time I’m not exaggerating — according to Box Office Mojo, there still hasn’t been an American release, and now that it’s streaming you can bet there never will be. I wish theaters would not waste people’s time with trailers of films that will never be shown in them.

This speaks to the ever-growing dominance of streaming services, but I think it also speaks to this just not being a great film, despite the Tomatometer chorus of cheers; critics tripping over themselves to praise an overall lame film.

Comparison Notes: The Ring, The Red Violin (object permanence, these two), Brazil, The Twilight Zone (original series), Eraserhead, Cronenberg films, Phantom Thread, Raw, A Clockwork Orange, Holy Motors, Christine, Rubber, The Neon Demon, The Double, Teeth

Lady Macbeth Doth Protest Too Little

Lady Macbeth started and ran strongly for about the first two-thirds, before running into territory that was a bit mishandled, and less than optimal even if handled perfectly.  Still though, very good and fully engrossing — and the biggest reason is the film’s star.  Adam Graham, The Detroit News:

With quiet menace, [Florence] Pugh chews through director William Oldroyd’s handsomely composed period thriller like a rat gnawing through a wall.  She’s a force to be reckoned with, and her nightmare stare lingers longer than any poor sap who dares to get in her way.

Cath Clarke, Time Out London:

This brilliantly feminist British indie film plunges a cold, sharp knife into the back of bonnet dramas.

Indeed.  A lot of (evil) fun to be had here.  Maybe think of as a companion piece to The Little Hours, which is sticking with me enough that I’m considering bumping it up a notch.  Every time I think of it I smile inside.  As for Lady Macbeth: 8/10

Comparison Notes (all recommended): Les Amants Criminels, Lars von Trier films, especially Breaking the Waves; Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett), The Last Seduction, The Housemaid, Marie Antoinette.

T2 Trainspotting: Why or Why Not?

There was a profound opportunity to tell the story how heroin addicts who barely survived their respective early struggles were faring 20 years later.  That’s the story I believe Danny Boyle was trying to tell.  In my book, he failed miserably — that rocket sailed sky-high over his head.  T2 Trainspotting should by all rights have been a deep and powerful film that stood firmly on its own.  Instead, he made a picture utterly pointless without the original.

* * *

I’ve always paired Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction as the two great, seminal, earth-shattering films of the nineties.  The movies that were so utterly transformative.  Quentin Tarantino never tried to remake or produce a sequel to Pulp Fiction, and I hope he stays true in this regard.  Danny Boyle, a vastly inferior filmmaker, didn’t have the same self-restraint.

So it sounds like I’m bashing the heck out of Boyle’s follow-up.  But I liked it just enough for a thumbs-up.  Why?  I love the original so much, and T2, for all its many shortcomings, works well as a vibrant homage to the groundbreaking original.  Kind of like when a rich kid goes off to run the business his father built from the ground up, and is able to at least keep it afloat a few more years.  Put another way, dumb down “massively entertaining” and see what you get: something not nearly as entertaining, but still not a bad trifle.

Marginally recommended, with a heavy dose of all the standard caveats, plus add: an adoration of Trainspotting, and that you see it on a big screen with big sound.  Both trailers included below not by accident.  6/10

A Tome upon Mr. Turner

Timothy Spall and Dorothy Atkinson

Timothy Spall and Dorothy Atkinson

Mike Leigh’s tale of Britain’s greatest painter begins awkwardly and has its share of deficiencies, but upon the artist’s first visit to the seashore the movie grabbed me and didn’t let go until the end of its 2 1/2-hr. run time.  A number of amateur critics are calling Mr. Turner, to paraphrase, an abominable bore, but I disagree.  As I said, I was held quite nicely.  But the film did not take advantage of the subject matter to the extent it should have.

Specifically, Leigh failed to convey in a superlative way the ethereal beauty of JMW Turner’s paintings, the live scenes that caused their inspiration, and Turner’s experiences in those scenes; in nature.  Instead the focus is more on Turner’s personal life and his impact on those close to him — and the movie is excellent in this regard.  My problem is that the movie should have been able to handle both parts of the story with equal agility.

I have cogitated upon the matter, and Mr. Turner earns a solid 7/10.

* * *

Comparison Notes: The English Patient, Howard’s End, Only Lovers Left Alive

The Trip to Bountiless

The Trip - poster smallWhen I first saw the Michael Caine impersonation-off in the trailer for The Trip a few years back, I was amused.  But when that scene hit early in the actual movie, it rang hollow.  I love Michael Caine, and the one maestro of British impersonations (which seems to be the main point of the movie) does a dead-on Caine, really nailing both the young and old actor.  The fact that it wasn’t funny speaks volumes about this failed film.

So a recurring theme in my blog: comedy is tough.  The British comedic chemistry that this film yearns for is largely missing.  A reference in the movie is made to the phenomenally successful BBC series Top Gear.  Now there’s some comedic chemistry.  But no such luck in The Trip. 

Another problem was the split personality of The Trip.  If the comedy worked well enough it might not be so bad that it splits its effort with equally ineffective forays into drama.  I suppose the dramatic interludes are meant to bolster the overall comic output — Neighbors comes to mind, but it does not work here.

Sideways, the movie that has grown near and dear to my heart, draws obvious comparisons to The Trip.  And since Sideways started slowly, I kept giving The Trip the benefit of the doubt that it would improve as the not-so-dynamic duo trundle along.  But except for the end of the film, which I hope without giving anything away brings strong parallels to Local Hero, that higher calling is never reached on this Trip.  It is no Local Hero, it definitely doesn’t lean Sideways, and it cannot reach a Top Gear.  4/10

Friday Fun Flick: Waking Ned Devine

Waking Ned Devine - poster

I mentioned it in my post on Calvary, and further back in my “British Invasion” write-up, so let’s shine a light on Waking Ned Devine (1998).  This movie doesn’t need to force its spirituality the way Calvary did.  Now, the subject matter is completely different — there aren’t any weighty clerical matters to be tackled here, no sexual abuse cases.  But it doesn’t matter; there’s still more depth, and a heck of a lot more entertainment value.

A complete delight, Waking Ned Devine sings with joy — the right way to spark religious fervor in my book.

Waking Ned Devine - trailer - reduced

Trailer (iTunes link)

Cinematic Greats: Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire poster - largeINVESTIGATING THE OLYMPIC theme music, I found a Smithsonian article which explains the muddled mess quite nicely.  In a nutshell, the primary theme Americans identify with the Olympics is Leo Arnaud’s “Bugler’s Dream”, not composed by John Williams, who however added to “Bugler’s Dream” with his own original composition for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Olympics - Theme Music Article SmithsonianOutside of the U.S., the music most associated with the Olympics is the Chariots of Fire theme music by Vangelis.  That’s too bad for foreigners, because the American take is grand, spirited music that I have for most of my life strongly associated with the Olympic games — and it is so completely apt.  The Chariots of Fire music is also beautiful and spirited, and I associate it too with the Olympics — but only in a secondary manner by way of the movie.  I am happy as an American to be able to embrace both pieces of music.

* * *

Looking into the Olympic music caused me to reflect on Chariots of Fire, a superbly great movie.  Roger Ebert gave his highest rating:

This is strange. I have no interest in running and am not a partisan in the British class system. Then why should I have been so deeply moved by “Chariots of Fire,” a British film that has running and class as its subjects? I’ve toyed with that question since I first saw this remarkable film in May 1981 at the Cannes Film Festival, and I believe the answer is rather simple: Like many great films, “Chariots of Fire” takes its nominal subjects as occasions for much larger statements about human nature.

Indeed.  Among all the remarkable aspects of this movie is its score, the brilliant collection by Vangelis.  Beyond the well-known main theme, the entire soundtrack is thoroughly modern, yet works magically as a defining theme perfectly in harmony with the period story.  I realize Chariots of Fire is a well-known and highly regarded film, having won four Oscars including Best Picture.  But that does not preclude a mention here: it is highly recommended, essential viewing.

Chariots of Fire - trailer

Trailer – IMDb

Film Brief: Cashback

Cashback (2006) is a little indie British film that you’re not likely to come across, which is a good thing.  This is the type of movie that makes you understand why we don’t see more movies from the UK.  It attempts to be both a contemplative romantic movie and a comedy, and pretty well fails at both.  A couple nice moments and some good production values save it from being a complete disaster.  3/10

Cate Blanchett on Charlie Rose

Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth

Cate Blanchett was such a revelation when introduced to the world as the young Queen Elizabeth.  She seemed so ideally cast as to represent a direct reincarnation of the actual, long lost ruler.  It’s hard to imagine anyone else in that role.

She is not my favorite actress, but there’s no question she’s one of the best around, and her interview with Charlie Rose is intriguing.

I’ve been going to sleep earlier lately, and a big downside on that is not being able to watch Charlie Rose on a regular basis.  Luckily I was able to catch the beginning of this interview, and luckily Rose posts his shows online.

Charlie_Rose & Cate Blanchett