Film Brief: The Lighthouse

Underwhelming is the operative word here. Overrated claptrap pops up too. Nowhere in my imagination would I think The Lighthouse would make Robert Eggers’ previous effort The Witch look good by comparison, but it does.

As expected, there’s plenty of atmosphere, and, aye sir — the square frame is fittin’. But I’ve said it a million times — atmospherics aren’t everything. You need a good story. Eggers, once again, is well short of the mark and lacks a clear vision. The conclusion — no spoilers needed here — is downright lame. 4/10

Comparison Notes: Dead Man, Mad Men, Antichrist. The concluding scenes of The Lighthouse brought to mind Antichrist. And it makes you realize what a genius Lars von Trier is. Eggers, by comparison, is a poser, a wannabe hack, one attempting to appear as some great art director, but hollow at the core. Because story is always the core.

VOD Log: Revenge

Revenge is a French I Spit on Your Grave set in the desert.  It’s not as good as that movie by a long shot — among other things, it’s plagued by problems of both logic and execution — but it’s not without it’s positive attributes.

My first reaction upon finishing Revenge was that I was mildly entertained, so a marginal thumbs-up, but I reflected on those numerous, nagging logic gaps, and then on the overall feel of the film.  It was striving for something that it just couldn’t accomplish.  Between the poster and the trailer, I thought I would really dig the look of the film’s desert setting — but that setting, and the movie itself, felt off and flat.

4/10

Comparison Notes: first and foremost, the previously mentioned I Spit on Your Grave; Eden Lake, Straw Dogs, Last House on the Left (these 3 in Riveting Rentals), After Dark, My Sweet

Film Brief: Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace may be thought of as an antidote to Captain Fantastic.  There are some powerful elements to the film, but it’s not without its own issues and left me wanting for more.  Still, there’s a lot I did like about it, like walking across the bridge.  A marginal 7/10

Comparison Notes: American Honey, Into the Wild, 127 Hours, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, The Wolfpack, A Quiet Place, Swiss Army Man

Film Brief: Captain Fantastic

Captain Fantastic has a few cute moments, but overall it’s contrived and full of artifice.  A completely broken film; generously, 4/10.

On a related note — I’ve talked before about annual trends, and there’s an interesting one that’s developed this year: that of tongue-in-cheek survival in the wilderness: So far, Hunt for the Wilderpeople was the most successful of these; besides Captain Fantastic there was Swiss Army Man.

* * *

Comparison Notes: Short Term 12

Film Brief: Swiss Army Man

Stephanie Zacharek, Time:

…essentially the movie is really just two guys talking in the wilderness for 90 minutes

And that’s the problem with Swiss Army Man.  I disagree with the 90 minutes part of that statement, but it’s certainly the case that the filmmakers too quickly ran out of ideas.  Again, I know not everything can be Being John Malkovich as far as inventing new ideas, but still, you have to continue on with your movie.  I can think of a number of interesting ways in which Swiss Army Man might have evolved, but the “Daniels” were content to stop short.

Even so, there’s enough fun novelty for a marginal thumbs-up.  6/10

Comparison Notes: the TV series The Greatest American Hero.  It’s the 4th of July, after all.

Note on the trailer: it gives away too much; watch at your own risk.

Indie Log: Metro Manila

Metro Manila - poster
For some reason — maybe the poster artwork — I thought Metro Manila was going to be a highly stylized, slick action pic.  But it’s hardly anything of the sort; rather, it is a brutal, straightforward depiction of a family attempting to survive abject poverty in a place where it is readily commonplace.

Especially regarding the wife, Metro Manila avoided plumbing the ultimate depths it might have.  But make no mistake: this is a great, suspenseful foreign indie.  8/10

Availability: Netflix