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Weekly Review 50: INDIGO, TRANS4MERS, IDA, 13, THE GOOD

Weekly Review

It’s been more than two weeks since our last outing at the Weekly Review outpost so I’ve got a bit to catch up on. At the theater, I gobbled up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Into the Storm, The Giver and Love is Strange (review soon). Since most of the television shows I watch are off air for the summer season, I’ve had a dive into some 2014 films that had slipped under the cracks. I know it seems funny to consider Transformers: Age of Extinction amongst the “forgotten few” but it’s one I missed the screening of that took me a long time to get around to. Three hours of robokake is quite a commitment. Without further adieu, let’s dive in and do some Weekly Review.

Mood Indigo (2014)

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Michel Gondry outdoes himself with Mood Indigo. His latest breeze-fest is so wrecklessly bizarre and aggressively strange that the initial charm soon turns to cutesiness and wears off quickly. Without characters that feel as if they’re living, breathing human beings, Gondry’s film is a tiring exploration of how far an audience will tolerate strangeness for the sake of strangeness. Another misfire from a man full of misfires, Mood Indigo is a Rufus Wainwright song; intriguing at first but quickly tiresome. (C)

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

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A scrabble of CG set pieces and insanely overwrought characterization, Transformers: Age of Extinction is Bay at his best and worst. The shorts are shorter, the explosions louder, the robots more robotic. American flags wave in the background for no reason whatsoever. What’s so amazing is the fact that at 165 minutes, a movie overstuffed with eardrum-shattering soundsplosions and Optimus Prime whacking enemies with a massive broadsword threatens to put you to sleep. Further, it fails to reach the technical heights of Bay’s last installment, especially considering that the celebrated Dinobots don’t come into play until a good two hours after the movie starts. (D+)

Ida (2014)

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Ida has a lot going for it: Pawel Pawlikowski stepping back into the limelight; nuanced performances from leads Agata Trzebuchowska and Agata Kulesza; a thoughtful, meditative soul; crisp, clean black-and-white cinematography from Lukasz Zal; and historical import. Pawlikowski’s film follows orphan Anna, who is about to take her vows. Before she does, her Mother Superior urges her to discover her roots, upon which Anna discovers that not only is she Jewish but her family was murdered in the Holocaust. Ida is not always an easy film but it’s potent and powerful, rife with themes of absolution and guilt. (B)

13 Sins (2014)

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A clever concept undone by piss poor acting, 13 Sins imagines a world in which a powerful group of one percenters enlist everyday nobodies to participate in a twisted game. The game is simple; complete a given task and you win money. The first task is to kill a fly ($1000). The second, to eat it ($3500). As you can imagine, as the dollar signs skyrocket, so do the heinousness of any given assignment. It’s a less clever version of E.L. Katz‘s wonderful Cheap Thrills and, as mentioned, suffers greatly from a cast performing at a low bar. Devon Graye in particular is almost offensively bad, especially considering he’s playing a special needs character more inspired by Simple Jack than Rain Man. (C-)

The Good, The Bad, the Weird (2008)

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This is how you remake a film: rip its beating heart out, slam it onto a new continent, whitewash it with different cultural meaning and pump it full of adrenaline. Gorgeously photographed and inlaid with decadent set designs, The Good, The Bad, The Weird takes Sergio Leone‘s magnum opus out of Spain and plants it in Manchuria with a hard-R rating. It’s a wacky take on a classic that’s liberal with its reinvention but homages in ample doses. The skippy score and whack ado performance from Kang-ho Song makes it a rollicking good time and a film worth seeking out and slurping up. (A-)

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2014 SIFF Offers 435 Films, I Offer 25 Must Sees

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Update June 3: More reviews added, no standing replacements.

Update May 17: Seeing that some of these didn’t live up to expectation, some prior “Must Sees” have been yanked and new additions have taken their place. After all, who doesn’t love some corrections and omissions?!

For its 40th, the Seattle International Film Festival is again raising the bar on itself, this year offering a whopping 435 films including 198 feature films, 60 documentaries, and 163 short films from 83 countries. Of those, 44 are world premieres, 29 North American premieres and 13 US premieres. All this amongst a slew of festival favorites from this year and last. Let’s just say that the odds of seeing them all just got that much slimmer. 

Kicking the festival off is Oscar-winner (12 Years a Slave) John Ridley‘s Jimi: All is By My Side, a zero frills biopic that chronicles the afro-ed classic rocker’s year in Britain leading up to his iconic Woodstock performance. And all by his side is 12 Years alum Chiwetel Ejiofor who will be in attendance May 19 (6 PM @ The Egyptian Theater) to talk about his new film Half of a Yellow Sun, an African-produced historical drama about Nigerian’s civil war through the 60s. Ejiofor will also take place in a Q&A with an audience eager to speak with the Academy Award nominee that same evening.

The festival will close June 8 at the glorious Cinerama with The One I Love starring Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) and Mark Duplass (The League) which saw strong reviews opening at Sundance and is said to mix elements of modern romance with “Twilight Zone” twists and turns. Add it to the ever growing “To See” List.

But likely the most exciting and anticipated film of the festival will be found in SIFF’s Centerpiece Gala in Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood on Saturday, May 31 @ 5 PM. I had the great fortune of being amongst the first audience to see this at Sundance and it did nothing short of blow me away. Though I don’t want to be greedy and steal away the seats of those yet uninitiated to Boyhood, I look forward to experiencing it again and may not be able to resist a second viewing.

Since it’s all but impossible to see everything at SIFF, I have a list of 25 must sees that should put you on the right track for this year’s festivities.

The 25 Must Sees of SIFF 2014

Boyhood
Obviously Boyhood is gonna be on the list. I absolutely loved it and could wax said love over this page all day but I’ll spare the gushing and just tell you that of the 80+ films I’ve reviewed this year (!!!) this is the only to have yet received an A+. Sundance review here.

Mood Indigo
Michael Gondry returns to the realm of the weird, this time in his native French language, in what should be equal measures charming, bittersweet, and esoteric. The incredibly alluring Audrey Tatou is Chloe, who becomes wrapped up with a quirky inventor, even though she’s dying (because she has flowers growing in her lungs.)

Grand Central
Blue is the Warmest Color star Lea Seydoux puts in her second turn against A Prophet‘s Tahar Rahim in this French/Austrian production about a risky love affair set at the nuclear power plant where they both work.

Venus in Furs
Carnage wasn’t exactly the prodigal return for Roman Polanski we might have hoped for but it was anything but bad. Polanski continues his recent tradition of adapting lauded plays with Venus in Furs which stars Mathiew Amalric (Quantum of Solace) and is filmed in Polanski’s native French. Venus focuses on a playwright’s battle with his creative side. SIFF review here.

Cannibal
The chilling promo image alone gets me thinking Psycho and added to the fact that this production is in part Spanish, Romanian, Russian and French, gives it the taste of “something new.” Hopefully it brings the scares to the table in a SIFF surprisingly short on them. No longer considered must see, read our SIFF review here.

The Double (new addition)
Jesse Eisenberg stars as two polar opposites in this Orson Welles inspired black comedy. Wickedly weird but quietly potent, The Double might not be the best doppleganger film of the year (that award goes to Enemy) but it’s certainly compelling viewing that’ll leave you oddly fulfilled. SIFF review here.


Wetlands
A brilliantly told German satirical sexploitation/black comedy based on the popular and controversial German novel from Charlotte Roche. Wetlands is ooey, gooey fun that’ll make the hardest of stomachs churn every now and again but fully worth it for anyone up to the task. Sundance review here.

Lucky Them
What better to symbolize Seattle than the Sub Pop music scene? Megan Griffiths, who directed last year’s critically acclaimed Eden, takes on an entirely different subject right here in the rainy city and feel aided by performances from Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church, and Oliver Platt.

They Came Together
Although the trailer shown seems to suggest a movie so deep in meta that it didn’t know which way was up, They Came Together found loads of fans when it played at this year’s Sundance. The ingredients alone – Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, David Waine (director of Wet Hot American Summer) in a doubly farcical, heavily tongue-in-cheek rom-com – seems primed for success.

How to Train Your Dragon 2
This is a tricky one to really anticipate as sequels are as much of a toss up as one can plan for but if the quality boast of Toy Story 3 and the wild success of the first How to Train Your Dragon are any indication, this could be the best widely-released animated feature of the year.

Time Lapse
Bradley King‘s directoral debut follows a group of three friends who discover a camera that shows events in the future, and looks to combine elements of sci-fi and horror into a thrilling narrative ride. Set for it’s North American premiere at SIFF, Time Lapse looks more promising than most within its field. Not gushing SIFF review here.

The Trip To Italy (new addition)
Four years after The Trip, Steve Coogan may be more clean cut than the shaggy Brit we once was but his and Rob Brydon’s chemistry is as flammable as ever. “Their old-as-they-are relationship paves the way for improvisation prowess so organic its feels more like second natural than performance. More impressions, absolutely stunning vistas, Alanis Morissette’s croon, lazily waxing on life and pasta, pasta, pasta gives intrepid life to The Trip to Italy.” SIFF review here.