The Devil All the Time | A Circle of Bad Things

The novel this movie is based on is not one that I would have picked up. One of the reasons I ended up watching the film is the producer Jake Gyllenhaal (Spider-Man: Far from Home, Brokeback Mountain), and the cast which includes Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Mudbound), Bill Skarsgard (It, Deadpool 2, Allegiant), Harry Melling (The Old Guard), Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya, The Winter Soldier), Robert Pattinson (Tenet, Cosmopolis), and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming). My description of the cast make the movie soundsm like a sausage fest but it’s not. There are female characters, portrayed by some well known-ish actresses Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road), Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, Marley & Me), Eliza Scanlen (Little Women, Sharp Objects); but it’s really the boys’ story.

Donald Ray Pollock‘s book The Devil All The Time is adapted by Paulo Campos and director Antonio Campos (The Sinner).

Premise: Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and sinister characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There’s Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific. There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial killers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There’s the spider-handling preacher Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard’s son, who grows up to be a young man devoted to protecting those he loves in a postwar backwoods town teeming with corruption and brutality.

Review: The story is bonkers and a little over the top, it sounds surreal but at the same time it rings true. It’s dark and f’ed but is oddly captivating, with a sublime narration that adds to the atmosphere. The neatly woven narrative unfolds slowly and violently, with relatable moments.

The cast is talented, there’s no doubt about it, but the actors themselves seem off. Not enough to put you off of this movie, however just enough to keep from totally getting lost in the story, to keep some disbelief. Because this film is a collection of bad things happening to people living in the rural American South, where religion and family have a major impact them.

The production value is very strong. The directing and the acting – narration included – does a great job with the atmosphere and context of the story. The story takes its time but it flies by. The Devil all the Time is a somewhat surreal, bleak crime thriller that could a true story.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
Get the book here

Christopher and His kind | A mix of sexuality, socio-economic backgrounds, and a dash politics

Christopher Isherwood is not an unfamiliar name to me but contrary to most / some, it was not synonymous with famous inspirational and / or influential homosexual author, no. It was the name of the guy that wrote the book A Single Man was based on. Prior familiarity with the name existed in a semi-conscious place but I digress. This BBC film is inspired by his memoir of the same name. This time it’s adapted by Geoffrey Sax (Victoria) and stars Matt Smith (Doctor Who, Official Secrets) as Isherwood.
The cast also includes Imogen Poots (A Long Way Down), Douglas Booth (The Riot Club), Lindsay Duncan (A Discovery of Witches), Toby Jones (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Pip Carter (Spectre), Iddo Goldberg (Snowpiercer) and Alexander Dreymon (The Last Kingdom).

Premise: How British-American author Christopher Isherwood and his German boyfriend Heinz met and fell in love during the 1930s and the rise of Nazism.

Review: There is a documentary feel to the movie that is in part brought on by the opening scene, but mostly by the sensation that this is a reenactment. Similar, but with better production value, to those murder shows in which actors portray victim(s) and killer(s). Christopher and His kind doesn’t scream fiction – it’s not supposed to – but often biopics have a gloss and sheen to them that strip away the realness of what they’re about. I am under no illusion that this was a silver screen adaptation but my point remains.

It’s 1930s Berlin and the film is about Christopher Isherwood but everything happening around him, and history, is not ignored. Sometimes the context is obvious but when it’s subtle, it packs a heavy punch. You don’t need to know your history to feel the tension and despair creeping in. The geopolitical era is character in this film is a character in its own right. It becomes apparent when Christopher starts to shed his naive romanticized view of the world to stand against the threat of fascism. At one point, Landauer even says :

“We must all stand by our own kind, Christopher, whatever the cost.”

In a way accentuating the nice mix of sexuality, socio-economic class, and politics the whole movie has; But at every turn you wonder what is Christopher’s kind?

The answer is maybe answered in the evolution of Christopher, who first arrived in post-WWI Germany in search of freedom, his emancipation from his family, the liberty to express his sexuality. It seems ironic, surely naive, but the man that emerges from those experiences is the man we now know.

With Christopher and His Kind Sax delivers a captivating film seamlessly blending the rise of Nazi Germany and the inception of an icon of the gay movement.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

You can check out or get the book here (US) & here (EU)

Ghost in the Shell | Laziness in a nutshell

I grew up on Mangas rather than Comic books, and “Ghost in the Shell” by Shirow Masamune has always been a property that I was aware of but never actually read or saw. I was excited when the movie was announced because it was another way for me to get into the story. With Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) at the helm, I expected odd but beautiful imagery. As for the cast the only ones that I knew going in were Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit, The Jungle Book), Juliette Binoche (The 33), Takeshi Kitano, and Pilou Asbaek (Game of Thrones).

Premise: In the near future, Major Mira Killian is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

Review: One of the reasons why I did not rush to read the Manga or see the anime movies, was that I was always under the impression that it was a smart property. The kind that is thought-provoking with a little sex appeal – like as most Mangas do – thrown in. Ghost in the Shell was talked about as being great by my hormone-fulled friends who just lusted after the character, my Otaku friends, as well as my philosophizing friends.

By that measure alone, I could infer that it was a sophisticated manga that’s entertaining on multiple levels to a broad spectrum of people. The trailers looked amazing, refined, and represented my assumptions about the source materiel well. However this movie shocked me because with only second-hand knowledge about this I.P., through family and friends talking about this for years, I knew something was wrong – and I’m not talking about the obvious here.

The lack of sophistication of the story was impressive. It’s almost false advertising at this point. If second-hand knowledge of an intellectual property can be considered as watered down, me recognizing that this was poorly developed without first-hand knowledge of the manga says enough. The weak little mystery they had us sit through is barely worth an episode of a paint by numbers procedural TV-Show, at least it was a serviceable one.

I am well aware of the main controversy – white-washing – surrounding this movie, and I still remember how it felt when I saw it in the theaters. I was stunned and uncomfortable to realize that she was the “Ghost” of an Asian woman – with the Japanese mother and everything – before becoming a cybor supersoldier. It was adding insult to injury. Business-wise an argument could be made for casting a well known actrice, who happens to be white, in the role. Johansson is a pretty good fit in that sense, but why is Kuze (Michael Pitt) white as well? They could’ve accommodated the story by making this futuristic city more diverse, thus make it so that the Major was originally an expat. I’m not going to expand on that because it’s been said and three years later progress have been made, let’s keep it up.

The visuals is one of the highlight of this movie, they are great, and sadly I think that’s what they focused on the most. It now reminds me of how Bloodshot felt, in this case the shell was more important than the rest. They were good performances with this cast but not enough to forget how the rest fell kind of short.

Ghost in the Shell seems to be a pretty package with little depth that still manages not to be too average.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Extraction | Sponsored by Tupperware

It doesn’t look like it but Extraction is inspired by a graphic novel – I know, crazy right? – The comic is called “Ciudad” and was written by Ande Parks and the Russo Brothers with illustrations by Fernando León González. Both Joe and Anthony Russo are producing this film but only Joe adapted the story. With the producers, director Sam Hargrave – who was the stunt coordinator for many Marvel movies – and the star of the film – Chris Hemsworth, and one of his co-star – David Harbour – it’s a mini MCU reunion in Asia.

Premise: When Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the son of an imprisoned international crime lord, is kidnapped; Tyler Rake (Hemsworth), a black-market mercenary, is enlisted to rescue the boy. The already deadly mission approaches the impossible as Tyler and Ovi are trapped in a city that wants them both dead, and their hopes of getting out are fading fast.

Review: The story is not as straight forward as I thought it might be, there are a few genuine twists that makes it fresh. There’s also some smart levity in it but it is an action movie.

The action looks like it hurt, it’s violent AF, intense and vicious. They let it breath, literally, making it feels real and very much like you’re in it with them. As a result there is not much suspension of disbelief needed. The fight scenes, close quarters fighting chases and gun battle have a danger feel to them and a high cost throughout the film. I have a favorite fight scene though, all I’ll say is kids.

The directing is very smart with the tracking, using the idea of camera posing to hide the stuntman but using it in tracking shots, making us watch one way at some interesting thing while you know what’s happening off camera, then picking back up to where we were it’s amazing. Sam Hargrave delivers big time, he’s one to watch.

The acting is amazing, top notch, it pluses the story and help carry the emotional weight. The cast is region accurate and the actors are great. Hemsworth did not hog the screen time – take note Robbie – and was surrounded by talented actors.

By the way I totally spotted a Thor reference, did you ?

Extraction, sponsored by Tupperware – don’t think I missed the Tupperware bottle Hemsworth gave the kid – is a really good movie. Hargrave, Hemsworth, and Joe Russo delivered.

Rating: 8 out of 10.