God's Slave (2014, Film Movement)

Review – God’s Slave

With God’s Slave you have another tale of a series of planned terrorist attacks and a man planning to stop them. What starts to separate this film is that the site of the attacks is Argentina in 1994, and also that the film takes a very personal, character-driven approach to both sides of the story. Just the fact that it tells both sides of the story is telling enough. Clearly, the key to drama is conflict, and the most effective dramas are ones wherein both sides are equally understood and watchable. This is not to say one doesn’t bring their own baggage to the film, but rather that it doesn’t force your hand. It tells the story of the each character from their perspective.

Here’s how the film goes about doing that specifically, as per Film Movement:

Based on the actual events of a 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires still making headlines today, GOD’S SLAVE follows Ahmed, trained since childhood as an Islamic terrorist now assigned to execute a suicide bombing at a synagogue, and David, the cold-blooded Israeli special agent who will stop at nothing to prevent the attack. But neither man is defined solely by their extremist views. Ahmed, posing as a doctor, lives happily with his wife and young son; though David’s marriage is on the rocks, he remains devoted to his wife and daughter. With time running out before the attack, David zeros in on Ahmed as a suspect, his investigation culminating in violent, if unexpected, consequences.

The film takes interesting approach in the use of flashbacks and its overall structure as it does not delve in to both stories simultaneously, but through visuals and effectual montages bridges narrative ellipses and creates elisions between the two central figures as they set off on a collision course for one another.

To affect this collision course and make it something worth seeing the performances need to be up to snuff and they clearly are here. There is always something to be said for faces unfamiliar to moviegoers as suspension of disbelief becomes easier, and analysis of the actor and his transformation is not in the forefront of one’s mind. That being said Mohammed Alkhaldi and Vando Villamil definitely seem entirely immersed in their characters and torn with their own personal struggles – as both continuously fight against their better natures to do what they feel needs doing. The full and nuanced portrayal of both is what makes the story so captivating.

The film’s closing shot is one of those where I anticipated it by a split-second but still enjoyed seeing my prediction come to fruition. It’s one that satisfactorily closes the story for the characters yet is realistic. For better or worse, the two sides come to terms with the events precipitated the final showdown, though the world hasn’t quite.

When dealing with terrorism and counterterrorism efforts on film the trap is set to lump in either side too monolithically with their respective ethnic or religious identities. The strength of this film is that it built its characters as individuals and was able to see the world through both sets of eyes and still paint a compelling portrait. In fact, the film begins by illustrating the deep rift and spirals from there with one man’s egalitarianism sparking incredulity. The only thing the film is careful of is condemning actions rather than making generalizations.

God’s Slave does not sacrifice suspense or its cinematic qualities to tell a more balanced tale – nor does it ever feel disingenuous on either side. It’s still chilling and viscerally rendered without oversimplifying a complex problem that has faced the world for decades, and shows no signs of slowing. To compromise, to play both ends towards the middle throughout would’ve weakened the film and it doesn’t go that route. Yes, there are likely some movie-logic touches but even those are earned after the journey.

8/10

220px-The_Racing_Strain_FilmPoster

Poverty Row April: The Racing Strain (1932)

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old Poverty Row April post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically depending on the theme. Enjoy!

The Racing Strain (1932)

This is a film that seems to be entirely about the periphery and not about the center. In other words, it’s hollow. If you look at the description it purports to be a race car driver who is struggling to overcome alcoholism to return to the top, and that’s in there but not the focus. In fact, the racer in question is not even the protagonist. The protagonist is really his young mechanic, Bill, more commonly referred to as Big Shot (Wallace Reid, Jr.). He’s the character with a trauma to overcome, who has to grow, who comes to the rescue of his driver, who gets into fights. However, there’s approximately three times as much set up as pay-off.

And this is discounting the fact there’s a thinly-written, plot device of a character whose a punching bag for racist jokes and slurs. The movie just doesn’t move enough. Again it’s a shame because the idea is good, but it’s one that could’ve focused more on the addiction to make it a closer facsimile to The Champ. The idea for the project makes sense especially considering the involvement of Wallace Reid‘s son. He and Dickie Moore, on loan from Hal Roach to film one scene, are among the only redeeming qualities this film has, but most of it is wasteful.

2/10

Calving Glacier (2015, Telegraph)

Short Film: Chasing Ice

There are many natural wonders that are great fodder for nature docs and a Earth Day-themed post. However, it’s not right to be overly-rosy about the state of the climate at all times. Recognizing this fact and making people more cognizant of the environment lead to the creation of the day.

This is a historic recording in Greenland of a large ice calving. It is breathtaking on many levels and more reason to be mindful of what we do on this and every day. If interested in further pursuit follow the link above or the one cited at the end of the video.

In Love with Life (1934, Invincible)

Poverty Row April: In Love with Life (1934)

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old Poverty Row April post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically depending on the theme. Enjoy!

In Love with Life (1934)

A few things come to mind when discussing this film, most are specific to Poverty Row others aren’t as much. I’ve discussed the running time and the utilization thereof on a few occasions in these posts. This is not something that stems from worries about my attention span or time management issues but is inherent to structuring. Some of these films are trying to cram a lot of film into not much time, others are at points stretching. This one, at a brisk 51 minutes seems to handle things just right.

Now one note I will include, I believe this is the TV edit. I base this conclusion on both the book by Mr. Pitts and the IMDb, which list the running time at 66 minutes, as does a supposedly remastered version available on the IMDb. Sadly, with many of these Poverty Row titles those are the only cuts that remain. If this is truly a TV edit kudos to the editors of this version, while it is brisk it never feels overly truncated. There just seem to be a few instances of dropped frames.

Things that separate this film are: that there is scoring throughout rather than just on the opening and closing title, there are moving shots which required sophisticated sound editing, elevated production values for the budget namely set design and good montage/titling work.

Not exclusive to, but more common in works of this type, are stories that pre-date and lead up to the stock market crash. It being a melodrama the moral is clear: we lost our money but have what matters. However, it doesn’t go as far over the top as it could, particularly with a mother-child separation at the beginning. It plays its tropes fairly well and quickly.

9/10

Find Me (2015, Rise Records)

Music Video Monday: Tyler Carter – Find Me

Introduction

I’ve debated starting this theme for a few weeks, and I ultimately decided I would as it would encourage me to looks for options that actually fit what I’m aiming for. If one pays too much attention to Top 40 type music you tend to see a dearth of creativity in the music video form. The music video is spawned from short films and can be as creative if not more so than their predecessor. Far too often it does just become singing heads. I want to try and buck that trend and find ones both new and old that do something somewhat outside the box, at the very least have some sort of visual narrative. Here we go.

Tyler Carter – Find Me

Yes, in this video you have a journey like in the first one I featured, there are also randomly-place, creatively-use televisions like in this video; what sets this video apart is the photography, the elliptical storytelling and the performance. Like those other videos this song is also quite good. Enjoy!

The Amazing Wiplala (2014, Bosbros/Attraction Distribution)

Review – The Amazing Wiplala

The Amazing Wiplala is a family film from the Netherlands that introduces a new breed of diminutive personage to the big screen. There are many films of this kind, one of the more notable being the many iterations of The Borrowers that have come about – there is also a portion which hearkens back to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, which is a touch I love.  Wiplala is a film adaptation of a children’s book that comes form the Netherlands and is beloved there. However, the film should have a fairly broad appeal and does have some wrinkles of its own.

The tale is outlined as follows:

Young Johannes’ “Wiplala” is no imaginary friend, he’s as real as a four-inch-tall wizard can be. Wiplala befriends the family until he shrinks all of its members. Oops… the spell can’t be undone! Thrills and adventure ahead!

There is the added element of magic and its clear that thing soon start getting out of hand and somehow that has to be corrected. As with any film of this kind there is a discovery by the protagonist in this case Johannes (Sasha Mylanus), and slowly the existence of this creature must be learned by the rest of the family. This is handled in a fairly pain-free and humorous manner. In a nice bit of balancing the ramifications of the mishaps Wiplala incurs are far-reaching but only the family, and select others know. The world doesn’t get too big such that when the focus has to shift from Wiplala (or his deeds) to the individual family members its nearly seamless and not competing with anything else.

The narrative is full of creative, simply-rendered comedic elements and a few small subplots that work. The funniest one being about Arthur Hollidee, the lovelorn unsuccessful author. There is a more visually striking one but that is better off left as a surprise. The struggle is a fairly simple one and there is a good deal of emotional symbiosis that connects the characters and makes it click.

The cast does fairly good work making all this work. Geza Weisz in the eponymous role of errant betwinkler (a kind of wizard, but don’t call him that) is sprightly, bubbly and charismatic without a trace of irony. Kee Ketelaar has a tricky role to handle as the elder sister Nella Della. The script allows her little room for being anything other than an implicative, brown-nosing older sister through much of it then when things get serious she has to be more sincere and earn those moments for the film. Next, Sasha Mylanus well embodies the role of Kid Next Door who just kind of feels lost in the shuffle and finds this secret wonder. His character’s journey is the most complete and takes us into this world well. Many of the Dutch family productions I’ve seen recently have also featured memorable humorous turns from supporting players whom are senior citizens, most notably here Paul Kooij.

The Amazing Wiplala a humorous, escapist light fare that will offer diversion to all sensibilities in a family keeping them equally engaged and entertained; well worth looking out for.

7/10

Ten Minutes to Live (1932)

Poverty Row April: Ten Minutes to Live (1932)

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old Poverty Row April post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically depending on the theme. Enjoy!

Ten Minutes to Live (1932)

Quite a few times during this festival I have gone back to what is essentially the bible to this theme Pitts’ book on the Poverty Row Studios. It list companies, filmographies, synopses and has reviews. When I read of Oscar Micheaux, who for 30 years as an independent filmmaker was a pioneer. He was not only a virtual one-man operation, but a black man doing so from 1918 to 1948 makes him even more compelling. While he jump-started many a career, he was not without controversy both in his community and in white America also. In the end, I knew I had to see at least one of his films. I’m not sure if I searched The Internet Archive for all the titles listed in the book. After watching this film I did refer back to the review and my take on it is similar to Pitts’ “a jumbled mess,” and though it’s his only film I’ve seen, Pitts’ assertion that it’s his worst film is one I would hope would hold true. The sound is shoddy, the acting is the real-life inspiration of “bad acting” impersonations and much of the 57 minutes of screen time is wasted on non-diegetic song-and-dance numbers that act as filler during minimal stories, which, as Pitts states, are likely recycled footage.

1/10

The Terror (1963)

Free Movie Friday: The Terror (1963)

I wanted to start this series back in January. Basically, there are a lot of good movies out there that you can watch free and clear. Meaning you don’t have to pay for them and by streaming it free you’re not stealing it because they are in the public domain. Also, in some cases, these films are not all as ancient as copyright laws usually call for.

To be honest if The Terror wasn’t one of Jack Nicholson’s first screen appearances it wouldn’t very memorable. However, he is in it and it is a middling film worthy of a look if only for the curiosity if nothing else. Enjoy!