Monday, November 3, 2014

Film Review: Coherence

Film: Coherence

 Writer:  James Ward Byrkit (screenplay & story), Alex Manugian (story)

Director: James Ward Byrkit

Cast: Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling Nicholas Brendon 

IMDb synopsis: Strange things begin to happen when a group of friends gather for a dinner party on an evening when a comet is passing overhead.

What it actually is: AWESOME.

Coherence is the type of movie that hurt my brain but in a good way. It is a seriously trippy independent film that kept me guessing throughout.

The ensemble cast, including Buffy The Vampire Slayer alum, Nicholas Brendon, as Mike, a former actor of a hugely popular teen television drama (wink, nod), does a fine job with the script, especially considering the first 15 minutes or so is just small talk around the dinner table. I had no problem buying the eight actors as old friends.

The usual group dramas develop as the night progresses, including secrets revealed and old flame flare-ups. Emily Baldoni is Em. Em is the closest thing Coherence gets to a protagonist and that works for this film. Em is a bit of basket case. She made a decision in the past that has changed the course of her life and not for the better. One member of the group heartlessly shows up with the shameless ex-girlfriend of her current boyfriend. Beth (Elizabeth Gracen) offers her a nip ketamine to relax her nerves because it just isn’t a party until the ketamine is cracked open!

The dinner party takes place the same night Earth is having a close encounter with a passing comet. Theories are bounced around the table about what effect the comet might have on them. The last time an anomaly like this happened it was over Finland and weird shit happened. Before long cell phone screens shatter. The lights go out. The whole neighborhood goes dark.

Except for that one house just up the block...

Question: If you could undo all the bad decisions you’ve made and change all the things you dislike about your life and still be you, would you do it?

Verdict: Great Cinema. Coherence is the indie film I wish I’d made.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Film Review: Into The Storm

Writer: John Swetnam 

Director: Steven Quale 

IMDb synopsis: Storm trackers, thrill-seekers, and everyday townspeople document an unprecedented onslaught of tornadoes touching down in the town of Silverton.

What it actually is: The bastard, red-headed stepchild (no offense to bastards, gingers or stepchildren) of Twister, a far superior in every way tornado disaster movie shot nearly 20 years ago. I love Twister so much this film offends me. I'm actually offended, guys.

Confession: I’m a sucker for big budget disaster movies. They're one of my guilty pleasures. Once in a while one comes along that is surprisingly great: a character driven plot with well-developed characters I find myself caring about to lead the way. It just so happens that the story is taking place while --- insert natural disaster here --- ravages the countryside. 

Twister is one of those movies. Into The Storm is not. Into The Storm is the furthest thing from one of those movies I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen The Day After Tomorrow.

Where to begin? Start with something nice, maybe? Okay. Well…the special effects are pretty good.

Warning: spoilers ahead but it doesn’t matter. It won’t be the spoilers that ruin this movie for you.

The film follows the footage/reality television model because that's never been done before. Richard Armitage plays Gary, the widower dad. He’s the vice principal of the local high school and vaguely disappointed in/vaguely worried he’s not a good enough dad for his sons, Donnie and Trey, played by Max Deacon and Nathan Press, respectively. Gary's vague disappointment in Donnie sends Donnie and his Love Interest directly into harm's way, obviously.  I’m not sure how Gary made it all the way to vice principal.  He allows the outdoor graduation ceremony to go on as planned even though there are tornado warnings in the area. I think Gary is supposed to be sexy and strong and swoon-worthy but Richard’s Candian/Australian/American hybrid “American” accent was too distracting to notice any of that.  Most baffling? Richard Armitage is British. Go figure.

Sarah Wayne Callies, of The Walking Dead fame, plays Allison, a single mom who is vaguely worried she’s not a good enough mom for her five year old daughter who we only see once and it's via Skype so who cares? To be honest, Allison has a point. Dumping off your kid off with grandma for months while you chase death storms isn’t the best way to create stability in your child's life. Allison is the… science lady on a storm chaser reality show team and tells the leader of the pack where to drive his tank/weather mobile.

Matt Walsh plays said leader, Pete. I don’t know anything about Matt Walsh. I don’t know what other movies he’s been in and after this I don’t want to know. Apologies to any fans he may have but he’s awful in this film. The character is awful, his acting is awful. The only way his acting could be called good is if this movie were a Saturday Night Live skit.

It doesn’t help that Pete is a dick. Not a dick like you can see why he’s a dick because somebody he loved screwed him over or died or something. He’s just an asshole to everybody on his team, especially Allison and his main cameraman who has a name but I can’t remember it and that doesn’t matter because he’s not developed at all so who cares, who is terrified of tornadoes. (So, great career choice there.) Asshole Pete fires Allison when the weather doesn’t do exactly what she predicted it would do, because weather is totally predictable and meteorologists are never wrong about it.  I’m not sure why anybody on Pete’s team works for him. Seven seconds after Pete fires Allison the sky starts spitting out hail the size of golf balls and she’s back on board and not fired anymore, I guess, because off they go chasing tornadoes again for no apparent reason except shits and giggles. 

I think Pete is supposed to evolve and be likeable by the end but I found myself begging for one of the twisters to get him. When one finally does I cheered and scared the shit out of my cat.

This is why Twister was so great: Helen Hunt plays Jo. Jo witnessed her father death from a tornado when she was a small child. She’s dedicated her life since then to tracking and studying tornados, in the hopes of developing a more accurate warning system and in doing so save a shit ton of lives. Bill Paxton plays Bill, Jo's estranged and soon to be ex-husband who clearly still love her and always will but was driven away by her obsession with chasing tornadoes. He arrives with his new fiance to get the divorce papers but soon realizes he misses the chase and Jo and tells her:  "One day. I'll give you one day. Whether she flies or not I'm gone." Sigh. Have I mentioned how much I love Twister? This is all established in the first 15 minutes of Twister.  The only explanation we get for why Pete is tracking tornadoes is “I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life. Don’t let me down.”  No reason why he’s been waiting for this his whole life he just has, okay, so don’t screw it up. During the third act there is a line of dialogue from Pete that suggests he’s been chasing tornadoes for scientific/heroic reasons. Basically, a “save my work to save humanity” moment before he runs off to his (noble, of course) death.

This is first and only time we hear of Pete’s science/heroics and the third act isn’t the best time to introduce vital back story.

LOL Moment #1: Donnie and Donnie’s Love Interest are trapped beneath the rubble of the old chemical plant, where he’s helping Love Interest re-film some video that has been corrupted, or something, when a tornado strikes. Love Interest cuts her ankle in the fall. (It’s a cut only slightly larger than a scratch. This is a movie about a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day of devastating tornadoes and this is about the worst injury in the film.)  Donnie finds a piece of cloth and WRAPS THE PIECE OF CLOTH AROUND HER ANKLE AND TIES IT to stop the “bleeding”.  Love Interest’s response? *swoony eyes*“Where’d you learn to do that?” Idk, kindergarten? 

LOL Moment #2: Donnie leaves an emotional goodbye video on his still functioning cell phones seconds before he drowns under the rubble from a burst pipe. I sneeze too close to my phone and the moisture ruins it forever.

LOL Moment #3: Gary valiantly saves Donnie’s life by performing “CPR” despite the fact that his hand is clearly clamped firmly over Donnie’s mouth when he does the breathing part, like a teenager practicing kissing on his own hand.

Oh, I think Gary and Allison fall in love with each other at some point. I think.

Great Cinema/Awful Cinema Verdict: Awful Cinema. And I went for the $19.99 HD version instead of the $14.99 SD version on Amazon. Dammit.

~ Kristen