Review: ‘The Rover’ 9.7.14

Writer/Director David Michod’s sophomore follow up to his electrifying debut – 2010’s “Animal Kingdom”, which burst on the scene with the type of energy that Quentin Tarantino did with 1992’s “Reservoir Dogs”. Except whereas Tarantino was sensationalizing the gangster lifestyle, Michod takes an opposite approach, showing them as beaten down souls riddled with paranoia who have backed themselves up into a corner where there’s no way out. There was nothing attractive or alluring about the lifestyle of the gangsters depicted in “Animal Kingdom”. But much like Tarantino did, Michod essentially came out of nowhere, and made one of the better (if not the best) modern day films about crime families. Which he in turn caught the eye of many on the film making landscape as one of the most promising new talents to watch (hence why he got a coveted slot at this year’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival lineup of 18).

Michod once again finds himself continuing to explore themes that he did in “Animal Kingdom”. Themes such as the nature of violence, where it derives from, and the moral complexities that lay behind it. The loose synopsis is that we are shown the aftermath of what appears to be a crime committed that went awry, and we follow the 3 men who get away. During a shoot out they crash, and hot wire a car owned by Guy Pearce’s troubled, elusive, and undeniably ruthless character.   They just messed with the wrong guy. Pearce follows them for no reason simply other than to get his car back. While in the process, he discovers one of the men who didn’t get away and was left behind for dead, played magnificently here by Robert Pattinson (anybody who still think’s this guy is just a pretty face has to look no further than here to prove themselves wrong). The Pearce character then takes the Pattinson character under his wing, and goes to seek revenge against those that left him behind.

This an incredibly dark, gritty film where the violence is unrestrained and very explosive. One of the film’s greatest strengths, and a nod to Michod as a film maker, is in its ability to show such levels of extreme violence but only at very intermittent times throughout the film. And unlike Tarantino, who’s violence can across as sensationalized and somewhat exciting, Michod is on the opposite plane. It’s what I’d call restrained yet very serious violence. When a gun shot or a round goes off you can almost feel it. I also thoroughly enjoyed the film’s score, which had an almost off-kilter sound, similar to recent scores from Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood that he’s done with Paul Thomas Anderson’s films since 2007’s “There Will Be Blood”. I thought its obtuse use of sounds lended itself well to the story of characters who are on the brink of insanity. It’s also incredibly well shot, using the Australian outback as almost a second character, as all of this violence abrupts amongst a quiet rural topography. Again, another effective tool use by Michod. This turned out to be much like “Animal Kingdom” another brilliant film. And proved to us once again why writer/director David Michod is a force to be reckoned with. I’ve already cleared a spot for it on my list of honorable mentions (#’s 10-20) which depending on its resonant staying power, could even stand a chance at cracking my top 10 at year’s end.

Grade: B+

Review: ‘Under The Skin’ 6.6.14

This was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Easily one of the year’s biggest indie hits. One that matches the innovation of say Kubrick’s ‘2001’ or Gasper Noe’s ‘Enter the Void’ (2 reference points that I thought of throughout). Here is a director, Jonathan Glazer, who with this, has done a total of 3 feature films in only 13 years, the others being his incredible 2000 debut ‘Sexy Beast’ and 2004’s ‘Birth’. Both of which I also screened prior to watching this film. He also is responsible for some of the 1990’s most influential and original music videos, particularly Radiohead’s “Kharma Police” and Jamiroqui’s “Virtual Insanity”. So, if you’re familiar with either of his other 2 films or music videos, you know that this guy is a total aesthetic artist. This film had me hooked from its first shot, where we see an extraterrestrial being (played by Scarlett Johansson, in what might be her best performance to date) being transported down to earth. But this is far from your typical Science Fiction film. In fact, it’s far from anything I’ve ever seen. I’ll spare any plot details other than that it’s completely hypnotic, unnerving, tense, and suspenseful, and it follows ScarJo as she travels through Scotland (with the Scottish highlands filmed in beautiful, lush cinematography) as she “meets” unsuspecting hitchhikers and preys upon them. Glazer is an auteur with a unique, groundbreaking, and completely innovative style and vision. Along with a chilling and beautifully haunting score by Mica Levi which fits almost like a glove in that I can’t think of an original score off hand that more closely aligns with the images you’re being shown on screen. This literally left my friend and I’s jaws gaping as the house lights went on. As well as a spirited discussion over a pint following. This is already in contention for the year’s best, along with ‘Life Itself’ and ‘Boyhood’. And is the “exact” reason why I go to the cinema. To “think”, to “feel”, and to be totally swept away by something completely unique and original. This is an absolute must see with my highest stamp of approval.

Grade: A-/A