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The Lorelei – Review

Title: The Lorelei
Genre: Action/Thriller, MysteryHorror, Fantasy, Drama
Production: Onview Films
Directors/Writers: Mol Smith
Stars:  Kemal YildirimLorie-Lanie ShanksSophie Townsend » See full cast & crew at IMDB

This is your shadow on my wall

~ “I Have Not Been to Oxford Town” by Bowie/Eno from Outside

The legendary Lorelei is a dark enchantress who lures fisherman and sailors to their death. In geography she is a steep rock over 4oo feet high on the bank of the Rhine river.

Her legend survives in countless songs and stories. So Mol Smith’s The Lorelei continues a long tradition of blending feminine beauty, danger and death—in French and in the arts, she’s la femme fatale.

From the opening frames of this Indie film, set and shot around Oxford, I knew I would enjoy it. But not just because the story takes place at Oxford.

Rebecca

After a scenic introduction, The Lorelei quickly moves into a well-paced murder mystery. Holy smokes, the British are good at that, aren’t they?

Canadians have been watching British TV murders for years. Like Rock and Roll, the Brits have a knack for murder mystery. And director Mol Smith is no exception. Smith is actually based in Oxford, and it shows.

I don’t want to write a spoiler. And regurgitating story lines can be tedious, like a high-school project I’d rather avoid. On the plus side, holistic thinkers like me often pick up on things outside the main plot line.

Elizabeth and Martin

So let’s just say there’s a murder at the outset and a supernatural element adds to the mystery. But that’s only the beginning.

Enter the affluent victim’s daughter, a private detective, a cop, along with a Madame and her “girls” who fund their education by selling sexual services.

The main characters’ lives intertwine with several twists and turns that, if outlined here, would ruin the film. But I will comment on the performances.

Mel Mills (Martin) and Tessa McGinn (Elizabeth) also appear in the Mol Smith’s Abduction. I enjoyed Abduction on a metaphysical level but for me The Lorelei is far more immediate. And the interaction between Martin and Elizabeth seems more real and grounded.

Daniel

Mills and McGinn also make a bold statement that so many millennials just don’t get: Seasoned and mature individuals can be just as sneaky, sexual and sexy as anyone else.

I liked this aspect of the film. Our contemporary “script” for normality implies that middle-aged people should behave like stale bread or sour wine. No sexual attractions nor thoughts. Just turn it all off.

Thankfully, Madonna, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and a few other celebrities have shown that, for most creative people, that’s a sham. And repressing rather than expressing, redirecting or maybe transmuting sexuality usually turns out badly. If anything, repression leads to stagnant, judgmental and potentially abusive personalities.

Sarah

So I give The Lorelei full marks for representing its mature characters as full human beings, and not just as packages past their shelf life, as many folks – young and old – tend to see it.

Ageism sucks. And it rarely hits the radar these days.

As for the younger actors in this film, I find them charming. Sophie Townsend plays Sarah, a luminous young woman making her way through uni, as the Brits say, by taking clients on the side.

Sarah could be in an early Beatlemania film. Or maybe she reminds me of a young, female incarnation of David Bowie. I don’t know. But something about her spirited demeanor and slightly retro look won me over.

Sarah and Rebecca

Lorie-Lanie Shanks as Rebecca comes out strong, fulfilling that “rich English babe” stereotype to a tee. Rebecca seems to have an ambiguous sexual preference, which only adds to the uneasy tension between her and Sarah.

Shanks would be perfect in an Agatha Christie movie. Murder on the Orient Express, Fantasy Island, or something like that. That highbrow woman with a poisonous snake in a wicker box for anyone who crosses her.

Kemal Yildirim, also in Abduction, plays the private detective Daniel with a characteristic depth and detachment that invites viewers to wonder what’s going on inside his head. Daniel’s low key ambience is captivating. We can never really know what the quietly intelligent gent is thinking.

Likewise, the alluring Hive Queen in Abduction, Amelie Leroy, appears as “Trouble” in The Lorelei. Leroy’s deceptive character effortlessly switches back and forth among English, French and maybe something else. Trouble charges up the film with loads of presence, awareness and jungle-edged sexuality.

Trouble

So we have a supernaturally tinged mystery, enigmatic leading characters and a solid supporting cast. Together, they forge an unforgettable foray into the fictional underbelly of Oxford life.

At least, those on the outside must assume it is fictional. From what I’ve seen in the far corners of student life, there might be more truth to this fiction than most are willing to admit.

“We don’t get murders in Oxford, you get it?” exclaims Martin. It’s all about image. Elitism. High class. And sex workers? That would certainly rub most Oxford Deans the wrong way.

The Lorelei, true to its name, busts the myth and does so very well. Along with its great, gooey makeup art and delightful soundtrack, this is a film to absorb on many levels.

MC

All Images © Onview Films UK. Used with permission.

 

 

 


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Abduction (2017) – Review

Title: Abduction
Genre: Science Fiction, Parody, Comedy, Horror, Cult
Production: Onview Films
Directors/Writers: Maurice SmithMol Smith
Stars: Karolina AntosikTessa McGinnKemal Yildirim (…full cast and crew at IMDB)

Abduction is a clever romp into the unknown realms of alien abduction, sexuality, violence and interdimensional rivalry.

Essentially a spoof, I couldn’t help get the feeling that, underneath all the camp, a deeper significance just waits to be discovered.

The film can be taken on several levels. As parody, imagine Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Repo! The Genetic Opera. On another level, Abduction probes the oft unspoken sexual undercurrents in alien abduction lore. In that sense, it’s almost Freudian.

But Abduction doesn’t stop there. Sci-fi fans will appreciate its look at interdimensional affairs. That is, if aliens exist, how might things actually work out there?

The Hive Queen argues with an ET

The story hinges on a hauntingly beautiful Hive Queen who wants to colonize the earth by creating hybrids.

She’s a hybrid herself but imperfect. She can’t have kids. So she does her evil best to create hybrids to take over the planet.

Kemal Yildirim plays a doctor, Asil, who heals abductees with the most unusual treatments. Meanwhile, a government man (Thorson), a psychiatrist (Melissa) and Asil use high tech meds to try to track victims, with comical side effects.

Any more plot summary would be a spoiler. But I will say that Abduction is relatively easy to follow – we’re never left hanging too long – and it does have a nice, trick ending.

The Doctor with Bozena

Okay so I loved it to bits, right?

Well, no film entirely pleases me and Abduction is no exception.

My nitpicky side felt that an outdoor scene with Thorson and Melissa had a slightly rushed dialog. But things level out as the pair move indoors. And as a send-up, a touch of forced dialog is par for the course. Some might find it just adds to the laughs. It certainly does with the Hive Queen, who obviously hams it up.

Abduction also has its fair share of partial nudity and grotesque scenes, the horrific being more in-your-face than the sensual.

I wasn’t too hot on the blood and gore. But I realize this is important to horror fans. I just flick my Vulcan “inner eyelid” whenever something rubs me the wrong way, be it in Abduction, Game of Thrones, whatever.

Thorson, the Doctor and Melissa

The graphics range from intentionally retro (say, 1960s Twilight Zone and Batman) to state-of-the-art blasters, beams and shimmering pod bay doors.

Like the graphics, the soundtrack is a curious mix of old and new. High-end cinematic effects mingle with catchy pop tunes and 8-bit video game sounds.

The ongoing tension between parody and depth along with variable production values keeps this quirky film fresh. Abduction is well the worth the watch, even if you’re not a cult or Indie movie fan. Not constrained by big budget, Hollywood expectations, it’s free to be what it wants to be.

MC

All images © Onview Films UK. Used with permission.

 The Newest Season of X-Files Will Have No Women Writers (thecut.com)

 10 outstanding sci-fi films everybody should watch (mashable.com)

 18 Science Fiction Movies That Used Biometrics (tech.co)

 The most important ‘Game of Thrones’ characters, according to how much screen time they get (businessinsider.com)

 Watch The Trailer For A New Sci-Fi Film Scored By Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo (stereogum.com)

 These Layers of Time Were Created by Arranging Photos on Acrylic (petapixel.com)

 If We Live in a Multiverse, Where Are These Worlds Hiding? (livescience.com)

 Ang Lee’s Will Smith-Led ‘Gemini Man’ Gets a 2019 Release Date (slashfilm.com)

 ‘SNL,’ Westworld’ lead Emmy Award nominations with 22 nods (triblive.com)


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Star Wars a modern myth


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Pixels – DVD Review

Official poster for Columbia Pictures’ film “Pixels” – Wikipedia

Last night I returned some library material to a branch that I don’t visit too often. Browsing the DVD section I saw a fresh copy of Pixels. I’d been curious about it, so checked it out.

I was drawn into the film fairly quickly. Being about 20 yrs in 1982, where the movie begins, it brought back a host of memories. Some good, some not so good.

Adam Sandler plays Sam Brenner, a “loser” working as a tech installer. His orange outfit even has the word “nerd” in the corporate logo. Sort of a cliche these days, one which I doubt actual tech installers would appreciate.

On the other hand, Sam takes on an attractive “snob” (Michelle Monaghan) who wouldn’t kiss him because of his lowly status. And he does it well. So the film is a bit more complicated than merely perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

What really grabbed me in this movie was its integration of early video games, 80s pop culture, and the idea of an ET invasion. If you extend your imagination a bit, I think this movie is pretty good. I laughed here and there. Yes, drifted a few times… but one can always hit the pause button and get a coffee or snack when that happens.

On the whole, I felt that Sandler and the supportive cast did a good job. I wouldn’t say “great” but again, it was the synthesis of old, new and the beyond that made the difference.

More or less panned on other web sites. I think this film was just a bit too clever for some learned “critics” whose minds are too regimented to appreciate a flick that doesn’t fit into the current sci-fi box.  True, it appears stupid and silly. One reviewer just called it “tediously bad.”¹ But something higher was going on. At least, it was for me.

Final word – Pleasantly surprised.

MC

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixels_%282015_film%29#Reception


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Does ‘translating’ Shakespeare into modern English diminish its greatness?

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean...

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean phrases (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sheila T Cavanagh, Emory University

An uproar ensued after it was reported that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) – southern Oregon’s 80-year-old annual theatrical extravaganza – would be commissioning playwrights to “translate” all of Shakespeare’s plays into modern English.

The project drew jeers from Shakespearean professors, arts practitioners and others who believe passionately in the power of Shakespeare’s original texts, who abhor any attempt to “dumb down” their language.

OSF Director of Literary Development and Dramaturgy Lue Douthit and OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch maintain that OSF is undertaking a bold, not sacrilegious, experiment. Nevertheless, howls of outrage have followed what Douhit ruefully has deemed a “career-ending” announcement for those involved.

As an educator and lover of Shakespearean drama, I remain committed to the value of presenting Shakespeare’s plays in their original language. I require my students to read Shakespeare’s plays in their original form, and through my work on the World Shakespeare Project, I’ve witnessed undergraduates in places such as Uganda, rural India and Buenos Aires enthusiastically respond to the challenge.

Yet the outrage over the OSF’s new modernization project is misguided. The organization – which is known for experimentation – is simply participating in larger, centuries-long tradition of molding, melding and adapting Shakespeare’s original texts.

Stage of the OSF Elizabethan Theatre

Stage of the OSF Elizabethan Theatre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shakespeare for dummies?

Among those criticizing the new project is Columbia University Professor James Shapiro, a prominent Shakespearean scholar who maintains that “by changing the language in this modernizing way…it just doesn’t pack the punch and the excitement and the intoxicating quality of [the original] language.”

Earlier this month, before an audience at Shakespeare’s Globe, he added, “It’s a really bad idea.”

Notably, however, Shapiro (along with many others) responded quite differently to the translation of a different classic text. On Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney’s oft-praised 1999 rewriting of Beowulf, Shapiro wrote in The New York Times:

Examples like this add up to a translation that manages to accomplish what before now had seemed impossible: a faithful rendering that is simultaneously an original and gripping poem in its own right.

In this instance, at least, Heaney’s talent apparently overcame Shapiro’s objections to the concept.

The playwrights the company has commissioned to “modernize” the language of Shakespeare’s works may or may not achieve the majesty attributed to Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf. But for whatever reason, changing the language of Shakespeare remains an anathema, while the setting, costuming and theoretical conceptualization of his plays are fair game for innovation.

The hottest theater ticket in Britain at the moment, for example, is Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet, which caused similar outrage for opening with the famous “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy, rather than the traditional “Who’s there?.” By the end of previews, the speech was moved back to (one of) the places it traditionally resides. Cumberbatch’s audiences have been comparatively silent, however, about the production’s addition of modern props, like a phonograph player.

London’s Young Vic Theatre, meanwhile, is currently presenting a strong version of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, with a set filled with dozens of naked, anatomically correct, inflatable dolls. Like the phonograph player on the set of Hamlet, it’s unlikely that theatergoers will object to the dolls, nor will they protest the video screens employed during the performance.

But when it comes to changing the language – well, the main objection, it appears, stems from concerns that it will encourage series such as Shakespeare for Dummies or No Fear Shakespeare, which presents original Shakespearean text adjacent to what its editors call “the kind of English people actually speak today.”

Such projects are understandable, if worrisome. Shakespeare does have a reputation for being too dense for ordinary people to easily comprehend.

At the same time, there are many remarkable projects that bring Shakespeare’s plays to even the most unconventional audiences. There’s Curt Tofteland’s Shakespeare Behind Bars, which offers prisoners the opportunities to present full-length Shakespeare plays, while former Royal Shakespeare Company artist Kelly Hunter’s project Shakespeare’s Heartbeat uses Shakespearean drama as the basis for games designed for children with autism.

Play on!

It’s worth noting the OSF is not planning to replace Shakespeare’s original texts during its current presentation of the complete Shakespearean canon, which will take place over the next decade.

While the company hopes that the newly commissioned versions of Shakespeare will be performed in Oregon and elsewhere, they also retain their commitment to presenting the conventional texts, albeit with regular tweaks and cuts.

As Shapiro and many others admit, Shakespearean drama has been altered, rewritten and reimagined repeatedly since the plays were first presented during the reigns of Elizabeth Tudor and James Stuart.

‘Is life even worth living? That’s what I keeping wondering…’
Dylan Martinez/Reuters

During the English Restoration, King Lear was given a happy ending. More recently, the 2001 film Scotland, Pa. offered a modern retelling of Macbeth, set at a fast food restaurant. Henry IV found itself placed among male prostitutes in Oregon in Gus Van Sant’s 1991 film My Own Private Idaho. Even Justin Kurzel’s acclaimed new film Macbeth opens with a twist: the funeral of Macbeth’s toddler.

The best adaptations – West Side Story, the musical Kiss Me, Kate and the Japanese film Throne of Blood – thrive. The bad, silly and unfortunate – Romeo and Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss and Animal Planet’s Romeo and Juliet: A Monkey’s Tale – fall by the wayside.

As poet Andrew Marvell might say, there is “world enough and time” for any number of Shakespearean adaptations and iterations.

While Shakespeare’s original language is remarkably rich and compelling, like Cleopatra, “age will not wither it.” Neither will OSF’s revisionary experimentation.

The Conversation

Sheila T Cavanagh, Professor of English, Emory University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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Her – Review by MC

Fair Use/Dealing rationale for image from Her http://www.herthemovie.com/ - low res image for review and educational purposes

Fair Use/Dealing rationale for image from Her http://www.herthemovie.com/ – low res image for review and educational purposes

I watched Spike Jonze’s film, Her, the other night. A few more points came to mind that weren’t covered here, mostly about different types of love (eros, agape, and so on). But this was my first shot at audio reviewing, so I was lucky to get as much in as I did. No notes or excessive thinking beforehand. Just first impressions…

I should add that I was somewhat inspired by the New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham, who takes fashion photos on the streets of New York and talks about them every week at The Times’ website. If the documentary about Cunningham is accurate, it seems that he takes a quick look at his pics on a storyboard before taping his weekly commentary. I like that spontaneity, and tried to emulate it here.

Maybe with practice I’ll be half as good at this as he is!


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Rose – Review

Rose_300

Courtesy kemalyildirim.com

Title: Rose
Genre: Urban Drama
Producer/DirectorKemal Yildirim
Writer: Stephen Loveless (with Jack James)
Stars: Mike Mitchell, Helen Clifford, Patrick Regis

Back in 2008, UK director Kemal Yildirim released an impressive sleeper film called Rosereview). The film was based on a true story about a young woman tragically hooked on drugs. In 2012 Yildirim retold the story with a revised cast and storyline. The reimagined Rose review) was a giant leap forward from the original film’s promising beginnings.

Today, we have a third Rose. To be honest, having reviewed the story twice, when asked to review the third incarnation I wondered if the director could really make it any better. Hadn’t Yildirim already made a bold statement with his 2012 remake? The critics seemed to think so.

Well, a couple of years have passed and Yildirim clearly hasn’t stood still. His artistic sense is sharper than in earlier versions of this film. This new Rose is about 30 minutes shorter than its predecessor. But the edits are so seamless that it’s hard to tell exactly what was altered. Nothing seems missing and everything comes off fluid and coherent.

Indeed, this version of Rose is cinematic proof that less can be more.

Although the basic storyline remains unchanged, there is a subliminal shift in emphasis—slightly less sex and violence and a more nuanced treatment of the relationship between Rose and her daughter Ellie. At least, this is how I saw it. For those, like me, who’ve already watched the second Rose, this new take presents an opportunity to reflect on how we’ve grown as viewers. Is our new understanding of the story based on changes within the film or on changes within ourselves?

Rose and Ellie

Rose and Ellie

Not to say that Rose is an ink blot. It definitely has a focused message, that of redemption against all odds. And a lot happens. But the film maintains a kind of soulful detachment that keeps it from falling into the genre of “action flick.” Several techniques are used to achieve this effect. Glide shots, ceiling shots, and steady sequences reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, where dialogue is implied rather than heard.

No, Rose isn’t an action film. It’s arguably a meditation. And if viewed that way, we gain insight not only into another side of life, but maybe even into ourselves.

Strong leading performances and an enticing supportive cast ensure that this haunting film hits home. So if by chance you’ve seen earlier incarnations of Rose and think you’ve seen it all, think again. This rendering gets under our skin like no Rose before.

—MC