Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lore of the Warm Dead Man

     Today we are covering the rare modern western, a zombie rom-com (no, really) & a drama about abandoned children...who also happen to be Nazis.  I couldn't make this stuff up...

  Lore - This is the second feature film from director Cate Shortland, but she already shows signs of a being a director with a confident and insightful eye.  Little touches like the cuts between shots in the opening hop-scotch sequence make a convincing argument that we may be witnessing the rise of an important new voice in international cinema.  She also co-wrote the script with TV writer Robin Mukherjee and it is a truly novel concept: a road movie in which the "heroes" are the abandoned children of Nazi war criminals left to fend for themselves and try to stay out of prison.
     The entire production is actually handled quite well. The costumes (Stephanie Bieker), production and sound design are all excellent.  Special praise must be heaped upon editor Veronika Jenet and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw.  Without their creative expertise sequences like the aforementioned "hop-scotch" bit or the "bonfire sequence" would never have been possible.  The film is heavy on mood and atmosphere, and is very effective in that respect.
     The ensemble cast of mostly children is also phenomenal, led by Lore herself, Saskia Rodndahl.  The young lady shows a remarkable maturity as an actress, conveying volumes with a look, a gesture, or a moderate change in her posture.  Amazingly, this is the actress's debut performance, but she has four other films already finished or in the works.  She truly shines brightest playing opposite either Ursina Lardi (who plays Lore's mother) or Kai-Peter Malina (who plays the love interest, Thomas).  Her interactions with both characters are so charged with fiery passion completely held in check by complex mixed feelings.  Both of her co-stars match her smoldering calm with equal eerie intensity and the result is some really fine acting.
     Needless to say, I highly recommend this Australian Foreign Language Film submission to last year's Oscars which just released in the U.S. on DVD this month...4 1/2 of 5 stars.

  Warm Bodies - So, you know I watch a lot of very cerebral movies here at TheMovieFrog, but sometimes my brain needs a rest.  Sometimes I need something like....Zombies In Love. Honestly, this was pretty much my thought process as I selected writer/director Jonathen Lavine's horror rom-com for my 2013 viewing list.
     I can't say that the film was exactly a step in the right direction from 50/50, the young auteur's last effort.  Warm Bodies was full of cheap laughs, predictable twists, and a plot that was more loaded with holes than the lawn at a high end country club.  There also weren't any star making performances like the one from JG Levitt in Mr. Lavine's last film.
     In fact, Warm Bodies WASN'T a very good picture...but I still kind of enjoyed it...but it just wasn't very good...but I kind of liked it...but it was NOT very good...let's just call it my first truly guilty (maybe guilt RIDDEN) pleasure of the year and leave it at that...3 out of 5 stars.

  Dead Man's Burden - Fortunately (or not), I do not feel nearly so conflicted about the last film in today's post which is the writing/directing debut from producer Jared Moshe.  Many say that the Western is a dead genre.  Purists have groaned at deconstructions such as Django Unchained in recent years, and I am quite happy to inform them that Dead Man's Burden is no such film.  It is a fairly traditional tale of the Old West.  I am not so happy to have to tell them that it is not a very good one.
     The problems begin with the script.  From the first frames of the film it is easy to imagine the foreseeable symmetry that is destined to conclude it.  The rest is just filling in the blanks, which the writer does with stock characters, even stock conversations.
     Even the gun fights seem to lack tension.  This may be owing to the original score by H. Scott Salinas whose gut wrenching melodramatic movements seem more well suited to a Lifetime Original movie than a taught thriller.  Mired by such sticky sweet sentimentality, it is difficult to pull much tension out of the film aurally.
     I would like to say that the performances save the day, but they do not.  Most of the cast is purely forgettable, while Clare Bowen actually embarrasses herself somewhat in the role of Martha.  Only Barlow Jacobs (who has great, piercing eyes) is able to transcend the material somewhat in the role of Wade, but it is not nearly enough to salvage this half baked story which leaves the Western genre in the same coma that it found it in...sigh...2 out of 5 stars.

  Related articles:  Arantino Explained (The T is Invisible) (Django Unchained review)

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