FlixChatter Review: THE MAURITANIAN (2021)

Whenever one hears the words Guantanamo or Gitmo, it usually emits a pretty strong reaction. Honestly, I’m not usually keen on watching films that I know will depict torture, especially one based on a true story. The Mauritanian however, piqued my interested because of the filmmaker, Kevin Macdonald, and cast. French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim played Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention center who was held for over a decade without charges being filed against him. The story is based on Mohamedou’s NY Times best-selling memoir Guantánamo Diary, which according to a few book reviews is an extraordinarily vivid first-person account of his time in captivity.

The film opens shortly after the September 11 attacks in 2001, when Mohamedu was called into questioning by Mauritanian police while he was at a family celebration. Though he assured his mother he’d be back soon, he was not able to return home as he was subsequently arrested and later transported to Guantanamo. He had been held there for a few years before defense attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch, doing his best American accent) cross path on two opposing sides. Stuart got assigned to serve as one of the prosecutors in the military tribunal vying for the death penalty for Mohamedou, and Nancy fought to get him released pro bono. Interesting to see Zachary Levi playing against type as an unsympathetic federal agent that Couch was trying to get intel from.

The film is an intriguing mix of legal drama and thriller, and despite the harrowing and captivating subject matter, the way it’s played out is a bit uneven. The procedural aspect with Nancy and her associate Teri (Shailene Woodley) feels decidedly mundane. Even the meetings between Nancy and Stuart fall flat despite the star power of the actors portraying them. The film really comes alive whenever Mohamedou is on screen, thanks to Rahim’s captivating performance. The first time Nancy and Teri meets with him at Gitmo, Mohamedou’s able to speak English with them, which apparently he learned while in detention. That’s one of the outstanding things I can’t help but being in awe of, as well as Mohamedou’s seemingly unbreakable spirit.

Macdonald’s extensive experience as a documentary filmmaker means he took great care in creating an authentic look for the film, making sure the detention camp itself is depicted accurately, etc. One thing I find most memorable is whenever Mohamedou gets his outdoor break where he gets to breathe fresh air and even ‘befriends’ a fellow detainee next to him. He’s not able to see that man, but he’s able to communicate to each other and shockingly, Mohamedou’s actually consoled him and inspired him to remain hopeful. It’s these moments showing his humanity that makes the subsequent scenes of graphic torture even more harrowing to watch. At the same time, Macdonald didn’t want to paint with a broad brush in depicting every single person who work at Gitmo as evil, as evidenced in the tentative friendship between Mohamedou and one of his guards.

While in shackles, Mohamedou was subjected to sleep deprivation, severe isolation, temperature extremes, beatings, sexual humiliation, even a mock execution as he was blindfolded and taken out to sea. Those scenes are truly hard to watch, I had to cover my eyes and ears during much of it. The guards torturing him wore halloween animal masks, and at that point it’s as if they’ve descended into animal as they behave like one. As if that weren’t horrifying enough, there’s the emotional torture of being threatened that his mother would be brought to Gitmo and be gang-raped. Obviously the filmmakers intends for the viewers to be truly appalled by what happened, considering the perpetrators is a country supposedly known for being a beacon of liberty and hope. I don’t think we need to see it in a cinematic form to realize there is absolutely no excuse for treating fellow human beings in such a savage way.

The fact that Nancy faced obstacles in her mission to free Mohamedou is not surprising, neither is the fact that Stuart eventually found evidence about his torture that render any of his ‘confessions’ inadmissible in court. What’s most astonishing and inspiring is that Mohamedou refuses to be brought down as low as his captors. Rahim’s sensitive performance never descends to over-sentimentality and is genuinely moving. As for Foster and Cumberbatch, their presence certainly add prestige to the production but I don’t think their performances are all that memorable. I mean they’re effective in their roles, but it’s Rahim that gave the film its best moments and truly the reason to see this film. I wrote this review long before Foster was even nominated for a Golden Globes, and honestly I was surprised to see her name on the list, even more so that she won (I was rooting for Olivia Colman for The Father).

In any case, what’s definitely memorable is the appearance of the real Mohamedou during the end credits, who still retains his humor and playful spirit. Cheerfully listening to one of his favorite musicians Bob Dylan, it’s hard to comprehend this is the same guy depicted as having been brutalized and held captive for over 14 years. Mohamedou is quite charismatic that a thought occurred to me while watching him if the film would’ve worked more effectively as a documentary with Mohamedou himself at the center and unknown actors to re-enact some of the scenes. As it is, I’m not sure The Mauritanian does Mohamedou’s memoir justice nor is it the best movies about post-911, but no doubt its heart is in the right place.

Have you seen THE MAURITANIAN? Well, what did you think?

Documentary Spotlight – ‘Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché’ + Interview with writer/director Pamela B. Green

One of the perks of covering film festivals is discovering cinematic gems that I otherwise would not have come across. This is one of those sparkling gems I got to see at MSPIFF this year. Not only is this film speaks of a topic that is near and dear to my heart as a female film critic/screenwriter/filmmaker, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché is eye-opening, inspiring, captivating and absolutely delightful to watch!

Pamela B. Green’s energetic film about pioneer filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché is both a tribute and a detective story, tracing the circumstances by which this extraordinary artist faded from memory and the path toward her reclamation.


‘Be Natural’ Review

Directed by: Pamela B. Green
Written by: Pamela B. Green, Joan Simon

Have you ever heard of Georges Méliès? The Lumière Brothers? Thomas Edison? Most likely your answer would be yes. But how about Alice Guy-Blaché? If you say ‘Alice who?’ then you’re not alone.

PORTRAIT OF FILMMAKER ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ IN 1912*

I remember feeling really guilty that I didn’t know who Alice Guy was, I mean I consider myself well-versed in cinema history. Or so I thought. But then the opening of this film asked that very question, ‘Have you ever heard of Alice Guy-Blaché?’ to a number of filmmakers working in the industry (i.e. Catherine Hardwicke, Jon M. Chu, Peter Farrelly) and many of them had never heard of her.

FILMMAKER ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ (WITH HAT) ON SET OF THE LIFE OF CHRIST IN FONTAINEBLEAU, FRANCE, IN 1906

By the time Jodie Foster’s voice came on as the narrator, I was glued to the screen, captivated and deeply curious to hear more about this untold story of Alice Guy, the forgotten ‘Mother of Cinema’ who’s seemingly been absent from cinema history through generations. Pamela B. Green has poured her passion and admiration for Alice Guy-Blaché and it shows. She utilized her background in motion design (she’s the founder/owner of Pic Agency in Los Angeles) in her storytelling style. I love that the film goes beyond showing talking heads and an immense wealth of archival photos/footage, but it’s also a thrilling detective story. The animation/motion graphics helped convey the filmmaker and team’s journey in finding the right people to tell Alice Guy’s journey, including her daughter Simone Blaché.

FILMMAKER ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ (CENTER) DIRECTING A PHONOSCÈNE FOR GAUMONT**

It’s immensely inspiring to see a woman behind the camera in the late 1800s. Alice Guy is shown in various photos directing actors on set. By her own account, she made the first narrative films ever in 1896! However, despite having made over 1,000 films, it’s heartbreaking that Alice had to fight to get credit for her work. It’s also astounding that even a hundred years later, there’s still a huge disparity for women behind the camera. I’m SO glad I finally learned about Alice Guy-Blaché and her crucial place in the cinema history. This film is so overdue, yet it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. As more people are championing gender parity in cinema, this film would likely inspire to keep up the good fight.

I can’t recommend this film enough to anyone who loves cinema, whether you’re a casual movie-watcher or involved in filmmaking at any capacity. Check out where this film is playing next on their official website.

* Photo courtesy of Be Natural Productions
** Photo courtesy of Anthony Slide


Check out the trailer:


Quick Bio on Pamela B. Green

Originally from New York, Pamela B. Green lived most of her life in Europe and Israel and as a result, is fluent in English, French, Italian, and Hebrew. In 2005, she founded PIC, an entertainment and motion design boutique based in Los Angeles, California. Green’s work ranges from feature film main titles, motion graphics, creative directing, directing and producing music videos and commercials. She is known in the industry for creating titles sequences and story sequences using her knowledge of graphic design, animation, editorial, and archival rare stock footage research.

Q&A with filmmaker Pamela B. Green

As soon as I saw Be Natural film, I went on Twitter to share about the film and to thank Pamela for shining a light on such a cinematic pioneer & visionary who’s somehow forgotten/omitted from film history books. I then contacted Pamela via her official site and was thrilled that I got to chat with her over the phone last Wednesday. Check out my Q&A below on some insights into her filmmaking journey.

Q1: What inspired you to tell Alice Guy’s story and let the world know that she is the true #MotherOfCinema?

I saw a tv show about women pioneers in cinema which included her. The show mentioned Mary Pickford (who co-founded Pickford–Fairbanks Studio with Douglas Fairbanks) who’s also well-known as an actress. But the fact that Alice Guy had done so much and had her own studio, she stood out. I had never heard of her at that point, and the more people I asked, I realized that many people also had never heard of her. I did more research and talked to some people in the academics community who said ‘oh everyone knows about Alice’ which made me angry because that [statement] is not true. Only a small group of academics knew about her.

I kept asking people that I work with in Hollywood, those I do jobs for, studios, and nobody had heard of her. I decided to do something about it. At that point I wasn’t sure what it would be yet, but coincidentally I was working with Robert Redford on a couple of films. On a second film, I told him about Alice and he was shocked as well. He said ‘well what are you going to do about this?’ Then I said, well I think I should do a documentary because I don’t think there’s enough work has been done to really explore Alice besides the academic aspect, restoring her films, documenting what she had done, etc. but it wasn’t a full exploration of her.

FILM STILL OF BESSIE LOVE (CENTER) IN THE GREAT ADVENTURE (1918), DIRECTED BY ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ – Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art

Q2: How long ago was this, that this journey started?

Oh a long time ago. In 2011 I was talking about this. Then we did a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 which was quite successful. Then the head of Geena Davis’ institute [SheJane.org] found out about it and then she talked to a big producers Geralyn White Dreyfous, Regina K. Scully, Jamie Wolf who came on board. They’re not part of Hollywood, but people who often fund social issues pertaining to women. Hugh Hefner and Jodie Foster also came on board as executive producers. They’re all visionaries who understood right away why I had to make this film. Instead of having to fight the system in Hollywood, I went the other way and they really helped me.

Q3: Did you face resistance from people who try to maintain the status quo of cinema history?

Yes. I get a lot of resistance from France, the Academics, professors. And Hollywood didn’t fund this movie. I mean they participated but Hollywood didn’t fund this movie. It’s completely donation-based. The ‘wallets’ just wasn’t available I guess, so I got funding from social media and these wonderful women. Barbara Bridges from the Denver Film Society is one, basically a lot of women behind the men who helped fund this movie, a lot of philanthropist women helped tell this story. The film is also distributed independently, outside of the studio system. But I see it as a positive thing, I was able to make the movie that I wanted to make, and marketed it the way I wanted to market it. There’s not many ‘fingers in the pot’ while I was making the film.

Q4: I love that the film also plays like a detective story, and the motion graphics helped convey that so wonderfully. Was that a conscious decision on your part to tell the story that way?

Yes, from the very beginning. I wanted to have Skype interviews, contact people around the world. Some people in the industry said to me ‘It wouldn’t be aesthetically correct. Why would you do that? It would look bad, what do you know about editing, etc.’ So I got a lot of resistance and people saying that I didn’t know what I was doing while making this film. So it’s similar to how Alice Guy was treated and had to deal with, that is having people second-guessing her as a filmmaker.

A still from the documentary

Q5: Where can people see Alice Guy’s extensive work? Is there plans to make her work readily available to the public?

Our film opened at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center on Friday, April 19. Then IFC Center in New York on April 26, then slowly we’re opening in multiple cities in the US and internationally [check out the film’s official site for schedule].

As far as Alice Guy’s films, there’s the Gaumont DVD collection [available on Amazon]. Kino Lorber Distribution company has some of her American films which they’ve released as part of the Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers disc [available on Amazon]. I’m also working on doing her American collections available for streaming. There are about 150 of her films in existence and we’re setting up a foundation that would hopefully support that venture.


Follow the film journey online:


Thanks so much Pamela B. Green for chatting with FlixChatter!

FlixChatter Review: ELYSIUM

ElysiumBanner

As a big fan of District 9, I had been looking forward to this for some time. I erroneously thought this was the follow-up to Neill Blomkamp‘s sci-fi thriller set in South Africa when I did this post but by the time the trailer came out, obviously this is an original story that doesn’t involve aliens from another planet.

This sci-fi fantasy takes place in 2154, where the gap between haves and the have-nots have reached astronomical proportion. 99% of humanity’s population are still slumming in a ‘diseased, polluted and vastly overpopulated’ earth, whilst the 1% of the elite and wealthy folks live in the lush and green ELYSIUM. It’s the ultimate ‘gated community’ aboard a lavish space-station where every mansion is complete with robotic servants and magical medical beds that can heal ANY ailments, yes including cancer and a full facial reconstruction surgery in a matter of seconds! Ok, so there’s no superhero in this movie but heck, who needs one when you’ve got a SUPER healing mechanism at your beck and call. Unfortunately, the machine only works if you’re a citizen, and Elysium’s border patrol is equipped with rockets ready to fire at illegal aircrafts entering its airspace.

ElysiumVsEarth
Elysium VS Earth – It’s definitely better up there!

Matt Damon plays a down-on-his-luck Max, a parolee who’s dreamed of leaving in Elysium ever since he was a little boy living in an orphanage. There’s one comedic moment in the entire movie where Max had to see a mechanized parole officer, as the rest of the law officers and other service workers are in the form of robots. Things just gets bad to worse when Max gets exposed to a lethal dose of radiation at the factory. With only 5 days to live, he’s desperate to get to Elysium. In order to get up there, Max has to somehow download crucial information from an Elysium citizen’s brain straight to his. That’s what those exoskeleton stuff you see on the film posters are for. The surgery scene is brutal, I have to shut my eyes as metals are drilled and screwed into Max’s body as if he’s a car in auto shop. When he finally comes out of it, Max practically looks like a robot with powered metals attached all over his body and a computer implanted into the back of his head.

I enjoyed watching all the fantastical futuristic elements, and Blomkamp surely isn’t lacking imagination and ambition. What this film also lacks is subtlety, just like D-9 was an allegory for apartheid, Elysium’s political and sociological themes on class warfare, healthcare and immigration are sure to divide audiences. He cites that growing up in South Africa is the main inspiration of the class division theme in this film, and despite the seemingly obvious commentary about border security and universal healthcare, he said that there’s no political agenda here. Even the über Liberal and politically vocal star Matt Damon downplays the political overtone. I think how much those stuff bother you depending on your political views and interest. For me, this is just another big Summer thrill ride that gives us a bit more food-for-thought amidst some bombastic (literally) action sequences.

ElysiumStills

Speaking of Damon, I think he acquits himself well here though I didn’t really have as big of a emotional connection as I did with D-9’s character Wikus, who I think is a far more tragic character than Max. I also think that though Max is played out like an action hero (Bourne meets Terminator?) instead of a truly desperate and ruthless character hellbent on saving his own life at any cost. I read that Blomkamp originally wanted Eminem in the role, now I’ve never seen him act before but I wonder if he’d actually do a more convincing job. Jodie Foster as Elysium defense secretary Delacourt is distractingly awful here with her robotic acting style and absurd accent. Yes I know that Blomkamp intended the accent of Elysium residents to be an amalgam of different languages but it just makes me laugh! I wonder if having those residents speak multiple languages (like in the underrated sci-fi drama Code 46) instead of with a myriad of accents might’ve been more realistic.

It’s also too bad that Sharlto Copley is reduced to this sadistic special ops agent whose killing method of choice is blowing people up into pieces. His character can’t be more dissimilar than his debut in District 9, which proves he’s a capable actor, but his villainy role is written like a caricature.  I like the International cast here, Brazilians Wagner Moura and Alice Braga, Mexican Diego Luna, Pakistani-descent Faran Tahir, as well as veteran character actor William Fichtner made up the supporting cast.

In terms of special effects and production quality, clearly this film delivers, thanks to a much bigger budget of $100 mil. But having more money and A-list cast don’t always translate to a better film, in fact, D-9 with its uniquely organic style is still more compelling in terms of my the emotional connection I have with the protagonist. Plus, Elysium is decidedly more ‘Hollywood’ in that it’s more predictable and comes with a feel-good and simplistic ending. Yeah as if it were THAT easy to solve such an extreme class warfare. Seems that Blomkamp ends up being preoccupied packing the third half with relentless fight scenes and stuff blowing up that the finale feels rather out of sync with all the sense of realism and intriguing ideas that preceded it. At a relatively brisk 109 minutes, there’s barely room for character development either, the villains are just evil for evil’s sake with no real motivation.

Final Thoughts: Now, even though I think Elysium is a bit of a downgrade from D-9, there are still many things to appreciate. As I mentioned before, the futuristic space stuff are fun to watch and the story also gives us something to ponder even if we don’t necessarily subscribe to the idealism being presented on screen. It could’ve been a more in depth and compelling film though, alas the the typical Hollywood happy ending keeps this from being a notch above a cool Summer sci-fi escapism.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


UPVOTE please


What are your thoughts on this movie? Did you like this more or less than I did?

Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi thriller ELYSIUM’s Poster & Trailer Spotlight

Boy oh boy! I’ve been looking forward to this film for quite some time now. In case you didn’t know already, I’m a huge fan of District 9 which was a surprise to me as I didn’t even know much about it when I saw it on the big screen. Well, it’s been over three years since I saw that film and finally, South African director Neill Blomkamp and actor Sharlto Copley are re-teaming for another sci-fi thriller.

I was kind of hoping that Copley would have the leading role this time around, but I understand that with a much-bigger budget, they’d need a movie star. So we’ve got Matt Damon in the lead instead. Check out the awesome poster of him with all that robotic stuff attached all over his body!

ElysiumTeaserPoster

I originally thought this was a follow-up to District 9, as I’ve outlined on my Upcoming Flix Spotlight post a year ago. But now it’s clear that this film has a new storyline that’s not related to D-9 universe, though it still carries a similar social issue theme. Now, this film was first scheduled for release in March before being pushed back to August. I don’t think it’s a sign of trouble though, I think that’d give Blomkamp to release some viral marketing for it like he did for D-9 which was a smart move.

Now finally, a trailer!!


WHOAH!! I’m even more intrigued now after seeing this. I really like the look of this and the apocalyptic story looks very promising and thought provoking, with all the visual and thematic elements every sci-fi lovers would love. Blomkamp is working again with Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital so it’s to be expected that the special effect is going to rock! Even right off the bat, I like the stark contrast between the perfect world of the Elysium space station and the left-behind slum that is the Earth. I read that Blomkamp shot the Earth footage in Mexico City, and everything on Elysium in Vancouver.

Per IGN, like Blomkamp’s previous film, this one has a similarly impoverished and segregated society, but this time along economic lines rather than species. Where District 9 was a sci-fi allegory for racism, Elysium is about economic disparity.

In the year 2159, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth. Secretary Rhodes, a hard line government official, will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium. That doesn’t stop the people of Earth from trying to get in, by any means they can. When unlucky Max is backed into a corner, he agrees to take on a daunting mission that if successful will not only save his life, but could bring equality to these polarized worlds.

Here are four more details I learned from this HitFix article, which summarized the SONY press preview event in L.A. with Blomkamp, Copley and producer Simon Kinberg:

  • Damon’s character is Max, an ex-con who’s working a factory job on Earth. A radiation leak prompted him to be cast off by the authoritarian government. He knows the only way to get rid of the toxic radiation is in Elysium, and he has to find a way to get there.
  • The robotic stuff on his body, and that data port on his head is the result of self-modification Max did as a mechanism to hijack security information from an Elysium citizen.
  • Sharlto Copley plays the bad guy, Kruger. He is an Elysium operative who lives on Earth, waiting to be activated. When an attack on an Elysium citizen occurs, he gets the signal.
    CopleyFoster_Elysium
  • Jodie Foster plays a Senator, as Foster herself described in Movieline as “… the person who controls who gets to come in [to Elysium] and who doesn’t. She’s methodical, her antagonism has a point.” She also mentions that Elysium is an international place, as its residents comes from all over the earth.
  • Blomkamp said that 2/3 of the film would take place on earth and 1/3 in Elysium to emphasize further that the space station is truly a fantastical place every human being aspire to live in.

Elysium is out in theaters on August 9, 2013. I can hardly wait!


On a related note, two years ago, I wrote this post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama pitch where some humans live in another planet whilst the remaining earth population struggle to survive.
Check it out and let me know what you think 😀


Are you as stoked as I am about this one? What do you think of the trailer?

A ‘sequel’ I actually want to see: District 9 follow-up ELYSIUM

One of my favorite films of the last decade was the low-budget sci-fi movie District 9. In my review, I said that it’s such a distinctly moving, poignant and provocative film that makes you ponder long after the end credits roll.

Not long after I saw the film, there’s immediate buzz for an inevitable sequel, which I talked about here, but that was three years ago! It’s certainly taken a while to materialize but Variety reports that SONY has secured a release date of March 1, 2013. Now, with the recent casting news of the South African actor Sharlto Copley as the villain for the American remake of Park Chan-wook’s Korean action thriller Oldboy, it seems like a good time as any to update you on:

ELYSIUM


Plot and Production Notes

Like a Christopher Nolan movie, the plot is shrouded in secrecy. Per Deadline, the movie will have the social allegory theme like in District 9, but done in a much bigger scale, set 100 years in the future. However, /Film reported this interview with the film’s producer Simon Kinberg that “… [the sequel is] a very different movie than anything you’ve ever seen before. It’s not necessarily an alien movie … Visually, stylistically it’s actually very different than District 9.”

Hmmm, what does he mean it’s not necessarily an alien movie?? I wonder if he meant that it’s more than just a genre film, much like 28 Days Later is NOT just a zombie movie, or that the film is dealing with something else entirely?

I presume those reading this article knows that at the end of D-9, the protagonist Wikus van der Merwe has transformed into this prawn-like alien being. The ending seems to lend itself to a sequel, but it sounds like the sequel doesn’t pick up the story where it left off.

South African director Neill Blomkamp is back at the helm and has hired famed set designer Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Aliens) to design the set for this film. The budget has jumped from $35 mil for D-9 to roughly $120 mil for Elysium [per THR]. Filming has wrapped last December and is now in post-production work. As Peter Jackson was the executive producer of D-9, his company WETA is now involved in the conceptual design and various special effects for this film.

Casting

One thing for sure, I’m looking forward to seeing Copley teaming up with D-9 director Neill Blomkamp again.

Mr. Copley’s star-power has risen considerably since starring in that film, though he’s only been seen in The A-Team since then. I think he’s perfectly capable in carrying a movie on his own, as he did in D-9, in fact I liked him so much that I wrote this article on how a lot of Hollywood A-listers can learn from him.

Well, two A-listers have in fact joined the cast: Jodie Foster and Matt Damon.

Damon had this to say just before filming started:

I’ve never done anything quite like this and I kind of responded to what’s out there and what’s in and what’s good. The movie is going to be good, he showed me basically the entire world which he’s going to build and it’s really, really exciting. And I can’t wait! – per MovieWeb

Jodie Foster is said to be playing a leader of an alien planet. She revealed to TotalFilm that the main reason she signed on to the film was because it was a chance to work with Blomkamp.

“Yes, definitely. He did District 9, which I think is as close to a perfect movie as you can get … It’s just an extraordinary film. And, this film has a lot of that social commentary in it, but uses sci-fi to get there. It’s great.”

There’s no news yet what role Matt Damon will be playing but judging from this Vancouver set photos of him with a shaved head wearing a prison jumpsuit and has some sort of futuristic weapon thing-y strapped on him, my guess is he’s an ex-con who managed to escape?

Anyway, the rest of the Internationally-diverse cast includes Mexican actor Diego Luna, Brazilians Wagner Moura and Alice Braga, and go-to New Yorker character actor William Fichtner.

Viral Campaign

What’s brilliant about D-9 is the bizarre but brilliant ‘Non-Human’ viral marketing campaign. Now virtually every major movie, for better for worse, have employed similar strategy. /Film posted this poster on the right spotted at Comic-con last year that points to a website with this video clip below. Basically it’s a recruitment video by a fake company called Armadyne seeking “zero g welders, mega-structure engineers, quantum networkers and experts in zero g coupling and multi-generational planning,” in order to accomplish “the most ambitious project ever undertaken by mankind.” Take a look at the video below from the ‘official’ company website:

… 

I hope the trailer is released soon. I do hope that Copley will have a prominent role here instead of being completely sidelined by Damon. What I like about the first one is how completely believable he was as Wikus and the strong emotional connection I had with the character. Now, both A-listers here are obviously very talented actors, so I’m optimistic in that regard. I’m also hopeful that the 31-year-old Blomkamp is more than a one hit wonder.


Are you a fan of District-9? If so, what do you think of this project so far? 

Rental Pick: The Beaver

The Beaver


A troubled husband and executive adopts a beaver hand-puppet as his sole means of communicating.

I’ve been curious about this one mostly to see Mel Gibson’s performance and because the script apparently topped 2008’s The Black List (as in list of Best Un-produced Screenplays). I also wanted to see it because Anton Yelchin, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing last month, had a role as Gibson’s son.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you might be inclined think that it’s a comedy, but truth be told, the subject matter of suicidal depression is no laughing matter. ‘Walter Black is a man who’s lost all hope…‘ the voice over says, and given all the troubles in Gibson’s personal life, it seems like art imitating life or vice versa. Does that mean it’s inspired casting? I don’t know, but Gibson certainly gave his all in portraying a man plagued by his own demons.

How Walter meets the furry hand puppet is actually pretty interesting. He was at the lowest point of his life, having just been kicked out of the house by his weary wife. It’s the morning after his botched suicide attempt that The Beaver suddenly took over him. It seemed that Walter’s no longer have a voice unless it came from his new um, identity.

It’s certainly amusing at first to see a beaver stuffed animal speaking in some weird Cockney-accent (Gibson’s own apparently, though I thought at first it was Michael Caine), and for a time it seemed as if the beaver did save him and his toy company. But soon we know that there’s no simple ‘cure’ for Walter’s condition and his shenanigans took a toll on his family as well. This film isn’t trying to explain the nuts and bolts of mental illness but actor/director Jodie Foster presents it with unflinching honesty.

Gibson and Foster were on screen together in a Western comedy Maverick, but this time around they’re not exactly exchanging playful banters. As I mentioned before, Gibson gave a no-holds-barred performance as someone losing complete control of his own life. Apparently Steve Carell was originally cast as Walter. I think this film might have a totally different vibe with Carell in the role, though we’ve seen him in this kind of role in Little Miss Sunshine.

Foster’s performance didn’t quite wow me, but I really sympathize with her character. It’s nice to see Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence in a movie together after seeing them in Like Crazy, even though their storyline seem to feel somewhat detached from what’s going on with Walter. I’m impressed with the kind of range Lawrence has in the few movies I’ve seen her in, she’s definitely one of the strongest young stars working today.

This is Foster’s third feature film directing project but the first one I’ve seen. I think she is a capable enough director though I think her biggest talent still lies in acting. Overall this is a decent movie though I feel like given the strong script, perhaps it could’ve been a much more compelling film. It’s not an enjoyable film per se and there are some cringe-worthy moments which is kind of expected given the subject matter. A couple other quibbles I have are that the film seems to drag a bit despite the relatively short 91-minute running time and Walter’s relationship with his older son doesn’t feel as convincing. But it’s still worth a watch and despite Gibson’s real life antics, I do think he’s a gifted actor who can balance both drama and comedy convincingly.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels

Have you seen The Beaver? In regards to Mel Gibson, does his personal life affect your decision to watch his films?