KVIFF Review: ‘The White World According to Daliborek’ Doc is Daring

The White World According to Daliborek Review

Meet Dalibor. He’s an industrial painter from the Czech Republic, still living with his mom even though he’s almost 40 years old. Dalibor is a neo-Nazi, who doesn’t believe that concentration camps were used to kill anyone. He spends his free time drinking with a friend, playing video games, and making weird YouTube videos with cheesy voice distortion and cheap video filters. The White World According to Daliborek is a documentary that follows Dalibor (he’s called Daliborek in the English title) as he shows us around his world. While at first it seems like no one is challenging him, slowly but surely he is confronted by the truth. I’ve never come across anything like this documentary before, it’s utterly fascinating and impressively calm. ›››

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Hell in the Pacific Blu-ray Review

Hell in the Pacific

Hell in the Pacific: Grueling and brilliantly acted anti-war thriller is just as socially important now as it was in 1968

War is horror. The very idea of it, stripped of its marketing and glory, is the stuff ripped from a nightmare. It’s primal and tribal and evil by design, pitting human beings against each other for murky reasons. The concept that people are programmed to think that other people are “the other”, that other human beings are bad, are “the enemy”, is ludicrous and yet still, nations wage wars for reasons both noble and craven. No matter the motive, men and women are told to kill other men and women by people who hide in safe places. Hopefully, one day, humanity will be civilized enough and evolved enough to find better ways to solve its conflicts that don’t involve offering up others as human shields.

Which brings us to director John (Deliverance, The Emerald Forest) Boorman’s gripping and seemingly forgotten 1968 thriller and morality play Hell in the Pacific, a brilliantly acted and directed war movie that strips away expected sequences of battle and bloodshed and complications of plot to simply focus on the folly of war, particularly the ways in which war totally and often irreparably dehumanizes those who are in the eye of its storm. It’s as much a horror movie as any survivalist shocker out there and it artfully avoids exploitative elements in favor of real, universally understood human drama.

In it, two of the biggest stars in their respective countries at the time, Lee Marvin (USA) and Toshiro Mifune (Japan) star as soldiers during the waning days of WW2 who, after some sort of unknown battle, end up stranded together on the shores on an uncharted island in the Pacific. Neither speaks the others language and, when they both finally realize that other is not alone, their first impulse is to murder the other. Boorman brilliantly illustrates this in a brief, surreal sequence where they both have a go at doing just that, with Mifune battering Marvin with a stick and Marvin butchering Mifune with a dagger. But they don’t kill each other, instead they circle each other in their new shared habitat, occasionally fighting and capturing and humiliating the other while simply trying to survive. Eventually, however, they both clue into the fact that their interests – eating, sleeping, enduring, even laughing when they can – are shared and an uneasy alliance and even friendship evolves. But are their similar human desires and behaviors enough to erase the invisible wall that their leaders have erected between them?

HellPacific

The horrors of war-forged cultures having empathy for the other was explored rather deftly in the controversial Season 5 The Twilight Zone episode “The Encounter”, with George Takei and Neville Brand trapped in an attic and, despite the fact that the war had been over for two decades, the impulse to kill each other still stands tall. Hell in the Pacific forgoes any supernatural hokum and instead creates a primal, savage world that’s urgent and real. Boorman’s film doesn’t side with either character, nor does ask us to. That’s the poetry of the movie. Because we are not told who is good or bad, we are forced to align ourselves with the man of our choosing. Audiences in Japan will naturally navigate towards Mifune, while American audiences will side with Marvin. Initially. But by the end of the picture, there is no xenophobia. There is no “other”. There are only two human beings at the mercy of nature.

In a bold move, Boorman insisted that neither actor was to be subtitled for the theatrical release of the movie in any territory, so the two-hander film’s sparse dialogue was incomprehensible to those who could not speak either language. Neither actor understood each other either, so we are forced to watch two men legitimately communicate and act and argue and make mirth using their bodies and vocal inflections. Kino Lorber’s gorgeous new Blu-ray release does give viewers the option of subtitles for Mifune, but we strongly suggest you stick to Boorman’s original aesthetic as it makes the film much purer an experience. The original ending is wildly nihilistic and depressing but the Blu-ray also offers the alternate ending, which is stark and just as effective, albeit for different reasons.

Hell in the Pacific is a fever dream of a movie that was ahead of its time (there are moments here that you will find in everything from Jaws to Castaway) and because of that, the movie failed at the box office and was largely forgotten. With its jazzy, primitive score by Lao Schifrin that echoes Jerry Goldsmith’s music for that same year’s Planet of the Apes, and a pair of career-best performances by two of the greatest actors of their respective generations, this is a film that is not only a masterful work of grueling cinema but an important allegorical picture whose messages are sadly just as potent today as they were in 1968.

Order Hell in the Pacific from Amazon here.

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Alien: Covenant Review

Alien: Covenant Review at ComingSoon.netRating:

6 out of 10

Cast:

Michael Fassbender as David / Walter
Katherine Waterston as Daniels
Billy Crudup as Oram
Danny McBride as Tennessee
Demián Bichir as Lope
Carmen Ejogo as Karine
Jussie Smollett as Ricks
Callie Hernandez as Upworth
Amy Seimetz as Faris
Nathaniel Dean as Hallett
Alexander England as Ankor
Benjamin Rigby as Ledward
Uli Latukefu as Cole
Tess Haubrich as Rosenthal
Lorelei King as Voice of ‘Mother’ (voice)
Goran D. Kleut as Xenomorph / Neomorph
Andrew Crawford as Neomorph
James Franco as Branson
Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland

Directed by Ridley Scott

Alien: Covenant Review

If you take the first Alien and mix in a little Prometheus, you have Alien: Covenant. While there are cool new alien effects and a solid cast, everything is just too familiar to be satisfying.

The Story:

Ten years after the events of Prometheus, the spaceship Covenant is on its way to start a colony on a distant planet in the farthest reaches of explored space. En route, they are struck by a solar flare that severely damages the ship. The crew is awoken from cryogenic sleep by the ship’s computer “Mother” and the robot Walter (who is a newer model of the robot David).

As they repair the ship, they catch a stray signal from a nearby planet previously unknown to them. When they investigate the planet further, it appears it may be suitable for a human colony and seven years closer to reach than their original destination. Captain Oram decides to check it out despite the protests of his First Officer Daniels.

When they arrive, the planet at first appears perfect for human life. But as they investigate further, they discover a hidden threat from the Alien Xenomorph and more details on the horrific legacy of the Engineers.

Alien: Covenant is rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity.

What Worked:

Your opinion of Alien: Covenant will more than likely reflect whatever your opinion of Prometheus was. Whether you loved it, were okay with it, or hated it, that’s pretty much what you can expect from this Alien prequel / Prometheus sequel. That’s because it’s largely the same in content and tone. Let’s focus on the positives first.

If you were missing the aliens in Prometheus you’ll be glad to know they’re in this film more, but not a lot more. If I had to guess, I’d say they’re in maybe 10 minutes of this movie. And that’s a shame, because when they’re on the screen, that’s when the film is most entertaining. Ridley Scott finds new variations of the chestburster, which makes the audience cringe. You also see variations of the Alien, which explains why they were so different between their Prometheus version and their Alien version. Our heroes get into two impressive battles with the classic “Big Chap” Alien and it’s a lot of fun. I’d honestly like to see more of that, especially with modern computer animation.

What may surprise audiences is that this movie is much more about the Walter and David robots than the Aliens. Ridley Scott is clearly more interested in them and it shows. That’s fine, but if you walk into an Alien movie wanting Aliens and get Fassbender robots, it may be a disappointment to you. That being said, Michael Fassbender does an excellent job in his dual role as David and Walter. As in the first film, you are constantly kept guessing what his motives are and what he’ll do next. He has a number of scenes where he’s acting against himself and they’re fairly intriguing though pretty creepy. This ultimately ends up being one of the top performances of Fassbender’s career.

As for the rest of the cast, they all handle their roles as victims of the Aliens well. Katherine Waterston is this film’s Ripley as she plays Daniels. She handles the character’s sadness, unease, and fighting spirit well. Billy Crudup is also good as Oram, the new captain in over his head with something to prove. But the real surprise is Danny McBride as Tennessee. I never in a million years would have cast him in a Ridley Scott Alien movie, but he works very well here. He handles the dramatic scenes with ease but he also brings much-needed comic relief to this otherwise dreary, depressing story. And it’s just the right amount of comedy, not his usual over-the-top shtick we expect from him.

Finally, there’s a cool Easter Egg for H.R. Giger fans. Keep an eye out for some drawings clearly inspired by or drawn by the eccentric artist who designed the original Alien.

What Didn’t Work:

While there’s plenty to like about Alien: Covenant, there’s plenty to dislike as well.

First off, it largely follows the formula of Alien and Prometheus blended together. A diverse and likable crew travels through space, gets a distress signal, discovers an extraterrestrial ship, gets infected by Aliens, then is slowly killed off one by one. When you throw the Engineer storyline in along with the David robot, you start seeing the Prometheus elements. It’s all very predictable and familiar and the similarities go on from there. It’s only the details that are different. And like with Prometheus, the ending makes you think, “Well that’s a good setup for a sequel. I bet that’s a better film.” If Alien: Covenant is any indication, the sequel to this film will be more of the same. It’s hard to believe Ridley Scott wants to do two more of them.

Alien: Covenant repeats a number of the sins committed in Prometheus. First off, the humans make epically bad decisions. If you landed on a planet for the first time and it is full of new life forms, would you explore it in a protective suit of some sort or in regular clothes and a baseball cap? You can guess what our characters do and you can guess how it ends for them. On the scary new planet, do you split up or stay together? If someone looks infected, do you quarantine them or let them spew blood in your face? If there’s an Alien stalking you, do you stick together or go off and have a bath by yourself? I think you follow where this is going.

There are also a number of bizarre choices by Scott in this film. When an Alien bursts from the chest of a victim, it has a bizarre interaction with David that is one of the weirdest moments in the Alien series. Late in the film there’s a shower scene that comes across as incredibly gratuitous. It is only made more absurd when an Alien is thrown into the mix. Then there is the weird relationship between David and Walter. It drew snickers from the audience I was with watching it.

Finally, Alien: Covenant ruins some of the groundwork that the previous films laid out. One of the appeals of the Aliens was the mystery surrounding their origin. This film entirely lays out where they came from and it’s a bit of a letdown. And one of the few appealing things about Prometheus was the promise of further adventures with Elizabeth Shaw and David. This film rather quickly throws that out the window, puts it in reverse, backs over it, then runs over it again. It’s a disappointment.

The Bottom Line:

If you like the Alien series, then Alien: Covenant is worth checking out on the big screen. Even if you don’t love the film, it is beautifully shot, mildly entertaining, and it fills in enough gaps in the Alien lore that you’ll want to follow it whether you love it or loathe it. But if you did not like Prometheus, don’t expect much more from this.

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‘Silicon Valley’ Season Premiere Review: A Whole New Internet

silicon valley season premiere

The most brilliant comedy on TV returns! The fourth season premiere of HBO’s Silicon Valley is titled “Success Failure,” which is a pretty accurate description of the show so far.

Richard and the rest of the Pied Piper crew have seen tiny pieces of amazing success and attention thrown at them that promise to make them enough money to live the rest of their lives, only for them to lose it all each and every time. After three seasons of this, it’s hard not to get a little bit disinterested in this motley crew, but this season started off by doing something pretty brilliant – they’re rebooting it. Or at least, they’re changing the direction of the show.

A New Title Sequence

One of the most underappreciated parts of each Silicon Valley episode is its title sequence, which changes from season-to-season. The sequence shows the Valley being built up with corporations in a mere ten seconds, so quickly that it takes a few rewatches to catch the many in-jokes each contains.

For instance, near the space where a Napster balloon floated up before imploding and falling to the ground, a massive Uber balloon rose up in season two. In season three, a smaller Lyft balloon rose up to bounce against Uber, futily. But at the start of the season 4 premiere, they’re both about the same size and knocking against each other, probably due to Uber’s incredible snafus made earlier this year and Lyft taking advantage of their rival’s bad press so expertly.

Last season, there were a couple of drones delivering bottles of champagne to buildings. This year, they’re all over the skies, delivering six-packs of beer and individual pizza slices.

Another building now has a sign for Theranos, which immediately starts to peel off the building, probably due to the multiple FBI vans outside. The company isn’t doing well, lately. There are probably a dozen more tiny references taking place on the rooftops and streets, just a small hint of the brilliant depths of the show.

SV Gavin

The Most Silicon Valley Moment

If you think a $ 400 juicer is a stupid waste of money (it is), how about what Hooli CEO Gavin Belson gets up to in this episode? We see him with his new hire Jack Barker on the way back from a successful trip to China. Gavin becomes incredibly angry when Jack convinces him that it would be faster to drop him off at his destination first, even though it’s clearly farther. Gavin becomes so obsessed with this slight that he sends his right hand man on the exact trip from China to San Francisco to time how long each leg of the journey it takes. When he returns and confirms that it was indeed 28.3 minutes shorter if they had gone Gavin’s way, Gavin sends him back out to take five more private transcontinental flights in order to sum up the average time, to account for headwind and other variables. The purpose of this? He’s concerned with Barker’s corporate spending.

Barker ends up delightfully punished for this at the end of the episode, demoted to an “office” in the fourth sub basement next to the servers, facing the door of a men’s room.

SV Russ

The Doors of a Billionaire

With each of these weekly review, I plan to single out the best one-liner of the episode, so color me surprised that this one didn’t belong to something from the mouth of Erlich Bachman. We all know that T. J. Miller is king of the one-liners and will usually dominate this section, but we can’t blame him because this episode features an appearance by Chris Diamantopoulos’ Russ Hanneman, the billionaire who put radio on the internet. He appears in his ridiculous car to meet with Richard outside of his kid’s school. His greeting?

“Thanks for meeting me here. My fucking nanny got a D.U.I. and lost her license and I’m stuck picking up my own kid like an asshole. So what’s up?”

This is perhaps the tamest portion of his dialogue, which is delivered in front of horrified children and parents. Russ may be crazy, but it’s only because of this interaction that Richard realizes that he’s not fully behind the new direction of Pied Piper, and he has only one thing he can do – quit.

By far the best joke in the episode is Russ peeling out in his car after his chat with Richard, blasting Papa Roach’s “Last Resort,” the way we all wish Paul Ryan did.

SV Leader

The Most Inspiring Speech

Dinesh and Gilfoyle have the best (lack of) chemistry on the show, so it was perhaps shocking to think that Gilfoyle would ever back Dinesh as the new CEO of Pied Piper. But after Dinesh’s rousing speech, he had no option but to fall in line.

“Gilfoyle, can I please be CEO of Pied Piper?” pleads Dinesh.

“Spoken like a true leader,” replies our favorite anarchist. “But, since your failure as a leader is a virtual certainty, tolerating your short reign as CEO in exchange for a front-row seat to the disaster seems fair. Plus if I’m wrong, which I’m not, I get rich. So I’m down with Dinesh.”

And the new crew gets almost immediately to work on their video conferencing app, with a new gung-ho leader who’s actually interested in the product they’re creating.

SV New Internet

Building, Not Sustaining

Richard’s problem has always been that he’s a weirdo genius. He’s an amazing engineer and the rest of the crew has admitted many times that they can’t code like he can, but he has absolutely no social skills. This is what makes the show so fun to watch, but it also means thatany time he tries to steer the ship, it’s destined to smash into pieces against rocks he didn’t even see.

Richard finally realizes that in this episode, and breaks off from the new Pied Piper video chat direction (which Dinesh is excited about, since it’s his!) to do his very own thing – and that thing is to build a new internet using his algorithm.  He doesn’t even know how this will work, so this should be interesting. Will he achieve an engineering miracle, only to fall back into the same self-defeating problems? Or will he finally give up the front-facing roles of the company to people that are actually good at it? We still have a whole season ahead of us to find out.

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Voice from the Stone Review

Voice from the Stone Review

Voice from the Stone Review: Emilia Clarke gives a solid performance in this beautifully crafted romantic horror film

If you’re a fan of Roger Corman‘s first few entries in his classic series of ’60s films based on the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, you know that writer Richard Matheson was fond of marrying those opulent tales of dread with Henry James’ influential ghost story The Turn of the Screw. In 1960’s House of Usher, 1961’s Pit and the Pendulum and in the “Morella” segment of 1962’s Tales of Terror, a hero would travel for whatever reason to an impossible Gothic European manor or castle, nestled in the middle of nowhere and soon be swept up in a supernatural psychodrama of some sort. And it was true that — especially in regards to Usher — like in the James tale (and the film version, 1961’s The Innocents), it wasn’t the twists of plot that left viewers spellbound, it was the remarkable way in which Corman and production designer Daniel Haller created an immersive, haunted world, where every creak and whisper hit the nerves like a dagger.

Stuntman and pyro FX artist-turned-director Eric D. Howell’s delicate new ghost story Voice from the Stone (based on the novel by Italian writer Silvio Raffo), similarly mines that Corman/James marriage and ladles on plenty of creamy pulp paperback intrigue, creating a distinctly feminine fright movie that is more in love with baroque architecture, swirling mists, broken statues, intricately-designed costumes and suffocating supernatural mystery than it is jump scares or genre cliches. It’s a beautiful horror movie, truly, one made for patient grown-ups and with every technical element refined and buffed to a high gloss.

Game of Thrones‘ Dragon Queen Emilia Clarke doffs her platinum wig and dials down her amazonian warrior act to play Verena, a gifted teacher and nurse who, like a non-fantastical Mary Poppins, drifts in and out of the lives of a myriad European families, assisting children in need and drawing the previously-fractured units together. And though her young wards are devastated when she checks out to go to her next gig, Verena never takes it personally. She walks away and doesn’t look back. Work is work.

Voice from the stone

One day she’s summoned to the estate of a widow (Marton Csokas) and his young son in the Tuscany countryside and, as she wades through the dense fog surrounding the home, she immediately feels something is off. So do we, but Peter Simonite’s handsome photography makes every image a masterpiece worthy of framing, so we don’t mind much. Turns out the boy hasn’t uttered a word since the death of his mother and the grieving patriarch is so shell shocked by his loss, he hasn’t had the energy or ability to reach him. But Verena is up for the challenge, gently bonding with the mute boy, day by day. But when first the boy, then Verena, hears harsh whispers coming from behind a stone wall of the house, Verena becomes convinced the dead woman is haunting the house and that somehow she is slowly, surely becoming the mother.

Voice from the Stone is a gorgeous bauble of a chiller, with a sensual, minimalist cello and piano-based score by Michael Wandmacher (Underworld Blood Wars) that aids in building an ambiguous, romantic and melancholy world for the emotionally-troubled characters to inhabit. The cast is just as on point, with Clarke reveling in her role, playing a woman who unlocks both her sexuality and primal maternal instinct in the face of the arcane; and she’s matched by Csokas’ work as the broken husband who becomes smitten by the new woman in his home and Italian genre film legend Lisa Gastoni (War of the Planets) who creeps around the peripheral as the steely, elderly matron who passive aggressively steers Verena more and more to accepting the fact that she’s “becoming” someone else.

Not for horror fans seeking a quick in and out, Voice from the Stone is a slow burning, absorbing and carefully-crafted Gothic gem. With its rich cinematography, bodice-heaving sensuality and grandiose sense of decay, it’s a film admirers of this sort of thing will want to eat, slowly… so slowly, savoring every shivery second.

Voice from the Stone opens in theaters, VOD and Digital HD on April 28th from Momentum Pictures

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