Capsules: Bright Eyes, Drummer Boy & the Passion of Cosplay

Here are three short reviews of movies that I saw in the cinemas and on DVD.

midnight

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

As far as originality goes, this latest from Jeff Nichols isn’t going to win him any new converts. But it is still a pretty intriguing film, the kind that starts off in the middle of nowhere and draws you into the story with a trail of breadcrumbs. Unfortunately, there are just too many breadcrumbs and no real bread at the end of the journey. But there’s no denying Nichols’ deft handling of the story and the cinematic experience. From the very engaging opening, when we learn that the boy with the glowing eyes is being kidnapped by two men, and there’s a strange cult involved, we’re inevitably hooked. But a lot of the ideas and initial themes are not followed through, and Nichols seems to streamline the story down to familial essentials, from something that could possibly be a commentary on religion and gun violence in America to the tale of a child’s loss of innocence and the effects on his parents. The relationship between the boy and his father could have been highly emotional, if only we knew more about them. In the end, it’s a story that seems too big to fit into the film’s runtime, and as such, the streamlining sacrifices a lot, to the audience’s detriment.

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WHIPLASH

It took me a long time, but I finally caught up with this Oscar nominee, and I must say, Whiplash is one of the very, very rare times the Oscars got it right. This film may have created a whole new genre – the music thriller. No, not a musical, mind you, but a film about music. Basically, the story, of a young music student who gets the rare chance to train under a famous instructor but finds that his mentor is a potty-mouthed tyrant and bully, illustrates what happens when “an unstoppable force meets an immovable object,” as in the words of Heath Ledger’s The Joker. But at its core is a story about obsession, about an all-consuming single-mindedness to achieve, to succeed, to be vindicated, to prove one’s critics wrong. It’s a dark, dark tale about unhealthy egos and about what makes us human. The denouement, although it seems to be a happy one, is far from happy. It’s disturbing. But what I love most about the film is how director Damien Chazelle manages to capture the true drama, intensity, thrill and suspense of a drum performance, encapsulated in the final drum solo that closes the film like a reprise of all the intensity and drama that had gone on in the film.

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BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

I’d long given up on what a friend accurately described as “expensive cosplay movies.” After the insipidly juvenile Thor, I decided that I would never again watch another superhero movie or review one. I’d also put a “No superhero movies” rule in this blog. But after the endlessly bad word-of-mouth for this movie, I caved in. There was something frightfully interesting going on here with frothy-mouthed fanboys on a murderous rush to stamp out the existence of Zack Snyder for what they perceived as the ruining of a potentially great superhero movie. For me, superhero movies have increasingly transformed into juvenile nonsense. They were essentially already blatant adolescent power fantasies. (Ang Lee learnt the hard way that you cannot make a superhero movie for adults.) But with the increasing box-office returns, someone saw the profitability of treating audiences like slobbering prepubescents. So, on and on it went. And now, we have this movie, what is essentially The Passion of the Christ of superhero movies. Both Passion and BvS are about the final moments in the life of a Saviour. And both movies cater to believers and those already familiar with the characters, and don’t care to explain anything to newcomers to the faith. Hence, superhero geekery is now officially a religion.

 

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