Wednesday, Aug 15, 2018
 
search SGN
SERVING SEATTLE AND THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST FOR 43 YEARS!

click to visit advertiser's website


Javascript DHTML Drop Down Menu Powered by dhtml-menu-builder.com

Last Weeks Edition
   
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




 

 
 

 

 

[Valid RSS]

click to go to advertisers website
to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 8, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 23
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
  next story
Bigger conversations: Truth, lies and the pursuit of immortality all collide in Bart Layton's American Animals
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

AMERICAN ANIMALS
Now playing


In 2012 director Bart Layton wowed people with his dynamic, edgily creative documentary The Imposter. The story of a young man who claims to be a grieving Texas family's 16-year-old son who had been missing for three years, the film blurred the line between the truth and a lie to such a fascinating degree by the time the film had come to an end knowing what was fact and what was fiction was practically impossible. It really was a case where truth was stranger than any fictional narrative ever could have been, the whole thing a mind-blowing shell game that built to an unforgettable final reveal.

Six years later Layton follows up that impressive piece of documentary subterfuge with an equally idiosyncratic cinematic endeavor. Once again he is working from a true story, this time the 2003 attempted heist of a cache of rare, seemingly priceless first editions from Transylvania University's library, including John James Audubon's Birds of America. White, from privileged backgrounds, seemingly having perfect futures all laid out in front of them, these four men, Warren Lipka, Spencer Reinhard, Eric Borsuk and Chas Allen, all attended this Lexington, Kentucky college and, almost on a whim, decided to try and pull the perfect crime.

It all goes hopelessly wrong, of course, and it doesn't take very long for law enforcement to figure out who was involved with the heist. But Layton isn't so much interested in the hows as he is in the whys, the filmmaker going out of his way trying to dig into the reasons these four felt the need to attempt such a foolhardy robbery.

One part documentary, one part narrative reenactment (actors Even Peters, Barry Keoghan, Jared Abrahamson and Blake Jenner portray the four youngsters), the movie bounces back and forth between varying recollections and points of view as it attempts to get to the heart of what happened. In the process, memory becomes a hazy vehicle that is as flawed and as vague as any fictionalized narrative ever could be. Layton pulls no punches, allowing all four men, their families and even some of those they callously terrorized to all speak for themselves, their idiotic pursuit of fame and immortality speaking to a crack in the American Dream few want to talk about let alone admit even exists in the first place.

I had the pleasure to sit down with the director while he was in town to screen American Animals during this year's Seattle International Film Festival. Here are some of the highlights from our freewheeling conversation:



Sara Michelle Fetters: How did it go last night? Did you have a good time?

Bart Layton: It was great. I didn't sit in on the screening; you come in at the end. Do the Q&A. But the reaction seemed to be kind of great. There was a lot of excitement. People seemed to be loving the film, which is obviously good as far as I'm concerned. [laughs]

Sara Michelle Fetters: It's got to be empowering and a little heartwarming for a film that you spent so much time just getting off the ground, let alone getting made, to have such a positive reception at these festivals. I think I read that it took you, what, six or seven years to get this picture made?

Bart Layton: It was probably six years since I found the story. In terms of the work, writing, directing and editing, that is probably a couple years. So it was a pretty long process, start to finish.

But, yes, I'm definitely happy people have been responding as they have. There's always that thing where you put all of that effort in and you actually don't have any sense of what's going to happen next. I've got friends who've done the same, worked harder and longer on a project than I have on this one, and their movies haven't been picked up and may never see a theatrical window. That's pretty painful. It's a shame, don't you think?

Sara Michelle Fetters: Without question. For you, though, why did this story speak to you so loudly? What was about this one that fascinated you to the point you knew this was a film you just had to make?

Bart Layton: First of all it has to be a ripping story. It has to be a kind of 'what's going to happen next' story. But more important than that, or equally important, I think that it speaks to a kind of way into a bigger conversation about something in the culture or something in the way we live. A good story's not really all you need. You have to have more. This story, it had that 'more.'

Since making The Imposter, I've had offers to make a lot of big studio movies and none of them really feel like anything other than they have that first bit, that initial seed of a good idea. They have a fun story or they are a thriller. But they're not really about anything. None of them. The Imposter was a film equally about self-deception as it was about deception, about those lies we choose to believe. That's why I made it.

Sara Michelle Fetters: And this story had that, 'more.'

Bart Layton: Yes. It did. To answer your question, I thought this was a great and interesting story. What kind of people, you know, try to do something like this? And when I found out they were young, privileged and well-educated? That was kind of my okay to know there must be something more to their story. I wanted to understand a little more about them and their motivations; that was the thing that made me think this was a story that needed telling.

A lot of what they said in the letters we exchanged - because at the point we were conversing they were all in prison - almost all of that is in the film. That's how the whole thing began, that correspondence with them. The things they wrote in their letters, it was amazing. First, and most importantly, they were very honest. But secondly they were just so not what I expected them to be. They were surprisingly intelligent. They were very articulate. They were very erudite. A lot of what they talked about was a need to be special, a need to leave a mark on the world, a need to do something that would completely shake up everything about their lives and their existence. That was a thing I felt was very relatable.

Just before you walked in a young woman from a college newspaper was talking about how deeply relatable this story was. She wants to be a writer and she's worried about that she's never going to have a story to tell because she's white and privileged and all the rest of it. So, it felt relevant to her in a way. It's that kind of response that what made me say that this could be a great heist movie but also realize that it had to deliver on a variety levels because it was a story that could be so much more than just another thriller about a heist.

Sara Michelle Fetters: This story, it is oddly relevant for what is going on in America right now in regards to these larger conversations that we're having, especially in regards to questions of white privilege and toxic masculinity, all that stuff. In this weird way it feeds into that conversation and gives you a great insight into this sort of, this laissez faire mindset.

Bart Layton: Yeah. Exactly. I think you might be right. I mean, I don't think they really planned on going through with it [the heist]. I think they fell in love with the fantasy. One of them described it to me in one of the letters that this was their version of Fight Club. It was a secret that they had that made them different from everyone else. I don't think they thought that they were going to go through with it. They just were enjoying the role play and then it went way too far.

Sara Michelle Fetters: Why tell the story as part documentary and part reenactment? Why go back and forth between the dramatization, the thriller and the real guys and their families sitting there talking about this?

Bart Layton: For the exact reason that I was saying earlier. Because I think if you didn't include them it would be a smaller, more disposable story. It would be kind of the story of the crime. It would be hard to relate to them. I think you would think, 'What a bunch of idiots.'

They had all of these opportunities and they squandered them while doing this stupid thing. But I think it's the same thing that made me want to tell the story and that was these people and the way they talk about their reasons. I also thought we potentially had the opportunity to find a new way of telling a true story that we hadn't seen before. At least, that was the idea.

The simple intention was that your emotional investment would be heightened, would be greater because you looked them in the eye. You don't get to go off into movie world where everything's fine and you walk out unscathed. With this you're like, 'What?' With this, you're constantly reminded it really happened and because of that you're like, 'Where is this going and how is it going to turn out?' You got more skin in the game.

Sara Michelle Fetters: I think this way of telling the story makes concrete the whole Rashomon way they have looking back on things. I mean, these guys were all together, planning this together, and yet they all still have different interpretations of how stuff happened. It's fascinating.

Bart Layton: Totally. And that's the thing. They're not just unreliable narrators, there's also these memories that are totally unreliable as well. That was one of the things I wanted to do. I wanted to invite the audience into a movie in a slightly different way. We constantly go to movies and at the beginning it says, 'Based on a true story,' and then it's like that's a license to be Hollywood and basically make the rest of it up. I didn't want that. I wanted this to make you feel like you were part of the story and part of the progress. I wanted you to question how movies get fictionalized and how stories get Hollywood-ized.

Sara Michelle Fetters: But I also think it also helps us question, not so much our own reality, but our own perception of what our lives are, the events that have helped make us who we are.

Bart Layton: Exactly. It's all about crossing a line that should never be crossed. I think if it had been more serious, if someone had died, we could never tell the story in this way. What it's really about is this moment in which they cross a line and they kind of can't cross back. In that moment they instantly regret it, they instantly wish they could take it back but they can't and you see them unraveling.

Sara Michelle Fetters: Even though you'd been having this correspondence with them and you had gotten so much information, it's one thing to get all of that in writing and another thing to have them sit down in front of a camera. Was there some trepidation there from them to actually be in the film?

Bart Layton: I don't think they were trepidatious until the day of filming and then they were suddenly, 'Oh, shit! This is really happening. We're really doing this.' [laughs] I think at that time they realized it was going to bring the whole thing back up. This had been a huge thing within the community and within their families. It had been devastating. So it was difficult because they'd written a lot of things in the letters, most of which I put into the script. When we sat down to do the interviews I wanted to hear them say the things. Some of those things they talked about and said and some of the things they didn't say. So I was faced with this problem of having written a screenplay, got the film financed off the back of the screenplay and now I'm not able to get the lines out of the real guys.

The last thing you want to do is turn them into actors. That would never work. They needed to speak their own truth. They had to say it, not me. In the end, I threw the script away and I was like, let's just sit down and have a very honest conversation about what happened. Afterwards, I went back into the script and rewrote around what they had actually said.

Sara Michelle Fetters: Because of your documentary background, because you've done the 'Locked Up' series, does that help you in situations like this?

Bart Layton: Massively. I've had a lot of experience getting stories out of people. But, you know, this was totally different because this was a narrative movie with these unconventional, nonfiction elements. There isn't really a template for that. When we were coming to plan the schedule and the budget everyone was like, I've never done or planned anything like this before. How do we do it?

It's exciting because you're breaking new ground but it's difficult because there isn't a template. Everyone's wondering if you're absolutely sure that it's going to work. And I'm always like, yeah. Of course. It's going to be great. But even I'm not sure until I get into the edit room and see for myself that it's going to work in the same way I saw it working on paper. Not that I could tell anyone else that. [laughs]

Sara Michelle Fetters: How hard was it casting the actors to portray these guys?

Bart Layton: I'm not great at making snap decisions. I'm better at making good decisions and sometimes it takes a long time to get to that. With the casting process, I just wanted the best actors, not the most similar looking. They had to be the best actors.

There was a point where we could have cast the biggest names in this age group. The script suddenly caught fire in L.A. We had the option to cast really well known young men and I didn't want that. I didn't want them to come with the baggage of all of those big franchise movies that we're all familiar with. I wanted them to be real people. They needed to look real, they needed to be more authentic and I didn't want any of these Hollywood pretty boys. I wanted people that looked like you and I.

Sara Michelle Fetters: It's interesting that you put it like that because, even in the case of Evan Peters, he might be a major part of this big franchise (the X-Men films) but he still manages to come into this without the baggage of portraying Quicksilver.

Bart Layton: Exactly, He just came into the room and it was like, yeah, wow, he's just exceptional.

Sara Michelle Fetters: Evan and Barry Keoghan, the way they work off one another, there's magic there.

Bart Layton: That is the thing. I've never written a screenplay before and I'm not one of those people who sit there writing. I don't do all the dialogue in a lab and stand up and go and try and do the whole performance of it because that's just not how I operate. I write, that's it, and then I hope that it feels true. It was nerve-wracking. It wasn't until the actors turned up and we started doing rehearsals that I felt like I could breathe. It was then that I knew the stuff I'd written was good. That they were good. That they were great. I knew then we were going to be fine.

Sara Michelle Fetters: I have to say, as terrific as Evan and Barry are, I was really blown away by Jared Abrahamson. That scene when you actually get into the heist, that whole sequence I couldn't take my eyes off of him. I'm just watching him and it's just heartbreaking.

Bart Layton: He's a natural. He's got a kind of natural quality about him. I found myself not giving him a huge amount of direction. Often he just was very solid. He just got it. Jared's so understated, doesn't feel the need to do too much. He's just so good here.

Sara Michelle Fetters: Right at the end, you sort of tell us also maybe not everything some of what these guys are telling us is exactly the truth.

Bart Layton: Exactly. It's that unreliable narrator aspect I was talking about earlier. At one point there was sort of more of that in the movie. But I discovered some places in the story you just don't want to interrupt the flow of the drama but in other places there were points I wanted to invite the questioning of whether things happened in the way they are depicted. There's this idea that, not just that they're unreliable narrators, but also memories themselves are also unreliable.

A week from now you won't be wearing sunglasses on your head in my memory. Whatever it is, it will be different. Things will morph and change. As a dramatist, you can either choose if two people are giving you two different versions. You can go, I'll just choose the cooler version because that's more dramatic. Or you say, no, let's do both versions and then invite the audience into this kind of game of, 'what if.' Instead of tricking the audience you're inviting them into the process, into this game. We all enter that type of contract when we go into making a film out of a true story.

Listen, we all know that Natalie Portman is not Jackie Kennedy but we're like, yeah, let's go, we want to believe it. But then you're asking yourself, did that really happen? Did Jackie Kennedy really say or do that? And then at the end you see a bunch of photographs and then you go and Google Jackie Kennedy, or Molly from Molly's Game, or anyone else it might be in a movie supposedly based on real people telling a real story. I wanted to remove that. I wanted you to be kind of having your cake and the ability to eat it, too, in a way.

Sara Michelle Fetters: What inspires you as a filmmaker?

Bart Layton: It has to be a great story. I've got a very short attention span. I'm a very slow reader, probably dyslexic. If I'm not like, 'What happens next?' that is problematic. But it's equally problematic to feel like that was a great book and I really enjoyed it but ultimately I'm never going to think about it for a split second after I'm done reading.

In this case, there had to be something about these questions of identity, masculinity, privilege and the pressure we're all living under to be interesting, different and be special. All of that had to be there and it was. To answer your question, it has to be a great story but it has to be about something more. Something that you can go to the pub afterwards and have a proper talk about. Did that happen? What does that mean? What would you do? There's always more to it.

Talking about that young woman who was in before you again, she said she found the movie so deeply relatable because most of her and her friends, she said, 'If we don't have a Wikipedia page by the time we're however old, I guess we're not important or we haven't made it.' That's so telling, right? Making a mark, having our lives mean something, that is a huge driver for all of us in our lives. I think it was also one of the main drivers in this crime. Those are the kinds of conversations that would be good to have people talking about.

Sara Michelle Fetters: Can we slow down? Can we get out of this technological and societal malaise that we're in that can potentially lead to stuff like this? Can we connect again as human beings, in real life, away from our computers, cell phones, social media and all of the rest?

Bart Layton: I think so. I hope so. Ultimately it just becomes a total choice. Because if you're not in it, social media and all of the rest of that stuff, or if you step away, as soon as you are away from it all, it's suddenly not in your ether anymore. As soon as you turn it off you realize you don't need any of it. It's like when you go away and there's no WiFi or anything and suddenly it's just like an out of mind thing. You stop caring about it. If I put it out of sight, suddenly I can just think about where I want to be and what I want to do, what's important to me. I stop thinking about what's important to me in the eyes of other people. It's that simple. Don't you think so?


Documentary and docudrama collide with observationally prescient American Animals
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

Now playing

In 2004 four Lexington, Kentucky residents, all attending Transylvania University, attempted to steal some of the world's most valuable books from their school's special collections library, including John James Audubon's Birds of America. The scheme was the brainchild of Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan) and Warren Lipka (Evan Peters), two best friends from reasonably wealthy families who had no reason to attempt something so foolhardy. They rope fellow students Chas Allen (Blake Jenner) and Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) into their scheme, the quartet planning for their heist by spending more time watching films like Rififi and The Asphalt Jungle than they do almost anything else.

Part suspense flick, part documentary, writer/director Bart Layton's American Animals, the award-winning filmmaker's follow-up to his sensational 2012 doc The Imposter, is an exceedingly odd (if still observationally prescient) piece of work. A mixture of interviews with the real subjects involved in the case, including all four of the amateur thieves, as well as the Transylvania University librarian, Betty Jean Gooch, they inadvertently terrorized, as well as suspenseful reenactment with rising stars Keoghan, Peters, Jenner and Abrahamson right at the center of things, the movie is an inventive new take on both the heist thriller as well as the straightforward docudrama. It toys with memory in a way that clouds just how legit the events being depicted are, Reinhard and Lipka offering up different versions of key moments that make getting a firm grasp on the hows and whys of this attempted theft all the more ephemeral and pleasingly difficult to grapple with.

But because the film toggles back and forth between documentary and reenactment, Layton has a terrible time trying to maintain tension. By the time this crew goes through with their plan and finds a number of ways to mess things up before making off with only a small handful of the precious literary works they were hoping to snag suspense is noticeably lacking. This is understandably due to the fact we've already met each of the guys during the interview portions that have been interspersed throughout. We know they don't get away with it. We know they get caught. There's never a question any member of their quartet is going to keep their hands on the few manuscripts they were able to somehow abscond with. It's just the way it is, and because these truths are made known right from the start the finish isn't exactly the breathless piece of suspense storytelling I'm sure some are hoping it was going to be.

Yet it's all still pretty fascinating. Not only are listening to the recollections of Reinhard et al. intriguing, watching all four actors portraying these characters is equally noteworthy. Keoghan, fresh off his unsettling, star-making turn in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, finds the story's emotional center with hypnotic fidgety grace, while X-Men: Days of Future Past scene-stealer Peters oozes machismo as Lipka, his puffed-out chest concealing an infantile insecurity hungry for recognition and fame no matter what the cost. Jenner is also good, but his screen time is honestly rather limited, Allen nowhere near as complicated a figure as the other members of this small band prove to be. As for Abrahamson, he might just be the best of the bunch, the young actor mining sensitive veins so richly satisfying every moment spent watching Borsuk navigate his way through each event as it happens, especially during the actual theft, is positively golden in its hypnotic heartbreaking majesty.

I kind of loved the Rashomon trick Layton waits until the best possible moment to reveal, the director forcing me to reconsider every single thing I'd just watched from a variety of varying perspectives I hadn't even bothered to take the time to consider beforehand. There's also some agreeably playful banter between Reinhard and Lipka that had me grinning madly, the snappy cadences of the filmmaker's dialogue consistently keeping me invested in learning what either of them was going to say or do next. Layton also has a strong rapport with all of the real life individuals he manages to score interviews with, especially the core foursome, and as such there's a large part of me that almost wishes he'd made a full-on documentary about the heist instead of a hybrid motion picture that wants to bob back and forth like it's some feature length 'Unsolved Mysteries' instead.

Even if I don't think the constant tonal shifts work as well as I imagine Layton wanted them to, American Animals is still strong on more than enough levels to make its narrative imbalances mean precious little as far the bigger picture is concerned. It's insight into the current social and cultural malaise, a worldwide ailment seemingly exacerbated by social media, the devolution in political discourse and the slow and steady drumbeat that asserts fame of any kind, no matter how heinous and vile it might be obtained, is worth achieving whatever the cost, all of that is worthy of debate and discussion. The filmmaker looks at this jolt of criminal lunacy and discovers universal truths viewers should take note of, this group's failure revealing more about the human condition than initially meets the eye.


Movingly incisive Escape a heartbreakingly potent melodrama
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

THE ESCAPE
Now playing


Suburban London housewife Tara (Gemma Arterton) isn't doing well. Her hardworking husband Mark (Dominic Cooper) loves her and yet he's still caught up with his own wants and needs, so consumed with the thought he must provide a posh life for his wife and two children above anything else he fails to see that the woman lying next to him is desperately unhappy. Things are slowly falling apart, and even after she expresses her concerns and fears out loud to Mark it doesn't appear she's going to be able to stop her emotional deterioration any time soon.

The British drama The Escape is not for the faint of heart. It's a precise, step-by-step chronicle of one woman's depression, the film showcasing how the weight of being all but forgotten in one's own life, no matter how fulfilling or stereotypically perfect it might appear to others to be, can shatter all chances of happiness into itty-bitty pieces. Writer/director Dominic Savage refuses to shower his characters with pity, making zero apologies for their actions no matter how heinous they might be. Yet his affection and respect for them is equally palpable, Tara a fiercely complex figure whose innate goodness is slowly being devastated by this growing cloud of despair.

Not that this mother's decisions or choices are easy to comprehend or forgive. The moments when she lashes out, especially at her children, are brutally difficult to endure. The scenes where she expresses what is happening to her to Mark but is unable to contextualize them, where she cannot find a way to get him to at least partially understand the role he's inadvertently played in manufacturing her ennui, not all of these ring as authentically as they were undoubtedly meant to. While the pain is real, some of the dialogue discussing it can be a little too on-point, some sequences having an aura of stilted theatricality I was less than thrilled with.

But Arterton's magnificence is undeniable. The veteran actress is almost as wonderful here as she was in last year's sublime Their Finest, her willingness to break Tara down into her basest emotional parts gut-wrenching in their horrifying intensity. The scene where she finally loses it completely with her children had me clutching my throat in heart-stricken distress, while the one directly following it up is equally stunning as this young mother realizes what it is she has said and done and tries to find some way, any way, to repair things with her two little ones. There's always something going on behind Arterton's eyes in this movie, her depressive physicality truly extraordinary.

Around two-thirds of the way through the picture the action moves to Paris for reasons I don't choose to go into in any detail here in this review. What I will say is that these scenes, these moments, they say as much about the human condition in total as they do about any one character. All that happens, all that transpires, the beauty, the heartbreak, the catharsis, the pain; all of that and more, each of these emotions feed into one another with an assured observational gracefulness that's divine. If total understanding isn't achieved it isn't because Savage's script isn't doing its job. Instead, this ephemeral refinement is entirely by design, the haunting eloquence of what eventually transpires and potentially brings husband and wife back together to begin anew a generous outpouring of appreciative understanding that brought quiet tears to my eyes with startling ease.

In the end all Tara wants is to be listened to. Her life might not be turning out as she once dreamt it would but that doesn't mean she should be shackled to continue trudging along in footprints she long ago outgrew. All this young woman desires is for someone to hear what she has to say, to sit there and help her work through these pangs of regret in ways that will allow her to find the strength to carry on and be the type of mother her children can look up to. The Escape isn't so much about leaving one's life behind in order to build a new one as it is a mournful call to action to learn how to embrace the beauty of what's happening around one in each idiosyncratic second of the day. Far from easy to watch, this drama is an incisive glance into the mirror that is heartbreaking in its visceral exactitude, Tara's realizations as sadly common as they are unquestionably universal.


Pulpy Artemis a violently amusing retro thriller
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

HOTEL ARTEMIS
Now playing


It is 2028 and Los Angeles is controlled by powerful corporations and overrun with poverty and crime. During a riot over an increase in prices for clean drinking water, a retired ace thief (Sterling K. Brown) is reluctantly assisting his ne'er-do-well younger brother (Brian Tyree Henry) in a poorly planned bank robbery. Managing to get away with bags full of jewels, cash and a mysterious pen containing a priceless secret, the pair are injured during their escape after a shootout with the police.

Thankfully, they have a membership at the Hotel Artemis, a secret hospital for elite criminal clientele run by an enigmatic Nurse (Jodie Foster). She is assisted by her faithful orderly Everest (Dave Bautista), a massive granite rock of a man who more than lives up to his name. Giving the thief the code name 'Waikiki' and his horrifically wounded younger brother the alias 'Honolulu,' she proceeds to patch them up. Other current residents at the hotel include a high-priced assassin known as 'Nice' (Sofia Boutella) and a selfish, misogynistic arms dealer tagged as 'Acapulco' (Charlie Day), everyone is safe and sound as the riot rages outside on the streets below. But the city's most powerful crime boss, The Wolf (Jeff Goldblum), is also on the way to take advantage of the Nurse's services, and if he learns about the pen Waikiki and Honolulu have in their possession, it's safe to say everyone currently staying at the Artemis will see their life expectancy plummet to zero.

Almost as if it is some sort of side story or spin-off born from the ideas put forth in both of the John Wick adventures, Iron Man 3 and Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation screenwriter Drew Pearce makes his directorial debut with the intriguingly silly retro action-thriller Hotel Artemis. Positing the existence of a secret series of hospitals around the globe villains pay to become members of where, once inside, no violence or firearms of any kind are allowed or healthcare privileges are revoked, this film is a suitably pulpy, noir-drenched escapade overflowing in colorful characters portrayed with confidently gleeful gusto by an all-star cast. While far from perfect and not entirely memorable, it's still a darkly enjoyable lark for almost all of its reasonably well-paced 97 minutes, and I certainly didn't hate sitting in the theatre watching this story play itself out to its inevitable conclusion.

It should be said that this is not the giant grindhouse action spectacular the trailers have been selling. Pearce spends more time world-building than he does staging a never-ending series of fisticuffs, shootouts and feats of derring-do. It's a Wednesday-in-the-life for the Nurse and for Everest and that's just about it; and while this one undeniably goes a bit crazier and cockeyed than the pair's typical hump days likely do, the way they so casually attack each obstacle thrown their way maybe what transpires isn't as unexpected to them as a viewer might initially assume. They're at the Artemis for a reason, intent on doing their job no matter what fit of lunacy they have to overcome to do so, their relationship the beating heart at the center of the story everything else gains its precious lifeblood from.

The other obviously important element is what is happening with Waikiki and his brother. This retired thief knows more about what is going on in Los Angeles at this moment than he cares to openly admit. He also figures out pretty quickly what Acapulco's profession is and why old friend (and maybe lover) Nice is at the hotel, his ability to take snippets of supposedly disconnected pieces of information and assemble a finished puzzle irrefutably impressive. Most of all, he's intent on doing what's best for his brother even if his younger sibling has been something of a constant disappointment, Waikiki's love for him, no matter what his sibling's faults might be, understandably overriding his normally rational thought processes to a substantial degree.

Not to say this is a movie of relationships, talk and little to nothing more. There is violence. There is carnage. There most certainly is bloodshed. Pearce doesn't shy away from any of that stuff. He just waits to unleash the butchery and the chaos until it's going to be most viscerally effective. The last 20 minutes of the film is the payoff all of the slow-burn build has been promising, and for the most part the freshman director pulls it off. An extended hallway fight scene where Nice draws a line in the sand she insists no one is allowed to pass is especially impressive, Boutella once again showcasing that aggressively violent balletic grace that helped her steal so much of Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek: Beyond right out from underneath her co-stars.

It's still pretty thin, and Pearce, for all his narrative stratagem, is never quite able to bring the same level of authenticity and intimate realism the John Wick screenwriters have managed to achieve with both of those action favorites. Also, as terrific as Bautista is, and after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Avengers: Infinity War his comedic timing has never been more on-point than it is right now, once this goliath of a hospital orderly actually gets to get involved with the bone-crunching action the sequence itself is oddly underwhelming. Pearce and his editing team overdo it with the cutting and the close-ups, and as such Everest's ax-wielding heroics are undercut to the point they sadly barely registered with me at all.

But I still had a jolly time watching Hotel Artemis. Foster is wonderful, her chemistry with Bautista having a surprising emotional oomph I wasn't expecting. Brown is also excellent, while Goldblum's brief turn as The Wolf is every bit as idiosyncratically extraordinary as I hoped it would be when I saw his name in the cast list. The whole thing rather reminded me of similar stripped-down thrillers from the '70s and '80s, films like John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 and Sam Firstenberg's Avenging Force, and to my mind this is a giant positive. Pearce's debut, while hardly groundbreaking, is still impressive on a number of levels, and I'm honestly excited to see what the filmmaker might have in store for us all next sometime in what I imagine will be the very near future.


Lack of originality inoculates Feral against success
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

FERAL
Now playing


Six medical students head off into the woods for a camping holiday away from the hustle and bustle of school. The de facto leader of their little group is budding hematologist Alice (Scout Taylor-Compton), and when evening hits and everyone couples up and retires the late night chatter mostly revolves around whether or not her romance with newcomer Jules (Olivia Luccardi) is anything more than a collegiate fling. Just as everyone is falling asleep a scream echoes through the woods, all of them bolting out from their tents to see what is making so much noise. There's something out there in the darkness, a creature that hungers for human flesh, Alice and her friends all potential targets for this animal to sink its teeth into.

It's not really a surprise that things are much worse than any of them know, director and co-writer Mark H. Young (The Killing Jar) composing a story that checks most of the modern zombie-as-metaphor-for-viral-infection boxes for his gory horror offering Feral. Eventually Alice and her surviving friends find themselves trapped inside the cabin of a curiously helpful hunter named Talbot (Lew Temple), all of them forced to do whatever it takes to live through the night while also hoping they don't end up dinner to one of those things or, even worse, transformed into one courtesy of scratch or bite. It's basically Cabin Fever meets 28 Days Later... only without the pitch black humor of the former and the controlled, expertly directed chaos of the latter, Young's low budget offshoot content to revel in its blasé mediocrity with a strange, effortless confidence that in some ways is honestly kind of impressive.

But the movie isn't good. In fairness, it also isn't bad. It's just instantly forgettable and devoid of any original ideas save that it plants a young lesbian couple at the top of the young-people-in-jeopardy pyramid. As laudable as that might be, and as credible in their respective roles as Taylor-Compton and Luccardi prove to be, the lack of anything resembling a surprise is just too big an obstacle for the film to overcome. The nature of the threat, Talbot's potentially nefarious intentions, the order in which characters are either infected or outright killed, all of that follows a boringly predictable pattern, and as such caring about any of what is transpiring proves to be close to impossible.

This is admittedly a well made film, however, and from a directorial standpoint Young certainly does a workmanlike job. He keeps the pace moving, wasting no time unleashing his creatures and putting Alice and her friends in mortal danger. There's a nicely choreographed set piece in a dingy cellar where a survivor faces down one of the infected with nothing more than a baseball bat and their wits, while the initial attack sequence that kicks things off is suitably tense. The film features crackerjack makeup and gore effects, while Christos C. Bitsakos' lively cinematography balances varying levels of darkness and light splendidly. Most importantly, Taylor-Compton grounds things with conviction, her Alice a strong-willed and intelligent heroine worth rooting for.

Unfortunately, none of that matters. Feral is undone by its rote over-familiarity. It's hard not to feel like I've seen this story done before on multiple occasions. The whole thing is too by-the-numbers to generate a consistent feeling of suspense or dread, and by the time the film reaches its rather foregone conclusion I'd already checked out emotionally long before the climax. Even with veteran composer Elia Cmiral's (Ronin) suitably ominous score working overtime I just didn't care about anything that was happening, all of which makes Young's latest something of a slight disappointment part of me wishes I'd not taken the time to see.


Seattle Opera's O + E a thrilling adaption of Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice
------------------------------
PNB's 'Love & Ballet' an exceptional reprise of great contemporary dance works and music
------------------------------
Wild Horses tells a 13 year-old's tale
------------------------------
Upstream Music Fest + Summit: My 10 favorite acts from the 3-day festival
------------------------------
Seattle Humane - Pets of the Week
------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------
Bigger conversations: Truth, lies and the pursuit of immortality all collide in Bart Layton's American Animals
------------------------------
Documentary and docudrama collide with observationally prescient American Animals
------------------------------
Movingly incisive Escape a heartbreakingly potent melodrama
------------------------------
Pulpy Artemis a violently amusing retro thriller
------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

click to visit advertiser's website

click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
 
 
 
 

gay news feeds gay news readers gay rss gay
http://sgn.org/rss.xml | what is RSS? | Add to Google use Google to set up your RSS feed
SGN Calendar For Mobile Phones http://sgn.org/rssCalendarMobile.xml
SGN Calendar http://sgn.org/rssCalendar.xml

Seattle Gay News - SGN
1707 23rd Ave
Seattle, WA 98122

Phone 206-324-4297
Fax 206-322-7188

email: sgn2@sgn.org
website suggestions: web@sgn.org

copyright Seattle Gay News 2018 - DigitalTeamWorks 2018

USA Gay News American News American Gay News USA American Gay News United States American Lesbian News USA American Lesbian News United States USA News
Pacific Northwest News in Seattle News in Washington State News