Archive | May, 2015

Aloft

23 May
Paste Magazine May 19, 2015
<i>Aloft</i>

Much of what transpires in Aloft washes over you like a hypnotic dream, with peril and anguish looming at the corners, ever ready to flood the delicate drama at the core of director Claudia Llosa’s film. It’s more a sensual experience than a narrative, and while the dystopian prophecy boasts a concrete plot—or two—Llosa has loftier ambitions. Think The Tree of Life or Life of Pi, but Llosa’s film never quite spreads its wings.

Set somewhere in a slightly alternative reality, in the near future, in a place that’s rooted very much in the here and now, Aloft centers on a French journalist (Melanie Laurent) who’s making a documentary about a reclusive female faith healer living in a remote compound on a frozen arctic lake. She connects with a troubled falconer (Cillian Murphy) with ties to the much sought one, who can harness the power of nature to cure terminal illnesses. Given that such skills in a traditional office park might result in long lines and traffic headaches, the tough-to-reach outpost somewhat makes sense—though, if it’s such a bitch to get to, might not the dying and the needy expire long before arriving at the doorstep of salvation?

In a separate spindle, some 20 years earlier, a single mother (an alluring Jennifer Connelly sporting a rat tail) toils on a pig farm raising two boys. The youngest is sick and without much prospect, while the older, through reckless abandon, constantly puts his feeble younger sibling at risk (joyriding in a pickup truck on thin ice). Connelly’s Nana, desperate, turns to a New Age-y sect, where the head, considered a drunkard and a charlatan by nonbelievers, is rumored to remedy those whose doctors have closed the book on. Continue reading

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Black Souls

22 May

‘Black Souls’: This dark mob family drama doesn’t go where you expect, unless it’s Italy

The three brothers in “Black Souls” lead very different lives: Luciano (Fabrizio Ferracane) runs the family goat farm in a remote village in the Italian foothills while Luigi (Marco Leonardi) and Rocco (Peppino Mazzotta) run mob operations in Milan. Luciano wants nothing to do with the new initiative and works tirelessly to steer his son, Leo (Giuseppe Fumo) away from it too. But Leo, who does a little strong-arming on the side himself,  has his sights set on Milan and beyond.

052115i Black SoulsSmall doings carry big ramifications, and quickly Luigi and Rocco, looking to buy influence – 30 keys of coke will do that – and expand, find themselves in the middle of a potential turf war with Leo square in the middle as the agitator between Luigi’s cosmopolitan go-for-broke flair and Rocco’s staid, more conservative approach. It’s easy to see why Leo gravitates toward Luigi’s playboy as opposed to Rocco, who married, has a daughter and, at the root of it all, shares the same conservative sensibilities as Luciano.

As director Francesco Munzi’s weave has it, all parties wind up back at the old family farm, where past meets present and generational sensibilities collide as dark dealings loom at the corners. Much of what transpires feel leaden and reminiscent of “The Godfather” scenes on Italian soil: quiet and purposeful, and steeped in tradition and the unwritten code of the underworld.

There are several junctures where “Black Souls,” for all its somber drive, appears to move in predictable and clichéd directions, but Munzi and his writers – working from Gioacchino Criaco’s novel – smartly never quite go there. The developments add up to something new, unexpected and ominous, though not fully sating. Much of Munzi’s vision hangs on his four principals and on cinematographer Viadan Radovic. Most is asked of Ferracane, whose Luciano becomes the tortured Job of the mountain.

In large, he and the cast all deliver. But Munzi hangs on the emotional residue of a scene far too long, so much so that the magic he and his actors have conjured up begins to settle, and the poignant flourish suddenly becomes stale. There’s no denying Munzi’s hypnotic poetry and simmering macho cadence, but for all its bleakness, “Black Souls” could have been a gangbuster with a touch more soul.

Fury Road

15 May

Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunck, back in 1985, the “Mad Max” trilogy unceremoniously sputtered to an anticlimactic halt rather than going out on a furious, nitro-boosted blast. That tepid finale, “Beyond Thunderdome,” would become the post-apocalyptic Outback series’ weak link, an unsatisfactory follow up to its crowning production. That film, “The Road Warrior” (1981), not only elevated Mel Gibson to bankable star status in Hollywood, it seamlessly spun together an odd olio of diverse genres without faltering into camp and boasted some of the greatest real-action car stunts recorded on film. What director George Miller and Gibson revved up was an instant cult classic, a box office smash (it covered its budget in the U.S. in one week) and a can-do mashup from Down Under that would become a model that many would try to copy, but few could emulate. With “Mad Max: Fury Road,”(released May 15) the series is back on track, and boldly so. It took decades to get here, but it’s well worth the wait, something well oiled in lineage and ready to sear into the minds of a new generation of thrill-injected converts.

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