The lineup for this week was not stellar, but not the worst I’ve seen.
It Follows (2014)
Director: David Robert Mitchell
I saw this movie on the recommendation of a friend. It’s a low-budget supernatural horror film marketed to the younger crowd. The premise of the movie is a bit derivative: a ghostly entity stalks and kills various teenagers, and is passed on like a virus from one to the other though sex. No explanation is given for how this all began. The idea sounds clever at first, until we remember the 1990s film Fallen (1998), which was a fantastic film about an evil spirit that passed from body to body through physical contact. Fallen (which starred Denzel Washington John Goodman) was a truly original film with a malicious ending, and it deserved a lot more credit than it ever received (see it if you get the chance).
I suppose I shouldn’t criticize It Follows too much. It is not a bad film, and does a lot within its $2 million budget. It delivers some interesting scenes and has a few tense moments. But I’ve come to expect a lot more from my horror movies, so this one for me fell flat. The lack of any explanation for the premise, the lack of a resolution at the end, and the implausible acting doom this one to the “might have been” file.
The Raid 2 (2014)
Director: Gareth Evans
The first Raid movie was one of the most violent and action-filled movies of the past 10 years, and should be seen by all fans of the genre. In The Raid, a SWAT team is trapped in a tenement building filled with wackos, criminals, and freaks, and has to fight its way out. It is pure fighting and action, and makes no apologies for it. Although The Raid 2 is not quite up to the same level as the first film, it’s worth watching. The plot: a Jakarta, Indonesia police officer named Rama (Iko Uwais) is asked to go undercover to infiltrate a criminal organization that may–or may not–be controlling the politics of his city. Along the way he has to battle prison gangs, private mobs, and all types of violent predators.
All of these scenarios, of course, are excuses to deliver marvelously choreographed fight scenes. And they are impressive. I’m not really a huge fan of martial arts movies but there is just something about the over-the-top intensity of these Raid movies that makes me want to watch them. If you are looking for a well-paced, highly professional action film, this one is a good find. The Asian film renaissance continues.
Director: Benjamin Ree
I’m ashamed to say that before watching this movie, I had never heard of Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian prodigy who became world chess champion. This is a short documentary, clocking in at just over an hour; but then again, it doesn’t really need to be any longer than that. The story telling style here is very straightforward: interviews with friends and family members are mixed in with film clips and other media musings. This is a young man who discovered he had an incredible gift at an early age, and then devoted everything in pursuit of the quest to the best in the world. The best scenes here are the clips when Carlsen goes to India to duel with the reigning world champion; how he wins the match is a great story in itself.
I would not call myself a chess “fan,” but I can always appreciate stories about people fighting to achieve their full potential. So it doesn’t really matter whether you like chess or not: this is a human story, not a story about a game. And on that level, it may tell you something about your world that you may not have known. See it.