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Movie: We Are The Best! (2013)
Rating: ***1/2 out of *****
Notes: In 1980s Stockholm, two thirteen year old punk-lifestyle girls rebelling against mainstream and conformity decide on the spur of the moment to start a punk band, but they need to befriend a non-punk school outcast to teach them how to play instruments and read music. It's very much slice-of-life/coming-of-age, and it might be the first punk mumblecore. Their antics are authentic and feel unscripted, but also somewhat aimless as their conversations meander, people drift in and out, there's an outing to meet some punk boys from a magazine, and there's a vague overtone of purely subjective parental oppression that amounts to little more than background noise. What makes the film enjoyable is the bubbling charm of the two main characters who virtually effervesce stereotypical punk, but through the innocent lens of a grade schooler. They REALLY like playing punk, and they make it look like fun, or at least fun to watch their maturation from playing to being via a late-film performance opportunity. More of a character study than a story, but of unexpectedly delightful characters.

Movie: Mind Game (2004)
Rating: **1/2 out of *****
Notes: A challenging film from Japan that won the prestigious Noburo Ofuji animation award, the general gist of which revolves around death, rebirth, and living all of life's opportunities. Nishi, a young artist, happens to come across an old flame, but he gets killed by the Yakuza, runs away from oblivion, and gets swallowed by a whale - then things get weird. If that's not enough, the animation styles are extremely experimental, barely resembling traditional anime, but blending in imagery that recalls everything from Krisfalusi to Judge to Plympton, with some brief and sporadic live-action for good measure. The art is not easy on the eyes, reminiscent of a 100-minute international animation festival, and the story tends to run along the same lines. Many scenes are directed solely for the joy of animating and to hell with the plot, but they tend to be bright, wild, colorful and impressive. Fantastical to the point of being inarticulate, the ending may be more opaque than most viewers can or would appreciate, and it may appear to drag in the middle progression-wise. But if you're up for a real artistic, psychedelic trip, "Mind Game" will push your boundaries.

Movie: Man from Reno (2014)
Rating: *1/2 out of *****
Notes: A renowned writer of a popular series of Japanese detective novels takes refuge in San Francisco to escape the endless book tours and to prepare for the publication of her final novel. But a one-night stand with a mysterious stranger leaves her with a suitcase that strangers come looking to acquire. The first half of the film is entirely setup, but there's very little to set up, so its begins with a 45-minute drag. Those seeking her brand new bag aren't particularly threatening, and a cop's investigation that ties into the main story is anything but intriguing. Thrills and suspense are foreign terms when it comes to "Man From Reno" as this sleepy mystery will leave you doing just that. By the time it pulls out its one shock at the climax - such as it is - apathy has taken over and all investment in the characters has long since drained away. To add insult to injury, the explanation is deliberately so opaque as to be impossible to understand on the first viewing, and the ambiguous, unresolved ending is a resounding, "Meh, who cares?" Competent production, but dreadfully slow and the opposite of engaging.

Next: Cheatin', Beasts Of No Nation, Cold In July


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 24th, 2015 11:38 am (UTC)
We Are the Best sounds like something I'd really go for - I'm quite fond of genuine "slice of life" productions, whether or not they're partially dramatised, providing they leave the essence intact. Reminds me somewhat of Bombay Beach.

I must see Mind Game sometime. I'm a little puzzled - it seemed like you enjoyed it, but only offered 2.5 stars.

MfR.. mmm, again, one I think I might enjoy, if the cinematography and/or acting makes up for the fumbled narrative.

Ahead in the queue, however slowly it may progress, though, are Predestination and Inside Out. ^_^
Oct. 24th, 2015 01:05 pm (UTC)
I recognize and appreciate Mind Game's artistic qualities. But it was like trying to make a movie with an art museum. The styles were good for short-version showcasing, like an animation film festival, but it wore out its welcome over 100 minutes. The initial impression is how ugly and badly-drawn it is, plus the usual limited-movement anime method. The story is nearly autistic, only there half the time, and otherwise off doing its own thing. It can get boring while you wait for it to come back. Xydexx fell asleep several times. The vague (but understandable - I think) ending didn't help.

Man From Reno has high critical and audience praise. I don't understand, it was just SO boring and confusing. I must've been watching it wrong.

Predestination is at #55 in my queue.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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