The Fountain is a highly compelling science-fiction/fantasy film told in three interwoven parts related to the mythical concept of the Tree of Life. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz star in a triad of roles that alternate along the film’s narrative: 1) an ancient conquistador assigned by the Queen of Spain to locate the legendary tree within the jungles of South American, 2) a modern medical doctor desperately striving to find a cure for his wife’s terminal brain cancer, and 3) a futuristic space traveler transporting the sacred tree across the cosmos with spectral images of his wife as his companion. In this, his 3rd feature feature-length film, writer/director Darren Aronofsky has crafted a strikingly ambitious depiction of the search for, manifestation of and preservation of the oft-fabled key to eternity. It’s highly philosophical and at times strikingly abstract visual storytelling, aided immeasurably by Jackman’s and Weisz’s heartfelt, aggrieved performances. The passion and the earnestness they deliver helps to buoy a complicated plot that isn’t always entirely cohesive, but comes together as a wonderfully compelling amalgamation of sights and sounds bound to inspire the viewer. Kudos to Aronofsky for eschewing simple fantasy in lieu of something so dynamic, original and emotionally commanding.
Serenity is a futuristic sci-fi film that serves as a feature-length continuation of the story-line from the TV program Firefly (2002-2003). The story revolves around the captain (Nathan Fillion) and crew of the titular space vessel that operate as space outlaws, running cargo and smuggling missions throughout the galaxy. They take on a mysterious young psychic girl and her brother, the girl carrying secrets detrimental to the intergalactic government, and soon find themselves being hunted by a nefarious assassin (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The first feature-length film from Joss Whedon (The Avengers), Serenity is a lively and enjoyable adventure, replete with large-scale action sequences, strong characterizations and just the right touch of wry humor. An enjoyable viewing experience that stands alone without demanding that you have familiarity with the original program beforehand.
Horror movies have always been creepier to me when they play on our fear of the “unknown” rather than gore. Under The Shadow does exactly that. The story is based around the relationship of a woman, Shideh, and her daughter, Dorsa, under the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq war. As widespread bombings shake the ground beneath their feet, the two grapple with a more insidious evil that is faceless and traceless, coming and going only with the wind. The movie’s dread-effect plays strongly on feelings of isolation and helplessness. The scares are slow and it’s obvious the director takes great care in making every single second count and in raising the unpredictableness of the action. Like the bombs, the audience never knows when or how the next apparition will materialize. The former is always on the edge of fear, wondering what is no doubt there, but is yet to be shown on the frame. In terms of significance, Under The Shadow features too many symbolisms to count and will most likely resonate with each person differently. But one thing remains relatively unarguable: this is a wonderful movie.
This is an initially touching film about a man who feels his life is over. His wife has died and he wishes to join her. Whenever he tries to meet his end, he gets interrupted either by his desire to make sure things in his neighborhood are being done properly and rules are followed, or by someone needing him to help them. Despite himself, he turns out to be a man that people are glad is around and they insist on making a friend of him. He helps families with small children, ostracized teenagers, and even elderly Volvo drivers. Ove's journey is always compelling. This Swedish hit has a remarkably good story to tell about finding tolerance in surprising places and it also portrays a good balance of sentimentality against a harsh reality.
Ida, the 2015 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, is a stark black & white drama set in the early 60’s about a young Polish nun-to-be and her bawdy Aunt Wanda searching for the truth behind her family’s demise at the hands of the Nazis. What initially comes off as a painfully slow sleep-inducer pretty quickly evolves into a touching and lively contrast between the two lead characters; one virtuous and pure, the other boorish and hedonistic. Their journey is equal parts amusing, insightful and heartbreaking, with Ida’s personal exploration of self playing out as a remarkably humanistic affair. The cinematography by Lukasz Za and Ryszard Lenczewski is particularly striking, each shot a work of art in it’s own right. Logging in at just 82 minutes, the entire story whizzes by in a flash. The kind of film that will stay with you long after you’ve watched it.