Mini-Reviews: Headshot, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, & The Handmaiden

Hey everybody!

Welcome to the fifth edition of Mini-Reviews. This is the final installment of mini-reviews of the films I had the pleasure of watching at the Chicago International Film Festival last week. I’ll have another mini-review post up soon with films still in theaters.

 

 

Headshot

Directors: Kimo Stambeol and Timo Tjahjanto

Writer: Timo Tjahjanto

Cast: Iko Uwais, Chelsea Islan, Julie Estelle, David Hendrawan, Epy Kusnandar, Zack Lee, Very Tri Yulisman and Sunny Pang

Synopsis: An amnesiac with a serious head injury whose past comes back to haunt him shortly after being nursed back to health by a young doctor.

 

If you’re a fan of the Indonesian actions film The Raid and The Raid 2: Berandal, then Headshot is a natural progression film for you. The film brings together the same team behind the camera and in front of the camera, for the most part, and it leads to a brutally beautiful film that won’t disappoint any action fans.

Headshot follows a man (Uwais), who is found on a beach and is taken to a hospital where he spends three months in a coma. When he wakes up he doesn’t have any memory of who he is or what happened to him. His doctor Ailin (Islan) tries to help him and gives him Ishmael. However, Ishmael’s past comes back to haunt him as a mysterious and dangerous man known as Lee (Pang) comes back into the picture with his deadly army of assassins. To make matters worse, Ailin gets captured by Lee’s men and Ishmael races to save her and face his past.

Some will find the tonal shifts a bit jarring, and even I’ll admit I was a bit thrown by it at first, but Ishmael’s story and of course the action, keeps you invested through the shifts. The film does take a “breather” at one point as it gives us some backstory on Lee, which is really just an exposition dump, but right after that is when the action level goes up to eleven.

Of course, most people are going to watch this for the action – me too to be honest – and you will not be disappointed. The film gets really brutal and down-and-dirty, which is what we expected, and the film is called Headshot after all. Iko Uwais is one of the best martial arts stars we have working today, and seeing him working again with this Raid 2: Berandal stars Very Tri Yulisman and Julie Estelle is a great sight to see. Although they don’t really reach the same levels of iconic characters like Baseball Bat Man or Hammer Girl, but they do have their moments and are just as deadly.

All in all, Headshot is a brutal fighting film that is wrapped around a drama about a man trying to find out who he really is. While the film isn’t perfect, the action is what most will remember taking away from the film, and it isn’t really a bad thing.

Headshot

4 out of 5

headshot

 

 

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Director: Andre Ovredal

Writers: Ian B. Goldberg and Richard Naing

Cast: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton and Olwen Catherine Kelly

Synopsis: Father and son coroners who receive a mysterious homicide victim with no apparent cause of death. As they attempt to identify the beautiful young “Jane Doe,” they discover increasingly bizarre clues that hold the key to her terrifying secrets.

 

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is one of those films that I personally feel the less you know the better your experience will be. The film starts off rather grisly as Sheriff Sheldon (McElhatton) discovers a brutal crime scene, but finds something out of place in a mysterious body. With no visual signs of a cause of death, he sends the body of Jane Doe (played by Olwen Catherine Kelly) to father and son coroners, Tommy (Cox) and Austin (Hirsch). What follows is Tommy and Austin experiencing things they can’t clearly understand, or want to, and soon figure out that it may be connected to Jane Doe.

The film is a hell of a lot of fun, and it also helped that the crowd was also really into it too. Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch have tremendous chemistry together as father and son, and really play off the horror elements of the film, as well as the autopsy parts where they seem to be enjoying themselves. If anything, the movie is held together by the always reliable Cox and Hirsch. However, the biggest props goes to Olwen Catherine Kelly as Jane Doe. One, for being a dead body the whole time, but the other is she still pulls off the creepiness of the role while laying on a table stiff. It’s rather impressive.

When the film picks up its eeriness is when the film becomes really fun. I won’t go too into details, but there are some pretty clever stuff that director Andre Ovredal (Trollhunters) and cinematographer Roman Osin pull off here. Also the reveal of what is causing all of this is rather interesting, and while the reveal is only limited to Tommy and Austin, I wish they could have gone more into it.

All in all, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. It’s funny, scary when it needs to be, and Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch keep you invested from start to finish. The film does a great job of building everything up for its finale, that will probably make you even more afraid of going into a morgue.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

4 out of 5

autopsy-of-jane-doe

 

 

The Handmaiden

Director: Chan-wook Park

Writers: Chan-wook Park and Seo-Kyung Chung

Cast: Kim Tae-ri, Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-woong Jo, Hae-suk Kim, and Sori- Moon

Synopsis: A woman is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, but secretly she is involved in a plot to defraud her.

 

Famed, and amazing, director Chan-wook Park has given us some great films in the past like Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Lady Vengeance, and Thirst. Now, Park has come back with a somewhat different film in The Handmaiden. Based off the novel by Sarah Waters called Fingersmith, the film is a very exotic, drama thriller that never lets go from beginning to end.

The film is set in Japanese occupied Korea and follows Sook-Hee (Tae-ri), a young theif who is part of a band of thieves, who just landed a massive job. The plan is for Sook-Hee to become the handmaiden of the wealthy Lady Hideko (Kim) and make her fall in love with “Count Fujiawara” (Ha) so they can get married, take her fortune to split it amongst them, and throw her in a madhouse. However, as the days go by Sook-Hee finds it harder to betray Hideko as she’s gotten to know her.

The Handmaiden has a ton more going on than the trailers and even the synopsis has you believe. So much so that the film’s long run time is justified, and to some extent, I kind of wish the movie was a little longer so it can drawn some more things out. Saying that, the film could be one of those films that you have to revisit to see if you can catch things you didn’t notice before.

Also, Park is back to his ways of making his audiences feel just a bit uncomfortable. Of course, most of the scenes involve the exotic scenes that Park does find a way to actually make work for the film instead of just having a random and gratuitous sex scene. It fits the story and even connects to one of the many themes the film has. I know that sounds vague, but like The Autopsy of Jane Doe, the less you know the better your experience will be watching this.

The performances are also top notch. Of course the film is driven and held together by the leads in Min-hee Kim as Lady Hideko and Kim Tae-ri as Sook-Hee, who are amazing to watch together and Kim is especially great by herself as well. Jung-woo Ha as the Fujiwara and the leader of the group of thieves has his real big moments, and Jin-woong Jo appears as Hideko’s uncle Kouzuki plays a major role in Hideko and Fujiwara’s arcs, and one of the things I wish was expanded on a bit.

Finally, one of the things I was not expecting – besides the twists – was the how funny this movie was. Even the weird and uncomfortable scenes had some humor to them, which also the film just a bit, because the film gets a little heavy at times.

All in all, The Handmaiden will definitely not be for everyone, but if you could try to avoid any more information about the film you should. The film is a beautiful, exotic, funny romance story that I was never expecting, and I’m glad I got to experience it.

The Handmaiden

4 out of 5

ahgassi_ver2

 

Mini-Reviews: The Darkness, The Eyes of My Mother & Christine

Hey everybody!

Welcome to the fourth edition of Mini-Reviews. This time, it’s a Chicago International Film Festival Edition! The Chicago International Film Festival is going on right now, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching three films already, so I figured I’d pass along my mini-reviews for these films.

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

The Darkness

Director: Daniel Castro Zimbron

Writers: Daniel Castro Zimbron, Denis Languerand, David Pablos

Cast: Brontis Jodorowsky, Aliocha Sotnikoff, Camila Robertson Glennie, Fernando Alvarez Rebeil, Meraqui Pradis, and Alejandro Villeli

Synopsis: A family tries to survive a mysterious beast outside their cabin home. However, the youngest son doesn’t think the beast is their only problem.

 

The synopsis probably won’t do much for many, but there is a lot more to The Darkness, original title Las Tinieblas, The film is most set within the cabin that belongs to the central characters in the film in father Gustavo (Jodorowsky), oldest son Marcos (Alvarez Rebeil), youngest son Argel (Sotnikoff) and even younger daughter Luciana (Robertson Glennie). The film opens giving us the sense of the world. Gustavo is keeping his children safe from the mysterious The Beast outside in the forest which brings a fog with it. One day, Gustavo and Marcos go out into the woods, but only Gustavo comes back saying The Beast took him. Argel can’t let it go and wants to go looking for his brother, but his father forbids from going out in the woods by himself.

The film works on some levels, mostly the eeriness and the tone. The idea of these characters trying to survive whatever it outside the house adds a lot of tension, and when the Beast roams outside the house, it really is terrifying. Especially since the family boards up the windows so the Beast doesn’t see them in the house, and the screen is only filled with either pure darkness or a lantern.

The film does move a little slow, and it gets caught up in its own mysterious for a while, but what keeps the film going in Argel actor Aliocha Sotnikoff, who according to director Daniel Castro Zimbron during a Q&A after the film, this is his first film, along with Camila Robertson Glennie, who plays Luciana, which amazed all of us in the theater because they were very good, and you would think they’ve been doing so for a while.

All in all, The Darkness will not be for everyone. The film does move rather slow at times, and while it takes a while to figure out what the theme is, The Darkness is a nice art film with some great visuals.

The Darkness

3 out of 5

mv5botcwoduxytgtmgqxyi00y2nilwe1ntetzgixytq1zwqznzjhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjkyoda1mdc-_v1_

 

The Eyes of My Mother

Director: Nicolas Pesce

Writers: Nicolas Pesce

Cast: Kika Magalhaes, Diana Agostini, Paul Nazak, Will Brill, Clara Wong, Flora Diaz, and Joey Curtis-Green

Synopsis: A young, lonely woman is consumed by her deepest and darkest desires after tragedy strikes her quiet country life.

 

The Eyes of My Mother isn’t that long of a film, but it sure makes a statement in its runtime. The film is also shot in black-and-white which makes it a little more eerie and a tad more disturbing when the horror shots come into play. Not only that, it leads to some amazing shots that are truly eye-popping.

The Eyes of My Mother follows Francisca (Magalhaes), who witnessed her mother being brutally murdered in their home by a stranger (Brill) at a young age. The event left a mark on her as she grows up – in the same house no less – and what follows a dark trip into her life.

The film is potentially one of those films that I would say, the less you know the better your experience will probably be. Although I will say the film will not be for everyone. It’s not even that the film is too gory or even has too many jump scares (the film actually doesn’t have jump scares), it’s just that the film acts a lot like an art film at times, and doesn’t rely on musical cues or anything like that. The film is actually broken into three parts that spans years and each tell their own little different story that makes the film – at times – move smoothly.

The Eyes of My Mother rests on the shoulders of Kika Magalhaes, who does a fantastic job of keeping you invested, even though her actions aren’t the best, but also has a look to her that doesn’t make you scared of her, it also makes you feel sorry for her in some regard. Diana Agostini, who plays her mother, only has a limited amount of screen time at the beginning of the film, but her performance is felt throughout the film thanks to Kika.

All in all, The Eyes of My Mother is filled with great shots by cinematographer Zach Kuperstein, and director Nicolas Pesce does a great job with his star Kika Magalhaes to bring all of us down a deep dark and twisted path of what I’ve seen, and somewhat agree, a horror fable.

The Eyes of My Mother

3.5 out of 5

eyes_of_my_mother

 

Christine

Director: Antonio Campos

Writer: Craig Shilowich

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Maria Dizzia, J. Smith-Cameron, Timothy Simons, Kim Shaw, and John Cullum

Synopsis: The story of 1970s TV reporter Christine Chubbuck.

 

This is one will be hard to talk about, spoiler wise, considering this is a real event that happen. So if you don’t want to know anything about the film and Christine Chubbuck’s life, then don’t read this review. However, I’ll say that the film is great and has amazing performances by the cast.

Christine follows Christine Chubbuck (Hall), who works at a low-rating news station in Sarasota, Florida during the 70s. Christine wants to prove herself that she can do more than what she is doing now – although she does like what’s she’s doing – but her boss and station manager Michael (Letts) wants to push the “if it bleeds it leads” campaign. Christine doesn’t like the idea, but can’t really do anything about it. However, Christine has more personal issues going on. She has a crush on her co-worker and lead anchor George (C. Hall), health problems that her mother (Smith-Cameron) keeps bringing up, and not being able to really connect with her co-workers like Jean (Dizzia) and Steve (Simons). All of it builds up to the fateful day of July 15th, when Christine decides to commit suicide with a handgun, live on the air.

Christine is only a version of the real-life story of Christine Chubbuck, but it’s one that is very good, and is held together by the great cast. However, the film belongs to Rebecca Hall, who handles the situation fairly well. She doesn’t play Christine as just a woman with mental issues, and that’s it. We see her crack jokes and have a fun sense of humor, but she does break down with everything going on around her. In the more deeper dramatic senses, it reminded me how much I love Rebecca Hall, because she absolutely nails those scenes. You do feel for Christine, especially one scene in particular near the end of the – not the shooting herself scene by the way.

When it comes to the depression angle of the film, it’s not a movie that will give you the definitive answer of depression. This is one case, and we only get a certain block of the story. We know there is a previous event that we don’t see, so you get the idea that Christine isn’t well before the final act of the film. The film also slows down a for a bit before the final act which takes a lot of steam the film had, but not enough to takes away everything good it setup.

All in all, Christine isn’t all the way perfect, and while the cast is great, Rebecca Hall is the reason this film is a must-see. Christine Chubbuck’s story is one that should be told, and while Christine isn’t the definite story for her, it is a good one that should go on your radar.

Christine

4.5 out of 5

christine