Sorry, but I've just come off production and am already plotting my next adventure... I'm finding less and less time to review anything these days and I can't promise that's going to change anytime soon. And yet somehow I DO find the time to WATCH movies...
RAW: This acclaimed French shocker from debuting director Julia Ducournau gives us a stalwart vegetarian (thanks to family tradition) who finds her very way of life gruesomely challenged when she joins her older sister at a prestigious veterinary college which offers intense hazing along with the requisite education. A particularly foul ritual awakens an intense craving for meat (any kind) at the expense of all else. It turns out the film is actually a sensitive and clever metaphor for sexual awakenings and attitudes (in an especially nice touch, the college regards a gay male as "just the same" as a female for roommate purposes, which adds a whole new dimension to looking at a guy as "a piece of meat"); though those seeking in-your-face visceral content will get more than their money's worth, as well. Animal lovers might take special warning: while no creature suffered for the sake of the movie, the film displays plenty of genuine veterinary leftovers in order to enhance the simulated human mayhem...
PERSONAL SHOPPER: I'm not familiar with the previous work of director Oliver Assayas (such as CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA) to which this allegedly serves as a companion piece, so I can't say how well it fits in. As Maureen, Kristen Stewart serves the title duties for your typical insufferably vain celebrity and hates it--but at least she gets to travel the world in the process. She also receives ample opportunity to attempt to make contact with the spirit of her recently-deceased twin brother (the two of them were both mediums). The plot threads don't seem to connect at first, but then the text messages begin... and someone or something starts encouraging Maureen to enhance her own experience regardless of what her employer expects of her. Reaction to this film has been split down the middle... some find the film excruciatingly meandering and Stewart's performance off-putting; while others (myself included) appreciated the slow build and the subtle reveals (which occasionally allow a couple of good, effective, old-fashioned jumps). The film excels at emphasizing the sheer, pointless frustration of seeking "a sign" from beyond as Maureen naively assumes that once she learns "the answer" from her brother she'll simply move on with her own life. The lengthy road ends with an especially satisfying "mic drop" finale that I'll leave you to see for yourself.
GHOST IN THE SHELL: Okay, we've all heard the complaints about the casting of Scarlett Johansson, et al. Long story short, she's a name that was expected to draw more of an audience than a Japanese actress would have and offset the cost of this mega-budget anime adaptation. And she's a fine actress who in no way contributes to the ultimately disappointing nature of said adaptation. Basically, no matter how visually sumptuous one can make this cyberpunk thriller (and sumptuous it is--if it's visuals alone you want, don't miss it), this world was already created in awe-inspiring anime form and it just "fits" better as such. Especially when we already have BLADE RUNNER. And nothing the fine cast does can change that in the end. But I'll highlight something that really did work well for me. "Major" (Johansson) has an ally in Batou (Pilou Asbaek), a burly man of action who dishes out ass-kickings and weapons fire with equally deadly efficiency. But Batou also likes to feed stray dogs in an alley because "he likes them and they like him." Major says that the dogs only like Batou because he feeds them... and he says that she just doesn't get it. And she doesn't. But she eventually does. And that resonated with me because that's one of my favorite proofs of humanity. For all my misgivings, this really does deserve to be seen on the big screen at least once.
THE VOID: So... a cop (Aaron Poole) picks up a mysteriously injured stranger and takes him to a rural hospital; and before you know it, the entire situation goes to Hell and then some. I won't waste time describing the plot any further. I will, however, allow that writer/directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski set out to create a lavish love letter to all of their favorite horror films of the late 70s and 80s, and that's exactly what they did. "Fulci-esque" is only the tip of the iceberg, by the way, even though THE BEYOND is part of its heart and soul. It's also Carpenter City with ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, THE THING and PRINCE OF DARKNESS all celebrated. And it's HELLRAISER 1 & 2. And it's Cronenberg. And it's, well, you name it and you'll probably find it. As a "Greatest Hits" cover version, it won't win any points for originality, but you're not likely to mind a bit as you take this one in, because that's how well-made it is. Enjoy.
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