2018 Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
7Aug/180

Revenge (2018)

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Richard is looking forward to his annual hunting trip with friends Dimitri and Stan. He's also anticipating debauched times with his mistress Jen.  These are men who will have their way by whatever means necessary, and they're about to learn Jen will respond to their sins in kind.  Coralie Fargeat wrote the screenplay for and directs Revenge, which stars Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, and Guillaume Bouchède.

Upfront, let's dispense with the idea that Revenge subverts the exploitation film - something I've read too many times in relation to this and other films.  Every new flavor of the month piece of cinema with a bit of self-awareness in style seems to get the subversion label slapped on without a second thought.  Revenge is exploitative.  Richard (Kevin Janssens) indulges Jen's (Matilda Lutz) fantasies of being in control while stringing her along as a bright toy.  After Richard's friend Stan (Vincent Colombe) rapes Jen, Richard chastises Stan like Stan smudged his favorite action figure.

What creates the wide gulf of quality between a film like Quentin Tarantino's exploitative low-point Death Proof and Revenge writer/director Coralie Fargeat's powerfully successful approach is a matter of emphasis.  Exploitation film comes with a bit of nudging to the audience, a whisper of, "You bastards are enjoying this - aren't you?"  Tarantino would linger on enjoyment. Fargeat lingers on bastard.

18Jul/180

How It Ends (2018)

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Disaster strikes on the west coast and is felt throughout the United States.  Will and Tom must put aside their hostility for one another to traverse the American landscape to save Will's girlfriend, and Tom's daughter, Sam.  David M. Rosenthal directs How It Ends from the screenplay written by Brooks McLaren which stars Theo James and Forest Whitaker.

After I finished watching How It Ends, I went searching for the poster and - once discovered - let out a big laugh.  The poster shows Will (Theo James) looking like an action hero with a bit of flare from the sun in the foreground and a transparent Tom (Forest Whitaker) looking somber in the background.  Its visual message is muddled and even after finishing How It Ends I have to wonder what the poster's creators were trying to communicate.  Is Tom an evil haunting Will, the man overseeing Will, some compatriot, or the one Will is trying to rescue?

Brook McLaren's screenplay answers, "All of the above," and David M. Rosenthal's direction responds, "Why not?"

Thus, How It Ends comes into existence with little clue about its identity as it strives to be multiple films at once and not succeeding at a blessed one of them.  Some of that has to do with how thinly stretched the apocalyptic content is if you have the barest knowledge of American weather patterns.  More of that has to do with James' lead performance that isn't exciting enough to call bland.  Then there's Whitaker, a professional and master of his field no matter where he shows up, throwing himself full speed into whatever emotional tone is required of him at the moment.

17Jul/180

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom (2018)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

There are exactly two moments in Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom (just Revenant Kingdom moving forward) that I felt a bit of magic moving through me.  The first was when the deposed Prince Evan and new bodyguard / advisor / interdimensional time traveling President Roland (more on that in a moment) escaped Ding Dong Dell to enter the world at large.  Tiny chibi representations of the two and Evan's adorable jump animation were so precious I uttered, "That's darling," to myself.  The second occurred in Goldpaw - a gambling-based kingdom run by a dog - that enchants an annoying bird to follow around people who owe the kingdom money screeching, "U O ME U O ME".

Latter bit there might be an annoyance to some players, but it was the right amount of silly to make me think there would be some surprises in Revenant Kingdom.  I was wrong. Okay, not entirely wrong as the airship Freud would have had quite the time analyzing makes for a jarring midgame sight.  But that's not magical, or much fun, it's just a bit of grotesquerie that broke up the otherwise clean artistry of Revenant Kingdom that rarely challenged my skills or sparked my imagination.

22May/180

Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire (2018)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

When Pillars of Eternity came out in 2015 it was like a period of darkness broke with the slightest sliver of hope that the golden days of isometric RPGs à la Baldur's Gate and Fallout might return.  I devoured PoE lustily, getting caught up in its unique take on souls and religion alongside its complicated characters such as the bigoted, sexist, altogether repugnant Durance.  Playing PoE again in preparation for PoE 2: Deadfire (just Deadfire moving forward) served as a cold shower to my early excitement.

PoE scratched an itch that had developed into a sore and any isometric ointment would do.  Revisiting PoE was a chore, the dour plot and plodding combat proving counter-intuitive to my investment in its world.  Deadfire advertised itself as a more swashbuckling adventure that serves as a direct continuation of my choices in PoE while updating the combat and class system to the more successful Tyranny (still the best of this latest glut of isometric RPGs).

11May/180

Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives (2018)

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Hari Kondabolu discusses the modern capitalist hell of airports, his love of mangoes, and ineffectual liberalism in this standup comedy special.

Warn Your Relatives is currently available on Netflix.

To get an idea of how dense Hari Kondabolu's Warn Your Relatives is - make sure you keep the opening visual gag in mind until damn near the end of the special.  Kondabolu arrives at the venue with a toy crown atop his head and a bicycle driver that looks like Shia LaBeouf after a perm.  On a surface level, it's just another example of a comedian taking the piss out of themselves and good for a smile.  With a bit of history, it's an inversion of the British oppression of India and sets up an amazing punchline about what accent Kondabolu's uninterested in hearing under duress.

If you only know Kondabolu from his appearances on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell or his standup bits then you'll enjoy the special.  The bigger appeal for me lay in the beautiful talk he had with bell hooks in 2016.  There are genuinely tender moments in that conversation where Kondabolu and bell hooks connect over a shared weariness about their status in the United States along with the comforts of their respective faiths.  That's the Kondabolu I saw in Warn Your Relatives, and that's exactly why all of this special has superglued itself to my brain.