Author: Jacob Holley-Kline

March 5, 2017 Jacob Holley-Kline

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There’s no way around it, the 3-D CG action flick “Gantz: O” is nuts, just like the manga it’s based on.

“Gantz,” the movie is a fearless work of imagination, chock full of beautifully rendered creatures and brutal violence. Unlike the manga it’s based on, “Gantz: O” is limited by the medium. A movie can only fit in so many set pieces and monsters, so the movie opts instead for a few memorable sequences over a hodgepodge of smaller ones.

There are enough terrifying monsters in here to change that, but director Yasushi Kawamura wisely uses them as a backdrop for the real big bad. Even then, a problem arises: how do you explain all these monsters? Thankfully, everyone in the movie wonders the same thing. The most asked question is, ‘What’s going on?’ and it has a beautifully simple answer: There are monsters from outer space running around wreaking havoc. Even then, the sheer number of them can get overwhelming.

Ending this chaos, though, has a not-so-simple answer. Our heroes, called gamers, are recently deceased people forced by an autonomous 8-Ball to kill those monsters in a set amount of time for points. Once someone reaches 100 points, they can either return to their life or resurrect a dead teammate. The movie follows Masura (Daisuke Ono) after he’s murdered on his little brother’s birthday. He wakes up in a small room (“Gantz: O’s” version of a loading screen) with the model Reika (Saori Hayami), the old man Suzuki (Shuichi Ikeda) and the young hothead Nishi (Tomohiro Kaku). As their name implies, they’re usually sent to Tokyo to fight, but this time, they’re sent to Osaka. There, they face a threat unlike any before, Nurarihyon, a monster in the skin of a small old man.

If that premise sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. Most of the violence is over-the-top enough to not feel alienating, but there are some genuinely unsettling moments. The line between those kinds of violence is thin, and the movie walks it well, exploiting death as much as it explores it. Blood here is measured in gallons, and bodies are counted by the thousands. When something happens in “Gantz: O,” it’s big by design. Even smaller character moments, however weak they might be, operate on a massive scale.

“Gantz: O” is more like a video game than a movie, except the people and monsters are very real. It’s not explained clearly how the gamers operate in the real world. They’re essentially zombies with “Crysis” suits and energy-powered weaponry who can take a serious beating. Its main problem is that it builds a fascinating world and doesn’t explore it nearly enough, certainly not as much as the eponymous Manga series. For an adapted franchise like this, that’s not a bad problem to have.

April 29, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

In an impressive feat, “Come Out and Play” manages to destroy viewers’ sympathy and investment within the first 15 minutes. How is this accomplished? As it turns out, anything is possible when bored — and boring — actors are given a bad script. Based on the 1976 novel “El juego de los niños” — and,…

April 21, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

If central metaphor of “The Painting” is too on-the-nose for some, it’s well deserved. The movie makes no qualms about its socially conscious aims. Fantastical images come to represent unmistakably human concepts: the desire for freedom or life after grieving, for example. This delicate balancing of the real and unreal fleshes out the world of…

April 14, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

Calling the group of people in “Miss Violence” a family is like calling prisoners of war safe because they have shelter. There’s no truth in it. What truths there are exist in front of the viewer from the start, but little is spoken of them. Viewers astute enough to piece “Miss Violence” together will find…

April 7, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

Getting by is hard. This adage is so true in the British dark comedy “Burke and Hare” that it drives the titular characters to selling cadavers just to pay the rent. While the “desperate times call for desperate measures” plot is nothing new, the movie manages to deliver laughs. Set in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1828,…

April 1, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

“Angel’s Melancholy” is the artsy torture trash your parents warned you about. There’s a right way to make hardcore horror, and this movie is a crash course in exactly how not to do it. Save for a dense atmosphere and some pretty shots, “Angel’s Melancholy” is garbage of the highest degree. There’s no story in…

March 24, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

In many other movies, an avalanche would be the climax. The hero, at the end of his rope, hanging over some infinitely black cavern, would be set upon by relentless waves of snow and survival would become a fleeting hope. In “Force Majeure,” the avalanche is a dud, but the disaster it ultimately leads is…

March 19, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

A good time travel movie makes the viewer naive. It’s a wonder that genre fare like it has stuck around for as long as it has. Anyone who’s seen one knows that a curveball is bound to be thrown at some point. Yet, somehow, the best of them make these surprises seem as fresh as…

March 4, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

Horror has a history of reveling in disaster. Where other genres lock away their failures, horror holds a special place for its own. A lot of this is thanks to the flood of Italian horror that hit American theaters in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and thank god it did. “Hell of the Living Dead” is…

February 26, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

Revenge flicks have been done and redone to death. Man loves woman, woman is killed, man avenges woman’s death. Who avenges whom is interchangeable, but the formula stays the same for a reason: It works. What sets “I Saw the Devil” apart from a standard revenge flick is the intense emotion running through it. Dedicated…

February 18, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

“The Returned” sincerely wants to be deep, but doesn’t put in the effort to actually be deep. It’s the worst kind of lazy movie: It expects its main conceit to carry the viewer’s interest. Director Robin Campillo knows his idea is interesting and seems to want viewers walking away knowing that, but not much else….

February 11, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

Japanese auteur Takashi Miike has probably one of the strangest career trajectories in film. He’s made incest-laden allegories like “Visitor Q” and off-the-wall comedies like “Zebraman.” The only thing gluing them together are the characters at their centers. Each one is searching for something. In “Visitor Q” a dysfunctional family wants peace, in “Zebraman” a…

February 2, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

Most martial arts movies have bad character development and stories. They’re only redeemed through their fight scenes. A swift kick to the jaw or a fist to the stomach can mean the difference between a train wreck and a good time. “The Raid: Redemption” is mostly bad: bad story, no character depth, and terrible acting….

January 27, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

People of a certain personality just can’t stand folks in their space. It’s not that they hate people, necessarily, their ecosystem is just delicate enough to come undone at the slightest intrusion. One such man is Roberto (Ricardo Darin, “Wild Tales”). Roberto spends his days alone, taking care of his father’s hardware store. He sees…

January 20, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

Ian Fleming brought James Bond into existence in 1953, but French author Jean Bruce cranked out no less than 88 espionage pulp novels about Agent 117, or Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, four years before Fleming’s agent donned his signature tuxedo. In 2006, with all the dim wits and none of the gravity of Bond,…

January 12, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

When it comes to gangster epics, shifting alliances and betrayal are commonplace. Few achieve the near-perfect balance of “The Godfather,” but many try. “Outrage” tries valiantly, but it’s self-defeating at so many turns that the dizzying number of plot twists cease to be compelling and just become confusing. The world-weary yakuza boss Kannai (Soichiro Kitamura,…

December 8, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline

At its core, the brilliant film ‘Pusher’ is about men and the things they do to maintain their manhood. In today’s society, men can show affection in war and football. They have their brothers-in-arms to lean on when times get tough. Knives are drawn and bullets fly, but all the violence makes one wonder: Who’s…

November 12, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline

In “The Babadook,” an Australian horror flick from newcomer Jennifer Kent, horror films are as much of a character as the damaged mother and son at its center. Invoking the Universal monster classics, the movie is short on thrills and long on chills. But ultimately, it’s easier to admire for its craftsmanship than its scares….

October 7, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline

The human voice is an instrument in itself. While pop music is saturated with production and synthesizers, a cappella music relies solely on vocal harmony. Proving that the public likes getting back to basics, UAA’s annual “A Capella Festivella” celebrates its 21st at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9 in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium. “Not only do…

October 7, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline

It is said that on the final day, the Son of Man will return to earth and separate the good from the evil, the wicked from the wise. Surrounded by the most well preserved medieval chapels and canals in Europe, hit men Ray (Colin Farrell, “Saving Mr. Banks”) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson, “Calvary”) are sent…

October 6, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline

Rape and sexual violence have had a place in cinema since it began. Women have predominately been the victims of this violence. Women have been victimized and men have been victimizers as early as 1903’s “What Happened in the Tunnel,” a comedy. From the unbearable horror of Gasper Noe’s revenge flick “Irreversible” to the subtle…

October 6, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline

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Title: “Gone with the Wind”

Director: Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Sam Wood

Release date: Jan. 1, 1939

Rating: 3/5

Sometimes, a work of art is so influential that it starts to look like a cliché. “Gone with the Wind” is just one American epic among a select few to have that kind of influence. Watching it today is a weird experience: It’s beautifully shot, melodramatically acted and served in a bundle of clichés. This year, it celebrated its 75th anniversary and showed at Century 16 on Sept. 28 and Oct. 1.

Set against the Civil War and Reconstruction Era, “Gone with the Wind” follows Scarlett (Vivien Leigh, “A Streetcar Named Desire”), through her desperate pursuit of her cousin-in-law, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard, “The First of the Few”), to her marriage to Rhett Butler (Clark Gable, “The Misfits”).

By today’s standards, “Gone with the Wind” feels bloated at four hours. It’s long, but not as much of a drag as one might think. Gable is here in top form — a man’s man with the morals of a bygone era. While the movie’s treatment of gender and race feels horribly antiquated, each actor brings flair and characteristic ham to his or her role. The wonderful Hattie McDaniel (“In This Our Life”) brings humanity to her otherwise type-casted role.

The fact is that the acting just seems cheesy now. Mugging men and fawning women enunciate every consonant and play up the movie’s drama, though it comes off as more natural than other flicks of its time. And while the first part has the drama of the Civil War to lean on, the second half focuses on the characters, and the characters just feel too shallow to fill the screen.

One thing that has aged well is the cinematography. Still today, especially on the big screen, “Gone” is beautiful. The colors are rich and deep, the Georgia landscape and Reconstruction Era America are characters in themselves thanks to the deft eyes of cinematographer Lee Garmes, Technicolor cinematographer Ray Rennahan Kand Ernest Haller. The climactic Atlanta depot sequence burns just as brightly as it did 75 years ago.

While it may not have changed cinema in general, it did change American cinema. The sheer scale of it is still staggering, especially considering the technology the crew worked with. It’s undeniably epic and undeniably clichéd. At the same time, it basically started all those clichés. The widowed wife searches to fulfill her unrequited love in the arms of a mysterious, dashing stranger. Even though cinema’s come a long way since, “Gone with the Wind,” should be required viewing for any fan of the movies. Sure, it feels overstuffed at times, but it’s charmingly unabashed in its ambition, and that’s certainly something worth seeing.

October 1, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline
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Title: ‘Snowpiercer’

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Release date: Aug. 1, 2013

Country: South Korea

Rating: 5 out 5

‘Snowpiercer’ might be the sci-fi masterpiece of this generation. Really. It’s that good. Following a near production-halting dispute between Harvey Weinstein and director Bong Joon-ho, the movie looked like it might never see the light of day.

After some backhanded dealings by the Weinsteins, the ‘Snowpiercer’ ad campaign was almost totally nixed and it was given a limited release before being put on video on demand. Despite projections, it made an unprecedented $6.5 million from video on demand alone.

Based on the French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige,” “Snowpiercer” takes place 17 years after a failed experiment to counteract global warming leaves the earth a frozen waste, the globe spanning train, “The Rattling Ark” houses earth’s last survivors. The poor live in the caboose and the rich in the front. The hesitant Curtis Everett (Chris Evans, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) leads a revolt to dethrone the nobles.

Curtis leads this world with brooding ferocity. Edgar (Jamie Bell, “Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2”), the world-weary Gilliam (John Hurt, “Hercules”), the maternal Tanya (Octavia Spencer, “Get On Up”) and the drug addicted father-daughter duo Namgoong (Song Kang-ho, “Thirst”) and Yona Minsu (Go Ah-sung, “Elegan Lies”) march alongside him. Acting as an agent for the megalomaniacal train president, Wilford (Ed Harris, “Pain & Gain”), Mason (Tilda Swinton, “Only Lovers Left Alive”) taunts the poor into submission.

Every performer brings his or her A-game, especially Evans, whose climactic monologue is wrenching and horrifying all at once. Spencer, in particular, is excellent in every scene, but Hurt has a serene magnetism that elevates his otherwise type-casted role. Each actor believes in his or her role and character, and director Joon-ho trusts them and the audience to put the more obscure pieces of the story together.

And what a story it is. “Snowpiercer” is arresting from the first minute. It’s immediately evident that the train is its own universe — a microcosm with class separation and social tensions. The turns come relentlessly and the twists are dizzying. The movie wastes no time in getting where it needs to go. By the time viewers step in, Curtis’s plans to take the train have already been set in motion. This gives the narrative a sense of momentum that doesn’t let up until the final frame.

On the downside, shots of the outside world are dodgy at best. Thankfully, the movie mainly focuses on the inside world.

And despite the shocking brutality of the inside world, “Snowpiercer” has a wry sense of humor. One absurdly bourgeois look from Mason is enough for a chuckle. With this tongue-in-cheek sensibility and Joon-ho’s characteristic style, the movie becomes something special.

“Snowpiercer” is a fast-moving vehicle that never lets up. The story is original, the acting exceptional and the style impossible to resist. If the viewer has a ticket to ride, this is one train he or she won’t want to miss.

September 30, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline

There’s a whole other world in the Consortium Library ARC Gallery. With snakes of black paint on the walls and fish hanging from the ceiling, Hugi-Lewis Gallery owner Margret Hugi-Lewis’ show, “Utopian Dreams,” feels like another universe. “I wanted to create, with this installation, a Utopian world,” Lewis said, “a world that doesn’t exist.” The…

September 30, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline

Just next month, the UAA Theatre Department will begin its 2014-2015 season. With a musical, a Shakespeare comedy and two modern comedies that turn Shakespeare’s universe hilarious and meta all at once.

Title: “The Fantasticks”

Run date: Oct. 3-19

Director: David Block

The world’s longest-running musical is finally coming to UAA. Clocking in at 54 years in production and more than 17,000 performances all around the world, this classic show follows the lives of neighbors Matt and Luisa and their feuding fathers. Despite their parents’ quarrels, Matt and Luisa fall in love. Guided by the mysterious narrator El Gallo, “The Fantasticks” is a poignant and romantic tale.

 

Title: “Twelfth Night, or What You Will”

Run date: Nov. 21-Dec. 7

Director: Steven Hunt

The bard returns in force to the UAA Theatre Department with their production of his comedy, “Twelfth Night, or What You Will.” Twins Viola and Sebastian are separated in a devastating shipwreck and Viola, believing her brother to be dead, dresses up as a man and serves under Duke Orsino. When Sebastian comes back after seven years gone, the confusion only increases for the characters.

 

Title: “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead”

Run date: Feb. 20-March 8

Director: Dr. David Edgecombe

Focusing on the eponymous minor characters from “Hamlet,” “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” puts the events of “Hamlet” in the background and the titular courtiers in the front. Major characters from “Hamlet” make brief appearances, reenacting scenes from the play, creating an absurdist and utterly unpredictable universe.

 

Title: “William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead: A True and Accurate Account of the 1599 Zombie Plague”

Run date: April 10-26

Director: Tom Skore

After the premier of his newest play, “Henry V,” Shakespeare finds himself in the middle of a zombie outbreak. A customer has been bitten in the theatre and the Queen and her servicemen come seeking safety. When the Globe is quarantined, all those survivors have to fight for their lives.

September 30, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline
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Title: Brazil

Release date: Feb. 20, 1985

Director: Terry Gilliam

Genre: Sci-Fi

Country: United Kingdom

Rating: 4 out of 5

 

Every single bureaucrat and piece of technology in Terry Gilliam’s opus, “Brazil,” is, without exception, incompetent or broken. The whole disastrous narrative kicks off because of a clumsy record keeper. In the chaotically detailed world of the movie, nobody can do their job and nobody has the drive to do any better.

The especially unambitious records worker Sam Lowry (Jonathan Price, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”) is comfortable just where he is: working a dead-end job with no prospects. But when an inept record printer knocks a bug into the printer, changing a “T” to a “B” and effectively killing an innocent man, Lowry investigates the mishap and meets the dead man’s upstairs neighbor, Jill Layton (Kim Greist, “Zoe”). The only problem is that she might be a domestic terrorist.

Anyone familiar with Terry Gilliam’s style will be right at home here. “Brazil” is a tongue-in-cheek frenzy, with fisheye lenses and whip cuts dominating many scenes. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the frenetic energy, it’s just too much fun to ignore. And for all it’s whimsical humor, the movie can turn dark on a dime.

One of the benefits of good comedy is that it easily connects with the viewer. If someone makes you laugh, you’re more likely to want them around. “Brazil” is that person with a dystopian twist. It’s not until Sam or Jill are truly in danger that the viewer realizes how much he/she wants them to survive the madness.

At times, the world feels chaotic, but thanks to Gilliam and Tom Stoppard’s engaging styles and deft storytelling it rarely becomes overwhelming. In a world of CGI, it’s nice to look back at the analog masterpieces of the 80’s. “Brazil” earns its spot alongside Ridley Scott’s, “Blade Runner” and Fritz Lang’s, “Metropolis” as a masterwork of set design and special effects.

That being said, sometimes it feels like Gilliam relies on the elaborate world to tell the story more than the characters. This method would work if the world was the focus, but it’s not, the characters are, and their narrative is a simple point A to point B journey. Their relationship is one of the least interesting aspects of the flick.

But even so, the performances of Price, the magnetic Ian Holm (“The Sweet Hereafter”), Michael Palin (“Arthur Christmas”) and, in one of the best cameos of the 80’s, Robert De Niro (“Last Vegas”) elevate the thinner story. It’s a fun, and sometimes horrifying, ride thanks to the rich characters and even richer world. A dystopian society might look miserable on the surface, but Gilliam makes it one of the most entertaining rides of the 80’s.

September 23, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline

If David Lynch created “All My Children,” it would probably look a lot like “Infection.” That’s both good and bad. Soap operas are a convoluted tangle of relationships and betrayal all linked by a loose narrative thread. And when those tangles come undone — man, is it fun to watch the whole web fall apart….

August 26, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline

The Anchorage arts community is bustling with talent. Musicians, visual artists and acrobats alike have made their name in the community. Now, with the help of UAA Student Activities and local marketing firm Spawn Ideas, this local talent will have a big venue to perform for UAA students and the Anchorage community alike with “Howlapalooza.”

August 26, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline

USUAA President Stacey Lucason and Vice President Jolaine Polak won out the student government election with 455 votes, leaving competitors Johnnie E. Templeton and Ashleigh Gaines a distant second with 344 votes.

As a part of their platform, Lucason and Polak want to make campus worth staying on after class. Working with Student Union Operations Coordinator Dana Sample, Lucason and Polak have coordinated to make both the Student Union Advisory Board and the Student Union Gallery more active.

August 5, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline

World cinema is a tricky landscape to navigate. Almost every country around the world has a great movie to their name and knowing where to start is almost impossible. Here are three important movies from each region to get you started. Just know that this list is only a starting point and is not in any way definitive.

 

Africa

Chronicle of the Years of Embers (Algeria, 1975)

  • Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival, “Chronicle of the Year of Embers” follows a peasant’s migration across Algeria amidst a rebel uprising against colonial rule. Stunning in its scope, “Embers” deserves to be rediscovered.

Sankofa (Burkina Faso, 1993)

  • A vain American model on a shoot in Ghana is transported back in time and becomes a house servant to brutal plantation owners. One of the starkest and most brutal portrayals of slavery on film, “Sankofa” is a must watch for everyone.

Moolaade (Senegal, 2004)

  • In Colle’s village in Burkina Faso, young girls are forced to endure genital mutilation. She decides to shelter six young girls facing the ceremony. This unflinching political statement is rightfully lauded for its realism, but it isn’t for the faint of heart.

 

Asia

Tokyo Story (Japan, 1953)

  • Often regarded as director Yasujiro Ozu’s masterpiece and one of the best films of all time, “Tokyo Story” follows an old couple to Tokyo as they visit their children and grandchildren, but it’s clear that their loved ones have no time for them.

Pather Panchali (Bengali, 1955)

  • Apu and his sister Durga live harsh, poverty-stricken lives in the village of Nichindipur and their struggles are documented with humanity and dignity. Honest and heartbreaking, “Pather Panchali” rightfully put Indian cinema on the world map.

Raise the Red Lantern (China, 1991)

  • The recently bereaved Songlian marries into a wealthy warlord’s family, becoming the third concubine to a tumultuous lineage. This meticulously composed opus is impossibly beautiful, richly colorful and emotionally devastating. It’s a feast for the eyes and the mind.

 

Middle East

Motherland Hotel (Turkey, 1986)

  • The endlessly melancholy and often shocking “Motherland Hotel” finds the lonely owner of an inn obsessing over a long departed guest, obsessions that begin tearing his life apart. Shot in near monotone colors, “Motherland” is best served on a cold, rainy day.

The Color of Paradise (Iran, 1999)

  • An ashamed father picks up his son, the blind boy Mohammad, for the summer. They return to their village and, despite his blindness, Mohammad falls in love with the beauty of his hometown. Viewers might want tissues nearby for this inspirational crowd-pleaser.

The Return to Homs (Syria, 2013)

  • Filmed over three years, “Homs” follows Syrian national football team goalie Basset and his friend Ossama as they navigate the Syrian Civil War in their hometown. “Homs” is heart-rending at every turn. By the end, Basset and Ossama are fighting for their freedom.

 

Latin America

Los Olvidados (Mexico, 1950)

  • Decried by the Mexican government for its frank portrayal of poverty, “Los Olvidados” documents the misfortunes of a group of children in a Mexican slum. Much like its contemporary, “The Bicycle Thieves,” “Olvidados” is unrelenting in its realism.

Nine Queens (Argentina, 2000)

  • Two con artists meet almost coincidentally and decide to start a major scam together. Rightfully lauded as a classic of Argentine cinema, “Nine Queens” is a twisty deadpan caper. For a heart-pounding good time, “Queens” is one to watch.

City of God (Brazil, 2002)

  • In the slums of Rio de Janeiro crime rules and the innocent are caught in the crossfire. Two young boys take wildly different paths: Rocket becomes a photographer while his brother, Goose, takes up the drug dealing life. “City of God” is an unsparing tour-de-force that moves as much as it shocks.

 

Europe 

The Bicycle Thieves (Italy, 1948)

  • After a man’s bike is stolen, he and his son go searching for it and the thieves who stole it. Initially hated by Italian critics upon its release, “The Bicycle Thieves” has gone onto be considered a masterwork of the influential Italian neorealism movement, which characterized by stories about the poor and working class.

The Seventh Seal (Sweden, 1957)

  • The premise is simple: A crusader returns home amidst the Black Plague pandemic and meets death, who he challenges to a game of chess. Awash with symbolism, “The Seventh Seal” put Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman on the world stage and still today holds up as a masterpiece.

Nostalghia (Russia/Italy, 1983)

  • After meeting a crazed man who imprisoned his family for seven years, a Russian poet sees the logic in the man’s act and dreams of his own homeland and wife. Working more in dreams than reality, “Nostalghia” is one of Tarkovsky’s best works and a great example of Russian cinema.