Fantasia Festival 2017: Free and Easy (2016)

Free and Easy (2016)
Director: Jun Geng

Director: Baohe Xue, Benbin Gu, Gang Xu, Liguo Yuan, Xun Zhang, Xuxu Wang, Zhiyong Zhang

When a traveling soap salesman arrives in a desolate Chinese town, a crime occurs, and sets the strange residents against each other with tragicomic results. –IMDB

A peddling monk, a soap salesman, a reforestation ranger: What do these three characters have in common? Add in a God-loving man who is seeking for his disappeared mother, a jack of all trades kung fu instructor and a tough landlady. Throw together two cops who really seem to be both careless and clueless and this creates the mix of a 99 minutes Chinese movie set in desolate area in Northeast China. Free and Easy is an odd piece altogether. Is it trying to be comedic with its dry  humor? Or is it a societal statement about the world we live in pushing those into paths they don’t really choose no matter how good or bad they are? Perhaps, its a crime story when one of the characters die. Just like the story its telling, maybe the genre also steps somewhere in a grey area.

Free and Easy is however an interesting piece of cinema to talk about. With so many characters on screen, we mostly focus on the soap salesman and the monk at the beginning. The cops are the other end of the spectrum as they truly feel useless in their positions or simply bored. They talk constantly about things they probably shouldn’t and then they also take antibiotics like its candy. Not the authorities that we’d imagine them to be. In a community like this one, desolate and forgotten, even the cops are useless, it is a statement on how everyone has their own way to fend for themselves and survive day to day. They are thrown into circumstances that we eventually realize aren’t quite them however, it is all a sense of digging out that part of them that they need to live. The soap salesman and monk eventually have some insightful conversations throughout the movie that truly point us into knowing them more. Just as the reforestation ranger obsesses over who cut down his trees and we start seeing his mellow character go through a myriad of reactions to the situation. However, with the amount of characters here, the focus moves quickly through them. Their personalities, their facades, their conversations, their tricks all come together as what defines this world because we never know any of them well enough to know their history or even their story. We only know what they are now and those few days in this desolate area.

While, Free and Easy slowly progresses its story and it feels disjointed throughout the majority of it and there isn’t really a character to bond with, one of the best aspects is its landscape and cinematography. The way that the director composes their shots, capturing the wide angles and pulled out space. It truly expands on the desolate and emptiness in this area. Perhaps, it also is done to create a parallel for these characters who each have their own issues and all don’t seem to keen about what life they are in now. No one truly seems happy. However, the scenes here truly capture so much atmosphere and is structured carefully to capture exactly what it wants and hides some of the details off screen. One of the best scenes do go to one of the cops confronting four of the characters as they keep moving on and off screen.

Honestly, there isn’t a lot to say concretely about Free and Easy. The story needs a little more work particularly for the pace they are going at. The sound design is nice and the cinematography captures so much of the atmosphere and the area despite it being desolate and empty. The characters are plentiful but never fleshed out. The dry humor definitely is there however, it never seemed to work enough although humor is rather subjective. Free and Easy is a statement piece about society, at least from the first watch, it definitely seems to be leaning the most in that direction. Its a lot of reading between the lines and listening to the dialogue and conversations. Its a movie for those that enjoy dry humor, slow-paced and reading between the lines.

Personally, this doesn’t feel like a movie that I was meant to like. I do think for its vagueness in many of the issues, it makes it more thought provoking to figure out what they are trying to say. What message is it all about? I’m honestly kind of in between with this one.

Fantasia Festival 2017: A Ghost Story (2017)

A Ghost Story (2017)

A Ghost Story 2017

Director and Writer: David Lowery

Cast: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Will Oldham, Sonia Acevedo

In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife. – IMDB

Perhaps one of the first things to start off is that A Ghost Story is not a horror movie. It shouldn’t be expected to be one as it is a fantasy drama. David Lowery crafts up a passion project that brings to life an old perception of a ghost covered in a bedsheet who lingers for their loved one in the background. This character may seem like a goofy concept and the movie may have its quirky moment however it isn’t meant to be funny. A Ghost Story is a slow burn movie, more than possibly anything else you will encounter. It has lingering shots before it switches, teasing the audience perhaps to expect something to happen that often doesn’t. It has almost no dialogue but focuses heavily on its soundtrack and its subtle noises in the surroundings. It doesn’t give the characters any names which creates a world where we see only this ghost, a ghost of a husband who has come back to console his wife however not making contact but stirs up memories throughout. A Ghost Story is for those extremely patient because this movie may make you wait for things that won’t happen and answers that you might not get. It seeks to dig a little deeper and expands farther than its star-studded main characters, Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. Whether the slow-burn works for you or not, this is an odd but unique experience. One that makes you question where the line falls for the audience between tedium and depth.

A Ghost Story is shot in an almost square aspect ratio. Its something that native moviegoers may notice right away. However, what the movie lacks in dialogue is greatly made up by the perfect cuts and transitions between scenes. The ghost moves at a slow pace and frequently shots are taken from his slow movement as he enters a new room or observes something different. He may simply turn and the scene will change. All this is done slowly and seamlessly. The first part of the film focuses on the husband and wife relationship and the love and loss as well as the moving forward and holding on in two people. Despite the silence, we feel the connection between these two characters in the pieces scattered as the time moves on after C (played by Casey Affleck) dies in a sudden accident. There is a great use of time moving forward particularly in the fluidity of creating a scene where M (played by Rooney Mara) goes day by day, carrying on with life.

This fluidity of transition shifts through time as the story turns to a second act of various future tenants. While the technical scenes work well, the second act moves forward and we can only wonder how David Lowery will wrap this story up and how do you end something as random as the scenes he has linked together. This question will lead the audience straight to the final act which unfolds what can only be described as a masterful story writing that somehow does lead this story to giving us a lot of the answers that we’ve been wondering with the bits and pieces.

A Ghost Story is not the conventional way to make a movie. In the final Q&A session of this movie, its apparent that this project turned out as he would like. The slow pace, the sound design and the voiceless and nameless man under the bedsheet all serves its purposes. However, this is an incredibly experimental piece that is definitely not for everyone. Its for those with incredible patience, especially when this movie requires a few minutes watching someone eat pie, as well as attaching to a bedsheet ghost, that will oddly seem to start feeling like they are emoting by just standing there and the camera angles.

For what this movie accomplished, it is one that gets better the more you think about it. It is also one that best seen with as little knowledge as possible. The best movies create discussion and it certainly feels like this one will have that kind of impact.

TV Binge: Refresh Man (2016)

Man, its been a month since our last TV Binge. I can assure you that I’ve been watching a ton of TV series and just having a lot of fun in general. TV Binge posts are fun but sometimes its hard to share a lot of it. The reason why this one took so long is really on post scheduling issues since there’s been a ton of other things to get in and I don’t want to just be writing about movies or TV every single day. I’ve already expressed myself about this issue before and that hasn’t changed. However, I never give up a chance to talk about Taiwanese TV series, because no matter how generic they are, there are some that just are absolutely incredible and 2016’s Refresh Man is. In fact, I said it already before also in another post but I’m currently slowly watching it a second time. That’s how much I love it.

Refresh Man (2016)

refresh man

Cast: Aaron Yan, Joanne Tseng, Lene Lai, Yun-Ching Li, Roy Chang, Cherry Hsia, Jenny Chen-Ni Huang, Sara Yu, J.R. Chien

In high school Zhong Yu Tang was the overachiever with a bright future ahead of her while Ji Wen Kai was the underachiever. Ten years later the tables have turned when he becomes the new CEO of the cosmetic company Yu Tang works for. – IMDB

It is a little sad that Taiwanese television dramas have not caught on as much as other foreign shows like Korean dramas for example. I’m personally a huge fan of Taiwanese series because they are a little formulaic at times but they also have a lot of creativity and the best ones create a good balance between romance, drama and comedy. Its a shame that I’ve fallen out of it for a while but at the same time, coming back to it these past two years have really opened up my eyes to how well the shows are. There is still a big issue with the industry and one of the actors here have brought it up but I’m going to avoid diving into that issue but focusing on how great this show is because of its colorful cast, well-timed comedic moments and general fun moments.

Refresh man

What I love about this series:

  • Wen-kai Ji (played by Aaron Yan): Aaron Yan is possibly my favorite part of this series. He is so expressive with his motions and reactions. His dialogue was done so well and his chemistry with Joanne Tseng who plays Yu-Tang Zhong is so awesome. Not to mention, he came back based on a promise that he’ll take care of her and the way he is doing that is by pushing her to be better.
  • Yu-Tang Zhong (played by Joanne Tseng): Its hard to find series that I like both of the couples equally as much and in this case, Joanne Tseng does a stellar job. She captures a very innocent girl who is really very smart but has fallen into a comfort zone as an executive secretary. When she is suddenly pulled out of her comfort zone, she accepts her challenge and you see her grow, being stronger and more courageous and eventually become a fantastic woman. What makes her so endearing is her lack of knowledge to her feelings and what people around her feel for her (aka Wen-kai Ji and the other male character, Zi-yu Wang).
  • Sales Team 3: The team that Yu-Tang ends up doing sales is the most rag-tag team of unmotivated individuals. In many ways, they all are the “refresh man” concept here that needs a fresh start and the extra push. They are funny together and truly fun to watch grow as they all find their potential and let it grow as they realize that they can be more.
  • The Romance: I already mentioned the chemistry before but there is so much about the trials and tribulations between Yu-Tang and Wen-kai from their high school years to how they finally owned up to their romance. Its hilarious and crazy and yet so touching to watch. Its one that truly does make us love and ship them. One of the rare on-screen couples that I actually route for fully and completely because they are worth every moment of it. You can feel their pain and their love no matter before they find their balance to be together or after they finally get together and are forced apart. If you watch any of these drama series, you know that it isn’t a spoiler but an eventuality.

refresh man

Refresh Man is a great series, probably one of my absolute favorite. Its great to see that Netflix has acquired some good ones. This was a fun spontaneous discovery and I quickly binge watched it twice in a row. Joanne Tseng and Aaron Yan are awesome actors and they capture their role perfectly. The script is charming for the most part and still pretty predictable however, there are some spontaneous bits that will take you by surprise here and there. There is also some odd moments that make us wonder why it was done that way. However, whether you find it funny or entertaining or downright warm and fuzzy (or maybe a little in pain when things go wrong), Wen-kai and Joanne Tseng are characters that come to life who make us want them to win whatever challenge is in front of them. When they aren’t in the romance thing, which actually is in the background a lot more, Sales Team 3 will make you want to cheer for them to pick up their slack and succeed in their almost impossible task of selling a product that no one really cares for anymore.

Overall, a great show and one that deserves to have great appreciation. I’m glad to see that Aaron Yan has grown so much from the first series I saw him in till this one. Joanne Tseng also looks familiar and yet I can’t place where I’ve seen her before but she is fantastic and I’m going to look for more of her series. If you do like Taiwanese series, this is one to check out.

Valentine’s Marathon: Romeo & Juliet (2013)

Next up in the Valentine’s Marathon is a tale really as old as time and probably one of the first Shakespeare plays I had to read in school but super renowned and adapted a ton of times and that is Romeo & Juliet. This version is the 2013 one with Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth.

Let’s check it out!

Romeo & Juliet (2013)

Romeo and Juliet 2013

Director: Carlo Carlei

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth, Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti, Kodi Smit-Mcphee, Ed Westwick, Christian Cooke

Romeo and Juliet secretly wed despite the sworn contempt their families hold for each other. It is not long, however, before a chain of fateful events changes the lives of both families forever.-IMDB

 Its always hard to review Romeo and Juliet adaptations. We all know how the story will go and the tragic fate of these lovers. It becomes even harder each time to feel moved by the characters and the story somehow because of that familiarity. I’m not sure if this is the most recent movie adaptation but I think so with these young stars playing the popular roles. In reality, it feels like quite the task and one that I’d eventually like to do to talk about the play and all adaptations (or as many as I have access to). Maybe I’ll give that a go one day. However, we’re here to look at this adaptation and to be fair, it was fine. There were some familiar faces, some good performances, the set was pretty decent and so were the costumes. I’m not a Shakespeare extreme connoisseur so I don’t know the play front and back. It been a long time since I’ve read it but from what I remember, its seems pretty close (if not the same) in dialogue.  However, something seems missing which I can’t quite pinpoint so maybe as I write this out, I’ll figure it out.

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet are played respectively by Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld.  I haven’t seen a lot of Hailee Steinfeld but I have seen Douglas Booth in few of his previous roles, probably the one I remember most is LOL and Jupiter Ascending (review HERE). To step into Romeo and Juliet is a big task (like I mentioned before), there was to be passion and believability in their roles. Perhaps one of the things I didn’t quite feel was their connection. Sure, they were passionate in their lines and I could see it working but when they were together, something just didn’t click. Although, I feel that it progressed a little fast also. I get that its supposed to be a few days of events like most Romeo and Juliet movies are set in but it took two seconds to jump to seeing each other, dancing and then going to to the back and kissing. I never felt like other Romeo and Juliet movies progressed the love arc that fast for them and maybe its why those movies had a more impactful performance. Oh, and I actually did like Hailee Steinfeld’s performance. I feel that she has potential to do more and that’s where I think I probably should check out The Edge of Seventeen from last year.

Romeo and Juliet 2013

Talking about the Montague boys now, we’ve already discussed Romeo as the lover boy but possibly a great bromance trio goes to these guys who felt naturally good together. Somehow they worked well in showing their different personalities of Mercutio, Romeo and Benvolio. It was easy to believe that they all held different views of the rivalry between the Montague and the Capulets but also that they each also had different values. Mercutio is played by Christian Cooke, who is a familiar face and I liked him in the role. However, I love Kodi Smit-McPhee ever since I saw him in Let Me In (review HERE). This guy has some really great acting chops. He did a great job at Benvolio even if it was just a supporting role.

Romeo and Juliet 2013

The Capulets are much more individual but also has a lot more screen time. We have Tybalt, played by Ed Westwick who is incredibly known to me as Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl and I loved his character there. Ed Westwick does have some good acting and in the right roles, he can do quite a bit. As Tybalt, he really just does the cocky guy with a ton of anger issues who has incredible hate for Montagues who can barely keep his actions in control. Plus, he does a whole lot of odd grunting angry voices and always has a grimace, which I get is in character but something about his character felt a little overacted perhaps. I can’t say that its his best performance in my book. The other part of the Capulets is Damien Lewis as Lord Capulet. I honestly haven’t had much contact with Damien Lewis but he seems like a really powerful actor because Lord Capulet’s role really carried especially when he was having the whole scene with Juliet and making his point clear of her marrying Count Paris. That was a fantastic scene.

Overall, Romeo and Juliet in this 2013 adaptation was okay. It probably won’t be memorable but its not horrible either. The pacing of the script could probably use some work to help make us care more about Romeo and Juliet especially when everyone already knows how this all works out and pretty much knows what to expect. There are some decent performances that I haven’t even mentioned other than Hailee Steinfeld, Damien Lewis and Kodi Smit-McPhee but also we have Paul Giamatti who plays as the Friar and as always, he does a nice job in the supporting role. Its hard to not compare Romeo and Juliet adaptations to each other especially since there’s already been so many but here’s my shot at it.

Have you seen this adaptation of Romeo and Juliet? Which adaptation is your favorite?

Netflix A-Z: The Spectacular Now (2013)

We’re at the S selection for Netflix! Movie reviews craze going on over here, right? I’ve been wanting to watch The Spectacular Now since this movie released back in 2013 but somehow never got around to it. It could be that last year, I took a long drama movie break. There was a few indie S selections that I wanted to watch but The Spectacular Now was one I didn’t want to wait anymore.

Let’s check it out!

The Spectacular Now (2013)

The Spectacular Now

Director: James Ponsoldt

Cast: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brie Larson, Mary  Elizabeth Winstead

A hard-partying high school senior’s philosophy on life changes when he meets the not-so-typical “nice girl.” – IMDB

 The first thing to really catch my eye watching The Spectacular Now at this moment is the brilliant cast they have here. I haven’t really seen a ton of Miles Teller so I don’t have much to compare him to (yes, I haven’t seen Whiplash yet) and I’ve only seen Shailene Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars and I wasn’t a fan of that one. Nothing to do with her, just the story was my issue. Aside from our main characters played by Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, there is a supporting roles by Brie Larson (who went on to play her fantastic role in Room), Jennifer Jason Leigh (who I saw in The Hateful Eight) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (in  this year’s 10 Cloverfield Lane) for starters. The Spectacular Now is a coming of age story that delivers something a little different. Sutter is our main guy here and in many ways, I feel like it wasn’t even meeting Aimee that changed him but just that Aimee was the girl that gave him a different perspective on the future and growing up. The power of youth and relationships, right? In all reality, Sutter is afraid of growing up and its why he doesn’t embrace his the concept of living for the future but rather for the now moment. There’s a really honest and relatable coming of age story in between the charming romance drama going on here.

The Spectacular Now

I have a feeling a ton of people are going to be disappointed when I say this. Miles Teller is an odd choice as Sutter. Maybe its because this movie is meant to be odd but I’ve never been able to see Miles Teller as a very good actor. Maybe its the lack of movies that I’ve seen of his. It took me a while to really connect with Sutter’s character but in a rather unexpected and subtle way, he did grow on me, especially because we could see the script giving him and Aimee a very cute young love growth in a way that they influenced each other and gave each other courage to do the things they were previously afraid to face.

With that said, I liked Shailene Woodley a lot. As the nice girl, she portrayed it on point. It was believable in her most innocent ways. She truly loved Sutter and saw the good in him even when sometimes, he wasn’t all that great. The fascination of a relationship is finding the balance of having something in common but enough not to learn something new from each other and Sutter and Aimee had that. Their relationship was a highlight of this coming of age story even if I don’t believe it would be what really changed Sutter because the powerful scene with him and his mother played by Jennifer Jason Leigh was the one that stole the show.

The Spectacular Now

Other than the wonderfully sweet moments between Aimee and Sutter crafted beautifully, the drama truly comes in in a strong scene when Sutter finally meets his father again. It proves that the innocent memory he had for his father was actually very much an illusion. He starts noticing all the bad his father truly is even when he tries to brush it away and in many ways, can see the hints of him really starting to see how ignorant his father is and how he somewhat sees the disappointing similarities and how he could potentially be a lot of bad. It shows a little of the nature vs. nurture influence right there in my opinion.

The Spectacular Now

 Overall, The Spectacular Now is a really good coming of age story. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are great as Sutter and Aimee. The character development for both of the characters carry a lot more than just romance but also what growing up is about. Other than romantic themes, it also has a strong family relationship concept here. The Spectacular Now tells a great story with a compelling message. While I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of the way they ended it because a ton of movies are doing that also, the journey of Sutter and his coming of age story is an intriguing one to say the least.

Have you seen The Spectacular Now? What coming of age movies do you like?

Netflix A-Z: Last Weekend (2014)

Continuing on with the Netflix A-Z mad dash to the finish line, I have to say that this choice was made for a few reasons. One of them is trying to find family-based movies. Then there’s Patricia Clarkson and she is always a fantastic actress. That is how Last Weekend ended up in the L selection, pushing the close second Laggies aside. I’ve never heard of it and don’t know what its about but hey, why not, right? The spontaneity is what makes Netflix A-Z so fun to do!

Let’s check it out!

Last Weekend (2014)

Last Weekend

Director: Tom Dolby (writer) & Tom Williams

Cast: Patricia Clarkson, Chris Mulkey, Joseph Cross, Zachary Booth, Rutina Wesley, Fran Kranz, Alexia Rasmussen, Jayma Mays, Devon Graye

When an affluent matriarch gathers her dysfunctional family for a holiday at their Northern California lake house, her carefully constructed weekend begins to come apart at the seams, leading her to question her own role in the family. – IMDB

Last Weekend is full of familiar faces. Perhaps that may be one of the first things you will notice. Leading with Patricia Clarkson, we follow through with smaller supporting roles from Rutina Wesley (also known for her role as Tara in True Blood), and Fran Kranz (known for a ton of stuff including Dollhouse and Cabin in the Woods) and then we have Jayma Mays (from Glee) and personally for me, Alexia Rasmussen (from Listen to Your Heart). Lots of talent and potential just looking at the cast. Except, Last Weekend leaves me feeling a little empty. In some ways, I can get what the story is trying to portray except it executes the idea not well enough especially when the ending is rather empty with not a whole lot of resolution. Perhaps that is the depressing point in the finale, that family isn’t clear cut and for many issues, there is no resolution. In my mind, there should be less focus on the kids and what happens to them in this “last weekend” and more on Patricia Clarkson and her husband and her interactions because that would be more to see, except how long would a movie taking that angle take before its audience might find it monotonous. But then, in this case, I don’t agree with putting in scenes that never get addressed ever again, rendering them pointless.

Last Weekend

One of the standout of Last Weekend is Patricia Clarkson and the setting. The house, the decor and the scenery is captivating to look at. Patricia Clarkson’s portrayal of a mother who can’t seem to and doesn’t want to let go of her kids and the fact that they have grown up and has left her care or let go of this last weekend of making a decision of whether she has made the right decision to sell this vacation house and all the things that she has grown attached to. It is a mother’s journey for the most part and Patricia Clarkson does a beautiful job and portraying it and making it believable as we try to understand her character. In many ways, it is the scenes that she is involved that make the movie shine the most, even in its most disjointed moments. One of my favorite ones is the one above when we finally see the connection between her daughter in law Vanessa (played by Alexia Rasmussen) and her, who she doesn’t have much fondness for, finally see something in common and she opens up to her a little more. As the audience, we can actually see the similarities between their personalities and its probably the nuance that her son chose someone similar to his parents.

Last Weekend Probably the hardest thing to like in Last Weekend are the characters as well. Contradicting to the top? Maybe a little. Because the sons here, Roger (played by Joseph Cross) and Theo (played by Zachary Booth) are incredibly annoying characters. In a way, you can see that they don’t want to be under the wings of their parents and they want to show that they have grown up but in many ways, they also lack the sensitivity to try to understand her or remember to check up on her once in a while. It could also be a statement of grown-up kids and the changed dynamic and different point of views from being away. Whatever its trying to say, it seems to start off in some way and never quite gives any resolve or redemption. It feels a little incomplete to me. Granted it is set over a weekend, perhaps it wasn’t mean to have a lot of character development and its more about their mom’s acceptance of the situation. Although, why there was such attention on their relationships baffled me at the end. Maybe it kind of highlights something a bit more favorable about their personality.

last weekend

I feel like I’m being tough on Last Weekend or maybe it just needs a few more viewings or I’m just not the target audience. I somehow don’t quite get what the movie was trying to do. It seems to have a message but it doesn’t seem to execute the idea well enough. While there are some solid performances, there is also a lot of unappealing characters (which is usually normal in dysfunctional family movies) and a lot of disjointed and unresolved moments. Perhaps that is what turns me off more. Plus, it doesn’t help that as I was trying to find meaning in Last Weekend, I ended up seeing it having a pretty negative message and kind of put me in a rather bad mood afterwards. Last Weekend has merit, just not enough to make it worth a second watch, however, maybe you will find something that I didn’t. If you did, please come back and tell me about it. I really wanted to like this one more.

Netflix A-Z: Kill Charlie Countryman (2013)

For all of you not into all the Christmas stuff, I’m going to be continuing on with the Netflix A-Z. The most optimal thing would be to wrap it up before the end of the year but that sounds pretty much impossible. What I will do now is to do two Netflix A-Z starting with this one. I know its been a while so for those who don’t know, we’re doing an independent film take and if you don’t have the movie on your Netflix, its probably because I’m on the Netflix Canada and the selection may change depending where you are.

With that said, the next selection is Kill Charlie Countryman. Honestly, I don’t know why I picked it. I’m not a particularly huge fan of Shia Labeouf. But then, I’m changing my strategy to picking these movies and really trying to just take movies off My List of Netflix movies and not the entire Netflix library (because that is kind of crazy).

Let’s check it out!

Kill Charlie Countryman (2013)

Kill Charlie Countryman

Director: Fredrik Bond

Cast: Shia Labeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, Til Schweiger, Rupert Grint, James Buckley

While traveling abroad, a guy falls for a Romanian beauty whose unreachable heart has its origins in her violent, charismatic ex. – IMDB 

Kill Charlie Countryman is one of those movies that seem to have the potential to do much better than it actually did. I spent a few days thinking about why I felt that way. For one, other than Shia Labeouf who I found mildly entertaining in Transformers, there hasn’t been much that I like of his, but I have liked a lot of Evan Rachel Wood’s performances and of course, Mads Mikkelsen. Maybe that is why I chose to watch this one, especially after the Playstation Experience peak at Kojima’s new game Death Stranding and the very creepy character that Mads Mikkelsen plays as, especially when its just one shot. Kill Charlie Countryman’s plot is a little odd and its a little hard to believe what is going on. It feels like he wants to have some odd humor there and yet Shia Labeouf rarely delivers it. At the same time, its hard to believe what the love his character Charlie actually has for this girl that he knows nothing about. It jumps from one spot to the next and the story doesn’t seem to flow well, especially when injecting the somewhat silly comic relief with Karl and Luc, played by Rupert Grint and James Buckley respectively.

Kill Charlie Countryman

Kill Charlie Countryman is all about the trouble that Charlie, played by Shia Labeouf gets into when he goes to Bucharest as his dead mom’s spirit (or something) tells him to, encouraging to go have some adventure and take risks. This turns out to be a great adventure indeed when his trip starts off with a dead passenger that he has befriended. This man is odd and his body/spirit also tells him to go carry out his last wish of bringing his souvenir to his daughter Gabi, played by Evan Rachel Wood. However, there is a odd feeling of why Charlie has these visions except to realize that it somehow vanishes and goes somewhat unexplained. I’m not sure whether an explanation would do the story any good or make it any different but the fact that its about Charlie who makes all these really unbelievable decisions from taking this lady’s car and cello and bringing it to the Opera House in the beginning or suddenly acting like (tries to) he has fallen deep in love with Gabi even before really knowing too much. Right from the get go, we already know she has the mafia boyfriend and this launches into a much more serious ordeal when there is a even bigger secret that looms in the background and makes him into a target, involving people that he also only just met. Its an odd trip. While I do criticize that Shia Labeouf is not the best person to take on the role. He also delivers one of the better performances that I’ve seen (for the most part). The only part that I cannot connect with is the romantic bits because it just isn’t a connection that the movie does a good job at portraying.

Kill Charlie Countryman

I believe some of the better scenes in this movie was the interaction with Mads Mikkelsen and in general the bad guys. They delivered the threat and fear. While I didn’t care much for any of these characters, Mads Mikkelsen has a very bad guy front that he does well. There is something incredibly menacing at times and then creepy at others. His expressions can just get under my skin. For that, while its hard to imagine that he does some of what he does because he is possessive and crazy in love over Gabi, his character Nigel is undeniably one of the stronger elements of this story and all the interactions whether it is him with Gabi or him with Charlie all made for the more entertaining bits to watch.

Sadly, one of the more disposable characters in the story seems to be Gabi. While she plays a stronger female role especially after having to deal with all of Nigel’s ordeals, the character of Gabi doesn’t have any substance. She is supposed to be the love interest to Charlie and there are moments you can sense the character being touched by Charlie’s actions and yet, she still makes odd decisions regarding Nigel. There seems to be more to the character that was cut out in the final edit that doesn’t have a complete image of who she is and what she knows. While Evan Rachel Wood has to put on a Romanian (I think) accent as well. I can’t say how accurate it is but somehow it doesn’t feel all that natural.

Kill Charlie Countryman

Like mentioned before, the comic reliefs here are Karl and Luc, played by Rupert Grint and James Buckley. These guys are the strange acquaintances that Charlie meets at the hostel where he decided to rent a room. These two guys are strange, with not a huge perception of anything except for the fact that they take drugs and make bad decisions. Its the spitting image of people taking things to the absolute limit and then realizing that they are stuck in a ditch and in trouble and then getting scared and not knowing how to react. Between all this, there is some fun. Its hard to determine whether I’m laughing at them or its meant to be funny. They never get a key part but somehow pop in in the middle to create trouble that leads Shia Labeouf to learn more about Gabi. It all seems very deliberate and not natural enough.

Kill Charlie Countryman falls short in many ways. It has mostly a cast that can deliver great performances but the script seems to not piece it well enough together. There are some fun moments and other entertaining and engaging bits but its never enough to make this film memorable. In fact, I closed this film feeling rather indifferent. Its these one that are the hardest to word how I feel because I don’t care much about it and don’t intend on watching it again and yet, I can’t exactly pinpoint what I thought was all that wrong. Perhaps it was the choppiness in plot, or how I  couldn’t buy into Gabi and Charlie’s love or maybe that some of the flow and consequences seemed too deliberate to make something else happen. Whatever it is, Kill Charlie Countryman is a lackluster film and one I probably won’t go back to watch.

Next up is L selection. Any guesses?