Fantasia Festival 2019: Vivarium (2019)

Vivarium (2019)

Vivarium

Director (and co-writer): Lorcan Finnegan

Cast: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris, Eanna Hardwicke, Senan Jennings

Vivarium is a 2019 science fiction thriller about a house-hunting couple ends up being shown to a home located in a labyrinth of a cookie cutter neighborhood and abandoned by the real estate agent with no way out.

Choosing to start the film on the note of baby birds being knocked out of their nests by a cuckoo bird trying to take over is an odd way and sets the tone for Vivarium and even the story concept. With only a general knowledge of the couple, Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg), mainly their careers and an idea of their compatibility together as two weirdos (as they call it), they set off to find their perfect home which leads them to discover the office of Yonder run by Martin (Jonathan Aris) who awkwardly gets the couple to go visit one of the houses. As they drive into the rows of green tinted houses, identical to each other, they get to number 9, not a starter house which includes a baby’s room. Not long after, Martin disappears and they can’t find their way out and a box arrives full of necessities and then another box arrives with a baby. Their task is to raise the baby and get released.

Vivarium is a slow-burn movie. Its weird and bizarre, making the couple who considered themselves weirdoes initially to really be the normal ones thrust into this deserted suburbia. If we look at it in three acts, the movie sets up its scenario fairly quickly. For that, it deserves credit for giving it that dark humor and a dose of oddness, furthered by the feeling of hopelessness. However, the movie might be using uniformity as the creepy environment factor however the only creepy thing about the second act is the timeline of the child they need the raise, which gives an idea of how long they’ve been trapped there as well as this child who has a creepy voice and likes to imitate them. That one tone of life and the routine lifestyle might instill fear for some but mostly, it felt a tad repetitive and dragged the story out longer than it needed to and only dropping little hints of change to sustain interest on the mystery of why they are there and who is this child. What does make it for a lot of the slowness in the second act is the final act that turns up the story quite a bit as things start unveiling and the one reveal is the most thrilling part of the movie as a whole.

The technicalities of this film is what makes it stand it. First, the most notable is the color palette and the location of having these identical houses paired with a quiet background, that emphasizes on the sounds. The green of the houses to the blue skies with the cloud-like clouds  makes it feel like a story book fantasy and in turn gives it a fake-ness. This makes it feel an obvious distance and abandonment and with that loneliness. At the same time, the emptiness of the location is further emphasized with the cinematography and how some shots are shown. There are some captivating shots looking down as they drive around this labyrinth of  houses, trying but not finding their way out. Then there are shots of pulling way to show distance and shots where the character is centered to show probably the control of the situation. There are lot of deeper messages being conveyed here. It gives the story its depth and its creepy moments. Its leaves a lot for interpretation on the fears of life, uniformity, the routine, homeownership, the family model, the concept of work and having the need to find purpose and something to do everyday.

Vivarium has a lot to thank for its small cast and both Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, especially the latter, that carries this film forward. Imogen Poots takes on the role of Gemma and she does it with so much heart. Even in some of the slow moments, the camera gives a lot of context on her emotions from her reactions to her facial expressions as she interacts with the boy and Tom. While Jesse Eisenberg has a less role as his character has some truly powerful moments and yet, the rest of the time, his character is affected a lot more by the situation that he is in. Especially worth a mention is the almost cameo role of Martin, played by Jonathan Aris which excels in its dark humor execution.

There’s a lot to appreciate in the craft of Vivarium. However, its not a film for everyone. It takes starts off very strong, lags in the center and then amps up in the final act with a lot of style. Its mostly of movie of moments and probably one that needs a few more viewings to capture its true depth and meanings.

New Year’s Eve: A Long Way Down (2014)

I think I might have skipped this last year. I just might have…but I’m a little lazy to search for it now.  The holidays kind of murdered me a little but I’ve been thinking about watching a movie set around New Year’s Eve. I did watch one earlier this year called Jump that might have inspired this thought. You can check out that review HERE.   Its funny (well, not really) that New Year’s Eve inspires so many of these sorts of dramedy centred around suicide. While a lot of us are thinking about the new year bringing on new beginnings, some people just think its time to end it all before we let our failures continue on. I say this because Jump focuses on that sort of messed up night which starts in the same way and dramatically ends differently than this one does.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and check out the synopsis!

A Long Way Down (2014)

A Long Way Down

Director: Pascal Chaumeil

Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul, Rosamund Pike, Sam Neill

Four people meet on New Year’s Eve and form a surrogate family to help one another weather the difficulties of their lives.-IMDB

Dramedies are hard to master.  There has to be a balance.  Plus it has to embody the comedy and the dramatic style that works for the individual audience that its aiming for. I’m guessing its because of that IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes has such a huge difference in their scores. A Long Way Down may be a little cliche and could have worked harder to make you connect to the characters but the effort and message and heart that this story has is really great.  It doesn’t force you to feel anything.  You have to observe the characters and listen carefully to their dialogues and their reactions.  Maybe I think too much and read more between the lines than I’m supposed to but I watched this once and enjoyed it, then watched it a second time and got a little more out of it and turned it on a third time and realized that the message this one has is actually really good. Sometimes, wanting to watch a movie over and over again is not a bad thing and in this case, its because I wanted to get something more out of it, wondering if I missed something (because I do tend to multitask when I watch movies).

A Long Way Down

There’s a few things I truly love about A Long Way Down, which has me wanting to grab a copy of the book because I’m sure it outlines each of these characters even more thoroughly.  First, in setting up this movie, it gives time to showcase our four main characters here and their backstories to let us understand them a little more.  Whether you catch the reasoning of why they were on top of that tower is totally your experience but they do answer it in the end.  While showing them apart, it also takes time to build on their dynamic together and how their oddball relationship grows as they fulfill their pact of postponing their suicide attempt till Valentine’s Day. Second thing, I really like is the relationship between the characters Jess and JJ, played by Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul respectively.  They are almost completely different characters but they have a much deeper sorrow that weighs them down and they both live with it in a different way.  While it doesn’t make sense that they become incredibly affectionate and close with each other very quickly, I didn’t really mind because their chemistry worked for me.

A Long Way Down

The entire movie is pretty predictable but while Imogen Poots’ Jess is all sorts of unpredictable and crazy and desires attention. She really just has to feel desired and important but in the background, Aaron Paul’s character is the one we focus on.  He doesn’t talk much and many things happen but we soon realize that he is the one that is broken.  Something doesn’t add up for him.  We found him in the most casual on the roof at the start and he doesn’t really stick out during the movie but this leads to some of the best dialogues that he says throughout the whole movie. It gives the movie meaning and a look at what depression is, when there’s something that doesn’t quite work inside and there’s nothing that seems to help. While the other three all have reasons to be up on that roof at the beginning, we never really learn the reason of why he wants to be there until the very end. Maybe this is really spoiler-filled, but there are a lot of powerful scenes, a few bittersweet moments and a movie that holds some truth to what its trying to say, maybe because I’ve been implicated into a situation similar to this one that I can relate a little to it.

A Long Way Down

I’ve been going on and on about Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul but fact is Pierce Brosnan and Toni Collette are the older views with a much more mature situation that has lead them to where they are.  I have to admit that I’m still trying to coming to terms with Pierce Brosnan in drama/comedy and not the action James Bond that I see him in. It get a little cheesy feelings sometimes but that isn’t saying that he doesn’t have a good character and he does a decent at delivering the person who kind of grows a lot in his views.  Toni Collette is the one that seems most unlikely to get back on the roof.  The older characters have concrete solutions to their problems and they just kind of need to open up and see things in a different light.  They have good back stories but they are the supporting to the young two who seem to be a little more lost.

A Long Way Down A Long Way Down

A Long Way Down is about finding hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.  It sends a message of the underlying depression that sometimes is the culprit to undefinable feelings. Its finding people that unexpectedly help you experience things that allow you to see things differently.  Its a journey of friendship, finding a second family who helped them find themselves or just see themselves a little more clear.  Its not a perfect dramedy that works hard at making how to feel obvious but its all about how much you can connect to these characters to fully enjoy A Long Way Down and since I was able to do that, I found this one rather meaningful and it pulled up some feelings that I have been tucking away for a while.  While it seems like it kicked up some bad feelings, this one does have a positive touch to it and its the ending of it that really brings meaning to what “a long way down” refers to.

Have you seen A Long Way Down? 

Have a great New Year’s Eve!!!
I’ll be back tomorrow with the New Year’s Special Weekly Adventures! 🙂

Need For Speed (2014)

Need For Speed is one of my most anticipated movies in 2014.  It sounds a bit ridiculous, right? I don’t have any high expectations for it and I’ll explain what I mean in a little bit, not that I think anyone else has any higher expectations than I did either.  Still, as the weeks after it opened went by, I started to think that I wouldn’t go see it but on Monday, my friend called me up and asked if I wanted to go see a movie and he was paying, kind of, since he works for a company that offers sweet deals on things such as Cineplex.  After a rather rushed dinner, I went off to go catch Need For Speed!

Two movies in a week! Now, I can see my 2014 movie watching picking up 😉 Let’s check this out!

Need For Speed posterDirector: Scott Waugh

Cast: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Dakota Johnson, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez, Harrison Gilbertson, Michael Keaton

Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is a up and coming star in his hometown of Mt. Kisco where he took over his father’s car shop.  He keeps it going with a bunch of his buddies who are all great at what they do.  Tobey Marshall is also known for his great street racing skills.  When Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), a wealthy businessman and also a professional racer challenges him, it causes some trouble that lands Tobey in jail for two years.  When he comes out, he skips parole and drives across the country trying to catch the eye of Monarch (Michael Keaton), who is the guy who sets up one of the biggest street race competitions so that he could get the last spot against Dino in hopes to have his revenge.

Need For Speed

Before I tell you what I thought about Need For Speed, I really think I should clarify why I didn’t have high expectations for it even though I anticipate it so much.  Point is, Need For Speed is based on a video game and a very arcade style racing game on top of that.  It could easily turn into the Fast and the Furious ripoff and it could be hurt by my assumption that it has a low budget (which I might but I haven’t researched it) and well, the actors are all that known, at least not by me.  BUT, BUT, with all that I said, Need For Speed is my most favorite video game and to see it get a movie even though there isn’t all that much of a storyline is just the most awesome feeling. I loved the trailer and it reminded me of the game a lot.  So, you know what, I’m totally on board with the concept.  The lack of a thorough storyline from ALL the games gives it just that much room to weave a decent story.  I love to give chances to movies and for Need for Speed, anything!

Need For Speed

Now that I’ve professed my love for Need For Speed, you all want to hear what I thought, right?

Here it goes!

Honestly!

I totally had so much fun with it! I’m going to say it right now that you have to really like the Need For Speed franchise to love this.  I saw this because I’m not exactly sure if Need For Speed comes in normal viewing in theatres but we had 3D and let me tell you, watching it in 3D was set in a way that it was like when I was holding the controller and playing the game. Obviously, without the mad skills, Tobey Marshall has because I’m a really bad video game player.  I mean, in NFS, you don’t see the cars get fixed, you see them roll in and roll out and they are transformed.  If you look really closely, some of the tracks actually look like the tracks that the game has: the set up and the lighting and especially the blurred effects when they are going fast. Some of the camera angles were shot to have that effect of feeling like being in the car and behind the wheel.  Seriously, it was so fun!

Need For Speed

Now that thats off my chest, let me take a deep breath to calm myself.  Need For Speed is no masterpiece and you know even when you watch the trailer that its not.  Its a guilty pleasure flick.  Its meant to be fun and entertaining wrapped with a little bit of drama to add some purpose to the character and the overall storyline.  The story itself is actually pretty thin and at some times, I even questioned why certain things went the way it did but still, with a movie like this, I’m willing to overlook it and take it for what it is.

Need For Speed

Its actually pretty funny because I’ve never actually watched any of these actors except for Dominic Cooper in Captain America and Mamma Mia and well, we have Michael Keaton (who I could not figure out his name until the credits rolled). Thats horrible, right? And no, I haven’t watched Breaking Bad yet so no I don’t know Aaron Paul.  My favorite character in this has to be Michael Keaton as Monarch.  He brings this different weird but pretty enthusiastic vibe to the movie and he pops up some random moments.  I have to also admit that when Aaron Paul first entered as Tobey, I wasn’t totally liking the way he talked.  He has this calm, silent husky voice and theatres don’t have subtitles so I was really focusing to understand it all but very soon, I totally connected with his character and he has awesome chemistry with his buddies who were the comic relief along with Imogen Poots who was somewhat cute and feisty at times.  Somewhere before we reached the middle, I just believed that Aaron Paul was perfectly cast for this role.

need for speed gif

Honestly, admitting that I love Need For Speed makes me feel like how I express my profound love for the Resident Evil series but you know what, I’m a fan and I’m going to buy the movie when it comes out.  Plus, it just revived the urge to play hours on hours of Need For Speed. Did I tell you that between my boyfriend and I, I think we actually own all of them except for the newest one? I’ve played only bits of the PS3 ones but I’m working on playing through all of them on my free time and even though its at a slow pace, I’m halfway through Underground 2!

If you are a fan of Need For Speed, this is definitely a must-see.  Don’t get all nit-picky about the story and just enjoy the thrilling ride this movie has to offer and it can get pretty fun.  It might be predictable in some parts but before you know it, maybe you’ll start cheering Tobey Marshall on also 😉 Just to give you an idea of how much I liked it: I would be down for a second one (although I doubt that would happen ever).

Are you a Need For Speed fan? Did you see this movie? What did you think?