The Visual Effects of Marvel’s Daredevil

Daredevil openingWatching Netflix’s Daredevil, you’d probably be surprised to learn that a lot of the scenes that you thought were practical were actually digital.  For instance, the scene where Daredevil jumps from a window into the Hudson River?  Digital.

The fight between the titular hero and the red ninja in episode 9 – “Speak of the Devil“?  A lot of that was CGI as well (particularly Daredevil’s wounds and blood spatter).

I tend to be on the lookout for such things, yet I didn’t notice any of it which is a good reminder that CGI can be unobtrusive as well as bombastic.

Click here for an interview with Bryan Godwin, CEO and Executive VFX Supervisor for Shade VFX, the company that provided all the visual effects for Netflix’s Daredevil.

Ejecta – Review

Ejecta movie poster

“The Darker Side of Close Encounters.”

Tony Burgess’ Ejecta is at heart a tale about hubris, the variety of which that says Man is the center of the universe, couched in a story about a conspiracy theorist, who’s niche is aliens.

William Cassidy (Julian Richings, a pretty well-known character actor) typically looks gaunt to the point of being skeletal, which makes his casting almost perfect.

What’s not so good is that Ejecta also, for the most part, relies on found-footage tropes to accomplish its purpose, which is not a good thing, especially when the movie would have been better served by a more traditional narrative.

In this instance it’s either the recollection of Cassidy–who essentially being tortured through the entire movie–or video monitors of a shadowy government agency in charge of alien retrieval.  The found-footage-like stuff almost immediately takes you out of the movie, though if that weren’t bad enough, a lot of it is done in shaky-cam, which is equal parts irritating and frustrating.

The government operatives from the beginning are played not only extremely unsympathetically, but sadistically so, which does the movie no favors because–as you’ll see later–the aliens and their tactics aren’t exactly E.T.-inspired.

And I have nothing against movies that depict humans being on the wrong side of the cosmic coin, but it shouldn’t necessarily be made it quite so obvious that that’s the case because you end up rooting for the aliens, which I am not quite sure was the intent of the filmmakers.

Another thing is that Ejecta is relatively low budget, which came to my attention mainly during scenes when the soldiers were movie through the complex, which looked suspiciously like an abandoned building.  All that would have been necessary to elevate the look would have been to slap a new coat of paint on the walls.

Ejecta is on Netflix but be warned, not only are we not alone, YOU are not alone.

Goodnight Mommy – Trailer

For awhile France was the place to go for innovative horror (and where directors like Alexandre Aja and Xavier Gens hail), now it seems that there’s been a shift to Australia.  Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead is currently on Netflix, and it’s pretty clever–in terms of where it takes zombie horror, not so much in terms of visuals.

And Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s Goodnight Mommy looks to continue the trend.

Visually, the movie reminds me of Funny Games (for some reason) and revolves around two twin boys.  Their mother returns to their remote home (which is good for chasing your kids for prolonged periods, due to the isolation) to recover from plastic surgery on her face, and the boys aren’t too sure she’s actually their mother.

When I originally heard the synopsis, I thought that it was a case of the twins being bat-shite crazy (like Dead Ringers with little kids), and their mother spending most of the movie fleeing, though if the trailer is at all accurate, the boys may be on to something.

The Living – Review

“The Ties The Bind Are Nurtured By Blood”

Jack Bryan‘s The Living is a pretty impressive thriller that revolves around a man, Teddy (a virtually unrecognizable Fran Kranz, Cabin in The Woods) who after a night of drinking beats his wife, Molly (Jocelin Donahue).

He had no memory of it happening, but Molly’s bruised and bloody face speaks for itself.

It’s not said explicitly, but it seems that this was not the first time that he had hit his wife.  So her mother, Angela (Joelle Carter), and brother, Gordon (Kenny Wormald), are fed-up, and respond in desperate and unexpected ways, setting in motions events that move rapidly beyond their control.

What works especially well is that the biggest names are Kranz (who’s nothing like the character he plays in Woods) and Chris Mulkey, neither of whom are exactly household names.  This is a benefit because, in such a small, almost intimate story there aren’t any stars big enough to pull viewers out of the movie, would which would probably be the case if we were watching Tom Cruise or Charlize Theron, for example.

If you’re looking for a taut, well-acted thriller you could certainly do worse than The Living.

The Living is currently on Netflix, because some people will do anything for family.

Sorority Row – Review

“There are worse ways to spend an hour and forty minutes.  Unfortunately for Sorority Row, there are also better ones.”

Stewart Hendler’s Sorority Row harkens back to (better) slasher movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream, and makes as much sense as either though both of those movies at least had a bit of innovation going for them, and while the snark of Sorority Row is always welcome, it’s not enough of a differentiator to elevate the movie.

Though things begin interestingly enough, when the members of Phi Theta sorority pull a particularly mean-spirited prank on the brother of one of their members that ends in a very real death.

Soon the girls are being bumped off one by one, seemingly by the person who was the victim of their prank gone awry (mostly in visually interesting, though practically impossible, ways). Sounds familiar?  It should because it’s a plot device that been used every since Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, mainly because when it works, you don’t see any of the many moving parts that need to be in sync for it to work.

Which Sorority Row, for the most part, doesn’t.

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A Single Man – Review

A Single Man movie poster

“Shiny, happy plastic people in tragic circumstances.”

Tom Ford’s A Single Man isn’t a horror or fantasy film, but it might as well be, as far as depicting relationships between humans goes.  George (Peter Firth) is a British expatriate, teaching at a college in California.  His world is seemingly perfect till the death of his lover, Jim (Matthew Goode) in an auto accident changes everything.

For a movie about a man who’s love is torn from him so suddenly, this is a remarkably chaste movie, which is important to note because there’s barely anything even remotely passionate about their relationship, which is a problem when that’s what underlies everything that happens in the movie.

I can understand why two actors might not want to give a more nuanced portrayal of two people in love, but British films (such as the far superior Weekend, also on Netflix) typically aren’t afraid to depict people being intimate–and I don’t necessarily mean in a sexual context.  George and Jim may occupy the same space at any given time, but they never feel as if they’re together.

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Da Sweet Blood of Jesus – Review

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus movie poster

“Entertaining, in that singularly unique Spike Lee way.”

Spike Lee is a fascinating director, for better or for worse.  By which I mean, the trip isn’t always the most leisurely, though if you’re prescient enough to see where he’s trying to take you, you find yourself the better for it.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, the movie that he financed via Kickstarter, is no different.  One of the first things you notice, besides the initially stilted-sounding dialog, is how oddly paced the movie is.  It’s not that it’s rushed, but Lee doesn’t spend much time on details that at first seem relatively small, though typically end up defining characters in ways that add to their three-dimen-sionality.  A prime example of this tendency is Dr. Hess Green’s (Stephen Tyrone Williams) journey into vampirism (via being stabbed by an Ashanti sacrificial knife, which is nothing if not novel).

What’s interesting is that Green was arguably a vampire long before he began to actually ingest blood.  He lives in a tony home on Martha’s Vineyard, purchased from money his grandparents earned as the founders of the first black brokerage firm, while as a vampire he makes regular trips into the poorer sections of New York, to sate his hunger for blood, be it blood banks or single mothers.

It’s a fascinating dichotomy that I wish that the movie had spent more time on.

In fact, considering that Lee barely touches on the life of his main character, imagine how those not-quite-so main characters fare?  Not too good, though to have the audacity to name a character ‘Ganga Hightower,’ (Zaraah Abrahams) almost, but not quite, makes up for it.

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