Multitasking filmmaking maestro, Shane Carruth, proves he is fast becoming the puzzle master of filmmaking with ‘Upstream Colour’. It’s a sumptuous enigma that’s intricately constructed and a beautifully shot film that would make Terrence Malick blush.
Kris (Amy Seimetz) and Jeff (Carruth) get caught in the life cycle of an organism that puts a dent in their lives. The duo and others who come into contact with the creature struggle to make sense of the strange chain of events affecting them.
‘Upstream Colour’ follows the same style as Carruth’s previously directed film ‘Primer’. You are dropped into the situation with no guidance or signposts to the plot. There is no character who dishes out lengthy explanations and there is no scrolling text opener. Carruth’s film is one of genuine discovery and it’s built on beautiful visuals by the director who is also his own cinematographer (writer, actor, producer and composer as well). The film deals with microbiological themes inherent within the life cycle with nature, nothing goes to waste. Carruth uses brilliant sunbursts, lush surroundings, flora bursting with life, and deep green vegetation to amplify these ideas. The man-made structures like buildings and public transport feel cold and disconnected with distinct grey and blue tones. Each frame of the film is packed with imagery that pushes the story forward and it implores you to explore and decipher all the clues. Minimal dialogue ensures eyeballs are always glued to the screen and at full attention looking for that morsel of information that might lead to a Eureka moment. Everything is open to interpretation but nothing is served on a platter for easy consumption. Sometimes it seems as if Carruth has purposely removed a few pieces from the jigsaw puzzle to heighten the difficulty level, and it tightens his firm grip on your engagement with the material and it’s a little suffocating.
Seimetz and Carruth form a unique bond and their onscreen presence together is like watching two kindred spirits navigate bleak terrain. They work incredibly well together trying to make sense of the oddities impeding on their lives and a touching bond develops.
The music soars and has a wondrous tone reminiscent of the soundscapes used in David Attenborough documentaries. It adds to the biological environment at work with different types of organisms feeding off each other.
Thinking caps are compulsory for ‘Upstream Colour’ and multiple viewings are sure to be a requirement to fully embrace the concepts at play; a credit to Carruth’s densely layered storytelling.
The Popcorn Junkie
Men who purchase high performance vehicles are said to be overcompensating for being ill equipped in their pants. ‘Fast and Furious 6′ suffers from the same ineptitude, but overcompensates with crazy action to cover the blemishes.
Special agent Hobbs (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) pulls Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew out of retirement, with the offer of full pardons, to help bring down a sophisticated gang of thieves.
The magical power of a child’s belief in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Vin Diesel’s acting ability combined, could not make anything in this film feasible. Director Justin Lin creates a hyperactive fantasy world of sanitised action where none of the violence has any grit. Nobody ever bleeds and when characters die they simply fade into the shadows as if phasing out of a videogame. Lin does deliver an excellent chase sequence using modified Formula-1 race cars blitzing through the streets of London and full credit must go to the team of five editors who worked on piecing together the fast pace set piece. Kudos must also go to the team of editors for having to sit through hours of footage from ‘Fast 6′ without blowing their brains out. Every explosive element is over the top to mask the abysmal plot which involves the bad guys trying to get something in a suitcase that you don’t care about. A scene involving a tank on the loose and a finale which takes place on a never-ending airport runway shatter the suspension of disbelief required to buy into any of the nonsense Lin produces. Some of these moments run so long it’s almost like the action cinema equivalent of water torture.
Much like The Rock’s neck, the cast’s talent is missing. Screenwriter Chris Morgan litters his script with lots of expositional dialogue and characters who punch first and ask questions later. And by “questions” I mean more punching and the occasional flying head butt. Six films into this franchise none of the characters have developed past coming up with new ways to say “we’re taking it to the next level bro”, “it’s all about family bro” and “get the crew…bro”. Everyone is a “son of a bitch” and that’s the extent of Morgan’s gift with writing a conversation. Toretto and his gang are so self absorbed and moronic that throughout the film I was cheering for the antagonists to win. The glorified crooks lack the anti-hero charm of Danny Ocean’s ensemble from the Ocean’s series where so much of ‘Fast 6′ is trying to riff on, and has since ‘Fast 5′ with the heist formula.
To further show the lack of faith Lin and Universal Studios has in the audience’s conception of the difference between film and reality, a disclaimer appears in the credits warning people not to try the stunts in the film at home. Not every action film needs a prompt disclaimer, but ‘Fast 6′ is dim-witted enough to need one.
The Popcorn Junkie
If you want, you can eat an entire chocolate cake, there is nothing stopping you besides a lack of willpower. Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ has the drive, and it’s the equivalent to eating the whole chocolate cake, a box off heavily frosted cupcakes and finishing with a chaser of hot chocolate fudge with edible gold shards on top. It’s cinematic gluttony and Luhrmann does it incredibly well, but he somehow lets this film slip into the cinematic equivalent of a light diabetic coma.
History is written by the victors and in the documentary ‘The Act of Killing’, the violent memories of real-life Indonesian death squad leaders are re-created in a surreal filmmaking landscape. The importance of this doco cannot be overstated in exposing a corrupt regime, highlighting the dangers of propaganda and holding a warped mirror to the monsters that walk the Earth as free men.
When it comes to the ‘The Hangover’ sequels, we’re being punished for having a good time with the first film. If ‘Part 2′ was a clone of its predecessor, Part 3 is the genetic trash left over from trying to replicate the success of 2009.
From a 911 emergency call centre in America, operator Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) fields the pleas for help with ease while the distressed callers hauntingly echo throughout the facility. Stabbings, shootings, suicide attempts, drug overdoses, women in labour, heart attacks, car accidents and more, with each call for help you wonder if aspirin is available at the candy bar. ‘The Call’ is an effective thriller that does an ace job of maintaining your elevated heart rate.
The emotional shrapnel of a divorce scars a family of writers in ‘A Place for Me’. An acclaimed author (Greg Kinnear) and his teenage children (Lily Collins and Nat Wolff) are silently suffering after mum (Jennifer Connelly) leaves for another man.