H2N Review: Infinity Baby

1infinIf you’re going to freeze your offspring at a certain age, the one in which they need the most care seems like the worst choice. But the eponymous company in Bob Byington’s Infinity Baby doesn’t make their money by selling babies that don’t age. Rather, they are a subsidiary of a pharmaceutical company who created these babies by accident and now must find homes for them. The pharmaceutical company most certainly makes money and lots of it. Those who choose to adopt an Infinity Baby are given a check for $20,000 and a supply of pills that nourish the baby once per day, keep it happy and sleepy, and somehow prevent it from soiling its diapers more than once per week. These kind souls are basically getting paid to help clean up corporate messes.

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This film played as part of the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival.

H2N Review: Handome Devil

1devilFew things can make you feel more alone in this world than being surrounded by people whose priorities are completely at odds with your own. Ned (Fionn O’Shea) knows this pain all too well. He’s the only artistic fellow in a posh Irish all-boys boarding school where rugby is religion. If you aren’t part of the game, you’d best be cheering from the sidelines. And if you aren’t doing that, you’re in for a rough time. But when Ned gets stuck rooming with the new kid, a fetching rugby prodigy named Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), he finds kinship in an unexpected place.

Writer/director John Butler knows a thing or two about rugby fanatics. While the film isn’t autobiographical, per se, he did base the school in Handsome Devil on his own childhood alma mater. Ned is a suitable “every freak,” with a general interest in the arts, minus the talent to focus on any particular area. He gets good marks for writing, but only because he passes off song lyrics as his own. That all ends when a passionate and hip younger man (Andrew Scott, TV’s Sherlock) replaces the doddering old English teacher, and immediately spots the plagiarism.

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Handsome Devil played at the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival.

 

 

H2N Reviews: Family Life; The Transfiguration; Score: A Film Music Documentary

Family Life (Vida de Familia)

Chilean directors Alicia Scherson and Cristian Jimenez teamed up for this tragicomedy about a trainwreck of a man who is ill-advisedly hired by his distant cousin to housesit for the family of 3 while they’re in Paris for several months. The script deftly hits on several beats including a satire of married life with a small child, the weird things people do when they’re alone in a house, and the trope of misunderstandings getting out of hand. Jorge Becker shines as the emotionally stunted house sitter who falls into a relationship with a single mother based on a fleeting ruse in this entertaining, dark, and occasionally poignant film.

Score: A Film Music Documentary

Matt Schrader wrote and directed this auditory treat about how music went from simply a distraction from the noise of a projector during silent film screenings to an indispensible part of the movies we love. You can’t think of Jaws, Psycho, or Star Wars without humming the score. Instrumental Gods like John Williams, Hanz Zimmer, and Danny Elfman discuss the nuances of their work and the process behind composing the most iconic music in film history. It’s lots of fun revisiting favorite emotional cinematic moments and also noting the vastly different outfits that score orchestra musicians choose to wear to work, from business suits to sweats.

The Transfiguration

Just when you think you’ve seen every possible take on vampires, Michael O’Shea presents a story that’s both genre subversion and a love letter to other subversive bloodsucker tales. Milo (Eric Ruffin) is a bullied teenage orphan living in the projects with his older brother. Whether or not his bloodlust is supernatural is left ambiguous, but he’s certainly studied. When he hangs with a similarly down-and-out neighbor girl, he ranks the realism of vampire iterations (his favorite being Let the Right One In). Dramatic irony meets urban allegory in a bleak but compelling story that will certainly resonate with fringe audiences.

These 3 films played at the 2017 San Francisco International Film Festival.

Reviews originally posted on Hammer to Nail

 

 

 

 

H2N Review: Half Life in Fukushima

1fukuThe title of Mark Olexa and Francesca Scalisi’s documentary, Half-Life in Fukushima, is a pun, of sorts. Half-life is the time it takes for the radioactivity of an isotope to decrease to half its original value. It is also an apt term for the life of Naoto Matsumura, a farmer who, along with his elderly father, continues to reside in the Japanese town that was evacuated after the 2011 nuclear plant meltdown caused by the one-two punch of an earthquake and a tsunami. At a mercifully short sixty minutes, Half-Life follows Naoto through his day tending to his farm and caring for his father. His down-time resembles every “last man on earth” style apocalypse film, as he hits golf balls on an empty course, sings a mournful karaoke tune to no one, and chain smokes while watching the news. He lives this way because he knows no other way. There is nothing for him outside the city. He can’t abandon his home, even though everyone else has done just that.

Though Naoto passes the occasional clean-up crew, he leads a nearly solitary existence. Occasionally, the filmmakers layer in sounds of the bustling city over shots of the man walking down the middle of a deserted street. At one point, the ambient noise changes as Naoto wades into the ocean. This time, instead of a thriving cityscape, we hear the screams of terror coming from people who have been told that they must leave or die. It is the reason they have not returned. Naoto is not dead, though he is not exactly alive either…

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H2N Review: A Date for Mad Mary

1maryIrish writer/director Darren Thornton’s feature, A Date for Mad Mary, is an outstanding debut. After serving 6 months in prison for assault “Mad” Mary McArdle (Séana Kerslake) finds that she remains grandfathered into the “Maid of Honor” position for her childhood best friend’s impending nuptials. Charlene (Charleigh Bailey) wants her big day to be perfect, and she repeatedly lets Mary know that she doesn’t trust her to do the job right. She all but strips Mary of her title, in the feigned interest of not wanting to put too much pressure on her. After all, Mary has enough on her plate what with finding the one man in her small town that hasn’t been scared off by her reputation and would be willing to be her plus one for the wedding.

A Date for Mad Mary is a comedy, but it’s not exactly a romantic comedy. It’s more about how changing friendships can sometimes be as painful as a breakup. It’s also about the challenge of overcoming your demons when everyone you love believes that you can’t. Most of all, it’s a film about forgiveness and how incredibly hard a thing that is. Despite having done her time, everyone in Mary’s life seems to hold some resentment for her past misdeeds. She can smell it on them. And so she repeatedly gives them the Mary they expect, even as she realizes that it’s not who she is anymore…

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H2N Review: The Incredible Jessica James

The Incredible Jessica James could just as well be called The Incredible Jessica Williams, because it’s basically a feature-length reel for the talents of the effervescent former Daily Show correspondent. Williams has got the dramedy chops and the charisma to sell what would otherwise be a medley of romantic comedy/self-exploration tropes. Netflix picked up this Sundance favorite, written and directed by Jim Strouse expressly for Williams. She played a supporting role in his last film, (the comma defying People Places Things) with such aplomb that he wondered why she hadn’t yet helmed a film.

Jessica James is a mid-twenties playwright living in Brooklyn. The thing about Jessica (both James and Williams) is that she doesn’t do anything half-assed. She boogies her way through the opening credits, celebrating life and immediately luring in the audience with her awesomeness. That’s not to say that she’s devoid of challenges. She struggles with a recent breakup. (Though she initiated the split, she continuously fantasizes about run-ins with her ex [LaKeith Stanfield, TV’s Atlanta] wherein he begs for her to take him back before being abruptly killed in a variety of freak accidents.) She papers her walls with rejection letters from theater companies, paying her bills with a job mentoring kids in the (read with British accent) art of theatre at a non-profit. She desperately wants her students to match her passion for the craft, and she gets a little overbearing when it seems like her favorite kid isn’t trying hard enough. Jessica is lovable but she’s also flawed and complex. That’s just not something you see very often in female-driven comedies…

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H2N Review: World Without End (No Reported Incidents)

I had forgotten all about Counting when I started watching Jem Cohen’s latest, World Without End (No Reported Incidents). But after just a few minutes, it all came flooding back. Cohen has a distinctive documentarian voice that’s all about observation. He goes light on titles and completely eschews narration. He simply enters a place and takes a good look around. He lets the place tell the story. And it’s the story that the place would be telling whether or not you were there to see it…

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