Paying her dues: Margot Robbie in I. C. U.

Yes, that’s Margot Robbie.

Margot Robbie has evolved from starlet in click how to write an college essay about yourself levitra facts enter comprar viagra en lima peru source site african american essay writers go here best pharmacy pill cheap clomid-for-men how to write good short fiction follow site essay about dog love ejeculation cialis rushville the researcher responsible for discovering classical conditioning was source dissertation topics behavioural economics follow link generic viagra online next day delivery here go to link examples of bad college admissions essays viagra generika test follow viagra talk medical side effects of viagra can i cut viagra pills in half About Time and TWA to Oscar-nominated in I, Tonya, and Bombshell in under ten years. If that isn’t career perseverance I don’t know what is. In those years she’s secured a spot as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actresses. She’s been mainly associated with big-budget pictures but occasionally dabs into independent cinema with movies like Z for Zachariah. I say, good for her, she’s a damned good actress and her future is laid out for her to pick and choose from.

Now, before all this, she was in Neighbours, the Australian soap that has made a career of the likes of Kylie Minogue and Nicole Kidman. So far, so good, soaps can’t be bad and if at all they serve for an actor to hone their chops. Prior to Neighbours still, she took part in a co-starring role in ICU, a horror movie derivative of the found-footage genre but mashing it up with peeping tom thrillers like Rear Window. I came across this movie perusing through horror movies and this one was suggested to me. When the name popped out at me like a flashing bulb I figured, “Must be great–let’s give it a look-see.”

I know; actors have to start somewhere. Robbie is not the first and won’t be the last who walk into a no-budget film that won’t do anything but be a sore in their resume should they make it big in the movie industry. However, when you see a movie like this, in which bored teens spying on their neighbors become witness to a murder and a target for the murderer’s rage, you expect the cheap, predictable deliveries and rising tension leading to a final girl showdown that might at least get some comparison to Halloween, to name one movie in which bored teens hang out, basically waiting to be turned into brisket by a deranged killer.

Nothing like that happens in this terrible excuse for a movie. I’m not sure what director Aash Aaron was thinking when he made this, but introducing your movie with a montage of circuit television images while heavy metal plays on doesn’t really telegraph the horrors to come. Even worse — the movie flips back and forth to a trio of siblings (Margot Robbie is one of them and she sports black hair, which doesn’t suit her) staying with their police officer father in a high-rise. They talk and talk, and talk some more. Once the father is out for his night shift, the teens, bored shitless, decide to spy on their neighbors, none of whom have curtains in the high rise across the street.

On and on and on it goes. Peppered at least every ten minutes we cut to grainy video scenes of someone bound and gagged, about to be tortured by an unseen figure holding different kinds of power tools. The heavy metal track blasts into your ears like a torpedo of sound, and then we’re back to the main locale. Anyone with a pulse knows where this is headed but I will spare the details: at the 50-minute mark, the teens witness a murder, and then magically deduce through video footage that there are other victims as well. What follows is probably one of the worst executions of teens in danger ever committed on film, and an error in continuity so severe the movie collapses into a puddle of mud before the two ridiculous plot twists even rear their heads.

I can’t believe I’ve written so much about this. I can’t believe I had the nerve to place this in the league of Rear Window. [Sorry, Hitch]. Anyway. Just don’t see this. If you want to see Margot Robbie’s early work check About Time. Z for Zachariah has a compelling but flawed execution but is light years ahead of this. And don’t believe the reviews that mysteriously hail Aash Aaron as some kind of Australian genius on, because frankly, that he is not.

When a Scientific Discovery becomes a tool for EXACTING domestic Abuse: Leigh Whannell’s re-imagination of H. G. WELLS’ THE INVISIBLE MAN

Image from The Verve

Just when you thought February would go out whimpering into the night with less than favorable movies and only a smattering of choices for the art-house crowd, Leigh Whannell arrives in the nick of time with his follow-up to his 2018 movie Upgrade. This time, Whannell aims for the Everest of ambitions, that is, to tackle H. G. Wells’ 1897 novel The Invisible Man and make it palatable for today’s audiences while retaining the structure of the original as intact as possible.

As most of you know, this has not been easy. The first time that Wells’ novel was successfully adapted onto the screen was in 1933 by James Whale who was just coming off of two successes: Frankenstein (1931) and The Old Dark House (1932) . Whale’s version, to the movie’s success, significantly altered much of the narration and blended another novel, The Murderer Invisible, into the plot, adding the presence of two women (Gloria Stuart and Una O’Connor) mainly to act as damsels in distress, a popular draw to ensure box-office returns.

It wasn’t until 2000 when Paul Verhoeven would make a stab at doing his own version, and his was a dismal failure because even while it stuck to the original novel in keeping the hubris turned insanity of Griffin intact, it also somehow, reduced the lead into just another generic slasher killer, and with all other supporting roles in service of being lopped off one by one until the movie’s overblown climax.

Whannell judiciously moves his focus from the psychopathic Adrian Griffin, here played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen (previously from he Haunting of Hill House), to that of his emotionally an physically battered wife Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss). It’s a brilliant move, because by eliminating Griffin’s visual prominence, one is left with the one person who could embody everyone’s worst fear come to life: the fear of being watched by an unseen, increasingly malevolent force.

From the word go, The Invisible Man takes off like a rocket in the night, giving you enough information that Cecilia is at her breaking point in a marriage gone so completely off the rails that her only chance of emerging whole, while bruised and perpetually looking over her shoulder, is to escape. Her escape is the first of a movie oozing with nerve-biting moments in which we know danger is barely a breath away and savagery could strike at any given moment. That Cecilia manages to complete her plan is but a miracle, but even then, her nightmare is just about to begin.

With nowhere to go, Cecilia hides in the house of a friend, Detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge), and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). While there, Cecilia learns that Adrian has committed suicide but has left her financially comfortable with an allowance to be dispensed by Adrian’s lawyer brother Tom (Michael Dorman). This, however, brings no comfort. Cecilia is a woman constantly on the edge, living in mortal fear because even in death, Adrian’s ghostly menaces continue to taunt her.

Cecilia learns that she’s got a very legitimate right to feel like sleeping with one eye open. Soon enough, strange things start occurring around her. A breakfast overcooks and burns, footsteps start appearing on the floor… and could that be the silhouette of a man under a sheet that seems as though it was pulled off of her as she slept?

Slowly but surely, Cecilia becomes more and more aware that Adrian is somehow, still stalking her. But what can she do when no one can see him? Whannell escalates the events to a breaking point, ruthlessly alienating Cecilia until she is practically left with nothing but her own nauseating horror that this will only end with one (or both) of them dying. It’s almost too cruel to watch Moss being so relentlessly terrorized, but if you strip away the tangential sci-fi overtones and the gorgeous settings (lke Adrian’s fortress-like house overlooking the sea), you have your basic wife, battered and isolated to the point of no return, frantically trying to outdo her stalker by any means necessary, even at the cost of her own life. In that aspect, Moss, with her wide eyes and jaw at the ready, is the embodiment of every woman who’s lost her power.

This is a movie that is a terrifying visual minefield. During its entire run, you are constantly searching for the villain hiding in plain sight and Whannell often teases you with clever pans to some dead space that seems to be enfolding Cecilia and keeps the gaze there, as if to tell you, “Look closer.” Adrian’s presence practically dominates the narrative even when he is technically not occupying some space and Whannell’s razor-sharp direction does manages to turn him into a deadly killing machine, particularly in one unbelievable sequence in a restaurant that essentially condemns Cecilia in one blink or miss fell swoop. I have to say that I loved this movie, I was at the edge of my seat when I caught it in theaters, and even when there were a few missteps, they didn’t detract from the savage fight to cut the cords of a marriage gone to hell.


Director: Roger MIchell
Runtime: 105 minutes
Language: English

Mostlyindies grading:

1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

Does anyone remember those haunting opening lines of Rebecca? Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It’s enough to send shivers down your back whether you’ve read the Daphne DuMaurier novel, allegedly plagiarized from Carolina Nabucco’s 1934 novel A Sucessora, or seen the Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece in Gothic suspense. It also shows that perhaps this dreamy ambiguity was good for only one novel and nothing else; as a writer, DuMaurier may have had her inspirations, but she was not exactly what I would call a good writer.

Perhaps then this is the reason that Roger MIchell’s version manages to colossally misfire and land in a puddle of mud before it even has time to tell its tale. Picture this, a story in which another ambiguous line starts the wheels of the plot in motion– “Did she? Didn’t she?” — reeks of phoning in a sense of dread, the kind that by its presence and atmosphere alone should grab a hold of your stomach and apply some unsavory pressure little by little until you can’t even breathe. The person who utters that question is our hero Philip (Sam Claflin, previously seen in Their Finest), who plays the male version of Rebecca‘s X — basically a non person who tells of a childhood living wile and free with his cousin Ambrose, who then went off to Italy, and while there met and fell in love with the titular Rachel only to suddenly fall ill and die soon after the two of them were married.

So much build up is placed on these events that we feel that after Ambrose kicks the bucket, Philip will turn into some kind of raving Byronic hero of the kind fo leave even Heathcliff in the dust. He does vow revenge on Rachel, whom he suspects of murdering Ambrose, but once she arrives at Plymouth all that falls by the wayside and Philip is practically giving Rachel the benefits of the doubt and the keys to his entire estate faster than you can see 45 tweet covfefe. Once I saw this happen with frightening speed my eyebrow arched, and I went “What just happened? Can we refresh this scene, please, and play it slowly? No? Okay. ” That, my friends,  just doesn’t quite gel in a story that should be less about what is said, shown, or spoken, and more about insinuations, side glances, and especially emotions just waiting to be released, at least, for a little. It doesn’t help that Rachel Weisz is completely wrong for this film — an actress who could be more enigmatic could have been a better choice — and Sam Claflin, like I said earlier, is written rather blandly. It’s hard to care for any of this movie’s people when they themselves don’t give their own moments on screen any life. My Cousin Rachel isn’t deadly; shes just plain dullsville. Perhaps I’ll wait for Lady Macbeth — that looks like it’s got teeth.

My Cousin Rachel is still playing in theaters and arrives on DVD at the end of August.

France / Switzerland
Director: Frederic Mermoud
Runtime:  85 minutes
Language: French

Mostlyindies grading:

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Emmanuelle Devos is a French actress that I’ve been seeing on film for the past 15 years now, and while she’s a good performer for the most part, that little girl voice of hers and that look of perpetually helpless wait begging to be rescued somewhat puts me off. It’s the sole reason I didn’t go to see Moka at the Film Forum when it premiered and waited a couple of days until it was extended for a third and final week there. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to sit in a theater listening to a woman just over 50 talking like a sex-kitten filled with angst and vulnerabilities plod her way through an intellectual thriller that someone like Isabelle Huppert could handle in her sleep without the slightest effort.

Well, dear reader, I have to say I was blown away with Devos in this little Swiss-French thriller that also paired her with acting giant Nathalie Baye. [As an interesting little note, Baye’s previous role was another barely seen French thriller in which she played the Devos role.] Moka starts with the image of Devos (who plays a woman named Diane) silently banging her head against a window. We don’t know where she is, until the camera pans away and we realize she’s in some sort of mental facility. And then the cards that plant the seeds of the plot get revealed: Diane has lost her son Luc in a freak accident where he was fatally involved in a hit-and-run. Since then, time and basically everything has stopped for Diane. Because the perpetrators were never brought to justice, Diane has hired a private investigator to find out about the vehicle that killed her son. She learns that it was a mocha-colored car registered to a woman who lives in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The woman happens to be Marlene (Baye). Marlene is the owner of a beauty salon, and from the moment both women meet there is a sense of uneasiness in the air. But Diane has other plans, and so does the story: while she is befriending (and getting to know Marlene), she’s also flirting with Marlene’s boyfriend Michel who is selling the mocha vehicle, and at the same time, she also establishes a tentative friendship with Marlene’s daughter from a previous relationship.  To add to the whole situation, Diane has met a guy who does deals on the darkside and produces a gun for her, and as a final nail, Diane’s husband eventually appears on stage wondering what has happened to her. Sounds complicated? It’s because it is, and director Mermoud wastes no time in getting into the meat of the action while allowing it to breathe and develop on its own. We wonder where is all this going and how long can Diane keep her charade alive without recurring to cheap solutions. Devos plays Diane as a relentless avenger, but with enough frailty and vulnerability that we wonder if she will carry out her affairs in Lausanne until the end. Baye, her hair bleached a cheap, older woman peroxide blonde, is prickly, suspicious from the get-go, but all reception. She’s a beautician, so she hears stories from her clients, and Diane’s doesn’t ring totally true. Even so, she lets her slowly in and we wonder if there isn’t some agenda . . . or is she being set up for something terrible.

It’s not often that movies feature strong women in leading roles playing complicated characters that dance around each other like samurais waiting to strike. Moka is a complex psycho drama that touches on the topics of grief and loss and the need to mete out personal justice without turning it into exploitation and offers enough twists and turns and even an emotional finale to out-guess aficionados of the thriller genre and leave them satisfied.


5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)


He’s a loner. An older man of few words who works repairing dentures and seems to have a fragile but polite relationship with his briefly seen sister. The camera opens to Armando walking the seedier area of Caracas, Venezuela, following a lean, dark-skinned boy into a bus and offering him a wad of cash. No words exchanged, just cash. Cut to Armando, sitting on a couch in his dark apartment, emotionless, empty eyes, telling the boy to take his shirt off, and lower his pants to just below his glutes. Off-screen, the sound of rubbing, which should by now tell you what this is about, followed by some sterile moans, and then his crisp, curt voice, telling the hustler to leave.

Armando meets another hustler and this time things don’t go as planned: the boy, Elder (Luis Silva, wiry and coltish) is a mass of reactions first followed by very little thought. He’s not as submissive as the others; when Armando takes him back to his place the scene ends with violence and theft and Armando with a black eye.

Still, he remains impassive, unperturbed, and empty. When he’s not following Elder around in ways that clearly cross the line between simple masochistic interest and veer deep into the perturbed, he quietly stalks his father, who seems to be some highly paid executive. In the interim, after Elder gets beaten by some thugs, Armando takes him in and both begin a very ginger dance of older man as mentor and younger man as protegee (willing or not). Conversations are stiff, stilted, but eventually reveal layers of depth: both have absentee fathers.

An act of theft from the still ready to run Elder segues into an act of defiance that shifts the balance of power between him and Armando. Elder begins to demonstrate hints of affection, a thing that doesn’t go unnoticed by both his pals and his mother who sees right through the two’s acquaintance and guesses correctly, throwing him out of the house. And at the fringes of the movie, Armando’s father, an office executive going through his business as Armando observes from a distance.

Much like Laszlo Nemes’ Son of Saul, Lorenzo Vigas’ From Afar (Desde alla) doesn’t give you more information than you need and plays its cards tightly against its chest. Dialog is minimal at best, and more information is passed along by glances, hints, non-verbal cues. Even then, this sense of walking in the dark and knowing only what one needs to know is suspense at its best, because from the get-go, by its very nature, the relationship between Armando and Elder wouldn’t go past a transaction and a cold, sexual act. Vigas, however, has other intentions up his sleeve, and as all of the pieces start to show up, a clearer picture of what the real story is about starts to form.

From Afar is as nihilistic and ugly as the location where it takes place. Armando discloses so little, but his actions say much more, and reveal a man about to burst in anger for some unknown harm (there is the implication he’s a victim of sexual abuse, or something truly awful), but so restrained that his one scene of dominance and aggression comes as a revelation precisely because he’s so far presented himself as a man who seems to want nothing, care for no one, exist to live and just that. Alberto Castro, recently seen in Chile’s The Club also playing a tormented gay man, is restrained to a fault, disclosing next to  nothing about himself, his family, even why he continues to pursue Elder. If anything, this is also a story of trust — trust established after a long, uncomfortable mating dance, cemented, and then smashed into a million little pieces. Vigas’ debut film is a lightning bolt that gives a strong voice to a country like Venezuela, a country who tends not to register in the US (although that trend seems to be reversing thanks to 2015’s El LIbertador). Like Eastern Boys with whom it has been compared (and which was a part of the 2014 Rendezvous with French Cinema selection), it brings forth a slice of gay life that tends to be set aside in lieu of lighter fare. Highly recommended.