Category Archives: VODzilla.co

Bloodshot (David S. F. Wilson, 2020)

A cinematic debut for one of the flagship characters of the hitherto unadapted Valiant Comics company, Bloodshot may feature actors popular from 2010s film and television, but its atmosphere is very much in line with the comic book movies around during Valiant’s 1990s heyday. Back when, Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s Batman films aside, the live-action comic book films making it to the screen tended to be centred around comparatively obscure characters such as The Mask and The Crow, with relatively little fidelity to their source material and, with the odd exception, journeymen filmmakers simply making the most of mid-range budgets.

Though heavier on CGI than even The Mask, thanks to its premise of a regenerating super-soldier (Vin Diesel) enhanced by advanced technology, Bloodshot’s vibe is definitely that of a mid-1990s B-blockbuster throwback, rather than the overcomplicated mythology of your modern Marvel and DC movies. In this case, that is not a compliment…

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Midnight Family (Luke Lorentzen, 2019)

“Ambulance chasing” is a term usually reserved to derogatorily describe personal injury lawyers, originating from the stereotype of them following ambulances to the emergency room in order to find clients. Luke Lorentzen’s fly-on-the-wall documentary explores the work life of the Ochoa family, for whom the definition of “ambulance chasing” could be expanded to include. They are the “chasing ambulances”, looking for the next injured person to take to the hospital. And they are just one set of hands behind the wheel in a sea of private ambulances patrolling the streets of Mexico City…

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First Love (Takashi Miike, 2019)

“Fuck. How many does this make today?” an exasperated, backstabbing yakuza says to himself, as he attempts to tie up yet another loose end in the fallout of a scheme gone disastrously wrong. He has no idea that the previous loose end he thought he tied up – i.e. someone he left for dead – is very much still alive, kicking and maniacally set on revenge. Welcome to Takashi Miike’s First Love, the Japanese icon’s 103rd film to date: a high-energy slice of pulp fiction with a dozen distinctive characters…

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Non-Fiction (Olivier Assayas, 2018)

Arriving just before his new political thriller, Wasp Network, and just after his Kristen Stewart-led horror riff, Personal Shopper, Non-Fiction finds writer-director Olivier Assayas back in the witty ensemble story mode of earlier career highlights Summer Hours (2008) and Late August, Early September (1998), but merged with the industry satire of Irma Vep (1996). There, it was the film industry skewered with affection; here, it’s the world of novels. Non-Fiction’s original French title, Double Vies, translates to ‘double lives’, and the inherent narcissism found in concealing one’s infidelities while also profiting from them is of particular interest to the director…

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Kantemir Balagov talks ‘Beanpole’

Beanpole, the extraordinary sophomore feature of writer-director Kantemir Balagov, earned the young filmmaker the Best Director prize in Un Certain Regard at Cannes, where it also won him the FIPRESCI Prize for the section – his second in a row after Closeness in 2017.

Set in Leningrad after the Second World War, it follows a number of injured or, at least, traumatised survivors attempting to restart their lives anew any way they can. Although a number of compelling characters shine in subplots, Beanpole’s central relationship is that between Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko), a very tall, pale and softly-spoken woman, and Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina), a smaller brunette with a more outwardly fervent personality…

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Tolkien (Dome Karukoski, 2019)

Having already helmed Tom of Finland in 2017, Finnish director Dome Karukoski continues his penchant for biopics about creative people with Tolkien. With Nicholas Hoult in the title role, the film presents the trials and tribulations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life up to putting his first draft of The Hobbit to paper. These include his orphaning at a young age, a strong bond with a group of classmates at school, a burgeoning romance with his future wife, Edith (Lily Collins), and his experiences in the First World War.

Tolkien is a handsomely mounted production with an endearing pair of performances at its centre, but it never overcomes the problem at the core of David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford’s screenplay: the reductivism concerning the artistic process. Considering that Tolkien himself was a man who resisted allegorical readings of his work, particularly when it came to the influence of war on his output, there’s a degree of irony to this biopic presenting the most literal-minded interpretation of how The Hobbit – and parts of The Lord of the Rings – came to be…

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Modest Heroes (Hiromasa Yonebayashi/Yoshiyuki Momose/Akihiko Yamashita, 2018)

In a short documentary available on Netflix, titled The Modest Heroes of Studio Ponoc, producer Yoshiaki Nishimura says that makers of short animation films are often asked: “Why do you make short films?” But he wonders why they never ask the question, “Why do you make feature films?” He suggests that short films are often viewed as a stepping-stone of sorts for people who can’t yet make feature films, but that this does a disservice to the form. As he says, short animation films have their own form of expression: “If the creator fully understands the idea, they can create great work… we create short films because we believe they have a value in and of themselves”

Nishimura is right to point out this unfair view towards shorts films. And it is admirable that Studio Ponoc’s second release, which clocks in at under an hour, should be an anthology collection of short films, rather than a traditional narrative feature, such as their 2017 debut, Mary and the Witch’s Flower. The good news is that this three-film collection does a strong job at illustrating the range of the studio’s talents, helping them emerge from the shadow of Studio Ghibli, for whom many of their staff used to work…

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