Film Review: Love & Mercy (2015)

Copyright: Roadside Attractions
The goal of the Love & Mercy and its director Bill Pohlad are clear from the first moment of the film, which show John Cusack as an older Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys who wants to buy a car somewhere in the 1980’s. Wilson, now an unrecognizable middle-aged man, lost all of this drive and creativity that help him create one of the most successful bands in the U.S. history.

Deeply troubled by emotional issues and under the constant supervision of a strange psychotherapist, Wilson loses days and months, maybe even years in a haze of prescription drugs and complete lack of interest in anything in the world around him. Then, without any warning or sign, the story rewinds 20 years into the past, where the young Brian, now at the top of his game, desires to make an incredible album which will break away the Beach Boys from their fake surfer vibe he gradually came to despise.

But at the same time, his mind is eroding, accompanied by audio hallucinations and deterring emotional stability, which is additionally fueled by drug use. At both times, Wilson tries his hardest to follow his vision and share the love he feels with people around him but ends up isolated in the world that is becoming more and more distant to him.

Pohlad made Love & Mercy in a way that really underlines Wilson’s musical genius and his ability to expand the realm of popular music when no one asked or expected that of him. The film shines while it shows famous Beach Boy’s songs being made in the studio and Wilson, who is terrifically portrayed by Paul Dano, both lost in his miraculous world of sounds and terrified by the things he suspects are coming. Unlike the, for example, Benedict Cumberbatch's uneven presentation of Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, Dano makes Wilson’s instantly connectable, even when he’s losing his mind. Because of this, all those who love or at least know these songs will definitely feel at least a spark of jubilation while they watch how Good Vibrations or some other track slowly come into existence. At the same time, they will also some other darker emotions, seeing in what agony they were created.

Pohlad, who isn’t new to movies but is new to directing, can’t evade the lure of the regular protagonist-antagonist plotline, which dampens the part of the story which takes place in the 1980’s. Here, Dr. Eugene Landy is depicted as a tyrant and a madman who keeps Wilson down, while his newfound girlfriend tries to pull him out of this toxic relationship. Paul Giamatti does a great job as Landy, but I feel that this part of the script failed an otherwise wondrous film by making sure the audience had a bogeyman to hate. Like the Wilson’s real life, I feel this uncalled-for Hollywoodization of his story only subtracted from it but didn’t add much an aside of the cheap thrills of having a bad guy in this musical biography.

There is no doubt that the mind of Brian Wilson was and probably still is a marvelous and terrible place. As a gentle soul who wanted to give people the gift of music, he got a life that had way too much suffering and pain. Love & Mercy might not do him justice in every possible way or as much as he deserves, but it is still a window into a fascinating man. It is clear that the world needed that window and having it is a joyful occasion.

Film Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures
It's always great to see artist evolving, even if this process alienates some of their old fans. Guy Ritchie is definitely prone to evolution, but it’s obvious that the same process for him takes place in phases. His first phase started in 1998 with the cult classic Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, after which he developed his contemporary London crime phase. The same had some good films and some average ones, but it nonetheless ended with RocknRolla in 2008. 

After this, Ritchie moved the setting of his new phase backwards one century and developed two Sherlock Holmes films, which were both successful and impressive action flicks, having in mind the serious overuse of the original material in pop culture. Now, with The Man From U.N.C.L.E, the third phase of Guy Ritchie has begun and it brings style and substance on a completely new terrain for its director.

Sure, the film has nicely dressed, charming and witty main characters who are accustomed to guns, violence and far-fetched plans, but this time, it is all located in the 1960’s chic Europe, divided by the Cold War. In spite of their home agencies rivalry and feud, one US and one Soviet agent have to work together to stop a development of a diabolical plan that would place a nuclear weapon in hands of practically anyone.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is laden with style on all levels, from the costumes to the shots Guy Ritchie takes in a manner similar to 1960’s classics like the movie Point Blank. This can be seen in the way characters move both when it comes to their gestures and their positions in the frames. The film’s director was always willing to invest a lot of energy in the visual aesthetics of his works, but here, the idea is even more prominent and gripping. Yet, he manages to keep things unburdened by this, which is clearly shown in the quick and comic-like editing of the commando raid near the end of the movie, and the broken bike confrontation that quickly follows.

Here, Ritchie is ready to peel the onion of style and very effectively show the essence lying below it, where dangerous men are willing to kill for their mission, no questions asked. At the same time, like the ending segment of the boat sequence shows, the comedy essence is also never too far away. On a side note, with films like Spy and Kingsman: The Secret Service, it appears that the world is in a mini spy comedy Renaissance.

The cast of the film also works exceedingly well together. Henry Cavill looks like he was born to wear perfectly tailored suits and places inside of them a character that is the optimal combination of a slimeball and a kind of normal guy how was forced to work in the same area. Opposite of him, Armie Hammer as Illya continues to do his brand of characters (who are so serious that they are unintentionally funny) really well. The main female lead, Alicia Vikander, also does a nice job as Gaby, the East German car mechanics turned drafted spy.

As the movie glides through picturesque locations and the tension mounts, the audience is free to enjoy The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  as a new take on the classic James Bond film, minus the retro science fiction gadgets. It never bores and never meanders from its set goal of being a fun and stylish action comedy. Because of it, I’m really looking forward to seeing what Ritchie will do with his upcoming Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur.

Crowdfunding Push: Thunder Chronicles Epic Fantasy Film

Thunder Chronicles Epic Fantasy Film crowdfunding project is definitely very self-explanatory. As the title suggests, it's aiming to raise money for the production of one of the first (if not the first) epic fantasy films which will be entirely created in the region of Southern Serbia. The project's official Indiegogo page states:

Dark goddess Morana and her bastard son, lord of blizzards Mrazlo Mecavnik bring eternal winter in Sorabya lands. The gods send rune in the tunnels of time and chose young warrior Zvezdan (Starborn) of Wildern to kill the evil lord and save his land. His companions are wizard Saladin from Devil Hamlet, leader of ancient, secret Order of Thunder chroniclers, werewolf outcast Kraguly the Damned, Elven druid Vilindar, Peruns son, half/god Zlot and Dwarven rogue Runvid the Pickpocket. They will travel across the devastated lands, to find flame sword Thunderfang and win in the biggest battle of the ancient world.  If they succeed, they will save the land of Sorabia from icy and dark destruction by his hand...

The film is based on a book written by Milos Petkovic, now already a veteran of Serbian epic fantasy fiction. At the same time, the project is really ambitious because, alongside of it, an entire new production house was created. The company called Thunder Production, hopes to ignite a small but potent film industry in the same region. I think this initiative is solid, mainly because like the regions of Check Republic after the collapse of the USSR, this part of the world has a huge cinematic potential which is completely untapped by the western movie industry. As far as the Thunder Chronicles Epic Fantasy Film, the campaign is looking for a hefty $50,000 and is currently passed 1% of its goal.

Check out the Thunder Chronicles Epic Fantasy Film Indiegogo page and see if you can help.

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