The Water Diviner

Director Russell Crowe begins his film, The Water Diviner, after World War I, in 1919, with focus on the Battle of Gallipoli at the eclipse of the Ottoman Empire. Crowe plays the lead role, an Australian farmer Joshua Connor, who searches for his three sons who went missing in battle.

Under the surface of this narrative of postwar anguish, the film places viewers squarely in front of uneasy cultural instabilities through cinematic leaps across time and location. The complex plot emerges as more of a prism than a lens, bringing together many layers of narrative.

The film balances cultural uncertainty with rich with images of Persian, Byzantine Greek and Islamic cultures. These complexities appear in Connor’s Australian visuality, as he becomes father, outlaw, and peacemaker. All this is punctuated with the trope of Connor-as-diviner at important points of the film, and becomes a mystical guide.

The film is a reminder that WWI extended well beyond Western Europe, into cultural upheaval in the Near East and beyond. This film blends wartime heroism with political and cultural complexities, which will carry it to a wide audience without a preachy, sermonic tone. Indeed, The Water Diviner worth seeing twice.

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It Follows

David Robert Mitchell’s film It Follows takes place in a Detroit suburb built in the 70s and 80s that has lost its pristine manicure, leaving cracked concrete and weathered siding as a backdrop.

The smart tension in the film builds in layers. One layer is the teen life in summertime – sipping soda on the front lawn, sleepovers, trips to the beach, and even backseat sex. Curiously, no adults or or even extras appear. An occasional police cruiser signifies investigators at a crime scene, whom we never meet. Nonetheless, these ordinary characters and their rituals become unsettled when paranormal forces begin to “follow” individuals. Eventually all the teens are prisoners of this menace.

Some critics say this is a smart, and well-done horror film, and others say it has the feel of an art film. There is no orchestral score that crescendos to long screams of terror. Instead, silence is broken with well-placed and unexpected sounds and other effects, which evoke audible gasps from the audience. In one instance, camera shots place the viewer as voyeur of sex, undermined by the uneasy feeling that danger could leap into the frame at any moment.

For those who like the melodramatic style of vampires, millions of zombies, and special effects in haunted mansions, this is not the movie to see; but for those who like a fresh approach to psychological terror, go see this movie.

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Another (good) Will Ferrell Movie

Saw Will Ferrell  and Kevin Hart in Get Hard . It’s Ferrell’s style of comedy, but in this film he plays a comic buffoon who comes off as a genuine, endearing figure that plays along side Hart’s persona of common sense. Together they create a likable camaraderie. Though other characters were largely under-developed as a backdrop to the “Ferrell and Hart show” in the limelight, I thought the film held together well. If you like Will Ferrell, then you’ll be pleased with this film.

Saw “Danny Collins” on Friday

After seeing the trailer for “Danny Collins” over several weeks, this film finally screened in Columbus. The reviews for this film varied with everything from praise to backhanded compliments, but after seeing the film, I believe this movie is worth a night out. It is exactly what it is billed to be, as a romantic comedy that pulls at heart strings and does it well. Characters and relationships unfold in sometimes rocky and unexpected ways built around the trope of a father (Al Pacino) estranged from his son (Bobby Cannavale). This relationship unfolds with some unexpected turns and keeps things moving.

The film shows — again — that the celebrity excesses of wealth and charity, even a Gull Wing Mercedes won’t buy happiness. Viewers who like redemption narratives, complete with all the bad habits, hang ups, and dysfunction that celebrities are stereotyped with, will see Pacino as a rogue pop music star — worn with time, cocaine, alcohol, and a fake tan.  If thats what you like, you won’t be disappointed. Check it out at the link below: