Category Archives: 3 1/2 Snobs

Like Father, Like Son (Foreign-Drama)

likefatherA demonstration of nature vs. nurture, and the inner struggles that accompany the realization of your presumed child’s unmatched heredity

Ryota Nonomiya and Midori have a sweet young boy by the name of Keita and he is about to attend his first year of private school. They are the picture perfect family, aside from Dad working a bit too hard to provide his loved ones with an exceptional lifestyle. One afternoon Midori gets a call from the hospital with a troubling discovery, Keita is not theirs as he was switched at birth. When the hospital sets up a meeting with the families that have been fostering the others true kin, they must deal with the choice of keeping the child they have cherished for years or progress their bloodline.

After building a name for himself and wanting to leave behind a legacy, Ryota has a more bullheaded approach to this situation. When circumstances of past failures of Keita are revisited he blames the genes as the obvious flaw, which inevitably only pushes him farther away from embracing Keita as his own. He also seems to cling to his fathers’ horse breeding mentality of bloodline being everything, which coldly dismisses any real feelings for the child he helped raise to the side.

With the foundation of the film built around unsettling components, the screenplay was surprisingly lighthearted as a whole, with the exception of a few heart-wrenching scenes. This was partially achieved by the innocence and playfulness conveyed through the child actors, but mainly by the supporting casts caring environment and parenting from the less privileged side of the fence. This dynamic not only highlighted the obvious social gap, but also gave the perspective of how life without tangible luxuries should still be identified as a prosperous life and merit a happy childhood. This realization being the supplement to the overall message of child rearing, and the effect it has on identity creation through alternate disciplines and family ideals.

Before Midnight (Drama-Romance)

beforemid“No matter how perfect the match, all human bonds universally endure hardships”

Jesse has spent the summer in Europe with his son from his previous marriage, along with his new companion in life Celine and their twin daughters. After dropping his son off at the airport, Jesse and his new family begin a drive to a small cottage nestled within the Greek countryside to meet up with friends. Once they arrive they engage in conversation, have dinner and drinks, and then the friends offer to watch their kids for a romantic weekend in the town nearby.   This cherished time alone is long past due and brings an initial excitement, but also hesitation with the inner burdens they are currently dealing with.

As expected, Richard Linklater, shrouds the audience with a barrage of philosophical ideas on life, romance, and relationships using several mediums. Being the third installment of the Before Sunrise Trilogy, the film takes a more matured step in advancing the renowned love story. Not only has the honeymoon phase worn off, but also new concerns involving Jesse missing much of his sons prime years in high school. As common with many relationships, this was taken personally by Celine and a conflict develops bringing out every problem, mistake, or personality trait they dislike of each other.

The absorbing aspects of the long argument scene were not the subject matter themselves, but the delivery and methodical counter blows used to emotionally deaf ears. The intricate way of dismissing one another’s point and how the overwhelmed individuals need push the composed one over the edge of rational thinking was gripping. This honest portrayal of married couples quarrel disclosed a side to relationships that is predominantly kept behind closed doors, yet the audience is provided with a beautifully passionate expression of human nature as a fly on the wall.

Before Sunset (Drama-Romance)

beforesun“Time may pass in an instant, but a genuine emotional interest takes longer to fade away”

Jessie (Ethan Hawke) travels around Europe on a book tour to speak on behalf of his best selling “fictional”-romance novel. His last stop is France, the place were the key counterpart in his story lived.  After his completion of the conference, he sees a woman he recognized immediately waiting in the back of the bookstore; the muse from his popular book. With a few hours to kill before his flight, they walk around town to catch up on the years lost, while also eluding to the hypotheticals. A spark becomes undeniably rekindled, and they become blinded from the reality and repercussions this happenstance could cause.

A sequel to a popular film released almost a decade prior, Richard Linklater brings a continuation of a romance left on an ambiguous note. While unraveling the circumstances that kept them apart for so many years, they also begin to discover that the time has matured them and brought a series of reformed ideals. Nevertheless, they embrace the harmony their conversations carry, which have endured through the period that is now only a vague reminiscence.

This film remarkably demonstrates the impact experiences in life have in the determination and development of self.  As a follow-up to their first encounter, aside from their obvious desire for one another unaffected, the audience is able to see how specific moments have shaped their now ripened personalities and how they currently interact together. This in turn brings a consideration that if they were to have joined together years prior as planned, what would have become of the initial relationship with so much personal growth in transition. This is left with the audience to decide, as a hopeless romantic siding with the power of cosmic fate or the logical-minded favoring incalculable odds of this reuniting having perfect timing for their longevity.

Locke (Suspense-Drama)

Locke“Working through the aftermath of a mistake is sometimes harder than the final consequence”

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) enters a sedan and begins to drive into the night, and initiates multiple calls using his car phone. The first to his family to let them know he will not be home that night. Next a call to his boss letting him know he will not make the concrete pour the following morning for a multi-million sterling pound construction project he was spearheading. This is obviously followed up by a call to Ivan’s right hand man giving him the directive of preparation to take his place. Before any of these calls he received an incoming correspondence from a frantic woman asking when he will be arriving, in reference to a complication at the hospital.

Using no real props or setting, a gripping story unfolds through dialogue bridged between incoming and outgoing phone calls inside a car. Each situation had a separate layer, conjuring an inimitable tone that migrated to the central dilemma of his absence. Most would assume this would be a slow paced experience, yet every Bluetooth car chime brought a compounding level of suspense and emotions dependent upon the voice at the other end.

The ability to capture this type of response is attributed to a stellar presentation given by the solo performer, Tom Hardy. All audiences will have an easy time empathizing with his state, due to his courage onscreen as well as a compelling backstory supplemental to his firm plan. Although the imaginary discussion with the protagonist of his inner turmoil was a bit overemphasized, the impeccably orchestrated battle to mend his wounds was nothing short of a thrill ride.

The Raid 2 (Foreign-Action-Crime)

index“Battles are won by conquering a single stronghold, but destroying an enemy may take diluting the integrity of the prince”

After being the sole survivor of a raid on one of the key drug-lords, Rama is approached by a high-ranking officer in an underground task force. He is asked to go undercover in prison and befriend Uco, the son of the Bangun who is the leader of the most powerful gang in the region. Once he has served his jail-time, Rama will become a debt collector for the gang as well as provide much needed intel to bring down the corruption that is polluting the streets and police force.

With an adrenaline boost from its predecessor, this sequel earned a higher budget providing the film with smoother edges to a very dark and rigid environment. The camera work never failed to impress during the fight sequences, but also became surprisingly creative in capturing the ambiance of the world through vibrant colors and mystique. Every suspenseful moment was uniquely defined using clever techniques such as introspective angles, unexpected dialogue, and an abundance of temperamental characters.

One obvious critique would be the much more involved story in essence limited the action sequences, but in no way was the storyline out of its borders or reaching for something it was not.  The plot progressed as fluid as the action that was layered between, and at no point will the audience be lead to a place without intention.

Absentia (Suspense-Horror)

absnet“There are always rational scenarios to any unfortunate mystery, as well as supernatural tales for those unwilling to let go”

Tricia is an expecting single mother whose husband went missing several years ago.  In the process of obtaining her husbands death certificate and moving out of her apartment, Tricia’s troubled sister Callie offers to stay and help as well as provide companionship.  As the stress and guilt builds, Tricia begins seeing frightening apparitions of her husband, which begin as dreams but then venture out into her reality.

This mindfully crafted indie horror film goes against the grain by delivering a film that actually provides insight to possible logical explanation, instead of leaving a supernatural viewpoint as the only option.  These possibilities not only provided the viewers with a choice, but also gave credibility to the characters promoting them as more than just another idiotic horror film victim.

The elements used to provoke terror can also be seen as fairly unconventional.  The bombardment of chilling projections at unexpected moments instead of using the predictable Hollywood formula of high pitched eerie music, false alarm, pop out, brought a new level of suspense that was suffocating.  This technique was absolutely terrifying since the audience is left with no fair warning of the next scare.

Half way through the film the subject matter and tone changes dramatically, which some will find amusing while others slightly annoyed.  Nevertheless, the unrelenting fear inducing elements keeps a consistent pace which will make most heart beating humans skin crawl.

Very Ordinary Couple (Foreign-Romance-Comedy)

index“No matter how much you want a romance to work, statistically after the first breakup your chances of the relationships longevity is limited”

After an initial breakup Lee Dong-hee and Jang Young are on the rebound track, but like most, are still unintentionally thinking of one another.  To make matter worse, they are also co-workers and have had to keep their relationship a secret for some time.  They try to move on, but after a few thoughtless mistakes and irrevocable decisions, they fall back into each other’s warm embrace and try to give their relationship another shot.  This time they are consciously avoiding the issues that pushed them apart in the first place, but begin to realize this may not be enough.

This Korean rom-com has all of the universal elements for this genre; including awkward comedic situations, forgiveness without bounds, and of course gobs of irrational behavior customarily triggered by jealousy.  One component that does set this apart from the company it keeps, is the authentic dialogue and relational elements that conjure empathy from those who have been there before.

This 20-somthing modern take on relationships spellbinds the viewers through both a relate-able storyline and two loveable characters.  The on screen chemistry apparent between these two, along with both characters personal convictions and flaws, formed an honest screenplay that was an engaging and uplifting even to the bitter end.  These two negatively charged magnets did everything positive to come together, but sadly an inert invisible force relentlessly kept a field of polarity between them.