REVIEW: Under The Silver Lake (2019)

Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace

Written by Sam Comrie

“Maybe there are people out there who are more important than us, more powerful, communicating things in the world that are meant for only them and not for us.”

Despite a troubling distribution schedule after hitting the festival circuit, David Robert Mitchell’s follow up to tantalizing It Follows has finally begun to see the light of day. Bringing back D.P Michael Gioulakis (Split) and composer Diasterpiece, Mitchell’s third feature-length endeavour is a left field swerve down a road that is as mysterious as the title itself. Stepping away from the anxious social horror of It Follows, Under The Silver Lake is a delirious suburban noir that brings us along on a spiralling web of underworlds, Illuminati style mysteries and a murder or two along the way.

Wearing its modern noir disguise in the open, Mitchell’s picks apart another agenda underneath the green grass and naive city smiles. It’s an agenda of hidden codes, intentions and goals that are only for those higher in the social hierarchy. Not for a greasy, problematic slacker that hasn’t paid his rent in god knows how long. Enter Andrew Garfield, giving a sleaze-filled performance that proves to be a career best, despite his troubling perspective on women that makes for an uneasy watch.

It’s uncomfortable and skin crawling but works to make Garfield’s “Sam” a vessel for all the cynicism and underworld brainwashing that he will ultimately endure to seemingly no real positive in his quest. And a quest it is indeed. When a woman from his flat complex disappears, with no explanation or trace to her existence, Sam takes it upon himself to uncover the real mystery behind her disappearance. His past and job history is never truly touched upon, only picked away at by other characters trying to uncover some human component inside Sam.

The clues begin to appear and bring an anxious sense of doubt with them. Are we actually finding a lead or we are actually going crazy the more we pull on the threads? Mitchell’s eerie and precise direction is on form once more in tandem with the dreamy wide lensed aesthetic that Gioulakis soaks the suburbia in. Palm trees and crosswalks are chosen favor of the glossy high rises that function continuously in the background.

Mitchell’s commitment to how truly unpredictable and oddball he takes the mystery is what really sold me on my experience with Silver Lake. It’s littered with brilliantly intriguing characters that add to contained lore that the film builds for itself almost unintentionally.

In the supporting cast, Patrick Fischler and Jeremy Bobb pop up along the way providing some of the best moments of strange character intricacies and sometimes reality shattering revelations. I particularly enjoyed spending time in the “lair” of Fischler’s simply titled “Comic Fan”, who has built his own web of messages. It adds to the continuous notion that Mitchell is painting a narrative that exists behind the scenes for anyone but Garfield.

Under The Silver Lake, in the end, proves itself to be another hazy passage through the unexpected, in the same vein of Mulholland Drive and Inherent Vice. I bet they’d make a unique triple bill.

SAM’S VERDICT:

5

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Chilling New Trailer For Netflix’s ‘Hold The Dark’ Released

“A gripping psychological thriller unfolds in the treacherous Alaskan wilderness when a retired wolf expert is summoned to investigate a child’s disappearance.”

Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier

Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Skarsgård, Riley Keough

Release Date: September 28th, 2018 (Netflix)

Andrew Garfield Attempts To Crack The Code In First Trailer For A24’s ‘Under The Silver Lake’

“Sam (Andrew Garfield), an affable but aimless young man, becomes an unwitting detective who quickly finds himself in over his head as he investigates the mysterious disappearance of his beautiful neighbor, with whom he has fallen in love. As he combs through East Los Angeles searching for any kind of clues he can find, he stumbles upon a larger, more sinister conspiracy than he ever imagined, involving billionaires, celebrities, urban myths, and even pop culture as we know it.”

Directed by: David Robert Mitchell

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace

Release Date: June 22nd, 2018

Logan Lucky

Year: 2017
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes

Written by Corey Hughes

From time to time directors need to take a break, and I get it. Filmmaking must be an exhausting and difficult process. Even the great Stanley Kubrick took a well-deserved 12-year break between ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987) and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (1999). So when Oscar-winning Steven Soderbergh announced his ‘retirement’ from directing, it came as a surprise to see him back just four years later from his last feature.

He left on a high note with the critically acclaimed biopic ‘Behind The Candelabra’ being a film that defied expectations and met some sturdy opposition from audiences across the globe, due to its somewhat ‘controversial’ subject matter.

But an eagerly anticipated return to our screens means a return to a genre that is close to Soderbergh’s heart: the heist movie. The heist movie for Soderbergh is what I imagine the Sci-fi genre is for Spielberg.  Whilst both directors have ventured into unfamiliar territory, they both have their best films (arguably) in these particular genres. Although Soderbergh has made other interesting films (look no further than ‘Traffic’ and ‘Magic Mike’) it’s the ‘Ocean’ trilogy that puts his name on the movie-map.

His return to the heist genre has brought us ‘Logan Lucky’. The movie begins in West Virginia, where Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is fixing a car with the adorable assistance of his daughter (Farrah Mackenzie, write it down). After being laid-off from his job due to being a liability to the company, Jimmy encourages his younger brother Clyde (Adam Driver) to assist him in his criminal adventure.

The seemingly simple-minded Logan brothers are both disabled, Jimmy having trouble with his knee and Clyde being an amputee (“it’s like the two of you add up to one whole person”), but the limit of such similarities end with Tatum and Driver’s contrasting performances. Whilst Tatum’s character is often cheerful and light-hearted in his approach to the unfortunate circumstances he finds himself in, Driver’s Clyde is much more solemn and serious. Put them both together, and Soderbergh has managed to bring forth a pair of interesting and empathetic characters.

Cauliflower. To you and me, an awful tasting vegetable. To the Logan brothers, a code word that acts as a trigger to a life of crime. Jimmy’s utterance of the word to the unfavourable ears of his younger brother means that they must work together to pull off a complex robbery that will be later known as the ‘Hillbilly Heist’ during a NASCAR race in North Carolina. But they can’t do it alone…

In comes Joe Bang and his two highly uneducated and unsophisticated (but utterly hilarious) hillbilly brothers. Joe Bang is a fitting name for Daniel Craig’s character, a name that emphasises his expertise in the explosive-making business. Craig’s unrecognisable performance couldn’t be further away from the debonair persona that he has become known for, playing James Bond over recent years; expect no sexy British ambience or sophisticated suave here!

As the opening scene reaches your eyes there’s an undeniable neo-Western vibe to Soderbergh’s return, from the Creedance Clearwater Revival soundtrack to the ‘tang’ of the West Virginian accent, there’s something truly appealing about modernising the somewhat out-dated Western genre. When it’s done right, it feels nostalgic and has a sense of resonation that can be enjoyed.

That’s not to say that the modern aspects of the film aren’t to be enjoyed, either. Most of the humour throughout the film, written by mysterious first-timer Rebecca Blunt (perhaps one of Soderbergh’s many pseudonyms?), is both fresh and effective. There are some truly hilarious moments, particularly the shots being fired at George R.R. Martin for his rather slow writing style. They’ve got a point, George…

Where ‘Logan Lucky’ really shines, is through Soderbergh’s trademarking caper-movie style. The heist plan montage explained methodically via non-diegetic narration, or even the final revelation explaining how the heist really panned out, is smartly executed; yet I do still have issues with the final third of the movie.

The main reason Soderbergh’s ‘Ocean’ trilogy succeeded, for me, was because it was exhilarating; it had an edge of excitement to the way in which the action unraveled on screen. Whilst those films had people on the edge of their seats, ‘Logan Lucky’ will have you firmly laid back against the backrest. This time round, Soderbergh guides you along an A-Z heist with no bumps in the road, nothing that feels detrimental to the gang’s success. Was this a perfectly planned crime, or perhaps a victim of plot convenience?

Find out for yourselves. Of all the films to be enjoyed this month, Logan Lucky is up there with them. It’s definitely worth your hard earned cash.

Corey’s rating: 7.5 out of 10

It Comes At Night

Year: 2017
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough, Kelvin Harrison Jr. 

Written by Noah Jackson

‘It Comes at Night’ stars Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo (of ‘Selma), Christopher Abbott, and Riley Keough (of Netflix’s ‘The Discovery) in a psychological horror-thriller written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, the filmmaker behind 2015’s indie darling ‘Krisha. It centers around a family unit in a dystopian world that suddenly enters a power struggle when they allow another struggling family into their backwoods home.

I say this movie is a horror, and IMDb will say that it is a horror, and the trailers will definitely try and sell this movie as a horror, but this is a different, more agonizing kind of horror, because it’s the type of horror that requires patience and thought. Another recent comparison for this type of genre is Robert Eggers’ ‘The Witch, or a more famous example could be something like Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining. ‘It Comes at Night did indeed have its moments of scariness, but so much of what makes the film scary in the conventional sense is an underlying tension that only escalates throughout the entire movie.

The way this tension is created is through the direction of someone that I think will have a long and decorated career making movies if he stays on the curve. What Shults manages to do in this movie, rather brilliantly, is keep the audience on pace with the characters, in terms of the information given. For the world this film takes place in, there is definitely something going on, but it’s very unclear what that specific thing is, and the audience is informed just as much as the characters are. What helps create the paranoid feeling is when different characters enter the story, and their versions of events aren’t necessarily correct. In the average film, if a character states something as fact, the audience is expected to take this statement as 100% factual truth. What keeps this film above average is that is very clearly makes its intention known that not everything told will be factual, and to me, this tiny notion of not knowing who I was supposed to believe kept me on the edge of my seat.

Switching directions to talk about the cast, there are six main cast members. There’s Joel Edgerton’s family, consisting of him, his wife Sarah (Ejogo), and their son Travis, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr. About 15 minutes into the movie, the secondary family is introduced, played by Christopher Abbott, his wife Kim (Keough), and their infant son Andrew. Every cast member here is fantastic in their respective roles. Joel Edgerton for me is one of the most consistently underrated main actors in the business, and the subtlety he demonstrates here further credits my belief. For Christopher Abbott, this is the first film I have seen that features him prominently, and I found his character to be the most unpredictable, which I credit to not only his excellent performance, but the tone and setting developed by this director. My favorite performance of the movie is that of the main protagonist, Travis. This young actor deserves lots of praise for carrying this story on his shoulders. Despite not being the top billed star, he is clearly the central focus of this story, with lots of the main events being played out through his perception. A main share of the actual jump scares, because there are some in this movie, are done in dream sequences, through Travis’ dreams.

While the actor playing Travis certainly gives a great performance and has many moments wherein the progression of the plot intertwines with his development as a character, my biggest issue with this story revolves around how from a horror perspective, everything that is supernaturally scary occurs in dream sequences, and the dream sequences are pretty easy to spot because the aspect ratio changes, making it simple to spot when it’s a dream.

After leaving the theater, my buddy (we’ll call him Chip) and I were both desperately trying to dissect what was going on in that movie. On the car ride home it was lots of yelling and theorizing about what went down and what made this dystopian world different, and in our opinion, more interesting than most. The ensuing text conversation that went on for the next few hours was even more trippy, as we spelt out our own complete theory as to how this film works. We both walked away absolutely adoring this film, and the fact we could talk about it in such depth further spoke to that, because it revealed that we both were wrapped up attentively in the story.

While some obvious dream sequences and a few illogical decisions impeded my full enjoyment of the movie, there hasn’t been another film this year that had me asking so many questions (as in questions about further understanding the film’s universe, not the questions I asked about ‘The Book of Henry, like how the hell did it get made). It’s inconclusive, because as I said earlier, the audience only knows as much as the characters do, so certain pivotal plot points don’t actually have definite answers. Which also makes this the only movie of the year, other than ‘Wonder Woman because duh, that I think requires more than one viewing.

Noah’s Rating: 8.5 out of 10