Film Review: Next Floor (2008)

Release Date: May 15th, 2008 (Cannes)
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Jacques Davidts, Phoebe Greenberg
Music by: Warren “Slim” Williams
Cast: Simone Chevalot, Luc-Martial Dagenais, Kenneth Fernandez

Phi, CBC, Canal+, 11 Minutes

Review:

“Next floor.” – Maître D’

Before wowing audiences with SicarioThe Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve made several short films that won him over with producers that would go on to fund his feature length projects. This short film made its debut at Cannes, a real accomplishment for the young director at the time.

This is only 11 minutes long but it makes its point pretty effectively in that time and with almost no dialogue.

I guess the most important thing about this short film is its style and the master craftsmanship behind it. Villeneuve showed that he had great skill, was able to create a well lived in set and had a stupendous eye for cinematography alongside Nicolas Bolduc, who would also go on to carve out a nice career.

The story is about this insane banquet where these fat cat types are violently and quickly scarfing down the strange meat selections of all the weird creatures and big game wheeled out to their large table. Every few minutes (or quicker, actually) the floor breaks and our dinner party falls into the room below. It’s a strange yet interesting idea but there doesn’t seem to be much point to it other than poking fun at gluttony in all of its forms.

There really isn’t much else to the film though. The dinner party goes through a floor, the waiters rush down a flight of stairs, wash, rinse, repeat until the big ending.

Still, the film looks damn good visually but there’s not much more to digest.

It also has what I consider to be a continuity error but I guess the filmmakers could argue that it’s their art. But after the group crashes through the first floor, one of the people looks up revealing that they’ve already been through several floors. The problem with this, is that all the people are very clean when you first see them. As the film progresses beyond the opening moments, they get more and more dirty from the building collapsing under and around them. Where is the dust and drywall from the previous floors before the film starts?

Anyway, that’s just me bitching about a small detail.

This is really just a concept and an idea executed pretty well. It’s not a great idea but it was at least interesting trying to decipher what was happening in the first few minutes.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Denis Villeneuve shorts 120 Seconds to Get Elected and Rated R for Nudity.

Film Review: A Straightforward Boy (1929)

Also known as: Tokkan kozô (original Japanese title)
Release Date: November 24th, 1929
Directed by: Yasujirô Ozu
Written by: Tadao Ikeda, Chuji Nozu
Based on: The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry
Cast: Tatsuo Saitô, Tomio Aoki, Takeshi Sakamoto

Shochiku Kinema (Kamata), Asakusa Teikokukan, 14 Minutes (extant fragments), 38 Minutes (original length)

Review:

Yasujirô Ozu was one of the most prolific film directors in Japan for his time. He started by making comedy shorts in the silent era. He would later go on to make more technically savvy films once he started directing “talkies”. This is one of his earlier films, however.

A Straightforward Boy was once a 38 minute picture. A lot of it has gone missing or been damaged and the print that has been reconstructed and digitally archived is only 14 minutes. However, one can still get the gist and spirit of the story in the 14 minutes that survived to give us the cut of the film that exists now.

When I was researching this, I saw that one reviewer on IMDb referred to this as the Japanese Dennis the Menace. That’s really not a stretch, as the story follows a boy that is kidnapped and ends up being such a handful that the kidnappers return him, only to have the tables then turned again, as the kid continues to terrorize the main kidnapper’s lackey.

This isn’t an exceptional film but it is really cool seeing Japanese culture come to life in the pre-WWII era. If you like Japanese humor, you’ll probably be amused by this, especially the physical humor, as it couldn’t rely on sound. It’s not quite slapstick but it is very physical and entertaining.

Tomio Aoki, the boy who plays Tetsubo, the menace, did a really fine job. The comedic timing of Tatsuo Saitô and Takeshi Sakamoto enhanced Aoki’s performance as their reactions to him were great.

This is absolutely something that fans of Ozu’s work should check out. At least, I always enjoy checking out the early works of top filmmakers, especially when they are still experimenting with style and narrative; it helps you see how they evolved and sometimes gives their later work deeper meaning and substance. For the layman, this is probably not too exciting and there isn’t a lot to walk away with, other than it being a quick short about a funny prankster kid.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Any other early Ozu film.

Film Review: Krazy Kat – Bugologist (1916)

Release Date: March 14th, 1916
Written by: George Herriman
Based on: Krazy Kat by George Herriman

International Film Service, 3 Minutes

Review:

“I’ll teach thee bugology, Ignatzes.” – Krazy Kat

The character of Krazy Kat was conceived as a comic strip by George Herriman in 1913. He would go on to be featured in 231 films from 1916 to 1940. This is one of the first films to feature him and his friend, Ignatz Mouse.

It’s hard to really critique something like this as it is almost primitive animation. These films feel more like experiments within the style and certainly aren’t anywhere near as great as the animated shorts that would put Walt Disney and the Looney Tunes on the map, just over a decade later.

Still, without the Krazy Kat shorts, we may not have had Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny, which would have completely altered the evolution of animation. Krazy Kat films kind of wedged the door open for other animated features to work their way into the public’s hearts during the earliest era of theater going.

Krazy Kat – Buglogist is very short but that wasn’t uncommon for 1916 where you could see a film that is longer than a television season and the next night, see something shorter than most movie trailers. In those early days, everything was experimental and certain rules weren’t yet established.

In this short, we see Krazy Kat try to teach Ignatz about bugs, which turns into him getting stung by a bee, right in his bum. It then goes off on a tangent about an elephant. It’s a short film with multiple personality disorder but ultimately, it shows that both friends are different yet need each other.

The drawings are pretty crude but I don’t think that the people behind this were as concerned about art quality, as they were about technical prowess and trail and error.

Since the film is so short, I’ve posted it in its entirety below.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Other Krazy Kat films.

 

Film Review: Kansas Saloon Smashers (1901)

Release Date: March 16th, 1901
Directed by: Edwin S. Porter

Edison Studios, 1 Minute

Review:

Kansas Saloon Smashers was a short one minute motion picture put out by Thomas Edison’s film company. Back in that time, his studio was at the forefront of motion picture technology and were typically the ones who made the biggest breakthroughs from a technical standpoint. Their films weren’t necessarily known for their artistic merit but more for being tests for the creative medium, as it evolved year after year.

However, they weren’t below dabbling in political satire, which is exactly what this film did.

This movie is a parody of the then famous political activist and busybody Carrie Nation. For those who don’t know, Nation was a radical member of the Temperance Movement, a group that fought against all the fun things in life like intoxication and sex. They used their influence to pressure the government into enacting laws that favored eventual Prohibition, as well as trying to force abstinence on the public.

Nation and her group were horrible people. She was also famous for wielding a hatchet that she would use to bust up taverns and destroy other people’s property. She even referred to herself as “…a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn’t like.”

This quick film’s plot showcases a bartender serving his fun loving patrons. After he fills a man’s bucket with beer, Carrie Nation and her peeps bust into the bar and start causing havoc. She swings her hatchet and smashes up the place as best as she can until the bartender and the police toss her out, presumably on her ass.

Kansas Saloon Smashers was a very influential film, as it inspired other studios to pump out quick little pictures about Carrie Nation. Edison Studios even produced another one called Why Mr. Nation Wants a Divorce, which took shots at her failing second marriage. Pretty juicy stuff for the early 1900s.

The most notable thing about the movie, other than its influence and condemnation of Nation, was that it employed stop-action techniques for the bits where Nation is smashing up the bar.

And since it is so short, I have posted the film in its entirety below.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Other experimental films by Edison.

Film Review: Young Mr. Jazz (1919)

Release Date: April 20th, 1919
Directed by: Hal Roach
Cast: Harold Lloyd, ‘Snub’ Pollard. Bebe Daniels

Robin Films, 10 Minutes

Review:

Hal Roach may best be known as the producer of the Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang (The Little Rascals) comedy film series. However, before all that, he directed some short silent comedies in the 1910s and 1920s. Young Mr. Jazz is probably one of the most well-known.

The film is quick and simple but it is really amusing. It is only ten minutes but it uses that time wisely and gives us a fun and energetic look at the popular culture of Roach’s era.

The plot sees a young couple running away from the girl’s father in their car. The car breaks down in front of a dance hall. The establishment is run by crooks, which leads to the couple trying to stay one step ahead of the girl’s father while also evading the criminal element in the club that is trying to swindle them for all that they have.

It’s a cute and fast paced movie. While it obviously feels dated, it’s 99 years-old, the humor still works and the picture is quite hilarious.

The film stars Harold Lloyd, who was a pretty prolific actor in these sort of films and a regular collaborator with Roach. Lloyd would also go on to direct and produce like Roach and he carved out a nice place as one of the comedic giants of his day, alongside Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

The collaborative efforts of Roach and Lloyd were pretty influential on comedy as a whole and they really helped set the stage for what would come after.

If you want to get into either the work of Roach or Lloyd, this is a good place to start and it is a short and sweet sample of what the two greats could do.

Film Review: Gremlins Recall (2017)

Release Date: December 5th, 2017
Directed by: Ryan Patrick
Written by: Ryan Patrick
Based on: the Gremlins films series by Chris Columbus
Music by: Russ Howard, Grand Soleil
Cast: Katherine Rodriguez, Randy Irwin, Sarah Lilly, Robert Wood

10 Minutes

Review:

I don’t often times talk about fan films here. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed one, actually. However, I like to give recognition to fan films that are really well done. And this one is pretty friggin’ cool. Mainly, because I love the Gremlins films and we haven’t had one in nearly three decades.

This little ten minute short was written and directed by a guy named Ryan Patrick, who did a superb job with this and really captured the tone of holiday dread like the original film did.

The story picks up thirty or so years after the events of the original 1984 film and sees Mogwai being sold as domesticated pets. How is that safe? Well, Mogwai need to be given an injection that keeps them from having the negative effects that turn them into terrors. With the injection, the rules for owning a Mogwai no longer apply. However, there is obviously a curveball waiting to be thrown.

The film is well shot, decently acted and the Mogwai and Gremlin puppets are really well constructed. They were made by Eric Fox, who was, at one point, a competitor on the special effects Syfy reality show Face Off. The film was also shot in just three days and all of it takes place at a diner, which works well for this just being a ten minute picture. But, it does leave things open for a sequel.

And like the original film, this takes place around Christmas, which was a nice added bonus. I have also always loved Gremlins 2: The New Batch but I wished that it took place around the holidays like its predecessor.

For a fan film, this is stupendously done. Kudos to Patrick, Fox and everyone else that put this together.

Film Review: Ramona (2015)

Release Date: May 19th, 2015 (Cannes)
Directed by: Andrei Creţulescu
Written by: Andrei Creţulescu
Cast: Rodica Lazar, Dorian Boguta, Andi Vasluianu, Serban Pavlu, Ana Ularu

Kinosseur, Wearebasca, deFilm, 25 Minutes

Review:

In a nutshell, this is a 25 minute short film about a woman going on a revenge killing spree. However, there is no dialogue and no real explanation for her actions, other than a small bit where she flips through some pictures of girls that look physically tortured.

I guess it is similar to I Spit On Your Grave and other films like that but it is a super stylized modern neo-noir looking picture. It also lacks a setup and therefore, you have no real emotional attachment to this woman’s violent revenge quest.

The film is unfortunately one of those that falls victim to style over substance. It plays out in what feels like real time, as it is comprised of a few long take shots but those moments between the killings weigh down the picture and dilute the little bit of violent action that does take place. 80 percent of this short film is walking and driving from place to place and then waiting.

Does it feel real? Yes. But again, it isn’t something you can connect with emotionally and it plays more like a really long music video without music until Bauhaus’ “She’s In Parties” plays at the very end, twenty-plus minutes into this.

The cinematography is nice and the shots are very well choreographed but there isn’t much else here.

I guess this is the third part of a trilogy of short films. I’m not sure how related those films are, if at all, other than having the same cast, but maybe seeing those first would have given this a bit more clarity. I’ll still check those out, if I can find them, and maybe that will make me understand this film a bit more. But as a standalone effort, this just isn’t something I was into.