Thursday, June 20, 2019

"Brightburn" settles for gore, not ideas

A child lands in a small spaceship on a rural farm in Brighturn (also the name of the town), and the Breyers (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman), a couple unable to have children, suddenly feel like their prayers have been answered.  Little do they know that the child they end up raising is an evil superhuman whose idea of a fun pastime is gruesomely murdering everyone - be they family or his school crush's mother - who's onto his sinister antics.

David Yarovesky's movie moves at a breakneck speed (it's one of the few instances where a longer running time may have improved it) and, eventually, ends up as an ill conceived combination of The Omen-meets-Superman.  Instead of exploring philosophical what-ifs of a world with a sociopathic, all-powerful Avenger, it settles for cheap thrills where blood is preferable to anything intellectually grandiose.  The movie's ending definitely leaves a door open for a sequel, but unless that sequel has a thoughtful script, this franchise may as well end before it ever really begins.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

"Birds" tells epic tale of greed & pride's downfall

Rarely do modern movies resemble a folk tale about indigenous Colombian people rising from their middle-of-the-desert poverty to vast riches and power like in Cristina Gallego's and Ciro Guerra's Pajaros de Verano (Birds of Passage), a film so subtle and underplayed that it may have been a product of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's unpublished mind.  As Rapayet (first time actor Jose Acosta) attempts to marry the woman of his dreams, Zaida (Natalia Reyes), he ventures on a journey in order to gather numerous goats and cows to present her family as dowry.  This journey will sidetrack him onto an illegal drug trade that will expand exponentially and corrupt him and everyone he holds dear indefinitely.

Pajaros de Verano is a wise movie, one that paces itself ever so slowly to present us with a dilemma of people who are not so much evil as they are easily manipulated by greed and family pride that it inevitably leads to their ultimate demise.  Expanding from the late 1960s until the early 1980s, the film is almost entirely in Wayuu - an old, indigenous form of Spanish, spoken in northwestern Venezuela and northeastern Colombia - but it never suffers in communicating to us the message it so strongly holds dear: that power corrupts, and never more so than when an old tradition conflicts with modern day capitalism.  Pajaros de Verano is a film for the ages, a story that could take place at any point in human history, and still be as relevant as ever.