Tag Archives: Diego Luna

Lost In Love

Wander Darkly

by George Wolf

At this point, there’s nothing surprising about a terrific performance from Sienna Miller. The really curious thing is why she still seems to fly so far under the radar.

Maybe it’s the knack she has for adopting unrecognizable looks and unique personalities from role to role, making it harder to tie her to an easily recalled resume. Whatever the cause, the effect Miller has on Wander Darkly is seismic, with an award-worthy turn that gives the film much of its emotional pull.

Miller is Adrienne, a new mom who’s starting to question her relationship with Matteo (Diego Luna, also stellar). Despite a child and a new mortgage, the couple hasn’t married, and as a rare date night out turns disappointing, they’re involved in a nasty car accident.

Dazed and disoriented, Adrienne believes she has died. While her parents and friends whisper “psychiatry,” Matteo tries to convince Adrienne that she is indeed still alive and recovering in the real, physical world.

Writer/director Tara Miele’s narrative is ambitious, surreal, touching and at times even terrifying, but it’s ultimately the sheer talents of Miller and Luna that keep the film from falling prey to gimmickry.

We re-live the couple’s journey together as they do, visually drifting through transfixing waves of history where both Adrienne and Matteo pepper the flashbacks with hindsight benefitting from their current perspectives.

As they make new admissions and wonder about who may be guilty of misremembering, the couple is reminded of why they first committed to each other, even as they search their respective memories for the exact moment it started to go wrong.

Whether or not you sniff out what Miele has in mind, where the film lands doesn’t quite deliver on its promise of profundity. But the cascade of emotion required to manifest this trauma is beautifully realized by Miller, and her chemistry with Luna makes it inviting to become invested.

You care about these characters, and that opens the door to care about Wander Darkly.

Stars, Stripes & Appetites

The Bad Batch

by Hope Madden

Three years ago, Ana Lily Amirpour dazzled moviegoers with her sleek and imaginative vampire fable A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.

The film tells of a solitary female figure and the surprising impact of unlikely companionship. Amirpour called the film a “vampire western.”

If you haven’t seen the film (and you should, immediately), but you like the premise, then Amirpour’s follow up The Bad Batch might also appeal to you. It mines a similar vein, although the context is a bit more merciless.

The film’s provocative opening of mostly voiceover under credits introduces the concept of the “bad batch” – unwanteds. Drugs, immigration, petty crime – it’s never clear what this batch has been up to, but we know where they’re going. They’re headed to a quarantined expanse of arid Texas desert no longer considered part of These United States.

Once the images on screen take form, Amirpour creates an atmosphere of dystopian terror that the balance of the film never quite reaches again.

Newest resident Arlen (Suki Waterhouse – very impressive), realizes just how Mad Max this can get moments after gates are locked behind her. In a breathless and brutal piece of cinema, we are introduced to one of two communities thriving in this wasteland.

The Bridge People are hyper-bulked up, ultra-tanned cannibals represented by Miami Man (Jason Momoa). (They may not have access to steroids, but they’re certainly getting a lot of protein.)

The second community of Comfort offers a colorful, almost habitable environment led by charismatic leader The Dream (Keanu Reeves).

With these two communities, Amirpour moves very clearly into metaphorical territory, ideas she underscores nicely with strategic use of the American flag.

One version of America sees the vain, self-centered “winners” literally feeding on the weak. The second may seem more accepting, but it pushes religion, drugs and other “comforts” to encourage passivity.

It’s a clever but unwieldy storyline, and Amirpour has trouble concluding her tale.

She has a great cast, though. Joining Woodhouse, Momoa and Reeves are flashes of Jim Carrey, Giovanni Ribisi, Diego Luna and a host of the freakish and intriguing.

Amirpour has such a facility with creating mood and environment, and though the approach here is different than with her debut, she once again loads the soundtrack and screen with inspired images, sounds and idiosyncrasies.

Her opening sets such a high bar – one she fails to reach again – and her finale feels too conventional for this character and this world. They’re fairly slight criticisms, but with a filmmaker of such amazing talent, they can’t help but be a let-down.

Verdict-3-5-Stars





Channeling His Inner Damage

Blood Father

by Hope Madden

Back in 2008, the inexplicable popularity of the mid-budget action flick Taken accomplished two things. (Three, if you count exacerbating my cynicism with the film industry.) The two noteworthy accomplishments, however, were extending the career of an aging male actor and creating a new genre of film.

If two sequels and at least half a dozen copycats (including one currently listed as filming) could turn a sixty something character actor into a mainstay action figure, couldn’t the same be done for, say, an aging action hero? Why not Stallone? Why not Schwarzenegger?

Here’s why not – they can’t act. You know who can, though? Mel Gibson.

Right, he’s looney as a tune, not to mention being a professional and social pariah, but Mad Max can kick Rambo’s ass any day and who doesn’t want to see that?

Maybe next time. Right now, though, talented French action director Jean-Francois Richet directs the lunatic in Blood Father.

The story is right out of the Liam Neeson playbook: ex-con father, clean and sober but struggling to suppress his rage and shame, needs to take action to save his teenage daughter from a drug cartel.

How will he do it? Will it be his particular set of skills?!

Of course it will. And while Blood Father is absolutely faithful to its genre, there is genuine craftsmanship in the effort. Richet allows the California desert to cast an apocalyptic spell over the tale, then brings in just enough Mad Max touches to command a burst of joy.

Gibson’s character doesn’t call for a great deal of nuance, though the actor does deliver a gruff and realistically damaged performance. He’s aided by the kind of supporting cast you just don’t find in films like these.

The great William H. Macy, the underappreciated Diego Luna, the effortlessly badass Dale Dickey, and the always welcome Michael Parks round out an ensemble talented enough to find the sun-scarred and chemical-damaged humanity in every character.

A tale told in tattoos and bullet wounds, Blood Father is still, at its heart, a love note from a shitty father to his damaged daughter – a welcome dose of near-reality in a genre saturated with creepy paternal child worship.

This is not a great movie. But you know what? I swear to God, it is not bad.

Verdict-3-0-Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJHL3srsMy8