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Reviews

AFI Fest Quick Reviews: New Order, Shadow in the Cloud and Apples

One of those titles seems out of place. I’ll give you a hint: it keeps the doctor away.

The American Film Institute has a virtual film festival going on right now, titled AFI Fest. There’s a variety of different flicks showing throughout the week but three stuck out to me the most. Well, Nine Days did too but it was sold out. I wanted to try something a little different this time. So instead of writing a full review for each one, I’m hitting you with something more easily digestible and short–a quick hit if you will. So let’s get on with the reviews for New Order, Shadow in the Cloud and Apples.

New Order

afi fest

Sometimes it be like that.

The intensity started as soon as the film did. We are treated to a short montage of events we will see as the film unfolds and then it contrasts the horrifying nature of those images with a wedding.

Horrifying is the proper term for it. But I would add a caveat: when it’s not a little tedious. There are shocking moments where the movie refuses to shy away from the brutality and that’s where it’s most effective. It doesn’t give a reprieve because the reality is terrible, and yet still there were times where I started drifting away. I would eventually get snapped back into what was taking place on the screen but I still feel that with a scenario like this my mind should never wander.

It began in such an inspired fashion, so it’s a little disappointing that it almost normalized itself in a sense. Regardless of that, I still enjoyed it quite a bit and when it becomes available people should check it out. It’s definitely unflinching in its vision and those types of films are important.

Review score: 7.5/10

Shadow in the Cloud

shadow in the cloud

It looks like somebody’s in trouble.

Shadow in the Cloud likely tanked itself more than any other film released in 2020. It is a case of being a great film up until a certain point and then completely losing its way.

A woman gets on a plane full of men who treat her terribly. She is holding a box but what it contains is confidential. That box is also the turning point in the film because up until we learn what’s confined in said box it’s actually a tense, mysterious thriller with a monster that occasionally drops in to say hi. It also had a neat, driving soundtrack that was crucial to the tone of the film.

After the big twist the movie falls apart. Everything became silly, the cracks in the screenplay started to show. People acted in ridiculous ways, the drama was non-existent. The action was bland and stupid; too dumb to suspend your disbelief and not inspired enough to be interesting despite that. All of a sudden nothing worked anymore. Mortez is a good actress but she’s not believable after a certain point.

I realize that I should probably comment on Max Landis. Until the credits rolled I didn’t even realize he wrote it. Past behaviour and allegations aside, I’ve enjoyed some of his work. Chronicle remains a great film, American Ultra is underrated and Bright is not great–but it’s mediocre enough to mildly recommend. I only mention this because when I say that the writing is poor about halfway through I mean it, and I don’t mean it because I have a vendetta against Landis. He just loses the plot and drowns in the obnoxiousness.

Shadow in the Cloud goes for a mixture of genres that just doesn’t pan out. The problem isn’t with the directing of Roseanne Liang, it’s with the script.

Review score: 3.5/10

Apples

shadow in the cloud

Say “CRYING!”

In Christos Nikou’s debut feature film Greece is being devastated by a pandemic that causes amnesia unexpectedly. The film focuses mostly on one man, Aris, who has to come to terms with the loss of his memory.

Nikou managed to hit two very disparate tones at once. On one end, it’s a fairly comical reflection of selfies–I laughed a few times. On the opposite end of the spectrum it’s incredibly heartrending. Yet it was so subtle in what it was trying to accomplish that I didn’t even realize how much it was messing me up emotionally until the credits hit and I just sat here for a moment, reflecting.

Aris Servetalis plays Aris and the film depends on him. His dialogue consists mostly of shortened sentences so we spend a lot of the film simply watching him go about his day, trying to make a life for himself. Because there’s considerably less dialogue than one might expect, Servetalis wears everything on his face and his body movements are crucial. It’s a great performance; understated but powerful at the same time.

I love everything about Apples. I love the way it uses its titular fruit, I love how Nikou layers the scenes with beautiful music and a sharp eye visually. I love the performances. I love the message and the dialogue. This flick is one of the very best of the year thus far.

Review score: 9/10


Maybe we can get this guy’s film at AFI Fest next year?

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