Film reviews: “Zeroes and Ones”, “Ray Donovan”, etc.

ZERO AND ONE: 1 ½ STARS

Are you an Ethan Hawke fan? If so, “Zeros and Ones,” a cryptic new film from director Abel Ferrara now available on VOD, gives you two Hawkes for the price of one.

But be careful, it’s not “Dead Poets Society” or “Before Sunset”.

At one point in this enigmatic film, a woman (Valeria Correale) asks JJ Jericho (Hawke), a soldier who spends much of his time wandering the empty streets of Rome: “Do you understand what you are doing? in my country ? ”

“I’m working on it,” he replies.

Jericho may also be working on understanding the purpose of this film. I know I am.

Jericho is an American soldier in Italy looking for Justin (also Hawke), his revolutionary twin brother. Justin, who is prone to incomprehensible pontifications and singing, is suspected of orchestrating a plan to blow up the Vatican, but he has now disappeared.

During his search, Jericho, who is also no stranger to strange verbal chatter – “Jesus was just another soldier”, he says, “but from which side?” – discovers that his brother is dead. Or that he’s in jail. And so he pursues his solitary mission through empty streets, deserted parks and shady alleys.

Ferrara is taking advantage of Italy’s severe COVID-19 lockdown to shoot in the aforementioned vacant spaces, and that adds to the film’s sense of unease, but that’s about all there is to this impenetrable, repetitive film.

Hawke does what he can to get Jericho and Justin off the page, but the script only offers underdeveloped characters, a note for him, and his gritty voice to inhabit. As such, Jericho’s quest and Justin’s cause offer no emotional engagement with audiences.

“Zeros and Ones” is a weird movie. It ends with Hawke providing an intro, explaining how much he’s always wanted to work with Ferrara, and a genre prologue that begins with the actor saying that when Ferrara gave him the script, “I really didn’t understood a word but I really liked it.

He liked that. I didn’t, but to each his own. An arthouse thriller of sorts, it doesn’t care about the intricacies of the story or the characters. It is a kinetic exercise in abstention, which evokes a feeling of unease but nothing else.

PUPPET: 3 ½ STARS

puppet

“Marionette,” a new psychological thriller, now on VOD, begins with a shocking self-immolation scene that sets the stage for the psychological fireworks to come.

The story revolves around a child psychiatrist, Dr Marianne Turner (Thekla Reuten), who moves from America to Scotland for a new job. Why did she go to Scotland?

“I like the rain,” she says.

She replaces Dr. McVittie, who left after psychiatric problems prevented him from properly treating his patients. One such patient, 10-year-old Manny (Elijah Wolf), is a curly-haired boy with a distant gaze who expresses himself through his drawings.

“It’s a mystery,” Turner says. “My impression is that his view of the world is a kind of defense system, a fortress.”

Turner turns out to be the only doctor Manny has ever spoken to. Usually he only communicates through his images, drawings of violence and disaster. As Dr. Turner settles into her new job, she befriends Kieran (Emun Elliott) at a book club where they discuss Schrödinger’s cat’s mind-bending thought experiment, among other lofty ideas.

“We all need to see a psychiatrist if we think it’s a good way to spend the evening,” jokes Dr Turner at the end of a club meeting.

Soon, strange things start to happen. Mysterious phone calls suggest, “You have to kill him before he kills you,” as Manny continues to draw disturbing images. Dr. Turner quickly establishes a connection between Manny’s drawings and real events.

“You draw a lot of accidents and disasters, don’t you Manny? ” she says. “What do you think about when you draw them? »

Leaving science and the metaphysical cat behind, she turns to the paranormal to determine whether Manny predicts calamitous events or causes them.

“What’s in there?” she asks, pointing to a large portfolio of her photos. “The future,” he says.

“Puppet” is a dark psychological drama that effectively creates an atmosphere of tension throughout. Co-writer and director Elbert van Strien weaves ambitious ideas into the plot, elevating a pulpy story to something approaching gothic proportions.

Dr. Turner arrives in Scotland with the baggage of a deceased husband she left behind in the United States, and her grief informs the story and her reactions to the situations she finds herself in. Dutch actress Reuten – her uneven accent is explained with a quick, “Oh, I’m not American. I just lived there a long time” – brings the complicated doctor to life in a performance that is part angst, part intellectual curiosity , paranoia and empathy.His quest for the inconvenient truth takes him to uncomfortable places, but Reuten interests us.

Reuten may be the heart of “Puppet,” but it’s Wolf who brings the creepy childish vibe that drives the film. With a relatively short screen time, he makes a surprising impression with his mannered speech and wide eyes.

“Puppet” spends a little too much time on its philosophical underpinnings. It asks big questions like do we have free will or are we just puppets hanging on a string operated by something or someone we don’t understand, without really exploring them. Plus, a little knowledge of Schrödinger’s Cat could give you a head start. Or not, depending on how invested you are in the story. Either way, these aspects of storytelling hammer their points with a hammer when a tap would have sufficed.

Before disappearing down its philosophical rabbit hole, “Puppet” is an enjoyable Hitchcockian story.

RAY DONOVAN THE MOVIE: 3 STARS

Ray Donovan: the movie

Despite a final blow about as subtle as one of its title character’s baseball bat attacks, “Ray Donovan: The Movie,” now streaming on Crave, brings the moody TV series to a satisfying conclusion.

The film picks up where season seven of the TV show left off. Family patriarch and versatile scumbag Mickey (Jon Voight) and his quest for money lead to a violent confrontation that results in the accidental shooting death of his granddaughter Bridget’s (Kerris Dorsey) husband.

With Mickey on the run, his son, Ray (Liev Schreiber), a “fixer” who solves pesky personal problems for wealthy clients, turns inward, determined to solve his own problems, starting with his disruptive father.

As the main action unfolds in the present day, through flashbacks we learn more about the Donovan clan. How Ray ended up in Hollywood doing whatever it took to keep the bold names off the gossip pages or in jail or both. The roots of his lifelong beef with Mickey and why bad luck and trouble have been this family’s only friends.

Anyone familiar with the tone of the later seasons of “Ray Donovan” won’t be surprised by the film’s pessimistic feel. Stark and sour, it’s a dark tale of the sins of the father who never met a photo of Schreiber’s scowling face he didn’t like. By the end of the series, the film revolves around its main ideology, which is that violence begets violence. It’s not exactly a reveal of Donovan’s timeline, but it’s the thread that stitches together the loose pieces of history left behind by the show’s abrupt cancellation. It’s not always subtle (no spoilers here, but watch the last hammer blow to Ray’s head) but it gets to the heart of what makes the Donovans tick.

“Ray Donovan: The Movie” is a slow burn, but at a tight 100 minutes, should offer fans of the series closure, some action, and even emotional moments.

THE LAST THING MARY SAW: 3 STARS

The last thing Mary saw

“The Last Thing Mary Saw,” a new film about sexual repression, and now streaming on Shudder Canada, is more about mood and atmosphere and the toll that fear takes on people than horror. .

When we first meet Mary (Stefanie Scott) she is blindfolded, blood tickling her cheeks, under questioning about the “sudden departure” of her grandmother (Judith Roberts).

Suspected of being a witch, one of her captors assesses the situation.

“It is not our responsibility to give the devil a chance to repent. He must perish with her.

Dark and spooky, this is just the beginning of Mary’s unsettling journey.

Step back in time to 1843 in rural Southold, New York. Much to the horror of her devout parents, Mary has a love affair with Eleanor (Isabelle Fuhrman), the family maid.

“Our daughter’s ears are deaf to the preaching of the Lord,” her father told the soon-to-be-departing family matriarch. “She continues to engage in acts with the help.”

Instead of sending the maid on her way, it is decided that the young lovers will be subjected to “corrections”, a torturous religious punishment in which they are forced to kneel on grains of rice and recite biblical passages. . “Mary and the maid played dangerous games and were punished accordingly.” Unsurprisingly, rudimentary conversion therapy doesn’t work, and Mary and Eleanor continue to see each other clandestinely.

When discovered, lives are shattered as a mysterious character named The Intruder (Rory Culkin) enters the story.

“The Last Thing Mary Saw” isn’t particularly scary in its violence or visuals, save for a deeply unpleasant dinner scene, but it’s a scary movie. First-time director Edoardo Vitaletti calibrates every scene, including a long, virtually silent middle section, for maximum discomfort.

The repression covers the entire film like a shroud, as Mary and Eleanor attempt to live their lives away from the fear and religious fervor engendered by Mary’s pious parents. Human nature is the boogeyman here, not Mary’s sorcery sorcery.

The forced clandestine nature of their relationship is reinforced by Vitaletti’s dark, candlelit photography. It is understated and sophisticated throughout, etching unforgettable images into the viewer’s imagination.

In contrast, the restraint, while moody, makes the film feel like it’s holding back, stopping just short of fully embracing its horror elements. This straightforward, serious treatment underplays the creepy elements that might have made the story as memorable as the pictures.


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