27 April, 2012

Atlanta review bundle: "The Woman in the Fifth" (***1/2), "A Little Bit Zombie" (***1/2), "Ok, Good" (****)

Kristin Scott Thomas and Ethan Hawke star in "The Woman in the Fifth"
"The Woman in the Fifth" is Pawel Pawlikowski's first film in seven years and marks no departure from the Polish filmmaker's steady, romantic aesthetic. The film possesses a particularly high density, especially due to such strong performances from Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas. It fails, however, to really engage the viewer past the feeling of general intrigue. Pawlikowski's firm grip on the wheel, embellished with harmonizing technical aspects, keeps you interested, but not interested enough. The best scenes, which feature Hawke at his 'job' in an underground room, are filled with more suspense and dread than most entire horror films contain. Looking back on the film, it has to be noted that few films set in Paris showcase so little of the City of Light. Most of the film takes place in dimly lit rooms, windowless basements or dirty hotels. Did Hawke's character ever truly leave the mental hospital from which he was supposedly released? 3.5 out of 5 stars.

"A Little Bit Zombie" and "Ok, Good" after the jump.

Kristopher Turner and Kristen Hager star in "A Little Bit Zombie"
When it comes to zombie movies, I usually prefer when the film has a sense of humor about their walking dead. "A Little Bit Zombie" is not "Shaun of the Dead," and thankfully, it doesn't try to be. A zombie comedy all it's own, Casey Walker's Canadian film is perfect for the contemporary festival circuit. Featuring a nice little twist on the infamous infection, neither screenplay nor cast take what they are doing too seriously. Kristopher Turner, whom I recently noticed in "A Wake," is great as the lead. Well-timed gags and a balanced cast keep the film from being too reliant on Turner, whose charm likely would've been strong enough to carry the film anyway. Considering the low budget, production values are both sharp and appropriately silly enough to suit the theme. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Hugo Armstrong stars in "Ok, Good"
"Ok, Good" is the most original film that I screened at the Atlanta Film Festival. Director Daniel Martinico, who was in attendance, should be very proud. Hugo Armstrong plays Paul Kaplan (a name you will never forget), an actor struggling to make a living from television commercial gigs. We follow Paul from audition to audition, spend time with him in free-form acting workshops and watch as he unravels in his lonely personal life. As someone who has never been involved in any acting workshop, these scenes are so hilariously bizarre. We watch as Paul struggles socially at home and at a local businesses, while he 'thrives' in these loose workshops. The last moments of the film reveal that his classmates are likely suffering from similar psychological misfortunes. The film has a phenomenal structure and builds up to an immense peak. Both Martinico and Armstrong are so acutely aware of everything that needs to be said and done, you can't help but wonder if they share one very advanced brain. "Ok, Good" doesn't offer much meat, story-wise, but there is plenty of delicious and satisfying starch to feast on. 4 out of 5 stars.

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