Today’s talk: I have to combine Friday and today because they are basically the same day. Hanging out with Dylan, Tess, and Sarah was so much fucking fun. We played games, watched Netflix, they drank, and we had hours of laughing and screaming. I feel bad for Dylan’s neighbors. We stayed up until 3 am this morning and made cookies at like 1. We all were awake by 10:30, got breakfast at Waffle House, and watched Mulan and Zootopia. At around 5, Dylan nicely kicked us out and the three of us went to go get Boba tea before heading home. Rest of the day went by quick and it is suddenly 11 pm. It was such a fun weekend and was definitely needed.
Its your friendly neighborhood Liam here! We’re almost three months in to Lock down and I have taken this time to watch a ton of films (although nowhere near as many as tobias. Seriously..that mans ability for long movie marathons is something out of this world), one of the latest films happened to be “Annihilation” One of the Netflix Originals that Tobias had already seen. So here I am with the second Tumblr exclusive ManNic Film Club Review!
Annihilation is a 2018 Sci-fi psychological horror, based on the first book from the “Southern Reach Trilogy” by Jeff Vandermeer and is directed by Alex Garland.
The basic premise is that after her missing (assumed dead) military husband re appears from a mysterious mission. Lena joins a research team as they venture into the very same area, The Shimmer. After entering the strange area it soon becomes clear that something is very wrong.
The staring role of Lena is taken by Natalie Portman. Now I feel it’s only fair that I point out that I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a “fan” of Portman’s work, having not yet forgiven her for tainting the otherwise brilliant Thor films. However I am going to attempt to keep my bias opinion of her out of this review, as far as possible.
As I’ve already mentioned casting, that would be an ideal place to start this review. Portman is joined by a strong collection of cast members including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Wong & Oscar Isaac to name a few.
Sadly, to refer back to my “non bias” opinion on Natalie portman, I do believe she’s the weakest link in this talent pool. I don’t by any means think her performance as Lena is bad, just bland. But lucky for the film the rest of the cast manage to deliver the goods. With a special mention going out to Oscar Isaac, not necessarily for his performance but rather for commitment/effort as he filmed “Annihilation” & “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (as Poe Dameron) simultaneously on adjacent lots, even going as far as to film scenes for both on the same day while using one trailer for both films.
If Im being honest however I think the true stars of “Annihilation” come in the form of any wildlife encountered by the Lena and her party of scientists inside the mysterious area known as The Shimmer, these include “Uber-Gator”, Flower Stags & “The Bear”.
The thing that makes The shimmer so dangerous is that any organism that finds itself within the effected area will find that it’s DNA starts to evolve. There’s a scene in the later half of the film where the team find themselves tied to chairs when this creepy two-faced bear decides to pay them a visit, on the edge of my seat doesn’t to the tension I felt justice!
The visuals in Annihilation really are impressive. It manages to go from bright sprawling forests of every flower imaginable to dark spooky fields where death could be waiting in the tall grass!
Sadly this film does fall pray to the “It Was Aliens All Along” trope which did of take away from the impressive DNA warping concept that I’d really been getting into up tot hat point. My issue with this trope is that it almost feels like a cop out excuse for near impossible things happening, it’s on par for me with the “It Was A Dream All Along!” trope.
As much as I don’t like the alien angle it did allow for a couple of interesting ideas/moments (as well as some odd ones, “Portman/Alien dance off” I’m looking at you). The thing I did like was that these aliens seemed to be taking the form of various humans including Lena’s husband (Isaac), We aren’t ever really told a motive behind the aliens actions or presence. This is something that could easily be explored in a sequel.
As mentioned earlier, Annihilation is based on the first book from the “Southern Reach” trilogy by
Jeff Vandermeer. So it would be safe to assume that we may see an addition to the series in the future. Although one thing that could hint at this maybe being “it” is that the compound the research team camp out in when they first encounter the bear as well as having an equally un-enjoyable visit to an empty swimming pool is the “Southern Reach Compound” Having not read the original trilogy I don’t know at which point the team reach the compound in the books. Either way I would be interested in seeing a sequel to Annihilation, if only to give a bit more explanation to the Aliens and their motives!
One problem Annihilation does suffer from is that it feels over complicated at times. As the plot heavily relies on the “Evolved DNA” it can feel a little complex and tends to leave the audience to figure some elements out. There’s a scene towards the end where Tessa Thompson’s character gives into The Shimmers effects and dramatically walks off into a field of flower people and eventually becomes one of them. This scene has good dramatic effect but as we don’t see the transformation it does become a blink and miss it moment.
Here at The ManNic Film Club we don’t rate the films we watch on a scale like other people (Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, etc.). Instead we class the films a “Hit” or a “Miss” and if the film is lucky enough to get a “hit” from both myself & Tobias then it gets the honor of a “Full ManNic” rating!
As Tobias has already seen Annihilation I spoke to him to get his thoughts on it and these are those thoughts:
“the concept had me hooked more than the execution. I found it quite a bizarre film, and probably would’ve liked it more with a different lead. I’m interested to see if there are sequels made to see if expansion on the subject helps or hinders. At times I struggled with it, but will give it a soft hit.”
A soft hit is something that has evolved from the thought that simply liking or disliking the film is to restricting, so a soft hit just means that person liked the film but maybe wouldn’t re watch or suggest it to other people.
For me personally, I shared the same issues as Tobias. Once I allowed myself to get passed the general “meh-ness” of Natalie Portmans acting I really quite enjoyed the film. So for this reason reason I would give Annihilation a “hit” making it the second Tumblr exclusive Film Club entry to be given the “Full ManNic”.
Thank you for taking the time to read the musings of a bearded bored ginger bloke in lockdown!
Have you seen Netflix’s Annihilation? Let us know what you thought over at our twitter @themannic
As you may or may not be aware The ManNic Podcast has just launched a brand new series to fill the weeks between our usual fortnightly episodes.
That series is The ManNic Film Club & the plan is as follows. Myself (Liam) & Tobias will announce a film as well as which platforms you can watch it on. Then we (we being you lovely people, myself & Tobias) will have two weeks to watch that film at which point a shiny new episode of “The ManNic Film Club” will go live where we’ll discuss and review that fortnights choice as well as announce the next film to be watched.
To get The Film Club started the lads have compiled a list of Netflix original films to work their way through. The first episode which focused on the Sci-fi thriller “I Am Mother” went live a week ago and you can find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Soundcloud.
If you google “Netflix Original Films” you’ll discover that the streaming Goliath has made quite a large number of original films spanning many different languages and genres. One issue we found when compiling our watch list was that Tobias had already seen a handful of the better known originals compared to Liam who hadn’t. So to make sure these originals didn’t miss out on their chance to get the coveted “Full ManNic” treatment, I (again Liam) have decided to watch the originals from the list that Tobias has already seen and review them for you here on the ManNic Blog.
Which brings us to our first Blog Exclusive Film Club entry…Bird Box!
SPOILER WARNING! Turn back now weary traveler if you haven’t yet watched Bird Box as I will be discussing the plot and the fate of certain characters… you have been warned!
Bird Box is a post apocalyptic thriller based on the 2014 novel by Josh Malerman and is directed by Susanne Bier (The Night Manager).
The film follows Malorie Hayes (Sandra Bullock) as she attempts the perilous river bound journey to a safe zone. Hindered along the way by the fact that the world appears to be overrun by a malevolent supernatural entity that causes anyone who looks upon it to kill themselves. Think Doctor Who’s weeping angels crossed with The Happening!
Straight from the word go this film reminded me of “A Quiet Place” or ““The Silence”, similar films whose main gimmick’s involve removing one of humanity’s main senses. Obviously Bird Box differs because it’s vision not sound that’s removed.Comparing Bird Box to these other “sense deprivation horrors” is in no way meant as an insult as all three films are great examples of how you can produce a captivating film with minimal to no dialogue.
Now the first question you may have could well be “Liam, Bird Box came out in 2018, why did it take you so long to watch it…do you not have Netflix?” and that would be a fair question. The honest answer is that usually when a film or TV show gets a big reaction from fans it tends to end up being hyped up to the point of being “over hyped” and this really was the case with Bird Box.
When it was first released in December 2018 everyone seemed to be talking about Bird Box, it felt like the film was everywhere and my base response to over hyped films is to ignore them until the hype goes away but sadly sometimes this takes longer than planned and said film gets forgotten. The same happened when Frozen came out, everyone ranted and raved about it and that blasted song (I’m not naming it, you know which one I mean, your likely already singing it to yourself!) took over!
So I put off watching Bird Box until the hype had faded and I’m really glad I did. I enjoyed this film and think it does a lot of things right (as well as a few things wrong, but we’ll get there) but If i had sat through it in that first few hype filled weeks I think I would have ended up marking it down. when something has too much hype then your more likely just feel underwhelmed or disappointed by it.
The main thing that I think this film does perfectly is that the “Entity” as I’m going to refer to it from now on is never actually seen. The main way that the “Entity” is shown (aside from some drawings) is through ominous shadows, usually seen through boarded up windows and leaves and plants being blown/pushed around. It doesn’t sound very effective but a lot of the films tension comes from not knowing if the “entity” is just around the corner or right next to a character. Besides from not being seen I think the other thing that makes the “Entity” so scary is that it doesn’t attack you, it’s not trying to kill you, No what this monster does is far more brutal than that. One glimpse of this creatures true form and the observer is driven insane and instantly attempts to kill itself. This is seen in several different way’s throughout the film including the following: - Stepping in front of a speeding truck - Taking a seat in a car that’s fully engulfed in flames (and then explodes) - Cracking your head open while tied to a chair - Stabbing yourself in the neck with scissors, repeatedly - smashing your head against a hospital window over and over again.
Due to this unfortunate effect all characters are forced to wear blindfolds when out of a safe zone just encase they pop a peak at the elusive “Entity”.
Another large part of the films tension comes from the fact Malorie (Bullock) isn’t alone on her journey, she’s accompanied by two young children “Girl” & “Boy” which reminds me that I’ve now watched two films as part of the ManNic Film Club neither of which seemed to be capable of naming children (I Am Mother’s lead character is simply named “Daughter”), but that’s me going off on a tangent.
I have two children (A three year old and an eight year old) and I can tell you that even in a life or death situation I can promise you that If I demanded that they both keep blindfolds on, Those blindfolds would be off within minutes. But Boy and Girl were born into a different world, they have been instilled with fear from day one. causing them to be wary of every noise and rustle. The children are played by Vivien Lyra Blair (Girl) & Julian Edwards (Boy) who both play these roles brilliantly. Girl especially tugged at my heart strings during one scene where she volunteered to remove her blindfold and look out of the boat, I can honestly say that seeing her on the verge of crying almost made me cry.
While we’re on the note of casting I didn’t realize before watching that there were as many well known actors in the film as there is. Obviously I knew that Sandra Bullock was in it because her blindfolded face was plastered over every possible bit of marketing.
I didn’t however realize that Sarah Poulson & John Malkovich were in this film as well. Poulson plays Malorie’s sister in the flash back sections of the film. and due to the fact that she’s killed off within about ten minutes of meeting her it felt like an odd casting choice having a name as big as Sarah Poulson for the role (remember I said someone stepped in front of a truck….bingo!).
Malkovich however fits perfectly into the role of Douglas the over bearing shotgun wielding alcoholic neighbor. Yes it could be argued that John Malkovich is just playing John Malkovich again but his loud outbursts and dry (and somewhat misplaced) humor fits in perfectly.
This film has packed in a few familiar faces including BD Wong (Jurassic park) as Greg (cracked his head open while tied to a chair), Tom Hollander (Pirates Of The Caribbean) as Jerry (killed off screen by way of shotgun) and Pruitt Taylor Vince (Agents Of SHIELD, Heroes Reborn) as Rick.
As a whole I couldn’t fault any of the acting in Bird Box as everyone plays their parts perfectly as would be expected from a collection of seasoned pro’s. Likewise Bird Box avoids a classic trope that a lot of horror films fall foul to. Usually in horror films characters make ridiculous decisions, choosing to do stuff that leave us as the viewers shouting things like “No, don’t go in there” or “Dont split up!” but this time around all the characters make logical decisions(except for Olivia who just opens the door to the first stranger who comes knocking. But we’ll just chalk that up to to baby brain).
On a slightly more negative note, it wouldn’t be fair to review Bird Box without pointing out a couple of elements or moments that didn’t quite hit home.
The first thing that didn’t sit right with me was something that Jerry (Hollander) attempted to do. After Olivia and Malorie both go into labor within minutes of each other (because that’s statistically likely) Jerry reveals himself to be under the control of the “Entity” and starts removing the coverings from the window s in order to make the residents see the creature that’s lurking outside.He does so in the bedroom where the woman have just given birth (remarkably quickly as well if I do say so). Olivia instantly looks out the window and is put under the creatures terrible spell but before she manages to launch herself from the top window of the house Jerry asks her to make her baby look as well.
Now, in the risk of getting too dark. What is Jerry hoping to achieve from this. Olivia is already under the spell and considering that she is about to exit the room via the upper window she would have presumably still had the baby in her arms therefor killing the child too, But by asking her to “show the baby” the “Entity”, Is he hoping to make the baby kill itself, because that’s where I struggle to see a logic. A newborn baby is so under-developed mentally that I don’t think it would have the mental capacity let alone physical control of it’s own body to “commit suicide” So I Struggle to understand Jerry’s motives here.
As I sit here re-editing this post I thought I’d point out that my fiance just informed me that newborn babies can choose to hold their breath and believes that this is what the babies would have tried to do if they had seen the “Entity”. None the less I still don’t believe that Jerry had put this much thought into the moment and therefor still question his motives.
My second criticism and really my last one earns itself the honor of being the first moment from a film to be awarded the “REALLY!” label! Awarded to moments that makes no sense at all or an action/event that suspends disbelief for the sake of the plot.
So today’s “REALLY!” moment goes to the titular Bird Box. Before watching this film I had tried to figure out where “Bird Box” came into it. Was it something to do with the fact that the characters where trapped liked caged birds and mentally felt boxed in. No, in reality the characters realize that birds get visibly agitated when they sense the “Entity” is near. So have started using them as some sort of proximity sensor. To give her and the children a bit of help on their journey Malorie decides to bring along her three budgies (Small parrot like birds) in a small cardboard box…a Bird Box if you will!
Now the moment in question comes later on in the film, just after Girl has volunteered to take of her blindfold (still hits a nerve) when the family’s boat hits some strong river rapids. after making the decision to not make a child sacrifice themselves Malorie decides to brave the rapids while blindfolded. Surprise surprise this goes badly and the boat tips causing the entire contents to be lost in the river and all passengers to be dumped into the rough and freezing river. Malorie manages to pull Boy from the river and scramble to the riverbank where Girl has now washed up. still clutching the bird box. Malorie opens the bird box to find the three birds completely fine if not slightly damp and not at all dead or hurt from being thrown into rough and freezing waters.
Anyone whose owned budgies or indeed any small species of bird will be able to tell you that they’re not built for a rough lifestyle, in fact usually too much of a shock makes them keel over on the spot. So after being submerged in below zero rough waters those budgies should be well and truly deceased.
But anyway. considering the only things I can gripe about were immortal birds and suicidal babies It shouldn’t surprise you when i say that I quite enjoyed this film.
Here on The ManNic Film Club we have decided that instead of rating the films we watch on a “Rotten Tomatoes-esq” scale we will simply rate it a Hit or a Miss.
So Would I re watch it? probably not but that’s mainly because I’m not a massive fan of re watching films I’ve already seen.
Would I recommend it? Yes I would, defiantly worth a watch if your a fan of suspense filled thrillers.
So for those reasons I would say that Bird Box is a HIT!
I asked Tobias how he would rate the film and his reply was simply “It was over hyped but it was a Hit!
Which means that Bird Box gets the highly coveted “Full ManNic!” rating!
Thank you for taking the time to read the ramblings of a jolly ginger lad and don’t forget that the next film on The ManNic Film Club is “Private Life” which you can find on Netflix.