Critic views of films starring the women of Smartasses, Asian movies, and some DVDs you may have overlooked.
Cheery Point / The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo | DVD Reviews – SA Magazine
Cheery Point (2013) 3.5/5 Stars
“‘Life, Liberty, and the Guarantee of Happiness.’ From the onset, this film is determined to beat you in a mental game of chess.”
Cheery Point Independent Film Review – When Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes became a cult hit in the late seventies and early eighties, dozens of would-be film producers put down their Atari games to come crawling out of the woodwork, once they realized just how little overhead a cult hit could be produced for. The problem is, they forgot about that little prerequisite called ‘talent’, which means that these days, any time you hear about, or intend on viewing, a low budget independent film, you’re not expecting much. Think Ed Wood movies, without the noir charm and things to make fun of.
Even if they’re from northern Illinois and not north Hollywood, Cheery Point, sets out to erase all that. From about the third frame in, you realize you’re dealing with a group of people who not only pay attention to great detail, but who are also extremely determined to slip something past you- not unlike an advanced version of the “Find The Differences In These Two Pictures” game from Highlights Magazine in league with a vexing round of mental chess. The US flag with only sixteen stars which you’re sure to catch, is just them throwing you a freebie.
There are times where the film seems inspired by several other films, most notably, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. However, executive producer Kenneth Stevenson does such a convincing job of creating an alternate reality for the 2017 version of Anytown, USA, that one cannot help but draw comparisons to John Carpenter’s They Live, and given his remarkable usage of colors (or lack of) as a device, I’d be remiss in my thinking if I did not believe him to be an authority on Zhang Ymou films as well.
Be that as it may, in this instance, Anytown is called Cheery Point, and that’s only the beginning of the ironies, seeing as how the point upon which they do dwell, is seemingly anything but cheery. In this stand-in universe, citizens were convinced by their government in the late 1960’s, that the newly created drug Torpase, which eliminates all physical and psychological pain, was essential for everyday living, leaving people to simply ‘exist’, without any emotional investment in religion, sports, art, entertainment… or any one, or any thing. Conveniently, in much the same way that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accent “made sense” in The Terminator, seeing as how there was no law indicating that a cyborg should have impeccable skills of enunciation, the fact that creating believable emotions was actually discouraged in the making of Cheery Point, not only makes for a compelling story line out of the gate, but there are times where it actually aids in masking some of the amateur acting- which never reaches a laughable level, with or without the aforementioned masking.
The film centers on the character of Joshua, a man in his late twenties who serves as a photographer at Brotzky’s Media, an art company that, again, ironically, has very little interest in stylistic or colorful graphics, and seems chock full of employees who are consistently fired and rehired by the company’s CEO, Mr. Richards- especially those who are “Springers” (those who cry and show emotion openly), and as we learn rather quickly, “Springing means death.” Due of course to the effects of the Torpase, we are introduced to Joshua whilst working and living a habitual, mundane, and literally colorless lifestyle. However, this is quickly shattered when he is taken hostage, and sooner rather than later, Joshua becomes as a result, the film’s optimistic yet reluctant hero.
Without giving away too much of the plot, it soon becomes clear that the character of Joshua’s name was extremely deliberate and handpicked. The film is not religious, yet, it is. Whether this is planned or accidental is for you to decide, but there is little doubt that you will walk away not comprehending the similarities between the Hebron River and the River Jordan, between Albert and Moses, and Joshua and, well, Joshua. The beauty of the film, again, lies not only in these ironies, but also in the way that it blurs the lines. The bad guys wear white. The good guys wear black. Cheery Point’s mayor and his swat-like team from the Torpase Distribution Division demand conformity, and do everything outside of creating nine other Commandments to accompany “Thou Shall Consume Torpase” in which to enforce it with, while Albert, the last priest of the Roman Catholic Church runs the resistance of Springers, and vehemently encourages anyone and everyone to take a bite from The Apple.
In regards to the said blurring of lines, the film does such a fantastic job of making everything gray, not only in the literal visual sense (which is most certainly a means to an ends), but also in the realm of right and wrong, good and evil, and morals and unethicalness… that you would almost be better off watching the film twice just to ensure that you truly comprehend and grasp everything. However, the downside to employing this strategy is the film’s length- at 2:21 it’s a bit long, though, I was personally hard pressed to find even one scene that should be on the cold hardwood of the editing man’s cutting-room floor. The film is constantly moving forward, never falls into redundancy, and again, pointing out that grand attention to detail, each and every syllable of the movie seems to have intent and purpose. One becomes particularly cognizant of this as we reach the point in the film where Joshua’s negative perception of the Springer movement recedes. Not unlike Moses mentoring his apprentice and inevitable successor, Albert soon brings Joshua to a state of emotional awareness with a fuller understanding of the world around him, and soon Josh even develops feelings for Becca Reynolds, a young woman haunted by an overwhelming need to continue “pasing”, in order to combat her depression issues, despite her inherent and desperate desire to be without.
One of the more fundamental ways where this film excels is in the cinematography, which actually borderlines on genius at times. Closeups in situations that would otherwise not call for them, or letting the camera roll when a more amateur film maker might make a cut are just some of the ways where Cheery Point adds more credibility to the film industry as a whole. Furthermore, with the exception of one brief passage in the middle of the film, the sound editing was as close to impeccable as it gets, which I found particularly interesting, seeing as how this is the one area where most, if not nearly all, small budget films fail miserably. Great camera work may not be prerequisite, but even if one were to call it the ‘gravy’, sound-editing is most assuredly the ‘meat’, and nothing magnifies poor acting in a small film more than mumbling and half-hearted emotional performances, that are not compensated with expert volume control after the shooting is done. Throwing back to the previously mentioned Ed Wood, although there is one tiny “Plan 9” moment in the film at the point in the story where guns start blazing, otherwise, Cheery Point manages to avoid these pitfalls gracefully and without error.
While we’re on the subject of the auditory, the original soundtrack put together by Blake Mohler is about as good as it gets, and I would strongly encourage anyone to visit the Official Cheery Point website, visit the Soundtrack page, and download it. If you’re a social media kind of person, you can always follow Cheery Point on Twitter or Facebook, or Like the Official Versa Studios Page on Facebook as well.
All in all, if you’re looking for a cerebral film with some unexpected twists, this is definitely a film for you. I can’t say that it’s absolutely perfect, but if you enjoy creativity, especially creativity that stands out despite a tight budget being present and trying everything in it’s power to hinder it, you’re definitely going to be more than pleasantly surprised by this movie.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009) 4/5 Stars
“Those crazy Swedes have made quite a good little thriller here.”
Those crazy Swedes have made quite a good little thriller here. Which means you just know Hollywood is going to get their hands on it and ruin it with a remake. Truth is, they already did. My guess would have been Richard Gere and Sandra Bullock, but at least they went with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. Either way, since American remakes typically suck… I’d put my money on renting the original, and enjoying it with either the subtitles, or the surprisingly decent dubbing.
DVD Features: Region 1 Note: Interview with Naomi Rapace The Vanger Family Tree Theatrical Trailer Widescreen – 2.35 Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo – English, Swedish Dolby Digital 5.1 – English, Swedish Subtitles – English. – CD Universe
Blu-ray Disc Features: Note: Interview With Noomi Rapace The Vangar Family Tree Theatrical Trailer Widescreen – 2.35 Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 – English, Swedish Subtitles – English. – CD Universe