FAST COLOR – movie review

FAST COLOR
Code Black
Reviewed for BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Julia Hart
Screenwriter: Julia Hart, Jordan Horowitz
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Lorraine Toussaint, Saniyya Sidney, David Strathairn, Christopher Denham
Screened at: Dolby 24, NYC, 3/27/19
Opens: April 19, 2019

Fast Color Movie Poster

Are movies in 2019 heading for the metaphoric and the allegorical? You’d think so after seeing Jordan Peele’s “Us,” which throws symbols at us so fast that we’re glad the film is not in 3D. Where his “Get Out!” was about racism and the white liberals’ hypocrisy, “Us” is about the whole America, which Peele divides into the rich and powerful and the underclass that serves it. “Fast Color” is at base a sci-fi thriller with a few mild aspects of horror, its domestic scene serving largely to make us more aware of the need for men to crush feminism, but it is also about a helicopter parent who smothers her daughter to such an extent that she becomes rebellious and moves away for a long time. Still, it can be enjoyed even by folks who don’t give much of a fig (to coin a metaphor) for symbols, since it shows domestic scenes to which some of us can relate. And for those who like computer graphics/visual effects, director Julia Hart has her abundant visual effects team throw in some bright color, albeit not of the fast kind.

Julia Hart, whose “Miss Stevens” tracks a teacher who shepherds a group to a drama competition (to which I can relate since I arranged similar activities for my high school students), and the upcoming “Stargirl,” about a homeschooled teen who shakes this up in an Arizona high school, may not be dealing with high-school kids in “Fast Color” but her interest remains with young women. The primary focus, and that of her real-life husband Jordan Horowitz who serves as co-writer, is on Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a confused woman in her early thirties who is on the run. Formerly a drug addict, she for the past eight years of so has left her daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney) in the care of Ruth’s mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint).

Without the help of her mother, she is on the run from the government in a dystopian America that has not seen rain for a long time, conjuring up John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” if you will. She has a special power that makes a pursuing government out to haul her in to study her since when she has a seizure, the earth shakes and pictures fall from the wall of her solitary New Mexico town where Bo and Bo’s granddaughter are living. In particular Bill (Christopher Denham), a scientist who will advise Ruth to stop running because she is “hurting people,” has been trying to track her down.

This power has been handed down through the generations, though Bo, who does not get seizures, has a hobby of breaking up objects into molecules and putting them together, shown as she whips her cigarette into its toxic parts and puts it together. Much of the action is like the CGI; on a low key until the final minutes when the sky bursts into colors, the family’s principal trick consisting of taking the sky apart and putting it together into its current, bland blue color. Ultimately Sheriff Ellis (David Strathairn) hopes to track the runaway down, while we in the audience get the story’s principal twist. Yes, there’s something about this fellow that makes him more than just the enforcer of laws, a guy who has no intention of locking up his prey.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw has entertained audiences in “A Wrinkle in Time,” another imaginative tale involving a father’s disappearance in space and the team sent to find him, but you’re probably wondering about her name. Her father, Patrick Mbatha is a Black South African doctor, and her mother Anne Raw, a Caucasian English nurse. The British-born actress delivers nicely, whether causing earthquakes all around her during her seizures, breaking free of the ropes that bind her, or checking into a fleabag motel that charges as much for a huge jug of water as it does for the room, though despite her special powers she is vulnerable almost throughout.

The problem with “Fast Color” is that the story is not solid enough to convince the audience that it serves the transcendent purpose of seeing it as a feminist allegory of three women (yes, even young Lila can make a bowl rise from the table and disappear into a collage of colorful dots) being chased by men who, if they could, deprive the trio of their powers. Nor are we convinced that the behavior of Ruth’s mother, Bo, caused Ruth to disappear from a forlorn home and desert her own daughter for eight years. In short, the tale could have used more flashes of melodrama.

“Fast Color” was filmed by Michael Fimognari exclusively in New Mexico.

102 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – C+

HOTEL ARTEMIS – movie reveiw

HOTEL ARTEMIS

Global Road Entertainment
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director: Drew Pearce
Screenwriter:  Drew Pearce
Cast:  Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 6/4/18
Opens: June 8, 2018
Hotel Artemis - Poster Gallery
You might be a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s mindset and of the Jack Wick pictures but that does not guarantee affection got “Hotel Artemis.  Though there are three fine performances here—those of Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown and Sofia Boutella—the movie is lacking in a solid story and depends on episodic incidents, some violent, also considerable copy-cat fighting particularly involving a woman who speaks French but can take care of herself even when attacked by four male thugs.

This is Foster’s first film since “Elysium” in 2013– yet another dystopian feature but with a more interesting story about how the rich live on a man-made space station while the rest of us must bide our time on an earth ruined  by climate change and other man-made disasters.  While “Elysium” is set in 2174, “Hotel Artemis” moves on only until 2028. The good news is that the earth has survived. The bad news is: why bother?  Los Angeles is in a state of anarchy, each day like the 24-hour period that motivates “The Purge.”  While criminals are at risk, there is just one safe house that virtually guarantees protection.  The Hotel Artemis, a well-known old structure that freely advertises its location is secretly available only to members.  And to be a member you must be a dangerous criminal, a fact not likely mentioned by Trivago.

The structure is run by “Nurse,” who has available some of the most modern robotic surgery equipment with corresponding computer screeners from the floor to the ceiling.  When criminals begin checking in by showing their membership cards, she opens the gate, a woman whose use of a rotary dial telephone and hi fi turntable seems an anomaly when set against her high tech equipment.

When she admits hotel owner “Niagara” (Jeff Goldblum) violence is triggered inside the safe house involving rival gangs.  Guests include “Waikiki” (Sterling K. Brown), “Nice” (Sofia Boutella), “Honolulu” (Brian Tyree Henry) and others, including a policewoman, Morgan (Jenny Slate) whom she admits for reasons of her own despite the cop’s non-membership.  With the marmoreal “Everest” (Dave Bautista) running security, “Nurse” insists that the rules are paramount, that nobody is above the law.  When the rules are broken, havoc reigns within as well as without.

The usual gunplay, knifings, strangulations, death by hard objects and even elevator shafts keeping the energy flowing, the episodic nature of the short movie (actually a mere 85 minutes without the end-credits) has no way of being redeemed by the dystopian ambiance filmed well by Chung Hoon-Chung behind the lens or by the eight-person make-up team which gave Jodie Foster an eerie look of a woman a decade or more her age.

Writer-director Drew Pearce in his freshman role as director of a full length feature, is in his métier, having scripted  “Iron Man 3” and “Mission Impossible—Rogue Nation.”

 

Unrated.  96 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C+
Acting – B-
Technical – B
Overall – C+