The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
The Walking Dead
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All Critics (15)
| Top Critics (7)
| Fresh (9)
| Rotten (6)
"Jamie Marks Is Dead" admirably refuses to hew to conventional horror tropes and is acted with integrity by its young performers, but the film nonetheless has a nagging pulse problem.
It is likely to test the patience of many viewers.
Temperate in tone but screaming with subtext, "Jamie Marks Is Dead" climbs above the current glut of supernaturally inclined entertainment by dint of a hushed unease that permeates almost every frame.
The film uses its phantasmagoric conceit, a sickly-hued poetry, and eerie sound design to build metaphors for closeted homoeroticism and melancholic unfulfillment.
Writer-director Carter Smith got his start as a successful fashion photographer. But you wouldn't know it from the murky look of this generic thriller.
The potentially ludicrous story is handled artfully enough here to cast an eerie but not off-putting spell throughout, though the ultimate point is more than a tad murky, and the desired poignancy doesn't fully come across.
It may have more brains behind it than The Ruins, but hopefully Smith can find material truly worthy of his technical talents with his next feature.
Jamie's death [is] a shifting, formative influence on Gracie and Adam's future life. Smith conjures this bizarre love triangle without recourse to any special effects, and maintains a wintry melancholy throughout.
Unpredictable, atmospheric and enigmatic. This isn't your average coming-of-age film which makes it all the more refreshing, unique and un-Hollywood.
A nifty little sleeper in the vein of DONNIE DARKO.
It's a film that I liked more when no one was speaking, getting into the atmosphere of this world without having to deal with the awkward plotting within it.
Writer-director Carter Smith sets a brooding, chilly atmosphere, but he also writes opaquely vague dialogue and includes in a subplot involving Adam's mother (Liv Tyler) that goes nowhere.
So boring and slow.
Moody and very atmospheric film that bogs down in a very depressing story. Some of the casting seemed pointless but naturally there for funding purposes. I enjoyed the film mostly but struggled with the relationship between Gracie and Adam, they seemed so distant every time they were together. I would like to read the book but for the most part, this film works and satisfies its target indie audience. Francis was completely creepy and unbearable so they certainly did well there.
"The voices echo in my head: 'Is Jamie Marks alive, or is Jamie Marks dead?'" Man, "God is Dead?" is too blasted long and a little bit dull, but it's Black Sabbath, so, naturally, it won the Grammy for Best Metal Performance, an event as obvious as this film's title. The filmmakers had to have known that this film was going to struggle enough with business, without the novel's original title "One for Sorrow", which is too blasted depressing... you know, as opposed to "Jamie Marks Is Dead". You know that the corpse in question is a kid, because, seriously, just how many adults do you know of whose name is somewhere in the vein of Jamie Marks? Yeah, they did kind of mess up with the marketing here, because they make the poster look like a horror movie with its portrayal a kid's cold, pale and bare corpse, while putting only so much emphasis on the presence of such celebrities as Liv Tyler and, well, Judy Greer. Last year, Greer was in "Carrie", so it seems to be her thing lately to show up in films about teenagers with some kind of supernatural ability or something. Yes, these kids are seeing Jamie Marks' ghost, but this is still not a horror film, partly because it's more about drama, and largely because, well, it's not especially thrilling, even in concept.
This film's subject matter may be weight in dramatic and thematic significance, but the plot is still too straightforward to establish all that much potential, saying only so much as a naturalist character study in concept, and saying even less in execution. By that, I mean that, to be so character-driven, this film hits many issues with characterization, the first of which being a lack of immediate development that could be compensated for if the gradual exposition wasn't some varying degree of thin, to where the leading roles take their time to flesh out their layers, and to where certain supporting characters come off as thin types written with a lack of subtlety. There's something contrived about the way certain characters fit into the thematic and narrative focus of this film, which is frustrating, because this film thrives on its subtlety as a naturalist drama, whose artistic vision are often corrupted by other very theatrical storytelling touches, the most manufactured of which being ghost aspects which are intriguing, especially with Noah Silver's revelatory performance as the titular tortured soul, but which fail to fully flow with this film's realist style and tone. Really, a big issue with the film is its getting disjointed in both tone and plot, jarring between meditative dramatics and pseudo-psychological horror, while messily juggling a couple thematically purposeful, but narratively problematic subplots, all in a reflection of excess that corrupts the focus of substance. Of course, excess doesn't distance quite as much as it does when applied to the ponderously paced nature of this film, which, almost in an arthouse fashion, meditates, maybe not on nothing, but certainly on thin, naturalist filler, backed by enough dialogue and effectiveness to keep consistent tedium at bay, yet still not enough to keep people from getting mighty bored mighty often. This film is a trial for one's patience, for anyone, actually, because this drama is so ambitious that it can't quite figure out its direction, juggling naturalism and theatrics, subtle drama and biting horror, and all sorts of other things that make it too flimsy to captivate the aesthetic, and too bland to engross the less open-minded. Still, whether or not the film actually falls flat to either party is an entirely different matter, because even though the final product is something of a meandering mess, it has a lot to admire, in both the substance and the style.
François-Eudes Chanfrault's score isn't really anything especially new, and some would argue that it's too chilling for this very dark drama which should be focusing more on its humanity, rather than getting caught up in its horror aspects, yet it is nonetheless powerful, with a beautiful and striking minimalism whose prominence throughout this slow-burn affair subdues much of the tedium by way of aesthetic and atmospheric effectiveness. About as biting is cinematography by Darren Lew that is defined by an intentional coldness that takes a lot of getting used to, but captivates with a handsome bleakness once your able to grasp its significance in the context of this psychological drama, particularly when it falls over haunting visuals that range from audaciously disturbing to gothic in its gritty grace. The atmosphere of this film is molded through Chanfrault's rich score and Lew's haunting visual style, by the orchestration of director Carter Smith, whose storytelling would be so much more admirable if it was more coherent in its breaking thoughtful dramatics with potent atmospheric intensity, and didn't so often get so lost in its atmosphere and naturalism that it dulls momentum to a crawl, but as a vehicle for Smith's directorial abilities, this drama delivers when the storytelling is realized, utilizing subtle scene structuring and the aforementioned gothic musical and visual stylization to resonate. When the psychological horror is well-tuned, it's nerve-wracking, and when the drama is realized, it's actually touching, if not devastating, bringing humanity to a thinly scripted, but conceptually sound character study. This story is a little simple to begin with, and its interpretation stresses that through some thin characterization and uneven structuring to focus and pacing, yet at its core, it might very well be enthralling, alternating, albeit a little inorganically, between dramatic meditations on a young man's struggles and confusion in disturbing times, and intriguing spiritual and psychological horror, and backing it all with refreshingly approached themes on coming of age and finding acceptance that resonate through the heights in storytelling, and through powerful performances. As a mad, vengeful spirit, Madisen Beaty goes much too over-the-top in the couple of scenes she plagues, breaking the consistency of an otherwise remarkable cast, from which everyone stands out from time to time, but not like the most primary members, with Noah Silver capturing the awkwardness, fear, intensity and overall confusion of the titular Jamie "American Harry Potter" Marks character - an awkward boy in life, and a miserably lonely soul in death - with a penetrating emotional conviction that moves, chills and steals the show as what ought to end up being one of the best supporting performances of the year, while young lead Cameron Monaghan, despite not being given quite as much material, is also a revelation, selling the initial humanity and discomfort of a mostly average and caring, but quiet teen, and subtly and gracefully packing on the anxiety of someone cursed with the burden of confronting his own issues and the issues of a sorrowful spirit that brings both companionship and horror wherever he roams. Monaghan is outstanding, and Silver is nothing short of a powerhouse, and as these boys, and their sparkling chemistry, are brought more to light with the progression of the film and the expansion of Smith's piercing directorial vision, this drama is brought more to life, and although the reward value comes in much too late for the final product to reward on the whole, underwhelming early acts are compensated enough for the final product to engage as a worthwhile vehicle for thoughtful direction and powerful performances, in spite of its flaws.
Once the sorrow has passed, the final product finds its natural shortcomings exacerbated by some thin characterization and an awkward alternation between naturalist dramatics and psychological horror that begets some inconsistency in tone, met with inconsistencies in focus and a mostly dully meandering pace that finalize the final product as underwhelming, but just barely in the long run, because as things progress, an already firm grip on captivating score work, hauntingly gothic cinematography and visuals, chillingly and movingly thoughtful direction, dramatically and thematically worthy subject matter, and strong performances - especially from the revelatory Noah Silver and Cameron Monaghan - tightens enough to secure "Jamie Marks Is Dead" as, at the very least, borderline rewarding, if a tad misguided as a psychological horror-drama about the usual and unusual anxieties of youths during and after life.
2.75/5 - Decent
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