The Art of Self-Defense (2019): Action/Comedy/Crime

A socially awkward and self-doubting young man decides to join an eccentric dojo after being attacked on the street.

Awkward, sarcastic, dark, misleadingly funny, but disturbingly dramatic under the surface. The Art of Self-Defense is a case study from numerous aspects, and choosing that particular martial art as a means to “prove” it, brings a questionable and head-scratching outcome. Here it goes…

As per IMDb, writer/director Riley Stearns also trains and teaches Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The picture on the dojo’s wall is of Grandmaster Morihei Ueshiba Osensei, the founder of aikido. In the same dojo, Sensei (Alessandro Nivola) while respecting Osensei and preaching his ways, he teaches Karate. Taking for granted that Stearns knows they are three different martial arts and that he doesn’t undermine his audience’s intelligence, I come to the conclusion that the mix-up is deliberately placed there, and more particularly, in Casey’s head.

Other than the martial arts, there are quite a few things that don’t add up. Without any spoilers, that particular punch at the office in regard to the extremely mild consequences, the answering machine’s message, the night class, the characters comprising it, the normally accepted old-fashioned patriarchy and misogyny, the dog(s) and how that relates to the film’s denouement, the Sensei himself… These, and a lot more, don’t connect properly in the end, leading me to believe that Stearns follows a “Lynchian” way of storytelling.

I can’t say a lot more, and I don’t want to, really. Stearns has created a dark psychological comedy/drama that you’ll either love it or loathe it. Expect surrealistic reactions and events that, when thought of in a real-case scenario, they would create emotional contradictions. Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, and Imogen Potts impress with the way they choose to conceal, implode and explode their emotions, delivering the unpredictable performances the obscure narrative demands. I hope you appreciate it.

Stay safe!

P.S. Eisenberg and Potts collaborated again the same year in yet another allegorical/psychological film that deserves your attention. Vivarium (2019): https://kaygazpro.com/2020/03/31/vivarium-2019-horror-mystery-sci-fi/

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019): Action / Comedy / Horror

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Ten years have passed since the zombocalypse and Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock must now face dumb, smart, stealthy, and rough zombies, deal with domestic issues and ally with lookalikes, hippies, and a bimbo.

Double Tap, is the sequel I was reasonably afraid it will have nothing more to offer when it comes out. Having seen numerous sequels over the years flopping due to franchise fatigue or been outshadowed by their predecessors, can you blame me? Well, ten years later, Double Tap did come out, proved me wrong, and it was more than I was hoping for. Director Ruben Fleischer, intentionally influenced/inspired by George A. Romero and Edgar Wright, manages to find new creative ways to either put a smile on our face or make us laugh out loud. The script is solidly inundated with comedic additions and alliances, and horrifically funny villains, offering the well-known by now group of four an arsenal of punchlines, perfectly fit for every occasion. Out of the A-list star cast, which does a brilliant job in front of the lens, Woody Harrelson and Zoey Deutch unequivocally stand out for being surrealistically funny.

I’ll seize this opportunity to say this as I’ve been holding it for some time now… Abigail Breslin seems like she doesn’t want to act anymore. Is it the burden carrying from her mesmerising performances in Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and My Sister’s Keeper (2009)? Is it the ‘curse’ of the child actor/actress? Is it personal or professional obstacles that we are not aware of? I still believe that given the right role she can ‘shine’ again and I really look forward to that day.

Definitely worth the just over hour and a half in front of the telly as it will make you forget your problems and send you to bed. And next day is always a new day… with a new film!