Oscars Throwback: No Country For Old Men (2007)

Movies_Movies_N__006313_Roze-Rating: 5 / 5

Llewelyn Moss is a Vietnam veteran living in the desolate lands of Texas. One day during a hunting session, he finds what would be a drug deal gone wrong. Along with dead corpses and a wounded man begging for water, he finds a black satchel with 2 million dollars inside. He takes the money and hides it in his house knowing people are going to be looking for it. His conscious gets the better of him as he wakes up in the middle of the night to bring water to the wounded man, a mistake as he gives vital clues to the one man with no morals when it comes to getting what he wants.

No Country For Old Men is an absolute gem of a film. For me, it ticks all the boxes for a perfect thriller with a wild west edge. As a shallow viewer it has enough suspense, violence and action to enthrall for the full viewing time. Even with its quiet, barren land demeanor. But for the sometimes sophisticated side of my brain, the narrative has enough substance for me to have come out with a much richer experience of the film.

As the title and opening monologue from old timer Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) would suggest, it’s a film about the changing times. How a land which was once relatively safe has now become a harsh environment. Whenever we see the older generation on screen, they seem to be bogged down by unusual information or just odd behavior. A sign which says, times are more complicated and not as straight forward as before. Even for Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, he fails to put the pieces together quick enough to solve the drug deal gone wrong case. This isn’t to say he’s incompetent, he is the opposite, but it says that crime in the modern times are a lot more overwhelming.

The characters are also a great part of this film, the three main characters signify something different. We have the Sheriff who is an obviously good man. He has a loving wife and is also good at his job. Just like the old time’s, he’s laid back and composed but nothing less than a good person. There is the antagonist Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) who is a total psychopath, from the worst hair cut ever in film to his lack of remorse when killing people, he is the bad of the film. Since we are unaware of where he’s from and it’s apparent that he isn’t local, he seems to signify the unpredictability of modern evil and crime, sometimes referred to as a ghost. This may refer to the how the future is and what makes it so unsettling. He has no moral compass but believes in the power of fate, apparent from his coin toss game. As for Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), he is right bang in the middle, as Uncle Ellis refers to some of his cats as half wild or outlaws. Moss is your every man, he’s been through a lot and understands the harshness of life. I like how he looks at the money with no expression and sighs “yeah” as if he already knows what he’s getting into but can’t protest against it. There’s some form of inevitability to it.

This film really is a cat and mouse thriller. Except the mouse is a cat too. Predator vs predator. It’s refreshing because we have characters who aren’t stupid. They’re all intelligent and know how to cover their tracks, they know how to defend themselves and when it comes to doing the deed, they can do it. Just as you think a character is missing something they respond with intelligence. It’s awesome to watch a film where you find it hard to criticize characters decisions but instead be left wondering “why didn’t I think of that”.

As for performances, well you have Javier Bardem in one of his first major English roles and will probably stand as his best for awhile. Think Silva from Skyfall but even crazier. I like that opening scene of him where he’s strangling that cop, just from his facial expressions you can tell that he’s a heartless bastard and it’s not the first time he’s attempted to kill someone. As good as Bardem is, Brolin totally knocks it out of the park for me. There’s something about his portrayal of the character. He’s just so slick and such a guy, a guy we all wish we could be. If I could pull off boots and a cowboy hat, I would, wouldn’t have to think about it, I’d be walking around looking like a total badass. (Brolin) “you got socks”, (Shopkeeper) “We only have white”. (Brolin) “That’s ok, whites all I wear”, that’s what it means to be a man right there. Tommy Lee Jones is business as usual and it was nice seeing some Woody Harrelson as well to make up a really great cast.

This was totally deserving of the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Javier Bardem) Oscars. A film back in the day that I wouldn’t have wanted to watch, purely because it’s absent of music. Thanks to more appreciation for films, that lack of music only adds to the film, putting us in the west with the characters and surprisingly adding suspense to the films more thrilling scenes. No Country For Old Men is truly a great film.

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Oldboy (2004) vs Oldboy (2013)

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I chose to watch the remake before the original and immediately regretted that decision after realizing that this isn’t your average revenge flick. It’s a lot darker and filled with more surprises than I first anticipated. Going into the original knowing the general storyline and plot diminished the effect of the first half of the film, luckily due to changes in the remake there were still a few pleasant surprises and twists that I didn’t see coming. I think if I would have been a bit smarter and chose to watch the original first I would have instantly loved it.

The initial reasoning behind watching the remake first was to give it a fair chance so that I wouldn’t be comparing the two constantly, but this is just one of those films where this can’t be prevented. Firstly the story is unique providing plenty of plot twists to keep us guessing. Once knowing these twists, it’s hard to stop waiting for them to happen in the original. Luckily the remake didn’t stay completely true to the original and made a few plot changes but those were the only changes made. That’s what makes the remake incredibly pointless in my opinion. It didn’t offer anything new, apart from a western cast and a neo-noir tone. Why remake a film and change virtually nothing about it. Usually what you’d like to see in a remake is perhaps a unique style true to the director or something different creatively but the 2013 version felt lackluster and ultimately not worth filming especially when you have a pretty perfect counterpart.

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Oldboy (2013) –
Roze-Rating: 3 / 5

We’re introduced to Joe Doucett leaving a lunch meeting drunk, what first seems acceptable turns unacceptable as he urinates in public and adds more booze into a soda cup before returning to work. He later shouts at his wife for nagging him to attend his daughters 3rd birthday party and hits on his clients wife who has no interest in him. It’s safe to say that he isn’t a pleasant man at all. We’re not meant to like him but we can tell that not even he likes himself as he spits at a mirror while staring at his reflection. He seems to have given up on himself. After a booze filled night he’s snatched off the street and awakens in an unfamiliar room which he’s trapped in.

We don’t really get a sense of that revenge until he is released from the room. Whilst in the room it’s more about his self improvement and redemption in order to be worthy of his daughters forgiveness when he is let out. I suppose that is what prevents him from going insane.

Without giving anything away this film tackles some dark themes which would make a lot of people feel uncomfortable, but this film lacked grit and an appropriate tone to support it. It felt too mainstream and lacked style, the cinematography, characters and locations felt generic which ruined what was supposed to be an eerie film about revenge. Instead it came off as your average blockbuster film.

What I liked about this film was the added noir tone. It felt appropriate during the scenes where Brolin and Olsen are trying to figure out who trapped him in that room. But then there would be an abrupt change in tone during Brolin’s hammer to skull combat scenes. Sometimes it would feel out of place especially the iconic hallway tracking shot. It was always going to be a hard scene to pull off and unfortunately it looked awkward. Having not seen the original before this, I can say that was my first reaction. Brolin was awesome but the extra’s made the scene feel gimmicky with over the top reactions and unrealistic movements, some moments were cool but others were off. Talking about extra’s, they seemed to burden the film with below par acting. Not only the iconic fight scene but a couple of flashbacks too. If someone points a shotgun at you, I’m pretty sure you’d flinch, at least a little bit.

Josh Brolin proves to be one of the few positives coming out of this film , showing that he can be a strong lead and carry a film. Another positive is Sharlto Copley, now cementing his status as king of accents. It may be slightly off in this film but his stiff interpretation of Brolin’s mysterious enemy makes him an intriguing character. It was interesting seeing Elizabeth Olsen for the first time, it gave me the chance to see if she’s Avengers worthy. She was solid but maybe due to the script she felt monotone. We don’t really sense her troubled past or any hardship, the only time we sense it is when it’s spoon fed to us or the first scene we see her with Brolin where she’s wearing a scruffy torn T-shirt, then minutes later we see her wearing a nice blazer. The only thing that signified to me was whether she was homeless or not, not every druggie has a torn up shirt!

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Oldboy (2004) – Roze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Oh Dae Su is an obvious alcoholic as we’re introduced to him at a police station being a nuisance. He says all he does is try to get through the day, which suggests he struggles in life and in a way might have already given up. He may be unhappy but he shares a sweet spot for his daughter despite continually being absent from her life. From the opening we know he’s done some bad things and may not be a pleasant person. Before we know it he’s been picked up from the side of the street and trapped in a room.

Compared with the newer version, the transition to his entrapment is a lot quicker, you could say the remake spoon feeds the audience the plot and also gives us a more direct interpretation of the character. With Oh Dae Su we can understand him the way we want to. There’s more emphasis on his growing insanity within the room which the remake didn’t touch on, to put the cherry on the top there’s an explanation to why he never gave in to the insanity which is what I was wondering the whole time. When he’s released he saves a man from committing suicide but it becomes apparent that he hasn’t completely changed, he still lacks compassion but he’s fitter and driven with only revenge on his mind. In that respect there is more emphasis on revenge which the remake didn’t have.

Themes of vengeance are relevant throughout the film, when we learn more about the person who trapped Dae Su. We learn the extent to which revenge can go and what holding a grudge can do to a man. For Dae Su, remorse slowly creeps in on him once he figures out who the mystery man is.

Performances are great from everyone in the cast. The lead Min-sik Choi is phenomenal, a character which will stay with me for a long time. He finds the perfect mix of grit, anger and insanity. Gang Hye-Jeong plays the female supporting role convincingly, we buy into her loneliness and hurt, making her a character we believe in. Playing the mystery man is Ji-tae Yu who is portrayed as this charismatic, suave, insane, evil man. In terms of antagonists, this is as good as it gets.

The blend of violence and dark humour is emphasized by the films overall offbeat tone. It gives the film consistency and style which the remake lacked. The screenplay is also better with narration, memorable quotes and metaphoric messages that move the narrative along nicely. There’s no question to why this is a cult classic, I’ve not seen a film as interesting, fast paced and intense as this in a long time.

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Verdict

The original is miles better than Spike Lee’s remake. I’m all for a remake, but only if it’s justified. Foreign films have been adapted before, it’s not uncommon, but usually there’s a unique spin on them. For instance Prince Avalanche and The Departed. What makes the original so much better is the script, it has all the plot holes filled which the remake had. I don’t understand why you would take a film with a perfect story line and change little things like making the protagonists imprisonment 20 years instead of 15. Little things that create plot holes. As for the characters, as good as Josh Brolin is, he doesn’t come close to beating Min-sik Choi and his awesome hair. But even overall the characters are richer in the original. I didn’t like Elizabeth Olsen’s take on the female role at all. I didn’t buy into her vulnerability as much as Gang Hye-Jeong’s Mido. As for the antagonist, Sharlto Copley was absolute gold but it didn’t feel appropriate for a film like Oldboy, he felt gimmicky. Ji-tae Yu was just as suave as Copley but his anger and desire for vengeance felt real, you almost feel for the character. Overall Chan Wook Park’s film smashes the remake… in the skull… with a hammer.


Rush (2013)

130910155412-rush-movie-poster-horizontal-galleryRoze-Rating: 5 / 5

Rush is based on the true rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the racing season of 1976. It’s a story about two sportsmen with different outlooks on life and racing. Despite their seeming hatred of each other, there’s one thing that set’s them apart from other rivalry’s, they respect the effect it has on their lives.

What makes this film great is the attention to detail given to make this true story as real as possible on the big screen. If you are unaware of this rivalry and Formula 1 in general then I wouldn’t advise to go looking up the story. For me, not knowing anything about these two guys made it a much more thrilling watch. Your constantly wondering how far these drivers will push themselves to win, and whether or not they will go too far. It definitely makes that last race an edge of the seat moment. After the film though, having done some research and youtube-ing, it’s quite remarkable how much detail went into this film. From the costumes to the accents, almost everything about this film is spot on. Of course parts of the film are dramatized but it’s essential to telling this story as effectively as possible.

The casting is great, as a result of this we get two of the best performances of 2013. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl don’t only look like the famous drivers they are portraying but sound like them too. Hemsworth captures the bad boy persona of James Hunt perfectly, with a you-only-live-once swagger. You buy into his character because he doesn’t race because of the lifestyle it brings, he races because it supports the lifestyle he lives. He respects the dangers of F1, therefore sympathizing for the men that get into accidents every season. Niki Lauda of course is the complete opposite. Bruhl presents Lauda as a cold, calculated racing driver, always acting on statistics and not emotion. If a fellow driver spins out or crashes, he shows no compassion but criticize their technique. He may sound like an antagonist but his conflicting behavior between winning and actual happiness gives us a reason to care for this character.

The cinematography is brilliant throughout the film, giving us the perspective of the driver during these relentless races. It makes the racing scenes more of an adrenaline inducing experience. As for it’s overall look, the shiny shades of orange and colour filtering make it great to look at. It feels as if we are in the 1970s as well as watching a documentary about it. Everything from the camera angles and the colours used to the back commentary and interviews.

It’s definitely one of the best rivalry stories I’ve seen on film. I like how the story doesn’t make the rivalry dirty or unpleasant but rather inspiring for both drivers. They use it as a way to push each other harder, a way to learn from each other and ultimately a way to feel alive. During the journey of the season, we realize that there’s a lot more respect within the rivalry than we think. That’s what makes the final scene quite a compelling moment.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

katniss-peeta-the-hunger-games-catching-fire-wallpaperRoze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Seems like ages ago since I saw The Hunger Games in the cinema, because of that I can’t say that the film stuck with me. It was definitely an entertaining watch because of an awesome protagonist with lethal bow and arrow skills, but it lacked some grit. I’m not saying that it never had any but the fact that we never really get to see blade and flesh make contact diminished the affect of the Hunger Games concept implemented by the Capitol. Maybe that’s just me having watched too many Nicolas Winding Refn films. As for the sequel, it has to be one of the biggest surprises of 2013 for me. I did not expect much with this sequel having not read the books, I thought it would be the same formula (which it kinda was) but did not expect such an explosive ending and cliffhanger. Because of that, it was one of my favourite films of 2013.

This film is everything I wanted the last film to be. It had mind games, thrilling obstacles, conspiracy, likable characters and most importantly an arrow to the knee. What I liked about the beginning of this film is that we’re instantly thinking about the last film. How it ended and why Katniss is suddenly kissing some other dude who we haven’t actually seen much of. Once we learn that her berry antics were all for survival, we subconsciously think more about the decisions these characters make.

The tone remains consistent with the first film except it’s more intense and gritty aided by the story’s progression as we learn more about Snow and the Capitol. Katniss is obviously affected from her experiences in the Hunger Games which makes her a lot more stubborn than I remember. She can’t really trust anyone nor can she trust her decisions. Jennifer Lawrence make’s this role her’s, in a franchise I really didn’t expect to take off as well as it has, luckily it feels like it’s going to get even better.

If you thought the first film looked great then get ready for another film with innovative costumes, diverse set designs and beautiful cinematography. This film truly looks great with it’s crisp visuals especially when we get to the exotic Hunger Games dome and the CGI kicks in.

It may annoy some people but the cliff hanger we’re left with felt weirdly satisfying for me. I’ve never felt so intrigued and surprised and annoyed at the same time. But what tied these feelings off perfectly was that last close up on Lawrence’s face. For this franchise that moment will be the most iconic, when Katniss turns into more than a Hunger Games contestant but a symbol for all existing districts to look to for hope. As a result of that I never would have thought I’d be so desperate to see a Hunger Games sequel.

The Spectacular Now (2013)

82be1a35bdd197cdb228bea4120f7e72Roze-Rating: 5 / 5

Every year I watch a shiz load of films, ranging from the brilliant to the utterly terrible, but there will always be that odd film that some how finds its way to me and strikes the sweetest G-Chord within my heart. The Spectacular Now is that film for me of 2013.

Ever since The Descendants I knew I was an instant fan of Shailene Woodley and had been waiting to see her follow up film for quite a while. And what a film. Just as The Descendants was, this film is down to earth and totally real. Miles Teller plays Sutter Keeley, a kid on the brink of adulthood. We meet him as he struggles to begin his college application, unsure of how to put his life into words. He seems like he has his sh*t together as we indulge in his large personality and his way of words, but once we’re exposed to his constant alcoholism we know something is up. What makes this such a relatable film is Sutter’s predicament. He’s lived in the now for all his life and has struggled to do anything productive with it. He may have heaps of fun but during a time of his life where a future plan matters he becomes stuck. His girlfriend dumps him for the pure reason that he has no ambition. Then Shailene Woodley’s character Aimee Finecky comes along and gives him a bit of a pick me up. Aimee is the complete opposite of Sutter, she’s down the chain on the social ladder and has dreams of finally leaving for college although stunted by her mother. Sutter befriends her in the hope of helping her out.

There’s films out there which make you wanna cry because devastating stuff happens in them with that sole outcome in mind, but then there are some films which make you wanna cry because you connect so much with the characters and the films themes that they are more tears of inspiration than sympathy. I wont lie, by the end of the film I felt quite emotional. It was odd because I’ve never felt so emotional for such a character triumph. Something so simple yet profound. I’m at a similar time in life as this Sutter kid which is why it probably felt so relatable, and because of that I may have left the film slightly a better person.

What I like about this story is that there’s no defining character that helps grow Sutter. From watching past coming of age films there’s usually a father figure or someone that can be looked up to who knocks some inspiration into our lost soul, but in this film, it took getting to his lowest point to finally grow. Sure there were characters along the way which were important but at the end of the day if you can come to terms with your problems then you can look for a solution. That’s what makes the final scene so good, it’s ambiguous but does it really matter? (You’ll see)

The cinematography is earthy capturing the human element of young love and uncertainty pleasantly. Along with the score which slowly develops from upbeat to endearing to melancholy.

As for performances, Miles Teller has the potential to be the next Vince Vaugn of sorts with his natural ability to bring charisma to a character. Saw him for the first time in Footloose then 21 & Over this year. He has no problem with running his mouth rampant and when put in the right film, it comes out positively. Hopefully he sticks to movies such as this and doesn’t over do this type of character as some actors do. Shailene Woodley co-stars and offers another great performance. Really looking forward to her new franchise film next year, Divergent, I don’t care if it seems like a Hunger Games copy, I’m sure she will bring something to the films.

What really makes these performances stand out though is the chemistry between Woodley and Teller. The last time I saw legitimate awkwardness and realism brought to teen love was last years Amazing Spider-Man, maybe I need to watch more films if that’s the case. But everything about their interaction is something I’ve been through, and for that reason it felt so real.

The Spectacular Now is a coming of age tale that starts off upbeat then hits you with emotional substance. It’s engaging and totally relatable with great leads and raw chemistry. One of my favourites of 2013.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

GI-Joe-Retaliation-after-credits-large-v3Roze-Rating: 3.5 / 5

After the events of the nano-byte wars, Duke is now commanding officer of the G.I. Joe tactical force. With Zartan and Storm Shadow still roaming the earth free men, danger remains imminent.

I’m not a fan of the toys or the franchise in general but I did thoroughly enjoy the first G.I. Joe film. It had it’s faults such as the CGI and acting but I managed to find the charm in it. Never intending to be anything more, it was fun and extremely entertaining. Just as this sequel is. I wanted to bump this up to four stars because I actually quite liked the film but after watching it for the third time I couldn’t get past a few things.

First of all for an action film this is as good as it gets. We get heaps of awesome action sequences in a variety of forms. There’s hand to hand combat, shoot outs, stealth operations, boat chases and loads of explosions. The editing is great and the choreography better. It wont let you down there, and for that reason I didn’t hate the film as others did. I mean there’s some badass sh*t that goes down, and I’m pretty sure you’d let out the odd “daym” when you see flint skidding underneath an obstacle just to shoot a guy.

As for the plot, yes it’s about a bad guy wanting to take over the world, nothing wrong with that in my books. The method of it, is where the problems exist. It’s not meant to be realistic or anything but the nuclear angle of taking over the world is growing tiresome and overdone. And in the end the execution is too illogical to look past. When you have endless opportunities for a film of this nature, then I would hope for something a little different as the first one was.

Usually little things don’t annoy me but why does Storm Shadow put on clothing just to take it off during combat. If he finds it that uncomfortable to fight in it then don’t wear it in the first place! He is the definition of “poser” in the ninja sense. I won’t mention the other thing as it is a spoiler. It involves Storm Shadow and his past, all I will say is, how does it take over two decades to figure something out which only took under a minute when actually thinking about it properly. There’s quite a lot of illogical nitpicks throughout the film.

The weakest link of the film is Flint. He’s a cool character in terms of what he can do in combat but outside of that he is totally one dimensional and boring. He has nothing to offer at all. This is probably largely due to the script as he hardly had anything to say. It was disappointing as he seems quite entertaining during the films opening as he partakes in insubordination and I noticed they deleted a scene where he gets his ass kicked for it. Looking back I think that was decided as he seemed to have too much of a personality. That being said D.J. Cotrona didn’t give his best performance but I will give him the benefit of the doubt as he probably had nothing to work with.

This film as the G.I. Joe action figures are, is largely targeted at the male gender. It’s pretty apparent that the male target was always in sight as we’re presented with Adrianne Palicki in tight clothing, skimpy jogging gear and a sexy red dress. That being said I found her to be one of the main highlights of the film. I’m liking modern action films even more nowadays as women are being empowered with badass roles a lot more. The likes of Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers), Antje Traue (Man of Steel), Jaimie Alexander (Thor) and Anne Hatheway (The Dark Knight Rises) show that being a total badass is sexier than playing the girl next door. In that respect I hope to see more of these characters in the future. Adrianne Palicki, if going down the action film route will do well. That being said women will get the opportunity to drool over Channing Tatum and The Rock doing their thang.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is far from being perfect but for an action flick it provides enough badassery and sex appeal to make it an entertaining night in.

Crystal Fairy (2013)

crystal-fairy-indie-movie-650x350Roze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Jamie (Michael Cera) and three Chilean brothers plan a road trip in search of rare hallucinogenic drug San Pedro. Before their big trip (PUN) Jamie drunkenly invites mysterious hippie Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann). Soon enough both Jamie and Crystal Fairy clash in personality.

Stoner film of the year, Crystal Fairy brings the stoner stereotypes to life with refreshing realism and raw charm. You get a sense that this is going to be more than your typical stoner comedy as Jamie offers to cook for drag queens he just met from the street. Jamie savors the drugs he takes, he doesn’t indulge in them with excess while Crystal Fairy likes to experience the drug from the mind to the soul.

Going into the film I didn’t know what to expect, I knew it was a low budget indie and I knew it was going to be a comedy. After seeing the film it really was a lot more than that. Doing some research I found out that this was a film that Cera and director Sebastian Silva had not originally planned to do. Waiting for finance for their second film Magic Magic they decided to shoot Crystal Fairy. Despite a thin script, Silva’s clear direction and personal experience make the film a heartwarming piece of Chilean gold. The film is truly down to earth and incredibly raw as we tag along on this road trip. From the tonal changes to the backpackers antics. This is as real as we’re going to get to a road trip film.

Although this film doesn’t concentrate on the road trip but more about the characters on it. When we’re first introduced to Jamie he seems like a chilled out guy. He offers to cook for strangers and even invites a new friend on a planned trip. but once off drugs he is self indulgent and more interested in his own agenda as he reluctantly allows Crystal Fairy to accept his offer. Crystal Fairy is truly a free spirit as she spews idealist views about how the world should be and what is causing its demise. Her contribution to preventing it involves drifting from one place to another and refusing to shave. They may be on a road trip, but the film explores their own journey within themselves.

They are both conflicted with life and don’t really know what they are doing as we see Crystal Fairy take a gulp of Cola after giving a speech about how destructive sugar can be. She lives in her own world putting on this fake exterior. While Jamie fails to accept Crystal Fairy on the trip, he refuses to connect and in the end we see him get isolated from the group. What I liked about the film is that the characters are authentic and their problems are honest. Ultimately the film explores their inner growth, from selfishness to compassion and from a reinvention of themselves to their true self.

Crystal Fairy offers some committed performances from its cast. Michael Cera has played offbeat characters before but nothing as organic as this. I’m not familiar with Gaby Hoffmann but her eccentric and out there performance makes this one of the bravest performances of the year. As for the Chilean actors they did an awesome job largely dependent on improvisation. Juan Andres Silva has a certain look that suits the big screen; hope to see him take on other projects.

I’ve not watched many indies but this makes me want to watch a heap of them. Crystal Fairy may not be packed with jokes and road trip horse play, but it is rich in character development, mesmerizing cinematography and drug play.