Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Couple Quick Movie Reviews: The Conspiracy/Branded

A couple of movies I've watched on Netflix recently:

The Conspiracy is a mockumentary-turned-found-footage-film-because-we-need-more-of-that. Except for a couple of framing shots of the director's narrating, the early part of the film could be a conspiracy doc, complete short interviews with conspiracy wackos and collages of screenshots from conspiracy websites set to sinister music. When the main subject of the doc goes missing, the guys making the movie start searching for him which ultimately leads the to break into the secret meeting of a Bilderberg-like group. So basically it's a few chapters of Jon Ronson's Them smashed together with substantially less likable POV characters. It's not a bad movie, there are just a lot of scenes that don't really contribute to the mood (the mood of most scenes is "guy being filmed with a handheld"), further the plot (yeah, conspiracy, we get it), or add characterization (they remain "two random guys filming a conspiracy documentary despite a few attempts to give them depth"). At least 40 minutes of the 84-minute movie feels like filler. The ending is clever, but it's clever in a sort of "trying so hard it's kind of dumb" way.

Branded is a better movie. The basic plot is about a Russian marketing genius who goes into business with the CIA right after the fall of communism and becomes very successful and is eventually approached by the chick from Joy Ride to help her with some dumb reality show about making a fat girl pretty. Meanwhile, the novelty of fast food has worn off to the point that even marketing can't preserve profit margins, so the shitty burger Illuminati hire Max Von Sydow, who hatches a plan to sell more food by making fat beautiful. The first step is to sabotage Main Character Guy's show and put the contestant in a coma. This gets Joy Ride girl thrown out of the country and causes Main Character Guy to become a cowboy in Siberia or something. When they'er re-united a few years later (along with a kid), he does some kind of cow-killing ritual that gives him the ability to see the extra-dimensional marketing creatures that attach to people and cause them to want stuff they don't need. Eventually he uses this ability to destroy major brands and convince Russia to ban advertising. The weird-marketing creatures come across a lot like a MacGuffin in a Willaim Gibson novel--there's a lot of potential there, but it all goes unrealized. It doesn't show up until the movie's at least halfway over, is never really explored beyond its capacity to allow for trippy special effects, and, worst, completely unnecessary. The marketing creatures don't really explain anything better than the "Main Character Guy is a marketing genius" explanation that works perfectly fine for the first half of the movie. I enjoyed Branded and it does play with some neat ideas, but it's somehow simultaneously too ambitious for its own good and not ambitious enough.

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