Monday, May 08, 2017

VODepths: 'In the Shadow of Iris,' 'A Morning Light,' 'The Outcasts'

In the Shadow of Iris (Romain Duris, Jalil Lespert, Charlotte Le Bon, dir. Jalil Lespert) A rich banking executive's wife (or is she?) stages her own kidnapping (or does she??) in this twisty but kind of empty French thriller, a remake of a 2000 Japanese movie by Hideo Nakata. Romain Duris plays an ex-con mechanic drawn into this high-stakes plot, with actor/director/co-writer Jalil Lespert as the seemingly upstanding banker hiding dark secrets. French-Canadian actress Charlotte Le Bon, whom I've seen mainly in boring girlfriend roles in English-language movies, makes the biggest impression as a sultry femme fatale, although she's sidelined for long stretches of the movie. Lespert gives the movie a glossy upscale look, despite the trashy story that eventually detours into Eyes Wide Shut-style sex parties and a pointless subplot about an affair between the police detectives investigating the kidnapping. The more that's revealed, the less intriguing it all is, until everything wraps up a little too quickly and neatly. Available on Netflix.

A Morning Light (Zach Weintraub, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Austin Will, dir. Ian Clark) Very little happens in this slow, abstract pseudo-thriller, which has vaguely horror/sci-fi undertones that never really amount to anything. The description from the movie's Kickstarter actually provides more details than the movie itself, explaining that main character Zach (Zach Weintraub) is staying at his aunt and uncle's remote forest cabin while taking a break from his job. That was not clear from the movie, nor was it clear why Zach spends much of his time sleeping outside in a tent (maybe he just likes it?), even after he starts experiencing strange noises and possible missing time. Also, he's a beekeeper? Or maybe just helping out a local beekeeper? Anyway, there are beekeeping scenes. He also hooks up with his old friend (or possibly ex-girlfriend) Ellyn (Celia Rowlson-Hall), who happens to be in the forest as well, for unspecified reasons. The dialogue is minimal, and when the characters do speak it's often hard to hear what they're saying. Writer/director/producer/editor/cinematographer/sound designer Ian Clark comes up with some striking, occasionally creepy images, but the movie builds very slowly to a whole bunch of nothing, and is often pretty tedious to watch while it gets there. Available on No Budge.

The Outcasts (Victoria Justice, Eden Sher, Avan Jogia, dir. Peter Hutchings) Shot in 2014, this harmless teen comedy somehow took three years to find its way to release, even though star Victoria Justice is way less famous and popular now than she was three years ago. Not that this would've been a huge hit if it was released back then (Justice's one big shot at movie stardom, Fun Size, was a flop in 2012), but at least it might have gotten a token run in theaters, or a better fate than barely being promoted on VOD. Justice and The Middle's Eden Sher play a pair of nerdy best friends who launch a plot to overthrow their high school's popular kids. Complications, of course, ensue, but the conflicts are mild, and the movie's idea of teenage rebellion is exceedingly tame. The story mixes a bit of Revenge of the Nerds with a bit of Mean Girls and a tiny amount of Heathers, but it's not nearly as clever or vulgar or funny as any of those movies, and it glosses over any dark emotions with friendship and reconciliation. Justice makes for a likable protagonist, although Sher is a bit too hyperactive as the more motivated friend who ends up corrupted by her power. If anybody actually bothers seeing this movie, maybe it will get Justice the kind of higher-profile role she seemed set for when it was being made. Available on Amazon and elsewhere.

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