Ana (Grace Van Patten) is transported like magic at the start “Help” to an alternate universe, propelled in the company of a group of female soldiers led by the mysterious Marsha (Mia Goth). Much like “The Wizard of Oz,” a lot of people Ana knew in her other life are found in a new form here in this place that turned the war of the sexes into something literal. Ana is trained as a sniper by Marsha and her team of soldiers who trap men to come to their aid only to suffer a killing curse. Imbued with symbols like how girls make better snipers because they can hold awkward positions and make themselves invisible, “Mayday” seeks to examine issues of gender, suicide, and youth through a thin lens. fantastic lens, but he never finds a confident wavelength, meandering when it needs to be world building, and leaving Ana and the other characters as symbols rather than people.
Cinorre takes his promising concept of “Little Women” meets “The Wizard of Oz” meets “The Hunger Games” and filters it through dime store commentary on the genre and incredibly superficial dialogue, so stilted at times that the movie becomes unpleasant. The girls discuss how they killed themselves to get there and only vaguely remember their past lives. It is a vision of purgatory in which an all-out war between the sexes takes place. An interesting and ambitious idea for a film? Sure. The problem is that the endless philosophies of the navel and start to feel like a purgatory for the viewer too. At one point, a finely staged and directed musical number erupts. Why? Why not? Too many creative decisions in “Mayday” seem to have received a “Why not?”
Sion Sono “Prisoners of Ghostland” maybe not in the Midnight section of the Sundance Film Festival virtual edition, but it sounds like something that would fit perfectly into this original, violent show. Sono’s English debut has easily been one of the most anticipated films at this year’s festival, as it pairs one of the most extreme and eccentric international filmmakers with an actor whose lack of inhibition seems in make a perfect fit. As he often does with his eclectic resume, Sono plays with multiple genres and their associated iconography to create a film that is both Western, Samurai, Bank Robbery and “Mad Max: Fury Road”. He knows how to amplify the strengths of his production, including a play Nicolas Cage & Nick Cassavetes, reunited from their time together in “Face / Off,” which makes it seem like it’s probably a movie that Sono likes, and an almost thief trick of Bill Moseley’s movie. If “Prisoners of the Ghostland” is a bit disappointing, it’s only because he actually feels a little restrained from what the mind can evoke when considering the potential of a collaboration between one of the actors. America’s most intrepid and one of Japan’s most intrepid directors.