Author: Christina Tucker

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is Fun but Empty

Overview: After the Kingsman headquarters is destroyed, the remaining Kingsmen are forced to seek out their American counterparts, the Statesman, to stop a dangerous threat. Twentieth Century Fox; 2017; Rated R; 141 Minutes. “Now I’ve Got Wings”: Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was creative, irreverent, well-crafted parody that still managed to have a sweetness to it, courtesy of its protagonist Eggsy (Taron Egerton). The sincerity and heart present in the chaos and parody in the original Kingsman came from Eggsy’s origin story, from an aimless working-class boy to an English gentleman spy, guided by his mentors Harry Hart (Colin...

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In The Vault, Poor Creative Choices Add Up to a Weak Horror Film

Overview: A bank robbery quickly goes south due to mysterious, supernatural forces within the bank. FilmRise; 2017; Not Rated; 91 minutes. “We’re not alone”: In Dan Bush’s The Vault, siblings Michael Dillon (Scott Haze), Vee Dillon (Taryn Manning), and Leah Dillon (Francesca Eastwood) commit a bank robbery in order to help Michael Dillon pay back an ambiguously unsavory debt. In the process, the truth about the bank come to light and leads to chaos and carnage. Among those held hostage in the bank are assistant manager Ed Mass (James Franco) and head bank teller Susan Cromwell (Q’orianka Kilcher). While the...

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Atonement: Lies, Stories, and Art as Penitence

“I wouldn’t necessarily believe everything Briony tells you. She’s rather fanciful.” Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan), from the beginning to the end of Atonement, is a person whose life is consumed by fabrication. Beyond her interest in writing plays and later, books, her affinity for fanciful stories and archetypal characters bleeds into her real life; Briony manipulates events around her, crafting narratives out of the “characters” she sees as an author would, leading to tragedy for those around her. Briony writes a play, The Trials of Arabella, inspired by her sister Cecilia and the tension she shares with Robbie, the...

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Logan Lucky is Well-acted, Sharply Written, and Sweet

Overview:  The Logan siblings attempt to pull off a heist during a major NASCAR race in North Carolina; Bleecker Street; 2017; Rated R; 119 minutes. “Ocean’s 7-Eleven”: Logan Lucky is Steven Soderbergh’s first theatrical feature since Side Effects (2013), and is a welcome return to the format for the experienced director. With writer Rebecca Blunt (the pseudonym of a currently-unknown writer who could be anyone from Soderbergh’s wife Jules Asner to Soderbergh himself) Soderbergh has created a character-driven heist film that is both genuinely hysterical and avoids taking the easiest, most obvious routes in terms of plot, humor, and characterization....

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Ingrid Goes West Explores the Lunacy of Social Media Obsession

Overview:  After the death of her mother, Ingrid decides to travel West and become friends with a young woman she follows on Instagram. Neon; 2017; Rated R; 97 minutes. Tastemakers: Ingrid Goes West, director and co-writer Matt Spicer’s first feature length film, is remarkably specific, a millennial’s film, largely in the best sense; it is slickly made, full to the brim with cultural references and irony but also remains emotionally vulnerable and sincere. Ingrid Goes West avoids being broad parody or a mean-spirited of youthful naiveté in general, and instead integrates the amount of contemporary detail that grounds its characters...

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Lady Macbeth is a Beautiful, Bleak Story of Desperation and Cruelty

Overview: In 19th century England, a young bride struggles against the confinement of an abusive marriage. BBC Films; 2016; 89 minutes. I’m thick-skinned: Lady Macbeth explores with quiet subtlety and complexity a protagonist, Katherine (Florence Pugh), who is mistreated and cruel, sympathetic and reprehensible. Its story, based on a 1865 novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, could be considered pulpy; a sexual thriller complete with adultery, clandestine affairs with an attractive farmhand (Cosmo Jarvis’ Sebastian), a young woman’s exploration of her sexuality, and eventually murder. But it is presented with absolute austerity that draws the viewer in and...

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New on Amazon Prime Instant Streaming: 20th Century Women & The Distance Between American Generations

Originally published on January 30, 2017. 20th Century Women is now available on Amazon Prime’s instant streaming service. Overview: In 1979 Santa Barbara, single mother Dorothea struggles to raise her son Jaime and seeks the help of two young women. A24; 2016; Rated R; 118 minutes. Mama Can’t Buy You Love: Director and writer Mike Mills, recently nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, has more than proven his mastery of incorporating personal yet universal themes in his work. Mike Mills’ most recent feature, Beginners (2010) was simple yet profound, heartbreaking yet hopeful, and creatively crafted. 20th...

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A Look Back at Don Siegel’s The Beguiled

Overview: After a girls’ seminary school in rural Mississippi, allegiances are tested and a seemingly idyllic community devolves into jealousy and violence. Universal Pictures; 1971; 105 minutes. Take a lesson by me: Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies exists as a microcosm of the rural Mississippi society in which they live with one major difference: there are no men. The eponymous Martha Farnsworth (Geraldine Page) is strict and harsh with the children, patronizing with the teacher Edwina (Elizabeth Hartman), and Hallie (Mae Mercer) their slave, lives as a second-class citizen on the grounds. Despite some petty arguments, those at...

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The Bad Batch is Disjointed and Aimless

Overview: A young woman challenges overwhelming desperation and violence in a dystopian wasteland. Annapurna; 2017; Rated R; 115 minutes. “We ain’t good, we’re bad”: The plot of The Bad Batch, the sophomore feature from Writer-Director Ana Lily Amirpour, is not difficult to follow. A young woman, Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), lost in the desert, loses her arm and leg to cannibals in a community called The Bridge. She escapes, murders a woman in revenge, and then aims to repent by caring for that woman’s daughter Honey (Jayda Fink). Meanwhile the young girl’s father Miami Man (Jason Momoa) searches for her. The...

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Shimmer Lake is Shallow Tale of Small Town Crime

Overview: A small town police officer tries to apprehend three bank robbers, one of which is his brother; Footprint Features, Netflix; 2017; TV-MA; 86 minutes. A county that doesn’t get dead bodies: Officer Zeke Sikes (Benjamin Walker) is a police officer tasked with solving a small-town bank robbery that involves his brother, Andy (Rainn Wilson). The drama of Shimmer Lake takes place in a small town ill-prepared to handle serious crime, and uses this setting and the contradictions therein to address the cynicism of Sikes as he aims to understand the crime that has taken place. Oren Uziel’s Shimmer Lake...

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Vincent N Roxxy Abandons its Characters for Cartoonish Violence

Overview: An unlikely romance between Vincent, a young small-town loner and Roxxy, a young woman on the run, turns to tragedy when Roxxy’s past catches up with her. Unified Pictures; 2017; Rated R; 102 minutes. Tone Trouble: Stories of love between unlikely partners, while well-trodden territory, can always be approached in novel ways, especially if the partners in question provide something new in terms of an interesting dynamic, setting, or concept. Vincent N Roxxy desperately wants to put its leads through trauma and violence to heighten the emotional stakes; what begins as small-town romance with a retro sensibility becomes something...

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Dead Men Tell No Tales Struggles to Put to Rest a Once-Great Franchise

Overview: Jack Sparrow confronts a ghost from his past that seeks revenge. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; 2017; Rated PG-13; 129 minutes. Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmate: Led by Gore Verbinski’s vision, the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies were marked by entertaining adventure sprinkled with well-integrated magic and inventive, ambitious visuals. The films explored piracy as a rejection of social expectations and moral simplicity, through eccentric and fascinating characters. After a disappointing fourth installment, the franchise seeks real closure in its fifth and final chapter. The way in which directors Joachin Rønning and Espen Sandberg and writer...

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‘Free Fire’ Sees Fear & Masculine Insecurity Beget Violence

Overview:  In 1978, a weapons deal in a warehouse quickly goes wrong, and a shootout ensues when everyone present tries to defend themselves. A24; 2016; Rated R; 90 minutes. “It’s too late, I’ve been insulted”: In 1978, a weapons deal goes wrong. There is no on screen information to give a date, time, or location. We can glean as much as it necessary from visual cues and exposition. Free Fire’s premise could be handled in many ways, and Ben Wheatley chooses an impressively subtle and character-focused exploration of violence and its causes. It is not surprising that the weapons...

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Colossal is a Monster Movie Rooted in its Protagonist’s Psyche

Overview: A woman in the midst of a difficult period in her life finds that her mental state has manifested in a monster that is wreaking havoc in Seoul, Korea. NEON; 2017; Rated R; 110 minutes. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman: Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal largely exists beyond genre and plays with expectations in all fronts. It is neither a parody of the kaiju, monster movie genre nor a monster movie played straight. Not wholly tragic but certainly not laugh-out-loud funny. Colossal is rooted in a metaphorical concept: a person’s mental state has manifest physically. The way invading creatures...

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Ghost in the Shell is a Visual Spectacle With an Empty Soul

Overview: In a cyberpunk, futuristic Japan, a cyborg commander known as Major and her counter-terrorism unit Section 9 works to stop hackers and cyber-terrorists. Paramount Pictures; 2017; Rated PG-13; 106 minutes. Natural and Artificial: The 1995 anime film Ghost in the Shell, directed by Mamoru Oshii, is both beautifully animated and profound in its exploration of the human experience, pushing ideas about both technology and subjectivity to their extremes. If a third party can alter someone’s perception, memories, and actions—what constitutes one’s identity? It is a film that’s just as concerned with its main character’s psychology as with its futuristic...

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