Elle Offers Captivating Condescension Jan17

Elle Offers Captivat...

Overview: An affluent French businesswoman is violently assaulted in her own home and subsequently mounts her own private revenge against her unknown attacker. Sony Pictures Classics; 2016; Rated R; 130 minutes. Violence & Condescension: Isabelle Huppert is an undeniable screen performer...

Patriots Day is a Jingoistic Power Fantasy Jan17

Patriots Day is a Ji...

Overview: Police and armed forces begin a manhunt for the people responsible for the Boston marathon bombings. Lionsgate; 2016; Rated R; 133 minutes. Started at the Relatively Decent: Peter Berg’s directorial form has never been an issue. Shot composition is broad, never atmospheric but lays...

Silence, the Problem of Pain, & the Challenge of Cinema as Religious Text Jan16

Silence, the Problem of Pain, & the Challenge...

Overview: Upon hearing that their mentor has apostatized, two 17th Century Jesuit priests venture into Japan, where Christianity is outlawed, to find him. Based on the novel by Shūsaku Endō. Paramount Pictures; 2016; Rated R; 161 minutes. What’s In The Frame?: Martin Scorsese famously said, “Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out,” a sentence that might be as useful as any working definition that has been offered for the art form as it hits its toddler stage. But the sentiment is also useful in its implied reductive comparison. What is and is not in the frame, that which does and does not happen, what we see...

Netflix Hidden Gem #92: Autohead

Autohead (2016) Director: Rohit Mittal Genre: Drama Amit Verma Films/Stalker Films Synopsis: A group of documentarians get more than they bargained for when their cinéma vérité subject—an auto rickshaw driver in Mumbai—reveals a side of himself that’s darker and more horrific than they could have ever imagined. Overview: We expected the first murder in Rohit Mittal’s Autohead. We’ve seen Narayan (Deepak Sampat)—a rural immigrant to Mumbai who’s making a pathetic living as an auto rickshaw driver by day and a pimp by night—deal with tough customers. We’ve seen older ladies stiff him his fares, old men browbeat him for taking wrong...

Live by Night is a Frustrating Misstep Jan12

Live by Night is a F...

Overview: Based on Dennis Lehane’s novel, Live by Night follows a bandit who, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, rises as a successful crime boss during the Prohibition era. Warner Bros. Pictures; 2016; Rated R; 129 minutes. Sleep by Day: The opening narration, mumbled by Ben...

Hidden Figures Favors Drama Over Impact Jan11

Hidden Figures Favors Drama Over Impact

Overview: Three black women employed by NASA in the early 1960s solve mathematical equations essential to the success of the space program’s manned missions. 20thCentury Fox; 2016; Rated PG; 127 minutes. Women in History: In the early 1960s, a team of black women worked for NASA as mathematicians and engineers to help the U.S. beat the Soviets in the race to space – and none of us knew about them. Hidden Figures shines the spotlight on three real-life women: Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), a brilliant mathematician who graduated high school at 14, college at 18, and taught math before becoming the most skilled mathematician in...

Watching Barry In Trump’s America Jan11

Watching Barry In Trump’s America

In director Vikram Gandhi’s new film Barry, American citizens who have been waking up in fear every morning are offered the hope of a communal solution. Some context that you already know: A man with no prior political experience has been elected to become the Leader of the Free World, despite losing the popular vote. Donald J. Trump, a notorious philanderer, real estate developer, and reality television star, will unseat current president Barack Obama in fewer than two weeks. After eight years of social progress and liberal civility, the very worst monsters have emerged from the closet of American history. Bigotry, sexism, and racism have...

Go North: A Gorgeously Filmed Debut With Missteps Jan10

Go North: A Gorgeous...

Overview: After an unidentified disaster wipes out the adults of the world, a community of children and teenagers descends into dangerous chaos run by a rowdy crew of high school jocks. Desperate for freedom, friends Josh and Jessie run away in search of other survivors and hope for the...

Fences is a Performance Powerhouse With Questionable Follow-Through Jan09

Fences is a Performance Powerhouse With Questionab...

Overview: Based on August Wilson’s Pulitzer-Prize winning play, Fences examines the struggles of an aging black man in the 1950s as he tries to provide for his family, while his personal failures isolate him. Paramount Pictures; 2016; Rated PG-13; 139 minutes. August Personage: We’d be hard pressed to find a writer who so exquisitely captured the voices of black Americans during the 20th century like August Wilson. Wilson’s works carry blackness within their very punctuation, each break, stammer, or interruption illuminating a great soul of humanity, each one beautiful, damaged, and as individually complex as the laws, regulations, and...

Netflix Hidden Gem #91: Blue Jay

Blue Jay (2016) Director: Alex Lehmann Genre: Drama Netflix Synopsis: Past lovers meet unexpectedly in their hometown and reconnect through one meaningful night. Overview: I don’t like crying at movies just for the sake of crying. It’s just not my idea of a good time. Sometimes it feels like movies of the romance/drama genre aim to shoot little darts at the ovaries/brovaries of viewers just to get a cheap reaction rather than relying on solid writing and performances to get the message across. Quite frankly, outside of the random repeat viewing of Bridges of Madison County, I never go looking for that kind of “get me some ice cream”...

 The Controversies of Straw Dogs 30 Years Later

“Bloody Sam” Peckinpah made a name for himself with his vicious western The Wild Bunch in 1969. After controversy surrounded his professional methods, he took to England to film Straw Dogs, a movie that 30 years later remains as controversial as the director himself. Straw Dogs is certainly a frustrating film to watch. Those familiar know that it’s generally praised or condemned for its content to two extremes: is it a misogynistic, self-fellating film or an insightful look at humanity’s savagery? Looking at it on its 30th anniversary I aimed to ask, why can’t it be both? The truth is that it is both – but not equally or without...

Jackie Is All Towering Performance Dec21

Jackie Is All Toweri...

Overview: In the week after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, his wife, Jackie, is tasked with making impossible decisions to preserve his legacy while grieving publicly and privately. Fox Searchlight Pictures; 2016; Rated R; 100 minutes. “A man may die, nations may rise and fall,...

Going Back and to th...

JFK is 25 years old this month. It is still a fascinating movie that is unique in so many ways. It is essentially a three hour accusation against the US government of killing John Kennedy made by a three-time Oscar winner with an all-star cast. It won two Oscars and 16 other movie awards, and...

Christopher Nolan Takes on WWII in Dunkirk Trailer Dec14

Christopher Nolan Takes on WWII in Dunkirk Trailer

Warner Bros. released the trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which centers around the the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940. While this film may not be genre centric, it’s still evident that Nolan is keeping the film’s details close to the chest. Regardless of it being Nolan’s first historical piece, never count out the chance for surprise when it comes to one of the modern masters of the reveal. In terms of Nolan’s post-Dark Knight career, this first trailer is surpringly the least flashy and full of intrigue. That’s not to say, that the film doesn’t look epic in scope or haunting in its visual...

Children of Men Ten Years Later: We Couldn’t...

“And therefore I looked down into the great pity of a person’s life on this earth. I don’t mean that we all end up dead, that’s not the great pity. I mean that he couldn’t tell me what he was dreaming, and I couldn’t tell him what was real.” – Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son It’s easy now, isn’t it? Almost too easy. Today, there is a clear and topical reason to discuss the film beyond just its upcoming ten year anniversary. Do a Google search of the title with the words “relevant” or “accurate” any time over the next few weeks, as we move toward an inauguration of a president whose anti-immigration platform might have been pulled directly...

War Has Begun in First Trailer for Planet of the Apes Dec09

War Has Begun in First Trailer for Planet of the A...

Matt Reeves’ continues building what’s shaping up to be one of the most exciting and emotional franchises in modern science-fiction with War for the Planet of the Apes. This morning, 20th Century Fox Released the first trailer War for the Planet of the Apes. A poster for War for the Planet of the Apes was also released with the official trailer: War for the Planet of the Apes looks magnificent! This entire rebooted franchise is proof of what happens when a studio and people with creative visions take a nostalgic property and infuse it with new life and relevance. You can see the time and effort on screen here, and the steady...

We See the Ships in the Distance on ApocalyptoR...

I never saw Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto when it was released in 2006. I remember being vaguely interested, appreciating that it seemed ambitious in scope and subject, and filing it away as a movie I’d maybe get around to. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen—not for years anyway. It wasn’t until a weekend, in the middle of doing a few loads of laundry, that I caught an afternoon cable showing. I sat down to watch just the opening scene to see what it was all about before getting back to the laundry. I didn’t move until the closing credits. So admittedly it wouldn’t take much to pull me away from laundry, but this afternoon must have been in...

Netflix Hidden Gem #88: The Paperboy

The Paperboy (2012) Director: Lee Daniels Genre: Drama Millenium Films Synopsis: A writer and his partner investigate a murder that put a potentially innocent man on death row. Overview: Every person on this earth probably likes a movie that’s objectively bad. The Paperboy isn’t exactly unique for being booed at Cannes, but that should give some indication of its questionable appeal. The Paperboy is an absolutely southern-fried finger-licking guilty pleasure; It’s trashy, sweaty, and dirty – literally. The heat is palpable and everyone is sweatin’ up a storm. It was the summer of 1969 and “it was so hot God must have been sweating.”...

Nocturnal Animals Is An Unsettling Experience Dec07

Nocturnal Animals Is An Unsettling Experience

Overview: A novelist sends the manuscript for his latest novel to his ex-wife, who in turn takes its contents to be a veiled message of violent retribution for a past offense. Focus Features; 2016; Rated R; 116 minutes. Co-Dependent Fantasies: From the outset of director Tom Ford’s latest feature length endeavor, Nocturnal Animals, the question of what accounts for the distinction between fantasy and reality is tacitly posed. Affluent art gallery owner Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) finds herself exactly where all of her closest friends and most respected colleagues would expect her to want to be. After earning a graduate degree in art...

Run the Tide Struggles to Find a Point Dec05

Run the Tide Struggl...

Overview: When their abusive, junkie mother is released from prison, a young man named Ray kidnaps his younger brother for a road trip to Santa Cruz. Orion Pictures; 2016; Rated PG-13; 100 minutes. Oops: It was director Soham Mehta’s bad luck that I watched Clint Eastwood’s masterful A...

Manchester by the Sea Is An Operatic Ode to Melancholy Dec05

Manchester by the Se...

Overview: A man wracked with a personal grief of his own is forced to care for his teenage nephew following the death of his brother. Roadside Attractions; 2016; Rated R; 137 minutes. Working Class Blues: At the heart of director Kenneth Lonergan’s stunning followup to the critically...

“If I fight, you fight”: Rocky Balboa ...

When I was growing up, I knew about Rocky. That’s to say – I knew of Rocky. I’d seen the poster, I knew that Sylvester Stallone was a movie star, I knew that at some point he shouted “Adrian!” Like most that haven’t sat down and watched any of the Rocky series, I felt like I already knew the story – and in a way, I did. It is a fairly straightforward underdog story in a lot of ways, which makes it hard to convince non-believers of its worth. The language that Rocky himself uses is simplistic, but the melodrama of the series’ middle casts a shadow over what is otherwise a nuanced, delicate character study. Before Creed was released,...

Netflix Hidden Gem #86: Colonia

Colonia (2015) Director: Florian Gallenberger Genre: Drama Screen Media Films Synopsis: During the Chilean military coup of 1973, a German stewardess and her boyfriend are forcibly inducted into Colonia Dignidad, a cult led by an evil German preacher. Based on a true story. Overview: Despite Colonia’s small production, there is a grand sense of scale surrounding the narrative events of the film. Though executed like an indie drama, it’s hard not to envision that twenty years ago this same story would have been executed with the same sweeping scale of epic romance that made The English Patient and Titanic Best Picture winners. But unlike the...

Monster Fest 2016: Free Fire Shoots to Kill Nov30

Monster Fest 2016: Free Fire Shoots to Kill

Overview: An arms deal goes sour leading to a long, long shoot out between two gangs. A24; 2016; Rated R; 90 minutes. Shooters: Ben Wheatley is possibly my favourite director working today. He makes the kinds of movie I like, and he does it with style and wit. He also directed some great Doctor Who episodes, so that definitely puts him in my cool book. His filmography can’t really be pinned to a single genre and with each movie he has honed his skills and pushed himself forward. In accordance with this pattern, Free Fire is a fantastic movie made with an assured hand. It is a film of tiny scale with a small cast and simple plot....

Three Rivers Film Festival: Apprentice Packs a Punch That Leaves You Bruised Nov29

Three Rivers Film Festival: Apprentice Packs a Pun...

Overview: A man transitioning from the army to work in a prison is given a weighty opportunity to assist an executioner. Akanga Film Productions; 2016; Not Rated; 115 minutes. The Cupboard: Aiman (Firdaus Rahman) lives with his older sister in an apartment which mirrors the prison he works in: restrictive and grey. Suhaila (Mastura Ahmad) cares for their ailing grandmother and lovingly nags like only an older sister can. They’re in each other’s hair and each other’s business at all times, each making choices the other doesn’t agree with. Aiman struggles with his sister’s romantic relationship, fearing abandonment but pushing her...