Weekly Review is a place where I, your Silver Screen Riot editor in chief Matt Oakes, recap the week, providing a coverage overview of the past 7 days as well as shorter review segments on previously releases films or new releases I caught at home (usually by studio-distributed screeners).
It’s been a minute since our last visit, time well spent in New York City and the Seattle sunshine. Although summer is officially underway here, so too is the Seattle International Film Festival. And though I’ve ratcheted down my attendance from year’s past, I’ve still spent plenty a shiny afternoon in a dark theater or pinky-extended hotel room talking to directors, actors and even a (*gasp*) composer. SIFF being what it is, I’m sitting on reviews of Love & Mercy, Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, Unexpected, Mr. Holmes and the excellent demon horror The Hallow.
In wide release, I took down the supremely received Mad Max: Fury Road – I’ll direct you to Chris’ review for full thoughts on the matter – in addition to the surprisingly gleeful Pitch Perfect 2. At home, I’ve still made time to catch up with the original Mad Max trilogy – which I podcasted about over at InSession Film – swallow some Bong Joon-ho for Mother’s Day and feed my mind with a pair of documentaries. All this installment and more on Weekly Review.
HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971)
The birds and the bees dispatch from a thicket of old lady hair in this classic emo-rock, counter-culture cult classic. Harold – a depressive teen with an overbearing and yet frightfully distant maternal figure – dreams up inventive ways to feign suicide until he encounters a car-jackin’, booze-swillin’ inconspicuous grandma with no reservations and no speed limits. I’ve a fondness for Harold and Maude curated by years of frequent revisits and though delightful and insightful, it does pale in comparison to contemporary cumming-of-age tale The Graduate. Not that one ought to compare the two necessarily but for some reason I can just never help it. Cat Stevens soundtrack is unabashedly perfect though. (B+)
Bong Joon-ho’s fourth feature is predictably excellent, layered with energy and mystery and filled with a type of genre-defying narrative looseness that allows it to go just about anywhere at any time and exist as so many things at once. Mother tells the tale of a mom’s desperate search to redeem her slow-witted son who’s been framed for a murder she’s convinced he didn’t commit. Like Joon-ho’s earlier Memories of Murder, the film depicts the two sides of South Korean law as one and the same. The police force is dubious at best and, more likely than naught, riddled with corruption. Familiarity with his earlier work casts Mother in even more vivid, surrealistically satirical light, regardless of how humorless its core intentions remain. And this is Joon-ho’s greatest asset – he doesn’t force himself to choose one side or the other. He can have his great black comedy alongside cripplingly potent dramatic movements. From a distance, his filmography looks divided between crime sagas and genre films but for those actually looking, his chief concern remains human partaking in the inhumane and Mother is a damn fine example of that. And it has one of the best endings to a movie since Darren Aronofsky‘s Pi. (A-)
PITCH PERFECT (2012)
A cheery, pitchy retelling of that ever-recylced high school underdog story, Pitch Perfect imagines a world in which listening to acapella isn’t tantamount to torture. A punky Anna Kendrick plays a reclusive wanna-be DJ who joins up with the spunky Bellas, who’ve recently fallen from their high horse via a public puking incident. When the comedy works, it tends to be side-splitting – particularly when Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins are firing off their verbal guns – casting a growing, glowing cloud over the admittedly dumb trappings of what should be such a cliched slice of cinema. An impromptu sing-off battle just needs a spoonful of sardonic commentary to make the medicine go down smoothly and Pitch Perfect finds a good mix of the two in its formula. It’s not mixed by a perfect chemist, but Jason Moore does well enough. (B-)
KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK (2015)
I’ll give credit to filmmaker Brett Morgen for defying expectation with Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. Rather than dish the cold hards on Cobain’s dour rise to stardom, he points his camera into the man’s interworking by showcasing his unrestricted access to Cobain’s personal journal entries, pieces of artwork and stunningly animated accounts of Kurt’s young life. The result is about as unsettling and tragic as one would imagine – with xylophone covers of Nirvana tracks adding further laters to the haunting atmosphere – and features a trove of previously unreleased home video footage that will be sure to make the hardest of fans squeal. All evidence points to a man teetering on a dangerous edge for his whole life, primed for the white light with both barrels cocked. And though Morgen offers up the broad strokes of Kurt’s hellish plot through life, I’m not sure that doodles and scribblings really help me understand who the man inside the music actually is. And for that, I left feeling a little unfulfilled. Especially when the asking price is over two hours. (C+)
FED UP (2014)
As I posted on Twitter after viewing, Fed Up ought to be required viewing for all Americans who eat food. Find yourself included in that group? Then yes, this includes you. Almost more importantly, this is a documentary that should be force fed to politicians, in addition to school principals. Targeting the obesity epidemic in our country (and, to lesser degree, around the world) Fed Up (which can also be interpreted as F-ed Up) tells the story of how our food became, well, “food” and how our declining health has gone hand-in-hand with this government-approved transformation. Fed Up provides disturbing data points as well as heartbreaking testimonials from real live chubby kids, posing the question, “If a foreign party were targeting our children and profiteering off their declining health, wouldn’t we declare war on them?” And yet, we allow the food industry to wage war on children through distressingly ubiquitous ad campaigns paired with their addictive, misleading products. The doc is eye-opening and haunting but still provides feasible solutions that we as a nation should, and must, strive for. It’s available on Netflix and should be shared aggressively. (A)