Life is deja vu. Not life itself mind you – let’s say that debate for the existentialist philosophers – but Life, the hacky, trashy alien thriller from director Daniel Espinosa. From a distance, the trailers for the film suggested a film that borrowed heavily from Ridley Scott’s treasured Alien but we’re all smart enough to know that trailers are just marketing tools, often constructed to stimulate nostalgia nodules to sell a product to audiences. So imagine my shock when Life was quite literally nothing less than a watered-down, unimaginative, worthless thieving of one of my favorite films of all time. Seriously, how in the actual fuck is this happening? Let’s examine. Read More
Eternally a stylist, Danny Boyle returns to the primordial ooze that made Danny Boyle Danny Boyle with T2 Trainspotting, a self-reflective reality check of a sequel, one that dwells on past wrongs and potential paths forward, undercut with themes of addiction and redemption. Boyle’s penchant for flash won’t go unnoticed, with the very grain of the film busting with an artist’s eye. Strung out in the kind of manic urban setting that Boyle has mastered over the years, T2 is a somber meditation on regret fused with an upbeat saga of reconciliation, all told with Boyle’s vibrant knack for blaring soundtracks, an escapist kinetic energy and daring visuals. Boyle’s first sequel doesn’t always work, frequent callbacks land with various success, but when T2 is on point, his dizzily dosage of electrifying cinema can be quite inebriating and an unexpected shot to the heart. Read More
Man of vision Olivier Assayas is not your average filmmaker. The Parisian director is the kind of filmmaker that makes critics blush, his last feature Clouds of Sils Maria making its way onto a sizable share of Critic Top Ten Lists circa 2014/15. Dedicated to making bold, often female-led poetic musings, Assayas is celebrated for helping shape rounded, vibrant characters. For the second time, Assayas pairs with Kristen Stewart to tell an unconventional ghost story in Personal Shopper, a woeful tale of a woman’s tedious professional life and search for peace after her brothers passing ingrained within larger themes of spirituality and self-doubt. Unsurprisingly at this point, Stewart is phenomenal in the role, with more emotion spilling from her jittery, anxiety-wracked texting fingers than in some lesser performer’s entire arsenal. Read More
Mean Girls meets Scream in Tyler MacIntyre’s trendy satirical midnight horror-comedy Tragedy Girls. Like Heathers for the social media age, MacIntyre’s coming-of-age serial killer misadventure satirizes iPhone-obsessed culture as two popular girls go on a killing spree in order to gain followers, accrue likes and establish a brand. A fucked-up ode to friendship first and foremost, Tragedy Girls’ kill-happy mentality is demented no doubt but the relationship at its center sincerely (and gruesomely) cuts to the core of high school woes and the trials of BFF-dom. Not to mention, it’s bloody good fun.
Fans of the darker side of cinema may recognize Mark Webber from last year’s excellent Green Room where Mark played a Nazi trying (and failing) to defect from a gnarly order of backwoods skinheads but his roots in the film world run deeper than you’d think at first glance. A seasoned actor and filmmaker both, Webber has not followed a traditional path but has found success nonetheless. With his latest feature, a documentary-cum-drama, Webber has pioneered something unclassifiable, a powerfully pure art piece where the lines of reality and fiction become blur and indistinguishable. Read More
A more lovable loser there may not be than Jake Johnson’s Eddie Garrett in Win It All. The 18th (!!!) feature from mumblecore originator Joe Swanberg, Win It All is the second “official” collaboration between Swanberg and Johnson, who paired up last year to middling success with Digging for Fire after previously working in a director-actor capacity on festival favorite Drinking Buddies. Swanberg’s brand of low-key, grounded comedy-drama has rarely been better than in Win It All as he and Johnson create an emotionally involving character study of a man whose addiction to gambling (and losing) has come back to bite him, just when life has started looking up. Read More
The great John Hawkes was relegated to character actor status for far too long. That wiry, weaselly-looking fella who’s cropped in all those movies and tv shows you love who you can never put a name to? It’s probably John Hawkes. In 2010, Hawkes received some long overdo attention with an Academy Award nominee for his portrait of an unsettling redneck in Winter’s Bone, helping pave the way for his arrival in Small Town Crime, the excellent neo-noir from writer-director sibling team Eshom and Ian Nelms. Read More
There in perhaps no film in existence that better exemplifies “cult” status than Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. A titanic miff on every level imaginable, Wiseau’s self-produced “romantic drama” is often called the worst movie ever made. And rightfully so. Anyone who’s had the privilege of witnessing this filmic trainwreck is treated to a level of incompetence that is almost endearing in its epic failure. If you however are among the many uninitiated, I would suggest you stop reading and run to your nearest video store (assuming it still exists) to grab a copy The Room. I guarantee they have one. Read More
Stories based on a true story often face the detriment of audiences knowing how it’s all going to end. That will certainly be the case for many with The Most Hated Woman in America, the decade-spanning biopic/thriller focused on controversial public figure Madalyn Murray O’Hair, but it’s people like me (of the millennial variety) who may not remember this striking true story that will benefit most from its true-to-life gnarls. Activist turned founder of the American Atheists organization, O’Hair drew criticism far and wide. When she, her son Jon and granddaughter Robin are kidnapped, her notoriety is so severe, her bonds to even those who share the same blood so crimped and discarded, that no one even bothered looking for her. She remained a hostage for going on two weeks before…well I’ll let the uninitiated discover that for themselves.
Upon reading that Game of Death was an amalgam of a web series stitched together into a feature, I feared the worst. The formats, though not incongruous, ostensibly serve different ends – one drives towards a rollercoaster of micro-climaxes, the other tells a rounded whole narrative arc. It’s a case of a dozen acts versus the traditional three act structure and trying to cram the one into the other is risky business. Though there’s some glaringly funky transfer hiccups reformatting the series as a feature film – most notably aspect ratios that shift scene to scene – the product overcomes what should be insurmountable odds at every turn through pure force of blood-stained will. Read More