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SIFF ’17 Capsule Review: ‘THE OATH’

A father and doctor recounts the story of his daughter’s premature birth in Baltasar Kormákur’s latest thriller, detailing how he would have done anything, anything, to save her. Finnur (Kormákur) is given the chance to do so when her fiendish, drug dealing new beau (Gísli Örn Garðarsson) sucks Anna (Hera Hilmar) into a world of crime. The respected heart surgeon, armed with a sawed-off shotgun, his bicycle and a rock solid alibi, launches into action. A jet black and brutal subversion of the Taken formula, Kormákur’s bleak vision of a father going the distance is an emotionally complex and viscerally engrossing portrait of sacrifice and vengeance, loaded with harrowing, hold-your-breathe thrills and nuanced character work. (B)

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The 5 SIFF ’17 Good to Great Movies We’ve Already Seen

It’s nothing short of ironic that the 5 films featured in SIFF ’17 that I’ve already seen, I haven’t actually written anything about yet. So, in hopes of getting you all up to speed on as many of the SIFF features as possible, I’ll fill you in on the likes of those that I’ve already digested, complete with grades because, this is 2017 and you won’t tolerate a lack of grades. Spoiler alert: they’re all good. Also be sure to check out The 8 SIFF ’17 Films We’re Dying to See. Read More

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The 8 SIFF ’17 Films We’re Dying to See

As is always the case, gazing upon the list of 400 entires to the Seattle International Film Festival can be daunting for even the most knowledgable of cinephiles. Cutting through that list to cull a selection of desirables is an unwieldy task that demands more research than should be dedicated to a pleasure activity but to simplify the process for you dear reader, we’re trimmed that list of 400 down to a mere 8 films at SIFF ’17  (a clean 2% of their offerings) that we’re dying to see.  Read More

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SXSW ’17 Review: ‘TRAGEDY GIRLS’

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.
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SXSW ’17 Review: ‘WIN IT ALL’

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

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SXSW ’17 Review: ‘SMALL TOWN CRIME’

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

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SXSW ’17 Review: ‘THE DISASTER ARTIST’

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

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SXSW ’17 Review: ‘THE MOST HATED WOMAN IN AMERICA’

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.

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SXSW ’17 Review: ‘GAME OF DEATH’

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

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SXSW ’17 Review: ‘BABY DRIVER’

It’s been a hot minute since Edgar Wright has graced us with his genius. The man responsible for such perfect fare as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Wright has long been a pioneer of the Trojan horse comedy, trafficking highbrow laughs in with genre trappings. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Wright is known for his masterful command of visual language, finding laugh-out loud moments in sharp editing, frame composition, camera operation and a great ear for music that amplifies the deadpan, pun-happy, tongue-in-cheek writing gushing from the page. As the mainstream moves more and more toward studio comedies disemboweled by flat visual palettes that fail to embolden jokes with any discernible directorial decisions, Wright has further articulated and championed his particular filmmaking flavour and the world of cinephiles has been the more fortunate for it. Which takes us to Baby Driver. Read More