post

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

post

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

post

SXSW ’17 Review: ‘THE LIGHT OF THE MOON’

The Light of the Moon is an ambiguous enough film title. Jessica M. Thompson’s movie ostensibly could be a werewolf coming-of-age independent film. A non-canonical sequel to Moonlight. Even a bone-headed YouTube short about community college bros flashing their buns to one another. It’s none of those things, thankfully. Instead, The Light of the Moon, while a whole lot better than any of the above pitches, will catch you equally off guard. Read More

post

SXSW ’17 Review: ‘THE ARCHER
’

Robin Hood. Legolas. Katniss Everdeen. That dead-eyed kid from We Need to Talk About Kevin. Archers all. The Archer’s Lauren Pierce is not a name you’ll need add to that list. Bailey Noble does a fine job as the cocksure protagonist, a going-places high school competitor with a sharp eye and a short fuse who winds up in a correctional facility for minors, but Casey Schroen’s undeveloped script and an entirely underwhelming edit doesn’t allow Lauren to flourish into anything beyond a hodgepodge of kick-ass chick cliches trapped in a humdrum teen thriller. Read More

post

SXSW ’17 Review: ‘COLOSSAL’

Colossal, about a drunken dead-ender who discovers she has become an unwitting remote control for a massive horned monstrosity, is a film at war with itself. On the one hand, the spectacularly strange conceit prompts a delicious revision of the monster movie genre. Still, the potential novelty fails to take flight, making Colossal both too strange for mainstream audiences who typically buy tickets for monsters bashing each other movies and not really strange enough to satisfy audiences hoping for something truly nutty. Read More

post

SXSW ’17 Review: ‘PREVENGE’

A case of in utero homicide, Prevenge comes born of triple-threat Alice Lowe’s fertile but twisted mind. Taking duties as writer, director and star in this slop-rock ballad of killer prepartum impulses, Lowe weaves her story of a knocked up avenging angel in the strangest of circumstances. Pregnant at 37, art found itself mimicking reality (to a degree) as Lowe put pen to paper to stitch together a one-page pitch early in her first trimester. Read More

post

Out in Theaters: ‘INDIGNATION’

The basic plot structure of Indignation couldn’t be simpler. The precocious son of a New Jersey kosher butcher heads off to college, goes on a date, changes dorm rooms and gets appendicitis. For a film with such narrative simplicity, the margins are sprawled with a rich tapestry of emotionally vibrant reveals, loaded with unconventional wordplay comedy and brimming with decadent forbidden relationships, all pumping along to a mule kick of a curtain act. As a crossbred of coiffed 1950s romance and genteel protest piece, Indignation is a delicate ballet that culminates in first time writer/director James Schamus doing a tap dance on your fluttering, caved-in chest. Read More

post

SIFF ’16 Capsule Review: ‘UNDER THE SHADOW’

With Under the Shadow, Babak Anvari has his finger on the pulse of what we want, and deserve, from an independent horror movie. A potent location in 1980s missile-wary Tehran, a compelling lead in Narges Rashidi who grapples with cultural and professional oppression in addition to her family being haunted, and an actively restrained director who suckerpunches his audience with powerful scares when they least expect it. Shadows is the latest in a string of politically-charged paranormal exports (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, to name one) from Iran and from the physical traits of the fearsome Djinn, who’ve latched onto daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) for nefarious ends, suspiciously remind one of an anthropomorphized burka, an extension of the societal persecution Rashidi’s Shideh suffers daily. Under the Shadow joins the ranks of recent modern horror greats (Babadook, It Follows) that combine meaningful social commentary in with effective frights. Consider it a must see. (A-)
Read More

post

SIFF ’16 Capsule Review: ‘MIDDLE MAN’

Ned Crowley stresses “comedy” in his offbeat desert kill spree comedy of errors Middle Man. A darkly humorous dredge through despair and desperation, Crowley’s film emulates the dark comedy stylings that define greater desert noir the likes of No Country for Old Men with enough tics to call its own to warrant an existence. Parks and Recreation’s Jim O’Heir shines as a bumbling unfunny “comedian” with high aspirations and little talent and his dedicated deadpan gives Middle Man its power. All the viscera Clowery throws O’Heir’s way signals a dark transformation that results in a whopper of a final shot, even if all the detours along the way – much like the world’s biggest ball of yarn – aren’t always entirely worthwhile. (C+)
Read More

post

SIFF ’16 Capsule Review: ‘DON’T THINK TWICE’

Improv is about following the germ of an idea until it’s reach its most preposterous conclusion and with emotionally honest and rib-tickling seriocomedy Don’t Think Twice, Mike Birbiglia has, like a great improv thread taken to its most radical extreme, tangentially bloomed into himself as a director. His comedy manifesto has always tilted at harvesting truth over triviality and his framing of lifelong relationships splintering and fraternal bonds fracturing creates a heartrending account of the invoice of self-interest as a group of comic friends/collegaues infight to land a gig on an intellectually-bankrupt SNL-type sketch show. Watching Birbiglia drive a wedge between this collection of funny people who feed off each other’s energy for a living makes for powerful, character-driven work and the cast, including a standout Keegan-Michael Key and Gillian Jacobs, is more than game bringing dramatic gravitas, in addition to comedic jabs aplenty, to the table. (B+)

Read More