post

Desktop41-001.jpg
Some said it couldn’t be done but goddamnit, I did it. 40 films single-handedly seen by this one naive film critic. I’ve all but overdosed on cinema. I’m obese on art films. I’m constipated by having seen films from the US, the UK, Spain, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Norway, Australia, Hong Kong, Chile, South Korea, Canada, France, Ireland, South Africa, Greece, and Poland; my pipes all clogged by the sheer amount of celluloid spun out in movie after movie. The short of it: it was a haul.

Nonetheless, SIFForty held riches to be discovered, films both foreign and domestic that I’m a better person for having seen. Amongst the truly excellent: 10,000 KM, The Skeleton Twins, The One I Love, The Internet’s Own Boy, Venus in Furs, Frank, In Order of Disappearance, The Trip to Italy, Night Moves, Intuders, Happy Christmas and To Kill a Man. Each packing a throttling punch that has lingered with me and joins the ranks of some of the best cinema of the year. On the other side of the film, SIFForty also packed saddle-bags brimming with cinematic turds including some of the worst movies I’ve seen this year; true wretches whose sitting through is an experience in pennant masochism. From the ungodly awful Firestorm to the wrecklessly hopeless Standing Aside Watching, the defunct Leading Lady to the clueless Willow Creek, they were just so, so bad. But all are topped by They Came Together – a rom-com spoof of the lowest breed – and Another – a pathetically made B-movie. Please people, don’t bother with these films.

As for the rest, feel free to dive right in and swim in the waters of 40 micro-reviews. Bask in the glory of knowing what to look forward to and the keen knowledge that you’ll know what to avoid. An article 40 days in the making, welcome to 40 for SIFForty.

Fight Church

dir. Daniel Junge, Bryan Storkel (USA)

5283bf_f45a76306ca855d2625e47bf52f8a5f0.jpg

Christians may preach turning the cheek but this bunch is all about turning said cheek to a bloody pulp. Following a group of otherwise devout pastors who prove their devotion to Him cage-style, Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel‘s documentary offers a peek into a fascinating world that you would have never suspected exists but fails to cement a sense of imminent purpose beyond surface-level intrigue. Probably would work better as a short than full length doc.  (C)

Hellion

dir. Kat Candler star. Aaron Paul, Josh Wiggins, Juliette Lewis (USA)

hellion.jpg
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) stars as newly widowed father Hollis to exuberant (in a fire-starting sort of way) sons Jacob (off-to-a-strong-start newcomer Josh Wiggins) and younger, innocent but corruptible Wes. Ships turns towards rocky shoals as the pitfalls of young fraternity sail towards bleak recompense and ultimate tragedy. There’s enough heartbreak in Kat Candler‘s cheerless drama to go around and soulful performances to match, with this dusty no-man’s land of bum-fuck wherever offering a poignant peek into the languor of plain’s living, with all its scuzzy fruitlessness and paths towards damnation. (C+)

JIMI: All is By My Side

dir. John Ridley star. Andre 3000, Imogen Poots, Hayley Atwell, Burn Gorman, Ruth Negga  (UK)

andre-3000-jimi-hendrix-thrld-magazine.jpg

A thoughtful mess but a mess nonetheless with Andre 300 laying down an unexpectedly solid turn as the pre-Woodstock Hendrix. His take feels closer to imitation than anything but it’s certainly outside the customary league of rappers-turned-actors one might expect. Director/writer John Ridley paints a picture of un-famous (and slightly infamous) Jimi with a rounded view, giving us a glimpse of a performer who few knew and may not have even known himself, but the faulty editing seeks to sabotage the movie at every turn. (C)

Zip Zap and the Marble Gang

dir. Oskar Santos star. Javier Gutiérrez, Raúl Rivas, Daniel Cerezo, Claudia Vega, Fran García, Marcos Ruiz (Spain)

zip-and-zap-and-the-marble-gang-daniel-cerezo-ral-rivas-claudia-vega-marcos-ruz-and-fran-garca-photo-credit-jose-haro.jpg

Familiar even in a foreign language (it’s Spanish), this child-lead romp is formulaic but still largely charmed. The premise follows a group of social outcasts who band together at a tortuous summer school to reclaim the lost treasure of the school’s misunderstood founder. It’s kinship to Goonies and Harry Potter means a readily consumable family feature but it lacks the magic and awe-striking wonder of a great adventure movie. (C)

Cannibal (Caníbal)

dir. Manuel Martín Cuenca star. Antonio de la Torre, Olimpia Melinte, Delphine Tempels (Spain)

Carlos leads a double life: one as an upstanding citizen/fashion-forward tailor, the other as a connoisseur of human flesh. When the sister of one of his victims nervously rolls into town, Carlos accidentally becomes coiled with her search and discovers a new range of emotions: ones that don’t start and end in his stomach. Manuel Martín Cuenca‘s slow building and deliberate pacing adds depth to Antonio de la Torre‘s somber shade of monster but his film, though unflinching, still lacks a central tension: of exposure, imprisonment, or worse. (C)

The Double

dir. Richard Ayoade star. Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor (UK)


If Terry Gilliam had made Fight Club, it probably would have looked a lot like Richard Ayoade‘s The Double. Set in a steampunk dystopian tomorrowland, Jesse Eisenberg lays down august double duty, first as Simon James, a meek, nay spineless, employee in a dungy, Orwellian basement cubicle maze. When James Simon, his carbon copy in the looks department but his exact social opposite – James is an exceedingly debonair social-climber – moves in, Simon’s small world is irrevocably jolted. Grubby set design and hallucinatory foley work, set against the motif of closing doors and characteristic-less cultural nowhere, aid Ayoade’s prevailing sense of cautious pessimism in this thrilling, darkly comedic romp. (B-)

Another

dir. Jason Bognacki star. Ana Paula Redding, Leone Sergio Bognacki, David Landry, Maria Olsen (USA)

Cheap-looking even by independent movie standards, this cultish schlock stars some of the worst performances this side of day time cable (Ana Paula Redding, *shutters*). With acting this ham-fisted and downright embarrassing, watching Another is an exercise is intelligence bludgeoning. Jason Bognacki‘s direction is comprised of shaky cam after-FX and inexplicably fuzziness that clouds our view of the “horror” onscreen, as if he’d taken cues from a pirated Bourne DVD. It’s a sad pile of crud that should be walked out on; a joker’s stain on SIFF’s lineup. (F)

Time Lapse

dir. Bradley King star. Danielle Panabaker, Matt O’Leary, George Finn, Amin Joseph, Jason Spisak (USA)

Bradley King‘s mildly thought-provoking indie sci-fi swims around in the lazy river that is time. But Time Lapsewhich sees a camera that takes pictures 24-hours in the future – is undercut by weak performances across the board. There’s a provocative allure to King’s examination of determinism versus free will at play but they’re never mined to satisfactory results. Instead, the real marvel of his deux ex machina is left to dry out like reagent on a Polaroid. For a movie that’s all about time, it’s only partially worthy of yours. (C)

Half of a Yellow Sun

dir. Bibi Bandele star. Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Boyega, Anika Noni Rose (Nigeria, UK)

HalfofaYellowSun3.jpg

Half of a Yellow Sun features strong performances from Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejioforj but after the first hour, it unexplainably loses momentum, and curls into a deep sag in the later third act. A love square between two Nigerian sisters schooled in England, who are dead set on becoming arbiters of social change, occupies the forefront of this saga that also sees the Nigerian civil war ripping their world to shreads, and subsequent creation and deconstruction of Biafra. Occassionally powerful but unsatisfying in structure.  (C+)

Mirage Men

dir. John Lundberg, Roland Denning, Kypros Kyprianou, Mark Pilkington (UK)

mirage_men_press.jpg

An engaging info-fest that posits a.) aliens exist b.) the US government funded a mild to large-scale disinformation campaign to intentionally mislead UFO researchers. Richard Doty, the former Air Force largely responsible for feeding falsified documents to UFO “expert” Paul Bennewitz – until he snapped into full blown psychosis – comes forward and is our (somewhat unreliable) guide through the proceedings. The triple directing team captures a wide range of testimony on the subject but barely have any video to play with, making Mirage Men a disappointingly “tell, don’t show” experience. (C)


The Trip to Italy

dir. Michael Winterbottom star. Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan, Marta Barrio (UK)

the-trip-to-italy-steve-coogan-rob-brydon.jpg

Rob Brydon and Steven Coogan leave foggy, fried North England behind for the breathtaking Italian coast where they wine, dine, and goof their way through a dream trip (one that inspires deep pangs of jealousy from this critic). The naturalistic hyper-reality they craft thrives on the weathered chemistry between the two stars. Their old-as-they-are relationship paves the way for improvisation prowess so organic its feels more like second natural than performance. More impressions, absolutely stunning vistas, Alanis Morissette’s croon, lazily waxing on life and pasta, pasta, pasta gives intrepid life to The Trip to Italy. (B)

Starred Up

dir. Jack Mackenzie star. Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend (UK)

starred-up-bg-4.jpg

A violent and volatile teen, Eric Love, enters a maximum security English prison where the wrong word or glance can end with a cut throat. Rather than submit to his surroundings, Eric thrashes like a caged animal; an unpredictable bombshell armed to blow. Rupert Friend, Ben Mendelsohn and David Ajala ably fill out the supporting cast but it’s star Jack O’Connell who burns brightest; his portrayal of Eric is unblinking and – even behind such thick callous – heartily tragic. While some plot threads are left dangling, the potent performances and probing examination of dehumanizing prison ethos makes Starred Up more than a worthy trip to hell and back.  (B-)

Difret

dir. Zeresenay Berhane Mehari star. Meron Getnet, Tizita Hagere (Ethiopia)

13909-2.jpg

Difret, or Ethiopia Kidnap Weddings: SVU, beams a chilling political reality where tradition clashes with human rights, courts with all-male elder tribunals. A young girl, Hirut, is kidnapped by a gaggle of men on horseback, locked up and raped before escaping and killing the captor intent on marrying her. Difret, which loosely translates to “raped”, then sees a politic system condemning this child to death and the human rights lawyer who come to her aid. The performances impress but Mehari’s amateur hand leaves much to be desired in the directing department. Hirut’s story will have you up in arms but the story is disappointingly one-sided. (C)

The Fault in Our Stars

dir. Josh Boone star. Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Willem Dafoe, Laura Dern (USA)

TFiOS-001.jpg

Charmed performances can’t overcome the schmaltzy, melodramatic cancer porn that is The Fault in Our Stars. Pegged as a weepy drama, Josh Boone‘s film is ready to serve up tragedy by the ladle-full. Willem Dafoe stops by for a show-stopping scene but it’s Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort who keep us grounded in this otherwise-borrowed Walk To Remember path. It is however decidedly better than its leads’ previous project: Divergent. Stars is not outright bad so much as fundamentally flawed. (C-)

The Skeleton Twins

dir. Craig Robinson star. Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell (USA)

13964-1.jpg

Bill Hader just had his coming out party. He may not be gay, but he’s a star. The Skeleton Twins is unabashedly entertaining; a darkly comic, tactfully told dramedy that probes the darkest of places with the funniest of people. Kristen Wiig and Luke Wilson join Hader to round out a cast of unsung heroes taking the spotlight, each firmly on their mark and spontaneously hilarious throughout. For a film that circles suicide, it is the funniest of the year (so far) and the cast’s effortless deadpan will have you in absolute, ROFL stitches. (A-)

 In Order of Disappearance (Kraftidioten)

dir. Hans Petter Moland star. Stellan Skarsgård, Kristofer Hivju, Bruno Ganz, Peter Andersson (Norway)

large_In-Order-Of-Disappearance_web_theprize.jpg