post

SIFF ’19: Confident ‘BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON’ Is a Big Fat Crowdpleaser 

Jillian Bell is off to the races as an overweight and under-motivated millennial living in the Big Apple who decides to turn her life around through the transformative power of running. The seriocomic account of seizing power from dark instincts is laced with the ripe reality of self-destruction and lifted by the hopefulness of finding self-love. Writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo structures the film as Brittany’s rom-com with herself and Bell, who packed on (and lost) quite a bit of weight for the role, is simply fantastic delivering a marathon of darkly-tinged comedy and uplifting pathos. (B) 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

TIFF ’15 Review: ‘DER NACHTMAHR’ (The Nightmare)

If you wiggle a pencil fast enough, it appears soft. Rubbery. Made of flesh. It’s only when you reach out and touch the pencil that you realize it’s made of hard wood. In a film, we cannot reach out, we cannot exert force or physical contact, so we rely on cues that the filmmaker plants within the picture; clues that help us distinguish the realm of the real from that of the imaginary. Der Nachtmahr  (The Nightmare) is an exercise in distinguishing the real from the imagined through the lens of what is essentially ET’s aborted fetus. Read More

post

SXSW Review: EXCESS FLESH

Remember those fetid middle school health videos about eating disorders? The concerned best friend, the bespectacled guidance counselor, the implied offscreen self-abuse. The gorging. The vomiting. The inevitable dramatic hospital visit. Excess Flesh isn’t quite that but Patrick Kennelly‘s wannabe horror feature is still very much the cinematic version of binging and purging. It crams a bunch of junk down your throat only to yuck it back on the screen as watery, indistinct gook. Kinda like the next day stomach movement of a truly ripping kegger. Kennelly’s narrative circle of hell exhumes outdated and/or overplayed models of violence towards women and the violence women inflict on themselves to ill-effect. Aided by a predictable and heavily cliched script from Kennelly and co-writer Sigrid Gilmer (starring bottom-feeding lines like “You’re not gonna get away with this, you know”), Excess Flesh is at once an obvious and oblivious body dysmorphia thriller that’s more than a little flabby. And by curtain time, it, like a half-starved model, has totally collapsed off the runway. Read More

post

SXSW Review: AVA’S POSSESSIONS

Traditionally, the horror movies begins with the tabula rasa and from there builds upwards with little narrative Lincoln Logs stacked on shower scares and mirror pop-ins. Ava’s Possessions shrewdly flips the formula on its head, poising an intriguing conceit in the exploration of what transpires after a ghastly, cathartic event. Where is the werewolf at mentally the morn after the full moon? When do the disfigured, backwoods cannibals run out of human stock and have to settle on Ramen? How nasty a case of PDST results from a Eli Roth-style torture session? What is the aftermath of an exorcism? Read More

post

SIFF Capsule Recap #10: STANDING ASIDE WATCHING, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2, LIFE FEELS GOOD, THEY CAME TOGETHER

Desktop40.jpg
The cloud has lifted. SIFF 2014 is over. I’ve seen 40 films. FORTY. (*Takes deep breath, drag off inhaler*) While I grossly miscalculated just how much a marathon watching 40 films in the span of a month (on top of new wide releases) would be and how taxing on my creative spirit, to have it done and over with is like a right of passage. With this capsule review series now at a close, I can assuredly say that SIFForty has certainly had a wealth of good stuff to offer but they’re nothing if not hidden amongst a trove of unenviable watches. As always, the good is mixed in with the bad, brown-paper-bagged and drawn at random. But of course, this is why you read reviews.

Even in this final leg, I’m keeping within the rules and regs of SIFF protocol so these micro-reviews are sliced and diced down to a brief 75 words so you can read them fast, I can write them fast and the studio’s happy. So, short and sweet reading for you, much more time for movie watching for me. This is the close of a beautiful friendship.

Standing Aside Watching (Na Kathesai Kai Na Koitas)

dir. Giorgos Servetas star. Marina Symeou, Marianthi Pantelopoulou, Nikos Georgakis (Greece)

StandingAsideWatching_Still04.jpg

This Greek pseudo-tragedy thinks it blends elements of feminism in a bowl of misogyny but winds up a fallen soufflé of smut; a concoction of hopelessness and gray scenery that reads snuff film. Just when you think the film might barrel into a satisfying direction of minxy revenge, Servetas’ film succumbs to more violence against women and more senseless sentences carried out by the meat-headed minds of men. An unpleasant and dark experience not worthy of embarking on. (D)

How to Train Your Dragon 2

dir. Dean DuBlois star. Jay Baruchel, Gerald Butler, Cate Blanchett, Craig Robinson, Djimon Hounsou (USA)

HowToTrainYourDragon2_trailer2.jpg

Soaring nearly as high as its predecessor, How to Train Your Dragon 2 represents the best that animation has to offer. With Roger Deakins serving as a visual consultant, the film looks goddamn brilliant with Dreamworks ushering in a new gold standard for animated features in era of post-Pixar brilliance. And while most (if not all) of the comic beats fall on deaf ears (and ought to have been cut entirely), Dragon’s heart is so big and worn so proudly on its sleeve that you’ll have to be a monster to not erupt in tears on multiple occasions in this undeniably excellent yarn on a man’s maturing relationship with his beast. (A)

Life Feels Good (Chce Sie Zyc)

dir. Maciej Pieprzyca star. Dawid Ogrodnik, Dorota Kolak, Arkadiusz Jakubik, Helena Sujecka (Poland)

life-feels-good-david-ogrodnik.jpg

Taking a page from the book of My Left Foot, Life Feels Good explores similar territory as a young man suffering from cerebral palsy tries, but fails, to communicate with the world. While Left Foot showed the immeasurable progress of a boy once thought to be a dullard, Life Feels Good is more about the institutional fallacies that circle mental disorders; the metaphysical prison that is disability juxtaposed against the physical prison that is a mental hospital. In Dawid Ogrodnik‘s stirring, wordless performance, we feel just how tortuous being trapped inside yourself would be and how damning the world around you can be. (B-)

They Came Together

dir. David Wain star. Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Cobie Smulders, Bill Hader (USA)

they-came-together-amy-poehler-paul-rudd.jpg

Don’t get me wrong, Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd make for a charming duo. Nevertheless They Came Together is a rom-com spoof in the same witless vein of Jason Friedman and Aaron Seltzer (The Starving Games, Meet the Spartans). Accordingly, it’s somewhat shocking to see Wet Hot American Summer‘s David Wain attached as director and helmer of this jokeless torpedo. His lambasting efforts are futile, his hammy parody a complete wash. While Wain’s conceit appears to be grounded in an attempt to skewer the genre instead of merely recreating pop cultural references, it works like a montage of dead baby jokes and there’s ultimately nothing differentiating this from Scary Movie 6, Epic Movie or Vampires Suck. They Came Together joins the great American tradition of not knowing comedy from an asshole. (F)

————————————————————————————————————

Click through for more recap segments and stay tuned for the next collection of four in this whopping ten part series.

Part 1: JIMI: All is By My Side, Zip Zap and the Marble Gang, Hellion, Fight Church 
Part 2: Cannibal, The Double, Time Lapse, Another
Part 3: Half of a Yellow Sun, Mirage Men, The Trip to Italy, Starred Up
Part 4: Difret, The Fault in Our Stars, The Skeleton Twins, In Order of Disappearance
Part 5: Willow Creek, Firestorm, Mystery Road, 10,000 KM
Part 6: Obvious Child, To Kill a Man, Night Moves, The Internet’s Own Boy
Part 7: Canopy, Intruders, The Babadook, Happy Christmas
Part 8: Frank, The Grand Seduction, Venus in Fur, Gold
Part 9: Leading Lady, Tom at the Farm, Grand Central, The One I Love


Follow Silver Screen Riot on Facebook

Follow Silver Screen Riot on Twitter

post

SIFF Capsule Recap #8: FRANK, THE GRAND SEDUCTION, VENUS IN FUR, GOLD

Desktop37.jpg
It’s almost hard to believe that SIFF is winding down to a close but thems the facts. With series eight now closed out, that leaves eight more films to do. Pressure is on. With this capsule reivew series now in the tail end, I can safely say that SIFForty has certainly had a wealth of good stuff to offer but they’re nothing if not hidden amongst a trove of unenviable watches. As always, the good is mixed in with the bad, paper-bagged and drawn at random. But of course, this is why you read reviews. This time around, every film listed is foreign. How critic-y of me. Still keeping within the rules and regs of SIFF protocol, these micro-reviews are sliced and diced down to a brief 75 words so you can read them fast, I can write them fast and the studio’s happy. So, short and sweet reading for you, much more time for movie watching for me. This could be the beginning (or is it getting towards the end now?) of a beautiful friendship.

Frank

dir. Leonard Abrahams star. Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy (UK)

michael-fassbender-stars-in-the-movie-frank.jpg

With a big, fake head and a Jim Morrison-like access to lyrical poetry, Frank (Michael Fassbender) is as talented as he is prophetic, and potentially disturbed. Joe (Domhnall Gleeson), a talentless hack of a musician, wants to take advantage of Frank’s art; to transform it into a social media-friendly commodity. As Frank attempts to find his magnus opus, Joe dopily tries to package and sell it; a searing metaphor for Gen-X self-inflation en masse. Efficiently experimental, at times sermonist, and always outlandish, Frank is a powerful meditation on mental disease, commercialism and art, and all the brightly lit areas where they intersect. Frank also proves Fassbender can act like no other through a Papier Mâché helmet. (B)

The Grand Seduction

dir. Don McKellar star. Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch, Gordon Pinsent, Matt Watts (Canada)

tgs_018_041a8075-221f-e311-a94e-d4ae527c3b65.jpg

This delightfully moonstruck feature boasts Brendan Gleeson‘s comedian muscles and Taylor Kitsch‘s shtick (which, yes, is an anagram of Kitsch) for being the likable bad boy (Dr. Bad Boy here.) When their once-proud fishing harbor dries up,  Murray’s (Gleeson) only way to ween the town off the welfare checks is to secure a doctor in order to legitimize a bid for an oil repurposing facility. To do so, he and the town’s people unite to spy on Kitsch’s Dr. Lewis, transforming the town around them into Lewis’s own personal fantasyland. The gimmick is cute (without being too syrupy) and at times touching, reminiscent in tone to last year’s equally cheery/droll Philomena, and is an easy recommendation for the masses of moms and pops looking for a feel-gooder. (B-)

Venus in Fur (La Vénus à la fourrure)

dir. Roman Polanski star. Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric (France)

Venus-in-Furvenusinfur.jpg

As much a showcase for its two authoritative leads as it is an illustration of the power of theater, Venus in Fur continues Roman Polanski‘s streak of adapting plays in fearlessly simple terms. While Carnage felt a little forced in its translation to the screen, Furs works wonderfully and the adroit performances matched with the clever subjugation of gender roles present in David Ives‘s drama gives this pre-turn-of-the-century, play-within-a-play, dominatrix tale one to not soon forget. (B+)

Gold

dir. Niall Heer star. Maisie Williams, James Nesbitt, David Wilmont, Kerry Condon (Ireland)

Gold.jpg

An ironically named film – even Silver or Bronze would seem somewhat an overstatement – Gold sends up the sports movie by mixing heavy themes and messy family drama amidst the quest for first place. Abbie (Game of Throne‘s Maisie Williams) is pressured by her (adoptive) father Frank, a mustache of a PE teacher, to win win win, so turns to performance enhancing drugs to improve her times, just as her real dad, Ray, enters the picture for the first time in 12 years. While it’s nice to see Williams in a leading role (and she’s never the problem), the resolution comes up short, as does some of the connective tissue getting us from point A to point B. As such, Gold is a film with high aspirations that only periodically hits its mark. (C)

————————————————————————————————————

Click through for more recap segments and stay tuned for the next collection of four in this whopping ten part series.

Part 1: JIMI: All is By My Side, Zip Zap and the Marble Gang, Hellion, Fight Church 
Part 2: Cannibal, The Double, Time Lapse, Another
Part 3: Half of a Yellow Sun, Mirage Men, The Trip to Italy, Starred Up
Part 4: Difret, The Fault in Our Stars, The Skeleton Twins, In Order of Disappearance
Part 5: Willow Creek, Firestorm, Mystery Road, 10,000 KM
Part 6: Obvious Child, To Kill a Man, Night Moves, The Internet’s Own Boy
Part 7: Canopy, Intruders, The Babadook, Happy Christmas


Follow Silver Screen Riot on Facebook

Follow Silver Screen Riot on Twitter

post

SIFF Capsule Recap #3 (HALF OF A YELLOW SUN, MIRAGE MEN, THE TRIP TO ITALY, STARRED UP)

Desktop31.jpg

This third segment is the strongest yet, with four movies totally worthy of seeing. Still following the SIFF procedure, these short-shorts of reviews are kept to a brief nature (75 quick words of glory) until their respective local release. So in my pursuit to oust my opinion without breaking regulation, look out for mini-review after mini-review as I seek to hit that magic number of 40 films of SIFF’s 40th anniversary. So, short and sweet reading for you, much more time for movie watching for me. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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-)

————————————————————————————————————

Click through for more recap segments and stay tuned for the next collection of four in this whopping ten part series.

Part 1: JIMI: All is By My Side, Zip Zap and the Marble Gang, Hellion, Fight Church 
Part 2: Cannibal, The Double, Time Lapse, Another

Follow Silver Screen Riot on Facebook
Follow Silver Screen Riot on Twitter

post

SIFF Capsule Recap #2 (CANNIBAL, THE DOUBLE, TIME LAPSE, ANOTHER)

SIFF2014.jpg
In keeping with the rules and regs of the Seattle International Film Festival, reviews for most films will  be kept to brief capsules (75 quick words of glory) until their respective local release. So in my pursuit to oust my opinion without breaking regulation, expect more and more capsule recaps in the coming weeks as I seek to hit that magic number of 40 films of SIFF’s 40th anniversary. So, short and sweet reading for you, much more time for movie watching for me. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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)