I can “review” HBO’s upcoming “Leaving Neverland” or just give an opinionated schema of Michael Jackson and his history of sexual abuse allegations towards underaged teenage boys. I’ll try to do both.Read More
“Russia Doll” is a new spin on the time-loop story which was popularized by “Groundhog Day” more than 25 years ago. That film’s concept caught on to the point where there is now a film, every year or so, which uses the gimmick. It all has to do with the notion of "If I had that to do over, I'd do it differently.” Most recently, and most successfully, was a jump towards sci-fi in which “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Source Code” used it in ways that brought a sense of newness to the gimmick, nevertheless, it’s a concept that still has many rolling their eyes whenever used, check out the less-than-successful YA flick ‘Before I Fall.”Read More
I had totally forgotten that Dan Gilory’s “Velvet Buzzsaw” was released on Netflix until I scrolled through the streaming giant’s service this past week. I had seen it at its world premiere on January 27th at the Sundance Film Festival.Read More
The trophy girlfriend of a small-time drug lord is caught up in a web of luxury and violence in the port city of Bodrum on the Turkish Riviera. The terrible things men do to women and that women allow men to do to them. Don’t mistake this provocative powerhouse for anything but the announcement of a new cinematic talent. Isabella Eklof’s “Holiday” is bound to provoke polarizing reactions. It’s a tough watch, a film that means to get under your skin and that it does. featuring one of the most graphic rape sequences ever committed to screen, the film is subtle on plot, never providing any definitive answers, but renders a damn-near damning finale. It’s not for the faint of heart, but in the era of #MeToo this is a film that deserves to exist, asking us questions about masculine and feminine roles in society, all done in uber-realist, near claustrophobic, fashion. [B+]
It’s been a long time since making traditional or even vaguely conventional “movies” has interested legendary French New-Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. If anything, the director’s movies over the last 20 or so years have been experiential audio/visual collages more interested in pictures, sounds, cuts, and de-saturation; a maddening barrage of dadaist statements. Even with all that being said, his latest, “The Image Book,” playing in competition at Cannes, should be considered as radical a Godard-ian statement as any.Read More
I can't say I didn't enjoy some moments of M Night Shyamalan's "Glass," the writer-director's follow-up to the surprisingly revealed trilogy which began with 2000's "Unbreakable," then was reshuffled for triple-ordered purposes with 2017's "Split" and now "Glass."Read More
When a director decides to tackle a genre that has been dealt with many times before, comparisons to far superior films are inevitable. And so, a film like Joe Penna's "Arctic" will no doubt run the risk of being compared to its spiritual predecessors Danny Boyle's "127 Hours," J.C. Chandor's "All is Lost" and Joe Carnahan's "The Grey." That in itself already weakens it, but like all great art, if imitation can transcend or even equal its inspirations then all the better for it.Read More
The term "clusterfuck" was invented for use when events such as the misbegotten Fyre Festival happen. Fyre was a music fest that was the brainchild of Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule. It was driven by a nifty marketing campaign which promoted musical nirvana on a a deserted island (once owned by Pablo Escobar) in the Bahamas. McFarland would overcharge thousands of music fans to what the ads deemed to be the “most exclusive music festival on the planet.”Read More
Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan already won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festivalback in 2014 with his talky epic "Winter Sleep," a shocking win if you ask me since that film is considered one of his weaker entries. Me? I'll always love "Once Upon A Time In Anatolia" a meditative but thoroughly gripping murder-mystery that very much feels like the more minimalist and, almost, equally brilliant counterpart to David Fincher's "Zodiac."Read More
A film based on women trying to break through the restrictive barriers of their parent’s religious upbringing is nothing new. However, Minhal Baig‘s “Hala” is unique because it tackles a gifted, hijab-wearing, skateboarding Pakistani (Geraldine Viswanathan) student who tries to navigate both her duties as a Muslim and her academic social life with poetic grace. The complications that arise in Baig’s film can be deemed conventional for this type of film but regardless they feel fresh and, more importantly, authentic because of the way Baig’s camera relates, in such intense ways, to Hala’s on-screen plights. Her sudden and out-of-the-blue romance with Jesse (Jack Kilmer) takes Hala away from the restrictions of her religion, the arranged marriage her father has in mind. And her own parent’s disintegrating relationship, threatened by her dad’s infidelities with a white woman in his office, only makes her life worse. Expanded from Baig’s 2016 similarly titled short film, the American female perspective in “Hala” is unique, bringing a new, much-needed perspective to the coming-of-age genre. Despite being apart from the intense Muslim world our main character lives in, there’s a relatability to her tribulations that hits home. Viswanathan (“Blockers”) proves to be a formidable actress, showcasing a woman trying to take the liberties that come in living as a woman in America and creating her own destiny, free of restrictions. [B/B+]
Award-winning documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger and late collaborator Bruce Sinofsky were always interested in making films about the way our justice, or injustice, system works; the perpetrators, the victims, the fascination was there seeped into every frame of “Brother’s Keeper” and “Paradise Lost.” However, in “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile,” Berlinger decides to turn his camera towards the charismatic killer and the way evil can easily be shaded by charm.Read More
Young, female, brown, carrying oh-so-terrifying socialist ideals of equality for the underrepresented, and not afraid to speak her mind loudly, U.S. House of Representatives politician and activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez currently has the Washington D.C. establishment quaking in their boots. Laugh if you want to, but there’s absolutely a reason a brand new, relatively inexperienced 29-year-old congresswoman—the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States—has found herself in the crosshairs of Fox News, The Daily Caller, and dozens of alt-right conservative voices. She’s absolutely dangerous to them because she represents a wakeup call to America and a voice of change they desperately want to suppress.
It’s a cliché, but “more than you bargained for” documentaries are typically the best ones. Those films that feature a filmmaker on an odyssey quest for one piece of truth, but discovers something richer and more profound along the journey. Such is the case with what Mads Brügger‘s astonishing “Cold Case Hammarskjöld,” about an investigation into a mysterious murder that strikes a vein and the blood of discovery comes gushing. What begins as a look into a plane crash, and the consequent death of United Nations secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld in the early 1960s, quickly turns into something much more transfixing: the confirmation of a conspiracy theory that has existed for more than five decades.
Despite a population of close to 9 million, Mexico City’s government operates only 45 emergency ambulances. This shortage crisis has resulted in private paramedics becoming first responders to the critically injured. One of them is the Ochoas family, zigzagging through high-speed ambulance rides to care for the critically injured. Despite being unregistered, they are the underground lifeline for many. At first, you don’t know if what you’re watching is fiction or non-fiction. The masterful cinema vérité camerawork in Luke Lorentzen’s “Midnight Family” has a knack for sucking us into after-hours Mexico City and the fractured health care system at its disposal. From local competition to police bribes to patient’s unwillingness to pay their bills, the Ochoas have to navigate through all of that to make ends meet, then there’s the ethically questionable practice of making money off dying poor patients. This 81-minute masterpiece will change the way you look at documentaries forever; its style reads like an action movie, its themes like a socio-political drama, and, yet, it still is very much a work of non-fiction, with a camera always exactly positioned to capture a society on the brink of moral collapse. [A]
The bible belt of early 1960s rural Oklahoma wasn’t a great time and place in America for outsiders. And this god-fearing country is certainly no place for two girls that may be slowly falling in love and calling too much public attention to all the time they’re spending together. Director Martha Stephens (co-director of 2014 Sundance film “Land Ho!” with Aaron Katz) adapts Shannon Bradley-Colleary‘s screenplay on intolerance and class-warfare in pre-sexual revolution America into an artfully visual feast, but one that unfortunately plods along at an uneven pace into heavy-handedness as the drama intensifies. It’s a missed opportunity for something more poignant despite the wondrous black & white photography and a strong level of intimacy between the lead characters.
The idea that we can modernize familiar narrative tropes is something that Hollywood always strives in achieving. After all, why change a formula that has been working so well, and making money, on audiences since the beginning of time when you could just freshen it up for contemporary audiences, whose sensibilities, let’s be frank haven’t changed all that much. Please keep in mind that in the millions of years the homosapien has lived on this planet, their DNA has barely changed, nor has their way of responding to triggers which prompt the usual emotional reactions.Read More
Aesthetics and substance are two entirely different things in cinema. You could have a film that is bracingly inventive in its visual approach but falls flat in the narrative drama. Ditto the reverse, a visually flat film with a well-realized narrative. The latter is usually worth a recommendation, but the former can be problematic, even when you have a film as visually accomplished as Joe Talbot’s “The Last Black Man in San Francisco.”Read More
When Senate staffer Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) was assigned to lead an investigation into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program he did not know it would become his own personal "heart of darkness". In a way, Jones' painstaking analyzing of the extensive evidence at hand, his report turned out to be 6000 pages, revealed just how much our civil liberties were stripped by the Bush administration and, consequentially, the Obama administration, spearheaded by, then CIA director. John Brennan (Ted Levine).Read More
When a director decides to venture into a well-worn genre, comparisons to far superior films are inevitable. And so, a film like Joe Penna‘s feature-length directorial debut, “Arctic,” a survival drama, will no doubt run the risk of being compared to its spiritual predecessors: Danny Boyle‘s “127 Hours,” J.C. Chandor‘s “All is Lost” and Joe Carnahan‘s “The Grey.” The correlation potentially weakens the film, but like all great art, if imitation can transcend or even equal its inspirations, then all the better.Read More
In two short years, America, has turned race, privilege, and class into incendiary topics while amplifying intolerance, and Julias Onah‘s powerfully constructed “Luce,” mixes all these socio-political subjects into a provocative Molotov cocktail that shatters, burns and leaves no easy answers.