February

Here is what we’re excited to see this month

VELVET BUZZSAW – February 1 (NETFLIX)

buzzsaw

A satirical thriller set in the contemporary art world scene of Los Angeles where big money artists and mega-collectors pay a high price when art collides with commerce.

Trailer.

ARCTIC – February 1

arctic

A man stranded in the Arctic after an airplane crash must decide whether to remain in the relative safety of his makeshift camp or to embark on a deadly trek through the unknown. After The Grey, this has all the makings of the next great survivor film.

Trailer.

PIERCING – February 1

piercing

A man kisses his wife and baby goodbye and seemingly heads away on business, with a plan to check into a hotel, call an escort service, and kill an unsuspecting prostitute.

Trailer.

EVERYBODY KNOWS – February 8

everybodyknows

Laura, a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires, returns to her hometown outside Madrid with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding. However, the trip is upset by unexpected events that bring secrets into the open.

Trailer.

THE LEGO MOVIE 2: The Second Part – February 18

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It’s been five years since everything was awesome and the citizens are facing a huge new threat: LEGO DUPLO® invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than they can rebuild.

Trailer.

STREAMING

HIGH FLYING BIRD: February 8 (NETFLIX)

Steven Soderbergh is back… oof. Do we think that Soderbergh and McCraney (writer of Moonlight) can pull off a movie about basketball on Netflix. No. No we don’t. Nevertheless I will be tuning in to see this potential/probable airball even though we know what to expect from Soderbergh. Sod all.

 

DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT: February 8 (AMAZON PRIME)

Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Jack Black and Rooney Mara; yes please. Gus Van Sant’s new movie based on the true story of the edgy-cartoonist-quadriplegic has some promise. Grab a tissue and be prepared to either laugh, cry or some combination of both.

TRUE DETECTIVE SEASON 3: February 24 Season Finale (HBO)

There’s a chance you have been so bombarded with work or life that you have not heard about the newest season of True Detective. That’s OK, I’m here to tell you that it’s here, and is already doing better than season 2. You may have seen season 1 and thought it was the best thing since sliced bread, and then you may have given up on the show altogether in season 2. I’m here to tell you it’s time to hit play on season 3! The final will be this month. Get caught up this weekend and watch a new episode at 9ET after the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Netflix:

  • As Good As It Gets (Feb 1)
  • Billy Elliot (Feb 1)
  • Jaws (Feb 1)
  • The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Feb 16)
  • Chefs Table: Volume 6 (Feb 22)

Amazon Prime

  • Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders (Original Series) (Feb 1)
  • The Last Of The Mohicans (Feb 1)
  • The Blues Brothers (Feb 1)
  • The Matrix Trilogy (Feb 1)
  • Lorena (prime original series) (Feb 15)

Hulu

  • The Big Lebowski (Feb 1)
  • Caddyshack (Feb 1)
  • Capote (Feb 1)
  • Equilibrium (Feb 1)
  • The Royal Tenenbaums (Feb 1)
  • Wedding Crashers (Feb 1)
  • Select James Bond (Dr. No/From Russia With Love/Goldeneye/License To Kill/Moonraker/Thunderball) (Feb 1)

HBO

  • The Bourne Identity (Feb 1)
  • Collateral (Feb 1)
  • The Pelican Brief (Feb 1)
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor (Feb 9)
  • Deadpool 2 (Feb 16)

Dark River

RATING: [D+|👎]

“sing holly, go whistle and ivy”

Poise and slow surrender, Dark River, from writer and director, Clio Barnard bears the hallmark qualities of an early work from a relatively uninspiring writer, whose only real accomplishment appears to be a choice track from P.J. Harvey. While I much welcomed the return to my radar of Ruth Wilson (whose character in Luther is among my favorites) the film exhibited a level of redundancies and shallowness that made even the 90 minute run-time seem insufferable.

Here was a film about a daughter who suffered abuse as a child from a father who now has passed away and left an acre of land to the two kids vying for the inheritance. One (Wilson) wanting to restore the home to its former glory, indicating competence and will power like the proverbial feminist hero of Jane Austen novels full of individuality and resolve. While the son (Mark Stanley), a drunk, abusive lowlife whose only interest appaers to be the selling of the home and an escape from his state of his own seeming disrepair. 

There is a high tension at the center of the story as Wilson seeks to fight off her brother’s desire to abandon the shelter of land and escape the presence of his sister that he failed to protect in his youth. A daughter, demonstrating immense strength to redeem her sordid past as she continues to be haunted by the ghost of her father. The two struggle, almost killing each other, while making the necessary sacrifices to achieve their respective goals. In the end, there comes an endearing moment that does a lot to capture the drawn out dynamic between the two, although a little too late to redeem a production deserving of a premature DVD release.

RATING: D+

The Apparition

RATING: [C|👎]

If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion.”

-C.S. Lewis

Whenever any director seeks to tackle the subject of religion, he has to become convinced in his own way as to whether the story he tells intends to be an honest attempt for authenticity or just another piece of personal bias. Most take the latter route, finding themselves incompetent to tell a story rooted in intellectual honesty or simply needing to sell tickets at the expense of the community of faith. With The Apparition, Xavier Giannoli embarks on a half-hearted effort to straddle the middle. Painting his main character (Vincent Lindon) at first with the requisite objective allure required of journalism and then turning his insecurity into a conduit for a rooted bias.

The film has a fascinating design, even if it meanders on the premise for far too long only to capitulate to the storyboard of amateur writers. It’s about a Vatican commission for the authenticationg of miracles: part of the interchurch structure for attracting the faithful back to a practice of veneration. The film rests primarily on testing the authenticity of Anna (Galatéa Bellugi) who claims to have seen the vision of the Virgin Mary, largely probing her psychological well-being and her past for evidence of bias. (This process is a lot like the legal process of seeking out impeachment evidence for disqualifying a witness.) The film is also surrounded by a host of unsavory church figures looking to exploit the image of Anna and use her likeness to sell dolls and postcards. These figures see the investigative works of the Vatican as an impediment with the “natural” growth of the community and, if the miracle is debunked, then obviously the pilgrims will seize to return and the peddled goods will be worth nothing.

The film demonstrates a stillness in its ability to connect the corners of one man’s unresolved sorrow and the substance of religious experience in a world seeking understanding. It does well to draw the church dynamics and the corruption that seeps through any man-made institutions. However, it fails to end with any meaningful position, instead removing the source of the investigation in an escalating and rather unintelligible progression of events that are clearly explained but seemingly lack the emotional maturity to deliver a satisfying resolution.

RATING: C

Thunder Road

RATING: [B-|🍅]

“Just because someone chooses to leave, that doesn’t mean they didn’t wanna be here with you. It means they had a hard time of things.”

From the opening scene, to the last moments of an instrumental Skinny Love, Jim Cummings proves himself to be a competent full-scale director, writer, and actor who has largely fallen by the wayside in a year where the role of fathers shone through. From Eighth Grade to Blockers to Custodywe’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly (respectively): and now, with Thunder Road, we have an image on par with the matriarchal powerhouse performance of Charlize Theron in Tully or Carey Mulligan in Wildlife in the soft corners of the father figure we all deserve to admire.

A truly brilliant and incandescent work about a psychologically unsuitable human being who overcomes his mental and material problems with the poise of a hero in disguise. A comedy with profound moments of grief that walks circles around the sentimental Hollywood box office drivel that adds nothing to the psychological experience of thinking through films and being changed for the better. Emotionally rich and unapologetic, Thunder Road delivers one of the finest struggles in view of the fatherhood model for raising a girl in fourth grade and in a year where Bo Burnham does the same for girls in middle school.

A remarkable achievement that South By Southwest was right to acknowledge. I look forward to what Cummings has next.

RATING: B-

Wildlife

RATING: [B-|🍅]

“And what there is to learn from almost any human experience is that your own interests usually do not come first where other people are concerned–even the people who love you–and that is all right. It can be lived with.”

[Richard Ford]

Among some of the better directorial debut from 2018 (Hereditary, Eighth Grade, Blindspotting) comes one deserving of Paul Dano. A complex and rich story centered on a single woman’s seeming affair to move along the boundaries of her existence in the measures she deems necessary. Wildlife is not going to be a favorite for most people with its measured pace and unsteady characters. But it’s full of rich nuance that makes for an intensely satisfying film to discuss.

The father (Jake Gyllenhaal) removes himself from the family to go fight a fire without any seeming rhyme or reason aside, perhaps, because of an underlying sense he feels at home of being a vocational disappointment and wanting a break from feeling of failure. This one strand informs much of the relational dynamic of the film and must be understood within the context of who the mother is.

The son (Ed Oxenbould), the single strand of good intention and stability, seeking to bridge the family disconnect as illustrated in the fine last photo he takes. Being subjected to the burning in the forest, he is overcome by the sheer destruction of a conflagration with the capacity to destroy the wildlife with no one able to control the consequences except nature (or another Force Majorie) itself. In that moment, he sees his own family. He sees his own position in the burning. And, his face says it all.

And then there’s the mother, played brilliantly by Carey Mulligan as the final manifestation of the family dynamic and a sense of her own inability to control the dying flames of her marriage. Her disconnect and communication with her son spells of a mother who was placed in her position perhaps unwittingly.  Her constant references to her age and youth suggests some unbridged insecurities that remain dormant while she moves from place to place in hopes of fulfilling the patriarchal norms of her position. She seems to live in a single moment of her past and everything after is a dream she remains inside just waiting to wake up. “I feel like I need to wake up,” she confesses to her son. “But I don’t know what from, or to.” Eventually, her own undoing becomes clear. As the father leaves, she becomes distant and self-consumed. She becomes the symbolic conflagration in her own home without a sense of propriety as she takes her son from one forest into another (i.e. man’s home) as the fulfillment of a broken act as though survival was her most basic need. Mulligan plays her role to a tee: subdued and yet remarkably dynamic in the glances and choices of language. Unwilling to even see her husband as she drives past the camp into the fire.

Dano selects an appropriate film to begin a career in directing given his complicated career and fine craftsmanship as an actor. A film well adapted by him and Zoe Kazan in its ability to nuance the complications of Richard Ford’s book. An incredibly well-balanced film that speaks about the struggles and consequences of family life and our inability to become the products that we once envisioned for our children. A film that speaks about the beauty and defeat of marriage and parenting, and perhaps captures some of that divide in that brilliant last photo. Not since Blue Valentine has there been an American film with the impact felt here.

A film that sends a warning: parenting may not come naturally.

RATING: B-

Beautiful Boy

RATING: [C+|👎]

He turned his back and walked away.
Saying: “Little miss, you’ll rue the day.
“You’ll rue the day that you were born.
“For givin’ me the devil ‘cos I wouldn’t hoe corn.”

Alison Krauss & Union Station

With the “Broken Circle Breakdown,” we saw a rare glimpse of a director (Felix Van Groeningen) able to weave together the remarkable essence of narrative and sound (see this years Blaze for a similar talent) unseen in most American productions. An able filmmaker with a film packed with emotional intelligence and resonance that makes searching for good films worth the process. So with his recent film, Beautiful Boy, we expected the same and find instead a step down from the competence of Van Groeningen’s earlier works into what feels like a pet project driven by commercial necessity and the fingerprints of Hollywood’s profit-making schemes ruining the art form. We see a film no doubt packed with emotional prowess, but largely held together by the dynamic performances of two A-list celebrities and the pre-packaged pull of familial struggles that most audiences will automatically resonate with. As James Berardinelli (REEL VIEWS) rightly notes: “[w]hatever faults Beautiful Boy has, acting isn’t among them.”

For what Felix wanted to accomplish, the film was paced well, despite its inability to deliver on the product one would expect from the story to tell. Without the repetitive tedium and the scattered time symmetry, the audience would not be fully immersed in the end. It had moments of deep sadness in the plight of a father’s frustration to restore the semblance of his son’s former years, exuding talents untold. As David Sims (THE ATLANTIC) rightly notes, “a story about how the bastions of privilege and stability can be rendered inert by the blunt-force power of drug abuse.” An important film to tell, but it must be told with the gravity and harshness demanded of the subject instead of the use of low resolution gimmicks.

The dynamic between the actors was moving: a rare film (although Last Flag Flying had the same idea) that focuses on the relationship of a father and his son through the lens of sensitivity and compassion instead of the hypermasculinity that pervades the torrents of our sports obsessed culture.

The films main problem, as noted by many critics,  is that it indulges in a false marketing of the perils of addiction using clean-cut images and beautifully designed sets that makes A Requiem for a Dream feels like the first reports from Buchenwald. As Josephine Livingstone (THE NEW REPUBLIC) writes: “[h]omelessness isn’t Timothée Chalamet draped handsomely across a diner; it’s contemptuous glances and shame.” The music attempts to materialize the essence of the addiction, but none of the artistry or cinematography lends support to the propped up promo film deviating in areas where the music is simply to melodramatic and superficial to be effective. (Von Groeningen is no Paolo Sorrentino).

A film that finds pockets of brilliant artistry with a fine cast of sound devices (especially that Gorecki Symphony) that at times remain dishonest with the antecedent mood of the project. A film that needed to dig into the darkness of addiction more to escape the superficial gloss it presented.

RATING: C+

 

Scarred Hearts

RATING: [B-|🍅]

“We are denied even the heroism of true tuberculosis”

The purity of watching films involves moments where the process requires a dynamic involvement instead of a passive acceptance of visuals exuding little else that entertainment or pathos. Films of Andrei Tarkovsky or Ingmar Bergman have this quality, demanding a complete mental and physical commitment so thoroughly repudiated by today’s casual movie watchers in order to reach the deeper treasures of a film’s superficial presentation. Requiring a level of commitment and intellectual curiosity that takes some time to develop and too easily lost in an age where social media beckons constant visitations.

And, so with that comes Scarred Hearts. A remarkable film exhibiting the quality and pace of of Lars von Trier’s Dogville and Breaking the Waves with the psychological setting of Penny Marshall’s  Awakening and Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. A film based on the novel from Romanian writer, Max Blecher, depicts the life of Emanuel (Lucian Teodor Rus), who spends his days at a sanatorium in hopes of correcting a rare spinal diseases in the technological advancements of 1930s medicine (i.e. encased in a body cast). Falling in love with another patient, Emanuel narrates his and his fellow patients’ attempts to live life to the fullest as their bodies slowly fade away, but their minds refuse to give up.

Scarred Heart is not an easy film to watch in 2018. As noted by film critic Ben Kenigsberg (NEW YORK TIMES), the director, Radu Jude (I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians), spends his time with fixed shots without the sensationalized use of music or visual effects, “keep[ing] the camera perfectly still while Emanuel, screaming, has a giant needle full of pus drained from an abscess.” A film that “remains demanding and at times obscure,” a film that operates on two levels to tell the story with title card poetry, while unfolding the narrative in the methods of Russian theatre. Demanding but at the same time richly rewarding. A film that forces you to wrestle with the physical limitations of our own bodies, the spirit of community, and the bleak existence that we find ourselves in the small spaces of our own existential uncertainty. A film that explores the beauty of reading without despensing the need for the human (carnal) touch.

The very idea of becoming confined in a moment in time awaiting the other side of convalescence — armed with the knowledge that the world moves on and time will offer you no experiential deferments — is harrowing.

RATING: B-