UFO: It is Here (2016) Movie Review

German indie horror flick UFO begins in true Blair Witch fashion, with a young group of students filming a documentary. Coming from a film student who is learning similar production techniques, I can appreciate these opening shots. One person holds up a plastic card to gauge the white balance while another assesses the costuming of the subject of the interview while another asks for a sound level check.

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As the group prepares and begins the interview of two workers at a zoo, the animals start going crazy over what appears to be a comet falling out of the sky. The film crew makes the democratic decision to ditch their zoo documentary in order to chase the fallen space object.

Even with the knowledge of the film being a found footage “student” film in the footsteps of The Blair Witch Project (itself receiving the reboot/sequel treatment earlier this year), UFO does not Continue reading UFO: It is Here (2016) Movie Review

Denial (2016) Movie Review

At the beginning of the court room drama Denial, Rachel Weisz’ embodiment of Deborah Lipstadt states to a class the four assertions that Holocaust deniers posit. The killings were not systematic. The number of deaths were exaggerated. Auschwitz was not built with extermination in mind. Therefore, the Holocaust is a myth.

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Enter David Irving (Timothy Spall), an outspoken Holocaust denier. When Irving lays out a defamation suit against Lipstadt, she must Continue reading Denial (2016) Movie Review

Inferno (2016) Movie Review

Inferno begins with an ethical quandary: “There is a switch. If you pull it, half of humanity will die. If you don’t, the human race will go extinct in 100 years.” The words are uttered by Ben Foster’s eccentric millionaire Bertrand Zobrist just before he plunges himself from a tower, backed into a corner by a pursuer wanting some sort of confidential information.

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Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in a hospital, delirious and hallucinating deformed people and a black plague-era doctor. He thinks he is in Boston, but he is in Florence. Of course, there is little time for explanation, as Continue reading Inferno (2016) Movie Review

Birthday (2016) Short Film Review

Birthday, the narrative short film from director Chris King, feels stylistically as a documentary. This adds to its weight. In a tightly framed set of reverses, we are privy to a grin-filled conversation between two people over Skype. One, a marine (Chris Gouchoe) 43 days away from the end of his tour. The other, his schoolteacher wife (Mandy Moody) anxiously awaiting his return.

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The next three minutes are told in montage over what is perhaps an overly sentimental string score. We see the soldier step on a landmine. We see his wife’s response. We see his slow, grueling recovery.

He returns home on his birthday. As he enters the threshold and surveys the home, as if it is Continue reading Birthday (2016) Short Film Review

Under the Shadow (2016) Movie Review

In 1985 Tehran, Shideh (Narges Rashidi), a former revolutionary, fails to be reinstated in university because of her illicit anti-establishment past. But Shideh is not merely a wearied archetype.

She is a mother and a wife and deeply troubled by something, perhaps something pertaining to her restrained ability for agency evidenced by her introduction and subsequent interactions with males in her community. She has issues sleeping, not surprising given her family is awoken at night by sirens signalling potential military danger. She is a fighter packed into a box, sealed with Xs of tape.

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Her character is more nuanced than the words above can give credit. This is because a lot of Shideh’s character is expressed through Rashidi’s weighted expressions and actions throughout the house. Her words, in arguments with her husband, carry multiple meanings. Her goals appear clear but are rendered complicated by an array of external forces acting upon her.

Among this exploration of a suppressed protagonist—indeed, she spends much of the film Continue reading Under the Shadow (2016) Movie Review

The Kidnapping of a Fish (2016) Short Film Review

“Live longer or die faster.” With a gun to your head, what would you choose? If it sounds like a trick question, that’s because it is. “Do you think this is funny?” the man with the gun (Vasile Flutur) asks after the captured Alex (Stephen Friedrich) makes light of his dire situation.

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And, yeah, it kind of is. From the lovable loser romantic subplot to the at first anachronistic interrogation sequence, the understatement in Alex’s character is comedic. It is also Continue reading The Kidnapping of a Fish (2016) Short Film Review

Murder Party (2007) Movie Review

Jeremy Saulnier, the mind behind recent indie thriller successes Blue Ruin and Green Room, began his feature directorial career in 2007 with the low-budget horror comedy Murder Party. In it, a man (Chris Sharp) finds an invitation to a Halloween “murder party,” makes himself a cardboard knight costume, and ventures to the secluded warehouse where the party is taking place.

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Instead of a costume party, though, the loner Christopher finds himself a Continue reading Murder Party (2007) Movie Review