Movies I wish I had skipped. This could be for any number of reasons: the film was made sloppily, the narrative didn’t engage me, or I simply could not connect with the film in any way for whatever reason.
The Dark and the Wicked is screening as part of the 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival program.
Bryan Bertino’s The Dark and the Wicked, his first feature film since 2016’s The Monster, is in one sense a story of grief and loss. Two siblings, Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.), return to their parents’ Texas farmhouse, as it has become clear that their mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone) is struggling to care for their ailing father (Michael Zagst). Following an untimely death, Louise and Michael have to maneuver grief, while also contending with an evil presence that is haunting the farm.
Survival Skills is screening as part of the 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival
Quinn Armstrong’s Survival Skills has plenty of contemporaries. This faux police training video has the same old media affection, anachronistic diegetic reality, and cringe comedy of the late night comedy of Tim & Eric, viral alt comedy videos like Too Many Cooks, and a handful of other indie films on the festival rotation in recent years. Survival Skills deviates enough from these by presenting a less overtly comic take on the postmodern pastiche of the VHS tape aesthetic. But this tone is also the major detracting feature of the film.
In The Rental, two couples (Alison Brie, Dan Stevens, Sheila Vand, and Jeremy Allen White) rent an idyllic vacation home on the ocean. Staying nearby is the brother of the homeowner (Toby Huss), who reveals himself early on to be slightly creepy and potentially racist. He leaves them be for the weekend, but the four lodgers cannot help but think he is up to something. Then things, as they often do in movies of this sort, quickly start going awry for the four vacationers.
Atom Egoyan’s latest, Guest of Honour, is a terse drama arranged to be a puzzle film. I say “arranged” because Egoyan structures the narrative with flashbacks framed from different characters’ perspectives as they tell their version of a story, a family history that unfolds on-screen like puzzle pieces presenting themselves and forming the perimeter of a picture.
Becky, from directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott, is about as barebones as a thriller can get. A group of White Supremacist prison inmates are being transported down a county road when they spring a plan to break out. The mastermind behind the plan, Dominick (Kevin James), leads them to a lake house in search of a mysterious key. But they come up against the obstacle of a family spending the weekend at the house—a father (Joel McHale), his daughter, Becky (Lulu Wilson), his girlfriend (Amanda Brugel) and her son (Isaiah Rockcliffe).
Michael Showalter’s previous film, The Big Sick, was the surprise indie darling of 2017. That film, co-written and starring Kumail Nanjiani, turned the romantic comedy formula on its head. The Lovebirds, also co-starring Nanjiani, attempts a similar formulaic subversion, but screenwriters Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall prove less savvy in this pursuit.
Jibran (Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) meet at a party and really hit it off. We watch as their relationship flourishes, and seemingly nothing could go wrong. These two were meant to be together forever. Cut to a few years later, and Continue reading The Lovebirds (2020) Movie Review→
Contemporary crime films are often compared to the defining antecedents to contemporary crime—critical hits from the 1990s like Goodfellas and Pulp Fiction. Generally, these are sites of contention in which it becomes easy to tear down a new film by being too directly inspired by previous, successful films. There is something to these comparisons, given a film like Pulp Fiction, which helped ring in a golden age of independent films in the 1990s, directly influenced a number of films. But this form of criticism by comparison—I’m guilty of doing it often—can come across as limiting and exclusionary in an unproductive way.
“Force majeure” refers to unforeseen acts that can prevent the fulfillment of a legal contract. In the case of Ruben Östlund’s 2014 film of that name, it refers to the unpredictable behavior of a man—a husband, a father—in the face of unexpected danger that could threaten to completely overturn his marriage and his own perception of himself. In Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s 2020 film Downhill, the title is a pun on downhill skiing and a marriage on the decline.
Alli (Maria Dizzia) and Jacob (Greg Keller) are married with two children with another on the way. They live a fairly humdrum life until they notice a young couple move into an adjacent building. The pair of 20-somethings (Juliana Canfield and Bret Lada) don’t like the idea of blinds, even when they have wild, free-spirited sex.
Alli and Jacob’s vantage point to this couple begins shifting their views on their own relationship, and these shifts continue even after they have their next child.