A divorced mother of two (Kathryn Hahn) hasn’t seen or talked to her parents in 15 years. After all this time, they contact her online asking to see their grandchildren (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould), whom they have never met. She reluctantly agrees on her children’s insistence.
Her children are a cute sibling pair, natural and appropriately childish. Tyler is charismatic and naive, free style rapping with a train conductor and purporting to “sext” with classmates. He desperately wants to live up to a masculine stereotype that he does not truly embody.
Becca is verbose and dramatic with her words as she narrates her way through exposition like a quick knife-stroke through butter. She has recently armed herself with cameras, hoping to tape their week-long visit in a style as close to a professional documentary as she can muster.
Shymalan channels an inexperienced auteur in Becca. Early interactions are light and bubbly as she sets the scene for her “documentary.” It also serves a meta purpose in its intended humor. She explains that with a camera you need to build tension and make people want to imagine what is lingering just beyond the frame. It sounds very much like Shymalan is Continue reading The Visit (2015) Movie Review
In Queen of Earth, old friend Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) and Ginny (Katherine Waterston) escape to a vacation home for a second year in a row to relax and strip away the taxing nature of urban life. Catherine, having recently suffered a loss, is distraught and distracted. She goes on walks that last for miles and lays in bed for hours, complaining that her face is hurting. Depression looms over her head, and it seeps into the world around her. Behind that depression hangs a patiently waiting fury.
Alex Ross Perry makes what we would expect to see–wide open natural spaces and the tranquility of the rural world–anything but Continue reading Queen of Earth (2015) Movie Review
We Are Still Here begins atmospheric. Vacant. Long takes focus on empty sets. A homey living room. A snowy, rural yard. A stone-walled and dirt-floor basement. The house in the woods where a middle-aged married couple has just moved in following the tragic death of their son. A lonely picture of the boy rests on a table near the staircase. Some unnatural presence, or perhaps just an innocent rush of wind, knocks the picture face-down with a loud clap, and the ghost story begins.
The first thing that is noticeable in this film is its hyper-apparent score that come on strong in the early scenes. It meanders or drones, almost whirring a mechanical hiss at us. It implores us to Continue reading We Are Still Here (2015) Movie Review
“I want to be sex-in-the-bathroom people,” could be the working thesis of Slow Learners, the comedy from Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce. Platonic friends Anne (Sarah Burns) and Jeff (Adam Pally) aren’t successful in their personal lives. After many failed attempts at relationships, they decide to wholly change their image.
Sound conventional? Don’t worry, it is.
Continue reading [Quickie]: Slow Learners (2015) Movie Review
In Teacher of the Year, Matt Letscher plays the eponymous character, Mitch Carter. Mitch is humble and dedicated to his craft, yet also clearly tired and showing the desire to be somewhere else with his career. After winning California’s Teacher of the Year award, a documentary crew begins following him and the small charter school that he works for. He also gets offered a high paying position at the National Independent School Association, a job that he is hesitant to take.
The movie is filmed in mockumentary style, a genre that has become somewhat tired through its prevalence in television. In this case, nothing new is brought into the mockumentary genre. However, the talking head interviews that are employed are easily Continue reading Teacher of the Year (2014) Movie Review
Billy “The Great” Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a mumbling undefeated light heavyweight boxing champion. Adopted into the world of boxing from a life of juvenile delinquency and living in an orphanage, fighting is his sole catharsis for his aggression. He hits hard and moves recklessly in the ring, refusing even to block a punch. He lumbers around, spitting blood and screaming intimidating exclamations. His career is one of pride and success, and he is well on the way to becoming one of the best in the sport.
Then, everything goes south. You can sense it in the Continue reading Southpaw (2015) Movie Review
Faults begins with a cold open in a diner, where Ansel Roth (Leland Orser), a washed up expert on de-programming former cult members, is furiously eating a meal that he is unable to pay for. After a sparsely attended seminar in a hotel, a couple approaches Ansel about their daughter Claire’s (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) involvement in a cult called Faults. Ansel, struggling with financial problems, agrees to kidnap Claire in order to counteract the brainwashing Faults has placed on her.
Claire responds to her kidnapping in a partly normal, partly eccentric way. She doesn’t sleep, opting instead to stare at a television set of static through the first night of her capture. She holds back threats of Continue reading Faults (2014) Movie Review