Gus Van Sant is a bold filmmaker. Hyper-restrained, brutal meditation on teenage violence in Elephant. Shakespearean adaptation populated by post-beatnik prostitutes and street rats in My Own Private Idaho. Prescient commentary on a dangerous media landscape in To Die For. Ill-advised and ultimately disastrous remake of a classic in Psycho. Even when they don’t work as intended, his films offer something unique and often refreshing.
Following what is arguably his biggest achievement in Milk, Van Sant fell into a slump with the flat, uninteresting Promised Land and the critically-panned, audience-ignored The Sea of Trees. Now he’s back with a return-to-form film, for better and worse.
Imagine a world where over 90% of all children die from a strange, highly contagious disease. Does the government, for the sake of the future, take every precaution to protect the few that remain? Of course not!
No, U.S. President Gray (Bradley Whitford) has the military round up all of the surviving children, who are all carriers of the disease and thus have one of five distinct color-coded powers. Kill the ones that can’t be controlled. Imprison the rest of them in labor camps.
Bo Burnham is a stand-up comic with a distinct style. Semi-musical, semi-poetic, always frantic and unpausing, he skewers media and self-reflexively dissects the public perception of artistry. “Art is dead,” he sings in one song. “Some people think you’re funny / how do we get those people’s money?” His seemingly cynical take on the entertainment industry is curbed by his indictment of self. He implicates himself—“My drug’s attention / I am an addict / but I get paid to indulge in my habit”—in order to subvert the creator-as-god mentality.
There is something inexplicable about The Equalizer 2. For one, and perhaps most importantly, it is the first sequel that legendary actor Denzel Washington has chosen to take part in. Why this particular project struck his fancy is hard to say. He seems to enjoy the wise man action hero personality. He has a history of collaboration with the film’s director, Antione Fuqua.
There are two reviews I can write about Sicario: Day of the Soldado. One compares the drug cartel thrill-drama to its inarguably superior predecessor. The other views it in a vacuum. One of these reviews disparages the film. The other provides a half-hopeful shrug of the shoulders.
From moment one of Superfly, the remake of the 1972 blaxploitation film of the same name, there is over-indulgent bombast. Not to demean the song that kicks off the film. Future curates the original music throughout, which is lush and appealing, if not an impossible comparison to Curtis Mayfield’s scoring of the original film (his “Pusherman,” which is one of the best original songs made for a film, gets reprised in this movie).
Music, in fact, might be the strongest aspect of Director X’s vision of enigmatic Atlanta drug pusher Youngblood Prince (Trevor Jackson). It makes sense, given the man’s lengthy history as a music video director.
Paul Schrader first came into prominence with the screenplay for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. There are shades of Taxi Driver in Schrader’s latest. The protagonist of First Reformed, Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke), lives a mostly solitary life as the pastor of a small church—funded by a larger televangelist church—in Snowbridge, New York. He has begun a test of self by setting out to write a journal of his thoughts for 12 months.