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.
Annie Silverstein’s feature debut, Bull, follows the intersecting stories of an ex-rodeo star turned bull wrangler named Abe Turner (Rob Morgan) and a teenager named Kris (Amber Havard) whose home life necessitates her independence. The two cross paths when Kris breaks into Abe’s house, stealing his alcohol and hosting a party there in order to impress her peers. Instead of turning her into the police, Abe sets Kris to work on his house. But Kris would have preferred to go to juvenile detention.
“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.
The buzz surrounding 1917, the new film by Sam Mendes in tribute to his grandfather, is its technical achievement of appearing as if it is two extremely long takes. Aside from one pointedly hard cut, the film hides its edits in its pans across surfaces which cover the frame or in tunnels of darkness.
It is a technique reminiscent of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman or Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (Hitchcock would have attempted a completely one-take film if he were not limited by the technical capabilities of the time, which only allowed about seven minutes of footage before the film had to be changed out). The long tracking shots through trenches might also bring to mind Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, whose long takes make the film feel surprisingly modern.
Harold (Adam Sandler) always thinks he is one step away from hitting big. A compulsive sports gambler who runs a dubious gem store, Harold is firmly placed within the seedy underbelly of New York City. And he likes it there. He thrives in the mire of it. He smiles as he schemes his way around town, placing bets with money he should be using to pay back his debts.
Harold’s Sisyphean journey of self-destruction centers on an Ethiopian stone embedded with black opals. It is a stone he claims is worth about $3,000 a carat, totaling to an approximately $1 million value. Through Harold’s partner Demany (LaKeith Stanfield), the stone winds up in the hands of Continue reading Uncut Gems (2019) Movie Review→
When me meet Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) at the start of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the new Fred Rogers biopic directed by Marielle Heller, he is giving a speech at the National Magazine Awards. Having won the year before for his tough-headed journalism that doesn’t make him many friends, Lloyd is presenting the award to this year’s recipient. Without any vigor or pomp, he delivers his canned address by making appeals to the power of journalism. With magazines, Lloyd and his peers can “change a broken world with [their] words.”
In the case of An Elephant Sitting Still, there is tragedy both on- and off-screen. The news of novelist and filmmaker Hu Bo’s suicide has been documented in many reviews for his first feature film, and it is hard not to equate the tragedy to the events unfolding on-screen in his four-hour-long tragi-epic, where the sadness and isolation of the world weighs heavy on every frame.
To mythologize An Elephant Sitting Still as a suicide note, however, would be a disservice, a superficial writing off of what is one of the most fully-realized cinematic visions of the last few years. The film is a swan song, sure, and the song it sings is a solemn symphony showcasing Continue reading An Elephant Sitting Still (2019) Movie Review→
In Ford v Ferrari, director James Mangold, working from a script by Jez Butterworth; John-Henry Butterworth; and Jason Keller, aims to capture the euphoria found inside the dangerous world of racing. The opening voiceover from Matt Damon’s car-driver-turned-car-dealer Carroll Shelby expresses a longing for that moment when the car peaks at 7,000 revolutions per minutes. At this speed, the car becomes weightless, a non-existent entity, and the driver simply moves along the open air as if carried forth through pure adrenaline alone.
Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) is an assistant private investigator working under a man named Frank (Bruce Willis). Frank is his mentor, his father figure. Lionel was an orphan when he was taken under Frank’s wing. When Frank is murdered, it is only natural that Lionel will do whatever is necessary to uncover the reason behind his death. What he does not expect, though, is how entrenched this mystery is within a conspiracy of political power.
There is nothing particularly novel about the setup of Gemini Man. Will Smith plays Henry Brogan, a master assassin with 72 kills under his belt. He is on the verge of retirement, and the government organization that hires him, the Defense Intelligence Agency, sends the next great thing in assassination against him.
The first act is a thorough illustration of Brogan’s unmatched skill. He evades, he eviscerates, he saves. He exposes the young agent who has been tasked with surveilling him (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He looks down the sights of plenty of guns (with the gun cocked at a super cool angle). Long story short, Continue reading Gemini Man (2019) Movie Review→