My apprehension toward spin-offs and my love of (nearly) everything Batman proved to be at odds with one another going into the kinetic The Lego Batman Movie, resulting in cautious optimism about an entire film based on the brick version of one of DC’s most popular heroes and one of The Lego Movie’s most humorous characters.
Movement reigns in the feature-length debut from writer/director Celia Rowlson-Hall; unsurprisingly, given her background in dance (most recently as a movement consultant on Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits) which she utilizes to great effect within her modern reimagining of Mother Mary’s pilgrimage. There is an airy feel to the proceedings of Ma; a narrative which more so resembles a sequencing of transient creative impulses, both quick and chaotic, with lingering respites of meditative artistry detached from any standard, straightforward storytelling mode. Suggestive in nature yet with one clear imperative: movement is key.
Though its title may suggest it, Fifty Shades Darker is no more profound or intense than its predecessor. It is, however, nearly as unintentionally hilarious as Fifty Shades of Grey. The BDSM fairy tale never feels dangerous or edgy and the film has a slick soap opera sheen with one-dimensional characters moving through clichéd romantic drama and delivering ridiculous dialogue. They also stare longingly a lot.
After a sequel to the hit 2014 actioner John Wick was announced shortly after the first film’s release, I was cautiously optimistic for its success. Aside from the top-notch action, one of the most intriguing aspects of the first film was its world building — showcasing a shadowy, yet suave, underworld where sophisticated killers spend gold coins as currency and follow a series of meticulous rules. It begged for a sequel, however I was concerned that diving too deep into this world and these characters might dilute the mystery and sheer coolness of the first.
When it comes to the Criterion Collection’s contemporary titles, the majority of their selection happen to be male filmmakers. Established male filmmakers like Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, the Dardenne brothers or, say, Michael Haneke. All of which are rather safe picks; all a bit mainstream, essentially. However, this time around they have seemed to break from their comfort zone, releasing Kirsten Johnson’s highly-regarded feature, Cameraperson, which appeared on a multitude of best-of lists from last year. Here it is presented in a new high-definition digital master, alongside a handful of well-crafted supplements that offer considerable insight into the production of the film.
Unoriginality is a common criticism of horror sequels. It’s easy to line up another string of teenagers for a masked killer to slice through or move a new family into a haunted house. Years-later sequel Rings, then, earns at least a little credit for attempting to tweak formula and develop a new mythology. It just doesn’t do either of those things, or anything, well.
Regarding the films of Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi there is a certain reputation that precedes his work; one thinks of skillfully-crafted drama that is well thought out, that can be interpreted and misinterpreted depending on a particular point of view; and, that is what Farhadi delivers time and time again, like he does with his latest, The Salesman, thus reiterating himself as one of the finest purveyors of domestic drama working in cinema today.
When I was just a kid, probably no older than the protagonist of this film, my parents rented a movie that they thought would be a quirky black comedy called Parents. While it is indeed a black comedy, it leans more into the horror genre, and as a result, this movie scared the bejesus out of me.
Released as part of the new Vestron Video Collector’s Series, Ken Russell’s cult classic The Lair of the White Worm has been digitally remastered and released on Blu-ray, marking another great entry in this awesome catalogue of releases from Lionsgate.
A diptych on the inner lives of supporting characters, each afforded the lead in their own half of the film, is how writer/director Joyce Wong decides to explore the ups and downs of the people that usually occupy the margins of a film in her debut, Wexford Plaza. A series of interactions, both intimate and social, taking place within the vacant spaces of a strip mall tilting towards dereliction, of well-meaning intentions unraveling the frayed strands of two lives to differing degrees.
On the surface, I Am Not Your Negro is little more than a video essay. Director Raoul Peck has taken the text of an unfinished manuscript by James Baldwin and applied it to both a biography of the man and contemporary social commentary. Yet what keeps it from a fate of mediocrity is the care that Peck takes in bringing Baldwin’s eloquent text to the screen. The film is not just a look at how there are many racial and social problems still remaining in the United States – it fundamentally questions the elements upon which American society is founded.
Up until this point in time, Criterion has been home to a scant number of African films, two to be precise, both of which come by way of the World Cinema Project - Ahmed El Maanouni’s Trances and Djibril Diop Mambety’s Touki bouki. Their latest entry ups that number to three (obviously) and also marks the first entry for, who many consider, the most important name in African cinema, Ousmane Sembene. His film, Black Girl, which catapulted him into international recognition is too made available because of the work of the World Cinema Project.
As the title of Bill Waterson’s comedy Dave Made a Maze suggests, Dave does indeed make a maze — and what a maze it is. Exploding with creativity, this quirky film about a slacker who creates a cardboard labyrinth in his apartment and subsequently gets himself and his friends lost inside is a ridiculously fun and absurd romp that had me chomping at the bit to uncover each and every unique room and passageway.
An experiment in narrative storytelling, Joji Koyama and Tujiko Noriko’s Kuro sets out to rethink and/or reappropriate certain modes of storytelling within the cinematic landscape. Its experimentation is as refined as it is all-encompassing resulting in an intriguing film-viewing experience as the imagery and sounds of Kuro (almost) never exist within the same spatial reality, each specific aspect detailing different moments in time, concurrently as an overlay of past and present.
Withdrawn is a fitting title for Adrian Murray’s feature-length debut as nearly every aspect of the production appears to inhabit some form of withdrawal within its process. Granted, the title seems to directly refer to the specifics of the film’s narrative regarding a young man plotting to withdraw funds from someone else’s misplaced credit card, but it also extends itself outward, permeating every inch of the film’s fabric.