The world of cinema set-ups is chockablock with the familiar and the unique and in the case of Dim the Fluorescents, director Daniel Warth alongside co-writer Miles Barstead have pooled the two into a unique take of a familiar narrative. The familiar: focusing on the plight of the struggling artist; the unique: the struggling artists in this case bide their time by producing and performing elaborate demonstrations for companies and corporations.
Stefan Avalos’ Strad Style opens with an ominous shot of the lead subject, Daniel Houck, burning what appears to be pieces of a violin in a fire, a stressful way to begin a documentary about a small-town guy attempting to make a 100 percent accurate version of arguably the most famous and expensive violin in the world, Guarneri’s Il Cannone.
Director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg continue their union committed to honoring proletarian American heroes in Patriots Day, a chronicle of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. While this film is shot with the same in-the-moment aesthetics as Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon, it’s a much more manipulative action-thriller than those previous worthy tributes.
Opening on a delightful confrontation between a fickle lawman and the film’s three main characters – all women of color – in Virginia’s Jim Crow era, the historical dramedy Hidden Figures comes out of the gate with a bang and offers an unapologetic glimpse at the tone of the story that will follow.
A song can happen anywhere in La La Land because it exists in a world that we so rarely see these days – that of the old-fashioned movie musical. There isn’t an ounce of self-consciousness or cynicism in writer/director Damien Chazelle’s approach to this format, and he has no problem beginning the film with an elaborate number performed by dozens of folks stuck in a traffic jam.
Assassin’s Creed, like many formal creeds, is a long, needlessly-complicated statement of beliefs. And plot. It’s a plodding, talky bore. There’s introductory text and two prologues, but really the entire movie feels like one giant, nonsensical preamble to…something. Based on the popular Ubisoft video game series, Assassin’s Creed plays like a collection of cut scenes that gamers, and movie-goers, would want to skip through to get to the good stuff.
Passengers isn’t the movie that’s advertised in the trailers. To be fair to the marketing though, it’s hard to sell a film that never decides what it is. And why not try to push a sci-fi romance between likeable stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt? Indeed, the charmers play two of many Earthlings traveling to colonize a distant planet. And yes, they are awoken from hypersleep 90 years early, but the circumstances make it impossible to go along with the love story.
Williams has confidence in the thought that the waiting is the worst part and with this in mind, he draws out instances of heightened vulnerability to anxiety-ridden levels of unease. Something is bound to happen, it is just a matter of when and how; that suspense happens to be the cornerstone of the film’s success. A success that is accomplished through its meticulous construction and the confidence of said construction. It also helps that the film benefits from the performances of its two leads - Roscoe and Marx - alongside the cinematography of Chris Messina in his capturing of the seemingly-innocent landscape.
Often thrilling and occasionally frustrating, Rogue One is an ultimately satisfying if faulty Star Wars spinoff. It’s a story we’ve heard before, briefly, and expanding the narrative from a plot point summarized by a few lines in A New Hope proves difficult, especially in a meandering and repetitive second act. A few strong performances, a climax that’s one of the best battles in the entire saga, and spectacular visuals carry the day, however. A couple of horrendously rendered CGI characters notwithstanding.
I was instantly intrigued when I first heard that the folks at Titmouse Inc. - the production company that brought us The Venture Bros., one of my all-time favorite animated shows - was making a feature-length film called Nerdland starring Patton Oswalt and Paul Rudd. After finding out that Andrew Kevin Walker, screenwriter of Se7en and 8MM, wrote the script, I was even more interested. Perhaps my expectations were set too high, but after seeing the film, I can safely say this is one of the biggest disappointments I’ve had at the cinema this year.
An efficient and direct-to-the-point bit of work, Matthew M. Ross’ Frank & Lola moves throughout its neo-noir aesthetic, punches through its storyline, and then gets out. Its brevity is both a major asset and a moderate liability – using a basic plot structure to avoid overlong diversions at the cost of developing important characters who may not be in every scene.
I love heist movies. I couldn’t care less about the big prizes, but there’s something exhilarating about seeing the layers of an onion peeled back, something thrilling about watching a mastermind play all the chess pieces that were there in front of you the whole time, something gratifying about witnessing a ragtag team surmount seemingly impossible odds.
In a somewhat lackluster year for horror, Nicolas Pesce’s beautiful, monochromatic nightmare The Eyes of My Mother easily stands out as one of the most disturbing and striking films you’ll see this year. An exploration in isolation and the need for human contact lay the groundwork for this unnerving tale of loneliness.
From its fantastic opening credits, I knew I was going to be into Sophia Takal’s psychological drama Always Shine. It instantly evoked some sort of dread that I really couldn’t put my finger on, but those De Palma-esque scrolling letters were enough for me to know this wasn’t going to be a happy-go-lucky comedy about two friends heading to Big Sur for the weekend.