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.
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.