Motives are mounting and blackmail abounds in writer/director Lawrence Michael Levine’s latest film, Wild Canaries, a modern update of the classic murder mystery that marries romantic entanglements and relationship drama along with the tension from anticipating the twists and turns of standard whodunit involving amateur sleuths.
Yet another trite configuration of the tired elements that always seem to make up these coming-of-age dramas. The only surprising and, perhaps, original aspect of writer/director Michael Johnson’s debut, All the Wilderness, is how uninspired it all feels. No one, on-screen, gives the impression that this is, in fact, a story that needs to be told; yet, told it is going through the motions with little to no passion.
One might assume that a film revolving around a middle-aged man returning to his hometown in order to care for his ailing mother, recovering from a recent stroke, to be an emotionally-charged affair; complete with numerous breakdowns, tear-stained faces bursting with fear and uncertainty or passionate eruptions brought on by the overwhelming frustrations of the relentless responsibilities characteristic of care-taking. Writer/director Brandon Colvin, however, depicts that narrative in a much different style in his sophomore effort, Sabbatical, opting instead to reduce the emotional volume to near silent levels as the characters attempt to suppress confronting their feelings in a constant struggle to keep the ever-mounting emotions deep down inside.
Time for another foray into Finkle is Einhorn territory with writer/director Spike Lee, as his newest feature is a modern reinterpretation of the Bill Gunn cult classic Ganja & Hess. Normally in instances such as these you would find myself railing against the idea of remaking a film, especially a cult classic such as Gunn’s. However, in a case like this I find myself thoroughly intrigued by the prospect of Spike Lee reimagining an experimental horror film from the ‘70s. So, if the question is “Who better to remake Ganja & Hess?”, I would honestly have to say that Spike Lee would reside at the top of that list.
Strange things have been happening in and around the two Helen’s hometown in Attieh and Garcia's H.; everything is leaking, gravity is acting without any rhyme or reason and there may even be a black stallion roaming around the streets of Troy. The scope of these peculiar instances vary, ranging from fleeting moments of slight strangeness to the more panic-inducing occurrences of missing people and wall staring.
Writer/director Sean Mullin’s feature debut, Amira & Sam, is an interesting take on not only the romantic comedy genre, but also the returning vet genre. Centering around an Army veteran returning from his most recent tour overseas, Mullin’s film extends itself into a number of wide-ranging topics, proving helpful in some areas and detrimental in others.
While Appropriate Behavior is far from a perfect film, it still announces itself as a promising start for Akhavan, a multi-talented individual with a bright future; a wonderful mixture of humorous interactions (where buying underwear can quickly turn into a psychological evaluation), measured emotional drama set to a swift pace and an eclectic soundtrack, rounded out with a fantastic supporting cast.
Now it is time to highlight the best performances of the year - lead and supporting - for the male counterparts. Again, all inclusions are based on films with a theatrical release date in 2014, along with VOD releases.
Since the cinematic year of 2014 is coming to a close, it’s about that time to highlight the best performances of the year - both lead and supporting. I have based these inclusions on any and all films released within the year whether it be theatrical or VOD. Some of these performances will be considered obvious, while the other less talked about roles I found to be quite profound and definitely worthy of any and all praise.
Zvyagintasev’s LEVIATHAN works on a number of levels due to the carefully-curated script (co-written with Oleg Negin), along with the universality of the film’s themes focusing on the helplessness of the less powerful in the face of corruption and abuses of power. A definite Russian film in the sense of its topics, yet approachable in its execution.
Every year Editor-in-Chief Adam Patterson says he'll watch my film recommendations and every year he continues not to strike these films from his list of shame. Given his recent movie challenge proposal, I've decided that my move would consist of some of Adam's favorite types of films - thoughtful ruminations of the slow-burn foreign type. Although, the unveiling of my list will be more subdued in nature, given the fact that I lack the skill and abilities needed to cut 25 films together to a thumping soundtrack.
Much of the occurrences in BUTTER ON THE LATCH, the debut feature from actress/performance artist Josephine Decker, are of the highly-ambiguous variety as the film refuses to follow any discernible path, narratively speaking. Think more along the lines of a free-form improvisation told in scattershot chronology, wafting between reality, daydreams and nightmares. As one can imagine, some of it works while some of it falls flat.
In the more-than-capable hands of Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman elevates its straight-forward narrative on the hardships of pioneer life to become an expertly-executed Western. Thanks to a wide range of fantastic performances from the ensemble cast to the brilliant score of Beltrami to the beautiful visuals of Prieto.
Expert documentarian Frederick Wiseman excellently conveys the power and importance of art in a seemingly effortless manner. Information is disseminated at every conceivable instance with Wiseman fixating his camera on any and all aspects and/or department within the National Gallery; be it through behind-the-scenes closed doors discussions or a multitude of craftsmen working on a variety of restorations, just about every possible viewpoint is represented in some context immersing the viewer in the various ins-and-outs of the legendary museum. This all-inclusive approach makes NATIONAL GALLERY one of the most comprehensive visual documents of any institution in cinema.
CORNER OF HEAVEN revolves around a young boy leaving behind his younger sister and their grandfather in search of their mother, who left days earlier. The camera follows the young boy along his seemingly destinationless journey, wandering through the broken villages along the Yellow River; a meditative excursion through a dreamlike ethereality of beauty and brutality, CORNER OF HEAVEN is a coming-of-age film like no other.
Once again we have ourselves a film tackling the subject matter of human connections and relationships along with technology's role - both beneficial and detrimental - in the matter. These films portray millennials reliant upon a smattering of websites and smartphone apps that give them the ability to instantly connect with one another physically and/or pseudo-socially, yet ultimately failing when connecting face-to-face emotionally. The difference with Zachary Wigon's debut, compared to the others, is that his film, The Heart Machine, is an intimate exploration bereft of judgement or ridicule.