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Home Video Hovel: The Executioner, by David Bax

24 Mar

Luis García Berlanga’s The Executioner is a dark comedy, all the darker for the fact that it doesn’t, on the surface, feel like one. It’s sunny and frothy, with a predilection for mild physical comedy. But make no mistake, this is a heady yet farcical look at what it means to take another human’s life.

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Prevenge: Baby Bump In the Night, by Tyler Smith

24 Mar

Alice Lowe’s Prevenge is the latest in a recent line of horror movies about women attempting to navigate the difficult paths of motherhood and loss. Films like The Descent and The Babadook explored the emotional terror of trying to hold oneself together in the midst of agonizing grief. Prevenge seems to pay homage to these films – along with a heavy dose of Rosemary’s Baby, for good measure – but adds in a big helping of glib humor that doesn’t always land, but always keeps the film interesting.

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A Woman, a Part: All Just an Act, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi

22 Mar

Acting is a tough gig. You go up for auditions trying to score a part, and you fail left and right. Even when you find success, you can feel locked into a certain role because that’s what people expect of you. In A Woman, a Part, writer-director Elisabeth Subrin’s feature debut, we get the tale of an actress stuck in a rut who goes back to her New York digs for some rest and relaxation. What she discovers is not at all what she expected.

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Wilson: Cast Away, by David Bax

22 Mar

Craig Johnson’s Wilson (based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes and adapted by the author) begins with a sequence of its protagonist awakening to a new day while musing in voiceover narration about his quirky take on the world we live in and life in general. It’s not unlike the opening scenes of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Sure, Wilson (Woody Harrelson) is a middle-aged loner and not a charismatic high schooler. And, yes, his philosophy is less “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” and more “Life is lonely and miserable.” And Wilson unfolds over the course of painful years, not one wacky day. But, at their core, both movies are about oddballs who are resolute in their outlook despite external influences. And both movies are a bit uneven.

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Song to Song: They’re Never Really Gone, by Scott Nye

19 Mar

Romance, the feeling, is a key component to most of Terrence Malick’s films, but he’s heretofore ducked and dodged from Romance, the genre. Days of Heaven, with its pulpy con plot beginnings, comes closest, but he maintains the same distance he did in Badlands by utilizing a dispassionate observer as our point of view into its world. As his career has gone on, he’s abandoned more and more such literary devices nearly every time out, coming closer to the pure shit (some critics would drop the article) of a lived cinema. Beginning with To the Wonder in 2012, he has gradually rid himself of plot, narrative coherence, or sometimes even common sense, chasing the Eden his characters so often find and lose. Song to Song is reportedly the last film he’ll make, for now, in this mold, and rightly so. Here he has perfected it. Here he has tired of sailing past his Indies, and found peace in consummated love.

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Beauty and the Beast: Nothing There, by Rudie Obias

16 Mar

Since Disney found box office success with the recent Jungle Book, Pete’s Dragon, and Cinderella movies, the Mouse House is now determined to turn every animated classic into new live-action remakes. The movie studio has 80 years of storylines and characters to mine from, and it’s only a matter of time before Disney remakes all of the classics. But for now, Beauty and the Beast is the latest from the Walt Disney Company, as the new live-action remake will surely dazzle audiences, while also reminding them that this is just a cover version of the original animated film from 1991.

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Betting on Zero: The Big Short, by Alexander Miller

15 Mar

If the breadth of stylistic variances among documentary filmmakers is any indication of the genre’s range and scope, it almost feels like anything can be a subject for a solid documentary. Sometimes it’s a question of “is the subject a match for the director?” After all, let’s face it: Alex Gibney couldn’t make In Jackson Heights and Frederick Wiseman isn’t the expressionistic whistle-blower responsible for Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.

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Personal Shopper: Dead and Living It, by Josh Long

15 Mar

As beautiful as Olivier Assayas’ films appear, they are certainly enigmatic. The filmmaker is not interested in a world that is clear, explicable, cut, and dried. It is intentional that his viewers leave with questions about what was real or imagined, and whether there can ever be a clear line between the two. In Personal Shopper, he dives into the world of ghosts and spiritualism, and Assayas’ dreamy quasi-reality perfectly surrounds such a subject.

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Home Video Hovel: One Million Years B.C., by Scott Nye

15 Mar

At once remarkably audacious and kind of dumb, One Million Years B.C. is, if nothing else, beautifully, perfectly a film of its time. Released in 1966, it anticipates and in some ways one-ups the tripped-out journey to the past for which 2001: A Space Odyssey would be so celebrated, beginning with an abstract voyage through space and landing on a primitive people who never once speak a comprehensible dialect. The conflict is clear enough though – in a hunter/gatherer society, a tribe is fighting amongst themselves for what little food is available. This fight leaves Tumak (John Richardson) banished, and soon enough fighting dinosaurs. Righteous. He wanders the ancient landscape until he comes upon paradise in the form of scantily-clad women fishing in the ocean, seemingly lead by Raquel Welch, who live in harmony and make art and dance and have a sort of genuine civilization going. The 1960s are strong with this one, friends.

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Frantz: Torn in Two, by David Bax

15 Mar

Francois Ozon’s Frantz is set, at least initially, in small town Germany in the immediate aftermath of the First World War. That this defeated nation is already a breeding ground for the nationalism that will give rise to Nazism years later is an obvious parallel to our current climate here in America; when the father of a slain soldier declares, “Every Frenchman is my son’s murderer,” it’s clear there’s little room for nuance in this atmosphere. But Ozon has something else on his mind, crafting a classical tale of yearning and tragedy that is particularly well suited to his strengths and tendencies.

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