A meteor has already collided with Earth minutes before These Final Hours begins. Those in Western Australia are lucky enough (or not depending on general outlook) to have another half a day before the ensuing firestorm tears through the country and wipes out the whole of humanity. We follow James, a drug and booze chugging ne’er-do-well, through this clamorous build-up to conflagration.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s thoughtfully minimal Ida is wholly engrossing throughout its scant runtime. Lurking just below the surface of its minimalist design is a language that explores its protagonist beautifully, telling more about her with a wordless and excellently framed static shot than any dialogue could reveal.
While shimmers of clever writing and even directorial flourishes certainly exist in The Frontier, it nonetheless tends to falter due to its repetitious editing and occasionally clichéd dialogue. The story delves into the rocky relationship between Tennessee (Coleman Kelly) and his aging father Sean (Max Gail), who is aided in the writing of a book by Nina (Anastassia Sendyk), the agent of their eventual bonding. I use the word “eventual” rather loosely, as it occurs pretty quickly and we are left to wait for obvious the third act climax. But where The Frontier truly excels is as an advertisement for whiskey, the catalyst for every positive outcome within the story.
As prisoner Eric Love is led to his new cell, he moves quickly and mechanically in order to ensure his safety. In his first action, aside from those ordered by guards during a search for contraband, he breaks open a disposable razor to remove its single blade. Lighting a toothbrush aflame, he binds the two together and cleverly conceals them inside of his cell’s overhead fluorescent light. It is a brilliant sequence that calmly illuminates his ingenuity, resourcefulness, and history of violence without him ever having to say a word. However, this is among the precious few times that Starred Up opts for subtlety, collapsing under its own weight despite glimmers of relevancy and visual complexity.
Between 1922 and 1952, thirteen men perished in attempts to summit Mt. Everest, but nations continued to answer the siren song beckoning them to scale the impossible, to look down upon the world in a testament to human ingenuity and perseverance. Beyond the Edge attempts to capture the grandiosity and peril of the eventual summit by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay of the ninth British expedition. The unlikely pair cheated death on multiple occasions, and yet, oddly enough, it seems to be director Leanne Pooley who bit off a bit more than she could chew.
There is a certain beauty and innocence to filmic depictions of computer systems and their operators from the 1980s and 90s. They possessed endless possibilities, with their power denoted only by their size and quantity of blinking lights. Couple this with the general ignorance of what “hacking” was, how it was accomplished, and by whom, it usually means there will be at least some fun to be had in watching a film attempt to tread computational waters. And this remains true for Michael Fischa’s Death Spa, a ridiculous exploitation horror film about a gym entirely run by a computer that grotesquely kills people in ways I’m not certain the filmmaker or I understand.
Margaret awakens in her bed and begins silently arranging the various adornments of her home. A pleasant color palette is offered, as we are immediately made aware of the overly fastidious nature of the film’s protagonist. This minute and a half of quiet organization and alignment as the opening titles commence is the best sequence found in As High as the Sky. It is the calm before the storm of contrivances and occasional histrionics. And as it progresses, the film ineffectually struggles to grasp the concepts of tragedy, family, and what jokes are.