Brigsby Bear: Kyle Mooney’s weird love letter to fandom

Brigsby Bear is a piece of weirdo cinema that seems like the kind of fake movie you’d see as a film-within-a-film mocking Sundance. It’s precious bordering on twee, deeply nostalgic, possessed of a quirky synth score (courtesy David Wingo, frequent Jeff Nichols collaborator), and full of actors from the indie comedy scene. It’s practically a checklist of Sundance stereotypes—and it was, indeed, a big hit at this year’s Sundance. But Brigsby transcends its made-for-mockery foundation. It’s a little too sweet for the inherent darkness of its story, but Brigsby Bear is a sensitive and sincere portrait of loneliness and fandom.

Continue reading “Brigsby Bear: Kyle Mooney’s weird love letter to fandom”

Green Room is brutal, relentless tension

green-room-movie-posterFilmmaker Jeremy Saulnier made a splash in 2013 with Blue Ruin, a funny-sad but brutal film in the revenge-thriller vein about a man seeking revenge who is wholly unequipped to seek revenge. Saulnier follows up Blue Ruin with Green Room—sensing a theme here—a film I was bitterly upset about missing at TIFF last fall. But Green Room is now in theaters, and I finally saw it, and holy shit, it made me sick to my stomach in the best possible way. Green Room ratchets up the tension and the horror over ninety minutes until the possibility of puking starts to feel like sweet relief. Continue reading “Green Room is brutal, relentless tension”

The 5th Wave is terrible, but also COMPLETELY INSANE

5WV_1SHT_TSR_05.inddI didn’t have high hopes for The 5th Wave going into it. It looked like a Hunger Games rip-off, with your requisite YA dystopia and obligatory love triangle, and I was preparing myself for the worst. But then the movie began and though The 5th Wave is not a good movie, it’s so fucking DARK and BIZARRE that I kind of came around to it, in the end. I don’t recommend spending your money on it, but should you catch it on cable or Netflix someday, it’s worth watching as an artifact of insanity. It’s the craziest of the YA dystopia movies by far, taking the premise of “child murder as entertainment” to new, un-dreamed-of heights. Continue reading “The 5th Wave is terrible, but also COMPLETELY INSANE”

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 deflates like a bad souffle

mockingjayposterHERE BE SPOILERS

Katniss Everdeen is the Girl On Fire, the survivor of multiple brutal televised child murder competitions, and generally a steely, boss bitch. She’s become the figurehead of a revolution, and after spending the previous movie starring in political attack ads, this time she’s out on the streets, trying to commit more murder and watching other people’s political attack ads. She spends most of the final chapter of her story staring vacantly into the middle distance as other people explain things to her, or tell her what to do next, and occasionally she pauses to listen to two unworthy boys she does not seem particularly interested in argue over which one of them should win her at the end of the movie. You know, like a prize. Continue reading “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 deflates like a bad souffle”

Angelina Jolie’s experimental, trying By The Sea

By_The_Sea_posterAngelina Jolie’s third movie as a director, By The Sea, is like a curio cabinet. The cabinet itself is very well crafted and exquisite to look at, and inside are many interesting things. But really, no matter how pretty it is, all you’re doing is pawing through some junk. The film, which is also written by Jolie, is beautiful to look at and it contains some interesting ideas and turns, but the story is so thin it’s almost non-existent. The result is an uneven film that tests viewers’ patience as holes in the narrative are filled with unhappy stares and beauty shots of the Maltese coastline (standing in for the south of France). Continue reading “Angelina Jolie’s experimental, trying By The Sea”

Steve Jobs: Portrait of the Artist as an Asshole

steve-jobs-movie-posterAfter much sturm and drang getting it to the big screen, the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic Steve Jobs finally in wide release, where it face-planted for reasons ranging from “Michael Fassbender isn’t a star” to “everyone just spent their money on The Martian and they’re done with movies for the month”. (That second one has a lot more to do with it than anything else.) It’s too bad Steve Jobs was ever taken out of the arthouse, its natural habitat, because it’s actually a really good movie that doesn’t deserve to be remembered as a failure just because general audiences weren’t into it. It’s an excellent character drama featuring stellar performances from Fassbender and Kate Winslet, and if Aaron Sorkin seems like the kind of guy who imagines he’s the besieged lord of the castle of good taste, well. It doesn’t make his dialogue any less entertaining. Continue reading “Steve Jobs: Portrait of the Artist as an Asshole”

Emily Blunt is Sidelined Action Heroine in Sicario

sicario posterI FINALLY caught up with Sicario after it managed to avoid me for a couple weeks, and while I’m glad I saw it, it did not blow me away. It’s a highly competent movie featuring highly competent actors, made by a bunch of highly competent people, but it’s only intermittently engaging and it does not offer any ideas or insights deeper than your average Nightline special. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) and starring Emily Blunt, Sicario is basically Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic with a dash of Michael Mann’s inscrutability. With Roger Deakins working as the director of photography, this is a gorgeous movie to look at, and Villeneuve puts together a few really tense action sequences, but in between the action beats the film is curiously flat, with characters who are all so painfully cool—and one who is epically dumb—that they’re more like ideas of people dreamed up by a sixteen year old boy who thinks CIA agents and hitmen are like, totally awesome. Continue reading “Emily Blunt is Sidelined Action Heroine in Sicario”