Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Current Cinema 18.3

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

The most disappointing aspect of Stefano Sollimo's sequel to Denis Villeneuve's critically acclaimed 2016 political thriller is its feeble attempt to carbon copy what made that film so great. The swagger.... the machismo... the actions of people drawing invisible lines of political aggression are all intact but what lacks in "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" is a firm center to hold onto. In the original, Emily Blunt's character served as a naive audience surrogate. Out of that naivety was borne a strong woman with an equally strong moral center, desperately trying to cement herself against the corroding fissures of nationalism that develop around her. It also helped that filmmaker Villeneuve painted a morose, inky masterpiece of half shadowy images and tightly framed bodies in perfect motion. In this latest version (also written by Taylor Sheridan), the emotional core is supposed to fall onto the surrogate father-daughter relationship that develops between kidnap victim Isabela Moner and assassin chess piece Benecio Del Toro. Barely flaked together and instead choosing to focus on the maneuvers of smooth talking soldier-types (Josh Brolin and Jeffrey Donovan again), "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" establishes little empathy for the two and swings for a populist ending that feels half baked and served up just to make the audience feel good after the previous two hours of lazy border phobia and calculated violence.

Leave No Trace 

Observational and just as transient as its title, Debra Granik's latest film succeeds in the quiet moments between rudderless PTSD veteran dad Ben Foster and newcomer Thomasin Mckenzie as his daughter living a bohemian/exterior lifestyle. Also largely moving is the parade of weathered, seemingly naturalistic faces that dot the rugged landscape as they travel from camping spot to the next, moving further and further away from the concrete pillars of civilization. If there's anything to fault "Leave No Trace", its the fairly routine narrative that winds its way into some expected beats. Still, a good portion of the film is acute at narrowing its focus on the father/daughter duo who give weighty performances.

Three Identical Strangers 

Relying on a fairly pedantic documentary style with straight ahead personal testimonies and lackluster visual recreations, Three Identical Strangers survives not on visual grandiosity but the inherently fascinating story at the center.  Full review at Dallas Film Now

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda 

Like so many artists, we generally understand their art is often synonymous with life. In the case of Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda, not only does the artist make it clear he’s still breathing because of his art, but he also wants to show us the possibilities art can reveal to the world. See this film. It’s a masterpiece. Full thoughts at Dallas Film Now

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

The Last Ten Films I've Seen, Summer Edition

1) Black Water (2018)- New Dolph Lundgren/Van Damme 'actioner' that opens in most places next week. Hugely entertaining. A film that not only embraces its yesteryear B-movie theatrics, but exploits them to great effect. Lundgren is so good here in his small role. Review at Dallas Film Now.

2) Sole Survivor (1983)- Remember that great, nasty post-nuke film "Night of the Comet"? This is from the same director the year before which got him that gig. Atmospheric at times and it creates some terrific tension from its urban sprawl. Hard to deny that films like "Final Destination" and "It Follows" blatantly ripped this one off.

3) Adore (2013)- Should be waaaay more interesting than it is, especially because it deals with Naomi Watts and Robin Wright screwing each other's 18 year old sons.

4) Who Took Johnny (2014)- On Netflix. Pretty terrifying for the malicious, half-baked conspiracy theories it proposes. I spent about 4 hours after this film exploring the internet wormhole for some facts behind the events this film highlights.

5) Mortal Thoughts (1991)- Been on a bit of an Alan Rudolph kick lately. This one is pretty simplistic.... early 90's HBO style film noir with Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Glenn Headley doing their worst hawkish New York accents.

6) Vazante (2018)- If you like Bela Tarr or Cria Guervos films, this one's for you. Slow but ultimately very sad black and white film about life on a plantation in South America and the consequences of boredom and colonial rule.

7) Roads to the South (1978)- The last Joseph Losey film I'd never seen (which finally popped up on KG and CG, thank you!). Wish I could say it was worth the wait. It is a companion piece to "Mr. Klein" however, in that Yves Montand plays an exiled ex Communist brought back into the struggle after his wife dies in an accident. Flat at times, laborious at others, it does close a chapter in Losey's non American financed 70's period.

8) Hereditary (2018)- Effective horror film, but jeez people are doing cartwheels over this. I felt it a bit derivative. The best seance film? A nifty little George C. Scott number called "The Changeling". Or maybe Kiyoshi Kurosawa's "Seance" which does just as much with light and shadow as "Hereditary".

9) Variety Lights (1950)- Fellini's debut film that encapsulates all the themes of his later work- a wandering sense of the journey being more important than the destination.... his fascination with creative/performance artists.... and a clinging love for the distraught and poor.

10) The Misandrists (2018)- Queer pioneer filmmaker Bruce Labruce's most mainstream work is still not for the faint of heart. It plays like a cross between a Rainer Werner Fassbinder film and a student porno. Enter at your own risk.  Full review at Dallas Film Now