by Walter Chaw One of the major misconceptions about film critics and scholars is that they aren't fans of film first, and if they are, then surely they wouldn't be fans of a genre as disreputable as horror. But I've long held that horror is an indicator species in our socio-political quagmire. That often with only limited studio oversight, and because they're entirely possible to execute with a small budget in a short amount of time, horror films, by talking about what a society fears, can tap into the collective unconscious more quickly and effectively than any number of "prestige" presentations. There's a reason most myths and fairy tales have strong horror elements. Get Out is a lot of things, for example, but its closest analogue is George Romero's landmark civil rights masterpiece Night of the Living Dead. I wonder if the horror movie's primal simplicity has anything to do with the disdain with which even its creators sometimes approach it. In any case, horror is important, essential, vital. When it's right, there's not much else righter.
****/**** starring John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace written by Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee, based on the book by Ron Stallworth directed by Spike Lee
by Walter Chaw Colorado Springs is a big, modern, beautiful city. It's home to natural wonders like the Tolkien-sounding Garden of the Gods and the Cave of the Winds. Its zoo, perched on the slopes of Cheyenne Mountain, is world class. Spencer Penrose built a shrine to his friend Will Rogers on that same mountain when Rogers died in a plane crash. Cheyenne Mountain is also where NORAD is housed, and Colorado Springs is also host to the United States Air Force Academy and, once upon a time, Focus on the Family. It's an ultra-conservative city just south of blue Denver, which is itself south of the trust-fund hippie commune of Boulder. And for a few years starting around 1925, there was no greater stronghold for the Klan in the United States than in Denver. In 1978, Ron Stallworth became the first African-American police officer hired by the Colorado Springs Police Department, and then the first detective when he went undercover to infiltrate a Kwame Ture speech at a black nightclub. In 1979, he answered an ad hoping to establish a chapter of the KKK in the Springs, posing over the telephone as a man who hated every non-white race, but especially "those blacks." A white counterpart attended meetings while Stallworth eventually gained the trust of then-Grand Wizard David Duke. Duke reached out to Stallworth recently because he was concerned he was going to be portrayed as a buffoon in Spike Lee's adaptation of Stallworth's memoir, BlacKkKlansman. I mean, if the hood fits... If there is one indicator of involvement with cults like this, it's deep-seated insecurity. It bears mentioning that Denver's old airport, Stapleton International Airport, is the namesake of five-time Denver Mayor Ben Stapleton, who was a high-ranking member and, until the end of his reign, vocal supporter of the Klan. The airport is gone, but the neighbourhood that replaced it still carries his name.
by Bill Chambers It begins with a young woman (Yuzuki Akiyama) running for cover in an abandoned factory, but lo, her zombie boyfriend (Kazuaki Nagaya) proves inescapable, and sinks his teeth into her neck as she tells him she loves him one last time. Then a director (Takayuki Hamatsu) yells cut and proceeds to berate his actress for still not being realistically devastated after 42 takes. When he storms off in a huff, the actors commiserate and the makeup woman (Harumi Shuhama) chimes in with a little lore about the factory involving medical experiments on the dead. On cue, a "real" zombie appears, setting in motion a bloody chase through the studio and nearby woods as cast and crew unleash their inner Ash and struggle to evade the contageous bite of the infected. Lasting 37 minutes and unfolding as a "single" shot, this is a dumb but energetic sequence indebted as much to the climax of Children of Men as to any zombie movie (though particularly Romeros'--the undead are a nostalgic mint green). And then credits roll, and One Cut of the Dead flashes back one month earlier to the inception of what we just saw: a (fictitious) one-off for Japan's Zombie Channel, also called "One Cut of the Dead" because it was shot live without any editing.
by Walter Chaw This is what I believe: I believe that men and women are essentially different and that those differences result in perspectives that are necessarily different. I don't consciously privilege one perspective over the other, but I acknowledge that I am not always aware of my prejudices. I think Wonder Woman would have been garbage if a man had directed it; and I think 20th Century Women, written and directed by a man, had beautiful roles for women. It's confusing and it can be exhausting, but at the end of the day, creating an equal opportunity for women and people of colour to tell stories (whether they're theirs or not) can only be good. So...
***/**** starring Dominique Fishback, John Jelks, Max Casella, Tatum Marilyn Hill written by Jordana Spiro and Angelica Nwandu directed by Jordana Spiro
by Alice Stoehr Social workers reel off exposition: this cagey black girl in their midst is Angel (Dominique Fishback), nearly 18. She has a 10-year-old sister, Abigail, but hasn't seen her in a couple years. Since their mother's death (at their father's hands), Angel's been in foster homes and juvenile detention. Now she's on parole and plans to stay with her girlfriend. These government employees briskly summarize her life while the camera holds her in close-up. It's efficient filmmaking that establishes both the heroine's circumstances and the system that's confined her. Moments later, she's out on the street, looking for someplace to charge her phone. So begins Night Comes On, the debut feature from white actress-turned-director Jordana Spiro, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Angelica Nwandu. Its 80 minutes will chart Angel's next 48 hours as she pursues an objective of which her caseworkers are unaware: to acquire both a handgun and her father's new address. The film extends outwards from this premise in a straight line. First she meets with the father of her former cellmate, a scumbag dealing in black market firearms. (Max Casella plays him the same way Harvey Keitel might've a few decades earlier.) A phone call interrupts their negotiations, which have involved him groping her; to buy time, he has his wife stop at the store for milk. On Angel's way out, he hands her a half-gallon jug from the fridge. "Do me a favour," he says. "Throw this out." A beat later she's outside tossing the jug against a wall with casual disdain.
**/**** screenplay by Kevin Cockle, Michael Peterson directed by Michael Peterson
by Bill Chambers In the wintry Knuckleball, 12-year-old Henry (Luca Villacis) is sent to stay with his maternal grandfather, Jacob (Michael Ironside, looking huskier these days), while his parents (Kathleen Munroe and Chenier Hundal) attend a funeral. I don't entirely understand why Henry can't go with them, but it's an opportunity for him to spend time with Jacob, who hasn't, up 'til now, met the boy, owing to his mother's estrangement from her father. Ironside is as imposing as ever, and if you've followed his career at all the first third of the movie mines a lot of tension--and tense laughs--from his screen persona. But there's a gruff tenderness to his interactions with Villacis, as chores give way to impromptu pitching lessons (hence the title), that I was sad to see replaced by the mechanics of a cat-and-mouse thriller, even if the Shining-esque drone shots following the family car and dirge-like soundtrack never promised a rose garden. When Jacob dies in the night, Henry calls on next-door neighbour Dixon (a scuzzed-up Munro Chambers, of "Degrassi" fame) for help, but quickly deduces that the young man can't be trusted; so begin the Home Alone shenanigans. Chambers just has one of those faces that is satisfying to watch become ensnared in barbed wire, while the unaffected Villacis inspires the protective feelings a little brother would. That Henry exhibiting the same preternatural gift for engineering as Kevin McCallister--early scenes of Henry with his face and thumbs buried in a portable console seem to credit his ingenuity to gaming, which is actually a refreshing take--and Dixon the same invincibility as a Wet Bandit is of a piece with an increasingly risible backstory doesn't, however, change the fact that this cheapens a film that had been portraying itself as rather measured and grief-struck. Disappointing, too, that Knuckleball introduces a lady cop so charmingly and progressively--in the midst of forcing two much larger men with bloodied noses to call a truce over breakfast at a coffee shop--only to reduce her to collateral damage in her very next scene. (And you thought Scatman Crothers got a raw deal.) Fortunately, DP Jon Thomas works wonders with the desolate Saskatchewan snowscapes and Ironside's newfound Dennehy proportions. Fantasia Fest 2018 - Programme: Selection 2018
by Bill Chambers This feature-length truncation of a 6½-hour Amazon Japan TV series finds kitsch provocateur Sion Sono presiding over another apocalypse, as gun-crazy vampire clan the Corvins trap young Japanese singles inside their Technicolor hotel "for one-hundred years" while the world outside allegedly becomes ash. Tokyo Vampire Hotel is unconventional, to say the least, though what struck me as its most audacious flourish--Sion's credit and the movie's title appearing 42 minutes into this 142-minute film--might just be an overlooked remnant of an individual episode. Believe it or not, shearing over four hours from the running time doesn't seem to have helped clarify an epic and obviously convoluted narrative, in which the centuries-long feud between the Corvins and the, yes, Draculas comes to a head in 2021 (a significant year in that it will either make or break America) on the 22nd birthday of Manami (Ami Tomite), who was fed eternal blood or some such at birth, making her a delicacy among vampirekind hotly pursued by members of both clans--including K (fashion model Kaho), a kind of Terminator vampire whose "come with me if you want to live" proposition does not put the hysterical Manami at ease. Sion distils all this grade-A nonsense to its exploitable elements (sex and violence, not necessarily in that order), resulting in an almost totally sensory experience; an opening title card beseeches the viewer to play it loud, "even if you're using headphones," which is great advice if you want the sustained feeling of an ice-cream headache. Yeah, I don't know what to say about Tokyo Vampire Hotel, and I'm disappointed that Manami's backstory, exemplified by the culturally-loaded image of her shaving off her long black hair in an act of rebellion, never really merges with her present-day damsel-in-distressdom to create a whole person. Perhaps the picture's masterstroke is that it turns into a painstaking homage to Brian De Palma's Scarface--albeit one set subversively in a vagina--so gradually you don't even notice until it's almost in the rearview. Fantasia Fest 2018 - Programme: Selection 2018
***/**** starring Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie
by Walter Chaw As the title flatly states, Mission: Impossible: Fallout (hereafter Fallout), the sixth instalment in our very own Jackie Chan's signature series, will be about Ethan Hunt's (Tom Cruise) emotional baggage, earned over twenty-plus years of saving the world from threats foreign, domestic, and auteur. The main personal casualty for Hunt is the disintegration of his marriage to Julia (Michelle Monaghan), who must remain a "ghost" so that she doesn't suffer the, yes, fallout from Ethan's hero work. She checks in every once in a while, Hunt's teammate Luther (Ving Rhames) tells Ethan's new flame, former MI6 agent Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson). It's what keeps Ethan going. Accordingly, Fallout starts with an apocalyptic dream of Julia in the hands of maddog terrorist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris)--the type of dream James Cameron used so effectively in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, where everyone turns to charcoal and flies apart. It's important to focus in on all of this because Fallout is about a very specific element of the myth of masculinity, this romanticizing of sacrifice and suffering that men must go through in order to protect the women in their lives. The best part of Martin Campbell's extremely good Casino Royale is when fatale Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) brings Bond (Daniel Craig) back from the dead and his first sentence is spent asking if she's okay. There's a scene like that at the end of Fallout as well when Hunt, back from the dead, apologizes to Julia for everything. It's the sentiment and the situation that makes men in the audience spring a manly leak. Hunt--even his name is a primordial gender assignation--is the avatar for male expectation, which casts his heroics in an odd light, I think: fantasies of male heroism played against grandiose, extravagant, paranoid delusions. I don't know now if I'm talking about Cruise or Hunt. Same, same.
ZERO STARS/**** written and directed by Drew Barnhardt
by Walter Chaw Hypehante Drew Barnhardt's sophomore feature Rondo is vile, amateurish garbage that fails largely because it's so pleased with itself. It features narration ripped off in style and intent from Todd Field's Little Children, of all things, giving its set-up a kind of arch distance, but what begins as moderately clever reveals itself to be a desperate way to provide exposition when dialogue, character work, and camera movement have failed. Rondo follows Boone (Grant Benjamin Leibowitz), a junkie crashing on his sister Jill's (Breanna Otts) couch, visiting a sex party presided over by Lurdell (Reggie De Morton), who carefully enunciates his Pornhub-menu monologue to the participants before it's revealed that this sex party is, wait for it, actually a murder party. Jill gets involved. Jill and Boone's former vet dad (Michael Vasicek) gets involved, albeit briefly. And then there's some crap cribbed from that old Tom Savini book about doing gore effects on the cheap before Jill strips down to her underwear and starts acting like one of those models in an NRA video. Rondo is a particularly low form of exploitation that asks two different women to talk about fetishes before being summarily objectified, murders two women in particularly fetishized ways, and pushes the proposition that black men are violent and scary. It might want to argue that having one of the scary black men married to a white woman alleviates that charge--except that said white woman is psychotic. That it's poor in every technical regard (add the editing, which renders the physics of a bathtub murder nonsensical) is no crime in and of itself; the real problem is the movie's aggressive no-nothing attitudes towards what it's putting in front of an audience. It will argue that it has nothing to say and means only to entertain--which, nowadays especially, is a red flag to pay very close attention to what it's saying. Dispiriting, enervating stuff. Fantasia Fest 2018 - Programme: Fantasia Underground
½*/**** written by Solomon Gray and Sonny Mallhi directed by Sonny Mallhi
by Walter Chaw Towards the end of Sonny Mallhi's nigh-unwatchable Hurt, someone off-screen says, "Don't worry, it's almost over," and, you know, I felt seen. It's a film so assiduously About Something that it ends up mostly being about how much the filmmakers want it to be about something. They should've just called it METAPHOR and left the title flashing in the corner like that Quenten Dupieux movie Rubber about a killer tire. I also hated Rubber but I can respect that to some degree it knows it's full of shit. Hurt wants to use slasher-movie tropes as a literary device to discuss the living nightmare of life in the United States, feeding eternally into gun violence and forever wars, but it appears to have only seen Scream, making it an ape of an ape. It's like someone making a satire of Airplane!; or an older, less good meatloaf out of another, much better meatloaf. Rose (Emily Van Raay) likes fucking with the neighbourhood kids but then one day her PTSD-having boyfriend, Tommy (Andrew Creer), home from deployment, decides to show her what fear is actually like. He's a psycho because experience has made him that way. Is that a dangerous place to go without a map? Indeed it is. When Hurt isn't trying very hard with its Malickian shots of nature and Polanski-framed doorways, it's slathering on folk songs done by probably buddies and ratcheting up the "tension" with a little gore and a few soundtrack stings. It's the pejorative implication of the term "arthouse." Mallhi's last film, Family Blood, is another METAPHOR--this time using the vampire mythos--that was done better by Larry Fessenden's Habit and Abel Ferrara's The Addiction, though at least it had the benefit of the exceptional James Ransome. What I'm saying is that the chief selling point of Hurt is that it's produced by Jason Blum, this generation's Roger Corman. A lot of great directors got their start with Corman. And he produced a lot of other movies, too. Fantasia Fest 2018 - Programme: Selection 2018
THE EQUALIZER 2 **½/**** starring Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Melissa Leo written by Richard Wenk directed by Antoine Fuqua
THE FIRST PURGE **/**** starring Y'lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Marisa Tomei screenplay by James DeMonaco directed by Gerard McMurray
SuperFly **½/**** starring Trevor Jackson, Jason Mitchell, Michael Kenneth Williams, Lex Scott Davis written by Alex Tse, based on the screenplay by Phillip Fenty directed by Director X
by Walter Chaw McCall (Denzel Washington) is Batman. He has a tragic past and a tortured rationale, a sense of morality in a fallen world that aligns him with the hardboiled detectives proliferating American popular culture in the immediate aftermath of WWII. He was Dirty Harry Callahan or Paul Kersey in the late-'70s-into-'80s. No coincidence Death Wish has already gotten its own remake. No coincidence, either, a series interested in a theoretical near-future in which a day of mayhem is sanctioned by the government in order to facilitate a "purging" of intra-cultural aggression has received four instalments and an upcoming television series. The latest, The First Purge, serves as a "prequel" to the events of the first film. It's also, full confession, the first of these movies that I've seen. I thought the premise was interesting, don't get me wrong, I just didn't really have the stomach for it. I feel the same way about that new Mr. Rogers documentary, or The Cove. The world is awful. I get it. There's a limit to how often I want to be reminded of what we've lost. What's curious about The First Purge (and the Superfly reboot) is not that all its heroes (save one) are black and all its villains are white, but rather that its relationship to something like The Equalizer 2 mimics the relationship between "The Cosby Show" and "A Different World". One provides a kind of cross-cultural reassurance that minorities are interested in the restoration of the ruling culture; the other understands the ruling culture was never threatened in the first place. Sure, subcultures evolve in the shadow of the social order, but the social order itself remains implacable and immutable.
by Bill Chambers Emily (Elitsa Bako) lies naked in bed next to her own desiccated corpse. She returns home to a fretting boyfriend (Adam Buller) who says she's been missing for days. Against her wishes he calls the police to tell them she's returned, so she sticks a corkscrew in his neck. She's already beginning to decay, though. When Detective Freddie Ransone (Steve Kasan) pops 'round to see whether she's turned up yet, she takes the opportunity to snatch herself a new meat-cage: his. It's a lather-rinse-repeat pattern the movie soon establishes, as unidentified lifeform "Drew" identity-hops around the city at Christmastime. Lifechanger is a bit like The Hidden without anyone on screen trying to hunt down the alien, whose materialist appetites are here replaced by lovesickness. Drew retains his personal memories in addition to inheriting those of his hosts, although he doesn't really have any use for the latter. We know this partly due to Drew's narration (read by horror mainstay Bill Oberst Jr.)--a cue perhaps taken from Peter Watts's fabulous short story "The Things," which gives voice to the shapeshifter of John Carpenter's The Thing. By virtue of this innovation and all the mortal angst he expresses Drew becomes the most human character on screen, but then again his thoughts do tend to be dismayingly prosaic and expository for something not of this earth.
Please note that all framegrabs are from the 1080p version
***/**** Image C+ Sound A- Extras B+ starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong screenplay by James Cameron & William Wisher directed by James Cameron
by Bryant Frazer I remember the summer of 1991, when Terminator 2: Judgment Day landed in movie theatres with all the fuck-you noise, power, and momentum of a Ford Freightliner crashing from an L.A. thoroughfare overpass into a concrete spillway below. It was the year of Operation Desert Storm and the ending of the Cold War, the year LAPD officers were videotaped beating Rodney King. With the release of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" still a few months away, latter-day cock-rocker Axl Rose still led the most popular band in America. It had been a pretty good year for women in film, even if the material was grim--Jodie Foster helped open The Silence of the Lambs at #1 in February and Davis/Sarandon kick-started a thousand feminist (and anti-feminist) thinkpieces when Thelma & Louise arrived in May. But the main movie event of the summer was the testosterone-laden sequel to The Terminator. Serenaded by a hit single from Axl's Guns N' Roses, heralded as the most expensive movie ever made, and stuffed with apocalyptic imagery, T2 roared onto screens, smacked you upside the head, and stole your lunch money, then smirked about it as it strolled away.
**/**** screenplay by Isa Mazzei directed by Daniel Goldhaber
by Walter Chaw Daniel Goldhaber's e-take on the doppelgänger mythos via Harlan Ellison's "Shatterday," Clive Barker's "Mortal Remains," and that second-season episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" called "The Case of Mr. Pelham," asks what could happen if the Internet developed the ability to clone anyone once they uploaded enough extant video footage. Of course this is already mostly possible, and of course this new technology's main utility has been creating celebrity-fakes porn--which Cam addresses, though not well. It looks good and hero Lola ("She was a showgirl") is game, but while it threatens at one point to do something like Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse, it ends up not doing very much with its premise at all. I did like the idea of Lola (Madeline Brewer) getting more viewers by doing snuff porn, but then her identity is stolen by a sluttier A.I. and the rest of the movie neglects to delve too deeply into existential issues, the ins and outs of human kink and what exactly it is that drives these young women into this particular line of work. Cam is ultimately only really interesting for how well it replicates the prurience of the live-chat experience. In that sense, it inspires the same sort of questions that actually watching and participating in a live chat would inspire: are these girls "real"? Are they available? What relationship does this have to the old Paris, Texas peep-show environment? And just what is it about my male wiring that makes watching a girl sit on her bed, pretending to be interested in me, erotic? Cam owes a lot to Ken Russell's Crimes of Passion, down to the play-acting and aspects of the production design, but it doesn't share much of its underneath. There's a good short film here trapped in the body of this feature. For his part, Goldhaber demonstrates some serious chops, and Brewer, armed with an already long list of television credits, is fantastic. I'm curious to see what they do with a more ambitious project. Fantasia Fest 2018 - Programme: Cheval Noir Competition
by Bill Chambers A hit in its home country of South Korea earlier this year, The Vanished is a nominal ghost story in which a high-profile corpse is stolen from the morgue. On the case is Detective Woo Jung-sik (Kim Sang-kyung), a washed-up alcoholic with the requisite Tragic Past (his fiancée was killed a decade earlier in a hit-and-run), which has put a pretty big chip on his shoulder for perps who might be getting away with murder. Like, say, college professor Park Jin-han (Kim Kang-woo), the "trophy" husband of the missing dead woman (Kim Hee-ae), who was the CEO of a pharmaceutical company. Woo thinks Park killed his wife--which he did, using a fantasy anaesthetic untraceable after death--and has a reason to hide the body. Park, meanwhile, secretly fields taunts from his late wife that convince him she somehow survived. Because Park has connections, Woo is working against the clock to prove his guilt, and what unfolds does so over the course of one dark and stormy night in something resembling real time. The Vanished looks to be a fairly straightforward remake of a Spanish thriller unseen by me, Oriol Paulo's 2012 The Body, which is surprising since its increasingly byzantine revenge plot feels uniquely South Korean (think Oldboy lite), as does the fluid mix of tones and genres. It's also fairly engrossing and unpredictable, the satisfying albeit more pretentious version of John McTiernan's forgotten whodunit Basic, in which John Travolta tries to solve a murder on a Panama military base during a hurricane: Like a lot of SK cinema, it gets a bit bathetic in the homestretch with its distended mourning of fictional characters who don't really represent anything other than pieces on a chessboard. That being said, the whole thing might have more gravity if baby-faced Kim Sang-kyung better matched his character's shabby profile. Some time's gone by since he played the hotshot young partner in Bong Joon-ho's police procedural Memories of Murder, but evidently not enough. A simple solution might've been not to ascribe so much world-weariness to him and instead show that the grief driving Woo isn't something that's made him old, but rather frozen him heartbreakingly in amber. Fantasia Fest 2018 - Programme: Selection 2018
**½/**** starring Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Kathy Driscoll-Mohler screenplay by Gus Van Sant, based on the book by John Callahan directed by Gus Van Sant
by Angelo Muredda "I'm a sucker for quadriplegic movies," VARIETY critic Peter Debruge wrote of Gus Van Sant's Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot from Sundance, before criticism from disabled activists apparently inspired his editors to do some quiet and uncredited post-publication editing. Whatever its merits as a biopic of an outsider artist--dubious, given the cuddliness offensive of Danny Elfman's insistent score--or a "quadriplegic movie" (minimal, given that its subject, Oregon cartoonist John Callahan, was actually a paraplegic), Van Sant's return to movies people might conceivably care about is at least not so homogenous and tired as that backhanded praise suggests. It's hard to shake the feeling that the film is the belated two-birds-with-one-stone fulfilment of a business deal with Callahan, who died in 2010, and Robin Williams, who first optioned the story and once intended to play Callahan himself. Despite the whiff of old Tupperware leftovers that hangs about it, the film is pleasantly rumpled in the tradition of Van Sant's more interesting work--predictably boring in its rehashing of disability clichés, from casting to writing, yes, but formally unusual, and committed to the repetitive and potentially un-cinematic bootstrap work of self-improvement and forgiveness that movies about addicts and accident survivors tend to sail through.
by Bill Chambers 15-year-old Mia (Luna Wedler) is struggling to fit in at a new school, feeling suffocated at home, and hormonal in the usual ways--physically lashing out at her mother (Regula Grauwiller), smoking, flirting on the Internet with men who should know better. She manages to break the ice with the cool kids by seconding their idea to take the school field trip to Switzerland's version of Coney Island, and earns the respect of pack leader Gianna (Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen) with a thrill-seeking attitude that in fact portends a self-destructive streak. Mia's body is changing; it starts with her toes growing together and a sudden appetite for the tropical fish in her mother's tank. Whether to feel desirable or because she senses that time is running out, she becomes promiscuous, but when she finally meets up with her Humbert Humbert (Nicola Perot) he shows a paternal concern about the mottling on her legs that sends her fleeing, while a subsequent "bounce" (the movie's--and, presumably, Swiss German millenials'--slang for sex) with a popular boy (David Oberholzer) leaves her unsatisfied. Though Blue My Mind is bound to alarm parents of modern teenagers, like David Cronenberg's gruesome remake of The Fly it's less a horror movie than it is a drama about prematurely waking up to one's mortality--although the bittersweet finish is more hopeful and casts an even wider metaphorical net. (I suspect the picture will resonate with trans viewers, or at least that it aims to.) Wedler and Holthuizen mature convincingly on screen together, their lovely chemistry filling out and filling in a relationship that is all too typical of director Lisa Brühlmann's sketchy screenplay. There are ambiguities, for instance, concerning Mia's provenance and how much her mom and dad know, but when her parents discreetly depart from the narrative, despite the unlikelihood that they'd abandon a daughter so clearly in the throes of a depressive episode (this part seems like it was concocted by an actual bitter teenager), it reduces those unanswered questions to so much pointless teasing. Perhaps, like its obvious inspiration The Metamorphosis, Blue My Mind was only meant to be a short story, and ironically endured growing pains of its own. Brühlmann has enough stunning images in her, including an especially striking one of a flooded apartment, that it's a shame she defaults to a muted, pseudodocumentary European aesthetic, which exposes some feeble writing to the harsh light of interrogation instead of safely locating the film in the realm of dream logic. Fantasia Fest 2018 - Programme: Camera Lucida
****/**** Image B+ Sound A starring Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alessandro Nivola screenplay by Lynne Ramsay, based on the book by Jonathan Ames directed by Lynne Ramsay
by Walter Chaw It opens with a child's voice saying that he must do better. It's dark. The first image is of a man trying to breathe inside a plastic bag. This is your everyday Joe (Joaquin Phoenix), and this is how director Lynne Ramsay lets us know that he's disturbed. We know he's dangerous, too, because she shows him cleaning the head of a ball-peen hammer and flushing bloody towels down a hotel-room toilet in a visceral call-back to the nightmare's resolution in The Conversation. All of You Were Never Really Here is a nightmare: a vision of the United States presented by a foreign artist who sees America in the truest way since Wim Wenders's pictures about violence, Edward Hopper (whom Ramsey uses as a touchstone, too), and the state of the American dream state. When she evokes "Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1" (a.k.a. Whistler's Mother), capturing Joe's mother (Judith Roberts) in profile through a window as her son goes to collect some bounty, it's sad in the ineffable way that great art can be in just a pass, a glance. Ramsey's picture is about the toll of violence on the violator and the victim in equal measure. In moments, she recreates Michael Mann's urban veneers--nowhere more so than during the title sequence, whose soundtrack evokes not only that halcyon period in the '80s when Tangerine Dream seemed to be scoring all the best movies, but also the band specifically in how their best scores were about the repetitive urgency of work. Jonny Greenwood's music for You Were Never Really Here provides subtext, texture, and emotional geography. It reminds of Jon Brion's work on Punch-Drunk Love. In a lot of ways, that PT Anderson film, in its discussion of a disturbed and volatile young man finding purpose and acceptance, is this picture's closest analogue.
by Bill Chambers While I was composing this "curtain-raiser," a fellow critic tweeted that she'd been offered press credentials for an upcoming film festival but didn't see the point of accepting them, since travel and lodging would inevitably cost more than she would make reporting on the festival. Montreal's venerable genre-film festival Fantasia, now in its 22nd year, has attempted to solve this kind of dilemma and broaden awareness of its brand by inviting online outlets to view the majority of its slate remotely via streaming links. Obviously "screeners" are not a new concept and have for the last few years helped sites like ours round out our coverage of various festivals, but nothing has ever been attempted on this scale, with most of the films accessible via a centralized hub. We're proud to have been invited to participate in this experiment, because with Telluride and TIFF hitting so soon after, and with travel being a challenge even for those of us who live relatively close to Montreal, it's improbable that we'll ever get the chance to attend Fantasia in person. It's something that had always given me, personally, a bigger case of FOMO than Cannes, because if we have a niche, Fantasia fulfills it.
***½/**** starring Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Armie Hammer written and directed by Boots Riley
by Walter Chaw There's a moment in Boots Riley's hyphenate debut Sorry to Bother You--it happens in the last third of the picture--that rang so pure and true to me I felt adrenalized, known, inspired. The best art does that: locates that juncture between expression and activism. I felt it during Get Out as I began to recognize the parties where I'd been the only minority guest and somehow also the guest of honor; I hope to feel it one day while watching something about the Asian-American experience. I'd always wondered about the black community coalescing around bootlegs of Seventies kung fu movies, but now I understand it as I find myself vibing to Janelle Monae's and Childish Gambino's energetic, pithy counterculture activism. Sorry to Bother You belongs to this moment of crisis. It's a withering indictment of capitalism and the white ruling class in the United States as it's metastasized into a machine that's only ever interested in consuming its weakest, most underrepresented members. The running joke involves prison/work programs dressed up as a way for entire subsistence, formerly middle-class families to sell their lives to the proverbial "company store." "WorryFree" promises freedom in endless toil. The sign over the entrance to Auschwitz and on the gate at Dachau promised something similar with "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work Sets You Free"). In this way, the for-profit prison system in the land of the free is presented for mockery and shame. The idea that the corporate structure in the United States is akin to a prison is raised, too. If films are an empathy machine, this one is the "uncomfortable recognition generator" piece of it. These past eighteen months have been sobering for a lot of my white friends. Sorry to Bother You is a summary of what, until Trump, was easy to sweep under the carpet.
**½/**** starring Madelyn Deutch, Avian Jogia, Nicholas Braun, Zoey Deutch written by Madelyn Deutch directed by Lea Thompson
by Alice Stoehr Movie star Sabrina Klein sits in a bathtub, distraught. She bawls at her companion: "Can you try to be my big sister for one second of your life, please?" Her big sister Izzy is a wannabe actress who relies on Sabrina for housing and cushy work as an assistant; emotional maturity is not her métier. Nonetheless, she tries. "We should do a song," she says, so they call up their mom and sing her "Give My Regards to Broadway." They both perform with such gusto that this must be a tradition for them, a holdover from their shared childhood. These may be women in their mid-twenties, yet as they dance around the bathroom they seem momentarily like a couple of kids.
***/**** starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Jeff Goldblum screenplay by Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow directed by J.A. Bayona
by Walter Chaw The first time I remember seeing the news crawl at the bottom of a TV screen used as a satirical device in a film was in Jonathan Demme's still-exceptional, suddenly-current remake of The Manchurian Candidate. In Spanish director J.A. Bayona's Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (hereafter Fallen Kingdom), after a grim opening sequence that sets the tone for the rest of the film, a news ticker declares that the "U.S. President" questions the existence of dinosaurs in the first place. It's a well-placed barb in the flank of the white evangelical monster that's swallowed the United States in a dystopia founded on equal parts massive ignorance and fear of an angry white god--one that has installed a demented con-man, and possibly the worst human being in a country teeming with bad human beings, as its golden calf. Hidden away in this pricey fifth instalment of a billion-dollar franchise is a Spanish Gothic fairytale of the titular "fallen kingdom"--the United States, n'est-ce pas?--that owes a lot more to Bayona's debut The Orphanage than to any of the previous films in the Jurassic series. It plays like Cronos, and it serves the same immediate function as George Romero's Day of the Dead, up to porting over the "Bub" subplot on the back of a sentient dino named "Blue." Where its immediate predecessor was a misogynistic funhouse paced to the story/action structure of a porno, Fallen Kingdom is stately to the point of reserved; immensely weird; and overtly critical of the current state of affairs. I'm not sure it's a good dinosaur movie, but it's an angry, swollen-red metaphor. All things being equal, I guess I'll take angry.