Two decades ago, professional documentary filmmaker Doug Block began to film weddings as a way of making money on the side. Gaining access to, and providing a record of, the most important day in a couple’s life felt like a noble way of making a living and brought happiness to everyone, including himself.
A young family moves into a nice, quiet home. What can go wrong, besides everything? Such is the premise of untold horror movies, and now The Canal. An Irish import that made its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this week, the film offers a parade of tired horror tropes, from jump scares to witless gore. It also gives horror fiends an entirely competent — if pretty uninspired — latest fix.
“That’s how this is done,” sneers the criminal who’s just regained control of a situation via a shotgun somewhere around the midpoint of Blue Ruin. He’s speaking to the film’s inept hero, who’s trapped him in a trunk as part of the increasingly messy revenge narrative that drives the plot, but given the cleverly-twisted tropes of the genre here it’s as much to the movie itself he talks. Recapitulating the cliché that has come to attend stories of this sort, Jeremy Saulnier’s sophomore feature is a superbly-scripted affair, melding vengeance with veracity to give a thriller that’s efficient for how far from taut it is. That may be how this is done in the movies; Blue Ruin is one that returns reality to the equation.
The first thing you’ll likely notice about Venus in Fur, the new stage-to-screen adaptation from Roman Polanski, is the extraordinary physical resemblance between the film’s lead actor and its director. Mathieu Amalric makes for an absolute dead ringer of Polanski, who turned 80 last year. The casting may seem at first like a cute joke…
On the streets of Cape Town narrative fiction and real life collide in beautiful spectacles of musical expression with the seemingly endless range of the unassuming penny whistle making a king out of a boy named Felix who has mastered the ability to exude pure joy through the simple instrument without formal training. Some play percussion on refuse washed ashore on the crowded beach, surrounded by the vibrant colors of the discarded and forgotten, creating spontaneous jazz for the sheer joy of expression. Felix’s mother lovingly peels potatoes at their humble home, smiling to herself with the knowledge that Felix has been accepted into a private school that will give him opportunities that his deceased father never had, but priggish snobbery has survived the death of apartheid even amongst black Africans who have found affluence in their newfound opportunities but look down upon Felix for his lack of wealth and bright green backpack.
Before gifting us the cinema of blood spurting phalluses (and talking foxes!) in 2009, before he ended the world in 2011, and before he, in graphic yet clinical fashion, challenged the sexual mores of society and the filmic facsimiles thereof this past year, Lars von Trier made Breaking the Waves, a work that’s as much a remonstration as is its younger brethren. Despite the late public courts decreeing him more a provocateur than auteur – even a hybrid moniker like “provocauteur” feels like a concession of his talents – the confrontational tenor that pervades his films is one that’s distinctly personal, an extension of his own musings on social and artistic orders, his own phobias and anxieties, and his own feelings on what constitutes beauty and amity; his characters often reflect this, bearing the weight of the director’s cognitive crosses as they march themselves perforce toward martyrdom. What’s of important note, however, is that while von Trier readily projects his own traits and concerns unto a protagonist, he’s able to refrain from painting himself a sacrificial lamb – he never truly characterizes by way of surrogacy. Thus, his films take the form of largely candid but wholly exotic outlets, works that are imbued with a certain intimacy even when at their most oblique or didactic; to find appeal in von Trier’s cinema is to realize that his essayist intellectualism and his coarse humanity are complimentary tendencies of the same persona.
Cinematographer Wally Pfister’s directorial debut, Transcendence, is really a film that would have been better suited for Stanley Kubrick, given Kubrick’s career long theme of the dehumanization of man and the large roll technology plays in that dehumanization. Pfister doesn’t handle the material nearly as dexterously as Kubrick would have, but that’s like saying a person who’s never held a gun isn’t as good a shot as Annie Oakley.
The story is that of Will Caster (Johnny Depp), a computer scientist working on the first true artificial intelligence. With the promotion and help of his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and friend Max (Paul Bettany), he’s working toward the first fully realized AI. Then, a coordinated series of attacks on computer labs across the US occurs and an attempt is made on Will’s life by domestic terrorists determined to destroy any attempt at creating AI and seem to have a general disdain for technology, at least obliquely since they use computers and cell phones regularly. He survives, but the bullet was laced with something that gave him incurable radiation poisoning and five weeks to live.
It must have been the cheers that come with a big city. Usually the sounds of joy attract me. But since I was walking the path that’s been laid out by the Criterion catalog, I figured it could be anything that brought me to Germany. The mysterious fog had lifted, long enough for me to see…nothing.
It was like a ghost town. Streets, shops and playgrounds that would have housed happy people and their children now brought to an eerie vibe of nothingness. It was the aftermath of a horrific event. This German town had just seen hell. The evidence was posted up on a street pole.
Most large cities have a few public eccentrics, people who catch the attention of the populace with their very visible displays of oddity. Here in Tulsa, our most famous hometown weirdo is Biker Fox, a middle aged man who rides around the city barking at passers by about fitness. As strange and off putting as his behavior can be, many Tulsans take pride in Biker Fox as a symbol of our city’s independent, Okie spirit. Unfortunately the new documentary Biker Fox does little to illuminate just what makes Biker Fox so special and appealing.
A weed comedy released during 4/20 has a target audience. The poster and trailer suggest a light comedy with young boys saying funny things and getting themselves in and out of sticky situations. Maybe some are expecting Pineapple Express but the marketing for this film sells an entirely different movie. Kid Cannabis misses the mark because it cannot decide on a tone. The film also stumbles due to a poor lead performance.
Kid Cannabis tells the true story of Nate Norman (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and his pursuit of getting rich through trafficking marijuana. Norman locates a supplier (John C. McGinley) in Canada and finds a backer (Ron Perlman). With his best friend Topher (Kenny Wormald) and a group of childhood friends he devises a plan to smuggle mass quantities of marijuana across the border. Sounds like a lay-up, right?