For ten years now, the triad of writer-director Edgar Wright, co-writer and star Simon Pegg, and co-star Nick Frost have been weaving together a wonderful mixture of genre homage, parody, and relationship film, the result of which we know as The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy. Following up on Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz the trio brings their trilogy to a close with The World’s End, a film that is both a thematic counterpart and a brilliant capper to the loosely connected series.
Author Jordan Ferguson
Tone is a delicate thing to establish, and difficult to maintain. Managing tonal shifts, especially ones intended to be jarring, takes a light hand and a firm sense of direction. Citizen Jia Li has neither of these, and its attempts to be simultaneously a gangster film, a lighthearted drama about an immigrant triumphing over adversity, and a comedy about the burgeoning friendship between two women leave it an incoherent mess of a movie. This is the rare film I feel I might have been better off not watching entirely, and without a professional obligation to finish it, I might have stopped by the halfway point.
Tensions run high throughout Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, director David Lowery’s second feature, yet for most of its runtime they are a blessed afterthought. Multiple deeply important questions for the characters linger over the proceedings, but they are always backgrounded by the film’s interest in contemplation; this is a movie far more interested in watching its characters work through their complex feelings and contend with the years of history that inform them than in resolving the conflicts that have them all reconsidering. Things do happen, and conflicts do come to a head, but the movie shines in the long, meandering moments that make up the road to resolution.
The short film, like the short story, is in many ways a completely different medium than its lengthier counterpart. With less time to tell a story, to add depth, or to explore an idea, short films must adapt in one of a variety of ways. The best among them come up with a clever short hand, be it stylistic or performance-based, to get across subtleties they otherwise would have little time to explore. Some others just blow every emotion up, playing to the rafters in hopes of getting their message across in a brief time frame. Anatomy of Assistance is unfortunately one of the latter, with over-the-top performances, overblown camera work, and a sub-after school special level moral that is simultaneously inspiring and deeply discomfiting.
The idea of “having it all” has become a potent and perilous one in recent feminism, a heady combination of inviting women to strive for an elusive work-life balance and a constant reminder of the inevitability that something has to give. It is in this headspace that We Wanted More, a short-form psychological thriller, settles in for its sleek fifteen minute runtime. The film follows Hannah (Christine Horne), a singer on the precipice of a potentially career-defining world tour who has other things on her mind. She has just split up with a boyfriend, and in a meeting with her manager (Angela Asher), it becomes clear that Hannah had been hoping to settle down and have a child.
Art is struggle, at least in some sense. Creation will always take something of the creator, and those who dedicate their lives to making art are sacrificing things in the process, be their offering in the form of money, sanity, or their very soul. The London neighborhood of Hackney Wick boasts the largest number of artists per capita in the world, and it is an industrial wasteland that can be a dream or a nightmare depending on your outlook. For some, The Wick (as it is often called) offers an artist’s utopia, a salvation from the outside world and a place to just create. For others, The Wick is a dystopian nightmare, a place society has left where creators cling to life and hope their next vision might be a way out.
Lake Bell has been a staple of television and film for years, playing mostly a variety of supporting roles and best friend characters in things that have ranged in quality from just this side of terrible to pretty spectacular. In virtually all of these, though, Bell is an interesting, charismatic, and very funny presence, elevating weak material and executing stronger scripts with aplomb. In a World… is Bell’s debut feature as a writer-director (making her the rare female triple threat of her type in Hollywood), and like all debut features, there are problems. Yet the film is plagued by the best possible sin to befall a first feature: an excess of ambition.
When Holy Motors came out last year, it had been 13 years since Leos Carax had released a full-length feature, and all of the pent up ideas were discharged in a flurry of cinematic joy and despair. That film is nothing less than a love letter to cinema, a vital reminder of the endless possibilities of the form by a genius of the medium kept off the screens for far too long. Carax makes films that are blazingly original, desperately emotional, both unique and classic. The Lovers on the Bridge is no different, a vigorous, moving, masterful movie from one of film’s unsung (or at least woefully under-sung) geniuses.
Movies about teenagers have an incredibly difficult challenge facing them from the outset. They must walk a delicate line between portraying the adolescents as unpalatable balls of angst and succumbing completely to their emotional swings; too far in one direction and the protagonist will be completely impossible to relate to, but too far in the other direction and the film becomes entirely detached from reality. The Spectacular Now walks this line incredibly well, creating a story about teenagers populated with characters who actually speak, think, and behave like teenagers that is at once painfully realistic and completely emotionally satisfying.
For long stretches of director Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2009 film Valhalla Rising the characters are convinced they are in Hell. Whether or not anyone in Only God Forgives realizes it, they live in a heart of darkness much blacker; make no mistake, this film is set in the bowels of humanity, and gets much of its power from the pitch-black streak of nihilism that runs through it. It is not surprising at all that Only God Forgives has proven divisive: this is a dark, moody, hyper-stylized and ultra-violent nightmare of a noir film, populated with brutal people and twisted motivations. It is not for the faint of heart, nor for fans who need a moral center to cling to when things get dark. This is a land with no heroes, where everyone is shaded in a very dark gray and what little redemption is offered proves likely to be squandered.