Glimpse (2016)

I don’t know how many audiences will click with “Glimpse” but for folks that can appreciate film as an experimental form of art with no real narrative, John Nicol’s movie is solid. It has no story and no dialogue and often time feels like some kind of music video, but it’s well made. Director Nicol seems to know what kind of movie he’s making, even if it’s never quite clear throughout the eight minute run time.

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The Red Turtle (La Tortue Rouge) (2016)

This is one of the very few animated productions where Studio Ghibli’s fantastic storytelling is given a hint of European flavor. While “The Red Turtle” is branded a Studio Ghibli production it garners much of the same elements from Ghibli’s library including a wide open world, a menacing series of creatures and the overtones of the symbioses of nature and humanity. It’s best to think of “The Red Turtle” as a fairy tale, as the movie relies on a lot of inexplicability to tell its thin narrative. The narrative being thin is by no means a criticism as “The Red Turtle” is a lot about raw events, and simplicity at its finest.

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The Squid and the Whale (2005): The Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray]

Director Noah Baumbach’s “The Squid and the Whale” explores the prospect of a family at war, and a family that will likely always be at war. Director Baumbach has a lot to say about family and how parents can decide what kind of people we ultimately grow up to be. “The Squid and the Whale” is a weird, darkly comic and often demented look at how the eternal grudge of a man and his ex-wife will likely keep their sons at odds with then and one another for the rest of their lives. Director Baumbach contorts the dynamic of a grudging family, but also stays true to a lot of themes that find two sons on a diverging road and a dark path. Jessie Eisenberg is great here as the son of Jeff Daniels’ Bernard, an educated often pompous individual who has a keen sense of attempting to make his equals feel inferior.

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Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Lee Chandler is a man who is literally a hollow individual who spends his entire life going through the motions. He works a hard job as a superintendent for four apartment buildings, gets little to no respect, and falls asleep every night in his basement hole in front of his television. On rare occasions he stops by his local bar to get drunk and engage in fist fights with locals. He may not have died the night his house burned down with his children in it, but he might as well be in his grave. Chandler isn’t a man who has given up any hope of a happy life, but a man who has given up on himself and only himself. “Manchester by the Sea” has every opportunity to be a sickly sweet sitcom about a man learning to live again thanks to his nephew. Until the very end, though, director Kenneth Lonergan’s drama is a somber, incredibly compelling masterpiece that confronts guilt, grief, and the difficulty of dealing with losing someone we loved.

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Withdrawn (2017) [Slamdance Film Festival 2017]

Adrian Murray’s “Withdrawn” is like Gus Van Sant attempted mumblecore but decided to make it even more droning and monotonous. It’s kind of like performance art through and through, all testing our patience for the insanely mundane and minute, while character Aaron goes through his every day life literally doing nothing. About halfway he has some financial scheme planned to keep his rented room but that’s not the important element. It’s all about how tedious the film can get and if we’re willing to wait for our pay off, if it ever comes at all. Aaron fixes a fern. He looks up tutorials on trying to solve a rubiks cube, and even has a five minute telephone discussion where we only hear him talking to and responding to the individual. Yes, I get it.

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Hotel Coolgardie (2017) [Slamdance Film Festival 2017]

I’m pretty surprised at how entertaining and compelling Pete Gleeson’s documentary “Hotel Coolgardie” ends up being. It has such a weird and odd premise that threatens to be so dull and monotonous. But by the end of the movie I was more than thrown in to this surreal situation and cared about the two focal points of the movie Lina and Steph. It doesn’t have a huge social message or political aspirations but is a pleasantly engrossing tale about two foreigners in a new land, both of whom struggle to adapt amidst a large lifestyle of sexism, xenophobia and alienation. You’d think a premise for a documentary of this ilk would be reserved for art house movie fodder, but the fact it has happened for years is so fascinating and makes you wonder who else has walked in to Hotel Coolgardie.

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Suck it Up (2017) [Slamdance Film Festival 2017]

I’ve always been a fan of movies that examine how deaths can affect the ones we love and how it can create a pretty significant ripple. “Suck It Up” is a bit of “Garden State,” and “Ordinary People” mixed with mumblecore here and there. While I appreciate director Jordan Canning’s efforts to create this drama about how the death of one of the more important people in their lives affected them drastically, the script from Julia Hoff seems to be almost bereft of drama to the point where scenes just stretch out in to nothingness. There are a lot of really drawn out moments where almost nothing happens. In brief scenes where Canning tackles the dynamic between our characters Ronnie and Faye, “Suck It Up” presents only slight glimmers of an emotional character study.

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