Fences (2016)

That’s the peculiar aspect about adapting a minimalist period piece for film. If you decide to stretch it to a bigger scope, you can ruin its integrity. But if you keep it small scale, its intended purpose seems redundant. For all things considered, Director Denzel Washington’s drama, adapted from the August Wilson stage play, is a great display of powerhouse performances from an ensemble cast. But it’s mainly that, and really not much else when all is said and done..

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Tapei Suicide Story (2020) [Slamdance Film Festival 2021]

Director KEFF’s ‘Tapei Suicide Story” is one of the most somber dramas I’ve ever seen. It’s a film about life affirmation but also about the inevitability of death. Do we have control over our lives if we can control our own deaths? Are we merely embracing fate and are oblivious to it? “Tapei Suicide Story” is a very quiet and quaint drama that works on a very dark and inherently morbid premise.

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Teenage Emotions (2020) [Slamdance Film Festival 2021]

Director Frederic Da has a knack for adding some appeal to the mumblecore sub-genre. While I normally don’t like the narrative format, “Teenage Emotions” is a great platform for it. A mix of John Hughes and Greta Gerwig, “Teenage Emotions” works hard not to be pigeonholed. It’s a teen drama, but also a candid look at the monotony of high school. It’s a romance but also lacks a clear cut resolution of the various sub-plots. It also wants to be taken as both a narrative and a semi-documentary all at the same time.

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Malcolm & Marie (2021)

Sam Levinson is very good about reframing narratives we’ve seen a thousand times to feel new and unique (I love “Euphoria”). While “Malcolm & Marie” doesn’t re-invent the wheel, it’s a stellar two person drama that pits two painfully self absorbed people against each other one night. While Malcolm and Marie may not make it as a couple, they make great adversaries, which might just tie them together for the rest of their lives. And that’s the primary draw of the film.

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You Have to See This! A Clockwork Orange (1971)

With “A Clockwork Orange,” Stanley Kubrick set forth a high bar and standard upon which all future gang warfare films would be based on. It’s a surprising fact considering “A Clockwork Orange” is not entirely about gang warfare at all. It’s a science fiction, dystopic, thriller about a predator of humanity who gets a taste of his own medicine a hundred fold once he is rehabilitated into a docile animal of society. Or so that’s what we’re led to believe up until the very ambiguous climax where Alex reverts to his classic recurring orgy fantasy.

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Girls Rock! (2008)

While “Rock School” was one of my favorite documentaries of 2005, it was a missed opportunity. Arne Johnson and Shane King’s “Girls Rock!” almost get the love of music and rock and roll it right. Almost. What the directing duo of Johnson and King explore is this collective ability of these different women to create music in the confines of this limited space and show how they can sometimes fall apart at the seams due to typically creative conflicts and arguments about band names.

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Glengarry Glen Ross (1992): Collector’s Edition [Blu-Ray]

David Mamet and James Foley’s adaptation of the stage drama is a remarkable and intense look at a room full of men in various stages of a job where the clock is consistently ticking down. As a salesman, you begin as Al Pacino’s Richard Roma, a slick and swift salesman who is absolutely cut throat. Then the time begins running out and you invariably turn in to Shelley Levene, a man who is desperately trying to keep his job, clinging to one big deal that may or may not save his job.

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