The Home Front

Fear-the-night-movie-review-maggie-q
Quiver Distribution

MOVIE REVIEW
Fear the Night (2023)

Plenty of people watching Neil LaBute's "In the Company of Men" 26 years ago, and then "Your Friends & Neighbors" and "The Shape of Things" not long afterward, thought that the movie business had kept up its end of the deal. The first two had male characters showing no empathy for anyone but themselves and who liked hurting other people, and if the third film swapped the genders around it still put a male under the microscope until a viewer in the same category asked a few sobering queries of himself. Neither Mr. LaBute nor these films are in the cultural conversation much now, even though how males are internally wired is discussed everywhere, urgently, all the time. The feeling that art should speak in answers rather than questions seems to have left Mr. LaBute and his inquiries stuck on the bench.

Continue reading "The Home Front" »

The Music Lovers

Maestra-movie-review-zoe-zeniodi-tribeca-festival
Oléo Films

MOVIE REVIEW
Maestra (2023)

The first thing that happens in "Maestra," a documentary by Maggie Contreras following an international group of female orchestral conductors, is the sound of someone screaming in rage or agony or anguish over a black screen. A viewer primed by the film "Tár" for the psychodramas of the profession will suspect the person shrieking might be about to stab someone with a baton; but when the lights come up it turns out to be Mélisse Brunet, a modest and experienced French-born conductor guiding a young student through a spot of primal scream therapy. Ms. Brunet advises her pupil to "Wear what you want and do what you want" at the podium, the film's first approach to the expectations that can restrict female conductors, and the likelihood that they will be told to do neither of those things. The individuals followed by "Maestra" are diverse, talented and committed; but by the end you appreciate why Ms. Brunet's screams might be coming from the heart.

Continue reading "The Music Lovers" »

From Jersey With Love

Chasing-chasing-amy-kevin-smith-joey-lauren-adams-sav-rodgers-tribeca-festival
Brad Garrison

MOVIE REVIEW
Chasing Chasing Amy (2023)

Art does unpredictable work at a distance, one reason among several to leave it where it is no matter what you might personally think or what its makers get up to. In the case of Sav Rodgers, suffering through an unhappy late-2000s high school education in Kansas and the casual homophobia of fellow students, Kevin Smith's then-decade-old 1997 film, "Chasing Amy," became comfort food, lifeline and object of fascination. "Chasing Chasing Amy" is the very personal story of how Mr. Smith's film - the one in which New Jersey comic-book writer Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) is smitten with Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams) and loses his bearings when he hears that she is a lesbian - worked the spell that art can work, closing the gap between a viewer and everything outside despite the movie's own flaws or nature. Having waited for its moment to spring into someone's life disguised as a VHS tape, Mr. Smith's work proceeded to change that life, the right tool in the right place.

Continue reading "From Jersey With Love" »

Down to Earth

All-dirt-roads-taste-of-salt-movie-review
A24

MOVIE REVIEW
All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (2023)

History wraps around itself while you're watching "All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt," setting the life of one person against those of her parents, grandparents, sister and her own child. Different time periods in the same Mississippi setting mesh together, not urgently for impact but languidly for poetry, events crossing across each other like the wandering tuning of an old radio. Dialogue is sparse but the soundtrack is dense with the noise of rain, insects, running water, while the images are lengthy shots of hands, vegetation and mud. A story about one young rural mother builds up incrementally, a sad story; but the film roots her so firmly into the landscape that she and her pain might be aspects of some larger, more spiritual thing.

Continue reading "Down to Earth" »

Young Americans

Shortcomings-movie-review
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
Shortcomings (2023)

Adrian Tomine bounds up the list of comics creators whose books have been turned into films without disastrous consequences, having inspired two decent ones in succession. "Paris, 13th District" reworked some of his stories through the lens of Jacques Audiard and Céline Sciamma, and moved them a fair distance from the source. But now "Shortcomings," for which Mr. Tomine did the adaptation himself, is a direct translation from one medium to the other. Characters, dialogue, and for the most part droll social commentary all survive the trip from Mr. Tomine's 2004-2007 comics essentially intact.

Continue reading "Young Americans" »

Mommie Dearest

Bad-behaviour-movie-review-jennifer-connelly
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
Bad Behaviour (2023)

Showbiz mothers, already indicted many times for many crimes, are back in the dock in "Bad Behaviour" before being let out on parole. Alice Englert, writing and directing her feature debut after a couple of short films, plays the younger side of a mother-daughter relationship bent out of shape by the influence of the past, in this case by the parent's acting fame from years before. That the daughter, Dylan (Ms. Englert), has followed her mother Lucy (Jennifer Connelly) into the same industry is just one dimension of a tense codependency. Ms. Englert would know something about this kind of potential disaster, although her own mother, Jane Campion, cameos here offering moral support, and the vibe is comedy-drama compassion not confessional.

Continue reading "Mommie Dearest" »

Baby Talk

The-pod-generation-movie-review-emilia-clarke-chiwetel-ejiofor
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
The Pod Generation (2023)

Into this moment of tension over reproductive rights lands "The Pod Generation," a gentle sci-fi satire of parental unease that isn't toothless but wants to try mediation and understanding rather than scream at anyone in anger. Whether this is actually a failing, or bad timing, or just a missed opportunity might depend on the eye of the beholder along with their feelings about the set of reproductive organs lower down; but it does produce a film skirting around the full nature of its own topic at a safe distance so as not to get singed.

Continue reading "Baby Talk" »

Everybody Hurts

Sometimes-i-think-about-dying-movie-review-daisy-ridley
Dustin Lane/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
Sometimes I Think About Dying (2023)

The obvious joke that "Sometimes I Think About Dying" could have come from the Sundance Random Title Generator is deflated a bit by the fact that the film already heard this gag, back when the original short of the same name played at the festival in 2019. But the shoe does fit. The new expansion is from the same writers - Stefanie Abel Horowitz who also directed the short, Katy Wright-Mead who also starred in it, and Kevin Armento who wrote the original play that inspired both short and feature - and has the same outline: a meek, introverted Fran (here Daisy Ridley) is lonely and depressed in the overcast Oregon gloom. The short was essentially a two-hander, while this feature, directed by Rachel Lambert, has room for all the co-workers Fran endures at her office job, well-meaning overly upbeat cubicle dwellers that might make anyone consider oblivion, if not freelancing.

Continue reading "Everybody Hurts" »

Double or Quits

Infinity-pool-movie-review-mia-goth-alexander-skarsgård
Neon

MOVIE REVIEW
Infinity Pool (2023)

Brandon Cronenberg's previous film, "Possessor," had moments of gore and violence, while manipulating you mostly through drastic quiet unease about mind and body; a film in which Andrea Riseborough calmly stared at you while you were staring at her. "Infinity Pool" barges in and breaks the window and makes a mess on the floor; a film in which Mia Goth screams at you about your unease until you decide that maybe you don't feel so bad. Emboldened, reasonably enough, by the last film's success, Mr. Cronenberg now attacks on multiple fronts. In "Infinity Pool" there are clones and doubles and sleight of hand about which is which. There are rich white people going off the deep end into drug-fuelled violence in a country offensively poorer than Los Angeles. There's a bag of storytelling tactics, harsh editing and strobe lighting and subliminal glimpses of genitalia, the tool kit that gets called experimental - but really isn't because it isn't chasing a state of mind, just an instant of disorientation, not the same thing. All these flammable items go into the test tube, without catching fire.

Continue reading "Double or Quits" »

The Boy Can't Help It

Little-richard-i-am-everything-movie-review-sundance-film-festival
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
Little Richard: I Am Everything (2023)

Baz Luhrmann's film "Elvis," already cooking at 450 Fahrenheit, is goosed even further when Alton Mason turns up playing Little Richard, screaming "Wop Bop-A-Loo-Bop" from a range of two inches as you rock backwards in your seat. Mr. Mason gives "Tutti Frutti" all he's got; but even skilled impersonations of Little Richard look like best guesses after 10 seconds of reminder about the real thing. This is handy for "Little Richard: I Am Everything," a documentary about the life and career of the singer born Richard Wayne Penniman, which samples a range of his performances but opts not to run any of them at length or let archive footage of the singer in action just unspool. The film wants to talk about the many contradictions and agonies in Little Richard the man, rather than the thermal updraft of the music; and for those issues, you have to hear him speak.

Continue reading "The Boy Can't Help It" »

© 2008-2024 Critic's Notebook and its respective authors. All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Subscribe to Critic's Notebook | Follow Us on X
Contact Us | Write for Us | Reprints and Permissions | Powered by TypePad