Film Reviews

REVIEW: BYZANTIUM

REVIEW: BYZANTIUM

byzantium

Isn’t it funny how a movie that starts with a line in voiceover narration like “my story can never be told” ends up being a two hour movie in which that story is told in great detail, right?

Eleanor (Saorise Ronan) and Clara (Gemma Arterton) are 200 year old vampire-like creatures (called “succreants”) in modern day England. Though they refer to each other as sisters, Clara is actually Eleanor’s mother. Eleanor keeps her blood thirst in check by only feeding on dying old people, while Clara supports them by prostituting. After meeting a doughy, bespectacled customer who owns a hotel named Byzantium, Clara sets up a brothel and believes that their problems have been solved. However, Eleanor meets a gangly, nervous teenager named Frank (Caleb Landry Jones) and she finds herself drawn to him. She aches to reveal her true nature to him but Clara has so far kept her unaware of the costs of that decision – they are being tracked by powerful dark forces. Intercut with this narrative is the story of how Clara and Eleanor became succreants and why they must hide their true nature from the world.

REVIEW: Unfinished Song

REVIEW: Unfinished Song

Unfinished Song (Song for Marion)

Thank goodness UNFINISHED SONG (titled “Song for Marion” overseas) was made by an English filmmaker. I say that because Hollywood would have completely destroyed this wonderful story by overfilling it with cheesy, contrived moments. Hollywood doesn’t have the guts to make this kind of film without a “star.” Instead of the wonderful performances from Terrence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave we’d likely get Steve Martin in one of his less-than-great performances and Cher.

REVIEW: I’M SO EXCITED! (Los Amantes Pasajeros)

REVIEW: I’M SO EXCITED! (Los Amantes Pasajeros)

 

by Christopher McKittrick

I’M SO EXCITED! (Los amantes pasajeros) opens with a brief sequence on an airport runaway featuring Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz, both familiar faces in this film’s writer/director Pedro Almodóvar’s work.  However, their brief cameos only set up the main plot of the film, which is about the plane on the runaway that’s about to take off.  When the plane is in the air, it becomes clear to the pilot Alex (Antonio de la Torre), the co-pilot Benito (Hugo Silva), the head steward Joserra (Javier Cámara), and stewards Ulloa (Raúl Arévalo) and Fajas (Carlos Areces) – all of whom are either gay or bisexual and have a connecting sexual history – that there is something wrong with the landing gear.  Even if they can find a runway to attempt the landing (which proves difficult), there’s no guarantee that they will survive the impact.  When this news is revealed to the handful of passengers in first class (the passengers in coach have all been put to sleep via drugs), they began to cast away their inhibitions and reveal their deepest secrets.

REVIEW: Hey Bartender

REVIEW: Hey Bartender

by Chris McKittrick

Bartending is often seen as one of those “between” jobs – you know, the type of job you have as a stopover between one job and another.  While for most bartending consists of pulling tap handles and mixing happy hour well drinks, for others it is an art.  This is the premise of HEY BARTENDER, an engrossing documentary by director Douglas Tirola featuring some of the world’s best mixologists.

REVIEW: The Moment

REVIEW: The Moment

by Morgan Davies

The Moment, the sophomore feature from director Jane Weinstock, is a slippery film: we never quite know whether what we’re seeing is reality or filtered through protagonist Lee’s unstable mind. Lee, a war photographer played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, is first convinced that her ex-boyfriend John (Martin Henderson) is missing, then that she murdered him, but as her therapist reminds her, any of her particularly intense convictions could simply be fantasies. She is suffering from PTSD from her wartime experiences and injuries, and has moved from a rehab facility for the body (where she met John) to one for her mind.

REVIEW: Greedy Lying Bastards

REVIEW: Greedy Lying Bastards

by Kelsey Straight

The conflicting ideals of science and politics have created misconceptions regarding climate change, as revealed by Craig Scott Rosebraugh’s documentary, Greedy Lying Bastards. Rosebraugh presents a fundamental struggle between scientific fact and political fabrication: where fact requires evidence, fabrication allows anything to masquerade as reality. The presentation of climate change as “the greatest hoax ever” does not come from humanitarianism, unfortunately, but from the oil industry and those politicians with direct ties to the oil industry. Rosebraugh’s documentary presents a world of individuals who need the earth for different reasons, either as a money-making resource, or as a home for our families and an environment for cultures. If we do not take care of the land that allowed our societies to grow, than the land will not take care of who we are in return.

REVIEW: The Sightseers

REVIEW: The Sightseers

 

by Kelsey Straight

The quirky English humor and quintessential characters of Ben Wheatley’s The Sightseers both disturb us and make us laugh, often without establishing which was the appropriate response. The story follows Chris and Tina on their caravan holiday to a collection of eclectic sights, including the Crich Tramway Museum, the Ribblehead Viaduct, and the Keswick Pencil Museum. Having left her mother and their small English home, a stifling setting where Tina has lived until the age of thirty-four, Tina falls in love with a red-bearded serial killer, Chris. Their odyssey through the countryside is more geared towards personal identity than touristy locations, however. Tina exchanges her baggy 1980’s blue jeans for acid-wash thrift store leggings, and her codes of morality for codes of murder. All the while, Chris gathers material for the book he never begins writing, and Tina discovers that she is less his muse than he is hers. Their story unravels in the rainy countryside instead of on Chris’s blank pages, and every scene becomes a conflict they create for themselves.

REVIEW: Stories We Tell

REVIEW: Stories We Tell

by DeVon Hyman

“There is something kind of deeply uncomfortable with the idea of putting your life out there”
 -Sarah Polley, AMNY, May 2013

True to the fact. A certain level of inner peace would have to be the prerequisite to an initiative being undertaken in the manner in which acclaimed Filmmaker Sarah Polley has done with her much heralded “Stories We Tell” which hit theaters on Friday.  

Centered on a candid look at the reality which was Polley’s birth and actual parents whom were responsible for her existence. For much of her life Polley has been under the belief that her mothers husband was indeed her biological father, only to learn recently and come to terms with that not being the truth.  Her birth in actuality was the product of an affair which her late mom partook in.

REVIEW: KON-TIKI

REVIEW: KON-TIKI

by Joseph Williamson

Real, old fashioned adventurers are somewhat scarce in this day and age –  there may be scientific expeditions in Antarctica, but the romance of Henry Morton Stanley stomping through the Congo isn’t quite as attainable in 2013. Safaris and treks through the Amazon are all well and good, but truly uncharted and dangerous exploration is getting harder to manage in the decade of Google Maps. 

Not so in 1947. Enter Thor Heyerdahl, intrepid ethnographer – a man with a big idea, but no publisher willing to take him on. Desperately seeking conclusive proof of his theory – that Polynesia was first settled by ancient South Americans – he decides to take the four and a half thousand mile voyage across the Pacific Ocean himself. Furthermore, for this demonstration to have any validity at all, it must be done in the exact manner of the original settlers: a balsa wood raft, a large wooden oar as a rudder, and constructed with simple rope in lieu of stronger materials. The only concession to modernity is a two way radio. 

REVIEW: Flex is Kings

REVIEW: Flex is Kings

by Morgan Davies

Flex is Kings, a feature documentary by Deirdre Schoo and Michael Beach Nichols, is a charmer of a movie: slick, funny, compelling and awe-inspiring, it’s that rare documentary that manages to be interesting and thought-provoking without leaving its audience depressed.

REVIEW: Vergiss mein nicht (Forget Me Not)

REVIEW: Vergiss mein nicht (Forget Me Not)

by Christopher McKittrick

Though there are hundreds of terrible diseases, perhaps there is none as cruel as Alzheimer’s disease, which not only slowly robs the sufferer of their mind, but tremendously impacts the sufferer’s loved ones terribly as the sufferer gradually no longer recognizes them as they slip further and further into dementia.  German documentarian David Sieveking explores the impact that Alzheimer’s disease has not only on his mother, but his entire family in Vergiss mein nicht (Forget Me Not).

REVIEW: KALIFORNIA

REVIEW: KALIFORNIA

by Kelsey Straight

Laura Mahlberg’s illustration of an old man who starts walking towards California from his caravan entire countries away (in Russia!) is a new take on the classic road movie, except here our protagonist is fifty years past coming-of-age and still in pursuit of better prospects in the west. One could say that the film has come a few decades after its genre’s peak, and the main character coincides with that reality. Visually stunning cinematography offers an array of sensations to the film, and despite a slow-going pace and essentially meek protagonist, audiences will revel in the look and the stories in the eyes of this character, a man full from his years and still searching for more.

REVIEW: Silvi (Maybe Love)

REVIEW: Silvi (Maybe Love)

 

by Christopher McKittrick

During a routine, 47 year-old Silvia (Lina Wendel) is told by her husband that he is moving out. Silvia knew their passionless marriage was essentially over anyway, but it still comes as a shock.  With little to call her own and never being with anyone besides her husband, Silvia begins her search for love, because, as she tells someone else, “Actually, everyone wants someone to hold…someone who loves and comforts you. If that’s not happening… something inside withers away. You become a lone warrior.”

REVIEW: Free Fall (Freier Fall)

REVIEW: Free Fall (Freier Fall)

by Angela Ramsay

In Free Fall (Freier Fall) the director, Stephan Lacant, takes us on a journey with this electrifying German film about police officer, Marc (Hanno Koffler), whose life appears to spin out of control after falling for his fellow co-worker.

At first, we are introduced to Marc who is self-assured and a typical male, and a police officer.  Marc lives with his pregnant girlfriend Bettina (Katharina Schuttler), and they appear to have a genuine loving relationship. The story takes a turn and becomes really sizzling when Marc attends a training course and meets a new colleague named Kay (Max Riemelt).  Why is it sizzling?  Because Kay is another guy (male).

REVIEW: Nor’easter

REVIEW: Nor’easter

by Christopher McKittrick 

Father Erik (David Call) is a young priest on an island off the coast of Maine who is new to the island after the previous priest left under less-than-holy circumstances.  Along with the problem of a dwindled congregation, he is confronted by a family torn apart by the disappearance of their son.  Josh went missing when he was eleven years old and his father, Richard (Richard Berkins) is adamant that his son is still alive, but his long-suffering wife Ellen (Haviland Morris) enlists Erik’s help in convincing Richard to have a funeral for Josh.  After Richard finally agrees to finally “bury” his son, Josh (Liam Aiken), now sixteen, reappears.  When asked where he has been the only response he offers his parents and the police is, “I heard I was dead. I didn’t like that.”  However, he reveals the truth to Erik before disappearing again, and Erik, bound by his vows, is unable to reveal Josh’s whereabouts.  However, Erik will not let that prevent him from returning Josh home again.

REVIEW: Lotus Eaters

REVIEW: Lotus Eaters

by Chris McKittrick

The Lotus Eaters of Homer’s Odyssey spent their days indulging in food that made them ignore all of their wants and needs in order to pursue ultimate leisure. The aptly-titled film Lotus Eaters, directed and co-written by Alexandra McGuinness (Paris Noir), follows the modern equivalent of that mythological race, a group of young London models, actors, and rock stars whose society lives are filled with drug and booze fueled parties, yet all seem to suffer from the first-world problem of being profoundly bored with their lifestyle.

REVIEW: The Sapphires

REVIEW: The Sapphires

by Lauren McBride

As an African-American woman, I have seen my fair share of films about the Civil Rights Movement. The America of the 1960s, torn apart by racism, sexism and a violent war, is well documented in film. The names, faces and perspectives that populate these films are rarely unique, but always poignant. It’s a history that America, white and black, constantly re-lives — perhaps in an effort to come to terms with its horrors or to prematurely congratulate ourselves on how far we’ve come. Either way, it’s rare to see a film that frames the Civil Rights Movement in a global perspective — that reminds its viewers that the message of the movement’s leaders reached far beyond the molehills of Mississippi and the slopes of California. For some, it reached all the way to shores of Melbourne, Australia.

REVIEW: Somebody Up There Likes Me

REVIEW: Somebody Up There Likes Me

somebody up there likes me

by Lauren McBride

Bob Byington’s Somebody Up There Likes Me covers about 20 years in the life of Max Youngman (Keith Poulson). Through marriages, divorces, the loss of parents and birth of children, Max doesn’t seem to mature — physically or mentally. He is eternally in his late-twenties, gawky, awkward and much like the film itself, meandering without a destination.

We meet Max peering into a mysterious blue suitcase and driving toward the end of his first marriage. Wives and mistresses come and go; even his best friend Sal (Nick Offerman) matures and greys. But Max and his suitcase go on. The suitcase, which contains far more than the music and floating animations the audience sees each time it is opened, is the only constant thing in Max’s life. Its origins are unknown, as is its meaning to Max. He keeps it stuffed in trunks and closets, but it is undoubtedly magical — perhaps the secret to his eternal youth.

REVIEW: Silver Circle

REVIEW: Silver Circle

by Chris McKittrick

In the year 2019, the American economy has collapsed to the point that the most powerful government entity is the Federal Reserve, which maintains control of the rapidly inflating currency.  This leads to crippling levels of inflation ($150+ for a gallon of gas, $50+ for a loaf of bread, and worst of all, $90 beer “specials” at bars!)  An underground form of currency made of pure silver, called silver circles, are instead being used illegally by the public.  One of the Reserve’s newest divisions is the Department of Housing Stability, which is responsible for maintaining the prices of homes – including forcing rightful homeowners out of them, if necessary.  An agent with “HouseStab,” Jay Nelson (De’Leon Grant) is investigating a recent firebombing of homes, and finds himself reluctantly caught in a battle against the Federal Reserve alongside Zoe Taylor (Philana Mia), an alluring female resistance fighter.