Written & Directed by Michael Pearce
Everything Beast is predicated on could become cliche so quickly in the hands of a lazy filmmaker. A serial killer is targeting teenage girls on the island of Jersey, England. The movie could be an investigative procedural, but it isn’t. There’s a dark romance between protagonist Moll and local poacher Pascal that could be something Twilight adjacent, but the director refuses to go there, though he will hint at it. What Beast ultimately reveals itself as is a dark psychological profile about a young woman coming into her own, shaking off the repressive elements of her middle-class upbringing and her label as a “damaged woman.”
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Written & Directed by Samuel Maoz
The foxtrot is a dance where you’re always coming back to where you started, walking a rectangular path. This cyclical movement can be seen in our contemporary history as the once thought dead specter of fascism has frighteningly reared its head. One of the great foxtrots of our time has been the Israel-Palestine conflict that has been going on since the late 1940s. After decades of war, it seemed in the 1970s that there might be some movement towards positive progress only for the Netanyahu regime to make this strife a key platform. The Israelis still send their young men and women into compulsory service as part of this conflict and, like so many cultures in the West, find a way to justify spilling gallons of their children’s blood for the demands of old men.
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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
Written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner
Directed by Jake Kasdan
The children’s literature of Chris Van Allsburg is mysterious. If you’ve ever read The Stranger, his picture book about a mysterious vagrant whose arrival at a farmhouse signals a pause in the seasons, you’ll know how powerfully haunting his illustrations can be. His work exists on a line between photo-realism and surreality. Faces look real, yet the world around these characters feel as if it emerged from a dream. The original 1995 film adaptation of Jumanji does a reasonably good job of telling its story with those visually softened edges of Van Allsburg’s illustrations but is forced to expand significantly upon the source material. The film would be followed by an animated series by Everett Peck and resembled the look of his work, Duck Man and Rugrats. A little-seen film sequel Zathura would be released in the early 2000s, based on a book that is a spiritual companion to Jumanji more than anything else. This brings us to the current state of Jumanji as a media product.
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A Fantastic Woman (2017)
Written by Sebastián Lelio & Gonzalo Maza
Directed by Sebastián Lelio
Grief is universal, an emotion while experienced as a result of certain life events; it has a profound resonance in our lives. You never feel grief is moderation; it cascades over you like waves leading you to feel as though grief may take you under. Being trans is not an experience we will all have; in fact, it’s estimated about 0.6% of the population is transgender. Trans people feel grief just like anyone else; they love and feel loss no different than any human being. A Fantastic Woman puts its protagonist in a universally-experienced situation, never ignoring what role her gender plays in the story, as a means to connect her to the very people in the film that seeks to undermine her grieving process.
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Written & Directed by Lucrecia Martel
Don Diego de Zama was sent by the Spanish crown to a remote colony in South America to serve as a functionary under the governor. When we meet Zama, he is standing on the shore, staring off into the ocean anticipating a vessel to carry him back to his family, a ship that will never arrive. This is the living nightmare that Zama exists in, a place where the governors come and go but where he is trapped. He suffers the temptations of the flesh, has belongings stripped from him, and has to reside in a haunted shack. Finally, Zama volunteers to be part of a doomed expedition to capture the infamous Vicuña Porto.
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The Square (2017)
Written & Directed by Ruben Östlund
Modern art is the topic of many heated discussions. Once upon a time art was just landscapes and Greek sculpture but if you step into a museum of contemporary art now, you’ll find video installations and seemingly random assortments of clutter. The reason why modern art draws the ire of so many is that it doesn’t offer easy answers or even poses questions in ways that are accessible in a single glance. Modern art makes demands of the viewer to look beyond the surface and, sadly, so many people don’t like doing that. To look beyond is to be uncomfortable and enter a realm where you can never be sure of previous assumptions. However, there is a bizarre marketplace at work that injects billions of dollars into modern art and creates inflated value for these objects. In turn, a sense of elitism centered around wealth and prestige has taken old and twisted art into something to be hoarded rather than shared with all.
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Written & Directed by Kogonada
Finnish architect Eero Saarinen designed the Irwin Union Bank, and it was built in Columbus, Indiana in 1954. Before this, the design of banks was centered around making them impenetrable fortresses, a visual assurance to the depositor that their money was safe. The Irwin Union Bank is striking in its fluid wall of glass, revealing the interiors of the building. This defiant gesture exudes confidence that the bank does not have to hide behind walls of brick and mortar. The building is surrounded by trees helping to pull the customer out of the harsh urban landscape and into a more natural, pastoral space. Saarinen didn’t want to impose a bank upon the community; he wanted to make something that felt like it had always been a part of their lives.
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