The Death of Dick Long (2019)
Written by Billy Chew
Directed by Daniel Scheinert
The Coen Brothers so successfully cornered the market on rural crime/mystery that a review of any film that falls into that genre will inevitably mention them. So here’s the mandatory mention. The Death of Dick Long is very much in the vein of movies like Blood Simple, dark and funny with a biting wit. The filmmaker understands his characters to a depth that they avoid becoming caricatures. It would be easy to lazily portray everyone here as ridiculously stupid, but the film manages to show them like idiots in a totally realistic way. The lies told to cover up what happened are so paper-thin the audience cringes knowing these guys are going to get caught.
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Birds of Passage (2018)
Written by Maria Camila Arias & Jacques Toulemonde Vidal, Cristina Gallego, and Ciro Guerra
Directed by Cristina Gallego & Ciro Guerra
Colombia is a Central American country that has sadly come to be associated with the cocaine industry of the 1980s. Lost in the greed and violence that came out of the black market drug trade were diverse and vibrant cultures. Birds of Passage follows a family of Wayuu, an indigenous people, who get caught up in the first sprouts of that brutal blight that came to Colombia because of wealthier countries’ desire for drugs. While this story takes place on the dusty plains and humid jungles, the core of the tale is something that is timeless and has been popping up in literature for centuries. Birds of Passage is in many ways Shakespearean, a tragedy fueled by greed with no foresight.
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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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Lethal Weapon (1986)
Written by Shane Black
Directed by Richard Donner
I was looking over the films that came out in 1989 to find some 30th-anniversary content and saw Lethal Weapon 2 came out this weekend that many years ago. I realized I’d never seen the first Lethal Weapon and decided to sit down and watch this flick finally. I like both gentlemen involved in the making of this picture. Shane Black is a pretty good screenwriter, and I enjoyed both Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys. Richard Donner is the filmmaker behind The Omen, The Goonies, and one of my all-time favorites Superman the Movie. I am a bit more negative on one of the film’s stars, Mel Gibson for obvious reasons if you have kept up with pop culture for the last twenty years. But I decided to give the picture a shot and see if it made sense there’d be three more movies and television series in this franchise.
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Written by David Birke and Philippe Djan
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Elle is a deceptively simple film, jolting its audience by opening on the ending of a brutal assault and rape inside the home of Michele, an upper middle class older single woman. The rapist, his face covered in a ski mask, flees and Michele with almost mechanical automaticity takes a bath, puts makeup over her black eye, and goes about her day and the next with no reaction. It’s only the following evening at dinner with friends and her ex-husband that she casually reveals, trying to laugh it off, that she was raped. The viewer is meant to be unsettled by how cold Michele is through all of this with her friends and family acting as our stand-ins, utterly shocked at what happened.
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Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)
Written & Directed by David Lowry
Ruth tells Bob she’s pregnant and he couldn’t be more excited. Bob needs to pull off one more robbery, and they’ll be set, able to escape their small Texas town and start over somewhere else. However, things don’t go as planned; a shoot out ensues with an officer wounded and Bob taken into custody. Ruth is taken in by her father figure Skerritt and raises her daughter as a single mother. Patrick, the officer, wounded in the shoot out, begins coming around to Ruth’s place to help her out and they slowly develop feelings for each other. Meanwhile, Bob escapes prison and starts making his way to Ruth, to take her and their daughter away to a better place.
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American Hustle (2013)
Written by Eric Warner Singer and David O. Russell
Directed by David O. Russell
Inspired by the FBI’s Abscam operation to take down organized crime and later public corruption, American Hustle shakes off the procedural to tell a more stylistic and fictionalized version of the events. Irving Rosenfeld is a con artist in New Jersey who has found a soulmate and partner in Sydney Prosser. The two are running an art scam, and some loan sharking but get caught by FBI agent Richie DiMaso who coerces them into using their skills and connections to start taking down bigger fish. Irving’s life is complicated by his irresponsible wife Rosalyn whose son he has adopted which causes him to refuse to leave her. DiMaso gets the pair embroiled with the mayor of Camden, New Jersey and on the ground floor of the mob-led rebuilding of Atlantic City. As expected the stakes crank up to a frenetic level and Irving finds himself deeper and more threatened than he ever wanted to be.
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