In Review: Sunset

In short order, László Nemes has established himself as a director fascinated by creating for the audience disorientation within a physical space and historical context. His Oscar-winning debut Son of Saul tightly followed an enigmatic protagonist in the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz, keeping the horrors of the Holocaust on the fringes of the frame as it examined the personal void of despair. His follow-up Sunset maintains that tightly framed hounding of his central character, but virtually none of its impact or balance between disorientation and complete perplexion at what we are watching unfold.

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In Review: Out Of Blue

Of all subgenres ready for reinvention, the gritty cop drama is one that has had decidedly mixed results. After the peaks and valleys of HBO’s True Detective’s intermittent quality and last year’s poetic but ill-scripted Destroyer, recent examples have flatlined as the now cliched titles that these examples have tried to undermine. Director Carol Morley’s Out of Blue is one hand the most uniquely psychologically conceived modern take on this cobwebbed material, submerging itself in the metaphysical as it solves the central mystery. One the other hand, it is sadly also the most embarrassing one as well.

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In Review: Everybody Knows

All of our greatest filmmakers should be forgiven their misses. Particularly if they aren’t sacrificing their best narrative traits or storytelling identity. They can’t all be winners.

Director Asghar Farhadi has given us a creative downshift with his newest film Everybody Knows. The film stars Penelope Cruz as Laura, a woman returning to her home village in Spain for a family wedding. What begins as a joyous celebration immediately breaks down into long-held grudges and revealed secrets when her daughter is kidnapped during the ceremony. Javier Bardem as Laura’s former lover Paco becomes instrumental in her rescue as we discover that his ties to the family may be more strained than initially meets the eye.

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In Review: Arctic

Joe Penna’s Arctic trades in one of our finest global cinematic exports: the expressive, beautifully-worn topography of Mads Mikkelsen’s face. In this survival story, the actor is distilled down to his essence, barely speaking and without even the most minuscule character background to build audience allegiance. But after wide-ranging material spanning all kinds of genres from The Hunt to the short lived series Hannibal, Arctic is the firmest proof that Mikkelsen is one of our most naturally compelling performers.

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In Review: Vice

Vice arrives on the screen in a haze of dorm room pot smoke and farts, the kind of conceptual satire brewed up and whiffed out by dudes confusing vacuous provocation for sociopolitical sharpness. But the film’s larger problem is the self-awareness it lacks to see how its own gauche glibness bends closer to the boys club point of view of its demonic subject than it intends. The film belches ill-conceived sketches at us, guffawing at its structural somersaults as it depicts the wheel-turners of the Bush administration creating irrevocable circumstances both immediate and reemerging. Skewering is not enough to excuse how Vice renders some of the most dangerous people of our era into cartoons, resulting in a film grossly stooped in privilege, a film that wants to have its dumb cake and eat it too. It’s torturous, audience-hating claptrap.

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