In Review: Tesla

All due credit to Michael Almereyda for approaching the biopic with an aim to color largely outside of the lines. His latest, the Ethan Hawke-led Tesla, employs multiple disparate and attention grabbing stylistic oddities to make for what it hopes is a different kind of historical study of a storied man. Indeed, the film’s flirting with neon lighting and anachronisms within the staid genre are certainly valid ways to highlight how Nikola Tesla stood apart from his contemporaries. But unlike the famous inventor that the film depicts as an outsider among American scientists, Tesla largely disappoints because it is far more conventional than it leads you to believe.

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In Review: Words on Bathroom Walls

Teen melodramas, while somewhat unfairly treated as disposal in the marketplace, have recently found renewed value in telling important stories previously excluded from their genre’s narrative. While The Fault in Our Stars received perhaps the widest popularity in its love story centered on terminally ill teens, the genre was at its finest with The Hate U Give‘s youth-centered examination of racism and police brutality. Now following in The Perks of Being a Wallflower‘s shoes, another story of young love, self-acceptance, and mental illness is offered in Words on Bathroom Walls. It’s not one that stands alongside any of those better films.

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In Review: She Dies Tomorrow

In Amy Seimetz’s tranfixing She Dies Tomorrow, anxiety and self-revelation are catching. With a foreboding tone that dips fingers into (and unsteadies) several genre waters, the film explores personal demons with an eye towards existentialist horror, the most remote science fiction, and sometimes gaspingly bleak humor. Seimetz takes the virus film, or ghost film, and places the horror in the mind of her characters, passing on their possibily contagious or hereditary axieties as they come in contact with one another throughout various unfeeling Californian fortresses of isolation. Each of her several locations are a figurative island, but more importantly, so are her characters.

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In Review: Irresistible

Like the reanimation of ghosts past, the year leadup to an election cycle always guarantees a cinematic product and a shrugging response by audiences. Studios program glib or grim political musings that no one asked for, the best of which might have been the eyerolling self-seriousness of failed prestige play The Ides of March. Remember the Kevin Costner-led Swing Vote? There is a reason that you certainly don’t. While these films often arrive as naked attempts to cash in on the moment in superficial terms, cinematic memory typically does right in allowing them to go forgotten and quickly so. Pray for a similar fate to meet Jon Stewart’s Irresistible, a pungently toxic dose of cynicism in a subgenre defined by its cynicism.

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In Review: The King of Staten Island

After his longest filmmaking gap since emerging with The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Judd Apatow returns with another character piece about someone getting their shit together. His films have been defined by focusing on protagonists with atypical charisma and unexpected depth, taking archetypes like the stoner of Knocked Up or the promiscuous drunkard of Trainwreck and giving them complete arcs. More than that, his films aim to challenge reductive perceptions of his heroes while also allowing them to grow in organic human ways. His latest, The King of Staten Island, entirely misses the mark on all of these elements.

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