In Review: The Courier

Conceived without the benefit of imagination, The Courier is a microwaved and nutrient-free copy of similar Cold War spy dramas, tinny with the shine of its shrinkwrap packaging. Planting itself somewhere between le Carré, Mike Leigh domestic drama, and a burlap sack, the film is confused in its inspirations, chasing other films of more precise ambitions. The resulting hodgepodge of derivative influences flattens the tension, which isn’t aided by an even flatter central performance. But what the film fails to understand about the genre its chasing is that they all came from a unique point of view; it struggles so hard to follow in the Cold War genre’s footsteps that it stumbles to find a path of its own, even as it navigates an untold corner of history. The Courier unfortunately makes the blanched achievement of telling the story of a man you have never heard of before while being a movie that you have.

Continue reading “In Review: The Courier”

In Review: Boogie

Eddie Huang’s Boogie is a sports film most interesting for its unusual punctuations than the blunter plotting it fills itself with. A story of a cocky basketball player torn between the competing expectations placed upon him, it begins with a prologue of his parents visiting an astrological matchmaker warning them of their naturally conflicting perspectives. Their response spells certain doom, which Huang imbues with a knowing wit. Later, their son’s first flash with romance flares with an enticing rush of connection, lust felt down to the core that feels equally as fateful as his parent’s disharmony. Such moments in Boogie feel in dialogue with each other, finding insight into its characters’ futures while rooting them in a sensory here and now. Sadly, it’s just sparks that transcend the film around them.

Continue reading “In Review: Boogie”

In Review: Raya and the Last Dragon

Disney’s latest computer-animated spectacle Raya and the Last Dragon arrives amid pervasive division that continues to define the current moment, and the film is an earnest attempt by the studio to meet it headfirst thematically. Now, the Mouse House is no stranger to stories of heroes who save the day by bringing opposing factions together. Nor has the larger corporate entity shied away from stories that telegraph their timeliness or cultural urgency to overly simplified, emptily hashtaggy results (think Elsa’s hyper-vaguely examined queerness, Captain Marvel‘s even vaguer ideas on female power, etc.). Emotion is also something that Disney’s brand of filmmaking has fallen into more cynical and mechanical tactics of late. But in presenting a divided world brought together by its titular heroine, Raya and the Last Dragon succeeds at telling a story of reconciliation thanks to its well-developed emotional underpinnings, achieving in something that resonates in quite welcome and modest ways.

Continue reading “In Review: Raya and the Last Dragon”

In Review: The World to Come

Mona Fastvold has mounted an exquisitely crafted sophomore feature with The World to Come, the tale of two married women in the early American frontier who find love and solace from the confines upon them. Structured by diary entries, Fastvold takes a lyrical approach to a dire story that echoes into modern times like a tender, warning reminder. She depicts a not-so-distant time when harrowing medicine was documented plainly, where there was little room for feeling lest you derail your own means of survival, where the interior lives of women were excised. But as much as Fastvold’s thematic observations feel like removing a bandage from a still festering wound, it also swoons with the divine release that comes from unexpected, consuming, necessary love.

Continue reading “In Review: The World to Come”

In Review: Land

Seldom is cinematic grief drawn as starkly as Robin Wright paints it in Land, her feature directorial debut in which she also stars. As Edee, Wright crafts a state of being where loss is something to sit in, a chair to perch in and look out to the vastness of your own private pain. Edee has retreated to the mountains, staring out into their abyss as her grief evolves with them (and the cabin she rehabs) to the turn of the seasons. She cannot see anything but her suffering. Not the traffic of the city, not reminders of her past. Certainly not other people.

Continue reading “In Review: Land”