In Review: The Report

Scott Z. Burns’ The Report puts Adam Driver at the front of an enticing ensemble to meticulously examine the uncovering of the US military’s enhanced interrogation tactics in the wake of 9/11. Like the intended bipartisan investigation, the film sublimates its rage at the administration as much as it can, resulting in a film that’s clinical nature reflects the neutral aim of the reporting it depicts. But as the film’s subtle thesis shows, there are certain ethical lines crossed that transcend neutrality, and the film ultimately simmers with condemnation. It’s the rarest bird of adult dramas for mainstream but patient audiences, unsalacious to the extreme as information flows from familiar faces.

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In Review: Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach opens his newest film, Marriage Story, with a duet of affectionate observations between married couple Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver). Included in their lists of admirations for one another are details symmetrical and some suggest a fractiousness, but among their mirrored responses is their young son Henry (Azhy Robertson). But as the bottom falls out and their love lists prove to be an early exercise in their just-beginning divorce proceedings, this lyrical sequence proves to not be a first deception but a very pointed preamble. Marriage Story is about a divorce, but it remains a love story.

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In Review: BlacKkKlansman

Some might be quick to call BlacKkKlansman a return to form for American auteur Spike Lee, but the film arrives with the conviction of a storyteller who never left in the first place. Which he truly is. Over twenty narrative features (in addition to documentaries and television) and he’s never taken a break from studying the micro and macro of race in America in works alternating between esoteric and accessible. But maybe the distinction is being made because after this extensive career, Lee delivers something to nearly match his most beloved works for their urgency.

Its true story is at once too wild to be believed and just crazy enough to be conceivable: John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth, the sole black detective in the 1970s Colorado Springs police force who infiltrated the local Ku Klux Klan. What begins on a spontaneous action, Stallworth heads a task force that ultimately has Jewish fellow detective Flip Zimmerman assume his identity and makes contact with grand wizard David Duke. Adapted from Stallworth’s book by Lee and a screenwriting team of Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott, if BlacKkKlansman were any more real, it would be fictional.

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In Review!: “Midnight Special”

Jeff Nichols has been steadily becoming the prominent American writer/director voice for the rural American male after the masterful psychological nightmare of Take Shelter and the open-hearted fable of Mud. His latest, Midnight Special is a bit wider in scope and ambition while keeping one foot in the pool of his previous efforts Americana environment. Nichols is playing with genre this time, a soft sci-fi effort that shows his ability to captivate an engaged audience with his confident control of craft. However unlike those previous efforts (along with the underseen Shotgun Stories), the screenplay rarely cracks the surface of the world he provides for us. The film’s eyes are bigger than its stomach.

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Nichols staple Michael Shannon plays Roy, who is on the run with his childhood friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) with Roy’s mysteriously gifted son Alton (St. Vincent‘s Jaden Lieberher). Alton’s powers remain vague for much of the film, but he is wanted by the government for perceived threat to national security. Those powers had led Alton to be praised as some kind of deity by the cult he was raised within, an organization reminiscent of recent polygamist raids whose leader had taken claim over the raising of Alton. After kidnapping Alton and meeting up with his birth mother (Kirsten Dunst), Roy must deliver his son to the fateful coordinates that Alton had prophesied.

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