In Review: The Harder They Fall

The corpse of the western has been resuscitated in umpteen cinematic attempts in the decades since its fading from popular culture, but the rare case for not leaving the dead to rest in peace arrives in the debut feature from Jeymes Samuel, The Harder They Fall. The title may be overly vague and the film may exist in the genre most ridden with lazy cliches, but neither foretell the film’s distinct delights. Pushing the pulpiest benchmarks of genre toward ultra modern pop ebullience, Samuel sculpts a tale of crime and virtue to attempt to make us see the western in new light. While that may not be entirely achieved, he still thrills us in the meantime.

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In Review: Cats

The thing about Cats, the record-setting Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and based on a series of poems by T.S. Eliot, is that it exists as a piece of pure, unadulterated imagination. No matter how you may try to wrap your head around the spectacle of dancing, nude-appearing felines singing anthems to themselves, it is still, quite simply, a musical about cats being cats. You either accept it for what it is, in its brain-warping glorious incongruity, or you don’t. This remains true in the adaptation taken to even further extremes on the big screen by director Tom Hooper, assembling a cast of recognizable (if not all desirable) names enshrouded in digital insanity. Whether earnestly accepting its big budget spectacle or basking in schadenfreude or agog in horror, you mileage may indeed vary with what is in store.


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In Review!: “Beasts of No Nation”

While building his reputation as a modern master and innovator, Cary Fukunaga has been a intriguing filmmaking presence by consistently surprising us in his choice in material. Debuting with the immigrant drama Sin Nombre, he followed that up with a literary adaptation of Jane Eyre that went beyond our expectations and conventions of contemporary costume drama. Not to be pinned down by genre alone, he shook the way we watch serialized television with HBO’s celebrated first season of True Detective. Fukunaga keeps changing his own game with wildly different material, but also working across different formats.


Now, he brings not only another in a line of stories unique to his filmography, but he’s again working in a unique presentation format: the theatrical/Netflix hybrid brutal African war tome and Beasts of No Nation.

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