Review: Styx

Quickie Review: The Brink

If you’re a political junkie like me, you’re probably very familiar with Steve Bannon and his outsized role in electing the current occupant of the White House. This new documentary from director Alison Klayman (Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry) definitely touches on Bannon’s connections with the Donald, but a large part of the film is taken up in following him around the world as he cobbles together various far right factions into a movement based on his belief in economic nationalism. It paints a chilling picture of a dystopian future.

Quickie Review: US

US is most definitely a thinking person’s horror movie. That means, it helps to be a fan of the horror genre, to mitigate the horrors of having to watch the movie multiple times in order to catch all the nuances and subtext that writer/director Jordan Peele surely intends us to mull over for years to come. Despite all the raves for US, it’s important to keep its potential place in cinematic history in check. While I was certainly horrified and entertained by US, I liked Peele’s breakout hit Get Out more, because it managed to be shocking, provocative and entertaining without fitting into the classic mold of a horror movie (a genre that rarely appeals to me). Like Get Out, however, US benefits from a crazy-good acting ensemble. Most notable among them: Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Black Panther) who may just see herself nominated in the best actress category if we’re still talking about US come November.

Quickie Review: The Hummingbird Project

If you’re looking for something thought-provoking, but less terrifying than US, The Hummingbird Project is the smart person’s financial thriller. That means, it helps to be somewhat of a geek to embrace what is surely meant to be a cautionary tale for our modern, digital world. The movie, from writer/director Kim Nguyen (War Witch) grew on me as it went along, even though the subject matter didn’t exactly thrill me and I didn’t particularly like the ending. Perhaps if it were based on a true story – which it seems like it would be, but isn’t – I’d have felt more invested in the characters and the plot, about two cousins who concoct a plan to build a fiber-optic cable line from Kansas to New Jersey to shave a millisecond from the transfer of stock information, thus enabling traders with access to the line to make millions. In case you’re wondering, one millisecond is the speed of a hummingbird’s wing-flap (at least, I think that part is true!).

Review: Depraved

Depraved is a modern day Frankenstein movie set in Brooklyn. At the center is young doctor Henry (David Call, TV’s The Magicians), who suffers from PTSD after serving in a medical unit somewhere in the Middle East. He’s lured into a scheme with a pharmaceutical company executive (Joshua Leonard) to bring a patchwork person back to life, something he’s still haunted he was unable to do back on the battlefield. And he becomes Father to his creation, Adam (Alex Breaux). But as with the original story, the creation wants more than to be a science experiment. And once he sees the world outside the lab, he can’t be put back in the box. It’s a thoughtful little horror flick in a very indie kind of way.

Review: The Aftermath

I’m not normally one for period dramas but I was intrigued by the basic premise of The Aftermath: former enemies forced to reconnect on various levels of humanity in the immediate aftermath of World War Two. If that had indeed been the driving narrative, The Aftermath might have presented a fascinating exploration of a story rarely (if ever) told on the big screen. Alas, the movie merely claims a unique setting for a standard, superficial love story about two grieving strangers who find comfort in each other’s arms, sacrificing one relationship for another. It’s not a bad story; it just represents a missed opportunity to tell a better one.

Quickie Reviews: Gloria Bell; Yardie

What’s with all the remakes of decent if not exceptional foreign films lately? In recent months, we’ve seen Americanized versions of the 2011 feel-good French film The Intouchables (remade as The Upside), the 2014 Norwegian crime drama In Order of Disappearance (remade as Cold Pursuit), and now, Chile’s 2013 romdramedy Gloria (remade into Gloria Bell). In the case of Cold Pursuit and Gloria Bell, we’re treated to nearly shot-by-shot, word-for-word redundancy delivered by the same directors who helmed the original, well-received foreign flicks. Hey, let’s just throw in a lead actor popular with American audiences and do it all over again. Box office gold, right? Um, no.

Review: The Invisibles

There are plenty of films about the Jews who lost their lives to the Nazis, but this is the first I’ve seen about those who hid in plain sight in Germany through the war and survived. Part narrative feature and part documentary, The Invisibles tells the stories of four young people who refused to leave Berlin, and through their own smarts and the kindness of others, lived to tell the tale. All four of them in their old age are interviewed throughout the film, and since you know they lived, you also know that no matter how close it comes to them getting caught, they won’t be found out. Nevertheless, it is an audacious story about four exceedingly brave young people.

Review: Five Feet Apart

Haven’t I seen this movie somewhere before? Yes, Five Feet Apart does indeed look a lot like the 2014 ailing-teen romantic drama tearjerker, The Fault in Our Stars. Only this time around, the affliction casting a shadow over budding romance is cystic fibrosis rather than cancer. The bottom line remains the same: chronic and terminal diseases suck. And while love can’t always conquer all, the battle is still worth fighting. Cue the melodramatic score and pass the tissues, please.

Review: The Wedding Guest

You might expect from the title that this is another of director Michael Winterbottom’s light comedies as in The Trip series, and that it has something to do with nuptials, but you’d be sorely mistaken. There’s no wedding and no guest, though the main character Jay (Dev Patel – Slumdog Millionaire, Lion) does pose as one early on in the movie. But given the fact that his shopping list for the trip included duct tape and a couple of guns, you know he isn’t probably going there for the happy day’s celebration. He’s actually come all the way from England to a dusty village in Pakistan to kidnap the bride. But of course things don’t go exactly as planned. And that propels him and the bride Samira (Radhika Apte) on a danger-filled journey criss-crossing Pakistan and India as the relationship between kidnapper and hostage morphs into something entirely different.

Quick Takes: Never Look Away; Transit; Woman at War

With Arty Chick off to parts unknown to direct a documentary, it’s possible her reviews will be fewer and farther between for a while. So I will try and highlight some of the artier films that I happen to see (and like). I’ll also note if they’ve been discussed on my weekly podcast, “The Cinema Clash” with Charlie Juhl, who tends to share Arty Chick’s passion for smaller, indie and foreign films. If we both a like a particular film, there’s a good chance you will too! Topping my list of recent forays into foreign-film land is the Oscar-nominated German film, Never Look Away. It’s part psychological drama, part war drama, part period romance. It takes place over the course of about 30 years, which helps explain the film’s three-hour running time.