Film Brief: It Follows

It Follows - poster

I was hoping when I asked what “follows”, the answer would be a great movie that lived up to the Tomatometer hype.  It was not to be.  It Follows may be found somewhere between a supernatural horror film like The Ring and a corporeal one like Halloween or I Know What You Did Last Summer, but with pacing along the lines of Let the Right It Follows - text blockOne In.  I give an “A” for atmosphere, but filmmaking expertise and a knowing style are betrayed by gappy logic and a fundamentally lame storyline comprising retreads retrod.

There was a lot I liked about It Follows, but my mantra: story matters.  A marginal thumbs-down.  5/10


Film Brief: Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales)

Wild Tales - poster large

Relates Salvajes is being marketed in English as Wild Tales, but a more accurate translation would be Savage Tales — this movie exposes the animalistic side of human nature.  Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian nails it:

Argentinian portmanteau movie is a tinderbox of delights

Writer / director Damián Szifron proves to be a masterful storyteller and an equally skilled director.  Wild Tales is beautifully put together — the filmmaking prowess matches the strength and style of the six stories, and demonstrates the power of linear storytelling.  I can hardly wait for more — hopefully a ‘standard’ feature from Szifron.  Incredibly entertaining and highly recommended,  Wild Tales offers a thrilling escape from cinematic doldrums.  8/10

Wild Tales - text block

Sean Penn as Action Star

A.O. Scott:

It’s not a hard and fast rule, but in general when the main character, sometime in the third act, says, “I did some bad things … ” and stares off into the middle distance, the implied end of the sentence is “including this movie.”

I often disagree with Scott, but he is — like most Times writers — witty, smart and often very funny.

This is a dead time for movies — I’ve seen all the Oscar contenders that I’m going to see, and that leaves nothing but a big slew of really bad movies to wade through until baseball season starts and rescues me from the tedium.

Film Brief: Pi

Pi - poster smallI had wanted to watch Darren Aronofsky’s first feature π (Pi)  (1998) for a while now, and though it is a short film, I was put off by the premonition of a headache-inducing, frenzied stream-of-consciousness piece.  I worried unnecessarily, as the film is much more straightforward than I had imagined.  Gripping from the start as it flashes The Matrix and Eraserhead, Pi ultimately fails on a weak and hackneyed storyline.

Nonetheless, it held my interest.  Aronofsky followed Pi with strong dramas in Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and The Fighter, and last year’s unique take on Noah.  He definitely has an idea, but Pi falls short of its potential.  5/10



Film Brief: What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows - poster landscape

What We Do in the Shadows starts with lots of terrific and original humor, but runs into the same problem as last year’s Only Lovers Left Alive — we’ve got these great characters; they’re funny, they’re quirky — great!  Now time to do something with them.  Time for a story.  Otherwise you have a single-theme South Park episode stretched to feature length.  There’s a reason South Park episodes — even the Mormon one, even “Scott Tenorman Must Die” — conclude within thirty minutes.

And that’s why we have movies.  To take some time to introduce interesting characters, then have them involved in something.  Not just milling about.  What We Do in the Shadows features some truly hilarious pieces and some nice creativity, but hits a wall about half-way through.  It ends on a strong note, so mildly recommended.  6/10

Under the Spell of Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene - poster large

Every once in a while we are blessed with a phenomenally great indie.  Martha Marcy May Marlene is a gripping, brilliant fresh take on one of the most compelling genres when done right: life in a cult.  One cannot help but thinking of the Manson clan while watching.  Peter Travers:

After you see Martha Marcy May Marlene, you’ll know [Elizabeth Olsen] as an actress of uncommon subtlety and feeling. It’s a sensational performance in a gripping psychological thriller, from gifted first-time writer-director Sean Durkin, that reveals its secrets in the silence between words.

…it’s Olsen, as a damaged soul clinging to shifting ground, who makes this spellbinder impossible to shake.

Highly recommended: put this on your short list.  Rental available on iTunes.

Comparison Notes: Recommended: Sound of My Voice, Electrick Children, The East