It Comes at Night, or does it? And does anybody care?

A24 Films continues in the tradition of The Witch of substituting long-staring camera shots and dramatic dream sequences for actual plot points.

A number of critics have disseminated that the plague or sickness in the film is never identified.  Some great cleverness is afoot, they argue.  I say poppycock: the filmmaker is simply incompetent, or worse, taking the easy way out.  It Comes at Night may have been a fine short film, but there is way too little here for a feature.

One critic — solidly in the minority — gets it:

The movie is far too solemn and high-minded to indulge in anything resembling scares or thrills, instead doubling down on the queasy atmosphere and lots of long, slow-tracking shots in which nothing happens.

Put another way: The Trigger Effect was a good movie.  Toward the end of the picture our heroic father attempts to break into a house to save his young child.  It Comes at Night is just that small part about trying to break into a house.  You have to think a little bigger sometimes people.  You’re making a movie.

One last thing: the non-ending of It Comes at Night fits this non-movie well.  3/10

Comparison Notes (recommended): the much better films 10 Cloverfield Lane and Blindness (2008)

Film Brief: Norman

My initial reaction to Richard Gere’s personal odyssey Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer was a mild thumbs-down due to a number of story weaknesses.  I wasn’t buying the premise.  But following Gere’s Norman around did get under my skin, just enough for a 6/10.

SPOILER ALERT!!  Spoiler follows!  To elaborate, the premise that Norman is, as we find out definitively late in the film, homeless, I just didn’t buy.  A much better movie would have shown, assuming this was some sort of recently-incurred station in life, how it happened.  But even if it had, how would he be homeless at the outset and still years later?  Homeless, yet buying a $1,200 pair of shoes.  I think not.

Comparison Notes: Dark Water (attorney)

Sleightly Nerve-Racking

I love independent, fun little dramas that give you a sense of not knowing where they are heading.  Sleight does that, and well.  There are some scientific and medical non-possibilities which weaken the final third of this brief film, but I love the whole street performer-with-multiple irons in the fire-angle.  7/10

Comparison Notes (all recommended): Nightcrawler, Dope, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Gran Torino, Drive, Tangerine

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UPDATE: I caught some the beginning parts of Nerve on TV, and was reminded of what a fun and fresh film it is, at least through the first half.  So an upgrade: 7/10.  Just don’t expect it to hold up all the way to the end.

A Colossal Mistake?

Colossal starts slowly, and I felt completely neutral through the first half.   In other words, it lacked zest.  Some audience members were laughing at what I guess were attempts at light humor which for me fell flat.  In this chunky manner it rolls along, until it turns in unexpected, even daring directions.  The film doesn’t gel into the compact punch it might, but it ends nicely.  6/10

Comparison Notes (recommended): Fido, John Dies at the End

 

T2 Trainspotting: Why or Why Not?

There was a profound opportunity to tell the story how heroin addicts who barely survived their respective early struggles were faring 20 years later.  That’s the story I believe Danny Boyle was trying to tell.  In my book, he failed miserably — that rocket sailed sky-high over his head.  T2 Trainspotting should by all rights have been a deep and powerful film that stood firmly on its own.  Instead, he made a picture utterly pointless without the original.

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I’ve always paired Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction as the two great, seminal, earth-shattering films of the nineties.  The movies that were so utterly transformative.  Quentin Tarantino never tried to remake or produce a sequel to Pulp Fiction, and I hope he stays true in this regard.  Danny Boyle, a vastly inferior filmmaker, didn’t have the same self-restraint.

So it sounds like I’m bashing the heck out of Boyle’s follow-up.  But I liked it just enough for a thumbs-up.  Why?  I love the original so much, and T2, for all its many shortcomings, works well as a vibrant homage to the groundbreaking original.  Kind of like when a rich kid goes off to run the business his father built from the ground up, and is able to at least keep it afloat a few more years.  Put another way, dumb down “massively entertaining” and see what you get: something not nearly as entertaining, but still not a bad trifle.

Marginally recommended, with a heavy dose of all the standard caveats, plus add: an adoration of Trainspotting, and that you see it on a big screen with big sound.  Both trailers included below not by accident.  6/10

Personal Shopper in a Double-Medium

Kristen Stewart as a personal shopper, yes.  A lackadaisical, blasé medium, no.

I’m not saying Stewart is a bad actress, but in no way shape or form did I buy her as any sort of psychic.  And I suppose I am saying it: she was just playing herself in Personal Shopper, down to her unmasked and incongruous tattoos.  It wasn’t pretty.  Kristen Stewart, I am certain, has zero psychic abilities, and her thinly veiled character didn’t either.

 

 

 

It’s nothing against Stewart, not personally or anything.  I liked her in last year’s Café Society and Certain Women.  She’s good when she’s playing herself.

Beyond all that, Personal Shopper was hurt by an incompetent filmmaking approach.  Not only did I not believe Kristen Stewart, I didn’t buy the vomited ectoplasm.  I mean really, if you’re trying to blend reality with the spiritual world take a cue from David Lynch.  Or at the very least Alejandro Iñárritu.  4/10

Comparison Notes (all recommended): the Patricia Arquette series Medium was a vastly superior portrayal, and a convincing one, of the everyday working psychic.  Everyday, yet not blasé about it.  In movies we have: Sleeping Beauty, Drive, Safety Not Guaranteed, Antichrist, Twin Peaks FWWM, Wild at Heart, Vertigo, Belle de Jour

Raw, Local, Organic

I love good edgy indies foreign and domestic; Raw is not one of them.  I wasn’t buying most of it, and there wasn’t enough style or substance to overcome its many issues, for example I never felt like I was watching students at a veterinary school, but maybe some sort of weird cult.  More problems:

SPOILER ALERT!  SPOILERS ALERT!  This girl is a devout vegetarian one moment, and the next, for no good reason, is scarfing meat down with abandon.  Vet students are animal haters?  And she grew up never seeing her father with his shirt off?  These and many other issues toss Raw down to B-movie territory, except there’s not enough fun to elicit that B-movie charm.  Forced, inorganic storytelling exacerbates these weaknesses.

Still, there was a certain raw, explosive power to the movie that kept it engaging.  But even in this regard, when the director was holding a straight flush she folds.

On top of everything else, Raw just wasn’t as original as it’s been made out to be; see Comparison Notes.  Entering the local arthouse, I was told that someone had fainted during a previous showing.  Barf bags and warning signs were hastily dispatched.  I so wished that Raw lived up to all the hype.  5/10

PS Raw is categorized as a horror film, but it’s a joke as a horror film.  Hardly horrifying.

Comparison Notes (all recommended): for infinitely better French ‘fare’ about consumption of human flesh — which they have a knack for, check out the greats Delicatessen and Les Amants Criminels; Teeth, every vampire movie ever (Only Lovers Left Alive looks like a masterpiece by comparison), Antichrist, The Neon Demon