Sunday, December 29, 2019

Is this the end of the world, the death of the light?


A HIDDEN LIFE

Don't call it a comeback, but even so, A Hidden Life really is the best Terry since The Tree of Life, and it might be even better than that.

2019
Written and directed by Terrence Malick

Spoiler alert: inapplicable

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Wars is hell


STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

And The Rise of Skywalker proves that we have grown too fond of it.

2019
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Written by Chris Terrio and J.J. Abrams

Spoiler alert: severe

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Look for the union label


THE IRISHMAN

The Irishman is a pretty big container for what amounts to not all that much.

2019
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Written by Steve Zaillian (based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt)

Spoiler alert: N/A

Monday, December 16, 2019

The bad first date hall of fame


QUEEN & SLIM

An imagistic journey to, well, a certain kind of freedom, I guess.  Queen & Slim is gut-wrenching and bittersweet, current and sadly timeless alike.

2019
Directed by Melina Matsoukas
Written by Lena Waithe and James Frey

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, December 9, 2019

Reviews from gulag: Everybody's gotta start somewhere

Sure: I have an affinity for the bigger side of filmmaking,  but it's nice sometimes to check in on the other side of the spectrum.  Or, you know, it's supposed to be.  Oh well: as The Simpsons once observed, it's their first day.  So let's take a look at three first films from 2019: Luz, Cosmos, and Paradise Hills.

LUZ (Tilman Singer)
I know I mention "running time" a lot in these reviews, and almost always in a negative way; I mean, there's a lot to complain about when it comes to the cinema of the 2010s, but to my mind there's not a single more terrible or more pervasive problem than the slow creep of runtimes that began in the 1990s and exploded into absurdity in the 2010s, as every blockbuster started extending itself past two hours, often for no good reason, and often far past two hours, with an eye toward three.  It's why it's such a joy when a movie like Crawl appears, clocking in at 89 minutes and hence obliging itself be mostly killer, not so much filler.  It also probably partially explains why I like cartoons so much, since they usually have some measure of restraint, due to their expense as well as their presumed audience of babies.

So, with nothing else to go on, Luz's 70 minute runtime seems like a selling point; it's easy to presume a movie that barely lasts an hour couldn't even have the time to be bad.  But that's not all we have to go on (I mean, I've seen it, so I have everything about it to go on, but bear with me here): let's assume further that we know that Luz is actually the 70 minute thesis project by German film studies graduate Tilman Singer.  This is where you observe, "Aren't student films usually short subjects?"  Yes.  Indeed they are.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Turn away and slam the door


FROZEN II

On the plus side, it's not preceded by a 21 minute Coco short.

Directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck
Written by Marc E. Smith, Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Chris Buck, and Jennifer Lee

Spoiler alert: moderate