Martin Sheen has had his ups and downs, but throughout his career he has played the stern-but-loving father figure with grace and menace in equal dose. His Uncle Ben is no exception. Unlike the Ben in Raimi’s (superior) film, Sheen imbues the character with rough edges; he’s a man of principle who believes in the responsibility of good, but falls victim to the petty whims of anger. This, of course, is best exemplified in the scene where Ben, full of rage and righteousness, recounts to Peter the “moral obligation” of doing good — the embodiment of the difficulty to live up to your principles. Basically Sheen turns an iconic character into a living, breathing man, and Webb’s film is better for it.
For a couple of weeks now, we’ve been living in a post-“Wonder Woman” world. A world which, you can be certain, is a better world. One where the genuine hunger for a female (super)hero has been served a tasty menu and a collective appetite has been whetted. One where doors are likely cracking open for female directors and female-centric stories and narratives are being considered more seriously (if only because studio execs are seeing the piles of cash “Wonder Woman” is raking in). These are, of course, generous assumptions about Crusty, White Hollywood. But, what can’t be denied, is that the film filled a void and people were genuinely happy to witness a reflection of a more diverse world. Basically, no matter what banal stories Hollywood studios are greenlighting, people are actually looking for fresh, heterogeneous narratives. They are looking to see themselves on the screen (and not all people are white men) and “Signature Move,” is, in so many ways, just the sort of film some people are looking for. The rest…
For the general American public, the Flint, Michigan water crisis is over. The problem was identified, the public was outraged, the media coverage faded. But for those residents of Flint — a former industrial hub an hour north of Detroit — the catastrophe is far from finished: lawsuits are still ongoing, funds are being allocated, water lines are being replaced, and the drinking water for thousands of people is still poisonous. All of which is to avoid mentioning that the water crisis was the culmination of disaster in a once-prosperous city that has since faced severe hardship and mismanagement at the hands of government officials; Flint’s poverty rate is above 40 percent and the median household income is less than half of what it is in the rest of Michigan. The city, according to residents featured in Brian Schulz’s short documentary “For Flint,” has hit bottom, and the only place left to go is up. The rest…
From time to time it’s good to remind the world (and ourselves) that we are The Playlist, and in addition to being movie lovers, we are also obsessed with music, specifically movie music. It also helps when a director gives us good reason to take a long look at their musical choices — i.e. by making a movie about music. Thankfully, impressionistic mastermind Terrence Malick has finally done so with his ephemeral, soul-searching new movie, “Song To Song.” It’s a film, like much of his work has been, about the search for divinity amid the tumult of life – only this time, the search goes… song to song.
The director’s latest isn’t our favorite (check out our C-grade review), but it’s nevertheless hard not to be dazzled by his visual bravado and the raw emotion that he can elicit from a waltzing camera (courtesy of his longtime partner Emmanuel Lubezki). Much of which comes from the outlandish beauty that Malick seems to see in the ordinary mundaneness of existence (which, it must be said, is skewed some by the outlandishly beautiful people he casts). When Malick is at his best, his contemplative cinematography resonates as though we are all, in his patient hands, bearing witness to the divinity of everyday life. But just as key to his success, and so often overlooked, is the evocative music — and the provocative silence — that so perfectly harmonize with his whirling visual aesthetic.
So to celebrate “Song To Song” we have set out here to explore the music that’s most crucial to Malick’s films, the songs that most moved us, the motifs most vital, and, generally, the best Malick Mixtape we can put together.
Last month, “The White Helmets” took home a much-deserved Oscar for Best Documentary Short. It’s not the sort of film that reinvents the wheel, nor is it a particularly grand feat of filmmaking. What it is is an extraordinary glimpse at an urgent and overlooked crisis, a film that manages to find the human capacity for love amid the horrendous onslaught of war. Without a doubt, it was the most important film in its category. “Cries From Syria,” is, in many ways, an expansion on “The White Helmets,” a feature-length look at the war — a film that, while not especially pronounced in its structure or technical achievements, is nonetheless timely and devastating.
There are few tropes as deeply ingrained as those of the horror genre. More often than not, even a luddite could spot a horror film in the first minute. But in a way, this overwrought frame that we have all become so familiar with has pushed many young filmmakers to buck against the cliches and create some truly surprising and downright chilling movies.; last year alone we got “The Wailing,” “The Witch,” “The Invitation,” and “Green Room,” most of which feature at least a semblance of those same well-trodden narrative devices and archetypal characters. Basically, there is hope that even with the most familiar set up, a film can still transcend into a worthy cinematic endeavor. Damien Power’s “Killing Ground” is not quite such a film, but it does manage to craft a pair of truly complex relationships and offer up some disturbingly heinous violence.
There is little quite as decisive as education. And state-side, there is certainly a weariness related to boarding schools and their outdated traditions, antiquated ideologies, and general eliteness that, at the moment, has reached a near-pariah state (at least outside of the North East). This makes it plausible that American audiences might sit down to the new Irish documentary “In Loco Parentis” expecting a validation of some preconceived notions. But, as it turns out, “In Loco Parentis” adds a vital perspective on a particular form of education, highlighting most notably that with the right educators and the right environment, it can — and should be — a joyous, mind-opening experience.
For all the awful and rot the final act of 2016 has brought us, one small glimmer of cinematic hope was revealed last month with the news that Hayao Miyazaki was coming out of retirement and working on another film for Studio Ghibli. Now, following not far behind, we have the theatrical rerelease of a long overlooked effort from the studio (and the first not directed by Isao Takahata or Miyazaki), the 1993 TV movie “Ocean Waves.” And while “Ocean Waves” never really comes close to reaching the glorious highs that the studio is known for (“Spirited Away,” “Castle In The Sky,” etc.), it is nonetheless a gorgeously realized and deep emotional film of quiet elegance and the fierce longing of youth, and certainly one worth catching again at your local arthouse.
Few performances this year were equally as fun as they were sorrowful, and Jeff Bridges’ essential turn in the western “Hell Or High Water” managed to roll both delicate sentiments into each and every line of his dialogue. Bridges — who has made scene-stealing something of a habit of late — is nothing short of masterful in David Mackenzie’s dusty Texas thriller. The film does an excellent job of grounding all its unbridled emotions in each of the four central characters, but Bridges’ Marcus, a Texas Ranger on the verge of retirement, winds up, time and again, pulling the rug out from everybody else with his searching eyes; his natural ease; and the deep, unsettling fear buried in his silences. What seals the deal, though, is Marcus’ relationship with his younger partner, Alberto (an excellent Gil Birmingham), who serves as the butt of Marcus’ dull wit, but who he so clearly depends upon, who seems almost to be his last remaining tie to the world. Needless to say, when that tie is severed, and Bridges falls to his knees in disbelief, our hearts were broken, and his vengeance, his sudden willingness to turn against the laws that defined him, made chillingly good sense.
To be fair, “The Dark Horse” is not exactly underrated by those who have seen it. James Napier Robertson’s film, which was released in 2014 in its native New Zealand, has racked up a considerable critical consensus, and for good reason. Still, the film was criminally underseen and thus criminally forgotten. Following the real-life Māori speed chess player, Genesis Potini (Cliff Curtis), who suffered from severe bipolar disorder and went on to found a celebrated chess club for underprivileged kids called The Eastern Knights, “The Dark Horse” is an understated, emotional powerhouse of a film. Compassionately realized, and grounded by a towering, tender performance by Curtis, it’s a film that simmers with a manic energy that never boils over (despite all the melodramatic potential). And for a film about chess, it never overuses the metaphors, nor does it ever give way to its crowd-pleasing premise; for all Genesis manages to achieve, never does the film downplay the reality of poverty or the emotional severity of depression. Instead, “The Dark Horse” casts a light on the capacity for genius in everyone and the good buried in even the darkest places. Check it out, mate…