Archive for November, 2015

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James White (Josh Mond, 2015)

November 24, 2015

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In the mid-2000s, music critic Andrew Harrison coined the term “landfill indie,” used to describe the plethora of samey British guitar bands that received a major label push in the wake of the meteoric rise of Arctic Monkeys; wherein the deliberate crafting of groups into bland, crowd-pleasing conformists veered so-called indie music away from being independently spirited to being an actual mainstream pop genre, rife with discernible tropes to easily tick off a checklist. The term could so easily be applied to American independent cinema from the early 2000s onwards. There’s a reason “Sundance movie” gets bandied about by so many, as “indie” has become something of its own mainstream genre in the wake of Fox Searchlight’s success with Little Miss Juno and the Dying Garden State.

James White isn’t a Fox Searchlight release, but based on logline alone it sounds like a potential rehash of the stock Sundance movie beats and clichés: a white twenty-something New Yorker, who happens to be an aspiring writer, struggles with familial estrangement and his self-destructive tendencies. Leave your preconceptions at the door, however, for James White is a far cry from a Zach Braff or Josh Radnor ego trip. Closer in spirit, tone and execution to John Cassavetes, the arguable godfather of American independent cinema (at least in terms of the white guys), Josh Mond’s directorial debut has more raw emotion and authenticity than a hundred examples of Sundance landfill…

Click for the full review for Vague Visages

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Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)

November 17, 2015

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After an opening credits sequence in which we follow a male individual through the streets of 1950s New York and into an indoors encounter with a female acquaintance, director Todd Haynes drops a fairly explicit reference to another film in the beginning of his new movie, Carol, an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt. The film he references is David Lean’s 1945 effort Brief Encounter, oft-considered one of the great works about the intertwining of romance and repression. The reference comes through this male individual’s unfortunate interruption of a meeting between that female acquaintance, Therese (Rooney Mara), and the woman she has been listening to with such intent, Carol (Cate Blanchett). The male’s unbeknownst disturbance upon a most important meeting sees Carol make an early departure, touching the seated Therese on the shoulder as she leaves the public venue, just as Trevor Howard does to Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter.

Like in Lean’s film, there is a sense that this may be the last time the pair meets, and that their precious time together has been cruelly cut short by a frivolous link to their lives outside of each other (the male acquaintance is a friend of Therese’s male beau). In what’s also a similar structural conceit toBrief Encounter, this scene will repeat itself towards the end of Carol, as what’s in between fills in the blanks, revealing what this relationship is all about. It’s a bold move to so overtly bring to mind another major romantic work at the very beginning of your own, but it’s a gambit that doesn’t see Haynes’ efforts flounder. As premature as it might be to say in a review for an initial theatrical run,Carol more than earns the right of comparison to Brief Encounter in terms of quality. Frankly, it’s one of the new great romantic films…

Click for the full review for Vague Visages

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The Hallow (Corin Hardy, 2015)

November 13, 2015

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Outside of the Leprechaun series, Irish mythology has been rather underserved by genre-inclined filmmakers. With his debut feature, backwoods horror The Hallow, director and co-writer Corin Hardy goes some way to trying to rectify this, even if the end result isn’t completely successful, nor as psychologically resonant as the best of legends…

Full review for Little White Lies
Also available in their issue #62 print edition

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Macbeth (Justin Kurzel, 2015)

November 10, 2015

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Like its eponymous character, Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of Macbeth is a film pulled in myriad directions for a sense of purpose. It is faithful to Shakespeare’s text in many ways, including period setting, but the film also cuts iconic moments (no “something wicked this way comes”) and reframes many a key scene with notably different staging. Macbeth keeps Shakespeare’s dialogue, but the stars will often deliver the lines at considerably more guttural and mumbling pitches than you’re likely to find on stage.

Kurzel’s film veers from being upfront and unapologetic about its protagonist’s gory rise to power in some sequences (something carried over from the director’s debut, Snowtown), but then dilutes other moments of violence with editorial embellishments that pull back from the horror. The combat sequences range from thrashing Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones-esque melee to slo-mo sword-swinging somewhat akin to 300 (which Macbeth star Michael Fassbender was actually in), thankfully minus the part where it looks like a computer vomited up bronzer…

Click for the full review for Vague Visages