So, this is the bloggiest thing I’m ever gonna do, but we’re in a weird lull where my schedule isn’t meshing well with the things that are in theaters, so reviews are a little more far between than I like. It’s been 4 days since I’ve put anything up, which is not good for me.
But lest we think I’ve been lazy, let’s go on the contrary. I’ve been playing a hell of a lot of catch-up. So, in the interest of letting you into the sad life I live day-to-day, I thought I’d post up reviews of a little bit of everything, because god forbid I enjoy a thing without plastering my opinions all over the Internet.
No matter what, this is a staggering bit of filmmaking achievement. No money, a student film location, and no professional actors. Yet director Trey Edward Shults manages to turn the “awkward family reunion indie” into a Malickian form of slow-burn stomach churning personal horror. He manages to make the spaces feel alien and natural all at once. He manages to get extraordinary performances out of his amateur cast, most notably lead Krisha Fairchild. This is the kind of film that can and should inspire indie and garage band filmmakers. The script, the actors, and the camera tell the stories with no more flair than that.
I just wish the film had a little more to it. This is a debut, a remarkable and confident debut, but a debut. Shults’ direction is phenomenal, but his scripting is strained to its limits to wring everything he can out of the limited avenues his approach to the premise takes. This is a film that feels the limits of the original short it was based on, and the straining to find something else is at every turn.
But Krisha has much to admire on a technical and craft level, and its raw sickening realism should make it worth consideration.
Elvis & Nixon
Look, I would have watched the hell out of this Funny or Die skit. Seriously, 30 minutes, just two great actors playing two caricatures of men? Would have been awesome.
But Elvis & Nixon is a full-length movie and alas, like the time that Funny or Die made a whole movie (The Art of the Deal), there’s not enough here for a movie. The film mostly focuses on Elvis (Michael Shannon), trying to delve into the actual person (there’s really never been a great biopic of him, so get on that) and peel back some layer of what drives him. There’s also some extra plotlines about the White House staffers (Colin Hanks and Evan Peters) trying to get Nixon (Kevin Spacey) to meet Elvis and Elvis’ entourage (Johnny Knoxville and Alex Pettyfer) and their extremely minor problems, but no one gives a shit. It’s most of the movie, but that doesn’t make me give a shit.
The meeting itself is fine enough and seems like a realistic idea of a meeting which we have no record of, the two seem to have a reasonable grip and chemistry as Elvis and Nixon. It just feels like the film has little idea of the significance or what to delve into or present this all as. It’s content to simply let things play out and shrug its shoulders. “Boy, that was weird.”
Look, Equilibrium wasn’t good, but it was saved by the sheer charisma of Christian Bale and the bonkers gun-fu action sequences to being a favorite guilty pleasure watch.Like, Christian Bale slices a dude’s face-off with a katana. How do you not want to watch that?
Turns out the answer comes in Equals where you take away the action and the charisma and put in its place two actors who don’t have much to do and some perfume commercial steamy romance. There’s just nothing here unique or new enough to really hook me in, Equals just feels like a whole lot of the same old dystopian song and dance without any uniquely well-done elements. Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult are honestly perfect for this kind of story, but the script can never find where to hook them in.
Moonlight (Round 2)
Yep, still a beautiful miracle film that we’re lucky to have made by a filmmaker we’re lucky to have discovered. Cool, glad that still holds.
I just wanted to zero in on two particular things that stood out to me this time around. First is the sweetness of Moonlight. Perhaps the tenderness is a better way to put it. Moonlight so hinges on the love that Jenkins imparts on these characters, on the little moments that make them human. It’s the hair brushing that Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) does before he walks into meet Kevin (Andre Holland) and it’s Kevin doing the same on the ride home. It’s Chiron (Ashton Sanders) getting a few minutes to act like an actual teenager with Teresa (Janelle Monae). It’s Chiron’s brief moment of bluster when his bullies turn their back. Jenkins cares for these people and wants to give them little moments of grace and humor and that’s what works among the weightier material.
The second is Trevante Rhodes’ performance. The first time around, I had a difficult time deciding which of the three Chirons I enjoyed the most. This time it was clear. Rhodes gives such an awe-inspiring performance here, weighted by ages that he apparently never even got the chance to see. I love his seemingly unconscious imitation of father figure Juan (Mahershala Ali) as the recreated from the ground up drug dealer Black. I was bowled over by the way he drops it when he hears Kevin’s voice and can instantly put it back up. Rhodes is wearing in such vulnerable subtleties that we’re seeing a real human, a human in shades and barely perceptible motions. This is the kind of performance for the ages, the kind that unveils its layers so slowly that each watch is a further revelation.
I’m gonna make a little confession to the people who kept asking me to keep up.
With big shows like this? I hate keeping up. I don’t give a shit about spoilers and I hate speculation. I like to take in most big, heady shows like this on my own time, to absorb them at my own pace. So, most of the time I end up waiting until the season’s over. So, sorry about that.
Good news is that I just finished Episode 8 and in keeping with my positive review of the pilot, this show is still all kinds of for me. It’s still a thrillingly done take on the way we as humans interact with our media and the way we as humans interact with faith and our own consciousness. I know there’s a whole lot of difficult puzzle box stuff and reams have been written on it, but I’ve been content to let that wash past me to just consume what this show is trying to deal with on a thematic level. I’m not sure about timelines or theories about who people REALLY are, but I know thinking again and again about the implications of how it must feel to discover that your world is a construction and how we break and transcend it. Or the issues of empathizing with hosts (hint: If you’re not, the show is implying that might not be the show’s issue).
This is well-composed television that’s throwing so much to stick at the wall that I can’t help but enjoy what I can get out of it. I think a lot of Westworld‘s popularity has been that it can ultimately kind of be a show for whatever you want to get out of it, and I’ve chosen my path.
If you’re not watching Supergirl and you like superheroes, what are you even doing?
This is a show that more than almost any other live action cape and cowl story embraces the comic book style in its fullness. All of its soapy drama and its huge primary colorfulness and all of its strange mythologies are here anchored by a cast with a strong grasp on their character work. Melissa Benoist has constructed a truly aspirational hero, one who tries to do her best out of an innate and immovable sense of the good that she wants to do and loves doing. Supergirl is a show that remembers how idealized its mythology it is and seeks to build it up, not deconstruct it.
Plus, it is just a barrel of fun.
Final Fantasy XV
So, I’m a Final Fantasy nerd, which is why I made my first video game purchase in a year or so. I’ve played every one so far and I’ll be damned if I miss this one.
I’m about 6 chapters in and I like what’s there so far. I’m not enough of an expert to have too much opinion on this thing mechanically. It works and nothing feels too far out of lockstep with how the game works. I don’t need tight perfection, I just need to not feel frustrated (though I also bought The Last Guardian and it works for me so far, so who knows who I am?) and to feel like the things are working.
Where I’m really dealing with it so far is on a narrative level. Look, on a lot of levels, I admire this as basically Magic Mike XXL: The Game. 4 bros bonding over a road trip while they fight monsters? Hell, I’m down.
I’ve just always liked Final Fantasy for its big operatic storytelling, and that part feels anywhere from vestigal to half-assed. The bigger mythology is welded on at this stage, and while I can imagine that there will ultimately be more to it, my worry is about whether or not I’ll care.