INDIE FILM REVIEWS

In only a few short years, Franco-Argentine filmmaker Gaspar Noé has become a notorious go-to director for disturbing, boundary pushing material, even brutally so with 2002's "Irreversible".  After his recent 2010 psychedelic, drug-infused thriller "Enter the Void", it only seemed fair to anticipate Noé's next offering, a raw film about a love story complete with very up-close and personal sex scenes.  However, amongst the slew of melancholic scenes of longing and sex aplenty, complete with all the fixings, "Love" stills manages to come across as one of Noé's more subdued, bridled works.  "Love" is a film as potentially titillating as it is aggravating in its mechanical and one note depiction of the fusion of love and intimacy.  It's a sex film with an energetic void in place of a heart.  A deconstruction of "Love" leaves us with a premise and backstory that is rather simple.  Noé sticks our main character, a self-reflexive, American film student named Murphy (Karl Glusman), in Paris.  He's an appreciative lover of European culture (and women) but still has the relentless pride and ignorance of an American.  As is the natural progression of a love story, boy meets girl.  Electra (Aomi Muyock), a freeloving, fiery French artist, becomes Murphy's obsession and the catalyst for his own downfall.  When Murphy becomes entranced with the young girl next door (another new comer, Klara Kristin), his life becomes a series of disenchanted normalities, calling for a serious session of reflection. This is where we enter the story. Here, the beginning of the film is the end of Murphy's narrative.  In the present day, Murphy, now a father and husband within a loveless marriage with the once tempting neighbor, receives a call saying Electra is missing.  Fearing the worse, possibly even suicide, we journey back in time with him and revisit where their relationship (and subsequently his life) blossomed and then suddenly went wrong.  Muyock, Glusman and Kristin have no inhibitions in their breakthrough roles as newcomers, and do their very best with the material they were given.  With such honesty and raw storytelling, it's hard to say which twist and turn is to blame for the story's faltering progression and tediousness. In various interviews, Noé explains the onslaught of sex within this film is a reflection of some sense of reality. However, when you strip it all down and just look at the story, reality just seems tired amongst all of the gimmick. Perhaps with a film like "Love", one that could haphazardly rest within the mainstream art house genre, its legacy will never be about actual talent.  It will live on briefly as a conversation piece, a semi-notorious cult film in a sea of other boundary pushing films of its kind.  I, for one, did not partake in seeing this film within its intended theatrical 3D setting.  I chose to watch it on the small screen, a personal experience without the constant shame and distraction of watching within a crowd of questionable audience goers.  However, the idea of voyeurism quickly morphed into tedious work.  At the very end, there's a glimmer of something - a deep sense of loss fills the screen, as Murphy mourns much more than a past girlfriend.  He mourns the loss of life and motivation - something that, if touched upon deeper, could have made this a film with far greater impact.  

   If you can't manage to see the film in 3D or on the big screen (really, don't worry yourself about it), the provocative, luring drama "Love" is available on several VOD platforms, including Vimeo on Demand through its distributor, Alchemy.  Noé explains that banning a film (which was the case in some places with "Love") gives it a sense of intrigue and mystery, making people want to see it more.  Take that as you will, but go in warned and be prepared: sex, sex, sex, a little story, a touch of melancholy and more tedious sex await.

There really aren’t enough female-headlined action films, so when one comes along it’s almost worth a look on its existence alone. Ideally it will lean more Haywire than Mercenaries quality-wise, but the paucity of options means we’ll take what we can get at this point. Happily, the newest lady-led action picture, Momentum, is an entertaining and frequently thrilling ride that very nearly lives up to its title.A high-tech team of slick-looking bank robbers are midway through their heist when mistakes and bad attitudes get the better of them. One of their number is killed, and another is unmasked in front of the hostages. With her face all over the news, Alex (Olga Kurylenko, Quantum of Solace) is forced to lay low and wait for the deal with those who hired her team to wrap up, but a double cross leaves her on the run and low on options. A man named Washington (James Purefoy, Solomon Kane) is on her trail, but the bigger threat might just be the U.S. Senator (Morgan Freeman, playing against type as a character who wants to be president but isn’t yet) pulling his strings.Stephen S. Campanelli‘s day job as a long-time camera operator for Clint Eastwood takes a backseat for his feature directorial debut, and the result is a fun, fast-moving action-thriller that hits some speed bumps along the way but still delivers where it counts.The action sequences are strong starting with the opening heist and continuing on through shoot-outs, fist fights, and pretty stellar car chase. An early hotel fracas showcases both Alex’s capabilities and Washington’s malicious ways — along with Kurylenko’s action chops and the pure joy of an evil Purefoy. The fight choreography feels right for Kurylenko’s frame meaning we’re never in doubt of her abilities, and the bigger action is well-crafted to the various environments.Just as entertaining at times is the back and forth banter between Alex and Washington. Their dialogue is a the kind of witty and insulting mix that you’d hope real criminals use in their day to day exchanges but you doubt actually exists. Performer-wise these two are by far the strongest here, and it’s not just because of the rough acting seen in some of the supporting roles.The script moves the film into generic, mid-list action territory with some repetitive beats and simplicity, but there are highlights including Alex’s character and the details of the opening heist. That opening is also a source of curiosity though as it appears to exist in some manner of the near future — the robbers’ suits feature lights, voice modulators, and other advancements, and the bank’s vault uses a biological lock that feels very much like science fiction. Once they leave the bank though it feels like it could be any time between the late ’90s and the present. It’s either an odd choice or late recognition that the budget wasn’t going to last.Momentum is a fun, sleek movie that’s far better than most straight-to-DVD/VOD action films, and while I’m not as confident as the film’s ending is that it’s the start of a possible franchise I’m certainly hopeful.Read more at Film School Rejects:  http://filmschoolrejects.com/reviews/momentum-julia.php#ixzz3qdkp67i6

Of the thousands of pictures released around the world in a given year, maybe a few tens of them appear as complete creations of a singularly identifiable artist. Visuals can often look much the same, and stories tend to be inspired by the same set of stories. Jean Pierre Jeunet is one of those filmmakers with a very identifiable kind of film artistry. His films are equally colorful and drab, playful and serious, charming and ultra-quirky – and up until I saw Liza The Fox Fairy (crazily of the mind of a first-time feature length director, Karoly Ujj Maszaros) I would have said almost completely unique to himself. While Liza may feel akin to a Jeunet film in its art direction and charm mixed with a whimsical, dark humor it would feel a complete disservice to Maszaros to claim that the film channels another artist. It does not, but it’s wholly exciting to think there are two filmmakers alive who succeed at making this kind of picture.Read more#ffffff;">

Very high on our list of the best movies we saw at Fantastic Fest this year was Green Room, the sophomore effort of writer/director Jeremy Saulnier, who previously squeezed us with the tense thriller, Blue Ruin. This latest addition to his titularly colorful filmography is yet another thriller that’s like a tense muscle, held completely tight, the only relief coming from the severing of the tendons with a sharp blade.It’s a somewhat unnerving visual, but that’s exactly what it feels like to watch Green Room. Read more here: 

Filmmaker Louie Psihoyos and his team of activists and innovators that made The Cove are back with a new mission to save more endangered species. Where The Cove centered on the plight of dolphins, his latest film Racing Extinction, which premiered early this year in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the Sundance Film Festival, has a broader topic: mankind's role in the potential mass extinction of half of the world's species.A National Geographic photographer and environmental activist, Psihoyos’ new film arrives with incredible anticipation as a follow-up to The Cove, which besides becoming part of the national discourse, won the U.S. Audience Award at Sundance when it premiered in 2009 and later the Academy Award for best documentary. Racing Extinction unfolds like a blockbuster action epic and inhabits the same eco-thriller atmosphere of the director’s prior work. Viewers might feel they’ve wandered into a white-knuckle espionage flick as they witness Psihoyos and his team infiltrating notorious black markets in China using guerilla-style tactics and James Bond-friendly gadgets, or working with artists to create spellbindingly beautiful imagery with animal subjects (footage of endangered species were projected across the United Nations building). Read the interview with filmmaker

The pull of the open road is strong and tantalizes with the untold possibility of adventure and experience, but not all roads lead to their intended destinations. Such is the highway to hell that several travelers find themselves on in the new horror anthology, Southbound.

Two men with bloodied faces pull into a remote way station in the American Southwest. Something is on their mind, but more pressing, something is on their tail. Skeletal phantoms have followed them across the desert, and escape is clearly not an option. Read More




It speaks to the state of cinema that one of the most beautiful, haunting, and powerful films of the year will be seen by most people on a streaming service, but such is case with the growing face of movies these days. The consolation is that movies manage to find a home after their brief festival run even if they are relegated to being content for the digital pipe as opposed to having a shot at being a truly exceptional in-theatre experience.

I’m lucky, then, to have experienced Beasts of No Nation as it was intended, at a glorious, hundred-year-old theatre no less. For Beasts is surely a film to be shared collectively in the dark, one whose power is amplified by the image looming over you while your fellow audience shares in the joys and shocks as the story unfolds.

The tale of a young boy who gets swept up in a civil war and becomes a child soldier, the film proves to be one of the most raw, unforgettable coming-of-age tales ever made. Newcomer Abraham Attah is the film’s core, and his performance is the stuff of legend. His role is both physically and psychologically complex as we the audience simply follow him through his travails.

The film is stunningly shot with some terrific narrative elements, but the direction by Cary Fukunaga may be most lauded for what he draws from young Attah. Kids on film, especially in such a storyline, will make or break the project, and here we see an absolutely riveting turn that provides much of the film’s weight. Fukunaga’s script, based on the novel by Uzodinma Iweala, provides its rich ideas and unsettling moments. Read More

 

 

A cathartically paced portrait of a community branded by its own self-aware dependency on prescription drugs, Sean Dunne’s directorial feature film debut, “Oxyana”, is a controversial yet necessary and affecting offering.  The film plays out like a patient yet evocative conversation that lets the audience draw their own opinions.  Dunne's documentary portraits Oceana, a small once thriving coal mining town in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia.  This is a community that that has been so stricken by prescription pill epidemic that it's residences have nicknamed it Oxyana.  What we see is a people shaped by a failed system and the failed war on drugs.

Recognizing the innate beauty of Oceana and its surrounding areas, it doesn’t take long to also recognize the ghostly reminder of what once.  As Dunne states, “Yet there it was, a constant and growing hum of anxiety. So we started to ask questions, and we started to get answers, all pointing towards a familiar narrative.”  By leaving the camera on the subjects of the film and allowing their words to naturally flow, you get an honest, staunch depiction of dependency and addiction through the eyes of the ones that are suffering.  We get their stories, and it’s a heartbreaking reality to face.

 

 

 Winner of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival Best New Documentary Director Award, clearly both “Oxyana” and Dunne have earned their prestige.  It is because this is a film that is as hauntingly memorable as it is a pretty necessary conversation starter to have on the film scene.  It doesn’t set up the film’s subjects as failures of society to be laughed off and forgotten.  It sets them up as tragic heroes, failed by something way bigger than we can imagine.  The secrets buried deep within the rolling mountains and forests of this West Virginian region are laid bare, raw and untouched.  In “Oxyana”, scandal and sensationalism are pushed aside for the true depth and revelation of honesty, pain, and darkness suffered through drug addiction.  Dunne’s skillful ability to uncover that realistic, objective narrative regarding the outskirts of America is on full display.  Produced by Cass Greener and Nadine Brown, “Oxyana” is being re-released on VOD and is truly a masterful, meditative documentary worth the watch, if only to see how well Oceana finds and displays its own unique, troubled voice for the rest of the world to try and understand.

Director Jim Strouse is excellent at conveying the emotional range of the adult male experience. It’s not something you might hear a lot, especially in the context of it being refreshing, mostly because just about every movie is delivered from the male perspective. But there’s something a little more special, insightful and tender about Strouse’s work. This began with the pain explored in the John Cusack-led Grace is Gone, continued with the failure management of the Sam Rockwell-led The Winning Season and has come to fruition once again in the fatherhood dramedy People, Places, Things starring Jemaine Clement. Read full review


There is truth in the conviction that “time heals all wounds.” But in New Orleans, exactly 10 years after one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history—and easily the costliest—the adage has met its match. In this week’s expansive and forthright New York Times story documenting the city’s recovery, the portrait of an embattled community comes into focus. Despite tremendous strides in a literal rebuild of New Orleans, the city’s longstanding economical and racial hardships remain. Read more