Danny Boyle's T2 Trainspotting is a worthy predecessor to the breakout original film, a sequel that is bristling with the same energy that made the first film so memorable, while maintaining an ability to differentiate itself from the nihilistic drug opus through its ability to deliver a story about consequences, morality, and maturity. Taking place twenty years after the events of the first film, T2 Trainspotting finds Mark Renton returning to Edinburgh for the first time since betraying his friends and running off with most of the money from the scam. Intent on reconnecting with Spud and Simon, Mark soon finds that each of his friends' lives have hardly improved over the past two decades, each stuck in a perpetual state of failure. While Spud struggles to get his life back together, routinely falling back off the wagon and into addiction, Simon is still stuck in the confines of his father's decrepit bar, living on the outskirts of Edinburgh, which has seen itself modernized via gentrification. While Mark, Simon, and Spud attempt to reconcile, the psychotic Begbie makes his way out of jail, having the fresh scent of revenge on his mind. A natural progression for a sequel to the original, Danny Boyle's T2 Trainspotting is a film that maintains the first film's renegade spirit, while still examining the morality and consequences of its character's actions as they reach middle age. These characters wouldn't be classified as upstanding citizens, not even close, but the film recognizes that they don't have to fit into what society terms is proper or just, instead they simply have to adhere to their own sense of empathy and morality towards on and other. These characters grew up as junkies and thieves, and while the film doesn't outright apologize for that, or touch on some form of type of stringent moral equivalency, the film details how each of these characters must deal with the consequences of their past, facing head-on at times the trauma, despair, and evil which their actions created. Even Bigbie, a psychotic character who spends most of the film in a rage-fueled pursuit of revenge, has at least one moment of clarity, wishing his son the best, showing a sliver of empathy for his son, whom he wishes will be a better man than him. Featuring the same high-energy direction from Danny Boyle which sees the filmmaker intertwine surrealistic touches throughout this story, T2 Trainspotting is visceral yet quietly contemplative, delivering in a strange way a film that is far more optimistic and hopeful compared to the first film's raw nihilism. Detailing the journey of three characters in Mark, Simon, and Spud, T2: Trainspotting exhibits three men who've seen life pass them bye thanks to their actions and past mistakes, establishing that it's never too late in life to correct past mistakes.
Terrence Malick's recent films have seen the filmmaker evolve further and further away from traditional storytelling, with his latest effort, Song to Song, being an atmospheric and introspective mood piece about what it means to be free. Set against the Austin, Texas, music scene, Song to Song is the story of struggling songwriters Faye and BV, who enter into a chaotic whirlwind of a relationship, eventually finding themselves ensnared by their own dreams and desires, as well as the malevolent force of the film, music producer and rock mogul Cook, whose enrichment in life comes from power and control. While Terrence Malick's last feature, Knight of Cups was one note and a bit simplistic thematically, Song to Song is a much richer experience, detailing the inter-tangled relationships of four characters, each explored on deep, dare I say, spiritual level. Showing little concern for linear storytelling or time itself, what Terrence Malick has created with Song to Song is an immersive experience about individuals trying desperately to find themselves in life, stumbling and falling as they seek enrichment and peace of mind. Through a rock 'n' roll landscape full of seduction, betrayal, promises, and shattered dreams, Song to Song is a beautiful, unconventional love story, one that perfectly encaptures the uncertainty most individuals feel in life, this feeling of drifting, stuck up in something so much larger than oneself, unsure what to take and what to leave behind. Malick's film doesn't pretend to know the answers, and that's what makes it profound, as Song To Song focuses on capturing the vast array of emotions its characters go through, some bad, some good, all a part of what makes life worth living. Malick's film personifies the essence of love very well by the time its credits roll, detailing how lust, sex, and desire are essentially subversions of what true love is, what BV and Faye enviably seek, with seductions and personal desires being almost dare I say, a distraction from the meaningfulness of true connection and a shared sense of love. Music mogul Cook, whose pride and obsession with power is the malevolent force of the film, a man who shows little sympathy towards anyone or anyone around him, craving more power and control, while selfishly using nearly anyone or anything around him to elevate himself. He has no concept of what love is, only seduction, which eventually leads him to his own sense of emotional ruin. Faye and BV are characters motivated by their own desire to rebel, and be something different than what society wants them to be, yet while doing so they miss the special relationship they share right in front of them. In this sense, Song to Song is a commentary on youth and rebellion, deconstructing the unfair reality of life that sees young individuals, so inexperienced with the world itself and their own true desires, that they head down misguided paths. How can the young be so assured in what they want out of life when they have just started to live on their own and experience the world for themselves? A question that Terrence Malick's Song-to-Song explores in melancholic detail throughout this opus of image and sound. While Malick's overuse of internal dialogue does begin to wear itself thin, coming off as lazy at times when it comes to character exposition, Malick's latest effort, Song To Song, is a beautiful deconstruction of love and life, a film which is honest about the uncertainties, insecurities, and general ups and downs of life, with the filmmaking creating another beautifully-rendered introspective film that shouldn't be missed.
Eugene Green's The Son of Joseph is a rich, endlessly layered piece of film-making which uses christian mythology to tell an astute tale of morality, paternity, kindness, and hope. More playful than most of Green's previous work, The Son of Joseph is centered around Vincent, a young, discontent Parisian teenager, who feels nothing but detachment from the modern world. Intent on finding his father, despite his mother's best attempts to hide his identity from her son, Vincent soon learns that his father is Oscar Pormenor, an egotistic and cynical Parisian publisher, a man whose vile arrogance and selfishness only push Vincent further into the abyss of vexation. His rage over his father's actions nearly send Vincent himself down a path of violence and self-destruction, with Vincent's uncle, and Oscar's much more gentle, good-hearted brother, Joseph, providing an alternative path for Vincent, one where kindness, optimism, and introspection provide hope for a young boy who needs it. A profound story of morality told in an utterly creative and resonant way, Eugene Green's The Son of Joseph is soul-affirming in its ability to exhibit the importance of kindness and love in a world in which we as individuals seem to be growing farther and farther detached from one and other. The importance of family and paternity, specifically the guidance which is needed to shape young minds, is captured in vivid detail throughout Green's latest masterwork, with Joseph providing some semblance of structure to young Vincent, while still allowing him to find himself and his own personal liberty. Steeped in religious symbolism, The Son of Joseph recognizes how both family and religion both serve similar purposes in regards to hope and optimism, with Vincent's journey to discover himself being aided by the guidance of Joseph, a man who encourages Vincent to be himself, bestowing a sense of faith and optimism in the young boy which he so desperately needs. Green's film is so rich and layered that I couldn't even pretend to touch on all the various themes and ideas which it navigates, but simply put, this film is able to capture what it means to be alive, a story drenched in hope, which captures the exuberance and possibility that awaits all individuals who wish to see life itself as a beautiful gift. Played by Matheiu Amalric, Vincent's father-in-blood is a character who lives completely for himself, a man who serves his primal desires of power and control, reaching it through his financial successes as a publisher. This man is portrayed as an outright monster for much of the film, but in the final moments this rich arrogant man is reduced to rubble, the realization that he himself is nothing to his kinder, more hopeful brother, who has replaced him and found personal enlightenment through the paternal relationship he shares with Vincent. A playful, optimistic triage of family, faith, and morality, Eugene Green's The Son of Joseph is just the latest reminder that Green is one of the most impressive filmmakers working today, a rich, endlessly layered, soul-affirming piece of art that his hopeful and optimistic about the human condition, understanding that empathy and morality are the key to a life of happiness, fulfillment, and enlightenment.
Olivier Assayas Personal Shopper is a story of grief masquerading as a ghost story, a film which is brazen and unconventional, detailing the exploits of Maureen, young American woman in Paris, who is struggling to move on from the death of her twin brother, Lewis, who was a spiritual medium. Working as a personal shopper for a high profile celebrity to pay the bills, Maureen is infatuated with reconnecting with her deceased brother one more time, emphatically believing this in an attempt to find some semblance of closure. To call Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper a ghost story would be selling this film short, as the prolific french filmmaker has created a introspective and enigmatic experience which transcends the confines of mere ghost story, delivering a story about grief, perseverance, inadequacy, and spirituality. Personal Shopper is a film that routinely subverts perspective and reality, blurring the lines completely between the world itself and that seen through the eyes of our main protagonist, giving Assayas an adequate playing field to touch on a host of fascinating themes and ideas. At the center of this film is what I would describe as the high point of Kristen Stewart's acting career, as the actresses continues to completely transform from her days of delivering droll, mainstream performances. Maureen as a character is complex, beguiling, and detached, and Kristen Stewart plays the part to near perfection, delivering a complex and riveting performance that completely matches the complexity of themes and ideas which Assayas wishes to explore in his story. Assayas film never rejects spirituality or the idea of an afterlife, nor embraces it completely, being a film that is ambiguous in nature, understanding that the real meat of his story lies in the introspective analysis of a character who struggles to find her own sense of happiness and comfort after the death of her brother. The memory of Lewis haunts Maureen to her vary core, a character who is simply frozen in time, unable to move on or look forward, stuck in a perpetual state of grief. Keep in mind, much of the film is thankfully understated when it comes to these emotional complexities, with Personal Shopper exhibiting the importance of living to the fullest not in spite of but for the memory of those one loves. Personal Shopper is bold in that Assayas rejects typical structure and even logic in aspects of its story, often presenting nearly conflicting perspectives, which make it nearly impossible for the viewer to decipher whether the spiritual, ghost story aspect of the film is in fact real or simply in the head of Maureen, a character who is continuously rattled by grief and a sense of longing related to being unable to find herself after the death of someone she felt so close too. Assayas choice to remain ambiguous serves a larger purpose than deconstructing the idea of whether an afterlife of any sorts exists or not, showing not much interest in this debate, unwilling to be headstrong in either assertion, instead recognizing how faith and spirituality can be forces of healing, whether imaginary or not. A complex, unique, and quietly compelling story of grief and feelings of inadequacy , Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper is story about the importance of finding freedom and liberty from one's own doubts and insecurities, a film that recognizes this can come from many different avenues, using a ghost story structure to deliver a unique, thoughtful experience.
Howard Hawk's follow-up to Scarface, The Crowd Roars is a fast-paced racing drama centered around Joe Greer, a top-ranked race car driver, who is dedicated to his craft, unwilling to let anything come in-between him and the race track. Joe's longtime girlfriend, Lee, is growing impatient with him, fed up with Joe constantly placing his profession before her. All the fame and fortune which Joe possesses will eventually fade, yet Joe is reluctant to commit fully to this woman, fearing that he will lose his edge on the race track in which precision is everything. After another argument about their future together, which sees Lee reluctantly accept Joe's commitment to racing over marriage, Joe returns to his hometown fresh off a win in Indianapolis, intent on competing in a local race for the masses. On his arrival, Joe discovers his kid brother, Eddie, is adamant about following in his footsteps, but Joe is reluctant, knowing full well of his brother's penchant for being spontaneous and by result reckless. After impressing in the local race, Joe has no choice but to sign his kid brother, but soon Joe's intuition about his brother comes to fruition, when his kid brother falls for the fast-moving Ann, causing a rift between the brothers which threatens to end their relationship for good. Howard Hawks' The Crowd Roars is a minor effort from the highly acclaimed filmmaker, yet it still offers enough excitement and drama to keep the viewer engaged from start to finish. The story itself gets a little clunky though in the end, as Lee admits to being one of the driving forces between separating Joe and his brother, in an effort to show him what she is going through - how it feels to not have someone you love. While I get what the filmmakers are going for, it simply doesn't work as well as it should, as I found myself constantly thinking that there must have been a more efficient way to get Joe to realize this, without causing a huge rift between him and his brother that also resulted in the death of a close friend. The main thing that stands out about The Crowd Roars is Hawks' direction, particularly when it comes to the racing sequences, exhibiting the intense and visceral nature of these races where life itself can hang in the balance. Made in the early thirties, Hawk's effectively captures the chaos of car racing, using rear projection and well-designed punch-ins that truly capture the raw energy of the sport. The Roar of The Crowd's story is archetypal, with its main protagonist Joe going from having everything to having nothing, with the heart of the story being his realization that family and love itself must always be placed first and foremost. While The Crowd Roars is far from Howard Hawks best films, it's worth a look alone for the car racing sequences, along with James Cagney doing what he does, delivering another strong, steadfast performance.
Diego Ongaro's Bob And The Trees is a minimalist character study of Bob, a fifty-something year old logger, who is struggling to make a living during the deep winter in rural Massachusetts. Bob is a man who has never been afraid of hard work, yet the ever-changing environment around him, related to both the economy and his aging body, have left him in a constant state of stress and struggle, with pressure mounting. When his beloved cow is mysteriously wounded, and his latest logging job stumbles into unforeseen problems, Bob's mental state begins to slowly unravel, as he begins to suspect that foul play is involved. Diego Ongaro's Bob And The Trees is a slow-burning exercise in tension and internal struggle, an introspective and meditative experience detailing a man in Bob whose increasing desperation leads him down a path of anger and hostility. As a character, Bob is a man who is slowly grated by the stress and uncertainty of his livelihood, with the film doing a fantastic job at documenting his slow descent into increasing desperation and by proxy anger and hostility towards others. Bob's profession, one rooted in masculinity, toughness, and resolve, makes it hard for him to show weakness or ask for help, being a character who has always been primarily responsible for providing for his family. He wishes to shield his wife and son from the economic issues they as a family are facing, yet all he does is alienate himself from them through his actions. Bob is a character who has grown detached from both his wife and son, a meat-and-potatoes type of guy whose too stubborn to ask for help. He is a character who is a self-made man, yet his inability to ask for help or seek support from others have left him in a place of alienation, with his exterior toughness and masculinity masking his underlying insecurities related to his fear of failure. As a characterization, Bob feels like an honest and genuine portrayal of a blue-collar logger, yet the film subverts expectations, in an successful attempt to avoid caricature, showcasing a man who also happens to have a soft spot for Gangster Rap- Immortal Technique, to be specific. While this slight character decision may seem superfluous on the surface, it only strengthens the story and characterization in the long run, as Bob feels much more like an independent, organic human-being with his own unique problems and insecurities. Detailing the importance of never being too headstrong to ask for help, Diego Ongaro's Bob and the Trees is an introspective character study of one man's struggle to survive in an ever-changing environment which surrounds him.
A high-concept horror film that blends elements of Battle Royale and Office Space into a deliciously nihilistic experience, Greg McLean's The Belko Experiment is a lean-and-mean piece of cinema, which features a strong understanding of tension and escalation, while being gleeful in its depiction of eroding morality. The film is centered around a twisted social experiment, which finds 80 American office workers unexpectedly caged in their high-rise corporate office in Bogota, Colombia, with absolutely no way escape. Instructed over the office intercoms by a mysterious authority, the office workers are told that they must participate in a game of survival, in which they must kill or be killed, with only the strongest individuals perhaps being allowed to survive. Greg McLean's The Belko Experiment is a film which sees friends pitted against friends, coworkers against coworkers, yet its tone is surprisingly light for a film of such high stakes, as writer James Gunn, injects the entire film with a gleeful depravity, pulling off a relatively impressive balancing act which sees the film maintain its tension and stakes while never feeling overly grating, thanks to Gunn's injection of absurdist humor into the mix. The film itself should be enjoyed by horror and action fans alike, with The Belko Experiment delivering a constant and suffocating sense of escalation, with the fading sense of morality among the workers being palpable within the story. The Belko Experiment isn't exactly an optimistic film in the end when it comes to humanity, embracing the inherent selfishness of man, being an honest film about the self-preservationist aspect of humanity, one that finds nearly all individuals' regress to their most primal state when life and death are on the line. Mean, violent, and gleefully depraved, Greg McLean's The Belko Experiment is an intense and engaging action/horror hybrid that is sure to be enjoyed by fans of horror and action cinema alike.
Centered around the rivalry between two former college friends, Onur Tukel's Catfight is a devilishly entertaining black comedy that aims to deconstruct the intrinsic emptiness of revenge. Told in three distinct parts, which find these two characters oscillating between various rungs on the socio-economic ladder, Catfight details the utter stupidity of feuds, whether internalized or externalized, detailing how the longer they last, the more the reasons behind them in the first place begin to blur or at least become insignificant in the present, as these two characters profiled continuously reinforce their own disdain for one and other through their current emotional state, often coming more from a place of insecurity than from the actual past transgressions that brought about their feud in the first place. Early on, the film does a fantastic job of establishing the vast dichotomy between these two characters, structurally oscillating back-and-forth between the two of them, establishing their distinct worldviews. Veronica, a trophy wife and New York Socialite, couldn't be any more different on the surface than Ashley, the tortured, nihilistic artist, but as the film progresses, we begin to see how they are both in fact more similar than they care to admit, with their roles effectively switching when their social statuses change drastically in the aftermath of their first, violent, fisticuffs-fueled confrontation. Catfight sees each of these characters go from 'having everything' to 'having nothing' from both a personal and financial point-of-view, with perhaps the pitch black comedies greatest attribute being its ability to capture the ugliness of entitlement, detailing how both these characters become internally vial individuals when presented with status. The film dances around a rather broad, hit-you-over-the-head, stereotypical 'money corrupts" commentary, but luckily it goes deeper, detailing how power and prestige is what truly corrupts, with both of these individuals being portrayed as relatively heinous individuals when they reach their highest rung on the socio-economic ladder. You'd be hard-pressed to find a film that depicts feminine violence in the way which Catfight does, with the three all-out-brawls which serve as transition scenes structurally, being brutal and raw, filmed and choreographed in a way that tends to be only done when two male combatants are involved. In fact, their last all-out brawl encapsulates the over-arching themes of the film, finding both Veronica and Ashley once again in fisticuffs, detailing the perpetual nature of violence in these characters, detailing how it has solved nothing after all these years. A pitch black comedy and social satire, Onur Turkel's Catfight features memorable performances from both Sandra Oh and Anne Heche, being a film encapsulates the perpetual state of violence and vengeance, being a film that through comedy showcases the utter-stupidity and lack of change such violence brings.
James Mangold's Logan is a worthy send-off for Hugh Jackman, an actor who has spent nearly two decades personifying the Wolverine, a fitting conclusion to a character who finds a sense of purpose again, and eventually peace from his tortured, animalistic nature, and past, that has led him to see nearly everyone he cares about perish. Set in the near future, 2029 to be exact, James Mangold's Logan introduces us to a character in Logan who has reached the end of his rope, caring for an ailing Professor Charles Xavier in a hide out on the Mexican border. Slowly drinking himself to death, Logan is a man who has excepted defeat, borderline nihilistic and ready to leave a world that has caused him so much pain. Logan's attempts to live off-the-grid, where he isn't reminded of his legacy as an X-Men, are up-ended with the arrival of a young, mysterious mutant, who desperately needs his help. From the very first scene of James Mangold's Logan this film reminds the viewer that this is not a film for kids, featuring an extremely violent sequence that finds Logan drunkenly shred a group of local thieves who picked the wrong car. The sequence vividly announces that this film will be different, not only due to its blood-soaked R-rated carnage, but also in its depiction of Logan, a man who can barely stand due to his alcoholism, defeated, and having little interest in anything but his own demise. James Mangold's Logan isn't devoid of the tropes of the comic book genre entirely, but it certainly carries much more weight than many such films, being a story that deconstructs the hopelessness in a character of Logan who has lost the will to live. Surprisingly humanistic for a superhero movie, James Mangold's Logan is a redemption story for this tortured character, a journey to find hope again for a character who has lost all faith in humanity, uninterested in human connection due to the vast pain it has caused him in the past. Through this journey, which plays out much like a chase film, the relationship Logan slowly forms with this young mutant begins to give him a purpose again, finding himself slowly recalling the importance of human empathy and connection. Ending in a way that only feels right for such a tortured character, James Mangold's Logan finds this character sacrifice himself for the greater good, a sharp contrast to the nihilistic character we were introduced to at the onset of the film, as the film itself captures Logan finding his way back to the light, embracing the need for optimism and hope in a world that has given him very little of either.
Taking place more than a decade after the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Sofia Exarchou's Park is a harrowing snapshot of Athenian youth living in economically-ravaged Greece, a place where opportunity and optimism has eroded among the younger generations. Detailing the exploits of a group of teenagers of various ages, Sofia Exarchou's film is an exercise in atmosphere, mood, and visceral emotion, introspectively examining direction-less and broken characters, each of which feel completely trapped in their environment, many of which are raw in their rebellion to the state of their circumstances. The central character or focal point of the story is Dimitrius, an older brother, and son of a mother, whom herself seems to have accepted defeat, seemingly more interested in the bottle and an on-again-off-again relationship with a local marble craftsman. Dimitrius struggles to find work, or purpose, with the only semi-semblance of connection being what he shares with Anna, a young woman and ex-olympian, who herself is adrift. While Dimitirus is a character who finds himself romanticizing about the possibility of leaving, often seduced by the laughter and joy from the tourists, Anna is a character who seems unable to let go of her past olympic glories, dwelling on them, while only seemingly capable of drawing value or power from others through her physical attributes. Each of these characters sexual intimacy, their connection with each other seems more derived from circumstance and struggle than actual connection or choice, each simply trying to get through another hopeless day. The dichotomy is felt between the people of Greece and the other countries of the EU through tourists which visit the coast, which finds Dimitrius routinely romanticizing them, pining for the feeling the tourists seem to feel, one of relaxation, where there is a general sense of optimism about the present and the future. Park is pretty minimalist by design, having a quiet sense of desperation that is more felt than told, with dialogue being relatively bare-bones, as the filmmaker tells her story much more through visual design. Overcast skies, decaying buildings, barren fields, all serve a purpose in crafting Sofia Exarchou's story of a country which feels on the brink of collapse, with the a muted, washed-out color palate visually evoking the internal struggles of the characters and the environment which surrounds them. Sofia Exarchou's Park is a tale of circumstance and bleak prospects, yet the film never takes the easy route when it comes to creating sentimentality or drama, subverting typical escalation in such stories, instead being a film that ends much like it begins, a decision that in itself captures the quiet, all-encompassing hopelessness for Greece.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.