Indie flicks all but dominate the amount of studio fare this week (and mostly every other week too!), so film fans have continual opportunity to get their film fix on. Below is just a fraction of the myriad of releases out now that cover the gamut of subjects and genres for the ardent cinefile to seek out. Two by the Herzog (way to go Werner!), more beautiful Dree Hemingway movies (I’m a fan!), monsters manned by woman, blind sights restored, dealing with loss and death and youth party docs (supposedly!) all make up the seven films dissected via this weeks Encapsulated Movie Reviews. Check out the opinions on Salt and Fire, Live Cargo, Queen of the Desert, Colossal, The Ticket, Aftermath and All These Sleepless Nights below!
SALT AND FIRE
Signature helmer Werner Herzog visuals ala the sands of Bolivia add extra movie moxie to an already captivating tale of a team of scientists traveling abroad who get kidnapped and held hostage for unknown and then highly unconventional reasons. (Things do become clear as the story progresses – but no spoilers here!) Add to it all a terrific turn by the feisty Veronica Ferres as the lead scientist and the always terrific Michael Shannon as her complex captor and you’ve got an askew tale that delivers something new – originality.
(Gunpowder & Sky Distribution)
Continuing on her sullen and sorrowful path of fine film performances (also see Starlet and The People Garden!) Dree Hemingway turns in yet another as a grieving gal who heads to a remote Bahamian island looking for sanctuary and solace. Plus with a terrific side story involving a turf war of sorts between boat rivals featuring the ever-solid Robert Wisdom (go The Collector!) and Leonard Earl Howze, some lush black and white visuals (underwater wonder alert!) and a slow style via Director Logan Sandler that squeezes every last ounce of sweet sadness from the story makes for a movie that reminds us why life in all its guises is precious.
QUEEN OF THE DESERT
Even though its nice to finally see a story of a gusty female explorer – in this case famed traveler/writer/archaeologist Gertrude Bell – Queen of the Desert story wise is a tad on the dry side. Not that Director Werner Herzog doesn’t have a keen camera eye (the sands never looked so picturesque!) and Nicole Kidman definitely brings both strength and sensitivity to her turn here, but the film gets bogged down on the relationship chains that hang around Bell’s neck (James Franco – pass!) as opposed to her iconic adventures and it’s a movie mistake that keeps a good film from being great.
Good news is that Colossal is the closest in terms of great storytelling and filmmaking to Director Nacho Vigalondo’s first fabulous outing Timecrimes. (Extraterrestrial stunk and Open Windows was merely so-so!) Plus the film features a ‘knock it out of the park’ performance by lead gal Anne Hathaway as a lost gal who finds she may be controlling a Godzilla like monster. (She’s fabulous!) Bad news is her male co-star Jason Sudeikis can easily do funny and charming, but is also called upon here to do some heavy dramatic lifting as the baddie of the piece and frankly he’s not up to the task. (The ample Dan Stevens, sadly relegated to a non-existent side part, should have switched roles with the under qualified Sudeikis!) As a result the films best elements get bogged down by Sudeikis and while the bad casting doesn’t kill the charming quality of Vigalondo’s clever monster movie on no budget, it does cause some serious city stomping damage.
(Shout! Factory Films)
The Ticket features a scenario we’ve seen before – a person blessed with something they’ve been missing and then the ultimate affect it has on them. In this case it’s a dour Dan Stevens asking god for a favor and going from blind to full sighted overnight. Of course with his newfound vision he starts to see how small and unfulfilling his life, family and work is and starts to test limits and endure change. The familiar premise is thankfully elevated by fine performances all around though – Stevens as the confused husband, Malin Akerman as his simple wife and Oliver Platt as his fellow feisty blind co-worker all bring realism to their turns. So yes, at its core this one is merely a message movie we’ve witnessed a hundred times, but thanks to a committed cast this punched ticket still got some panache.
What begins as a simple, yet effective tale of two men who are forced to deal with incredible grief and loss and the effect it has on them suddenly turns into a silly action/revenge tale that never fully recovers. (It says it’s based on a true story – no excuse!) It could be that due to the inclusion of iconic star Arnold Schwarzenegger here playing a dour dad that gave everyone the idea eventual action was a movie must. But sadly Schwarzenegger’s surprisingly decent work here along with a layered turn by co-star Scoot McNairy (no surprise – great actor!) playing a man riddled with guilt are both given a firm rocket launcher exit in lieu of unneeded guns and ammo nobody needed or asked for.
ALL THESE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS
There has been a ton of talk on whether or not filmmaker Michal Marczak’s All These Sleepless Nights could be authentically categorized as a documentary or not. Given its slick visuals, polished performances and savvy camera work I can see the points of naysayers (anytime a crowd is filmed and nobody looks at the camera I’d say being a doc is probably off the table!), but in the end is All These Sleepless Nights simply a good film? Hardly. Featuring two shallow leads that head out in search of a good time, the film feels like a cool lights, good music rave that goes on way too long. In fact the only time the film shows any signs of story life is with the arrival of fetching free-spirit Eva who tests the bounds of both boys and what they believe. But for those staying up looking for All These Sleepless Nights to provide insight on the youth experience, it’s time to hit the hay.