Film Review: King of Beasts

1beasts

It’s nearly impossible for a documentary to remain purely objective. Even without narration, the director is still choosing who to interview, what to film, and what to leave out in the editing room. The filmmakers still have a stance, whether or not they choose to reveal it to the audience. Nonetheless, Tomer Almagor and Nadav Harel come very close to presenting the subject of King of Beasts in an unbiased light. Their protagonist is Aaron Neilson, a middle-aged white man who makes more than a livable income as a hunting guide in the Colorado mountains. He leads a relatively simple life, and gives his girlfriend shit about how much she’s spending at the nail salon. Meanwhile, he’s planning his fourteenth trip to Tanzania so that he can add to his prodigious lion trophy collection. He kills plenty of other animals too, but lions are his passion. They’re the reason he spends thousands of dollars and flies 9000 miles. He reminds me of my daughter with her endless amassing of plushies. It would be amusing, were it not for the fact that his toys were once majestic living creatures. But he maintains that his hobby is misunderstood. They have to go to Tanzania and see it for themselves. Through this film, we can do just that. And guess what? It’s still not a great look.

Almagor and Harel offer all this without comment – there are no titles or narration in King of Beasts. It’s a true fly-on-the-wall account. Neilson tells the camera that he just wants a chance to show things from his side. The animal rights activists who admonish him on the internet haven’t met a lion up close. They haven’t felt the thrill and righteousness of knowing you’re at the top of the food chain. He respects the animals, he says. But it’s his god given right to take their lives. He’s not murdering Simba from The Lion King. These animals are nothing but natural born killing machines. On top of that, he’s totally helping the people of Tanzania by bringing them his tens of thousands of dollars…

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail!

Advertisements

Film Review: This World Alone

1world-1

Everyone is feeling pretty bleak these days. The Worldwide Magic 8-Ball keep coming up “Outlook Not Good.” So there seems to be no shortage of cinematic post-apocalyptic hellscapes. This World Alone is set after the collapse of modern society known as “The Fall.” But what sets this film apart is that it manages to paint a pretty effective picture of post-electronic life through dialogue and forest settings. Screenwriter Hudson Phillips wrote a powerful story that could be produced on a shoestring budget. His debut feature tells the story of 3 women attempting to thrive in a remote cabin, apart from a society that has embraced Old Testament thinking to bring order to the chaos. Director/editor Jordan Noel compliments the script with his intimate direction and slow-burn pacing.

Belle Adams stars as Sam, a 20-year-old woman who grew up with only books to inform her world view. And so, she longs to see what’s left of the world. But her hardened mother Connie (Carrie Walrond Hood), doesn’t think Sam would make it a day out there on her own. Connie tries to prepare Sam for a harsh world by teaching her to fight and forcing her to sacrifice her pet pig for their supper. Sam is less than enthused about these lessons, creating a familiar mother/daughter power struggle. You can expect to hear Sam make vows about how she will treat her own children someday…

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail!

Film Review: All About Nina

1nina

There may come a day when movies like All About Nina seem antiquated. Remember when the patriarchy infected everything, including comedy? And women had to struggle every second of every day to achieve equal opportunity and respect? And they were slut-shamed and victim-blamed for the transgressions of powerful men? And it was often painful simply to exist as a woman on this earth?

Unfortunately, Eva Vives directorial debut couldn’t be timelier. The prevalence of “#MeToo” might create the illusion that we’re making progress. But change is coming at a snail’s pace. People (not just men) are holding on to the status quo for dear life. That includes the world of comedy, in which women have to work their asses off to justify their inclusion. Most of the time, talent and hard work aren’t enough. All About Nina is a dramedy that’s heavy on the dram. But it’s also a breath of fresh air because it confronts the toxic masculinity that infects the comedy world…

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail!

Film Review: Skate Kitchen

1skate

Vérité teen dramas don’t have to be depressing. Documentary filmmaker Crystal Moselle (The Wolfpack) makes her narrative debut with Skate Kitchen, a coming-of-age tale which follows an 18-year-old Long Island native on her journey to both independence and finding her tribe. Apart from conflict with her single mother (Elizabeth Rodriguez, Orange is the New Black), and a little boy drama, nothing horrific happens to Camille (Rachelle Vinberg). Instead, she joins the ranks of the titular girl skate group, and they traverse Manhattan in empowering formation.

The driving drama comes after a board-related trip to the E.R. Camille’s mom tells her she got lucky, and makes her promise to quit skating. Camille tries to get her fix through the Instagram exploits of the Skate Kitchen. But when they post about a “girl’s skate sesh”, Camille can’t help herself. She creates a cover story and makes the long journey into the city to carefully orchestrate a “casual” meet-up with the like-minded ladies. Because Camille’s talent for skating matches her passion, it’s not long before they’re posting videos of Camille’s tricks and welcoming her into the fold…

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail!

Film Review: Prospect

prospect-sxsw-e1525697994308
The universe is vast and mysterious. But the fact remains that even if humans manage to dwell beyond the confines of Earth, we will still be humans. We’ll likely always be slaves to some sort of currency and thrive on a class divide, even in a far-flung future galaxy. Writer/director team Zeek Earl and Christopher Caldwell work off of this concept in their debut feature space western, Prospect. The alien world they’ve miraculously created on a shoestring budget is rife with implications of an expansive human-populated universe that is inaccessible to their financially-strapped protagonist.

Cee (Sophie Thatcher) is a teenager living with her widower father, Damon (Jay Duplass), on a space freighter. They are prospectors in orbit around a green moon rich with precious gems called aurelacs. Extracting them from their fleshy spermatozoidal sacs is a risky and complicated process. But Damon is uniquely skilled and also desperate to make ends meet, which is why he decides to risk their lives for the chance at one big score that would cure their financial ills for good. Of course, they aren’t the only ones after the motherlode. Damon’s get-rich-quick scheme soon turns into a fight for survival for him and his daughter…

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail!

Seattle International Film Festival 2018 Wrap-Up

ef87bb37d9eeb0f90349e88ae209cf63562e9e06The 2018 Seattle International Film Festival ran from May 17th to June 10th. That’s 25 solid days of movie madness. It kicked off with the premiere of Isabel Coixet’s The Bookshop, starring Emily Mortimer as a widow who uses her “bibliophilia” to open the hearts and minds of the conservative residents of a small English town.

SIFF’s juicy centerpiece was a movie that will undoubtedly take America by storm in the coming months: Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You. Riley was on hand to introduce his surreal social justice comedy to a sold-out crowd.

Gus Van Sant closed out the fest with Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot. The latest offering from the veteran indie director stars Joaquin Phoenix as John Callahan, a celebrated Portland cartoonist who struggles with substance abuse and being confined to a wheelchair.

Melanie Lynskey spent an afternoon talking to fans about her impressive career and promoting Megan Griffiths’ latest outing, Sadie. Lynskey stars as a working-class single mother who underestimates her angry teenage daughter (Sophia Mitri Schloss).

HIGHLIGHTS:
People often ask me for recommendations from the festival, and I’ll have 1 or 2 titles to tout. But there were so many standouts this year, that my answer is, “How much time to do you have?” I try to focus on female-centric films and this year’s lineup made it easy…

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail!

Film Review: Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town

mackenzie-davis-izzy-gets-the-f-ck-across-town-1200x520
It’s worth noting that first-time film director Christian Papierniak has a background in video games because that’s a bit how Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town plays out. When Izzy (Mackenzie Davis, Halt and Catch Fire) learns her ex-boyfriend plans to marry her former best friend, she decides it is her destiny to crash their engagement party. The problem is that Izzy’s car is as broke as she is. In L.A., no wheels mean that 5 hours might not be enough time to get from point A to point B. Izzy does her level best to squeeze favors out of people who don’t support her cause and are have clearly grown tired of her shit. But she’s in a race against time to get to Los Feliz before Roger is officially off the market (never mind the fact that an engagement party is not as binding as an actual wedding).

Papierniak’s protagonist is the manic pixie girl minus the dream. Izzy is a twenty-something lost soul convinced that getting back together with her ex is the answer to her ennui. Davis imbues what could have been a one-note character (the “hot mess”) with depth and occasionally invites empathy despite her myriad poor decisions. Izzy could be a precursor to Gillian Jacobs’ character on the Netflix series, Love. Once upon a time, Izzy was a big deal in the local indie rock scene, but now she’s relegated to the service industry. When she wakes up in bed with an (albeit very charming) stranger, she retains no memory of how she got there or how she soiled her work uniform with wine (and possibly blood). None of that matters anyway, because young Izzy is driven by Providence. In fact, it is a postcard from the Road Island capital hanging in her hook-up’s bathroom which convinces her that it’s her destiny to reconcile with her ex on the eve of his engagement to someone else. You see, the party is on Providence Road…

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail!

  • Calendar

    • September 2019
      M T W T F S S
      « Jul    
       1
      2345678
      9101112131415
      16171819202122
      23242526272829
      30  
  • Search