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TIFF 2014: Bird People

September 15, 2014

directed by Pascale Ferran, 2014

bird people

There’s no easy way to write about Bird People without spoiling the ostensible magic and surprise it so valiantly strives for. Cut almost dead in the middle between depicting the mundane and the thrilling occurrences between two people at a modern and disconnected hotel in Paris, Pascale Ferran’s (Lady Chatterley) film aims to be ambitious and magical, but never quite comes together as it should, often feeling incomplete and insubstantial in the process. Opening with a playful prologue that includes different people on a commuter train, we quickly eavesdrop as they play on their phones, listen to music, and engage in conversation. It’s a curious way to start things off as it suggests the random importance of these brief human snippets that we drop in on but never revisit.

Read full review at Sound on Sight

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TIFF 2014: Two Days, One Night

September 12, 2014

directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2014

Two Days, One Night

Sandra (Marion Cotillard) spends the majority of Two Days, One Night knocking on the doors of her co-workers and modestly pleading with them to decline a significant pay bonus so that she can save her job and her family. Some are instantly receptive to her request while others blow her off and even resort to violence. It’s an episodic structure that is executed with measured precision and tension from master Belgian auteurs and critics-darlings Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (The Kid with a Bike). Acting as the antithesis of the hardworking, stubborn, and desperate titular character from the directing duo’s immaculate Rosetta (1999), Sandra’s glowing and unwavering empathy towards those who stand in opposition to her is the crux of her character and the streamlined grace that runs through this humbled marvel of a film.

Read full review at Sound on Sight

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TIFF 2014: Heaven Knows What

September 12, 2014

directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, 2014

Heaven Knows What

While some spectators may roll their eyes at the thought of another indie film about drug addiction, Josh and Benny Safdie’s Heaven Knows What is a horrifying and remarkable piece of cinema that feels both alarmingly alive and alien given its subject matter. Bold, raw, and severely emotive, the Safdie’s latest is another one of their standard New York tales. Far more emotionally affecting and aesthetically brazen than their first two feature-length films, The Pleasure of Being Robbed (2008) and Daddy Longlegs (2009), Heaven Knows What is one of the few films of its kind that thrives on a new kind of detail and specificity regarding its characters and their milieu.

Read full review at Sound on Sight

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TIFF 2014: Force Majeure

September 12, 2014

directed by Ruben Östlund, 2014

Force Majeure

The folly and arrogance of masculinity is harshly scrutinized in Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure, an intense and intelligent domestic drama that asks some cutting questions about modern gender roles. High up in the French Alps, a family of four slowly crumbles after an instance of cowardice manifests itself and continues to marinate over the course of five days. That the act takes place in just the first ten minutes and slowly festers up until the last few scenes speaks volumes about Östlund as a stylist. While only sporadically involving as an unsettling study of race and class in contemporary Sweden, the director’s last film, Play (2011), hinted at what the director could accomplish with a tighter and more absorbing project. While Force Majeure isn’t a perfect film by any stretch, it should instantly make Östlund a household name.

Read full review at Sound on Sight

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TIFF 2014: Clouds of Sils Maria

September 12, 2014

directed by Olivier Assayas, 2014

Clouds of Sils Maria

“Everything is hitting me at once,” announces Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche), just minutes into director Olivier Assayas’ English-language film Clouds of Sils Maria. It’s a subtle line that quickly introduces us to the frazzled female headspace that Assayas and Binoche have jointly crafted in this Bergman-esque melodrama. Representing a minor change of pace for Assayas, whose prior film Something in the Air (2012) found the director working back in his comfort zone with a youthful period drama, Sils Maria plays like a disappointing relative to the director’s brilliant Irma Vep (1996). Where Irma Vep boasted radical textures, doubling as a crackling satire of French cinema culture and a pulsating experiment riding high on the fumes of its own coolness, Sils Maria is at times wispy and insightful, but its familiar thematics are more taxing than absorbing. Expectations usually run high with Assayas, a critic’s darling and established auteur for some time, but his latest is an inert misfire that never quite finds its proper footing.

Read full review at Sound on Sight

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Blu-Ray Review: Divergent

August 19, 2014

directed by Neil Burger, 2013

divergent

The post-Twilight era’s spawning of female empowerment is thankfully here to stay for the foreseeable future, but takes an unsurprising backseat to formula and perfunctory filmmaking in Divergent, the latest young adult series hoping to hit it big. Director Neil Burger (Limitless) conjures up an ill-advised and glossy slickness that renders Divergent a heavily artificial and disposable slog. Sadly, female wish-fulfillment is the name of the game here, as the film’s futuristic dystopian society is just a common placeholder for the rote trappings already existing within the genre. For now, here sits another slouching and mindless first entry of a franchise void of proper stakes and characterizations, one that should fare very well at the MTV Movie Awards in the coming years.

Read full review at Movie Mezzanine

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Into the Storm

August 11, 2014

directed by Steven Quale, 2013

into the storm

Boasting an underwhelming itinerary of destruction for 89 minutes, Steven Quale’s Into the Storm is the latest entry in the seemingly never-ending found-footage genre. Existing primarily for a culture obsessed with personal documentation and YouTube (not to mention ostensibly serving as a change-of-pace breather from Marvel overload), Into the Storm is an erratic disaster yarn lacking in visceral thrills and dynamic set-piece creativity. Certainly, it pales in comparison to its obvious point of comparison, Jan de Bont’s 1996 Hollywood action spectacle Twister. Often more overwhelmingly silly than terrifying, Into the Storm, as a piece of entertainment, shoots itself in the foot with an off-putting penchant for falsely manufactured drama and cardboard characters.

Read full review at In Review Online

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