Review: Good Time (2017)

Good Time (dir. Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie, 2017) – Constantine Nikas spends a night attempting to break his brother out of prison after a botched robbery.

Verdict

Promising less than its namesake, Good Time presents an unflinching portrait of crime, propelled by misguided familial love.

4/5

Review

In hopes for a better future, Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) ropes his mentally handicapped brother Nick (Ben Safdie) into his precarious life of crime. But a botched bank heist lands Nick in prison alone and leaves him unable to cope behind bars, where only the harshest of convicts escape unscathed.

The pure always act from love, the damned always act from love. Iggy Pop’s haunting track captures the complex dynamics of the Nikas brothers in Good Time. There is much to admire about how layered characters are despite minimal exposition. For instance, while it is never clear what first led Connie down the transgressive path, his criminal inclination seems borne of a misguided belief that the means may justify the end.

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Favourite Movies of 2017

Time has come for us to look back at 2017’s fair share of favourites and letdowns in film. As always, due to late releases, I am missing out on movies that I might have loved, including Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here.

Sadly, I have also had less time for trips to the cinema. Even so, Netflix has produced plenty of stunning works, some surpassing even the most anticipated blockbusters. Scouring through the films I have seen both online and off, here is a list of my personal picks.

10. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (dir. Noah Baumbach)

With his works from the realist (The Squid and the Whale) to the expressly whimsical (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), Noah Baumbach has earned a solid reputation as a versatile and brilliantly empathic screenwriter. The Meyerowitz Stories returns to his familiar world of family dysfunction, where estranged siblings find commonality in their individual search for human connection.

The outstanding work sees Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler reunite as brothers at loggerheads, alongside Elizabeth Marvel as their wallflower-sister, and Dustin Hoffman as the egotistic patriarch of the family. Subtle individual quirks reveal their identifiable histories, of which the cast plays to perfection. Catharsis ensues.

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Review: Sausage Party (2016)

Sausage Party (dir. Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon, 2016) – Some food products are about to learn the truth about their purpose.

Verdict

From the guys behind This is the End comes a predictably raunchy and often objectionable comedy, amusing for what it is.

3/5

Review

After eight years in gestation, the passion project of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg is finally born. Enter Pixar’s defective cousin Sausage Party, which will leave unsuspecting audiences audibly aghast and possibly outraged.

Somehow managing to land a willing investor, this sausage-starring rated animation turns out as raunchy and juvenile as what you would expect from Apatow’s Frat Pack. For the lot who knew what they were getting into, this kooky project works better than it should.

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Review: Lucid Dream / Lusideu deulim (2017)

Lucid Dream (dir. Kim Joon-sung, 2017) – After the abduction of his son, Dae-ho attempts lucid dreaming, an experimental psychiatric therapy that enables patients to access lost memories.

Verdict

Better enjoyed as a dramatic thriller than science fiction, Lucid Dream owes more to its excellent cast than the jerry-built plotting.

3/5

Review

When an elusive memory is all you have to find your missing child, what wouldn’t you give to relive it for a glimpse of a clue? That is what drives Dae-ho (Soo Go) to revisit the day of his son’s abduction over and over again. Assisted by neurologist So-hyun (Kang Hye-jeong), he repeatedly reconstructs the scene in hopes of uncovering forgotten details, even if the experimental therapy comes at a cost.

Entering the dream world is nothing new but a rehashed concept, which The Cell and Inception have put forth on a grander scale. Lucid Dream sets itself up for inevitable comparisons to its spiritual predecessors, but makes a lesser mark in terms of stunning visuals or layered storytelling.

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Review: Shimmer Lake (2017)

Shimmer Lake (dir. Oren Uziel, 2017) – Local sheriff Zeke Sikes investigates a bank heist gone wrong, when a trio of small town criminals including his own brother appears to have skipped town.

Verdict

While a gratifying black comedy, Shimmer Lake comes up short on the characters front.

3/5

Review

Touted as an inventive crime thriller told in reverse, Shimmer Lake may risk misleading hopes for a complex mystery noir à la Memento. But the Netflix original could be better off finding a kin in pulp fiction. Expectations are defied in other ways, where the cast of comedians holds off laugh-out-loud humour, in exchange for subtle black comedy.

The genre works well for this grim story that unfolds in a gritty small town. Andy Sikes (Rainn Wilson) is the man of the hour, on the run after a bank heist gone wrong. Leaving a trail of dead bodies behind, the local sheriff – and his very own brother – Zeke (Benjamin Walker) has taken the lead in the manhunt.

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Review: The Similars / Los Parecidos (2015)

The Similars / Los Parecidos (dir. Isaac Ezban, 2015) – While waiting out a thunderstorm at a bus station, eight strangers soon experience a bizarre collective phenomenon.

Verdict

A perturbing puzzle meets absurdist comedy in The Similars, a brilliantly crafted and highly entertaining homage to vintage sci-fi.

4/5

Review

For anyone who has ever loved The Twilight ZoneThe Similars may be a familiar watch. Spiritual echoes of beloved episodes such as Mirror Image resound in the mystery thriller, which then veers off the beaten path and narrowly avoids allegations of total mimicry.

With his inventive follow-up to The Incident (El Incidente), director Isaac Ezban is quickly proving himself a true maestro of small-scale, high-concept science fiction. His narrative style is distinct, his vintage horror influences accentuated by eerie synth strings in the backdrop.

Taking us back to 1968, his latest venture spotlights eight strangers, stranded at a bus station during a storm. Ulises (Gustavo Sanchez Parra) staggers in, anxious to get to Mexico City for his wife’s childbirth. When stationmaster Martin (Fernando Becerri) dismisses his concerns, Ulises turns to a pregnant missus Irene (Cassandra Ciangherotti), who has apparently secured a cab amidst the unrelenting weather.

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