Tag Archives: 2015 film

Faults (2015)

14 Jun

“When you are awake you think more, but when you are tired you feel more,” explains Ansel to his sleep-deprived hostage, Claire. “So I’m forcing you to stay awake so you can feel what I am trying to say to you.” Ansel Roth (Leland Orser) is a former authority on cults, mind control, and brainwashing. He spends his days on the road, trying to sell his latest book at a series of dead-end hotel conventions. He eventually is confronted with two parents (Chris Ellis and Beth Grant) whose daughter Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has ran away to join a mysterious cult group called Faults. Desperate to have their daughter back, they offer Ansel 20 grand if he can effectively de-brainwash their daughter from this newfound religion. Strapped for cash after a recent divorce, Ansel takes the job.

Faults starts out as a dark comedic piece brought on by Ansel’s quirky and awkward mannerisms. Surprisingly, the comedy then slowly gives way to a dark crime drama and then full-on psychological thriller. It’s a film that’s deeply felt and experienced rather than simply viewed and is sure to leave its subconscious mark in the brain long after the credits.

First time director Riley Stearns does a great job bringing out some killer performances from a pitch-perfect cast of actors. Most of the film revolves around our two leads trying to pry open each other’s brains, which triggers a psychological meltdown in the final act. It wouldn’t work so well without some exceptional acting, but fortunately the performances of Orser and Winstead are both knockouts.

The film does drag somewhere at the halfway point where the dialogue wears a bit thin, but for the most part Faults is a stimulating puzzle capable of leaving you laughing at one moment and horrified the next.

Bottom Line: Expertly mixing tone and genre, Faults is a darkly satisfying indie mindfuck sure to please those looking for something different.

 

Screenshot 2015-06-07 22.03.29

Rating: 8/10 

 

Film Recipe: Upstream Color (2013), + Sound Of My Voice (2011) + Coen Bros

Take Me To The River (2015 Sundance)

8 Apr

Ryder, our 17-year-old Californian protagonist, has just recently come to terms with the fact that he is gay. He wants to let others know too, including his mother’s conservative extended family.  “Does Grandma know I’m gay?” Ryder (Logan Miller) asks from the back of the car, en route to a family reunion. Cindy, his mother (played by Robin Weigert) is much more reserved about her son’s sexuality. Hesitant to let the cat out of the bag in front of her family she hasn’t been close with in years, Cindy tells her son to hold off on coming out until the timing is right.

Directed by Matt Sobel, Take Me To The River, aka – “The Family Reunion From Hell” delicately examines one boy’s newfound identity in the midst of exceptional circumstances. What results is an incredibly uncomfortable 85 minutes as the implications arise of being a closeted gay teen at an ultra-conservative rural Nebraska barbeque. Later, an unnamed incident involving Molly (Ursula Parker), the youngest daughter of Cindy’s temperamental brother Keith (Josh Hamilton) triggers a series of events that shake the entire family. Take Me To The River is a deeply felt and hypnotic film that overflows with anxiety and a bubbling tension. Miller is great as Ryder, the angsty and frustrated teen who rightfully rages against his family’s prejudices.  Hamilton might have the least well-written character (typical right-wing stereotypes abound) but he also gives a solid performance, though Weigert’s is the best of the bunch as the morally conflicted mother who cares for her son but who is also desperate to mend ties with her emotionally-distant family.

Shot on an ultra-low budget, Take Me To The River is Matt Sobel’s first feature, but you wouldn’t know it as the film shows a mature sense of storytelling and making hidden conflict manifest on the big screen. Premiering in Sundance Film Festival’s NEXT section (my favorite section of the fest) Sobel shows great promise as a new indie director and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Bottom Line: Take Me To The River is a surprisingly suspenseful and genuinely heartfelt coming of age film showing great promise for director Matt Sobel and newcomer Logan Miller.

Rating: 8/10 

Film Recipe: Compliance (2012) + The Hunt (2013) + August, Osage County (2013) 

 

H. (Sundance 2015)

4 Feb

Artsy. Wierd. Pretentious. Experimental. Cryptic.

Whatever labels you throw at it, the 2015 Sundance film H. is a hard one to tackle. Equal parts romance, sci-fi, relationship drama, and visual poetry, H. tells the story of two couples whose lives slowly start to intersect into each others’ in conjunction with the passing of some celestial object from space.  The first characters we encounter are Helen and Roy (played by Robin Bartlett and  Julian Gamble respectively), an aging couple from Troy, New York. Helen likes to purchase life-like baby dolls and treat them like real newborn (or as she calls them “reborn” babies, which includes pretending to put them to bed, feeding, and burping them. Roy likes fishing. There is another woman named Helen (Rebecca Dayan), but she is in her 8th month of pregnancy and is into artistic photography along with her husband Alex (Will Janowitz). Both couples seem to innocently carry on with their lives until a mysterious something (natural disaster? meteor? space aliens?) causes the city to go into chaos, triggering a domino effect that weaves in and out of the city.

Featuring some fantastic imagery from this year’s festival (rivaled only perhaps by Lubezki’s work in Last Days in the Desert and the stunning visual palette from The Witch), H. was designed and experienced as a bold visceral journey. Along the way are various cryptic messages referencing the great Greek drama The Iliad. H.‘s music is also intensely compelling. If you haven’t already associated the beautiful cello and piano piece Arvo Part with great cinema after watching There Will Be Bloodyou will now; almost every scene in H. has some variation of the intense melody.

The story itself is pretty inaccessible – most of the audience’s understanding (or lack thereof) comes from subtle visual references – but H. is really a must see because of it’s ability to exhibit and celebrate a truly unique flavor of film. The tone of this thing washed right over me from the start and I was completely entranced by it’s hypnotic spell. In an age where most films feel the need to explain everything to the point of redundancy, it’s incredibly refreshing to see something trying so hard to be ambiguous. H. does feel a little like an amatuer student production at some points, but I absolutely think filmmakers Daniel Garcia and Rania Attieh have a solid future ahead of them. Its lack of a concrete explanation (or any explanation at all) for the events on-screen will surely leave some viewers frustrated, but H. is a bold execution in ambient, atmospheric filmmaking and deserves to be seen.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.12.25 PM

 

Rating: 7/10 

Similar to: Enemy (2014), Under The Skin (2014), Upstream Color (2013) 

Check out the trailer below:

10 MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS 2015

2 Jan

Goodbye 2014 and hello to 2015.

 

Another great cinematic year has come and gone, and 2014 was one for the record books (you can check out my top 25 films of the year here). While we wait to see what film gets the Best Picture Oscar and who gets snubbed come February 22, lets take a look at some upcoming projects for 2015.

 

10 – Z For Zachariah 

Who’s in it – Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Directed By Craig Zobel.

Why? Zobel’s Compliance was one of the best micro-budget thrillers I had seen in a long time.  It looks like he is upping the ante here with some major A-list talent.

Release Date – Unknown for now, but I’ll be catching this at Sundance in late Jan

9 – STAR WARS EPISODE 7 

Who’s in it – All the original stars (Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill) along with an exciting batch of rising talent (Lupita Nyong’o, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, and John Boyega). Directed and written by JJ. Abrams.

Why? After the disappointing trilogy made up Episodes 1, 2 and 3, the pressure is on Abrams to revitalize the classic franchise and restore balance to the force (and our faith in big-budget franchises).  Besides, Hamill needs something to do with his career other than voice video games.

Release Date –  Dec 18 

 

8 – Black Mass 

Who’s in it – An ensemble cast of Johnny Depp, Juno Temple, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Sarsgaard, Sienna Miller, and Kevin Bacon. Directed by Scott Cooper.

Why? After Cooper’s terrific but terribly underrated Out Of The Furnace, I’m extremely curious to see how he handles this FBI crime novel adaptation with such a talented cast.

Release Date – an Oscar friendly Sept 18 

7 – While We Are Young / Mistress America 

Who’s in it – Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver / Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirk. Both films written and directed by Noah Baumbach.

Why? – Baumbach has two films in the pipeline for 2015, and they both look fantastic. While We Are Young received lots of praise after it’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival last September, and Mistress America is slated for a Sundance Film Festival premiere.

Release Date – March 27 / no word yet on a theatrical release for Mistress America, but I’ll catch it at Sundance in late Jan.

 

6- Everest 

Who’s in it – Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, Josh Brolin, Robin Wright. Directed by Baltisar Kormakur.

Why? – The story about a group of mountain climbers becoming trapped on the world’s tallest peak during a snowstorm has me all sorts of excited. Plus, Jake Gyllenhaal.

Release Date – Sept 18 

 

5 – The Martian 

Who’s in it – Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Jessica Chastain, Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara. Directed by Ridley Scott.

Why? – Besides the big-name cast and director, this adaptation about the colonization of mars could continue on the trail of smart Oscar-friendly sci-fi films like Gravity and Interstellar. Or it could be a total flop like The Counselor or Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Release Date – Nov 25

4 – The Revenant

Who’s in it – Leo Dicaprio, Tom Hardy. Directed by Alejandro Inarritu.

Why? Birdman showed that Inarritu could directed something in another genre besides the super-serious drama, and this western thriller will surely showcase the talent of two of today’s biggest actors.

Release Date –  Dec 25 

3 – The Hateful 8 

Who’s in it – Samuel Jackson (of course), Channing Tatum, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Zoe Bell, Bruce Dern. Directed by Quientin Tarintino.

Why? –  Besides being one of the most recognizable auteurs among non-cinephiles, Tarantino is one of those directors that just seems to get better with age. I’m curious to see how he tackles a more traditional western post-Django Unchained.

Release Date – Nov 13 

2  – Knight of Cups 

Who’s in it – Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Antonio Banderas, Cate Blanchett. Directed by Terrence Malick.

Why? Terrence Malick’s epic made my list last year only to be shelved for a Berlin Film Festival premiere in 2015. A teaser trailer shows Malick’s typical visual style paired with an eccentric cast and wild party tone reminiscent of Spring Breakers. Hopefully, it will be worth the extra wait.

Release Date  – Unknown for now but likely to have an awards run Late October or November

 

1 – Silence 

Who’s in it – Adam Driver (again!!), Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson. Directed by Martin Scorsese.

Why? – Scorsese’s adaptation of a Japanese novel about Christian priests enduring persecution overseas is sure to be one of his most personal and controversial films. And this is from the guy who directed Willem Dafoe as Jesus.

Release Date – Unknown, but likely sometime in November 

 

So there ya go. Good stuff on the horizon. What upcoming films are YOU most excited to see?