This is the final day for my 2020 catch-up capsules. More to come, of course, throughout the rest of the year, but until then...
dir: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
pr: Eric Newman / Bryan Unkeless
scr: Mattson Tomlin
cin: Michael Simmonds
In which an unlikely trio investigates the origins of a dangerous drug. Jamie Foxx - so charismatic, making magic out of very little. The rest of the film? Empty, cheap-looking, never clicks.
dir: Natalie Erika James
pr: Jake Gyllenhaal / Riva Marker / Anna McLeish / Sarah Shaw
scr: Natalie Erika James & Christian White
cin: Charlie Sarroff
In which a mother and daughter become concerned with the mental deterioration of grandmother...and something more? The ways in which it depicts dementia as a space of real horror - where familiar places keep changing their size and shape, everyday sounds take on a sinister connotation, the sufferer seems to become a completely different person - is frightening and thought-provoking. Great concept, and yet, hm, I don't know, I think it's a little...dull? A little beholden to its genre, to the point where the finale isn't as effective as it could be? Seemed cathartic, though.
dir/scr: Michael Almereyda
pr: Michael Almereyda / Christa Campbell / Lati Grobman / Per Melita / Isen Robbins / Uri Singer
cin: Sean Price Williams
In which Nikola Tesla. Couldn't help but think of Ken Russell's composer biopics, specifically Mahler and Lisztomania; they, too, try to capture the spirit of a creative's drive and work while eschewing period accuracy, realistic sets, and traditional structure. Tesla offers insight into Nikola's self-described "burning brain," this noise of past, present and future not colliding together, but living side-by-side, already here, enabling him to see the possibilities. It's also, I think, an interesting exploration of how biopics are made, with its painted backdrops gradually giving way to rear projections, invented scenarios immediately debunked, anachronistic music numbers... Inventive!
All Together Now
dir: Brett Haley
pr: Marty Bowen / Ellen Goldsmith-Vein / Isaac Klausner / Lee Stollman
scr: Matthew Quick and Brett Haley &
cin: Rob Givens
In which a high schooler balances multiple responsibilities while staying quiet about her homelessness. Based on the book Sorta Like a Rock Star, the title change is disappointingly generic at first glance, yet in context, surprisingly appropriate and a little lovely. This is, after all, the story of someone accepting the help she's so willing to give others, a reflection of how far her generosity of spirit has reached. And what a showcase for its ensemble of ladies: Auli'i Cravalho anchoring things in the lead, Justina Machado and Judy Reyes going toe-to-toe, Carol Burnett does her thing, the group of Korean adult ESL students, Taylor Richardson as the very chill, very cool drama kid. The boys are good, too.
dir/scr: Juliano Dornelles & Kleber Mendonça Filho
pr: Saïd Ben Saïd / Emilie Lesclaux / Michel Merkt
cin: Pedro Sotero
In which a small Brazilian village becomes the unexpected center of some unpleasantness. The kind of movie that knocks you out the first time around, but you know you didn't catch it all, not every relationship, not every nuance, certainly not the socio-political context unless you're already informed on these things (and I'm not!). Thrilling, hot, lived-in.
Best of the Bunch: All Together Now, Bacurau, Tesla