Apr 26, 2016

Movie Bites

So many movies, so little time. Here are some mini-reviews of things I' ve seen recently:

The Measure of A Man

I recommend this small, powerful film in which the hero (the great Vincent Lindon) is a guy who loses his job and is willing to do anything to have one, until his conscience says "enough". It takes place mostly in a kind of French WalMart. Director Stephane Brizé wrests nail-biting suspense from a conversation with the guy in the unemployment bureau, from confrontations between security guys in the store and people whom they catch stealing. No swelling string section when the hero stops at nothing to do the heroic thing. Just the relentless fight of every man, every day, for dignity.


A heroic fuck up, Krisha, the title character of this strange and powerful movie, is a larger than life walking disaster, played with ferocious, self-destructive panache by Krisha Fairchild. Director Trey Edward Shults, who wrote, directed, produced and acts as Krisha's son, uses his family members and recombines them to tell the story of a Thanksgiving dinner from hell thanks to the arrival of this middle-aged woman whom the family views with condescension and very little patience. And for good reason. She abandoned her son, she's a drunk, and she is way too long in the tooth for her aimless, needy, self-indulgent antics. Her fragility belies an almost industrial-grade energy for self-sabotage. You know that when a humongous turkey is introduced, and she is in charge of it, things are going to go very, very wrong. Shults weaves this tale with equal doses of dark humor (not that the other family members are that sane), family horror, and true heartbreak. It's all somehow wonderfully cathartic.

Miles Ahead

Don Cheadle is fantastic as Miles Davis in this quirky, invented episode in the great trumpeter's life, which Cheadle himself directed and co-wrote. While I understand Cheadle's resistance to make this a conventional biopic, and his aim to capture Davis' unruly spirit (which he nails, here and there), the plot is too silly and it conspires against Cheadle's push to show Davis's anarchic side. Still, after this year's Oscars so white brouhaha, here's a very deserving performance.


Green Room

Jeremy Saulnier's genre exercise in horror makes absolutely no sense and wastes an interesting premise (a touring rock band falls prey to a skinhead militia), in this tepid, arty slaughterhouse flick. There is no suspense, just dull spurts of mangled flesh. It's nicely shot and is peppered with dry humor but nothing is believable, much less the elegant Patrick Stewart, sporting his usual plummy British accent as the urbane leader of the neo-nazis.

The Invitation

A truly disquieting and unnerving movie that is undone by a mostly amateurish cast, The Invitation is a dark little tale of cultish obsession that takes place in the Hollywood Hills, a perfect little metaphor for the obsessive LA self-improvement culture. A couple is invited to dinner with old friends whom they haven't seen since a terrible loss happened. The evening turns out to be more than an innocent dinner party. Director Karyn Kusama displays a very good hand at making this evening as creepy and uncomfortable as possible. She is aided by the great John Carroll Lynch as a guest with a quietly menacing air, and by convincing performances by Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard and Lindsay Burdge as the hippie chick from hell. It's really too bad that the rest of the photogenic cast cannot muster the chops to make it feel like they've actually known each other for years. Still, the overall icky feeling and a fantastic twist at the end make it an interesting option among horror films.

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