Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Jeremy Renner plays Gary Webb, the journalist who in the 1990s published a series of articles alleging that the CIA was importing crack cocaine into the US and flooding the inner cities with it in order to fund Nicaraguan contras. He publishes his findings without verifying his sources or facts (no one wants to go on the record), and as a result experiences a smear campaign orchestrated by the CIA that puts him on the defensive and ruins his professional reputation. It's not a great film, but there's a passion and fury to it that keep it compelling, even as the facts and purported facts become murky. Renner is quite good. ***

David Oyelowo gives a very potent performance as a vlogger who has (this is giving nothing away) just killed his mother and is attempting to turn his life around. He is obsessed with an old Army buddy and becomes very focused on having the man over for a nice dinner, even as the Army buddy's wife has been trying to keep them apart. There's an intimacy to the film that's very disturbing, but something keeps it from really soaring. I think it's because the film is directed like a thriller, but doesn't really lead anywhere thrilling. I mean, we already know from the first scene that he's killed his mother, so why try and make it a thriller? What does hold the film together is Oyelowo's excellent performance, which perhaps surpasses his performance in Selma, but which is at the service of a lesser film. The tagline for this movie is "There's no escaping your own mind." I wish the film had lived up to this concept of a disturbing personal journey, but it's so literal-minded that it becomes tedious in spots. But Oyelowo is worth it, at least once. ***

One of the last silent films and one of the first color features, telling the story of Leif Erickson (Donald Crisp) as he journeys to the New World. It's melodramatic and arch, but I really liked it. Pauline Starke is quite a sight as Helga, a Viking warrior in love with a slave, and her over-the-top, horned costumes are kind of thrilling. It's silly, but I loved its sensibilities. ***1/2

Horror flick by Tobe Hooper about four dumbass teens who think it'll just be hilarious to try and spend the night in the funhouse of the traveling carnival they're groping each other at. Then they witness a murder committed by a deformed kid and start being hunted. It's hard to root for the kids when they bring everything upon themselves with their selfish jackassery, but I like a lot of the imagery and the Rick Baker makeup. I love it when movies remember that carnivals have something dark and creepy underneath, and the funhouse sets are pretty spectacular. ***

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

I think I liked Kill the Messenger more than you.