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It is a quiet, methodically paced thriller where a metaphorical kettle is at a constant near boil until it reaches a fever-pitch punctuated by extreme violence, and one of the tensest and most nerve-wracking stand-offs in cinematic history. Sheridan proves himself a capable director who frames most of the film in striking wide shots that capture the sheer nothingness of the landscape, and when lead starts flying, he keeps the camera steady—all of the action remains in frame, adding to the sense of desperation, sloppiness and overall pointlessness that each outburst of violence seems to harbor.
There, a montage takes us through the supply chain of the mobsters for whom XXXX works as a middleman; his superiors include big brass Jimmy Kenneth Cranham and a couple lower-level associates, Morty George Harris and Gene Colm Meaney. In mood, this introductory segment pulls as much from Soderbergh as it does Scorsese, revealing that, for XXXX and the movie he holds together, the modus operandi is calm, cool and collected.
The catch: These are tough-as-nails man-babies who would pump you full of lead at the drop of a hat. In the end, Layer Cake is all about delivery—of drugs into the hands of eager buyers, but also, on the part of XXXX, of an attitude of cool that will both reassure his clients of his reliability and, reaching beyond the proverbial fourth wall, invite viewers into an elite, rarefied position from which they can look down on some shenanigans.
Through his candid, confiding narration, XXXX waves us into the milieu of organized crime—while remaining above it all. No wonder Craig ended up being tapped for the new Bond.
Ruth wonders aloud why everyone is an asshole moreso, why assholes so easily get away with being assholes , and Blair seemingly wonders the same thing, punctuating his mundane neo-noir with gruesome violence and unexpected physical comedy a projectile vomit scene, in particular, rivals the classic back-alley puke-fest from Team America. Two performers bare it all, both literally and figuratively: Creep 2 is one of the most surprising, emotionally resonant horror films in recent memory.
But Damien Power holds our attention throughout Killing Ground. Power treats every beat in the narrative as an opportunity for disquieting his viewers, using a collection of techniques to progressively raise the hairs on our arms, but more importantly he maintains an enduring harmony across multiple plot threads and perspectives without losing either himself or us. The film begins with our designated protagonists, married couple Ian Ian Meadows and Sam Harriet Dyer , and slowly, precisely expands to include two other involved parties. As soon as they arrive at their destination, they notice that someone else has beaten them there, setting up their own campsite at the same spot Ian and Sam had in mind.
It just burns. In Creep , Patrick Brice makes a mercurial study of these fears through the veneer of found footage. As genre niches go, the found footage conceit wore out its welcome in a deluge of Paranormal Activity imitators over the span of the past eight years. Aaron is down on his luck and looking for fast, easy cash. Josef is a vibrating ball of pent-up, charismatic energy. Hence Aaron, whom Josef has hired as his personal videographer.
Josef wants to record a single day in his life for his unborn son, whom he may never get to meet. So the two men strike out on an adventure through hill and dale, which sounds fine and dandy except that Josef is weird. Really weird, in fact, and not the quirky, precious kind of weird that indie audiences find endlessly endearing. And Brice has a deft hand at fostering sustained terror. Rather, he treats them as bait, and anticipation as a red herring, executing his many misdirections brilliantly.
The story centers on Abel Morales Oscar Isaac , an immigrant-turned-aspiring-heating-oil-magnate whose attempts at expanding his business land him in hot water with the government, the banks and the local Mafia. Equally great is the supporting cast, which boasts Jessica Chastain , David Oyelowo and an unrecognizable Albert Brooks. The result is a tense, effective thriller that goes out of its way to highlight two strong actors in an unfettered celebration of their craft.
This is nothing new for Flanagan, whose recent output in the horror genre has been commendable. Is this coincidence? Or is the director drawn to stories that reflect the struggle of women to claim independence in their lives by shedding old scars or ghosts, be they literal or figurative? By the end, the children form a full-fledged army under the Commandant, mercilessly killing and conquering as a group. Cary Fukunaga True Detective directs.
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Cam Year: Director: Daniel Goldhaber As so many films in have shown us, the identities we create online—that we digitally design, foster and mature, often to the detriment of whatever we have going on IRL—will inevitably surpass us. Evil , answers the simple question: What if those hillbillies are just socially awkward fellows sprucing up a vacation home and the young college kids in question are just prone to repeatedly jumping to incorrect, often fatal, conclusions?
Think Final Destination meets the Darwin Awards. Everybody Knows Year: Director: Asghar Farhadi The mixture of plot twists and moral shading, the focus on flawed characters and irresolvable pasts: Fans of writer-director Asghar Farhadi have come to cherish these trademark elements in his films. Her tragedy may be that, suddenly, it could be too late to do anything about it, and Lennie displays the flurry of anger, sadness and panic that accompany such a profound test of her marriage. Under the Shadow Year: Director: Babak Anvari For most of the film, Babak Anvari is crafting a stifling period drama, a horror movie of a different sort that tangibly conveys the claustrophobia of Iran during its tumultuous post-revolution period.
Seeing Shideh defy the Khomeini regime by watching a Jane Fonda workout video, banned by the state, is almost as stirring as seeing her overcome her personal demons by protecting her child from a more literal one. This South Korean story of a career-minded father attempting to protect his young daughter on a train full of rampaging zombies is equal parts suspenseful popcorn entertainment and genuinely affecting family drama.
Dashing Dr. Robert Laing Tom Hiddleston wanders waste-strewn halls. Seems about right. Frontier justice does quench our thirst, but the themes of social justice that drive the film are more satiating by far. It all adds up to a towering work, as profound as it is profane.
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Cop Car Year: Director: Jon Watts A lean, rugged neo-noir that tweaks genre conventions by putting two young boys at the center of its attention, Cop Car opens with credits shimmering like police lights. They decide that the car has been abandoned. Apparently having both run away from home, the two speed around the cow-populated landscape like juvenile delinquents unconcerned about the potentially serious consequences of their actions.
Such uninhibited, devil-may-care recklessness gives the material an immediate jolt of peril, even before Watts rewinds his tale to reveal the origins of the car and its owner. Critical examination aside, it truly is a frightening film, from the scene in which Cole Willis is locked in a box with an abusive ghost to such little moments as when all the kitchen cabinets and drawers open at once while off-screen.
For better or worse, though, this is the defining film of M. Rarely has the danger of success been so clearly illustrated for an artist—Shyamalan crafted a scary film that still holds up today, and then spent most of the next decade chasing that same accomplishment with rapidly diminishing returns that have only recently been rehabilitated with the likes of The Visit and Split. This is super-serious Clooney, Michael Clayton without the swagger.
Similarly boring assassins try to kill him. What kind of elite assassin drives a Ford Focus hatchback? Maybe he feels that life can be lived no other way for a man like him; in a godless universe he finds form within chaos and survives. Their latest, The Endless , is all about brotherhood couched in unfathomable terror of Lovecraftian proportions. Though, in The Endless , the end is uncertain, but maybe the title makes that a smidge obvious.
Its image is only seen on camera once, but once is enough to make an impression. Here, the intimacy is fraternal, which perhaps speaks to how Moorhead and Benson feel about each other. The Conjuring Year: Director: James Wan Let it be known: James Wan is, in any fair estimation, an above average director of horror films at the very least. The progenitor of big money series such as Saw and Insidious has a knack for crafting populist horror that still carries a streak of his own artistic identity, a Spielbergian gift for what speaks to the multiplex audience without entirely sacrificing characterization.
Reminding me of the experience of first seeing Paranormal Activity in a crowded multiplex, The Conjuring has a way of subverting when and where you expect the scares to arrive. Its intensity, effects work and unrelenting nature set it several tiers above the PG horror against which it was primarily competing. It was simply too frightening to deny, and that is worthy of respect. Enemy Year: Director: Denis Villeneuve The chance to portray twins or at-odds characters in a single film is catnip for actors of a certain level of ambition, though not without potential pitfalls.
The impulse to chew scenery or present grand differentiation is often difficult to resist. A woozy, danger-infused rumination on identity that triggers tripwires of personal panic and awakened sexual compulsion, Enemy is like a cold glass of water to the face of cinematic formalism. Watching a movie recommended by a coworker, he spots a bit-part actor named Anthony Clair Gyllenhaal again who looks exactly like him.
At once confused and oddly bewitched, Adam goes to great lengths to track down Anthony, who lives in another city with his pregnant wife, Helen Sarah Gadon , and seems to have quit acting. Then he contacts him. A complex psychosexual game ensues that has consequences for all. Through it all, Villeneuve exudes a masterful sense of control and purpose.
Cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc, meanwhile, embraces a desaturated visual palette that at times feels splashed with brown mustard, which in turn complements austere production design by Patrice Vermette. Of course, none of this would much matter if Enemy was hung on the peg of an actor with less command of his craft than Gyllenhaal. As fantastical as Enemy is at certain moments, Gyllenhaal, along with Villeneuve, brings the stark horror of this psychological grappling match to life. This is true of slow-burn cinema of any stripe, but Kusama slow-burns to perfection.
The key, it seems, to successful slow-burning in narrative fiction is the narrative rather than the actual slow-burn. In the case of The Invitation , that involves a tale of deep and intimate heartache, the kind that none of us hopes to ever have to endure in our own lives.
The film taps into a nightmare vein of real-life dread, of loss so profound and pervasive that it fundamentally changes who you are as a human being.
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The film starts in earnest as Will Logan Marshall-Green in top form arrives at a dinner party his ex-wife, Eden Tammy Blanchard , is throwing at what once was their house. He has brought his girlfriend, Kira Emayatzy Corinealdi , along with him. Where we end is obviously best left unsaid, but The Invitation is remarkable neither for its ending nor for the direction we take to arrive at its ending. Instead, it is remarkable for its foundation, for all of the substantive storytelling infrastructure that Kusama builds the film upon in the first place.
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Led by Josh, these extreme environmentalists are going to blow up a nearby dam in the middle of the night, hoping to send a message to the community about respecting the earth and curbing the spread of rapid industrialization. Collaborating with her frequent screenwriting partner Jon Raymond, Reichardt gives us a meticulous overview of precisely how Josh and his cohorts will go about their act of terrorism.
Practically a procedural in its dispassionate handling of the material, Night Moves would rather observe than editorialize, although as usual Reichardt is interested in how people are both attracted to and at odds with the untamed mystery of the natural world.