Cinema 2017 Half-Time Report: Movies 2/4

It feels as though the deep dramas, cringey horrors, and black comedies are three of the freshest produce on the market these days – lucky for us the next few fall into those boxes. If you haven’t seen the following movies from this year, you have some work to do:

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Free Fire

I had the absolute pleasure of watching the movie Free Fire opening night and I could not have loved the film more. From director Ben Wheatley, Free Fire is an explosive and witty action/comedy that had myself and theater howling with laughter. A fast-paced Edgar Wright like action film, that focuses on a black-market gun deal that goes horribly wrong and a gun fight that breaks out to try and ensure both sides get what they want. Fun alliances are formed and a tremendous cast with standouts from Armie Hammer, Sharlito Copely, and Brie Larson help drive the hilarious shoot out forward. The most surprising thing about Free fire is everything takes place on one set for almost two hours, incredibly Wheatley manages to keep your attention for what is basically an hour-long action sequence of guns, one liners, and gravity defying 80’s hair. Treat yourself, watch Free Fire! —– Mike Austin @MuzakWeeWoo

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Chavela

Chavela fits snugly into the bio-documentary format, but it bursts at the seems. Regaling us with pictures, recordings, and old interviews with the most renowned Mexican singer in history, Chavela Vargas, the film’s directors (Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi) don’t go for the narrative jugular–they don’t have to. As an out lesbian and gregarious lush, Vargas was a towering figure who needs no emphasis. She and the stories her friends tell as talking heads are bold, shocking and remembered with wit only found in patrons of bygone nightclubs and cabarets. If you begin Chavela knowing nothing about its subject, you’ll end Chavela deeply in love with the earth-quaking performer. If you were already in love, well, it will be devastating to part with such an enamored film. —– Ian Nichols @iantilnic

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U-ri-deul (The World of Us)

To adults, the world of children can be a most perplexing place; to children, it may be even more so. Beyond and before the social rigours of rural Korean society, of the world of adults, of a social stratum to which she can never aspire stands the 10-year-old protagonist of Yoon Ga Eun’s The World of Us. A new friendship over summer vacation promises new hope for this ostracized girl, until those rigours rear their unwelcome heads as a new reality re-emerges: the real world. This is an uncommonly astute film, Yoon’s original screenplay demonstrating a remarkable grasp on the qualities of childhood interrelationships that is matched by the performances of her exceptional young cast. A bona fide work of dramatic excellence. —– Paddy Mulholland @screenonscreen

Umi yori mo mada fukaku (After the Storm)

Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda writes and directs a family drama so soothing and sensitive in all the tensions and pain it depicts that it becomes one of the most tranquil film experiences of the year. The literal storm and shelters provide a wonderful physical narrative, but of course also cater for the inner struggles of them all. Ultimately for the main character Ryota, he is also to claim back some scope of himself with his mother and sister, as well as strengthening the bond with his son, and accepting what has become of his relationship with the boy’s mother.. —– Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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Dao khanong (By the Time It Gets Dark)

Welcome to the stage, Anocha Suwichakornpong! Everyone’s favourite new Thai auteur delves into that most essential of topics in the cinema of South-East Asia: her nation’s troubled political history. A thesis on the act and the importance of remembering, and on that of representing such remembrances, By the Time It Gets Dark is a beguiling piece with as much ephemeral power to enchant as it possesses enduring power to disturb. As another voice to a rather minute chorus, Suwichakornpong’s presentation of the past and its ever-more-dwindling hold on the present is a vital contribution to cinema’s statement on the history of this region, and the breakthrough work from a filmmaker likely destined to become one of the medium’s most influential voices in its upcoming years. —– Paddy Mulholland @screenonscreen

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The Keepers

True Crime documentaries, TV shows, and podcasts are all the rage these days. But Netflix’s The Keepers proves to be the most surprising yet. What begins as an inquisition into the unsolved death of a Maryland Catholic nun in the 1960s becomes an investigation into systemic sexual abuse at a Catholic girls school in the heart of Baltimore. The Keepers snakes through a disturbing murder mystery and a deplorably unacknowledged sex scandal. Throughout we’re intrigued by the mystery, disturbed and heartbroken over the abuse, horrified by suspects’ haunted lives, and finally driven over the edge by institutional inaction. These seven hours of captivating truth-telling are a tempest of emotions–accomplishing affects few theatrical releases have this year. —– Ian Nichols @iantilnic

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore

Man oh man, is this movie a ride and a half. One of the most surprisingly entertaining films this year, like a splash of cold water just when you need it. This is actor Macon Blair’s first venture as a writer and director, and this is no beginners luck. Not only does he write with flair and chronic black humor, he also carpenters his own material like a true craftsman. In casting Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood in roles I would bet were written just for them (and parts I suspect they always wanted but never knew), there is clearly some method to all the madness. Netflix hits another home-run, then, in distributing this to our screens, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a haphazard riot throughout, switching pace and posture on its own terms. —– Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

The Eyes of My Mother

And then Hitchcock met Lynch and by their powers of their individual brands of lunacy combined, together, they birthed a love child, forever caging its unhinged beauty in an eternal black and white torment of an ephialtes. Said legacy is a splendidly flawed, demented photoplay of utter chaos that miraculously finds itself in perfect emotional harmony amidst a psychological disarray the magnitude of which can only be assumed since its actual truth is, in truth, unthinkable. —– The Greek

Let us know the films you think stood out in 2017 so far. 16 more to come shortly.

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