A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” the inspirational comedy “Uncle Drew” and a glimpse at the life of Vivienne Westwood called “Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Jennifer Burke to have a look at the weekend’s big releases,“Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” the inspirational comedy “Uncle Drew,” the sci fi b-movie “Upgrade” and a glimpse at the life of Vivienne Westwood called “Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist.”
“Sicario,” Denis Villeneuve’s 2015 war on drugs movie, was a powerful look at a seemingly unwinnable battle and the toll it takes on its soldiers. Marked by tension and moral ambiguity, it wove complex quasi-morality and a sense of hopelessness into an edge of your seat story.
The new film, “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” a sequel of sorts made without director Villeneuve or the ethical auras of Emily Blunt’s character, breathes similar air but is less nuanced. “Sicario” was an arthouse action film. The new one drops the art in favour of the action.
Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro return as CIA agent Matt Graver and assassin Alejandro Gillick. They are by-any-means-necessary black opps agents, tasked with creating chaos within the Mexican drug cartels after the president adds drug cartels to America’s list of terrorist organizations. Seems the drug lords have expanded from moving illegal substances across the border into the United States to importing humans.
Their plan is simple. Kidnap Isabela (Isabela Moner), a drug lord’s 16-year-old daughter, pin the blame on a rival, then sit back and watch the fireworks. “If you want to start a war,” says Graver, “kidnap a prince and the king will start it for you.”
Good plan, except it goes sideways when Isabela breaks free and hits the road. Gillick, who lost his family, including a young daughter, on the orders of Isabela’s drug lord father, rescues the youngster, stowing her in an out-of-the-way home where she becomes a pawn in a high stakes game.
Although the US-Mexico border plays a big role in “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” this isn’t a movie about a wall. Instead it’s a convoluted tale of corruption, fear, relationships, a young girl and the two men who change her life. For most of the running time it works well.
Brolin, the hardest working man at the box office this year, was born to play this amoral do-gooder. He’s a charming killer, a man who does what needs to be done, usually with a one liner and a gun. Like his other characters this summer, “Infinity War’s” Thanos and “Deadpool 2’s” Cable, he’s not above breaking the rules. Bingo. Few actors working right now could pull this off with the kind of steel jawed aplomb that oozes from his pores.
Ditto del Toro who brings an air of menace that positively drips off his perfectly sculpted cheekbones. He’s the boogeyman, a stone cold killer who lives on the edges of morality. This time around Gillick, however, has some softer edges, mostly due to his fondness for Isabela.
Herein lies the first bug-a-boo. When Gillick isn’t shooting people he’s displaying a warm and cuddly side looking after the well-being of the young girl. All of a sudden the guy who murdered kids in the last movie has a big heart. I guess it’s called character development but screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, who wrote the original, sets up an almost impossible situation involving a child. Big dollops of hopelessness and nihilism return from the first film but Isabela’s relationship with Gillick feels forced, like a plot point and not an organic narrative twist. The sense that director Stefano Sollima and Company are more interested in creating a franchise than staying true to the characters or making a statement about the mess at the US-Mexican border hangs heavy over the film, particularly in the final twenty minutes.
“Sicario: Day of the Soldado” is a wild ride until it stops making sense in the last reel. Cynicism and bleakness are still the name of the game but, strangely, Sollima and Sheridan take a u-turn near the end, pushing the limits of belief to create a platform for a sequel. It’s not a feel-good movie but it desperately tries to imitate one in its final moments.
The “war on drugs” is one of the longest battles in American history. In 1971 President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse “public enemy number one,” vowing combat against drug producers and dealers.
Forty years and many billions of dollars later the Global Commission on Drug Policy stated, “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”
Last year, writing in the New York Times, Mexican journalist José Luis Pardo Veiras echoed those sentiments. “Drugs continue to stream north to the United States, the great user, and firearms enter Mexico in return, where they kill thousands.”
The fight has been a failure for everyone except Hollywood, which has consistently mined the war on drugs for stories and colourful characters. This weekend Tom Cruise stars in the latest tale from the war on drugs, American Made, the real-life story of Barry Seal, adrenaline junkie and TWA pilot.
The story begins with Seal being hired by the CIA to take reconnaissance photos of Soviet-backed insurgents in South America. His life quickly spirals out of control as he becomes a courier between the CIA and Panamanian CIA informant General Manuel Noriega while also working as a cocaine smuggler for the Medellin Cartel.
Drug cartel stories are tailor made for the movies. Populated by bigger-than-life characters like the wealthiest criminal in history, the so-called “The King of Cocaine,” Pablo Escobar, the stories have it all: glamour, drama, moral ambiguity and the primal clash of good and evil. Here are three films with three very different approaches to the war on drugs.
One critic described Sicario as a “French Connection for the drug-fuelled Mexico-US border war.” Starring Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin, it’s a drama about an idealistic FBI agent working with an elite task force to stem the flow of drugs between Mexico and the United States. It’s gritty and certainly not a feel-good movie about winning the war on drugs. Instead, it’s a powerful look at a seemingly unwinnable battle and the toll it takes on its soldiers.
Savages is an over-the-top Oliver Stone movie that sees Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch as drug dealers and two thirds of a love triangle with a California cutie played by Blake Lively. Their product, a potent strain of legal medical-grade marijuana, earns the attention of a Mexican Baja drug Cartel boss (Salma Hayek) who’ll do anything to create a “joint” venture, including kidnapping and murder.
Savages, at its black-hearted best, is a preposterous popcorn movie that sees Stone leave behind the restraint of movies like W and World Trade Center and kick into full bore, unhinged Natural Born Killers mode. It’s a wild, down ’n dirty look into the business of drugs and revenge.
Smaller in scale is End of Watch. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña play patrol cops in Los Angeles’s tough South Central neighbourhood. A routine traffic stop turns into something bigger when they confiscate money and guns from a cartel member. “Be careful,” they’re warned by a senior officer, “You just tugged on the tail of a snake that’s going to turn around and bite you.”
These movies and others, like Code of the West and The House I Live In, prove the winners of the war on drugs are filmmakers.
A friend is boycotting the Academy Awards because his favourite film of 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, didn’t make the Oscar’s Best Picture list.
The awards, he says, aren’t relevant because they ignore genre movies and in this particular case, have snubbed the most financially successful film of the year. In fact, the old canard that the Academy doesn’t honour genre movies with Best Picture nods has been shot down this year with nominations for The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road.
The Oscar folks also gave The Force Awakens five nominations and in recent years Inception, Avatar, District 9, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Django Unchained have all earned top nods with LOTR taking home the gold.
Genre movies do just fine with the Academy. No need for C-3PO to cry little metal tears. To the Academy’s credit, not recognizing the year’s box office behemoth while giving Room, a modestly grossing movie, Best Picture, Actress, Directing and Adapted Screenplay nods, actually suggests the Academy will not be wowed by wheelbarrows of cash.
Perhaps the truth is that the Oscars, and awards shows in general, are only as relevant as you want them to be. Are they as important as the Republican debates? It’s all just show biz, so maybe. Ultimately, unless you’re an actor, a director or a shareholder in a nominated film the Oscars are probably not extremely significant to your life. I pay attention to them as a function of my job, and I enjoy them, but this year I’m on board with my friend but for different reasons.
I’m disappointed in Oscar’s failure to acknowledge diversity. For the second year in a row all 20 acting nominations went to white actors. To be clear I’m not implying the Academy is overtly racist. There are too many voters for there to be a conspiracy to keep actors of colour out of the headline categories. Have you ever gone to a restaurant with more than 10 people and tried to get everyone to agree on an appetizer for the table? It’s nearly impossible. Now imagine trying to arrange collusion between 6,000 members of the Academy. Totally hopeless.
So if it’s not a conspiracy why were stellar performances from Creed’s Michael B. Jordan, The Hateful Eight’s Samuel L. Jackson, Sicario’s Benicio Del Toro, Beasts of No Nation’s Idris Elba or any of Straight Outta Compton’s top line cast not nominated? I think it’s a combination of studio decision makers, who tend to be white, male and older coupled with the same demographic of voters at the Academy.
It’s a systemic issue being addressed by Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs’ effort to mould the Academy’s membership to be more in line with the population.
Until the Oscars represent the full width and breadth of the best in Hollywood, regardless of race or gender, they will continue to slide toward irrelevancy. My guess is that the most interesting part of this year’s ceremony won’t be who wins Best Actor but host Chris Rock’s opening monologue, which, if the movie gods prevail, will address the situation in no uncertain terms. It’s a speech I’m predicting will be just as entertaining and provocative as any of the nominees, Star Wars: The Force Awakens included.
The last time we saw Benicio Del Toro on screen he was starring in Sicario as a mercenary who collected a handsome paycheque while quenching his thirst for revenge against drug cartel leaders.
He was vicious and malicious, a supreme badass doing the right thing for the completely wrong reason.
That movie’s dark and gritty examination of the drug-fuelled Mexico-U.S. border war stands in stark contrast to his new movie, the optimistically titled A Perfect Day.
“I do believe there is hope in A Perfect Day,” he says. “I agree with you that Sicario is hopeless but in this one there is hope. I was finishing A Perfect Day when I went into Sicario. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Sicario was interesting, because it was the dark side of the coin.”
Set in 1990s Balkans, Del Toro plays Mambrú, a misfit aid worker whose team (played by Tim Robbins and Olga Kurylenko among others) begin their day in the former Yugoslavia trying to remove a bloated corpse dumped in a well to contaminate the water.
The task is complicated by United Nations bureaucracy and the lack of a strong enough rope forcing the crew to navigate not only landmine-ridden roads but their own complicated relationships in search of a solution.
Director Fernando León de Aranoa calls Del Toro the centerpiece of the film, adding, “Working with him means working with a creative partner.”
“There are some ideas that can come from anywhere that are golden,” Del Toro says on improvising on set. “I would like to say that I wish I could recognize good ideas when they are out there whether they come from another actor or they come from myself.
“If there is a good idea I do believe that if you don’t take advantage of it while you are making the film it’ll be gone forever. If there is a good idea I am game to explore.”
Del Toro, who is currently filming Star Wars: Episode VIII, says the script appealed to him because, it was about, “people trying to do good and just how complicated it can get, but with elements of humour…. It was like a riddle to solve,” he says.
“Can the movie balance these two things? I think it does. The darkness of the war and the job with the humour.”
One point of reference was Robert Altman’s black comedy M*A*S*H about medical personnel stationed at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War.
The actor says he discussed the 1970 movie, “with the director and Tim Robbins a little bit but the other film we talked about was No Man’s Land by Danis Tanović. It takes place in that part of the world and deals with the comedy and the darkness. The comedy in a ridiculous way.”
More importantly, he met with his character’s real-life counterparts.
“I had met some aid workers and I will tell you, they all have a good sense of humour. They tell you some dark stories but they do have a sense of humour. It’s a way of dealing with the darkness of their experiences and the pain.
“At the end of the day when you do a movie like this you learn about how valuable these people are. How courageous they are. Aid workers. Doctors Without Borders. How much energy and compassion for humans they have.”
Any year that gives us the eyeball bulging thrills of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the subtle yearning of “Carol” and everything in between can’t be all bad. Sure, there were some stinkers and more nostalgia than you could shake a lightsaber at, but when I think back on 2015 I’ll remember Max’s pole riders, Lili Tomlin as the world’s fieriest grandmother, “Chewie we’re home,” Leo sleeping inside a horse and “Ex Machina’s” disco dance party.
BEST MOVIES OF 2015
The Big Short
“The Big Short” is an infuriating movie. Not because it’s poorly made but because it is so well made. It takes years of banking bafflegab and distils it down to the essence in what may be the funniest, smartest and most maddening look at why America’s housing market crashed in 2008.
Based on Michael Lewis‘ nonfiction best-seller of the same name, the film presents a cavalcade of facts and information formed into a story about how four investment-bankers—played by Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro—saw the financial meltdown coming when no one else did. Taking on the arrogance of Wall Street’s old boy network, they bet against the American economy and, in the process, expose an unprecedented level of financial criminality.
The movie explains that Wall Street likes to use confusing terms to make you think only they can understand what they do. “It’s like 2+2 = fish,” says one banker, expressing disbelief at the financial manipulations used by the big banks. To make the financial mumbo-jumbo sexy the McKay uses a variety of tricks, including cutting to Margot Robbie in a bubble bath explaining subprime loans in plain language. It’s a spoonful of sugar to help the expositional medicine go down. From the simple—one loan officer calls his clients “Ninjas, no income, no job.”—to the incredibly complex world of CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) “The Big Short” doesn’t shy away from tackling complex financial transactions but it never feels dry or forced. McKay is a showman, and layers the film with fourth-wall-breaking celebrity cameos and concise social commentary woven into the drama.
“The Big Short” features strong performances—Bale stretches in ways we haven’t seen from him before—but it is the film’s unflinching depiction of unbridled greed that will resonate.
“Brooklyn,” a new film starring Saoirse Ronan as an Irish girl who immigrates to New York in the 1950s, asks a simple question: Is home where the heart is or where the marriage licence is?
Written by Nick Hornby (from a novel by Colm Tóibín) “Brooklyn” is a heartfelt coming-of-age journey that skilfully avoids any trace of mawkishness or sentimentality. A sharp script and John Crowley’s no nonsense direction are in part responsible for the movie’s tone, but the film’s beating heart is Saoirse Ronan’s remarkable performance.
As one of the great faces in movies she can speak volumes with a look, and here, as a girl whose body is in New York but heart lies in Ireland, her melancholy and homesickness is so real you can reach out and touch it. Call her Little Meryl if you like, but there is no denying the power of her work.
“Brooklyn” is a movie about decisions that makes all the right decisions. Some situations may be familiar but Ronan’s exemplarily work helps us ignore the familiar tropes as she milks every bit of emotion from a profoundly touching story.
“Carol,” a new film starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, is a love story but one painted in shades of loneliness and longing. It’s about love at first sight and how that love that may be too good to last.
Based on a 1952 Patricia Highsmith novel titled “The Price of Salt,” “Carol” is a haunting romance, elegantly directed by Todd Haynes. Blanchett and Rooney subtly play out the story, making the most of gestures and tentative looks that in most movies wouldn’t register but here convey a richness of emotion. It’s about nuance not grand gestures.
Both Blanchett and Mara do much with limited dialogue. The real performances here are happening internally and their faces and eyes convey as much as any lines of dialogue could hope to.
“Carol” is first-class filmmaking— cinematographer Ed Lachman even uses Super 16mm film stock to create the grainy feel of a 1950s period piece—with beautifully wrought, timeless performances and a love story for the ages.
How do you breathe new life into a forty-year-old film series? If you’re Albert R. Broccoli you hire Daniel Craig, but if you’re Sylvester Stallone gracefully you pass the torch. “Creed” is the “Rocky 1.0,” the evolution of a story that began in 1976.
“Creed” satisfies on two levels. One as a new, inspiring overcoming-the-odds story while simultaneously providing a nostalgic blast. It’s not a remake—although in a way it almost feels like a remake of the entire “Rocky” series—but attempts to bring the same kind fist-in-the-air triumphant feel as Stallone’s other boxing flicks.
Is it a knock-out?
With a story ripe with underdog theatrics, the signature “Rocky” swelling trumpet score and familiar characters and situations, “Creed” clicks in the part of your brain that grew up watching the “Rocky” movies on VHS. Like Otis Redding’s’s cover of “Satisfaction”, the movie feels vaguely familiar but it also has good beat and you can dance to it, so it gets a pass.
“Creed” maybe named after Michael B. Jordan’s character and ostensibly center on the young boxer, but let’s get real, this is a “Rocky” movie and Stallone is the star. He plays Balboa as a lion in winter, an old man who has trouble climbing (let alone sprinting) the 72 stone steps leading up to the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art made iconic in the first movie. It’s a poignant, engaging and moving performance that ranks as one of Stallone’s best.
For decades on “Creed” proves the blend of boxing and underdogs is still a potent mix, made better by rich performances and Stallone’s quietly affecting work.
“Ex Machina” is a high tech thriller that by and large ignores the tech to get down to the nitty gritty. Director and screenwriter Alex Garland (who previously scripted “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine”) places the story firmly in the world of artificial intelligence and then showcases the humanity (or lack thereof) of his characters, both flesh-and-blood and robotic.
With the cool austerity of Stanley Kubrick director Garland creates the antiseptic world of Bateman’s lair. Clinical and precise, it’s a stark backdrop for a sci fi story that is more concerned with ideas than special effects. It’s a “Frankenstein” story that is, as Bateman says, not interested in what people are thinking, but how people think.
Oscar Isaac once again proves to be a quiet but potent on-screen force as Bateman, always the smartest guy in the room, but one lacking the interpersonal skills to truly connect with people. Domhnall Gleeson (who will next be seen alongside Isaac in “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”) is sympathetic and determined but it is Alicia Vikander who really impresses. She’s equal parts warmth and chilly precision as a robot who wants more than to be a machine.
“Ex Machina” is being presented as sci fi, but it really is a human drama; a human drama where the main character has a fibre optic nervous system.
If you’ve ever looked at someone and wondered what’s going on inside their head—and who hasn’t?—the Pixar film “Inside Out” tries to provide some answers.
Loosely based on the mood swings of director Pete Docter’s 12-year-old daughter it’s an action adventure set in the subconscious of a young girl.
I don’t know if there is such a thing as an instant classic but “Inside Out” is the best argument for creating the term I’ve come across for some time.
From dazzling animation, to a script that toggles between childlike wonder and ingenious introspection “Inside Out” is glued together with a degree of emotional acumen not often found in mainstream film.
In other words, it will make you laugh, cry and think.
“Inside Out” is a film that will deepen with repeat viewings, which is probably a good thing as when it hits Blu-ray kids are going to want to watch it again and again, and for once, parents won’t mind joining in.
Mad Max: Fury Road
It’s been thirty years since there was a new “Mad Max” movie but “Fury Road” was worth the wait. The years have not stilled director George Miller’s restless camera or his outrageous way with steampunk influenced design or character names. If Imperator Furiosa isn’t the best character name of the year, I don’t know what is. Her title, however, might as well have been Mad Maxine as she is more the focus of the story than the titular character.
Tom Hardy pulls his weight as Max. His powerful physicality mixed with a haunted look—maybe we should call him Passive Aggressive Max—and gearbox permanently shifted to survival makes him an imposing center of the film, but it is Charlize Theron who dominates.
As Furiosa she lives up to her name as a force to be reckoned with. She’s a one-armed bandit (literally) who not only provides much of the action in the film, but its heart as well.
The real star, however, is Miller. Thirty years after he last played in Mad Max’s world he revisits it with a film that doesn’t feel like a sequel or a reboot, but a fresh look at an familiar character. His off-the-wall sensibility and demented Hot Wheels style designs give the movie a look and feel that no other director could replicate
Like “All the President’s Men,” the new Michael Keaton drama is a story about newspaper reporters taking on the establishment. Instead of going after the highest office in the land, as Woodward and Bernstein did in their Watergate exposé, in “Spotlight” Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams play Boston Globe reporters delving into the Catholic Church’s cover-up of abusive priests.
“Spotlight” is set just fourteen years ago, but feels of another age. The internet has, by and large, rendered this kind of methodical reporting obsolete. The door knocking, working-the-phones investigation with months to form and write stories is now the kind of thing that exists only in the movies. We see it all here in detail and much of it is very interesting. The reporter’s investigation allows for huge loads of exposition in the form of interviews with witnesses and victims and exports and while there’s a bit too much, “Are you telling me..?” the slow and steady unveiling of details is compelling stuff.
Director and co-writer Tom McCarthy keeps it simple and straightforward, allowing the occasional “gotcha!” revelations speak for themselves. Clues and information are uncovered slowly, with a minimum of red herrings. The result is portrait of the kind of grunt work the Spotlight team used to break the story, not nearly as flashy or verbose as Aaron Sorkin’s overwritten and over sentimentalized look at news gathering, “The Newsroom.”
“Spotlight” is a refreshingly barebones movie that allows the story to provide the fireworks.
Star Wars: the Force Awakens
There’s good news for Star Wars fans. The initials in director J.J. Abrams’s name definitely do not stand for Jar Jar. His take on the “Star Wars” universe does everything the much-maligned prequels did not; that is it focuses on character and adventure not treaties or political dealings. It delivers a nostalgic blast while at the same time offering a new hope that the series can be freshened up.
Abrams gets away from the political bafflegab that made the prequels such a chore. Instead he returns to the basics, good vs. evil, fathers and sons, keeping it on track as an action-adventure with great characters.
Rey is the female lead everyone has been waiting for Marvel to make a movie about. Abrams beat them to the punch. She’s powerful, human, self-sufficient — “Don’t take my hand,” she snarls at Finn as he tries to lead her to safety — and would never even consider wearing a gold bikini.
As a Stormtrooper who finds redemption, Finn is the catalyst for much of the film’s action. He’s a little bit goofy, a lot brave and in over his head but because he thinks with his heart and not his head he’s a welcome, charming presence.
Poe Dameron has the swagger of a young Han Solo while BB-8 has personality plus and purrs like a cat. Kylo Ren, on the other hand, is a robed evildoer prone to childish temper tantrums.
Connecting these new characters to the universe are legends from the past, Han Solo, Chewbacca and Leia (Carrie Fisher).
Teaming Solo, Chewie and the Millennium Falcon provides an undeniable nostalgic rush but they are here as more than just cameos to pay tribute to the past.
Ford’s Spencer Tracy-esque vibe allows him the gravitas to utter lines like “The galaxy is counting on us,” while sidekick Chewie says much without actually speaking words. Leia has a smaller role, but it’s a blast to see Ford and Fisher, both looking age appropriate, together again.
Their first meeting exemplifies the movie’s playful tone. “You’ve changed your hair,” Hans says to his old flame, noticing her famous bagel hair buns are gone. What could have been a grand reunion is underplayed and instead the call back to the past is presented as a warm moment between two old friends.
It’s that kind of warmth and humanity that separates “The Force Awakens” from other big budget blockbuster entertainment. The finale is big and loud like the Marvel movies but unlike “The Avengers” films Abrams keeps the emotional core alive right up until the end.
It’s the right mix of space-opera-cool and character that will please the hard-core fans that see this as just another piece of a much larger puzzle but also works as a standalone story as well.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is a blast, nostalgic and otherwise.
Straight Outta Compton
“Straight Outta Compton,” the new biopic of original gangster rap band N.W.A. and their turbulent rise and fall, is at once a very specific look at the birth of a musical genre and a universal music industry story about how money, ego and bad management will break a band a part faster than you can say, “Boyz-N-The Hood.”
“Straight Outta Compton” plays like dozens of music bios that came before but despite featuring music industry clichés—sometimes the clichés of cheating managers, ego and excess are clichés because they’re true—it spends more time on the characters than the situation. It’s funnier and warmer than you might anticipate a movie about the ferocious and profane beginnings of gangster rap, a music born out of frustration and a need to be heard, but the emotional truth of the film is based in the relationship between the leads, particularly Dre, Eazy and Cube. A palpable sense of camaraderie is present throughout, and it grounds the film during its more excessive moments.
At two-and-a-half hours “Straight Outta Compton” is a detailed look at the band that, although it takes liberties with the facts in favour of drama, grabs the rhythm of the time by the throat and doesn’t let go. Echoes of the Rodney King trial reverberate throughout the film giving the movie, in light of Black Lives Matter, a timely feel that showcases the prescient nature of Ice Cube’s rhymes.
Bloody and by times bloody terrifying, every frame of “Crimson Peak” drips with Guillermo del Toro’s Grand-Guignol sensibility. Madness and murder are front and center, coupled with arch performances—Chastain in particular embodies the Hammer Horror style of wild-eye-acting—and the director’s flawless instinct for creating unease in the audience. It’s a transport to another world, a place where the ground seeps red and old houses moan in the wind. With atmosphere to burn it’s an operatic companion piece to “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” that plays like a fever dream.
It would be easy to write “It Follows” off as a teen horror, but it is much more than that. It’s a study — and a creepy one at that — of teen angst filtered through primal dread — fear of the dark, being alone, apparitions — and physical fear. An anxiety inducing synthesizer score adds to the atmosphere of unease, making this one of the most unsettling and original horror movies of the year.
“Sicario” (it means “hitman” in Spanish) begins with a tightly wound sequence and doesn’t go slack for the next ninety minutes. Director Denis Villeneuve has made a slow burn of a film, deliberately paced, that weaves complex quasi-morality with a sense of hopelessness into an edge of your seat story.