Hands-On Preview: Bungie’s Destiny 2

Comments Comments (...)

Hands-On Preview: Bungie’s Destiny 2

Bungie

Hands-On Preview: Bungie’s Destiny 2

Bungie has been teetering on the thinnest edge of control over what it tried to do with Destiny since the day the game was released in September 2014. Even in the face of truly impressive DLCs (The Taken King, in particular, is the game's creative apex in almost every respect), Destiny will ultimately go down as a rough work, sweating and straining under its own ambitions.

With Destiny 2, the game developer has the unenviable task of having to advance something that only barely got to this point feeling like a complete, compelling, inviting experience. It's appropriate that it isn't going to be a game trying to polish cracked goods, but an attempt to get things right the first time out. And there was no better way to state that purpose than to literally and metaphorically burn the first game to the ground.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Ben and Joshua Safdie’s Good Time

Comments Comments (...)

Cannes Film Review: Good Time

A24

Cannes Film Review: Good Time

Josh and Ben Safdie's Good Time is another one of the brother filmmakers' harrowing odysseys of the marginalized. The plot, kicking off in New York City before moving to the suburbs, spins out from a failed bank heist, as the mentally handicapped Nick (Ben Safdie) is arrested and jailed at Riker's Island before then being moved to Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens. Nick's resourceful brother, Connie (Robert Pattinson), the mastermind of the heist, works on a scheme to get him out. If this premise sounds like typical genre fare, the Safdies get that and they deliver: Good Time is an action-packed, neon-streaked rush, all elaborate scenarios, racing against time, and police in hot pursuit. But this is also a film from the same people that made the emotionally devastating Heaven Knows What, and underneath this film's barrage of incident and its screaming score (composed by Oneohtrix Point Never) is a sense of intimacy and emotional vulnerability.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Hong Sang-soo’s The Day After and Claire’s Camera

Comments Comments (...)

Cannes Film Review: The Day After and Claire’s Camera

Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Review: The Day After and Claire’s Camera

In 2015, while working on Right Now, Wrong Then, Hong Sang-soo began an affair with his lead actress, Kim Min-hee. The news came out later, at one of the film's press conferences. Eventually, Hong filed for divorce from his wife of 30 years—and in the time since, he and Kim have chosen to openly explore the nature of their ongoing relationship through his films. First came 2016's On the Beach Alone at Night, and now the Cannes competition entry The Day After and festival special screening Claire's Camera.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled

Comments Comments (...)

Cannes Film Review: The Beguiled

Focus Features

Cannes Film Review: The Beguiled

Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, the writer-director’s adaptation of Thomas Cullinan’s 1966 Civil War-set novel A Painted Devil, begins as a straightforward Southern Gothic psychodrama. The filmmaker, though, distinguishes her version of the source novel from the 1971 Don Siegel-helmed adaptation starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page by treating Union soldier Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) as a more enigmatic catalyst for the changes that take place inside Miss Martha Farnsworth’s Seminary for Young Ladies upon his arrival. Rather than primarily focus on McBurney and the horrifying consequences of his unchecked horniness, Coppola intensely homes in on her heroines’ conflicted feelings about sex.

Siegel’s film pulpily fixates on McBurney and his outsider status, and how his unchecked lust drives him to monstrously stalk the seminary—like a fox in a hen house. But Coppola’s take is more interested in the boarding school’s all-female residents’ personal struggles to accept that they’re allowed to be sexually attracted to an enemy soldier. Women like headmistress Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) and her school’s head teacher, Edwina Dabney (Kirsten Dunst), are obviously drawn to McBurney, though they go to great lengths to avoid admitting that attraction. The film is set, after all, in Virginia in 1864, and McBurney is, as Edwina cautions, the kind of man they’ve been warned about: one with a predilection for raping Southern women.

The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 12, "The World Council of Churches"

Comments Comments (...)

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 12, “The World Council of Churches”

Patrick Harbron/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 12, “The World Council of Churches”

Speculating what a television show is going to do next is a dangerous enterprise, especially for those who don’t like being wrong. I’ve recapped exactly two TV shows, The Walking Dead and The Americans, both works of narrative, and as such ones that turn on the expectation of what will happen next. But that’s all that the former turned on during the height of the whole “Is Glenn Dead?” business, meaning it was easy to predict how that plot arc was going to resolve itself given how everything that happened in the series was framed in relation to Glenn and his absence. The Americans, conversely, is the rolling stone that gathers no moss. It’s put so many cards on the table throughout its fifth season, many with no clear relationship to one another, that to predict where any of the characters will end up is a fool’s errand.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 A Man of Integrity and 24 Frames

Comments Comments (...)

Cannes Film Review: A Man of Integrity and 24 Frames

Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Review: A Man of Integrity and 24 Frames

Mohammad Rasoulof’s slow-burn conspiracy thriller A Man of Integrity, a character study about one man’s quixotic struggle to get revenge or monetary compensation after his fish nursery is poisoned by an unnamed corporation, is defined by a righteous kind of fatalism. That tenor is apropos given that the film was shot by Rasoulof in secret, while he waited for his prison sentence of six years—later reduced to one—to be carried out.

Rasoulof’s films, among them the fable-like Iron Island and The White Meadows, have never screened in his native Iran, and maybe never will. They’re caustic yet lyrical allegories that dig deep into the filmmaker’s growing certainty that Iranian society is systemically corrupt and that the only people who try to live by a strict moral code in this context are bound to either regret their stubborn decisions or become crooked themselves.

Conversely, Abbas Kiarostami’s final film, 24 Frames, is more bittersweet than it is flat-out bitter. As Kiarostami passed away shortly before he could finish the project, a collection of four-and-a-half-minute tableaux vivants based on preexisting paintings and photographs, it was left to his son, Ahmad Kiarostami, to complete it based on notes that the auteur left behind. As in A Man of Integrity, a sense of impending doom hangs over 24 Frames, though it also exhibits a refreshing awe for life, and for the gentle passage of time.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Yorgos Lanthimos’s Killing of a Sacred Deer

Comments Comments (...)

Cannes Film Review: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

A24

Cannes Film Review: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

A blackly comic performance by Colin Farrell provides the emotional anchor for Yorgos Lanthimos's The Killing of a Sacred Deer. As clinically detached surgeon Steven Murphy, Farrell effortlessly switches from arch, quasi-robotic line readings to frantic, plate-smashing furor. His skillful transition from deep-in-denial emotional repression to manic rage is crucial to the film's success, as Lanthimos and co-screenwriter Efthymis Filippou's characters don't talk like anyone you've ever met in real life.

When Steven, his family, and a mysterious friend, Martin (Barry Keoghan), speak to each other, they fixate on nothing of real importance. They dwell on trivial subjects, and the questions they ask each other—about everything from gauging someone's fondness for lemonade to whether or not someone else prefers leather or metal as a watchstrap—are bleakly funny when you consider that the film begins with a confrontationally gross close-up of a beating human heart, exposed during one of Steven's characteristically dangerous procedures. It's clear right away that this atmospheric horror-thriller's dramatic stakes are as high as life and death. So why is it that these characters can't stop talking about food and household chores?

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Michel Hazanavicius’s Redoubtable

Comments Comments (...)

Cannes Film Review: Redoubtable

StudioCanal

Cannes Film Review: Redoubtable

Michel Hazanavicius never has trouble coming up with bad ideas, and turning the romantic life of Jean-Luc Godard into a screwball comedy will be hard for him to beat. One good thing comes out of this, at least in part: the casting of Louis Garrel as the Nouvelle Vague pioneer. His is a credible on-screen representation of JLG, though less because of the actor's performance than his look, which incorporates a falsified receding hairline and a pair of dark eyeglasses. But each time Garrel's pop facsimile deviates from that look, especially when he takes off those shades, the illusion is instantly broken.

The comedic action is superficially entertaining at the start, with Garrel lisping his way through a self-aware imitation of Godard and Hazanavicius playfully stitching together scenes of marital discord and sociopolitical bickering with brisk editing rhythms and rapid-fire dialogue. But as that effort continues to reduce the bold ideas and philosophies of Godard's “revolutionary” period—as well as the toll his ideologies took on his personal and professional relationships—into fodder for dopey, simple-minded parody, Hazanavicius once again outs himself as a shallow opportunist, and Redoubtable as another empty exercise in borrowed style.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Michael Haneke’s Happy End

Comments Comments (...)

Cannes Film Review: Happy End

Sony Pictures Classics

Cannes Film Review: Happy End

The latest slow-burn drama from Michael Haneke, Happy End, initially appears to strain for focus. Haneke takes an otherwise compelling theme—every member of the affluent Laurent family is unhappy, most of them unwilling to admit or dwell on their loved ones' pain—and develops it through sketch-thin characterizations. But as it becomes increasingly clear, Haneke is showing us the various familial influences that contribute to the alienation felt by troubled 13-year-old Eve Laurent (Fantine Harduin), a despondent loner who's forced to live with her estranged father, Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz), after she poisons her biological mother. By juxtaposing various bite-sized vignettes of Eve's family as they confront various moments of personal grief or weakness, Haneke tells us all we need to know in order to make up our own minds about why Eve behaves the way that she does.

Twin Peaks: The Return Recap Parts 1 & 2

Comments Comments (...)

Twin Peaks: The Return Recap: Parts 1 & 2

Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

Twin Peaks: The Return Recap: Parts 1 & 2

Just like that gum you like, Twin Peaks is back in style. And that style is unadulterated, late-period David Lynch. Sometimes it's the casting of seemingly minor parts, sometimes just a bit of stray imagery, but Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost somehow manage to evoke moments from Lost Highway and, in particular, Mulholland Drive at least as often as they do the original TV series, which ran on ABC from 1990 to 1991. The central irony of the first two parts of Twin Peaks: The Return is that the show thus far has relatively little to do with the town of Twin Peaks. Then again, if Lynch proved anything in past episodes like “May the Giant Be with You,” with its protracted nose-thumbing at audience expectations, it's that he is indeed a fan of delayed gratification.