It’s neat that Netflix is buying up genre movies from the directors of Moon and Gattaca and, um, Suicide Squad, but I keep reading online that they are very bad. Obviously after watching the end of Cloverfield then the entire sequel, I’m gonna check out part three, so afterwards I let the mighty algorithm tell me where to go next, then threw in a Star Wars.


The Cloverfield Paradox (2018, Julius Onah)

The astronauts are stalking each other with guns after accidentally opening a portal to a dark alternate universe. I guess Liz Debicki is the baddie, and Gugu pulls the usual defense, grabbing onto something and blasting a hole in the wall so her assailant gets sucked into space. She sends the plans for the universe-generator to alternate-herself, then hyperdrives back home with a wounded Daniel Brühl – but something is amiss on earth and a Cloverfield appears in literally the last five seconds of the movie. Guess I’ll have to trust the reviews that nothing interesting happened in the first ninety minutes. Onah is Nigerian, is making a Naomi Watts/Octavia Spencer feature next, and the sequel-centric writers worked on Star Trek Beyond and 22 Jump Street.


Tau (2018, Federico D’Alessandro)

Maika Monroe (It Follows) is trapped in a chair, convinces a robot to untie her before the nerdy guy can give her the evil injection, kicks his ass then chops off his hand to get through the security doors, evades Tau (a Decepticon in a fancy living room), initiates the self-destruct sequence then duck-n-covers under a desk as everything very slowly blows up. Supposedly the computer is the voice of Gary Oldman but I’m not hearing it. This looks generic and I feel bad for everyone involved. The director has been doing storyboards for Major Motion Pictures for the last decade and the writer works on a Harry Potter ripoff series for Syfy.


Anon (2018, Andrew Niccol)

Clive Owen is kicked out of his detective agency, goes home and sulks while his former coworkers watch his every move through surveillance gear. “Anon” is Amanda Seyfried, who interrupts a Proxy Dude after he shoots Clive – people can see through each others’ eyes through some Black Mirror tech, so I think Proxy watches himself die. Seyfried just wants privacy in an all-seeing world, knows “the algorithm” to glitch everyone’s eyeball-computers into not seeing her, I guess, but I was more focused on the weird eyelines in the final scene so I may have missed something. Niccol made Gattaca, of course, and I hear his In Time is good.


Mute (2018, Duncan Jones)

Apparently Paul Rudd is dead already, and Rudd’s friend (a moppy blonde Justin Theroux) wants voiceless Alexander Skarsgard (the new husband in part one of Melancholia) to apologize for killing him, drives them to the docks and talks way too much before Skarsgard uses his mute-ant breath-holding powers to dunk them both in the river and drown Justin, then he Finds His Voice to yell at a child. Too bad I didn’t get to see any of the neon Blade Runner stuff from the posters.


The Outsider (2018, Martin Zandvliet)

Oh no, Jared Leto gets shot in the leg after a business deal seems to have gone badly wrong, then the cops bust up his gang’s headquarters, so Jared collects his Japanese girlfriend to blow town, but for some reason he stalks into his rival’s gang meeting instead, challenges a guy to a duel, cuts him down when he refuses, and is allowed to leave, then is recognized as the new boss by his surviving buddies. Movie looks dreary and unfun. This was Zandvliet’s followup to Land of Mine, which played the Ross so I’ve seen its preview a hundred times.


Bright (2017, David Ayer)

Joel Edgerton is an orc, Will Smith his mouthy partner cop who grabs a magic dagger and blowtorches Noomi Rapace to save some girl. I think the orc is gonna die saving Smith from a fire, oh no they’re both fine, but the next day Police Chief Legolas wants to cover the thing up. As far as movies where Will Smith is partnered with a gruff-voiced dude in a dangerous world of magic aliens, it’s not as funny as Men In Black.


The Titan (2018, Lennart Ruff)

Ah, another movie where Sam Worthington gets experimental treatment to transform into an alien (is that what happened in Avatar? I can’t remember). Soldiers led by Tom Wilkinson are trying to shoot him while I guess Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black) and Agyness Deyn (Sunset Song) are trying to help. So many pointless military guys… Sam has a splashy dream-vision and everyone’s suddenly on a plane. “That crazy bastard did it,” says some dude, and I’d like to think Sam used his Titan Powers to teleport them onto the plane but it was probably just editing. Later, Taylor is doing science stuff unbothered by the military, and she gazes at the sky, where her husband lives on another planet, looking like he’s about to start the Prometheus civilization. The director is German, worked on a Daniel Brühl movie called Krabat and The Legend of the Satanic Mill, and one of the writers did Grace of Monaco.


24 Hours to Live (2017, Brian Smrz)

The day after watching First Reformed, I guess if I’m gonna check out the end of the bad Amanda Seyfried movie, I’ll check out the bad Ethan Hawke action flick too. It’s Pushing Daisies meets D.O.A., as dead Ethan Hawke is resurrected for a day as a revenge-zombie to kill the guys who killed him. He comes fucking tearing into a room full of armed dudes and just destroys everyone, while two main baddies sit passively because they’re too damn cool to flinch from danger. The Sam Neill-ish super-confident guy (wow, is that Rutger Hauer?) isn’t quite killed by zombie-Hawke, so Hawke’s friend Paul (not that one or that one) Anderson takes care of it. Hawke is pretty cool-looking in this, anyway. Smrz has been a stunt guy forever, and his other film as director was also about a nearly-dead guy seeking bloody revenge,


Desolation (2017, Sam Patton)

Damn, I thought this might be a Stephen King movie but I was thinking of Desperation. This is the one where a mom and son are stalked through the woods by a psycho, and we’re at the point where they decide to turn the tables. I think they lure the stalker to their camp and have a stick fight, but the camera and editing go all to hell, so who knows. She knocks the dude over with a backpack full of rocks, then the boy kills the hell out of him with stone and pocketknife, which is probably traumatizing. LOL as they finally reach their car and the battery is dead – it’s hard to tell if this movie had any point, and everyone involved is pretty much best known for this.


Rogue One (2016, Gareth Edwards)

It’s not an “original” but I’d better check this out before it disappears. Oh shit, Wen Jiang got blown up already. A little ship rams a star destroyer into another star destroyer and nobody seems to notice until it’s too late. Felicity Jones thrillingly aligns an antenna, is nearly thwarted by an overly talky cape-wearing British soldier until Diego Luna shows up, and the frog/fish pilots receive the Death Star plans, then the baddies blow up the planet so none of these actors had to sign multi-year contracts. It ends with a Vader slaughter and a creepy Carrie Fisher impersonation, and this only brings to mind Sarah Jeong’s Rat Film essay, which was more interesting than any stop-gap prequel-bridging Star Wars movie. Edwards was following up the Godzilla movie I didn’t like, the writers are Chris Weitz (that Cinderella movie I didn’t like) and… Tony Gilroy!

Preparation and conflagration of a two-day incendiary festival in a fireworks producing town. Day one is the Castles of Fire, then day two is the Bulls. We spend time with participants, mostly paying attention to stories about when things have gone wrong during past festivals leading to death and disfigurement, then watch the pretty sparks with the tension of hoping not to see anybody caught aflame. Missed this at True/False but it played on PBS in an apparently edited version. Lindy Lou, Juror Number Two seems to be cut even more, so this calls for investigation.

Terrific shots of awesome mountains with Willem Dafoe spitting wisdom about the sublime, the combination of beauty and terror that scaling these beasts engenders. Almost the entire movie is in slow-motion, the camera always gliding on helicopters or drones. From the history of mountain climbing forward, it gets more dangerous – now that just anyone can climb Everest if they’re rich enough for the gear and sherpas, the serious new climbers embrace a higher risk factor. This culminates in a Red Bull-branded extreme sports montage, which Dafoe solemnly condemns after showing us rad footage of it for fifteen minutes, the movie getting to have it both ways.

The novel was a subjective-ish story of frustration and embarrassment, and the movie is a whole different thing – some of the same scenes in the same order, but more mysterious. It’s unusual anymore that I read a book in anticipation of a new movie coming out, so it’s hard to imagine what the viewing experience would’ve been like had I not already known the story. For instance, the three sections of the book are set in different years, clearly stated, where the movie will just cut to the next scene and suddenly Zama’s hairstyle is different and every other character we’d met is gone, replaced with a new cast.

As usual for Martel, the framing is enticingly unusual, but I was not prepared for the shock of saturated color in the last section. Each of her features has had a different cinematographer – Rui Poças is Portuguese, has also shot a bunch of films by Miguel Gomes (Tabu) and João Pedro Rodrigues (The Ornithologist). Almodóvar regular Lola Dueñas is Luciana, whose affair doesn’t go as far as in the book. Zama is Daniel Giménez Cacho, who apparently played the same coroner character in We Are What We Are as he did in Cronos.

Nicely put-together doc on Mr. Rogers, the fascinating man, his underrated show, and its legacy. The school of critics who claim Paddington 2 as the best film of 2018 have highly recommended this one – you’re supposed to weep from start to finish at the reminder that there used to be such goodness in this world.

Heartwarming characters don’t exactly make for a heartwarming doc, since they still have to live in the real world, working every day to achieve their goal. The price of failure is someone gets shot, and the measure of success is nothing noticeable, just life going on. To get into the spirit, we interrupted our viewing of this movie, taking about a month between the first and second halves, but this didn’t seem to improve the viewing experience.

A series of episodes of Juliette Binoche at various stages of breaking up and getting together with different men, trying to find something that works – mostly conversations shot in longish takes, with one musical exception in the middle. It feels strangely plotted for a conventional movie, and strangely conventional for a Claire Denis movie.

Juliette is breaking up with a banker who wants to continue having an affair and won’t leave his wife – the movie opens with a sex scene between them, and a few scenes later she’s kicking him out of her studio, telling him to never come back. Then there’s a false start with an actor (Denis film veteran Nicolas Duvauchelle), the relationship ending before it really kicked off. Her ex-husband comes over for afternoon sex, then later she tries (and fails) to get back his keys to her apartment (they have a daughter together whom we barely see).

Juliette and the banker:

I think we get an increase in the quality of men as the movie goes on. In the second half, mysterious stranger Sylvain appears at a party, they dance to “At Last” by Etta James and start dating. Juliette is an artist who works with art gallery people – she stands out from them at times, curses their snobbery when on a walk in the country, but they’re still her people and she listens to their bad advice. Terrible wavy-haired Fabrice says she needs to dump Sylvain and date “within her milieu,” she takes this to heart and the lovers argue. She finds out Alex Descas is interested in her (though we’ve seen him with Maxine from the art gallery), and finally there are too many guys with unclear statuses, so she visits a psychic for advice.

Juliette and Sylvain:

Alex and Maxine:

The psychic is Gérard Depardieu, shown in the previous scene breaking up with a girl in a car. Juliette shows him pictures, describes her current possibilities, asks Gérard with whom she can find happiness – and he hilariously adds himself into the mix, describing the kind of man she truly needs with all his own traits. In maybe the movie’s most unusual stylistic quirk, the entire closing credits roll over this scene, so it can cut to black and end after Juliette’s final smile.

Denis fills the supporting cast with fellow filmmakers. The banker from the opening scene is Xavier Beauvois (Of Gods and Men, and before this movie we saw a preview for his The Guardians). Maxine is Josiane Balasko, who has directed movies starring Isaach de Bankolé, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Isabelle Huppert, Michael Lonsdale, and so on. Bruno Podalydès is the guy who insists Binoche date within her milieu, has directed nine or ten movies including a remake of The Mystery of the Yellow Room. And Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (who got dumped by Gerard Depardieu) was in Cannes five years ago having written/directed/starred in A Castle in Italy.

Last year I closed LNKarno with the top prizewinner Girl From Nowhere, but I’ve already suffered through Story of My Death once, so this year I picked a closer from competition which I was sure to enjoy. It’s somewhat of a comedy, coming out between In Another Country and Hill of Freedom – I’m gradually filling in the gaps of recent work but still haven’t caught anything pre-2010. We get a series of scenes of people in conversation drinking too much in no-fuss compositions interrupted only by the occasional reframing zoom – just what we were hoping for.

Sunhi out drinking with the Professor:

Sunhi (Yu-mi Jung: Oki, also in Train to Busan) is visiting the city where she attended school, aiming to get a letter of recommendation from her professor (Sang-Jung Kim, the main guy’s friend in The Day He Arrives) for a graduate film program. They meet up in the park, and he turns in a letter that’s fairly complimentary, but also says she might have good ideas but he wouldn’t know since she’s too reserved and doesn’t work well with others.

Sunhi out drinking with Munsu:

She spots her ex Munsu (Sun-kyun Lee of Hong’s other 2013 student-teacher relationship movie Nobody’s Daughter Haewon) and calls him up to where she’s having a lonely drink, says she saw his film and that it was good but too much about their relationship. These two talk for hours (he orders a bottle of soju, then after a cut there are four on the table) and he blurts out “if I make films till I die, they’ll all be about you” and demands to know why she broke up with him, so she walks out and he goes off to bother his ex-friend Jaehak (Jae-yeong Jeong, lead of Right Now, Wrong Then).

Sunhi out drinking with Jaehak:

Sunhi asks the professor about the reference letter, hangs out over drinks with him, he explains that he wrote it in a hurry and can probably do better, then runs off to tell Jaehak about this wonderful girl he likes. Later, Sunhi spots Jaehak and they go out, as captured in an epic 10+ minute shot. They talk about the other two guys, Jaehak puts the pieces together, but he’s falling for Sunhi. Now all three guys are mooning over her, but Sunhi’s got her own life, collects the much-improved recommendation from the professor and ditches all three guys at the park.

Alice Stoehr on Letterboxd:

She drinks too much soju and leans on them in the street. The men speak with each other, repeating phrases they’d said to her. Deja vu permeates Our Sunhi, as it resounds both with echoes of Hong’s earlier work and with its own internal rhymes … She’ll always be embittered and mistreated and a little too drunk. The men will always be selfish, in performances that are broad enough to be quite funny but still true enough that they hurt.


Besides checking Letterboxd, Critics Round Up and Cinema Scope for reviews of the LNKarno movies I watched this week, I went looking for 2013 festival coverage by media sites that haven’t folded and vanished since then…

Michael Pattison in Slant recommends The Green Serpent and Costa da Morte, and says The Unity of All Things “caused more walkouts in its first 10 minutes than any other.”

Richard Porton in Cineaste talks up Manakamana, A Masque of Madness, and the restoration of Batang West Side (“certainly the most notable film to ever take place in Jersey City”).

Agnieszka Gratza in Frieze covers Exhibition and Lo que el fuego me trajo, and found Pays Barbare more gripping than I did.

Based on Jaimey Fisher’s writeup in Senses of Cinema, El Mudo, Wetlands, and maybe the Aoyama sound good.

This one has an odd structure, opening with a long scene of Mrs. Bouvier being given limited visitation rights to her son Mouton (“Sheep”) in a lawyer’s office, but she is never seen again.

The main section of the film follows Mouton’s work life as an assistant chef at a seaside restaurant. Long takes, long scenes of daily routine – it’s a Slow Cinema thing – then shorter scenes of the same old thing. Mouton starts dating coworker Audrey, but the movie isn’t giving anyone much of a personality or narrative, just spending time with Mouton and the others. Then after an hour, a narrator appears, and at a festival on the jetty some dude drunkenly attacks Mouton with a chainsaw, cutting his arm off.

Group shot: Mouton at far right

Mouton moves away but the movie stays in the same town (Courseulles, on the north coast just across the bay from Le Havre). His friend Louise works at a butcher, gets married to Mimi, has a kid. They live the rest of their lives, as a title card says. Nothing in the movie is especially interesting, but I do keep pondering its unusual structure.

Mimi and Louise:

They remember Sheep:

Jay Kuehner in Cinema Scope:

Each scene is invested with an interrogatory naturalism that seems to be imploring just what, exactly, one should be looking for, only to dissolve and leave in its absence the sense that in searching one may be missing the plenitude of the moment. Call it narrative fleecing.

“Life goes on, right?” implores Louise, now with child and no time to write to Mouton. It’s a familiarly wistful sentiment, particularly well suited to cinema’s temporal qualities, but rarely explored with such structural audacity and unsensational curiosity as in Mouton. A vague sense of indifference is immanent in our daily lives, however vigilantly we attempt to observe our departed. Mouton, for all its brute realism, is rather forgiving in this regard, locating pockets of grace in the seemingly forgettable gestures that constitute the hours of a day, and the texture of a life.