In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply pointed stories about women's lives. So this drama weaves together three narratives with distinct female perspectives. Based on short stories by Maile Meloy, these tales only barely intersect, but they echo similar themes in a striking rural Montana setting.
In the central story, Beth (Kristen Stewart) is a young lawyer who drives four hours twice a week to teach a night class, where she develops a fan in a young rancher (Lily Gladstone) who has a secret crush on her. Meanwhile, Laura (Laura Dern) is another lawyer representing an injured worker (Jared Harris) who took a small financial settlement before learning that he would never physically recover. And then there's Gina (Michelle Williams), who is building a home in a gorgeous location with her strained husband (James Le Gros) and surly teen daughter (Sara Rodier). They need a pile of old sandstone that has been sitting for some 50 years next to the home of a man (Rene Aberjonois) everyone's afraid to talk to.
All of this is set against Montana's big-sky landscapes, sumptuously captured on-screen by cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt. Everything is crisp and wintry, and Reichardt cleverly designs the film in a simplistic, insightful way that quietly focusses on unspoken interaction between the characters. Yes, much of this movie is completely silent, as these women consider the realities of their lives. This of course allows the actresses to make the most of their characters, adding weight and depth to each scene, often without saying a word.
Continue reading: Certain Women Review
Johnny Utah rarely lets his professional life as a promising new FBI recruit cross over with his personal passion of extreme sports, namely surfing some of the world's biggest waves. However, it seems his prowess as an athlete has finally found its use at work, as he is enlisted to go undercover on one of the FBI's most difficult cases. A group of masked men have managed to make off with extraordinary amounts of money in bank raids by using the most unexpected of escape techniques. Indeed, their ability to flee from a crime scene for exceeds the talents of those chasing them, which is why Utah is their only hope left. After successfully integrating himself into a group of suspicious-looking sports fanatics, he meets Bodhi; a charismatic individual with whom Utah embarks on a number of extreme escapades. Utah needs firm proof that Bodhi is behind the robberies, but as he becomes ever closer to him, the friendship evolves into an unexpected and highly dangerous bond.
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This may be a slow-burning thriller about eco-terrorists, but it's also directed by Kelly Reichardt (Meek's Cutoff), a filmmaker who maintains an oddly aloof perspective while moving at her own steady pace. While this original approach offers fresh insight into the subject matter, it also creates a distance with the audience. But the subtle tone and complex morality add a strong resonance to the subject matter.
It's set in the rural American Northwest, where organic farmer Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) is collaborating with zen-retreat worker Dena (Dakota Fanning) and ex-military loose cannon Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) to plan a bombing that will make people stop and think about what humanity is doing to the planet. Their target is a dam in Oregon that provides hydroelectric power, and their rationale is that no one needs to run their iPods 24 hours a day. After painstakingly setting up their subtle but devastating attack, they neglect to consider one possible outcome. And what follows forces them to re-examine their actions and motivations. It also causes a rift in their camaraderie that makes the outside threat feel even greater.
Despite the intense plot, this is definitely not an action movie, as Reichardt traces these three people's careful plan in sharp detail while quietly exploring the big issues that compel them to act. Oddly, these activist-terrorists seem oblivious that their violent plan is unlikely to make any difference in the grand scheme of things, and that very few people will ever understand their point. But they're such true believers that they simply can't see outside their circle. The acting is subdued and bracingly honest, creating complicated characters who say more without dialogue than with it. Sarsgaard has the most intriguing role, since Harmon has an undercurrent of menace that the others can't help but notice. And Reichardt lets the actors carry the scenes, using their expressive faces to fill in the details of the plot.
Continue reading: Night Moves Review
Josh (Jesse Eisenberg), a radical environmentalist teams up with high school drop-out, Dena (Dakota Fanning), and ex-marine Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) in an attempt to send a message to the industrialised world they stand against: the bombing of a hydro-electric dam. The suspenseful political thriller delves into the world of extremists, desperate to protest in favour of their beliefs - even if it pushes them into illegal activity, doing so.
Night Moves comes to us courtesy of indie film director Kelly Reichardt, and having made the rounds of various, prestigious film festivals, it is due for a UK release this month. It has already been chosen for the official selection for the London, Venice and Toronto International Film Festival, and has enjoyed favourable reviews from critics and the public worldwide.
It has, however, been criticised for having major similarities in both in both character and plot with Edward Abbey's novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang. In 2012, a lawsuit was filed against the film, as it clashed with the novel of which a film adaptation was in pre-production.
In 1988 Barrow, at the top of Alaska, aspiring reporter Adam (Krasinski) stumbles across three whales trapped beneath the icecap. Unable to reach the open sea, there's just a tiny hole in the ice that lets them breathe. Adam's report goes viral, grabbing the attention of America's press as well as his Greenpeace-activist ex Rachel (Barrymore). And the rescue effort will require an L.A. journalist (Bell), military pilot (Mulroney), Inuit boy (Sweeney), whale expert (Nelson), oil baron (Danson), White House rep (Shaw), two chuckleheads from Minnesota (LeGros and Riggle) and the Russian Navy.
Continue reading: Big Miracle Review
News reporter Adam Carlson is based in a remote part of Alaska, in a town called Point Barrow. As a consequence, there usually is little to talk about in the way of local news. After one news report, which saw him explaining how food can take up to four plane journeys to arrive in town, his boss rings to comment about how 'thin' his stories are. That is, until Adam sees something extraordinary out to sea. It transpires that there are three California gray whales stuck under the ice near Point Barrow. Adam captures the incident on his camera and rings his boss to tell him of his findings.
Adam's report on the whales makes it onto the news, where he tells stunned viewers that the ice the whales are trapped under extends five miles to the ocean. No one is more stunned than Rachel Kramer, a Greenpeace activist and Adam's ex-girlfriend. She rings him up to announce that she will help him rescue the whales. Soon enough, Adam not only has the support of his ex but of the entire town as well, all doing what they can to make a path to the ocean through the ice. Adam and Rachel soon find themselves united under a common goal and they slowly start to fall back in love again.
Starring: John Krasinski, Drew Barrymore, Kristen Bell, Dermot Mulroney, Vinessa Shaw, Ted Danson, Stephen Root, Tim Blake Nelson, James LeGros, Rob Riggle, Andrew Daly, Bruce Altman, Gregory Jbara, Michael Gaston, Mark Ivanir and Jonathan Slavin
Clearly drawing heavily on films like John Carpenter's The Thing as inspiration, Fessenden builds his characters from the ground up before hurling them to the wolves. He's helped by a cast that's sharp as a tack, particularly the roaring and bear-like Ron Perlman as Ed Pollack, an oil company operative gung-ho on getting machinery up to their station as quick as possible, by any means necessary, and screw the environment. Facing him are a couple of "green flags" -- one of whom is the gloomy notebook scribbler, scientist James Hoffman, played close to the vest by the always reliable James LeGros -- environmental do-gooders hired by the company as sort of eco-fig leaves whom they want to pressure to sign off on impact statements so the drilling can begin. In between are Abby Sellers (Connie Britton), a tough-as-nails type caught in a love triangle, the dazed and confused mechanic Motor (Kevin Corrigan, nailing it), and their Native American cook Dawn Russell (singer Joanne Shenandoah).
Continue reading: The Last Winter Review
Tom DiCillo wrote and directed this new low-budget story of making a film-within-a-film, and it comes off superbly better than most of its predecessor "movies about movies." DiCillo has assembled the most perfectly matched cast I've come across in ages, featuring Steve Buscemi as Nick, a film director for whom nothing will work out, Catherine Keener as a much too sensitive leading lady, Dermot Mulroney as a leather-clad cinematographer, and James LeGros as an unbelievably shallow leading man--possibly his best role ever.
Continue reading: Living In Oblivion Review
The last place I'd expect to see a Shakespearean adaptation of Macbeth to occur would be in a backwater town in the middle of Pennsylvania circa 1972. But it provides a dark and menacing backdrop to this loose - and do I mean loose - adaptation of Shakespeare's ever-popular tragedy of a incompetent husband and power-hungry wife weaving murderously toward power and riches.
Continue reading: Scotland, PA Review
In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...
Johnny Utah rarely lets his professional life as a promising new FBI recruit cross over...
This may be a slow-burning thriller about eco-terrorists, but it's also directed by Kelly Reichardt...
Josh (Jesse Eisenberg), a radical environmentalist teams up with high school drop-out, Dena (Dakota Fanning),...
A grounding in the real-life story makes this film much less sentimental than it looks....
"This is the last winter. Total collapse. Hope dies." So writes an environmental researcher in...
There's an important lesson every male should learn, even at a young age: Women always...