Based on real events, this sharply well-made film shifts from a rather light-hearted comedy into a horrific thriller. And it feels unnervingly natural as it does so. Where this goes is a bit relentless in its exploration of the darkest aspects of human capabilities, but it's also bracingly truthful. At the same time, it shows the enduring value of an experiment that seemed to go perilously wrong.
In Northern California in 1971, a group of 24 university students respond to a newspaper advert asking for participants in a psychological experiment. On the toss of a coin, organiser Dr Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) divides the young men into guards and inmates, and places them in a makeshift prison where they can be observed. And things start to turn nasty very quickly, as guard Christopher (Michael Angarano) targets snarky prisoner 8612 (Ezra Miller) for extra punishment. The guards also turn on the especially vulnerable 819 (Tye Sheridan). And when the inmates revolt, Zimbardo allows the guards to carry on with their increasingly harsh discipline. But Zimbardo's girlfriend Christina (Olivia Thirlby), herself a psychologist, worries that the situation has gone too far.
It's intriguing, and perhaps obvious, that it had to be a woman who saw through a scenario that had become little more than an out-of-control expression of masculinity. Even more telling, Zimbardo and his team became part of the experiment themselves, as they allowed and were fascinated by the abuse heaped on the prisoners by play-acting guards who let the power go to their heads. Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez (C.O.G.) shoots this in an unusually stripped-down style that gives the film a documentary tone. This low key approach means that the pacing sometimes feels draggy, as the intensely internalised suspense cycles around and around again. But what this is revealing about human behaviour is invaluable, and seriously terrifying.
Continue reading: The Stanford Prison Experiment Review
If you're on the wrong side of the law and looking for someone to send a special kind of 'message', Jackson Healey might just be the man you call. One day his work takes him to the door of Holland March where he leaves his own particular type of message for Holland, a private detective who's currently a little down on his luck.
When an employee of the Department Of Justice finds that her daughter has gone missing, she employs Healey to find her by any means necessary. Out of his depth, Healey calls on the best private eye he knows. Initially very hesitant to work with the guy who only recently sucker punched him, Holland agrees to help find the girl.
As clues are revealed, it looks like Amelia (The missing girl) has somehow become intertwined with the mob who are trying to branch out in LA. As the amateurs hunt down Amelia, the case takes them down dangerous paths they never thought they'd venture down.
Gia Coppola's adaptation of James Franco's Palo Alto is another string to the Coppola family bow
One of the more striking things about the new multi-strand teen drama Palo Alto is how it features a series of second and third-generation artists and rising stars. It's certainly a film that looks forwards, crafting a very different style of teen drama than anything we've seen before.
Intriguingly, the film most closely resembles writer-director Gia Coppola's Aunt Sofia's debut film The Virgin Suicides (1999), another evocative teen movie that centred on emotions rather than overt plot points. Gia is also of course the granddaughter of master filmmaker Francis (of The Godfather and Apocalyse Now fame). Her famous cousins include Nicolas Cage and Jason Schwartzman, whose mother Talia Shire (best known as Adrian in Rocky) also appears in Palo Alto.
Continue reading: Gia Coppola's Palo Alto Is A Next-Generation Movie
James Franco's collection of autobiographical short stories is adapted into a remarkably evocative film by Gia Coppola, granddaughter of Francis. And the film's next-generation credentials don't end there. It stars Emma Roberts (daughter of Eric) and Jack Kilmer (son of Val), superb young actors who bring their characters to vivid life even as multiple story strands weave around them. And what makes the film important is its willingness to present teens authentically, often in ways parents probably wish they didn't know about.
It's set in suburban Northern California, where high school teen April (Roberts) worries that she's the last virgin in her class. She's secretly in love with Teddy (Kilmer), and he likes her too, but everyone thinks he's having a fling with the class slut (Zoe Levin). So while babysitting one night for her soccer coach (Franco), she is both startled and thrilled when he makes a move on her. Meanwhile, Teddy's best pal Fred (Nat Wolff) is causing chaos everywhere he goes, as the school's teens go from party to party indulging in alcohol and drugs, testing the boundaries of authority. And their parents seem fairly oblivious to all of this.
Coppola shoots and edits the film in a way that's deeply personal, focussing on the inner lives of the characters rather than the gyrations of the various plot strands. This gives the film a surprisingly cohesive tone, linking everything together into a single tale of young people trying to work out a path to adulthood in a society full of mixed messages. And things rarely go as expected. For example, Teddy is sure he'll go to prison when he crashes his car while driving stoned, but he is given a second chance. And he discovers that doing community service is actually rather enjoyable.
Continue reading: Palo Alto Review
April (Emma Roberts) is a shy young girl attending high school in Palo Alto, California. While she has an unrequited crush on Teddy (Jack Kilmer), a flirtatious relationship with her soccer coach, Mr. B (James Franco) is steadily developing into something more physical and altogether more dangerous. At the same time, in the same town, a girl named Emily (Zoe Levin) is the polar opposite of April. Emily indulges in sexual interactions with Teddy and his friend Fred (Nat Wolff) who are themselves engaging in acts of juvenile destruction. But as the kids are forced together as their paths collide, questions arise about the nature of love, lust, boredom, and recklessness in the modern youth culture.
Continue: Palo Alto Trailer
Based on real events, this sharply well-made film shifts from a rather light-hearted comedy into...
If you're on the wrong side of the law and looking for someone to send...
James Franco's collection of autobiographical short stories is adapted into a remarkably evocative film by...