Category Archives: Film Reviews
Considered the pinnacle of power in some ways in the Marvel universe, Captain Marvel’s perception reached a fever pitch after the ending of “Infinity War” because of the intention that Carol Danvers is the savior that will save the wiping off on the universe that Thanos did. After watching the progression but especially in the final minutes per se, one sees how the reversal of fortune could possibly work. The only issue is that, in all fairness, it is very hard to follow up the emotional and textural wallop that was “Infinity War” which worked very much on all levels. Captain Marvel seems at times almost cartoonish comparatively. Granted it is an origin story but throughout much of the film’s first half it feels esoteric in many ways and meandering in others. While the directors (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck), who have made many indie films together, seem to handle the action quite well, it again feels at times too cartoonish and melding aspects of one corner of the Marvel Universe with “Guardians” and the other side with “Avengers” without really existing in most. The de-aging of Sam Jackson makes him almost the sidekick here which is interesting playing back to that mid-90s vibe allowing him for some great comic bits.
Brie Larson is trying her best and her workout regiment obviously shows that she is up for the task but the tone related (also because some of the dialogue is quite stilted) makes the staccato of the acting seem monotone in a way. It be seen very primarily in the scenes between her and Annette Bening which even in her brief elements, makes the acting look flawless and effortless. The tonality also of Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos, without giving anything away, has some balance but the focus is a bit off, which again might be directing. Little technical elements of 1990s Los Angeles also don’t fit but is a small detail in the bigger picture (i.e. the light rails as well as an underground tunnel in Union Station). Finally the aspect of Jude Law’s character although key to the story feels empty and again stilted at times compared to the effortlessness of Dumbledore in “Crimes Of Grindewald” just a few months ago. The resolution pushes the story forward of course and the texture of 90s songs both works and doesn’t because unlike the mix tape of “Guardians” it is not integral to the story as far as meaning. “Captain Marvel” bridges the gap but doesn’t necessarily do it fantastically, only adequately.
By Tim Wassberg
Located two hours outside of Chicago right over the border in Wisconsin, Beloit is a small little town with a bustling and cool artisan scene with some local bars but also some great little eateries (Bushel & Pecks and their Bloody Marys deserve mention). In the latter half of February, just as a balance of snow and cold hits the town, the Beloit International Film Festival offers its wares in select venues across town. Other films such as Lake Michigan Monster, Olympia and Ape Girl were selected for interviews but here also is a selection of other films screened.
Eternal Winter Set against the work camps set up by the Soviets for the Germans during the latter half of World War II using men and women to mine for fuel as the war raged on, this film is both lush and harrowing at times. The lead character Iren, as played by Marina Gera, shows a dexterity of will, moral structure but also an essence of survival as her journey through the bleak winter gets more and more bleak. The icy surroundings as well as almost Siberian (if not actual) isolation moves the story as the idea of what is real and what is not plays on her mind. Like “Prayer Before Dawn” and “Papillon”, what might have seemed extraordinary turns normal. Iren’s one essence of redemption is Rajmund, played by Sandor Csanyi, who teaches her the rules of survival and cigarette making among other things. The eventual resolution is expected in certain ways but shows that all notions are fair in love and war.
Deany Bean Is Dead This blend of black and romantic comedy follows Deany Bean who is stuck in a dead end job with a vicious boss. This mild mannered woman takes her anger and rage out once she is fired and she sees that her fiancé returned from vacation with a new fiancée. While the slapstick works well especially with the brother of her former fiancé in a closed space, the comedy strains credibility because the dinner guests are too trusting to seem any more than plot points. Alison Marie Volk brings a likability and an earnestness to Deany but also a desperation of sorts that becomes almost unlikable and yet understandable at same time. The essence of therapy and new age resolution almost seems ironic if it wasn’t played so earnestly.
Family This undeniable story of both repression, revenge and almost at times nihilism is a stylish foray into family dysfunction although one told by a woman within Tel Aviv. That structure alone is unique but Veronica Kedar, who wrote, directed and stars in the film as Lily, brings a macabre spectacle reflected in an non linear structure that shows an unraveling of a mind but also the path that led her to this point. Kedar gives a matter-of-fact normality to Lily even as her tale (related afterwards at her therapist’s home to said doctor’s interested daughter) spins more out of control. Lily’s father is domineering but oblivious, her mother consumed by tradition, her sister by expectation and her brother by all kinds of other demons. It is the interaction with Avi as played by Ishai Golan that is the most unnerving and well played simply because of the odd dynamic that they bring to it. Like “The Killing Of The Sacred Deer” it uses a whirlpool of emotion and irony to spin the story further and further. Avi’s final resolution is both heartbreaking and reprehensible especially a scene where he sings a song on a piano surrounded by the nightmare that has been created.
By Tim Wassberg
The texture of a trilogy is always based in a texture of resolution and giving perspective on how the characters have grown. “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” starts off a bit as what we have seen before which is the structure of saving the dragons with Toothless, a Night Fury being able to control his fellow reptiles. The transgression of the movie, without giving too much away, involves the essence of change and what method of acceptance allows all the characters to move forward. Hiccup, as the unlikely hero of his community of Vikings, suffers from the aspect that his identity is defined by Toothless and not what he possibly can become. Even though Astrid is by his side he doesn’t trust his instincts and unfortunately, at times, his would-be princess is used in a more conventional way to push forward the story. Like Hiccup, Toothless suffers in a similar way when a Light Fury under the guise of another agenda (not of her own doing) lures Toothless away. All this is done without malice which is a nice structure but leads back to the themes of identity and loyalty eventually as Hiccup and Astrid make their to the Hidden World. Without revealing the spoilers, the films relates this essence of existing and growing up in a sensible, emotional and literal way without creating too much of an overwrought scenario making it both palpable for the younger viewers (through the pratfalls and comedic awkwardness of both Hiccup and Toothless) while still maintaining a mythic story structure and progression to satisfy many adult expectations.
By Tim Wassberg