You know the drill by now. If you want here are the previous parts:
Let’s dive in.
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM dir. J. A. Bayona
By this point in the Jurassic Park series, expecting the next installment to have some sort of fealty to the vision set forth by Steven Spielberg, Michael Crichton, and co. might be an idealistic wish, yet it still comes as a shock to see a movie completely disregard all the deeper themes of the original that made the movie great. The direct sequel of the rebooted Jurassic World mini-franchise instead wallows in the deep blockbuster cynicism that inspired Universal Studios to take this franchise off the shelf to pump more dollars into the company’s coffers. The plot of Fallen Kingdom involves so many leaps in logic and so many acts of pure stupidity that it forcefully challenges you to try and switch your brains off in order to accept it at a basic level. Even though a ridiculous amount of money has been pumped into this movie to make it possible, it has the stink of Jaws: The Revenge – another sequel based off a universally beloved Spielberg movie that relied strictly on our goodwill and nostalgia toward the original to justify its existence and pique our interest. I have no doubt that a decade from now, Fallen Kingdom will be remembered for the exact same reason.
THE RIDER dir. Chloe Zhao
What if the thing that gives you most life is also the thing that might kill you? This is precisely the dilemma Brady Blackburn (Brady Jandreau) faces when his promising career as a bronco rider gets cut short by a horrific rodeo accident which leaves him brain damaged – another head accident could prove fatal. This is of course a tough pill to swallow but he tries to follow his doctor’s orders as best he can, resigning himself to working at a supermarket and training younger riders how to ride a bronco. Director Chloe Zhao unfolds this story slowly, introducing us to his life away from riding. We get a sense of his own loss, and we see something of the grim reality of his life apart from riding – but we never get to see the full extent of his loss. However after awhile the lure of riding proves too great for Brady and he ends up training a wild horse named Apollo. In an almost magical scene we see Brady tame and become one with his horse and it is then that we understand: he may die if he rides, but he will die a much slower death if he doesn’t. In this way he echoes not just the dying embers of the Western myths, but in a way reflects the state that America finds itself in. How he resolves this conundrum for himself, is nothing short of compelling drama.
UNSANE dir. Steven Soderbergh
After the tepid box-office gains for Soderbergh’s big-screen comeback Logan Lucky (shame on all of you!), Soderbergh has seemingly sworn off making and releasing films in conventional ways in favor of high experimentation. Unsane is Soderbergh’s first foray into this new venture and if early indications are anything to go by, the signs are good that this could be a fruitful time for Soderbergh, and by extension us as viewers. Shot on an iPhone 7, the follows Sawyer (Clare Foy), a neurotic if decently successful woman who finds it near impossible to be intimate with men due to the fact that she has recently moved away to escape a stalker. Seeking treatment she inadvertently signs a form that sends her to a mental facility where she is to be committed for 24-hours. There she finds herself more or less held against her will in an instititution reminiscent of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and also horrifically finds out that one of the nurses is her stalker taking an assumed name. This decidedly B-Movie plot is all artifice for Soderbergh to experiment with his shooting technique, but thanks to Foy’s incredibly magnetic performance it is also more that just a formal exercise (and coincidentally is a great kick-off to what could be Foy’s breakout year in movies with First Man and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest coming out later this year to complement her excellent work on Netflix’s The Crown). The only problem with this movie is that Soderbergh could have held out on letting us know whether Claire, and her paranoia, is something based in reality or in her head more which would have elevated this movie beyond its B-movie trappings. As it is however, it is merely a straightforward and throwaway thriller that is significant only in signalling what could be the beginning of the next exciting phase of Soderbergh’s career.
THE TALE dir. Jennifer Fox
“A 17-year old girl is just never ever in her prime.” These words spoken by Hannah Gadsby at the height of her fiery monologue in Nanette have resonated with me ever since she delivered them. And it was those words that resonated hauntingly with me watching Jennifer Fox’s harrowing autobiographical tale of her uncovering the brutal reality of being sexually assaulted in her youth and being gaslighted to believe otherwise. Laura Dern plays an adult version of Jennifer who at the start of the movie, has an idyllic view of her sexual awakening in childhood. Her early flashbacks in the movie are bathed in warm and bright light, and portrayed in an almost dreamlike state as she talks about her first relationship between her riding instructor Mrs. G (Elizabeth Debicki) and running coach Bill. Then her mother (Ellen Burstyn) points out a crucial piece of information to Jennifer, and in a true masterstroke of a narrative twist, all the romanticism of her memory is wiped clean. Though I will not spoil it here, it compeletly knocked the wind out of me, turning this memoir from a bittersweet coming-of-age story into a horrific and sickenening tale of predation, grooming, and abuse (I for one was thankful to hear body doubles were used in certain scenes). But beyond the horrific reality of what sexual abuse could looke like, The Tale is remarkable in its portrayal of how memory works. Jennifer’s picture of her youth is idyllic and empowering, she just cannot come to call herself a victim (the real-life Jennifer Fox could not come to say that until she was 45 herself). As she investigates her past further every new piece of information that should bring her whole facade of her view of herself down finds stubborn resistance in her memory. It is a harrowing but altogether accurate view of how we process the traumas of our youth. And it is heartbreaking.
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