Nicolas Winding Refn creates iconic characters, individuals who, despite the madness in which they're usually swept up, have a mythological aura that clings to them like a bur. His latest, The Neon Demon, follows suit. The protagonist is a young woman trying to break into the cutthroat world of modeling. Though Refn instills in her the same, memorable qualities he has used to grow many characters before, the harsh world and sadistic players he builds become more so. The Neon Demon is a wicked, bloody, fairy tale that could only be delivered by Refn. Uncompromising in tone, pace, and outcome, it may be his most divisive film yet. That doesn't stop The Neon Demon from being a brutally honest look at the fashion world and the shallowness that goes with it that slowly builds to a violent finale. In other words: it's pitch-perfect Refn.
Dwayne Johnson (formerly known as wrestler "The Rock") has solidified himself as a global box-office powerhouse, with numerous box office hits over these last few years. In 2001, he starred in The Mummy Returns, which grossed more than $400 million worldwide. Universal Pictures immediately planned a spin-off based on his character, The Scorpion King, which broke a few box office records in 2002. Since then, Johnson has starred in dozens of movies, including the enormously successful Fast and the Furious franchise, San Andreas, Pain & Gain, and Hercules. With this year's buddy comedy Central Intelligence, however, Johnson has found the perfect vehicle to flex his comedic muscles, as well as his ass-kicking ones.
Since the 1960s, Ed and Lorraine Warren have been the world's most renowned paranormal investigators. In 1971, the Warrens battled a malevolent entity that permeated a remote farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island — a case brought to the big screen in James Wan‘s 2013 horror film, The Conjuring. Wan's follow-up, The Conjuring 2, picks up five years later, in 1976. In the film's prologue, the Warrens are called in to investigate another supernatural disturbance, this time in the small Long Island town of Amityville. Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) hold a séance to summon the evil entity lurking within the walls of 112 Ocean Avenue. During the encounter, Lorraine is overwhelmed by a demonic presence
16 years and 8 films have passed since the beginning of the X-Men series. It's hard to believe director Bryan Singer is still trying his hand in this particular cinematic universe, but the X-Men series has created something of a wheelhouse for the filmmaker who has left and returned to it. You'd think his voice would be ever-present even in offshoots like The Wolverine and Deadpool. Alas, X-Men: Apocalypse, the latest entry helmed by Singer, is a mess, a hodgepodge of generic ideas, paint-by-numbers action, and a continuity that will leave anyone who has followed along with the previous 8 films slapping themselves in the forehead. Singer can't even pull convincing performances out of the staggering cast built up throughout the franchise, and X-Men: Apocalypse quickly proves itself to be a stale and blasé entry into this once-promising series.
Anyone who isn't familiar with this filmmaker yet needs to start watching his films. Asghar Farhadi is an Iranian filmmaker with quite a few films on his filmography already, including most recently A Separation (which won the Academy Award in 2011) and The Past. Farhadi returns to the Cannes Film Festival with his latest film, titled The Salesman (originally titled Forushande), and while it doesn't top A Separation it's a very solid morality tale that deals with the issue of revenge and fear. The first film that comes to mind that handles this topic similarly is The Revenant, another story of revenge where the lesson is that revenge is an empty pursuit that doesn't provide satisfaction, only more pain or suffering. A lesson learned the hard way.
Shane Black has had a storied career and one that becomes retold whenever the filmmaker releases a new work. The screenwriter of Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight previously has had quite the resurgence in the last 10 years, all thanks to his directing skills being as edgy and as uncompromising as his writing style. Maybe more so. As with 2005's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and 2013's Iron Man 3, Black's latest work, The Nice Guys, tells a detective story unlike any you've seen before. Rough, endearing, hilarious, surprising, and cool, The Nice Guys is pitch perfect Black and a reminder how lucky moviegoing audiences are that this filmmaker is once again playing strong in the industry.
This film is going to piss off some people, and I love it even more because of that. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn returns to the Cannes Film Festival again after his previous film, Only God Forgives, was panned by critics in 2013. His latest, titled The Neon Demon, was booed at the press premiere yet again - but I'm on the opposite side as all of those people. This film admittedly doesn't have much of a real story to follow, but it does have oh so much more to offer. The Neon Demon is a totally wicked, totally messed up, neon-drenched study on vanity/narcissism featuring one hell of an exhilarating synth score. It's subversive and Refn knows it, so much so that he's almost laughing at the audience (and the people who hate his films).
What a magnificent one-of-a-kind animated film. The Red Turtle is animated film from director Michael Dudok de Wit, produced by the legendary Studio Ghibli with Isao Takahata involved as an artistic consultant, even though the animation was finished in France. The film is about a man who washes up on a desert island after a destructive storm, and every time he attempts to build a bamboo raft and escape, a red turtle appears out of nowhere and demolishes it. He finally gives up and accepts his fate and explores the island. The film is very simple and tells an inspiring story without any dialogue, only a few shouts of "hey" and other noises, but that's it. It's so simple yet so beautiful; I honestly was moved to tears by a few scenes.
With the conversion to digital cinema nearly complete worldwide, will 35mm still live on somewhere? This documentary is proof that yes, a love for film and 35mm projection will live on forever, even in the most remote places in the world where it's hard to even get electricity. The Cinema Travelers is a documentary made by directors Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya and it profiles a traveling cinema in India, which shows up in desolate places of the country with very basic projection rigs to show classic films to swarms of people. It is absolutely wonderful to discover, capturing so spectacularly the joy and wonder that movies bring to people of all ages. It evokes the same emotions as Cinema Paradiso, but this is all real life.
Not even snozzcumbers can fix this film. Why did it feel so bland and so pointless? It's hard to make sense of it. Steven Spielberg's latest film, an adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic book The BFG, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Oddly, it seems very out of place here. It's definitely a kids movie, to a fault, as it's the kind of kids movie that you can't really enjoy unless you're younger than 16 years old. And that's not the case for most kids movies (see: Pixar). Spielberg does his best to bring stunning visuals and great performances to the film, but it lacks that magic touch of his previous work, and seriously lacks an actual story. There's a young girl, a friendly giant, lots of snozzcumbers, the Queen of England, but not much else.
This is the story of the Lovings, Richard and Mildred Loving. This isn't the story of how they met and fell in love, but this is the true story of how they changed America forever by staying true to their love. Loving is the latest film from the immensely talented filmmaker Jeff Nichols, who also made the film Midnight Special released this year, too. Joel Edgerton stars as Richard Loving, a mumbling hard-working family man, and Ruth Negga plays his wife Mildred, a soft spoken and resilient woman. The two were married in the 1950s and lived in Virginia, and at the time were arrested for simply being an interracial married couple. Their appeal eventually made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where they rejected this racism and won.
I'm floating. I'm so in love with this film. I'm just going to say it - Paterson is a perfect film. There isn't a single thing I would change. Every scene, every moment, every line - it's perfection. Paterson is the latest film from Jim Jarmusch, a veteran filmmaker who has spent many years making all kinds of different films. This time he tells a very personal story of a poet, played by Adam Driver, who is actually a humble bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. The name and location is significant because a couple of legendary poets also spent time in Paterson. The film reminded me of Inside Llewyn Davis (Cannes 2013), about the way great talent often stays hidden, yet if that film was near perfect - this one is its totally perfect counterpart.
What a film. It's not often that a film running a lengthy 2 hours and 42 minutes is easy to sit through, but in this case I'm happy to report I was caught up in this story all the way to the end. American Honey is the latest feature from British filmmaker Andrea Arnold (of Fish Tank, Red Road previously). This time she heads to America to profile a group of wild, carefree youngsters selling magazines while driving around the mid-west in a van. As boring as that might sound, it's actually an incredible look at the life of these kids and it exquisitely captures a side of Americana that we rarely see shown in this way. This way meaning - shown in a positive light, shown in a way where even though their lifestyle is pretty shitty (they often steal and live together in motel rooms), they seem to be living that glorious life that many are seeking but can't truly find.
The opening film in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival is an intense, riveting feature called Clash (also known as Eshtebak in Egyptian) and it's outstanding. Clash is set entirely inside the back of a police paddywagon in Egypt in 2013, during the second half of their revolution. It begins when two journalists are grabbed during protests, their cameras and IDs confiscated, and thrown into the back of this truck. The impressive handheld camerawork often focuses on all the action outside as much as what's happening inside. While the entire film is confined to this one location, it feels like director Mohamed Diab is showing so much more of the Egyptian revolution, and we get to learn more as more detainees are added.