By: Henry J. Fromage –
I’ve definitely developed a pretty quality theme over the last few weeks, between Fantasia Fest films and some more great July theatrical releases.
176. Have a Nice Day
This surprise adult animation entry at this year’s Berlinale Film Festival plays like a Chinese version of the Fargo TV Show, following characters of various degrees of criminality as they aspire to secure a bag full of money that represents a range of modest to even downright sad aspirations. Just like that show, and the film that inspired it, though, it’s all destined to end in a bloody pile-up of small mistakes and overconfidence. Well worth your time.
177. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
I honestly have no idea what was going through Guy Ritchie’s head when he thought he’d turn the King Arthur legend into something like five movies of incredibly expensive, utterly nonsensical bombast. I knew I was in for some bullshit from minute one, as evil sorcerer Mordred (Arthur’s illegitimate son in the tales, but whatever) commands an army of 10-story tall elephants to defeat Arthur’s father’s kingdom. Yes, this is another origin story. Anyway, I don’t know why he thought Arthurian legend was the perfect vehicle for his God of War + Game of Thrones + Diablo mashup aspirations, but it’s a pile of rancid garbage in the end. Don’t think those sequels are coming.
178. A Taxi Driver
Song Kang-ho, who I’m starting to consider the Korean Tom Hanks, has another prestige picture out, this time playing a cagey taxi driver who steals a fare to take a German reporter to Gwangju in 1980- a city that has been sealed off as student protests and horrifically violent retribution clash while the rest of the country goes about their daily lives and briefly wonders about the small-scale Commie agitation that their news tells them is happening there. This is pretty conventional in its execution- the Korean equivalent of Oscar bait- but it’s an interesting story with great character work from Song and Liam Nees-err, Thomas Kretschman. Not that controlling a populace through fomenting confusion in their media has any present day relevance, either…
179. Tragedy Girls
Tragedy Girls wants very dearly to be Scream for the Instagram generation. And while its tongue-in-cheek script and fairly refreshing and unique focus on wanna-be serial killer Heathers does receive the requisite filmmaking energy and verve (and just the other side of cartoonish gore) such a premise requires, it’s not half as clever as it thinks it is. A good rental for horror junkies, though, most likely.
180. A Ghost Story
David Lowery, Rooney Mara, and Casey Affleck shot this film almost as an aside and for a pittance, and in secret just in case it turned out as foolish as its premise suggested it would. It is, after all, a film about a ghost played by Affleck in a bedsheet with eyeholes. Instead of a childish whiff, A Ghost Story is one of the arthouse home runs of the year, a heartbreaking rumination on death, time, relationships, and the universal truths that bind us.
If A Ghost Story, in all its beautifully shot extended scenes and subtle commentary on what it means to exist is too artsy-fartsy for ya, well, I have some bad news about this film. Kekszakallu is an arthouse rendition of the classic Bluebeard story set in the present day of Argentina. Except with none of the entrapment or murder or other recognizable story beats of its namesake. What it does have, however, is some of the most inventive and eye-catching cinematography you’re likely to see in many a year, rendering the mundane gorgeously alien and leading you to agree that the plot is plenty fine being the least of this film’s concerns.
182. Most Beautiful Island
Ana Asensio wrote, directed, and stars in this tight thriller about a mysterious game that preys on beautiful immigrant women in New York. The first half is an interesting view in the life of a immigrant who probably came with modeling dreams and now hands out fried chicken fliers, but it’s the tense and unrelenting back half that probably landed it the top prize at SXSW.