If you were to ask me the tone of The Belko Experiment (2017), by Greg McLean, I wouldn’t be able to supply an answer. Is it a satire? Is it serious commentary? This film involves a corrupt system, a subject that many movies may include for the next four years. So, what is it?
If reality television existed in the 1930s, the Marx Brothers may be remembered today as the male antecedent to Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Where the brothers blossomed from vaudeville to Broadway to motion pictures to television comedies, the Kardashians continue to progress from independently produced sex tape to accredited reality series to “Kourtney and Khloe take Miami” to the Kylie Jenner Lip Kit. The two families take very different approaches on theatrical dramas and elicit laughter, shock and imitation for none of the same reasons. Regardless, Minnie Marx, mother to Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo, may have inspired Kris Jenner to her momager role. Minnie, an actress in her own right, led her sons to the limelight with a little more talent and a lot more clothing than her modern day match.
In Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, a teenage girl named Star leaves behind a troubled home life to join a group of kids who travel across the Midwest selling magazines. This film sets out to tell the story of adolescent camaraderie on the road; it ends up an important contribution to road narratives that does justice to female sexuality in a way rarely seen before. In the beginning of the film, Star and two children stand on the side of the road sticking out their thumbs for passing cars. When no one will pick them up, Star yells in exasperation, “Are we invisible?” If women and children are seen as in need of help at any locus of society, that perceived helplessness is amplified when one is a woman or a child (both, in Star’s case) on the road. The vulnerability of women on the road is a reality that renders people like Star invisible to passersby.
Get Out is allegedly a horror film, but it’s not very scary. It’s a satire, written and directed by beloved comedian Jordan Peele, but most of the jokes don’t land. It’s pretty bland, but that’s not unforgivable — after all, the production company is Blumhouse, known largely for dreary, drab cheapies that deliver a bare minimum of sensation and make their money back. But what makes Get Out downright disappointing is its failure as a social allegory. Sold largely on addressing racial tensions, the actual allegorical commentary in Get Out is broad, underwhelming, and falls on its face under scrutiny.
Despite the fact that King Kong can boast three movies to his name, their respective plots are largely formulaic and predictable. Though individual directors imbue their own style in their interpretations, the essential tenets remain the same throughout: rapacious executives go to a mysterious island that proves to be full of deadly creatures. They find Kong and bring him back to New York, where, after romancing a blonde, he is gunned down by military planes. (A rendition of “it was beauty that killed the beast” usually follows.) The latest installment in the franchise, Kong: Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts has all the same ingredients. Brie Larson plays the blonde, Kong is as ferocious as ever and the island of which he inhabits is full of terrifying monsters.
Living 15 minutes from the U.S-Mexico border, I’ve seen ridiculous crimes in the news, from health care fraud to marijuana being (very poorly) disguised as limes by smugglers. This does not mean that the fact that we have nine percent of all undocumented immigrants in Texas is the reason behind this. However, in the film Savageland, border town Sangre de Cristo of 57 loses over half its population in a mass murder and all fingers are pointed to Francisco Salazar, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who had been living in the town for years, due to the fact that he was an undocumented immigrant. Our nation’s current political climate makes Savageland hauntingly relevant, as throughout the film, Mexicans are stereotyped and said to “glorify death … because it’s the only thing they have to look forward to.” The non-Mexican residents of the area surrounding Sangre de Cristo claim they can’t pronounce the town’s name and just call it “Savageland,” because it’s mostly inhabited by “savage” Mexican immigrants. As a Mexican, the stereotypical statements made me laugh, but I know that there are people who truly believe that stereotype, which reminded me that if I encounter such people and I will not be laughing then.
Ever since Bryan Singer’s first X-Men flick in 2000, the ubiquitous desire of hardcore comic book fans everywhere was for a solo Wolverine film, and for one that captured the character’s dark personality, brutal fighting style and vulgar lingo, which many felt could not be done within the confines of a PG-13 rating. Though previous efforts X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine were modest attempts, it was not until the critical and financial success of 2016’s licentious, violent and hedonic Deadpool that the groundwork was set for 20th Century Fox to acquiesce to that desire and grace cinema screens with the R-rated Logan. Although Logan is filled with enough f-bombs and dismembered limbs to satiate even the most ravenous of Quentin Tarantino fans, contrary to popular belief, these aspects are not the sole points of the film’s strengths. To say that Logan is a great Wolverine film purely because of its R-rating would do it a disservice. As superhero films become much more focused on creating cohesive cinematic worlds instead of stand-alone stories, Logan succeeds through its simplistic, emotional and character-driven narrative (carried by the raw talent of its brilliant cast) and serves as a rousing and faithful conclusion to a character whom Hugh Jackman has played for 17 years.
Why have so few people seen Lion? It has been out in theaters since Nov. 25, and has gone somewhat unnoticed. When it was one of the nine movies nominated for Best Picture, the majority of viewers questioned what it was and why it was recognized as a top movie. I first saw Lion this past December with my Mom.
In 2014, directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch unleashed a brand new assassin into the world of cinema with John Wick, a subversive, stylish and thoroughly entertaining film with beautifully choreographed, yet fiercely brutal action sequences. Unsurprisingly, expectations were high for the sequel. In Chapter 2, director Chad Stahelski returns to deliver more of the same sleek and vicious fighting sequences while expanding upon the world that he built in the first film, where New York City was reimagined as a metropolis infested with camouflaged killers who could assassinate victims at a moment’s notice. From performances to cinematography to soundtrack to the films many, many, fight scenes, John Wick Chapter 2 is a fast-paced and high octane adventure. Though repetitive in some areas, Chapter 2 is a rare sequel that retains elements that made the first film such a hit, while also going deeper into the sinews of its own cinematic world.
Watching Don’t Call Me Son, a 2016 film directed by Brazilian filmmaker Anna Muylaert, was one of the most stressful, quietly terrifying viewing experiences I’ve ever had. It is by no means a horror movie, which makes this accomplishment all the more notable. Don’t Call Me Son stars Naomi Nero as Pierre, a high-schooler who wears stockings and garters under their jeans, shaves their chest hair and takes their time after showering to try on lipstick while the bathroom door is locked. The plot of the movie revolves around the revelation that infant Pierre was stolen away from their biological parents at birth and that the woman they believed to be their biological mother is, in fact, not. Brazilian social services take Pierre away to live with a new mother, father and brother they have never known.