Home Video Round-Up: 2/9/2018

Columbus (1/2/2018)

When Columbus came out in theaters I was pretty skeptical.  A film directed by a video essayist in which two people talk about architecture in Columbus, Indiana? Snore.  As it turns out the movie isn’t really all that much about architecture, which is really almost a McGuffin and more just a character study of a young woman who is a bit aimless despite clearly being quite smart and a guy in his thirties who’s in Columbus because his father is dying.  With the “man and woman have intellectual discussions” set up I was perhaps expecting something along the lines of a Before Sunrise but as I watched I realized that Lost in Translation was the much closer reference given that the relationship is platonic-ish and shared between people of different ages who are both kind of isolated in different ways. The film has a sort of quiet dignity to it but it also kind of never really “goes anywhere” ultimately.  The film’s first time director, who goes by the name “Kogonada,” clearly has a style he’s working on and I’d like to see how it develops but his debut never really rocked my world.

*** out of Five

Brigsby Bear (2/2/2018)

Brigsby Bear is a movie with an unusual title and an unusual concept.  In essence it’s kind of like “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” in that it’s about someone being re-integrated into society after spending a long time isolated with a cult of sorts but it’s not as much of a comedy or at least not as broadly comedic.  Instead the movie has a certain upbeatness in the way everyone seems to rally around this weird guy to try and make him feel welcomed.  To me the film’s “up with people” worldview kind of seemed like bullshit.  This guy just shows up and acts like a total weirdo and yet people just flock to help him out even though he does little to earn their affection and the notion that large crowds would show up to watch his recreation of his terrible looking fake TV show really seems like pure fantasy.

** out of Five

One of Us (2/3/2018)

This Netflix documentary takes a look at three apostates from the world of ultra-orthodox Hassidic Judaism and how they struggle between two worlds after leaving.  The first of these three is a guy who abandoned his wife and two kids (he was pressured into marriage at 18) to go to California, the second is a guy who struggles with addiction, and the third and most compelling is a woman whose husband was abusive and is forced to fight her former community in order to maintain some custody and get away from her abuser.  While that third story is obviously the best one it’s also the one the filmmakers had the least access to because the woman in question (understandably) wanted to maintain some anonymity.  The other two stories are more interesting but in some ways feel like they could be have been just as easily showcased as NPR stories or something.  The whole film is ultimately somewhat interesting but not exactly essential.

**1/2 out of Five

After the Storm (2/8/2018)

Hirokazu Kore-eda finally won me over last year with his slice of life drama “Our Little Sister” and I had wanted to catch his follow-up when it was in theaters, but it only really played for about a week and I was traveling at the time so I missed it.  Having finally caught up with it I do wish I had seen it in a theater but also think it was a slight step down from his last film if only because the material at its center seems a bit more familiar.  The film is about a divorced dad with a gambling problem who wants to see his son more but can never really seem to get his act together enough to really make it work.  The film never really tries to downplay the guy’s shortcomings but also makes it hard to really be against him either.  Kore-eda’s usual touch is present here and manages to make these characters feel real as usual, but this divorce scenario feels a bit more mundane than the “swapped at birth” scenario from Like Father, Like Son and the scenario with the sisters from his last movie.  Still, it’s a very well made little movie and a worthwhile entrant into this director’s body of work.

**** out of Five

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2/9/2018)

This horror film set at a catholic boarding school actually premiered in genre festivals way back in 2015 and was picked up by A24, but then its release got pushed back and pushed back until it finally got dumped in a day-and-date release in spite of having some clear defenders.  I’d thought that this was a case of a studio not knowing what they had on their hands but now that I’ve seen it I kind of get why they didn’t have much confidence in it.  The film is kind of hard to follow in the way it shifts around between characters and sometimes fails to introduce new protagonists before getting into their stories.  On top of that the film is made in a somewhat shoddy manner with many scenes being rather dark, and not in a cool moody way so much as a way that just looks poorly lit.  The film clearly wants to be something along the lines of The House of the Devil or The Innkeepers in its indie-horror slow burn kind of way but it mostly just seems lacking in payoff more than anything.

** out of Five

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