There is a simple beauty to the premise of Old, M. Night Shyamalan’s latest feature. A seemingly idyllic family goes to a seemingly idyllic beachside. Of course, the families and the beachside are not quite idyllic as the surface suggests. For those on the beachside, they find themselves rapidly aging – a single lifetime can span 24 hours. It’s a simple metaphor and an existential terror we all face – one that can be gleaned from the trailer itself. Life passes by in an instant. Shyamalan wrings that existential vein of terror with all his earnest verve and virtuosity to make his best movie since Signs.
Old, loosely based on the graphic novel Sandcastle by Oscar Lévy and Frederik Peeters, centers on Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and their two precocious children, 6-year-old Trent (Nolan River) and 11-year-old Maddox (Alexa Swinton). Guy and Prisca are on course to separate but decided to give their family one final vacation in an unidentified island resort. They soon find themselves on a private beach alongside one other family, the vain Chrystal (Abbey Lee) and her even more vain husband Charles (Rufus Sewell), their six-old daughter Kara (Kyle Bailey), and Charles’ aging mother, Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant), a couple, Jarin (Ken Leung) and Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird), and a mysterious rapper Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre) who had been on the beach tending to his bloody nose when everyone arrived.
From there, a pleasant and serene beach day slowly escalates as everyone discovers that they are rapidly aging. Shyamalan and his director of photography, Mike Gioluakis, expertly utilize the Dominican Republic beach location. The sand, stuck between high rocks and the wide-ranging blue ocean, creates a claustrophobic atmosphere heightened by the camera’s lateral movements across the beach. Characters, in the tensest moments, are often shot in close-ups, with the wide lenses allowing for large amounts of negative space. There is no escaping the situation.
Within these tense spaces, Shyamalan allows his actors to give soulful performances that are no easy feat. Krieps and Bernal convincingly navigate their rapidly aging bodies, personalities, and minds. Shyamalan does the smart move of only relying on subtle hints of aging – extra wrinkles, liver spots, a touch of grey. All the while, the children, Trent, Maddox, and Kara, age into older performers Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, and Eliza Scanlan respectively. In another clever move, Shyamalan shoots these transitions between the young actors to their older counterparts slightly off center.
If anything, Shyamalan as a storyteller has always been underappreciated. Like all great thrillers, the film is filled with set up and pay off from the get-go. The screenplay is efficient and clear in setting up it’s rules and the core stakes of its ludicrous concept.
Ultimately, it is Shyamalan’s earnestness and utter conviction in his film’s silliness – traits that have made him an easy target for cynical film fans – that allows the film to thrive as much as it does. But what that means is that Shyamalan can navigate the schlocky horror that is expected from this premise as well as the natural human emotions that would be derived from such a scenario. This may cause whiplash for some, but it mostly works – though I admit that the schlock may be a bit uneven at times. The ending might be the only cynical thing about the movie and, not because of the classic Shyamalan “twist,” but because it is the only time the film feels like it is following a studio note and not Shyamalan’s own story instincts.
The recent reappraisal of Shyamalan’s career has been heartening. After years of being an irony-laden punchline, an idiosyncratic original filmmaker like Shyamalan should be cherished in this movie landscape inundated with IP. Old is a worthy reminder to all the doubters that he is indeed one of the best suspense directors working today.
Old is now screening theatrically in wide release.
In honor of Ted Lasso Season 2 premiering today we have a full review of Season 1 in it’s entirety below. Once you’re done reading you can watch Season 2 Episode one here.
Season 1 Overall Rating: 93/100
Episode 1: Pilot
Our first introduction to titular Ted Lasso is of him dancing with his American football team after taking them from being a garbage pile to state champions. This gets the attention of recently divorced Rebecca Welton who subsequently hires Lasso as the newest coach of her ex-husbands association football club (AFC). When he arrives in London, followed by Coach Beard, his best friend, he is greeted by Nate, who Lasso dubs “Nate the Great”, and meets the owner, Rebecca Welton, and her lackey, Higgins. Ted Lasso is one of the most genuine characters to enter the television medium and after this introduction moment, I immediately wanted him to succeed in every aspect in the show. His rapport with Coach Beard is one of my favorite aspects of the show, and in this episode in particular. During the plane scene their rapport is hilarious but also so heartwarming and was easily my favorite scene of the episode.
Episode 2: Biscuits
Ted Lasso: Hold on, now. If I were to get fired from my job where I’m putting cleats in the trunk of my car…
Coach Beard: You got the boot from puttin’ boots in the boot.
One of the perfect examples of why Ted Lasso captures the “fish out of water” trope with such precision with a perfect level of aloofness. The quote above is one of my favorite interactions between Lasso and Brendan Hunt’s “Coach Beard”. This moment not only is a great showcase of their relationship, but also shows Lasso’s unfamiliarity with the territory still, while Beard has already assimilated and soaked up knowledge of their environment, serving as a guide to Lasso in this new terrain. With this moment I felt like I immediately knew everything about Coach Beard, he studies his environment, can keep a calm demeanor and let his coaching partner do the emotions for him, while he focuses on the team on an even deeper level, and has an unwavering loyalty to Lasso.
Episode 3: Trent Crimm: The Independent
I think going into this show, we were all in some way Trent Crimm, Ted Lasso’s most vicious critic and one who takes joy in exploiting his lack of knowledge about the sport he has been hired to coach. However this episode not only stands as a turning point for myself, but also for Crimm. During the final major scene of the episode, where Trent and Ted finish their day at a restaurant, the restaurant is owned by the father of the driver who picked him and Coach Beard up from the airport in the first episode. There Lasso and Crimm eat food that is far spicier than either of their palettes are used to, however Lasso will not relent, signifying his loyalty to Richmond AFC, and like he eventually gets used to the spice, he assimilates into the environment of AFC. I love this moment as it appears on the surface to be a very simple moment of showing how polite Lasso is, and how far he will go to be nice and kind to others, but it is so much more, quite like the show itself.
Episode 4: For the Children
A night of lights! Drama! Intrigue! Fallout! Egos clash!
All go down in this episode, Richmond AFC just suffered another loss, prompting Roy and Jamie to fight even more, old school vs. new school. It’s the night of the annual gala that Rupert and Rebecca used to host when they were married, but now Rebecca is hosting it by herself, adding more responsibilities to her shoulders. Ted sees this as an opportunity to mend fences between Roy and Jamie. Of all the episodes, this is probably the best written, taking all of the storylines set up in previous episodes and bringing them to this event. I loved the exchanges between Roy and Jamie, the undertones they exude are nothing short of hilarious, and the ending of this episode is one of my favorites in the show.
Episode 5: Tan Lines
Ah the old buffer episode, usually towards the middle of the season of a show, especially one with a story going throughout each episode, there is a buffer, or breaker episode to give everyone some breathing room. However this show takes it and turns it on its head, instead giving us a break from the team, and a deeper look into Lasso’s personal life. Showing the troubles that were brewing before have followed him to England. Emotionally this is the first time the show takes a darker turn and a more real tone. I thought this was a brilliant move, turning the comedy into drama, but never losing the comedic beginnings the show started with. Never does comedy subvert the drama and vice versa. Spoilers ahead, there is a moment between Lasso and his wife that broke me. It shows Sudekis’ chops as a dramatic actor as well as some of the underlying nature of Lasso is still true and kind, no matter what is thrown at him.
Episode 6: Two Aces
Comedy series often will forget the important moments of the previous episode, but the start of this episode deals directly with the fall out of Episode 5, Tan Lines. I found this to be a very nice touch. Although new issues arise quickly when mysterious injuries and folk tales begin troubling the team. Instead of being deterred, in true Lasso spirit, Ted takes this as an opportunity to bring the team closer together in a heartwarming ceremony in the treatment room. However first he has to deal with issues with Jamie, fully quoting the Allen Iverson “We’re talking about practice” speech, however adding a tone that is full of emotion from issues with his personal life. This moment in the show might be my favorite, one I think about daily. While also welcoming back Jamie to the team after benching him last episode. The way the treatment room ceremony is shot could be viewed as basic, but it lets each actor shine in their role, and made me fall even more in love with Ted Lasso.
Episode 7: Make Rebecca Great Again
Reinvention. Not only in the team but in Rebecca. So far she has been mocked, humiliated, and overall berated not only by her ex-husband, but also the press. Now she has some time away from Richmond, followed by her new best friend Keeley Jones, the ex-girlfriend of star Jamie Tartt. To add insult to injury however, this away game that AFC Richmond is playing is against a rival who they have not beaten in 60 years, and it is the weekend of Rebecca and Rupert’s wedding anniversary. Of all the episodes this seemed to be the least important, not in terms of quality, but overall effect on the show. This is the most disconnected from the Richmond environment. However somehow the show does not suffer from this disconnect, instead providing some more much needed breathing room.
Episode 8: The Diamond Dogs
How does the saying go “Behind every great man is an even greater woman”? Well in our titular character’s case, behind every great Lasso lies his diamond dogs. After the ending of the previous episode, where Ted hooked up with Rebecca’s friend Flo, he feels weird, given that he just signed divorce papers from his wife, and seeks counsel from Nate, Coach Beard, and Higgins. There is another who also seeks counsel. Despite her budding relationship with Roy, Keeley sleeps with Jamie, and admits it to Roy. Who then proceeds to seek the counsel of the Diamond Dogs. This is one of the more serious episodes of the series which is nice, since we are now back in the Richmond environment, and the tension adds to the overall tone of the intermingled storylines. This does seem to detract from the overall team. Despite this, its another great episode in the series.
Episode 9: All Apologies
The penultimate episode to a mindblowing season one is here. Penultimate episodes have a special place in TV history, most recently being Game of Thrones, as well as miniseries such as Sherlock, Mare of Easttown, and Loki. Roy is dealing with the ultimate issue that has been hanging over him throughout the show and the butt of a lot of jokes, his age. He is having to finally come to terms with the fact that he is not the same player he was when he was younger. Rebecca has to pay for her sins from the start, and finally tells Ted everything. However his response is not what she expected, given all the marital issues he has experienced, he understands how she feels, and the position she was in. He responds in the most Lasso way possible, he gives her a hug, which she does not try to break free. This moment can seem small, but is one of the biggest in the show, he broke through almost everyone on the team, sans Jamie Tartt, who left Richmond AFC. Now he has broken through the toughest one yet, Rebecca. This episode provides a much needed catharsis to their relationship and is a truly beautiful moment. The other beautiful moment is at the end of the show, when Roy accepts his age issues, but still shows up to lead the team. In a show full of meaningful moments, these 2 standout. I’m not one to get emotional, but I will admit that a tear or two was shed.
Episode 10: The Hope That Kills You
After a season filled with as much drama as comedy, somehow the finale lives up to everything built before. Ted has been through a lot since taking his post as coach of AFC Richmond, however despite his positive influence on them, they are one game away from being relegated. Meaning they would no longer be a premier team. Despite this pressure, Ted continues his positive outlook. Even if the pressure is clearly eating him up, add on a looming divorce, and you’ve got someone who is a pressure cooker with a time bomb. This episode drops most of the comedy that has infused the show and trades it in for tension and drama, and still fits perfectly in the show. The futbol scenes are expertly filmed, using long tracking shots which heighten the suspense. In the end, the team is relegated, however hope is not lost, because that isn’t the Lasso way. With Rebecca now wanting the team to succeed, everyone is on the same side and are now stronger than ever. The only casualty of this being Roy getting injured, and whose fate on the field is unknown.
A spooky and occasionally quite sexy supernatural horror-thriller that gets by on its Hitchcockian vibe and a superb performance from Michelle Pfeiffer, despite it being deadly obvious after a certain point where the story is going.
Pfeiffer plays Claire, an empty-nested housewife, who begins snooping around and spying on her neighbor after suspecting he has murdered his wife, while at the same time, strange things happen around her newly renovated lakeside house – doors creak open on their own, a picture frame keeps falling over, and she keeps walking by her bathroom to find light and steam spilling out of it, her claw-foot tub inexplicably full to the brim.
Claire’s suspicions of foul play next door suggest a take on Rear Window, but that proves to be a red herring; the real threat is the ghost in Claire’s own home, the question then being who is haunting her and why. The script lays out bread crumbs for Claire to follow with a groaning lack of subtlety, and once Claire’s husband Norman (Harrison Ford) is revealed to have been unfaithful with a student who has since gone missing, it leaves little doubt as to who this malevolent spirit really has it out for.
Pfeiffer makes Claire’s hunger to unravel the mystery compelling, and Zemeckis delectably directs more than a handful of thrilling scenes, aided by Alan Silvestri’s inherently suspenseful, Bernard Hermanesque orchestral score. The steamy bathroom is the site of a late game nail-biter, sharply edited and tightly shot, and a pulpy eroticism reaches its apex in a seduction scene where Pfeiffer oozes a deliciously frightening sexual confidence. So although it’s hampered by its eventual predictability, as well as incoherent development in Ford’s character, the movie’s unshowy stylishness and lead performance keep it afloat.
What Lies Beneath Trailer
What Lies Beneath is currently available to rent from on multiple streaming platforms.
All My Friends Hate Me is Andrew Gaynord’s directorial feature film debut.It tells the story of Pete (Tom Stourton, who also co-wrote the film) as he reunites with his posh university friends to enjoy a birthday getaway in a fancy country manor. What ensues from this mini-reunion is a series of strange and uncomfortable events as Pete and his friends try to live it up to the good old days when they were still at school. On the surface, this is a simple premise but as the story progresses things get a bit more convoluted.
The most interesting thing All My Friends Hate Me has going for it is the discussion of classism in British society. These differences between Pete and his more affluent friends are hinted at throughout the movie. The dynamic among them made me wonder why Pete was even friends with these people in the first place. They seem to have nothing in common, or at least nothing in common anymore. These differences intensify as the film progresses and the friends grow more paranoid making the weekend incredibly uncomfortable. The tensions we observed on screen combined with the score helped set the tempo for their reunion.
If you enjoyed the vibes of The Cabin in the Woods (2011) or Ready or Not (2019) this movie might be for you, although, I have to admit that those movies did it much better. For me, if the characters aren’t compelling enough it is hard for me to want to learn more and enjoy their story. This was the case as I watched this film. Perhaps if the film leaned into more of its campy aspects, as a way to explore what happens to friends when they drift apart and differences in social status, it would have been more effective. With those caveats aside, this was an okay effort for a debut director. I am sure it will find an audience somewhere but it wasn’t for me. In any case, I will keep my eye on Gaynord and Strourton’s next projects to see where they go from here.
In the past month there have been unprecedented heat waves and forest fires in the Pacific Northwest, a fire in the Gulf of Mexico from broken gas pipes(the ocean was on actual FIRE), and melting polar ice caps. With the hubris of humans on Earth causing these climate disasters, the uber-rich have begun imagining a way to travel and colonize Mars. Director Wyatt Rockefeller (yes of those Rockefeller’s) unsuccessfully tries distilling these current anxieties of unending resource consumption, greed, and colonization into the film Settlers, agrim neo-western set on Mars.
Set in the future, years after the Mars atmosphere has been made inhabitable for humans (the how is never explained) and settlements have come and gone, Settlers follows a family consisting of Reza (Jonny Lee Miller), his wife Ilsa (Sofia Boutella), and their daughter Remmy (Brooklynn Prince) on a farm, seemingly surrounded only by a vast landscape. Their anxiety soon ratchets up when it becomes clear that the family is not alone, as they begin to hear howls in the distance and the message of “Leave” is left on their window. It is revealed that the family had acquired the farm through violent means, as they begin to be terrorized by Jerry (Ismael Cruz Córdova), the son of the farm’s former occupants who wants to reclaim his land.
Rockefeller gets a lot of mileage from filming on location in the beautiful Vioolsdrif desert in South America. Filmed with the typical red hue to denote Mars, the homestead ranch juxtaposed against the miles of barren landscape really highlights the themes of isolation and loneliness that run throughout the film. Rockefeller uses the filmic language of the Classic Hollywood western to draw parallels between the old notions of settlements of the Western Frontier in the 1800’s and all the complications that comes with, and that of a possible Mars settlement.
However, the film’s allegories become muddled with its confused depiction of Jerry. The character seems to be an amalgamation of all the movie tropes of an indigenous character from an old western. He is, on one hand, in tune with nature as he is cultivates the homestead’s land for much needed resources, and, on the other hand, craven in his desires, especially sexually. His character design, as well, draws troubling comparisons to indigenous people. Any criticisms of colonialism and human greed are undermined by the shortsightedness of a depiction such as this.
Problematic depictions aside, the film quickly becomes dramatically inert after a tense first act. The film relies too much on long meandering stretches of brooding characters completing chores. While it creates a good atmosphere, there is not enough thematic underpinnings that warrant such long stretches. The film is never as thrilling or suspenseful as the opening third and premise suggests. Settlers ultimately feels like a first film, grand in ambition, but shallow in thought. Rockefeller certainly has the eye for a striking image and the ability to stretch a budget. The film is admirable in its earnestness in wanting to engage with the heady issues that underpins the film, but never seems to connect any of the sociopolitical implications of the film beyond humans having the capacity to be “bad.”
Settlers is currently available to purchase and rent on most digital storefronts.
There is a sort of perverse curiosity when we watch a film about a famous public figure whose death came so prematurely, especially when the cause is suicide. The natural inclination is to ask, “Why?” Morgan Neville’s newest documentary, Roadrunner:A Film About Anthony Bourdain, is fully aware that the question “Why?” would be in the heads of an audience who would watch a documentary about the famed chef, raconteur, and television presenter. Neville does not shy away from the why, nor does he hinge his film on answering that question. Instead he presents Anthony Bourdain’s humanity and public persona with great intimacy and respect.
Neville chronicles Bourdain’s professional and personal life starting with his breakout success as an author in 2000, with the publication of his memoir Kitchen Confidential. From there, the film progresses mostly linear–describing the development of his travel shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown, highlighting key episodes from them to perceive something deeper about the man and his ethos. Interspersed are talking heads made up of friends and colleagues who are candid about their experiences with Bourdain.
Like all of Neville’s films, Neville is dexterous with his use of the 10,000 hours of footage that he had access to. Because Bourdain was a writer who specialized in an open self-monologuing style, Neville can let the film essentially be narrated by Bourdain himself. Clever use of editing and juxtaposition cause the film to have a haunting quality, so that you fall in love with the zeal that Bourdain had for life without ever forgetting his end.
The footage that Neville uses really captures the appeal of Bourdain to viewers. In every way, the TV-version of Bourdain was an aspirational figure for the modern man. Smart, acerbic, deeply empathetic, and compassionate, with the right bit of punk rock edge to keep him cool. He had the literary stylings of Hunter S. Thompson and George Plimpton, and a voracious love of film that he was able to bring to the sensibilities of his shows.
Bourdain is a natural subject for Neville’s oeuvre. Neville’s previous documentaries on Fred Rogers in Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Orson Welles in They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead were also about famous figures with intensely crafted public personas that clashed with and bled into their personal lives. Neville similarly demystifies Bourdain’s public persona by delving deep into the ways that Bourdain’s personal life was hampered by his celebrity and work ethic.
Yet, all of the carefully crafted footage and intimate talking heads could not fully capture the intense personal turmoil without traversing salacious territory. The final act of the film portrays Bourdain’s final relationship with film actress/director Asia Argento and falls dangerously close equating the blame of Bourdain’s final moments as an act of romantic revenge (Argento was not interviewed for the film). Thankfully, the film never fully puts the blame on anyone but Bourdain himself, as Neville and talking heads point towards Bourdain’s past heroin addiction creating an addictive personality, as well as his past depression and suicidal thoughts. However, there is enough insinuation there to make one queasy.
The best moments of Roadrunner are the time devoted to how the people who loved Bourdain have reacted to his suicide. Suicide is such a rare topic for any film to grapple with, especially its aftermath. Neville is able to deal with the subject with sensitivity, bolstered by the talking heads’ candidness. The interviewees display a range of anger, confusion, and profound sadness. They also display a deep love for a friend who is gone and gratefulness to have known him. The scars are still there but that means the wounds are healing.
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain Trailer
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is currently playing in theaters.
Invisible Demons directed by Rahul Jain is an examination of climate change, the free market economy and, its consequences, in India. Jain’s documentary explores this by capturing images of visible particulates in the air that are perforating lungs slowly, breathing tastes where middle aged women break out in coughing fits, and crowded streets that give you a sense of the collective strain against the environment in India and New Delhi in particular. This story will resonate with anyone that is worried about our warming climate, growing amounts of refuse, and whether a habitable future on this planet will be possible.
Jain’s unique camerawork and visual style really help dictate the pace of this doc. Most of the “talking” in this documentary is done visually. Jain sporadically breaks his visual narrative by featuring newscasts or first person accounts about what is happening in India and the effects of air pollution in Delhi. By doing so, Jain adds a bit of heart to this story. He examines a past, present, and future that is incredibly depressing as the citizens of this megacity experience the cascading and interconnected effects of climate change.
Ultimately, this documentary works because it explores the mostly individual and collective experiences of climate change and what they mean for the country as a whole. In a place where air pollution is one of the most deadly killers (15 of the top 20 most polluted cities are in India) Jain’s storytelling never becomes cynical. Instead, he tries to offer us a visual representation of what the present and future hold as people live and learn to deal with climate change.
Invisible Demons screened as part of the Cannes 2021 Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.
Larry King has and always will be a radio and television legend and a hero of mine. His way of connecting with an audience with his demeanor and tone has always kept me coming back to watching his old interviews, especially the ones with his friend Herb Cohen. I have heard King talk about Herb Cohen countless times and it always is very heartwarming to watch. In director Lisa Melmed’s new documentary Larry and Me. Seeing Herb talk about his lifelong friendship with the iconic TV reporter was a joy, and made for one of the best documentaries of the year so far. Melmed makes this feel like King’s presence is still with us even after the credits roll. My only issue with this film is that this was that it is not a feature length documentary film. I would love to see a full length film on their friendship. I felt the genuine love and care these two had for each other and I think that condensing a 75 year friendship into such a short amount time is practically a crime. That being said I am very happy that this friendship is still being explored despite Larry King’s passing.
Explores more facets of life within its specific milieu in a swift ninety minutes than most films do in over two hours, and without any idea or character forcibly shoehorned in. Is at its best though when it’s looking at middle-class guilt through Kate (Keener, always wonderful), whose emergent conscience about running a second-hand furniture business that benefits when people die prompts her to volunteer and give to the homeless as means of redemption. Two highlights here: her trip to a facility for the elderly (“She’s really hunched”, Kate says concernedly as a woman shuffles by), and her crying when she volunteers with the disabled (“Uh, you should go”, says her supervisor, embarrassed as Kate starts tearing up). Holofcener finds the humor in both scenarios without being condescending.
I can’t help but also call out my two grumbles: Kate’s trip to her competitor’s store, where a fellow patron’s talk about furniture “having ghosts” unnecessarily verbalizes an idea Holofcener already sufficiently implied, and Kate later envisioning a dead woman sitting in a chair across from her, which undercuts the power of the preceding shot of the chair empty, weighed down by the absence of the woman who died in it.
Mortality isn’t in every plot strand, but it does seem to weave its way through the movie’s periphery by implication, and occasionally comes to the fore. Everyone’s talking about going upstate to see the Fall leaves, beautiful as they die, Rebecca Hall’s character’s job as an assistant radiologist involves testing patients for a deadly disease, Kate and Alex’s economic future hinges on the inevitability of people dying and their furniture moving on. That the movie is so light on its feet and digestible as it alludes to the most profound aspects of human experience is remarkable.
Please Give Trailer
Please Give is currently available to rent on multiple streaming platforms.