With just three feature films to his name, writer and director Jeff Nichols has already set himself a high standard. Both of his previous works, Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, are strong dramas with compelling characters, dark intrigue and impressive economy of style. With Mud, Nichols has progressed from making a good film to making a great film.
It is a painful stretch to suggest that most of the movie is each girl’s troubling fantasy of how spring break will be, dreamed up while sitting in their dorm with no money. However, the fact that Korine’s tale allows for such questions is one of the most fascinating things about it. The movie’s ambiguity, with each interpretation bearing its own horrifying implications, lends unexpected dramatic weight to the exploitative revelry that makes up most of it.
Mama is a movie of weight and a certain dark beauty. It is unlikely to change history, and has a handful of minor problems, but it deserves more than a January release, the exile by which many unwatchable horror movies go to die quietly. Mama is not only watchable, but engaging and at times even powerful.
Killing Them Softly has all the right elements for a blistering satire, or merely a solid, offbeat action drama, but despite the best efforts of the cast, cavalier execution and a surprisingly poor script have made it a big unsightly mess. Even when exposing sores on society’s underbelly, it pays to write characters with some measure of appeal.
The hard truth, impossible to dodge, is that this is not Tolstoy’s world. It is more like Hugo Cabret’s world, and from time to time it even flirts perilously with becoming Baz Luhrmann’s world. Tom Stoppard’s script, though consistently bright and entertaining, abridges the story painfully to fit the stylish construct.
For those who came in late: Paranormal Activity is the continuing saga of a family whose long history with the occult has led to a spate of possessions, polter-violence, and vigilant home surveillance. Series creator and producer Oren Peli constructed the concept around handily placed cameras capturing “true life” hauntings with a seemingly bottomless barrel of visual tricks. Now, however, one can hear distinct scraping sounds as the bottom comes into view.