For all the obscure festival releases and challenging documentaries I see, all the high-brow foreign dramas and such, you’d be forgiven for thinking that most of what I watch is, well, not that fun. Or at least, not the kind of fun one is usually looking for on a night out at the cinema.
Friends, I’m here to tell you that not only do I see those other films, the ones made for the spectacle and popcorn, but you know what? I enjoy the hell out of them. I took myself to see Guardians of the Galaxy a couple years ago. I voluntarily made my way through seven Star Wars films, and now I get what the fuss is all about. What I’m saying is, sometimes you just need a fun time at the movies.
Free Fire is that fun. Ben Wheatley’s latest (High Rise), set in the 1970s, is an arms deal that quickly goes bad and the resulting 90-minute shoot-out, as both sides try to make it out alive. Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and Sam Riley lead an ensemble cast of smart-asses and dip-shits who infuse a brutal gunfight with humor and, believe it or not, a bit of sympathy.
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The first part of the year is traditionally a bit of a cinematic wasteland, a barren stretch of a release calendar filled with movies that would qualify for a Razzie long before an Oscar or Golden Globe. Sure, there’s Sundance in January, and some nominated films see wider U.S. releases in February. But generally speaking, it isn’t until May that things really improve, as early summer blockbusters make their way into the world.
It’s that context that makes a gem like THEIR FINEST, opening barely halfway through April, all the more enjoyable. In a sea of mediocrity, it’s well worth the trip to the cinema this month before they’re overrun by superheroes and action adventures.
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In 2009, Mark Webb directed one of the best indies of that year, (500) Days of Summer. Quirky and endearing, it was a success both with critics and audiences. It also set Webb on the path most successful white male independent filmmakers find themselves on following such a hit: he was drafted to helm a superhero movie. Specifically, 2012’s Amazing Spider-Man and its 2014 sequel.
In Gifted, Webb returns to the world of actual people and interpersonal relationships, nary a suited-up superhero in sight. Well, that is if you can forget that the film’s lead, Chris Evans, is Captain America himself. (Also, I just realized that a guy named Webb directed the Spider-Man movies, and that makes me giggle.)
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