Full disclosure: this is a cross-post with Third Coast Review, where my review also appears.
If you’re a film nerd like me, you follow the various film festivals during the first half of the year (Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, Cannes) with one ear to the cinematic ground, just waiting to hear what everyone’s going to be talking about come awards season.
If you’re a film nerd like me, you heard all kinds of buzz out of Cannes about something called Faces Places (Visages Villages), by someone named Agnès (said: Ahn-yes) Varda, an octogenarian filmmaker well known by everyone who knows anything about international cinema.
If you’re a (lacking) film nerd like me and you’d never heard of this Agnès Varda (!) but were immediately intrigued, you set off for your local library and spent the summer with this grande dame of French New Wave cinema, taking in Daguerréotypes from 1976, Mur Murs from 1981 and anything else you could get your hands on.
No? Just me?
No matter. Whether you’ve seen none of her 50+ directing efforts or all of them, get thee to the cinema to see Faces Places. Thank me later.
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.
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.