Seven new March film reviews from Steve Pulaski of Influx Magazine

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I CAN ONLY IMAGINE

It’s been many a holy night since I’ve enjoyed a faith-based drama as much as I Can Only Imagine. The fourth film from the Erwin brothers, Andrew and Jon, whose previous efforts include the so-so abortion melodrama October Baby, the peculiar comedy Moms’ Night Out, and the hokey WoodlawnI Can Only Imagine flies past their previous efforts, and most of the genre’s recent products, to deliver a feel-good film not beholden to grating acts of proselytizing

LOVE, SIMON

Love, Simon is a deeply sincere, affectionate coming out/of-age film fueled by a host of well-developed characters played by commendable actors. While sometimes too precise in its sentimentality and of course bound to draw criticism for the main character’s easier path for coming out than most, these details will hold little weight for those who find their lives helped or even saved because of this film.

TOMB RAIDER

We can add Tomb Raider to the list of properties given second chances, of course coming fifteen years after Angelina Jolie played the titular character for what would be the final time in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life. That sequel to the 2001 origin story of the respective character boasted mixed reviews and modest box office receipts that might’ve justified a sequel had Jolie been willing to go along with it. However, she knew the series was, as the Eagles wisely put it, taken to the limit in terms of its cinematic potential being reached. Warner Bros., who is distributing Roar Uthaug’s haphazardly realized reboot, should’ve known better and moved on from the one-time popular video-game character (if you’re a millennial, check your crawlspace or attic for a dusty copy of the 1996 PlayStation game). While you’re at it, instead of shelling out money to see this film, unearth your system or fire up an emulator and silently hope Aeon Flux isn’t the next one to get this same kind of “forgiveness” treatment from Hollywood.

THOROUGHBREDS

On top of many other things, Thoroughbreds suggests that a disaffected youth is better by far than a wise and productive old age.

A film so creative and strange it’s surprising A24 didn’t call dibs the instant it premiered at Sundance last year, Cory Finley’s directorial debut is a slickly made production. Initially conceived by Finley as a stageplay until it found itself reconceptualized as a work fit for the big-screen, it’s a film I personally would’ve loved to see play out on-stage. The claustrophobic elements in Finley’s film, from the lavish mansion setting that serves as the primary location, complete with spotless furniture and expensive decor complimenting the vapidity of this particular culture, would’ve been captivating to see in-person. Yet by housing a nasty, morally bankrupt story of youth in a gigantic palace, Finley allows these contrasting elements to culminate into a well-made burst of originality.

A WRINKLE IN TIME

Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time is stuck in limbo as a film, right down to the point where it’s unsure of its target demographic. This is a film that’s perhaps too frightening for young children, yet too one-dimensional for adults. Similar to Kubo and the Two Strings, I have confidence that those who will appreciate it the most will find it in due time. But even then, will their level of appreciation make them content with the final product or quietly wishing for something greater?

DEATH WISH

Not since Fox was set to release Phone Booth amidst the Beltway sniper attacks in Washington D.C. or perhaps when the same studio released a bullet-hole-ridden teaser poster for their film Neighborhood Watch in lieu of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin has a particular film graced theaters at such an inopportune time. Eli Roth’s Death Wish was set to be released over Thanksgiving, but MGM delayed it, with speculation that the move had to do with the shooting in Las Vegas that occurred just weeks prior.

ANNIHILATION

Annihilation finally allows me to say what’s been on the tip of my tongue since I saw Ex Machina back in 2015: Alex Garland is for real. Thanks to the 28 Days films, Sunshine, and Dredd, we knew he was a very successful screenwriter, but both his debut and now this sophomore effort are the equivalent of back-to-back grand-slams for the 47-year-old when he’s also occupying the director’s chair.

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