It’s kind of hard to believe that The Strangers came out almost ten years ago. I wasn’t too thrilled about the film back then and it’s slipped from my memory since. Still, it’s hard to understand why it took so long for a sequel to get churned out, considering the first film was a surprise hit for a seemingly elementary premise: A couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) is terrorized inside their vacation home by three masked murderers. The money shot in The Strangers, as many moviegoers already know, is of Tyler’s character standing next to her kitchen, completely unaware of the murderous intruder slowly appearing the dark background. The shot is unnerving for two reasons: 1.) The evil figure dons a homemade Halloween mask made out of a burlap sack and 2.) The scene takes its time to linger, allowing our eyes to make the horrifying discovery for ourselves. Too bad the rest of The Strangers isn’t as clever. It devolves into a “shock horror” gimmick, convinced that killing its marquee stars (with cold regard) will make up for a lack of inventive direction.
Every decade or so a movie like A Wrinkle in Time comes along, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Based on the Newbery Medal-winning science fantasy novel by the late Madeleine L’Engle, this film adaptation from Disney and director Ava DuVernay seems to have arrived from some other dimension of cinema, existing between god-awful and well-intentioned. I wasn’t exaggerating with the “decade” comment either. The 1980s had Mac and Me, the 1990s had North and the 2000s had Battlefield Earth. In fact, in a lot of ways, A Wrinkle in Time feels like the children’s version of Battlefield Earth. You look at the screen, part perplexed and part assaulted by what you’re seeing. You see movie stars. You see the money Disney spent on the visual effects and production design. But then you feel like you’re not watching what you were sold on. It’s like going to see an act on stage — but after you’ve bought your cocktail and taken your seat, the master of ceremonies comes to the microphone to tell you that the act couldn’t make it tonight.
Some people should never get married. Likewise, some people should never become parents. Crudely enough, the protagonists of Andrey Zvyagintsev‘s new film Loveless fit both of those descriptions. The Leviathan helmer returns with another bleak and unflinchingly honest portrayal of family dysfunction and social politics. Loveless is also a commentary on modern Moscow. Zvyagintsev uses the car radio as the film’s cultural master of ceremonies, informing the audience of the state of Russia, the political climate and expected societal norms. In fact, the only other time the car radio isn’t used for exposition, is when a character turns it into an aural weapon to antagonize another character, by blaring loud metal rock during an inappropriate time. The coal-hearted characters in Lovelesslisten to the radio, but hardly to each other.