River of Grass
Kelly Reichardt’s debut, River of Grass, is a movie with little surface. It’s Badlands without the bad. It’s a “road movie without the road, a love story without the love…” It’s like Reichardt’s future humanist films, but lacks naturalism. It’s contrived and stiff, yet it still has something interesting about it, even if it’s inaccessible. The story is a mish-mash of intertwining characters. Cozy (Lisa Bowman), a bored housewife, imagines being a dancer, an acrobat regardless of its affects on her children, whom she doesn’t have too much affection for anyway. Her father, a hapless, depressed cop, loses his gun, and Lee (Larry Fessenden), a 30-year-old nobody, finds it. Cozy leaves home one night and meets Lee at a bar. Thus begins a “crime spree,” or so they think. These moments connect inconsequentially; by the end you wonder if the film was pointless, even if during Reichardt finds intriguing concepts, and techniques. Released in 1994. 76 minutes. Streaming on Youtube.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
It would seem with each Mad Max installment, director George Miller gets more proficient. But in the third edition, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, something is different… The general consensus seems to be the Mad Max franchise gets better with each sequel. But in Beyond Thunderdome, Miller seems to return to form in a bad way. While the whole series is shot wonderfully, plotting has always been an issue. The first Mad Max is one of the worst popular screenplays out there, and Beyond Thunderdome — while better than the first — is no different story wise. The pacing falls apart in the second act, and character development is almost non-existent. But Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome still has the occasionally great sequence, notably the titular thunderdome scene, and the end chase sequence (even if it’s lifted straight from Mad Max 2). Released in 1985. 107 minutes. Starring Mel Gibson and Tina Turner.
What We Do in the Shadows
2015’s mockumentary comedy, from Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi (Boy), follows four vampires who share a flat in Wellington. They spend their nights bickering about chores and attempting to pick up girls (so they can drink their blood, of course). The film, which is home to some great improv, is incredibly funny, but yet unmemorable. What We Do in the Shadows won’t be getting quoted five years from now, like other, funnier mockumentary comedies do. It will never reach cult status, but its status doesn’t matter much because it’s funny right now. 86 minutes. Starring Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, and Cori Gonzalez-Macuer.