The Movie With the Unique Wavelength: Gemini

I’ll be honest and admit that Aaron Katz’s Gemini lost me in its home stretch, where an underwhelming conclusion takes the air off of the film’s sails. But let’s not lead too heavily with the negativity, because the first 75 minutes or so of Gemini are evocative and weird and effortlessly entertaining. Here’s a low-key mystery that takes full advantage of modern Los Angeles for both stunning locations and odd characters. The central mystery itself, which the assistant to a movie star finds herself attempting to solve following a shocking crime, is compelling and quirky and never seems that serious. You’re just along for the ride, man. It you find yourself in tune with what Katz is doing, if you’re capable of surfing its very particular wavelength, you’re in a for a very good time.

muppet guys talking

The Entertaining Movie That is Really a DVD Special Feature: Muppet Guys Talking

Frank Oz’s Muppet Guys Talking is literally 65 minutes of five muppet performers sitting in a circle, swapping stories, sharing anecdotes, and reminiscing about the late Jim Henson. For fans of those lovable felt creatures (and aren’t we all?), it’s a treat. Every subject is entertaining and filled with tales to share, and the set-up allows them to bounce off each other. It’s infectious – everyone really does look like they’re having a great time. However, this is barely a movie. It’s an excellent DVD special feature, maybe a really good PBS special. It’s not the kind of thing that demands a theater and an audience. However, it does what it sets out to do, and it does it very, very well.


The Most Relevant Movie: Spettacolo

Every year, the villagers in a small village in Tuscany gather together to put on a play that depicts their modern anxieties and fears about the world as a whole. Once popular and recognized, the theater is dying. For some, the theater has gotten too real. For others, life has gotten too busy. For those who remain, their latest production can’t help but feel apocalyptic: the Italian government is in trouble, the economy is in free-fall, and the only thing these people can do beyond sit by and wait for their world to come crashing down is to react with art. Spettacolo is a slow-moving documentary, but it packs a punch – for the ordinary men and women without any power, art becomes the only way to process the world at large…and to fight back.

Free Fire

The Craziest Extracurricular Activity: Free Fire

Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire is a truly nutty action movie about a bunch of incompetent criminals who engage in a real-time gun battle in a single warehouse over the course of 90 increasingly bloody minutes. It’s a hoot. It’s a blast. It’s a thrilling and hilarious piece of black-hearted filmmaking from one of the most interesting filmmakers working today. And to promote the movie, A24 had Wheatley and stars Sharlto Copley, and Armie Hammer visits Austin’s Stunt Ranch, where they engaged visiting press in games of paintball in-between interviews.

As far as movie promotions go, you don’t get sillier or more appropriate than that. [Our TIFF Review]

the disaster artist review

The Best Lead Performance: The Disaster Artist

Every hack comedian has their own Tommy Wiseau impression, so it was easy to imagine James Franco giving into his most basic impulses and treating the eccentric filmmaker responsible for The Room as nothing more than a cartoon character. Instead, Franco (who also directed the film) imbues him with a pathetic and broken soul. In his hands, Wiseau isn’t just the goofball who made an atrocious movie, but a struggling artist with something to say who simply cannot comprehend his own lack of talent. It is, against all the odds, the best performance of Franco’s career and, also against all the odds, a key reason why The Disaster Artist is the best movie he’s directed. [Our Review]

The Big Sick Review

The Best Supporting Performance(s): The Big Sick

Every performance in The Big Sick is natural and funny and often heartbreaking, but none are as surprising as those given by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. As the parents of a very ill young woman, they argue and bicker and, often in surprising moments, reveal exactly why these two seemingly mismatched people love each other. It’s not surprising to see Hunter give a great performance, but to see Romano match her beat-for-beat and play one-half of a believable and often disgruntled partnership is one of the most pleasant surprises of the year so far.

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