by Philip Price
Though I appreciate the attempt at genre revitalization, Chloe Domont’s first feature film “Fair Play” ultimately feels too timid to go to the unhinged places it needs in order to pay off. Domont's screenplay and, as a result, Franklin Peterson's editing build some fine tension through well-observed and biting dialogue, but especially Alden Ehrenreich’s choice to play this more sincere than deranged makes his arc more frustrating than properly deranged resulting in an unsatisfying climax.
“Fair Play” is in select theaters and will begin streaming on Netflix on October 6.
Flora and Son
Though not John Carney's magnum opus or even his most ambitious film, “Flora and Son” is the limitations the writer/director sets for himself with his latest that make it a charming yet rebellious voucher for the arts that still manages to pack an emotional wallop. One might even call the film restrained despite the admittedly saccharine nature of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance and the attempt at balance through Eve Hewson’s Dublin raunch, but what I mean to say is “Flora and Son” is rather contained thematically despite the tease of star-crossed lovers lending it a broadness not wholly indicative of its true nature. Much like someone from a small town who dreams of making it big, the quaintness of their every day will seemingly never measure up to the scale of their dreams and Carney, while largely focusing on a strained parent/child relationship, fully understands this contrast and illustrates it beautifully by showing how music and more specifically – how creating something together – can make your life feel bigger than it is.
“Flora and Son” is streaming on AppleTV+.
It Lives Inside
“It Lives Inside” is the cinematic equivalent of a diversity hire for the sake of such. Not to say this doesn’t do what it intends, but it certainly doesn’t add much to the conversation and largely seems to exist only to make the genre feel more inclusive. There are worse reasons to make a horror movie, of course, but I’d be hard-pressed to find a good reason to recommend this to anyone.
The poor execution is especially disappointing considering the hook is that the demonic spirit (whose creature design is the only bold choice this movie makes) is from Hindu folklore leading one to believe this might have some influence over how this otherwise standard horror template is conveyed and/or configured. Nope. The only real difference this caveat presents in “It Lives Inside” is when our hero does finally figure out the myth of the monster that’s haunting her, it’s of Indian descent rather than that of a fallen angel from the Christian bible or from a demolished burial ground whose spirits are seeking vengeance.
Spoiler (I guess): It was kind of funny how only the white kid died considering what happened to him and what happened to other characters who ended up surviving, but “The Blackening” made this joke in a far funnier and more entertaining movie that also probably had more actual scares than this straight-up horror flick. Watch that instead.
“It Lives Inside” is currently in theaters.
Stop Making Sense (Re-Release)
I'd never seen (or heard) “Stop Making Sense” before and further, outside of recognizing their hits from movie trailers and commercials, wasn't really aware of who Talking Heads were or what their essence as a band was. So, when I saw A24 was not only re-releasing the highly praised concert film in theaters but had remastered it in 4K AND it was playing on the only IMAX screen in the state in which I live (literally, not metaphorically) I figured now was as good a time as any to finally see what all the fuss was about and what made this concert film stand apart from others in the genre.
Needless to say, this was a pretty exhilarating experience. Going in and deducing only from what I'd heard and who from about Talking Heads, I assumed the band was something of new wave pioneers, revered by the generation a few ahead of my own for being the sound of their youth and a gateway to different means of artistic expression whether through their music videos or their lyrics. I also expected this to be a pretty Caucasian affair given the average person I spoke to who revered “Stop Making Sense” as one of the great concert films of all time was white men in their fifties. Nah. This shit is funky as hell and the way it progresses to build the entirety of the band and what each member brings to the production, somewhat climaxing in the one-two punch of "Bringing Down the House" and "Life During Wartime," is euphoric. The groove of it all is kind of unreal.
I doubt David Byrne and company were thinking about this show and the resulting film as something that might convince a 36-year-old guy watching it 40 years after they performed it that this is why their music deserves to live on, but that’s also exactly what they were doing; they were performing for the people in front of them in more ways than one.
The re-release of “Stop Making Sense” is currently in theaters.