Each month, the Indie Prof reviews a current film in the theater and a second film or series available on DVD or an instant-streaming service.
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As the dog days of summer continue, check out one of the last two Science Fiction Film Series screenings, both on Wednesdays at 7pm: King Kong (8/3) at the Sie Film Center, and The Matrix (8/10) on the IMAX screen at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. We discuss the film and science as well!
Into The Forest (2015)
Ellen Page read Into the Forest, the book by wonderful author Jean Hegland, on the recommendation of a small bookstore owner. Some of my favorite reads have been found this way, and the advice of such booksellers is one of those precious things that may soon become extinct. So enjoy those moments while you can. Page enjoyed it so much she worked hard to turn the book into the film. And the results are quite good.
Set in the near future, a massive power outage forces sisters Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) to survive on their own. They live in a house far away from town, and after several forays into that town, they decide to wait out the crisis in their secluded home. It is a post-apocalyptic story without the aliens or the whatever-it-is-that-caused-it. It is the story of two sisters trying to survive, and even more urgently, just trying to get along. Rarely do you see a similar genre film that focuses on the lives of women, and rarer still do we see one that focuses on the details of their lives.
Page and Wood are very good, but the stars here are the direction and the cinematography. Good acting inevitably means good direction, and Canadian-born filmmaker Patricia Rozema shines here. Good direction also means great cinematography, carefully placed settings, and visual metaphor. The best moments of the film are the simplest, where we understand the relationship between the sisters through the settings and composition of each shot. This attention to detail and the focus on female characters reminds of the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, also a master at composition.
If you need the type of film that gives you all the answers and gives all the reasons for everything that happens, this may not be your film. If you might like a unique take on a popular genre seen through the eyes of usually neglected characters/types, then this if your film. Normally the cinematic dog days of summer are full of big-budget action films or kids movies. This is a treat for the grown-ups in the middle of the summer. Get that babysitter scheduled and get out to the theater!
You will like this film if you enjoyed Wild, Mansfield Park, and/or Perfect Sense.
Started 7/29 at the Sie Film Center
Mr. Robot (USA/Netflix)
The first season of Mr. Robot was a popular, critical, and technological success. It won a Golden Globe for Best Television Series, beating perennial favorite Game of Thrones. It is also nominated for an Emmy (awards presented on 9/18), once again going up against Game of Thrones and shiny newcomer Better Call Saul. Mr. Robot is another series in the wonderful slow-TV movement, in what we may now call the “golden age of cable TV.” The show itself lives up to its accolades.
The premise: Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) works for a cybersecurity firm during the day and is a hacker by night. He is faced with a series of moral dilemmas from the outset, and he eventually teams with a rogue band of hackers whose goal is to take down corporate America. The movement is led by the notorious Mr. Robot (Christian Slater).
Everything about this show screams professional—the screenwriting, the direction, the acting, the cinematography, and the set design. We are plunged into a world from minute one that is both believable and tangible. The acting is particularly good, and Malek is a standout as the professionally ethical but morally challenged hacker. He fights his own personal demons as he takes on larger demons every day. It is also good to see Slater back in form, and his role is well shaped and form-fitting. All of the secondary characters are solid as well, and they nicely round out the world of the show. Even the technology is solid, overseen by tech advisor Michael Bazzell, a 15-year veteran detective of cybercrimes. Rarely do you get such accuracy from the technology. It all adds up to a captivating series.
Season one is available on Netflix, and season two began on USA network 7/13. It’s a great time to binge on this gritty, intelligent, and thoughtful drama as you get caught up for the new season. While most TV shows premiere after Labor Day, you can start watching this show right away. Summer be darned.
You will like this show if you enjoyed Breaking Bad, True Detective, and/or Better Call Saul.
Season one is on Netflix and season two is currently airing on the USA network.
Vincent Piturro, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Cinema Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.