While the training regimens of professional athletes have changed by leaps and bounds over the past century, the archaic nature of most professional sports around the turn of the twentieth century meant athletic glory was once harder to attain. Sports used to be so difficult that I doubt most modern athletes would have been able to compete at a professional level if they had been born a century earlier. Take, for example, the 1928 Tour de France, the focal point of Phil Keoghan’s documentary, Le Ride. Blending an often untold history lesson with a painstaking recreation of a race so brutal that only 41 of the 168 entrants were able to finish, The Amazing Race host and avid cyclist looks at one such event where no amount of modern day strength conditioning and ingenuity would make an athlete’s task any easier.
Australian filmmaker Patrick Hughes knows how to film a large scale action sequence, but he also loves to have a good laugh while doing it. The director of the underrated suspense thriller Red Hill and the most recent entry into The Expendables franchise finds himself once again tackling chaotic shootouts and multi-vehicle chases with his latest effort The Hitman’s Bodyguard (in cinemas everywhere this weekend), a mismatched buddy flick starring two of the biggest names in comedy and action: Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson.
The subtle, deliberate, and powerful Japanese animated feature In This Corner of the World (based on a manga by Fumiyo Kouno) starts as one type of film before slowly morphing into another. It’s undeniable that the second half of filmmaker Sunao Katabuchi’s film is a lot more dramatically flashy and heart wrenching than the slow paced, somewhat problematic first half, but the meatier portion of this story couldn’t exist without taking a long time to get there and fostering a sense of understanding. The result of Katabuchi’s measured and nuanced approach is one of the finest depictions of the human face of war in quite some time.
A notable release for fans of Canadian history, public policy, and few others, the documentary Expo 67: Mission Impossible takes a briskly paced look back at one of the country’s grandest global events: the 1967 World’s Fair.
Silly, but swaggering, Stephen Fung’s globetrotting, Chinese produced heist picture The Adventurers centers on one of those kinds of criminal organizations that only exist in movies. The crew pulling off daring feats of thievery in The Adventurers has so many technologically implausible gadgets, getaway vehicles (including a helicopter), disguises, and tailor made suits that they can’t possibly be earning more from their fenced jewelry and artworks than they’re spending on making their pursuits look as cool as possible. These guys are like the Impossible Mission Force of thieves, which makes seeing them as vulnerable a bit of a stretch, but does allow for some decent action, style, and theatricality.
With her second feature, This Time Tomorrow, Colombian-Canadian filmmaker Lina Rodriguez has created a warm, sometimes sobering look at the nature and art of familial communication. Whether they’re talking endlessly about minutiae, expressing their souls, or communicating through the simplest of posturing and body language, Rodriguez’s characters interact with one another in instantly recognizable, realistic ways. Outside of a painterly visual sensibility that makes one want to study every shot for brush strokes and natural imperfections, Rodriguez could almost be called a documentarian. This Time Tomorrow is a dramatic work of fiction, but it’s the kind of story so simple and poignant that one can easily see it playing out somewhere else in the world while the viewer is watching it unfold on screen.
A passably entertaining bit of late summer fluff, the action comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard is exactly what you probably think it’s going to be going in: two charismatic actors riffing on each other while dodging bullets, fists, and bombs. A comedy firmly steeped in the traditions set forth by Midnight Run and Lethal Weapon, The Hitman’s Bodyguard doesn’t earn too many points for originality or style, but it achieves every modest goal it sets out to make. If you’re in the mood for an action comedy, this is an action comedy that won’t wow you, but it won’t let you down, either.
Logan Lucky, director Steven Soderbergh first film after stepping away from the big screen for several years, is an odd duck. Tonally strange, it falls somewhere between a mainstream blockbuster and avant garde restraint. The story is a classic sort of heist caper that could be played up for maximum broad effectiveness (a la Soderbergh’s Ocean’s films), but instead it’s played straight with nary a wink or nod to the audience. It vacillates wildly between outlandish silliness, dry humour, and high drama, speeding up or slowing down whenever it feels like it. As a result of such shifting, Logan Lucky is an uneven movie, but also a thoroughly fascinating and consistently enjoyable one.
Not since Austrian auteur Michael Haneke made the resolutely dour and incendiary Funny Games (twice) has there been a film as cheekily mislabelled as Josh and Benny Safdie’s relentless thriller Good Time. It’s thrilling, exciting, and stomach churning, but if someone tells you that they had a fun night at the movies after watching Good Time, you might want to rethink your relationship to this person. A bold, dazzling, non-stop work of gritty, sleazy bravado, Good Time is the rare kind of propulsive action film where everything is made to feel appropriately desperate and harrowing. It’s an imperfect, sometimes problematic adventure, but also one of the best deconstructions of the thriller genre ever made.
The unnerving black comedy Ingrid Goes West proves that accomplished execution and performance can make a well trod storyline feel fresh and original. This tale of a social climbing stalker follows closely in the lineage of Observe and Report, Welcome to Me, The King of Comedy, The Cable Guy, and Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley novels, and the only real difference is how co-writer and first time feature director Matt Spicer’s film uses social media obsession as a backdrop. It’s familiar, but no less effective.