Screening Room: ‘Sword of Trust’

swordoftrust
(IFC Films)

In the new comedy from Lynn Shelton (Humpday), podcaster, comic, and Glow star Marc Maron plays a disgruntled pawn shop owner who gets sucked into a screwball plot about Civil War truthers when he comes across a rare sword.

Sword of Trust opens this week. My review is at PopMatters:

Sword of Trust is in many ways a quintessentially Southern movie. But that sensibility is primarily expressed in the laconic humor and slippery slides from bonhomie to violence. Shelton expends little effort on a cinematic sense of place, aside from some melancholic insets of faded storefronts around the Birmingham, Alabama pawn shop where the action takes place. That is, except for the obsession with the Civil War, or as some characters might characterize it, “Thuh Wah of Nawthun Aggression”…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Sea of Shadows’

The new documentary Sea of Shadows uses the incredible story of how environmental activists and the Mexican military are fighting cartels to save an endangered whale to highlight what the extinction of one species means for the future.

Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Richard Ladkani (The Ivory Game), Sea of Shadows opens this Friday. My review is at Slant:

The whale in question is the vaquita, a dolphin-like creature endemic to the Gulf of California. At the time of this film’s making, there were most likely less than 15 left alive. Not a target of hunting themselves, the vaquitas had the bad luck of swimming in the same waters as the heavily fished totoaba and dying in the nets meant to catch their more valuable neighbors. The vaquitas are ultimately collateral damage in an illegal fishing scheme driven by greed, economic insecurity, failing security apparatuses, interstate organized crime, and more…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Avengers: Endgame’

My article, “Is Avengers: Endgame a Miserable Bore or Something Worse?” was published at Eyes Wide Open:

It’s official: We’ve been had. Avengers: Endgame is many things. A complex web of interlocking character arcs. A masterpiece of corporate synergy. A box office hit whose take various publications simply cannot stop fawning over. It is not a good movie, or even a passable one. Yet somehow this great yawning bore of a cinematic black hole will end up being remembered as the great smash hit of 2019…

Screening Room: ‘Woodstock’

No, not that movie called Woodstock. This is a different documentary, much shorter, and more about the planning and execution. So, less music. But, still: Hendrix.

Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation opens this week in limited release, and should be broadcast in August on PBS’s American Experience.

My review is at Slant:

According to Woodstock: Three Days that Defined a Generation, the 1969 Woodstock festival seemed fated to fail. But a rare convergence of good luck, good intentions, and good vibes somehow snapped into place and crystallized over a few days in August the aspirations of a counterculture about to hit its peak…

Screening Room: ‘John Wick 3’

‘John Wick 3’: Keanu rides a horse in this one (Lionsgate)

The latest of the bonkers John Wick action series hits theaters this weekend. Is it better than Avengers: Endgame? Let me ask you this: is Keanu Reeves one of the Avengers?

My review of John Wick 3: Parabellum is at Slant:

At the end of another knock-down, drag-out pummeling in Chad Stahelski’s John Wick 3: Parabellum, the man with the samurai sword sticking out of his chest says to Keanu Reeves’s John Wick, “That was a pretty good fight, huh?” It’s a throwaway gag, the kind that action directors like to use for a breather after a particularly bruising melee. But it also comes off as something of a gloat—one of a few signs in the film that stuntman turned director Stahelski, for better and worse, is content to coast on a winning formula…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’

Lily Colins and Zac Efron in ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’ (Netflix)

Taking a break from true-crime documentaries (the Paradise Lost trilogy, among others), Joe Berlinger directed a narrative adaptation of Elizabeth Kendell’s book The Phantom Prince, about her relationship with the serial killer Ted Bundy.

My review of Berlinger’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, running now on Netflix, was published at Eyes Wide Open:

Of all the serial killers who entered the lexicon of American culture over the past half-century, Ted Bundy, who confessed to over two-dozen murders committed in the 1970s and was executed in 1989, remains something of a standout. The likes of the Zodiac Killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, or Dennis Rader (aka the BTK) have shocked for many reasons, most particularly their depravity and ability to elude capture. Bundy, or at least the legend of him, followed a different trajectory…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Non-Fiction’

In Non-Fiction, the newest movie from Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria), a clutch of Parisian intellectuals have affairs, drink wine, and talk about the state of publishing and reading in the modern era. One of them is Juliette Binoche, who always makes things better.

My review is at PopMatters:

“Fewer readers, more books.” “I reject this materialistic society.” “These are narcissistic times.” Those are just a few of the cheery bon mots being lobbed around in the opening minutes of Olivier Assayas’s argumentative but thin wannabe literary salon of a movie…