Leave No Trace (2018)

Appropriate to the title, little– other than award nominations and wins– was left in its wake. I can see why. The premise of a military vet raising his daughter in isolation from Society seems to promise a survivalist thriller. Though there is adventure, to expect heart-pounding chases through the woods and rural shootouts will only disappoint; this is purely a psychological exploration of PTSD, familial bonding, parenting and identity. Accordingly, the characters say little out loud; the communication and emotion is almost entirely visual. There is love and care and trust but as much as a daughter loves her father, she can’t hide from the world forever. I won’t wax poetic about the plethora of additional themes; you’ll explore them if you’re so inclined.

Train of Life (1998)

It takes a new approach to gain a fresh perspective of The Holocaust. It’s easy to agree that what happened was horrible but most films do more than convey basic facts. To expect realism here will only disappoint; it’s not meant for that. This film is clever; it disguises complex literary devices (irony, foreshadowing, symbolism) as humor, which is dark and often slapstick. This serves a variety of purposes, not the least of which is to force the audience to focus on a different aspect of prejudice by placing it in a different context altogether. For those who want a clear-cut theme by way of obtuse depiction: you’re missing the whole point! When analyzing the motivations behind genocide, there’s far more than the act of murder to consider.

Greta (2018)

Though touted as a “feminist thriller,” more impressive than the casting of all female leads is the originality of the story. To truly thrill, there must be an original premise and genuine plot twists. Nothing kills suspense faster than predictability; fortunately, this movie does not disappoint.

Dark River (2017)

Respectfully and effectively capturing the process of healing from childhood trauma is no simple endeavor. This depiction of a sexual abuse survivor is equal parts bitter and sweet and The Moors provide the perfect backdrop for a brooding woman to return to the scene of many painful memories. Her brother is reluctant to surrender control of their late father’s farm, especially to someone he never understood. But their differing approaches– modern clashing with traditional– leaves precious little breathing room; eventually, unexpressed questions and insightful explanations bubble to the surface.

Mortal Engines (2018)

How to describe such a unique fantastical premise…

Entire societies are mobile; each hierarchical city functions within its own feat of engineering (think interlocking collapsible compartments). These giant robotic apparatuses roam the globe vying for power, forcibly assimilating anyone who gets in their way. The plucky young heroes could easily have been in The Maze Runner!

Until now, such an imaginative book series couldn’t have been adapted for the screen. Fortunately, The Peter Jackson specializes in bringing fictional worlds to life via intricately detailed sets and props enhanced by state-of-the-art computer animation.

The Rundown (2003)

Sometimes you just want to be entertained but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for meathead jocks lumbering across the screen. Given the cast, there’s obviously a mixture of action and comedy but developed characters and a creative premise elevate a potentially flat collaboration to an engaging adventure, in which a bounty hunter tracks a mobster’s son through the jungle. When the wily kid on a treasure hunt and the nonviolent gun-for-hire who wants out of the business get mixed up with the leader of a revolt against an exploitive quarry operator, survival becomes the new agenda.

I Think We’re Alone Now (2018)

To pidgeon- hole this as a post- apocalyptic story would be too crass for such a nuanced satire that intimately explores the Human Experience; few films capture such a raw and visceral perspective.¬†One of its co-leads compared this to Harold and Maude, which is apt given its subtle dark humor. However, the isolation the characters […]

The Aviator (1985)

Life’s a challenge when you have a risky job, such as long-distance mail delivery but somebody has to do it. And someone else has to love you for– or despite of– it. But any situation can teach and heal you, if you let it. In this case, an emergency quickly shifts from adventure to survival […]