Steve Erickson has written 329 reviews for films during 2020.

  • Spend Spend Spend

    Spend Spend Spend

    ★★★★

    SPEND SPEND SPEND feels faintly condescending at times, as though it's taking relish in the naviete of its hero, Viv Nicholson (Susan Littler), after she wins the British lottery in 1961. But it reminded me of Fassbinder, in its view of a flawed person racing towards a downfall that both she and the entire society around her are complicit in. Working from Nicholson's own memoir, screenwriter Jack Rosenthal and Littler create an indelible character, driven by her own desires without…

  • The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story

    The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story

    ★★★

    No one wants it that way.

  • Death to 2020

    Death to 2020

    ★★½

    Charlie Brooker directs a slightly better-than-average SNL episode. There are some good one-liners but no real perspective and a very lazy reliance on stereotypes like the Karen, the billionaire tech bro, the out-of-touch academic, etc. The obligatory Netflix self-promotion is obnoxious. (It is true that many of us spent lots of time watching it, but would they ever acknowledge the existence of HBO Max or Hulu in a program like this?) Just imagine if Chris Morris had made this circa PAEDOGEDDON instead!

  • Forensickness

    Forensickness

    ★★★★

    Using Christopher Kennedy's WATCHING THE DETECTIVES as her inspiration (and source material), Chloé Galibert-Lainé improves upon it, making a video-essay that stands as one of the most inspired explorations of the contemporary impulse to play detective with images. Fascinated by Kennedy's film, she digs into the Wayback Archive to look at the original Reddit threads he used to make it and interviews the director himself. This spirals out into an exploration of the state's forms of counter-terrorist investigation, as pursued…

  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

    Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

    ★★★½

    Director George C. Wolfe made no attempt to open up MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM from its theatrical origins. More than half of it must take place in the basement room where Ma Rainey's (Viola Davis) backing band rehearses for a recording session. But it has a raw volatility, with actors delivering monologues like jazz musicians playing improvised solos. Next to the male musicians, Ma Rainey herself is a side character in the film she's named after, and it restricts its…

  • Welcome II the Terrordome

    Welcome II the Terrordome

    ★★★½

    Champion production design, creating a world that recalls sci-fi dystopias that came before it but feeling realistically lived-in. The entire film, apart from the opening scene (in which African slaves are introduced drowning themselves off the shore of the U.S.), takes place on grungy sets, adding to the feel that the characters are being caged. The soundtrack is carefully arranged, full of original hip-hop and R&B that gradually gives way to African music (with Malcolm X soundbites throughout.) While it's…

  • The Black Cannon Incident

    The Black Cannon Incident

    ★★★★

    When Americans look back at 5th Generation Chinese cinema, we tend to remember Zhang Yimou's early films, Chen Kaige's YELLOW EARTH, LIFE ON A STRING & FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE & Tian Zhuangzhaung's THE HORSE THIEF & THE BLUE KITE. THE BLACK CANNON INCIDENT gets lost in the shuffle. It's never been legally available in the US, as far as I know. (I just watched it on the resurrected rarefilmm.) But its tone (gentle but biting comedy) and modern-day urban setting mark its differences…

  • The Book of Henry

    The Book of Henry

    ★½

    THE BOOK OF HENRY could've been a fun pisstake on '80s Spielbergian suburbia. But it's weird without being at all eccentric. I'm sure Spielberg himself was self-aware enough to know that he was engaging in self-critique by producing GREMLINS. Colin Trevorrow isn't gifted with an iota of self-awareness. Henry isn't believable either as a genius or 11-year-old. The twist is mind-bogglingly dumb, as well as being sexist (a young boy knows so much better than an adult woman that she…

  • Cenote

    Cenote

    ★★★★

    A poem would do more justice to the beauty and originality of “Cenote,” as a response than conventional film criticism. (In a mediocre year for narrative features, its avant-garde approach to nature, more “2001” * "Leviathan" than David Attenborough, was welcome.) Made by a Japanese director off the coast of Yucatan, Mexico – the title refers to underwater sinkholes formed by meteorites – it uses spare means – an iPhone, Super 8 – to incredible effect. Built upon a series…

  • The Shepherdess and the Seven Songs

    The Shepherdess and the Seven Songs

    ★★★½

    THE SHEPHERDESS AND THE SEVEN SONGS was made with a beauty which should speak to any audience. Director Pushpendra Singh contrasts desaturated, misty green exteriors with the brilliant, vibrantly dyed colors worn by his heroine Laila (Navjat Randhawa.) The film's divided into seven chapters, each one introduced by one of the title songs. But I didn't know while watching it that the film is based on Vijayan Detha's '60s Marxist-feminist rewrites of folktales. Singh has moved Detha's stories from the…

  • Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator

    Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator

    ★★½

    All these made-for-streaming docs about cults are starting to run together.

  • Transformers: The Premake

    Transformers: The Premake

    ★★★★

    "Michael Bay Samsung Keynote Remix" seguing into explosions FTW!