Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts

Quick Reviews Home Page

  Latest Reviews:

September 10: Southpaw
 September 8: Love & Mercy
September 3: Cop Car
September 1: Magic Mike XXL
 August 20: Inside Out
 August 18: Trainwreck
August 4: The Tribe
July 28: Ant-Man
July 23: The Gunman
 July 21: Creep
 July 14: Cinderella
 July 9: The Stranger
 June 30: Ted 2
 June 18: Jurassic World
 June 16: Home
June 11: Spy

Movie List:

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 All reviews are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 with 2.5 being "average"

Last Few Reviews


Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Willis to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services.

The Good: I can't sit here and deny the fact that, despite it's common tropes and seemingly-recycled plot points and story elements, I was on the edge of my seat in Southpaw. I was routing for Billy to the final credit roll. This is how you have to approach sports movies: yes, the plot is going to be boilerplate and Southpaw is simultaneously a comeback story and an underdog story. Been there, done that.
But you have to focus on characters. Yeah, that plot isn't going to wow you. Old guy teaching young guy. Young guy learns new ways. Sure, it's predictable, so you have to focus on who these people are. Why they do what they do. That sucks you in. Gets you invested. Makes you cheer for them. Makes you on the edge of your seat in hopes they succeed.

So you take that boilerplate setup of a boxing story, write some memorable and interesting characters and cast the hell out of it. Jake Gyllenhaal is here, yet again, showing us how he's still one of the most under-appreciated actors working today. This guy has been busting his ass for a good decade now with seemingly little fanfare despite making solid movie after solid movie, showing great range and variety in genres while doing so. He sells you Southpaw. He makes that character work.

Southpaw's a solid story and characters full of great performances. It passes by smoothly, thanks to the sharp directing and precision-like editing. It's a movie that seemed to come and go this year, which is a shame considering how, despite what's working against it, so much of is nailed spot-on.

The Bad: Yeah, you'll know what's happening. Like I said, there's not much more that you can do with a sports movie anymore in terms of plot. Especially a boxing movie. Southpaw is able to overcome all that where it counts, but there's no denying that it doesn't necessarily say or do anything from the standard "underdog comeback" story. It's an unoriginal idea that holds back the otherwise solid execution of it all.

I try to not hold "Oh, it's been done before" against any movie. There's only so many stories that can be told, but you can play with it if you're writer. The problem with Southpaw isn't that we've seen it before, it's that it's beat-for-beat something we've seen before and doesn't look to change or alter its structure or approach in any way. It's like you have something brewing inside there, especially with Gyllenhaal, that is yearning to come out, but it just keeps the lid on with a template that isn't nearly as bold as the tone of the film implies.

The Ugly: There's, like, three subplots that I thought were going to be something. I'm not sure what happened, maybe they got cut or the script was overlong, but Southpaw sets up a story about the case worker and her relationship to Billy and his daughter, the story of Titus (Forest Whittaker getting a great scene, but the character ending up feeling empty) and the fact that the major story of Billy's fall isn't reconciled. Seriously, the killer is still out there. What happened?

I can write off the first two as just minutia. They're small factors, nothing big, but there's a lot of scenes and talk about the death of his wife that no resolution whatsoever doesn't work. It's great we get a full arc for Billy and his daughter, that is obviously the focus, but the many plots circling that are completely neglected and for the core element of why everything is hinged onto Billy's arc to not have a resolution makes it all bittersweet at best or just plain unsatisfying at worst in retrospect. I mean, Billy was at one point about to do the worst thing imaginable and that's just brushed aside. Gotta box, I guess.

Again...thank god for solid characters and great acting because there's a lot here that could have been so much better.

Final Rating: 3 out of 5

Love & Mercy

In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece. In the 1980s, he is a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of shady therapist Dr. Eugene Landy.

The Good: Love & Mercy is as personal and intimate of a biopic as I've seen in some time. While it still goes through two crucial timelines of Brian Wilson's life, the 60s and the 80s, it does so as a personal journey in numerous levels. Finding genius. Finding music. Finding yourself. Finding love. Understand and even contemplating your place against it all.

Sure, it's also about The Beach Boys and their sound and success, but at its heart Love & Mercy is a dive into the mind of a musical prodigy and his faltering mental state - some natural occurring, others not, as we see late in his life as people took advantage of it all. Then the movie hits you a final time with a sense of swelling emotion as it rolls to credits, putting that journey into perspective.

Of course, that wouldn't work if it weren't for the acting. Yes, the script is marvelous and the directing (and period-styles and clothing and music) meticulously combed-over, but it comes down to Paul Dano and John Cusack giving, respectively, some of the best acting of their careers. Dano's boyish and wide-eyed approach to the world around him as a young Brian Wilson, ever-gazing at the stars and endless possibilities but losing himself in the process, could have been its own film. But then we jump ahead and see what became of it all under Cusack, and it's bittersweet at best, heartbreaking at worst.

Love & Mercy is the type of biopic that doesn't feel watered down. It wants to show you something and tell you something about its subject matter and the person beyond "In 1966 this happened...then in 1967 this happened..." and so on. Because of that, it feels that much more appreciative of who it is about, and is that much more meaningful and memorable than you a-typical films about real people that you forget about.

The Bad: As great as Cusack is and as needed as the story of him in the 1980s is, the fact is it's not as interesting or insightful as Wilson's life in the 1960s. THe full-circle is needed, it's a theme and an obvious one that the writer and director are going for, but it also has the least happening in it that is intriguing. Actually, the 1980s era could have been summed up in three or four scenes, but instead a good chunk of the movie is needed for it.

As a result, it feels stretched out and, from that, feels like padding making for an uneven experience. I don't discount the performances by Cusack and Banks here, they're great and chemistry wonderful, as is Paul Giamatti who has “Scumbag in a Musical Biopic Award” tied up for 2015, but it's also not quite Brian's story, it's his future-wife's story, making for an uneven approach as we are no longer in the head of that genius but simply an observer from someone else's view of it.

The Ugly: Oh yeah, Elizabeth Banks also gives her career-best performance here, I might add. The 80s era is all about her as Melinda, and as mentioned that kind of works against the film, but she is still totally fantastic in the role.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5

Cop Car

A small town sheriff sets out to find the two kids who have taken his car on a joy ride.

The Good: Cop Car is what happens when you have a limited budget but a great voice and vision to it. Led by writer/director Jon Watts total control of tone and pace, Cop Car is a difficult movie to simply explain plot-wise because it’s a constant peeling-back of plot, character and story as things go from bad, to worse, to horrific over a taught hour and a half (barely that, actually).

I’ve always heard that directing children is difficult. It all stemmed from the classic WC Fields quote, but the likes of Stanley Kubrick and Richard Donner have always expressed the difficulty in getting something “Authentic” out of a child’s performance. When you get it, it’s magic. When you don’t, the entire film is brought down from it. With the two kids in this small-cast film, there’s a lot of inevitability that sells the entire plot and story of Cop Car from the beginning. Then you accept all that happens to them and the story as they get in deeper and deeper with a corrupt Sheriff who is after them, played by the always-reliable Kevin Bacon. Cop Car is a thrilling, tense movie with strong directing and performances that help carry it on its way to its eventual bitter end.

The Bad: That total control over pace, though admirable and why Cop Car is able to sustain itself, also works against it. Cop Car is a film that is very thin on a lot of stuff to push its plot forward, so we end up spending more time on moments than what is necessary. The pay off is fantastic, the patience more than worth it, but the film doesn’t quite know the best way to make those reveals so it doesn’t come across as mere stretching over simply being a “lean” script.

Maybe that’s where Cop Car lost me for a bit. The set up is great, the finale suspenseful, but everything in between one long chore of a journey to get from A to C, and mostly forgettable outside of the Kevin Bacon scenes of him hunting for his stolen car. He makes it interesting, and as great as the children are, they don’t have a lot to say and do in the interim.

The Ugly: Kids are dumb. Why are the kids so believable in this movie? Because kids are dumb.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Magic Mike XXL

Three years after Mike bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game, he and the remaining Kings of Tampa hit the road to Myrtle Beach to put on one last blow-out performance.

The Good: Magic Mike XXL is a road trip movie that is pretty much a series of dudebro machismo comedic moments interspersed with dance sequences. That’s it. If that’s what you’re looking for, then it has it in spades because it’s got nothing else going on in terms of story, character or plot. Sexy guys want to put on a sexy show and win a competition. There you go.

But that’s not all it has, actually. On plot and character, Magic Mike XLL is thin, but what it wants to achieve isn’t so much about a story, though that would have been nice, as much as it is a message. A fun and energetic message of just “going with it” and “being yourself.” This movie is a vicarious moment of lightning in a bottle. You end up falling into it as though you’re on this trip, living the way these guys live, and coming to accept their wonderfully positive message about friendship and sexuality and machismo without once dipping into sexism or crudeness to get to that point.

You have to respect this movie for that and while it lacks the consistent humor and solid characters of its predecessor, it wants to make sure you leave it in a better mood - and it’s impossible to not be in a good mood once this journey is over.

The Bad: Nothing important happens in this movie. Not important in terms of story, as all that was spent in the first film, and nothing in terms of character because, again, the first film fulfilled that arc perfectly fine. So what we end up with is a fun film, yes, but a completely empty one that is just a series of guys acting kinda dumb and lots of dancing. It doesn’t hide it, the movie knows it’s dumb, but it also ends up far less fulfilling than the first film, which was all around more interesting and funnier.

Magic Mike XXL is a well intended movie all-around. It just doesn’t hit the notes to make it a good one. I simultaneously applaud its sense of positivity and enjoying life, thongs and all, but can’t get past the fact that it offers nothing else alongside it. It’s a movie I desperately wanted to be better or have more to it because a meandering series of dance sequences is something you tune out on after a while, even if that final one is jaw-droppingly awesome.

The Ugly: Should have left well enough alone. What does this add? More abs?

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Straight Outta Compton

The group NWA emerges from the mean streets of Compton in Los Angeles, California, in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood.

The Good: An incredibly energetic biopic that puts you square into the late 80s through early 90s rap and hip-hop world. It’s alien in a way, but though simple storytelling and characters it invites you in to see this world that most of us really were never a part of. Straight Outta Compton is a film that wants to show you a world around the artists of legendary rap group NWA rather than really dive too deep into them as people. For better or worse taking that approach, they find that throughline of showcasing regular people in this pretty crazy world of fame, music, women and money.

But there’s a caveat to that, which is what makes Straight Outta Compton unique, well more unique than your standard biopic. The world that’s expressed here really never leaves them. There’s fear of gangs, violence, drugs, police brutality and betrayals when the likes of Easy-E, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre have all the money just as much as there was when they were living in south central LA. It followed them, and what Straight Outta Compton may lose in really detailing their lives, it gains in a strong message that is still relevant to this day: the opportunities of young African-American men are limited, and even when they get them they’re still harassed and hounded by those in power or, even worse, their past simply catches up with them (i.e. one villainous Suge Knight who starts as a mere bodyguard but brings the violence of the streets into their lives).

Straight Outta Compton is full of strong direction and there is no question that this is to be F. Gary Gray’s finest film. It’s the same story for any long-time director who is waiting for that one thing to hit. There was no better director choice to be made, Gray with a legendary history of hip-hop and rap videos as well as strong features like Friday and The Italian Job feels as though he has been building up to this one moment where all that came together into a visceral, raw experience. Solid performances from the cast, most notably Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E who is probably the strongest because he’s asked to go to far more emotional places than the rest of the cast and, in a way, comes off more candid and honest while doing so, which means he carries the weight of the story.

The Bad: Straight Outta Compton is as straightforward of a story as you can imagine. It’s a great story, with great acting and characters, there’s no denying that, but it also plays out like a live-action timeline that’s just going through the motions and checking things off (and, in more than one case, leaving things off entirely as many articles have pointed out). Little deviation from its straightforward and surprisingly by-the-books story of artists coming together then breaking apart and even more - surprisingly little insight or depth in it’s two and a half hours in doing so.

It’s self-glamorizing but is desperately wanting to show how glamor-less the world that these men come from is. It’s just not willing to fully take that step into doing so and plays off as an incredibly energetic film that is only interested in covering its bases rather than really explore who these men are and how they came to be. As enthralling as the film is, I know as much about NWA and its artists going in as I did coming out, and I only knew a little in that regards. Biopics, naturally, have to walk a fine line between fiction and reality, but at the very least you want more exploration. While Easy-E is given a rather poetic journey, from the streets to fame to paranoia and the realization he’s lost power, nobody else's story feels as honest and upfront about it all, as though someone took a red-pen and crossed some things out.

What’s in the film is good. Hell, I can’t wait to see it again if anything because the world they plop you into, something as simple as sitting and watching what’s essentially a Live NWA concert, gets your adrenaline up, but in terms of exploration of it all, and maybe getting to know these men as people rather than just artists, it spends more time hitting the high notes rather than making sure to nail those down-beats once in a while.

The Ugly: I don’t know what Jason Mitchell’s next film will be, but I’m going to see it. This kid is someone to watch and I hope the industry takes note that he can carry a movie.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Inside Out

After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness - conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.

The Good: Even a mediocre Pixar movie is a better movie than most animated films out there. Studios like to churn out stuff as fast and quick as they can and hope they can sell toys and franchise the hell out of it. Pixar is kind of the opposite: just make a good movie and if you can make a toy, then great. Well, not all the time. I mean, they did make Cars 2 and planning a third.

Inside Out isn’t a mediocre Pixar movie, though. More interestingly is that it’s a movie rich with depth yet also very much a franchise-maker, toy-seller type of movie all the same. It is, quite possibly, the most layered and nuanced film Pixar has produced because there’s a lot being said at once. We have likable characters and a great sense of adventure, and kids will love that, but that’s not what is amazing about Inside Out.

What amazes me about Inside Out is that it’s completely abstract yet not - a movie that is completely comfortable taking something that’s entirely intangible and turning it into an adventure story while still retaining that intangibility through allegory and metaphor. Things like emotions and memories and how we perceive the world are the entire spine of the narrative and makes it one of the most complex and emotional journeys that Pixar has put to screen - and considering they’ve become known for emotional journeys, it’s high praise.

Inside Out is not a safe movie. Not in the slightest. It’s a bold approach to a concept rather than a “land of princesses” or “toys that talk.” It’s an introspective film figuratively and literally as we journey through the mind of a young girl who’s life is changing around her and isn’t sure how she should feel about it all. The line “I’m not sure how I should feel” is empathy in spades as there’s not one person, young or old, that hasn’t thought that. No wonder it’s so easy to relate to every character and every emotion in the movie.

A fantastic voice cast with Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith doing most of the legwork and absolutely nailing it. I mean, I think Joy and Sadness quickly became two of my favorite Pixar characters in a matter of minutes entirely because the voices of these two actresses are so spot-on. Smarter casting with the likes of Lewis Black as Anger, Bill Hader as Fear and Mindy Kaling as Disgust shows that Pixar isn’t merely going for names, none of them except Poehler are “names” but they’re going with the right sound for the right journey they want to take us on.

The Bad: Repetition in story does slow down the points Inside Out is trying to make. We all know what’s happening, but our little emotions don’t and they keep not knowing even when things keep crumbling around them. While the revelation that Joy has at the end is utterly beautiful and poetic, how many times did she need to go through the same motions to get to that revelation?

Inside Out ends up feeling stretched - as though it was an idea for a short that was retooled for a feature length movie. There’s no point that isn’t made in the first 45 minutes that couldn’t have been wrapped up, instead it goes onwards to a similar point and does the same plot tactic again (essentially Joy dragging Sadness through the crumbling psyche of a little girl). While the movie is smart and breaks up this with bits back in “HQ” with the additional emotions as well as the real-life outside of the girl’s head, it all just feels like it’s trying to slog through it to reach that 90 minute sweetspot.

Then again, who cares? The characters are likable and the animation gorgeous. If they have to beat you over the head with the message and the points being made, then so be it.

The Ugly: I hope that doesn’t go over kids heads. It’s there to send a great message, but young kids won’t get it I think even though it’s a message totally geared towards them in saying “It’s ok to feel sadness.”

Final Rating: 4 out of 5


Having thought that monogamy was never possible, a commitment-phobic career woman may have to face her fears when she meets a good guy.

The Good: It’s easy to see the poster of Trainwreck, it’s title, and that it’s written and starring Amy Schumer as, most likely, some low-brown vulgar comedy that might as well be a Hangover flick with a woman. Thankfully, Schumer has talent and knows better than putting out a “boozing woman afraid of commitment while traversing the New York dating world” has a lot more to offer than just that. Yes, Trainwreck is funny. Yes, Schumer and co-star Bill Hader are great and have fantastic chemistry.

But that’s not where Trainwreck grabbed me. It’s a movie with a lot to say about family. Yes, it sells itself as a relationship comedy and whatnot, but the movie’s strength, and Schumer’s for that matter, are when it turns that emotional knife. Director Judd Apatow has always had that way with a film, and him directing Schumer’s script is a perfect fit for hitting that one of making you laugh, but then making you have a moment of Amy (the character) coming to a realization about something or confronting her sister or upset over screwing up again. Her scenes with Colin Quinn and Brie Larson, technically just supporting roles, are what make Trainwreck unique and more than just a romantic comedy movie, even when it decides to become that conventional romantic comedy in the end.

More importantly here, though, is that this is a movie with a unique voice. There’s a lot of comedies out there but most just fall into line with whatever the studio can sell and is the most broad. Trainwreck, even when its working with standard tropes, has a unique perspective that is distinctly Amy Schumer’s. Sure, it’s directed by Apatow and the great actors around her have a lot to add (Tilda Swinton is almost unrecognizable in this movie) but it’s a movie that is broad but at the same time intimate. You care about the characters and what happens to them. You want to see where it goes. It’s just about landing jokes, it’s about putting weight and purpose behind those jokes and conversations of the people in the scene. Schumer, in her first outing (credited outing, I’m sure, as most comedians are constantly brought in on script work without getting credit), totally gets that and is a voice worth listening to.

The Bad: Trainwreck is an interesting film in that it is willing to push boundaries yet simultaneously be pretty safe in terms of its plot and structure. I suppose the devil is in the details - small moments that you don’t see coming whether it be a line of dialogue or a surprising emotional moment - are what make it a great comedy. Yet, it can’t sustain that and it eventually has to become conventional in its predictable final act, which feels so oddly out of place because we no longer see the strengths the movie was working with.

This isn’t new, really, nor is it a bad thing. Merely a disappointing one because we start to realize, or I did at least, that the point of the comedy and the voice of Schumer overall wasn’t as unique as we had thought for a good hour and a half (the movie being two hours is already a bit too long in the first place, but that’s true to form for Apatow). Everyone is so good in this movie and it’s doing its own thing so well, when it starts to tumble into an a-typical mid-90s romantic comedy boilerplate you can’t help but feel a little disappointed.

Like any comedy, some jokes land, some don’t, but the ones that land are strong and the characters good enough to pull you through the ones that fall flat. Trainwreck, though it may not fully see its own idea all the way through, manages to be funny and surprisingly introspective enough to be one of the best comedies of the year.

The Ugly: As noted, there is a bit of a disappointment in that the film just follows the checkpoints at the end, but one scene significantly stands out involving an intervention of sort. It seems it’s only there for cameo purposes, which feels even more out of place than anything else in the movie. Maybe if the scene was funny, I would be ok, but it’s not. It’s just random and weird.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate - an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.

The Good: There comes a point where you have to start having a serious discussion about the Mission Impossible being one of the best film and television franchises of all time. The consistency of the movies from installment to installment has being astounding - the only way you can walk about them is by relativity to other Mission Impossible films, like the James Bond franchise which Mission Impossible has been veering further and further towards the past three movies.

That’s a great thing. At its heart, it’s action and a spy thriller so putting it up against a James Bond installment as a comparison is kind of fair. Big set pieces, usually an elaborate (and in this case show-stealing) pre-credit opening into some plot and a dash of comedy. Actually, more comedy probably because since Mission Impossible III, the franchise has become more comfortable and aware of what it is meant to be: fun. Not “dumb,” but entertaining through and through. Mission Impossible III hit the highs of drama, Ghost Protocol hit the highs of balanced comedy, and this one, Rogue Nation, is pretty much being comedic and kind of ridiculous - but clever and smart all the same.

It’s probably the most entertaining action movie you’ll see in 2015 not because it just gets action right, but because it gets characters right - something other blockbusters this year seem to overlook. You care about what happens to them, you get their personalities and you understand their goals. It’s kind of simple once you say (or type) it outloud, isn’t it? It makes you wonder why some films find that hard to grasp, but here we are with great characters and big action and it works. It’s entertaining and enjoyable and this installment has one of the best sequences in the franchise (and it’s not even an action-heavy sequence, it’s just a classic spy-thriller set piece at an opera, perfectly paced with fantastic turns and twists). They’re already in talks for the sixth, one, I say bring it on because, while I didn’t enjoy this personally as much as Ghost Protocol, it’s still a well done big action movie that knows its genre and doesn’t insult its audience. The more we can get of that, the better. Even if the suspension of disbelief is treading thin ice at this point.

The Bad: Pacing hinders much of the enjoyment of Rogue Nation. Wait. That’s not right. It’s still highly enjoyable and entertaining, but it also doesn’t feel as together or structurally sound as it wants to be. The plot doesn’t always mesh with the action, something Ghost Protocol did incredibly well, and is often used as an excuse rather than as a development to get to the next sequence. Action scenes you end up looking forward to, because they’re all well done, any point of drama, character and, most of all, exposition is perfunctory at best, hand-wavy so we don’t notice its flaws at worse.

Case point: Jeremy Renner’s entire purpose to the movie. He’s there to talk and explain plot, but it all comes across as a dullard just breaking away from the fun and enjoyment. Another is any moment with Alec Baldwin, who is never quite a threat because, like Renner, any sense of plot or drama is far removed from the rest of the action material. So what ends up happening is we don’t get that organic emotion beat that the film is really trying to strive for because the distance between us caring about what happens and why versus HOW it’s happening is a massive chasm by the time we get to the talky-explanation pin-in-it moment towards the end. It’s just not there and when reveals take place or when a literal ticking bomb is counting down, the urgency and importance never lands correctly because it’s just the B portion or the rest of the A portion - two separate movies mushed together that just doesn’t gel.

Rogue Nation isn’t a “dumb” movie. It’s a clever one with solid action that feels like it was tackled from two different ends when it comes to its progression and storytelling - like a railroad being built and hoping to meet in the middle…but someone screwed up the map and one missed the meeting point by a mile or three.

The Ugly: At least Simon Pegg is in this a ton. He’s brought a massive amount of freshness to a series that’s becoming more and more self-aware, but it hopefully won’t cross that threshold of too self-aware because then it just gets silly. That might work for the Fast and Furious franchise, that won’t work for Mission Impossible.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Tribe

A deaf teenager struggles to fit into the boarding school system.

The Good: "There's no other movie like The Tribe."

As lazy of a Gene Shalit-esque, superfluous poster-quote as that is, it's pretty damn true. I have no other words to really add to it because there simply isn't a movie that I can draw from the well of cinema history to tell you what The Tribe is like or how it might make you feel. Actually, I can tell you the latter: it'll make you feel uncomfortable. You're thrust into a world that isn't one you're going to be familiar with, that already will make you unsettled and probably more engaged that you would expect a quasi-silent film to be. It has to tell its story through visuals completely so you best pay attention.

That's not the uncomfortable part, though, because, as mentioned, this is a "silent world." No person in this film speaks because no person in this film can hear. To have them say something would ruin the audience's experience. The Tribe cleverly makes you a part of its world and you don't even realize it - you just know its not a world you know. There are people. There's a school. There's crime and drugs and prostitution. There's awful people all-around, actually....

So here you'll find yourself fully engaged in this off-putting world that makes you unsettled with unlikable characters doing distasteful things...and you'll be hard-pressed to not keep watching. The Tribe is a superbly shot and acted film that, though the story a bit anemic at times, progresses through the (I have to assume) year of a new student at a school for the deaf and his world of crime. It's a film that is universal in its simplicity of visual storytelling and dramatic beats of meeting new people, making friends, making enemies, finding love, finding power and so on.

The Bad: If there's one odd component, it's the simple question "what have we learned?" that isn't entirely answered. I suppose if you want to just baseline it as "deaf people are just like us" then that's a pretty shallow interpretation, but then I can't help but wonder if there was any depth in the story to begin with. There's emotion. There's passion. There's an arc. There's symbolism and metaphor to what this story is meant to represent.

Yet, is it a film that's more interested in its own design, as great as it is, rather than telling us much of anything or going anywhere other than become bleaker and bleaker as we go along? I don't know if I can answer that fully. As engaging as the film is just as a drama, I left not really learning anything or really understanding much of the characterization going on. The world is fantastic, the sense of ghetto mafia in this school is fully realized, but we leave the film with as much knowledge about it as we entered it: slightly uncomfortable and not entirely sure where it wants to go.

As a simple approach to cinema and telling a story with no words, I adore the film. Yet even films I adore I have to sit back and look at with a critical eye and for The Tribe, it's a movie that is easily one of the best of the year yet I left it feeling completely empty because it seemed it wasn't entirely sure what it wanted to say.

The Ugly: Well...that's one way to deal with your problems, I guess.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5