Sunday, June 7, 2015

SIFF Capsule Reviews: 'Circle' And 'The Wolfpack'

The Seattle International Film Festival is winding down (today is the last day), and though I haven't seen as many movies as I would have like (stupid day job), I'm still behind and have some catching up to do. So here are a couple more short reviews, one of a world premiere, the other of a documentary that created quite a buzz at Sundance. Enjoy.


A tense sci-fi tale where fifty strangers hold each other’s lives in their hands has some definite potential, but unfortunately for Circle, which made its world premiere at SIFF this year, the result plays out like a tediously long episode of Twilight Zone. These people wake up, literally standing in a circle, and every minute or so they have to vote to kill off one of their number or one will be chosen at random by the unseen aliens holding them captive. That’s all there is. What begins as an interesting exercise in the prisoners trying to figure out the game, the psychological pressure of choosing someone to die, moral implications, and the everyone’s hidden prejudices and preconceptions bubbling to the top, hits a plane and stays there. After each execution, the debate begins again, in endless an loop, as one after another is killed. That’s it, the same thing happens over and over again, the tension never escalates after the early stages of the movie, and  87 minutes winds up feeling much, much longer. [Grade: C-]

The Wolfpack

Imagine you never leave your small, dingy Manhattan apartment and the only contact you have with the outside world is through movies. Growing up like this you might turn out a little weird, and the Angulo family, a literal band of brothers raised in such a situation by their isolationist parents, are an interesting bunch. Their only creative outlet is to remake their favorite films—Reservoir Dogs, The Dark Knight Rises—crafting costumes out of cereal boxes and yoga mats. While meandering at times, The Wolfpack is both spectacle, you certainly gawk at the family as they struggle to function, but it’s also about the power of movies. The films in their extensive collection show them another world, plant the idea of escape, and show the boys that more is possible. It’s spectacle and something more. Remarkably self-aware—one of the ponytailed brothers remarks that there wasn’t much to do other than think—the brothers are very introspective, and, over time, you get to watch them as they push against their overbearing father, move, grow, and explore. [Grade: B]

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