Cage carries slow-burn Pig
Most actors would look ridiculous lugging around the load of melancholy on Nicolas Cage's shoulders in Michael Sarnoski's Pig. Yet, the myriad eccentric performances the screen vet has gleefully embraced over the years has prepared us for anything he might attempt. Compared to other roles he's taken, Rob, a self-exiled chef that used to dominate Portland's world of haute cuisine, is relatively normal. Living in the woods of the Pacific Northwest with his truffle hunting pig, he's left that highly pretentious world behind, except for his connection to Amir (Alex Wolff), a would-be restauranteur who buys his truffles.
All is well until someone steals his pig and Rob is forced to return to the world he's shunned. As he goes from one four-star restaurant to the next, pieces of his past are exposed until the reason for his leaving is revealed. It's a deliberately paced journey, but one that rewards the viewer's patience, thanks in large part to Cage's finely calibrated, slow-burn performance. He brings the humanity of this eccentric man to the fore, the final scene a devastating moment of mourning and acceptance. It's true sleeper worth seeking out. In theaters and on Amazon Prime and Apple TV
Chilling Heart a horrific, effective metaphor
An examination of co-dependency and addiction masquerading as a vampire film, Jonathan Cuartas' My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It to is a stunner from the start. Patrick Fugat and Ingrid Sophie Schram are Dwight and Jessie, siblings who are emotionally shackled to their terminally ill brother, Thomas (Owen Campbell). Wan and frail, restricted to the confines of their deteriorating house, he requires constant infusions of fresh blood. Picking off the homeless and others living on the fringe of society, Dwight harvests these unfortunates, bringing them home to slaughter and drain them so that his brother may live.
The emotional toll this has on the caretakers is devastating, each of them suffering from a sense of alienation and loneliness that ultimately proves unbearable. Cuartas paints a poignant portrait of life in stasis, the three siblings all unable to move on, everything around them stuck in time. This is underscored by their house, a modern gothic nightmare containing out-of-date décor and furniture, a place where, like their inhabitants, time stands still. The film's resolution is inescapable but no less affecting, an inevitable conclusion that leaves no one unscathed, its glimmer of hope, tenuous. Available on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.
Gunfight a misguided Romeo and Juliet update
There's a great deal of energy in Collin Schiffli's Die in a Gunfight - misguided and scattershot – but energy, nonetheless. That's about the only thing this latest Romeo and Juliet redux has going for it, yet another update of the Bard's classic, this one undone by the director's Cliff Notes approach to the tale.
The world of modern media is the setting as two families, the Rathcarts and Gibbons, engage in cutthroat competition to be the only news outlet on the block. The star-crossed lovers are Ben and Mary (Diego Boneta and Alexandria Daddario), who, when reunited, ignite a war between the families that...well, you know how it goes.
Schiffli uses animated sequences for flashbacks, which are initially fun but ultimately wear out their welcome, while the manic pacing proves headache-inducing, rather than invigorating. There's a cheap quality to the film that would have complimented Schiffli's film had he decided to make a B-movie lark. Unfortunately, Gunfight really has no footing, unsure of what it is, insuring that in the end it is nothing. In theaters.