Wynonna Earp: season one

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“Wynonna the Demon Slayer”

After a long absence, Wynonna Earp (Scrofano) returns to her home town of Purgatory, near the Rockies. There, we discover the truth about the death of her father and disappearance of her sister, events which precipitated Wynonna’s departure. Turns out the great-great-granddaughter of the legendary Wyatt Earp has a supernatural duty to fulfill, using her ancestor’s equally legendary 16-inch barrel “Peacemaker” revolver. Wyatt kept demons known as “revenants” in check, and the mission has been passed down the family line since, with Wynonna the current incumbent. Fortunately, mystical borders keep the revenants within the “Ghost River Triangle,” and she has the help of Deputy Marshal Xavier Dolls (Anderson), an agent in the “Black Badge” division of the US Marshals Service; Doc Holliday (Rozon), the now-immortal former friend of Wyatt; and Wynonna’s kid sister, Waverly (Provost-Chalkley).

Yeah, as the tag-line above suggest, there’s more than an echo of Buffy here, from Wynonna being the unwilling “chosen one”, through Purgatory being a hot-bed of supernatural activity (or “Hell Mouth”?), and the associated “Scooby Gang” who help out the heroine. Doc is a parallel for Angel, being a somewhat ambivalent immortal who has an on-again, off-again relationship with Wynonna. Dolls is Giles, the sensible adult of the group. And Waverly is a lumpy combination of Giles (research skills), Dawn (bratty little sister) and Willow (gratuitous lesbian tendencies). I’m not sure how many of these similarities come from Beau Smith’s comic which is the source here. It first appeared in 1996, when Buffy was still a failed movie, and not yet the successful TV series it would become. But the showrunner admits, when pitching Wynonna, she would describe it as “Buffy meets Justified.

So, if you’re looking for originality, you are far better off elsewhere, certainly. That said, the horror-Western is some way from being an over-familiar genre, and the obvious influences certainly do not mean it is without merit or appeal. There has been a real shortage of action heroine shows on American television – which leaves me happy to see, even one as derivative as this. I particularly liked Scofrano, who brings a cynical world-weariness to her mid-twenties character.The show also does a good job of disseminating information, striking a nice balance between revealing its secrets, and keeping the audience guessing. The middle episodes do degenerate a bit into ‘Occult Monster of the Week’ territory, yet the writers redeem themselves with a strong final arc that sets the stage nicely, and not too obviously, for the second season.

Wynonna [a spelling which looks plain weird, with at least one N too many] takes to her destiny with gleeful abandon, dispatching revenants with enthusiasm. It’s refreshing to see a heroine who doesn’t agonize endlessly about dispatching the enemy – even if in this case, it’s probably because they are already dead. Overall, I think the show will likely go as far as Scrofano can take it. If it takes advantage of the chance to improve, and does so to the same extent Buffy did (the cast there didn’t grow into their characters until perhaps the third series), it’ll certainly be worth another look.

Creator: Emily Andras
Star: Melanie Scrofano, Shamier Anderson, Tim Rozon, Dominique Provost-Chalkley

Quarries

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“Questionable quarrels.”

It’s not often a film manages to be under-written AND over-written. Yet this tale of wilderness survival does both. A group of women are out on what’s supposed to be an empowering hike through the forest, designed to boost self-reliance, esteem and all that good stuff. But they come under attack from a group of local men, apparently intent on a hunting expedition, with the woman as the prey. They’ll need to learn survival skills, that’s for sure.

There’s a not-so-subtle message of gender politics here. The males here are all utter bastards or completely ineffective. Heroine Kat (Johnson, who also co-wrote the script with the director) is there to get away from an abusive relationship. It’s brick-like in its obviousness, yet it’s almost half-way before the two sides face off. Until that point, it’s virtually a poster-child for demonstrating why one of the rules of cinema is “show, don’t tell”. This does far too much telling, and to negligible effect. Maybe there are just too many members in the party, to allow for decent fleshing out? Beyond Kat, none of them are given any depth, defined by one or two simple characteristics. And I note the film’s fondness for liberal gender politics doesn’t extend to issues of race, perpetuating one of the most common genre stereotypes [minor spoiler at the link].

After an immensely annoying first half, things become somewhat better, when the film climbs off its soapbox, and gets down to the raw meat of rednecks vs. disgruntled women. However, we’re never given anything approaching an explanation for the huntsmen. There’s some vague hints in the intro about this being a former mining area, and one of the participants has a nasty burn on the side of his face. Quite how this ties into creating a pastime inspired by The Most Dangerous Game, is never clear. Given all the screen time (ineffectually) put into the victims’ back stories, you feel they could have spared two minutes and given a coherent motive to the other side.

The women handle themselves surprisingly well in the battle, making good use of the environment – which, basically, means clobbering the men with branches, rocks, and anything else the environment can provide them. Possibly a bit too good, given the absence of anything to explain why they can go toe-to-toe with opponents who are generally bigger, better armed and have the advantage of home territory. Yet these heroines seem curiously averse to taking weapons off those who are attacking them: I’d be looting the bodies and powering up with anything I could find.

The closest parallel I can provide in overall tone, might be to think of this as like an above-ground version of The Descent. Yet it’s not as entertaining or well put together: there, the lack of any real explanation for the cave-dwelling creatures didn’t pose any issue – because monsters. But when you introduce a human element, there generally needs to be at least some kind of motivation provided, or it just seems like lazy film-making. Despite some decent performances – not least from Johnson – it falls flat and forgettable. On the evidence here, she’s a better actress than a scriptwriter.

Dir: Nils Taylor
Star: Nicole Marie Johnson, Leisha Hailey, Carrie Finklea, James Devoti

Butterfly

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“A terrible moth-take.”

Veteran B-movie director Nick Cole (Laisne) wakes up to find himself tied to a chair in a warehouse. The perpetrator of his abduction is Laney Darrow (Kreisher), who is clearly familiar with Cole’s body of work, and wants to show him some of her own productions. This starts with a film depicting the abduction and killing of a young man, which turns out to be a snuff film. That genre is Laney’s specialty, and her victims are not taken at random. They are all people with whom the director has worked in the past, and it gradually becomes clear that Laney has a very specific personal agenda, both in the kidnapping of Cole, and the creation of her filmography.

It’s a premise with potential. Yet it’s entirely squandered, and that’s painfully clear by the end of the first “film within a film,” which lasts far too long. I will admit to a particularly derisive snort after it, when Cole praised the special effects – for they were particularly terrible. If you’re going to make a faux snuff movie, you can’t be cutting away with a tablespoon of blood. That ship sailed, as far as any well-informed horror fan goes, with the Japanese Guinea Pig series, in the mid-eighties. It doesn’t help there’s no consistency in style there either. Is Laney holding the camera herself? Using a tripod? Got an accomplice? At times, it seems like it’s all of these.

But the main problem, I think, is likely the structure. The film keeps all the most relevant information away from the viewer until right at the end. As a result, you’ve got to sit through about 80 minutes of wondering “Why should I care about any of this?”, alternating with “Whose side am I supposed to be on?”, before the movie allows you to take an informed stance. This kind of moral ambiguity can work, though it takes a lot of skill. Hard Candy would be the example which comes first to mind; it’s not dissimilar, like this, being largely a two-hander between a young woman and her captive. But the gulf in quality between the two features only becomes increasingly obvious the longer this goes on, and it’s no coincidence Candy also explained the situation much earlier in proceedings.

As a result, I simply gave up on this, because it failed to give me any reason to care about the fate of either of the participants. Kreisher does have a certain edge to her performance; you certainly get the sense that Laney is a loose cannon, easily capable of going off the edge – if she isn’t there already. But watching Laney and her captive flapping their lips at each other, interrupted with bad home invasion footage, is hardly going to be anyone’s idea of entertainment. This is micro-budget horror [no possible way was the budget for this the claimed $250K], which aims low and still manages to miss its targets.

Dir: Edward E. Romero
Star: Mandi Kreisher, Jay Laisne, Sky Kelley, Garrett Penwel

Women Who Kill

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“Not so basic instincts.”

When I told Chris the title of this one, I swear you could hear her eyes rolling at the mere thought of it. But by the end, even she had to admit to having been won over by its dark charms. Most obviously is the sense of black humour which isn’t just dry, it’s as arid as the Atacama Desert. Morgan (Jungermann) and Jean (Carr) are fascinated by female serial killers, running a podcast on the topic which has acquired its own, unique fanbase. Morgan falls for Simone (Vand), a colleague at the food co-operative where she works. But Jean – who is also Morgan’s ex – can’t help thinking there is something seriously off with Simone.

At first, this seems like petty jealousy. But what exactly is Simone keeping in that lock-box of hers? Could she be a candidate for the podcast, more than Morgan’s new soul-mate? As things progress – a mysterious death at the co-operative, the realization that “Simone” may be just the latest in a series of identities, circling back towards one of their podcast subjects – the crunch eventually comes. Jungermann seems to be stressing the difference between chatting vapidly about which serial killer was the most “stylish”, or interviewing one in captivity (O’Toole provides a deliciously twisted cameo as the incarcerated Lila, voted second-most stylish by the podcast’s listeners – she is not at all impressed by the winner), and having to deal with one in the wild. When there’s someone who might or might not present a direct threat to you and your friends, it’s no longer a vicarious thrill.

This is set almost exclusively in the lesbian community – there are very few speaking male roles. But it’s still enormously accessible, and avoids the frequent pitfall of gay cinema, making its characters human first, rather than defined predominately by their sexuality. Morgan’s insecurities, such as the belief Simone is too attractive possibly to be attracted to her, are universal ones. Her reactions, similarly, make sense in the circumstances. These help keep the film grounded, along with dialogue which is all the better for being delivered almost entirely deadpan by everyone involved. [There’s something of Carrie-Anne Moss about Jungermann, both in her look and delivery of lines]

It is definitely a movie for a certain taste. If you’re not fond of acidic wit, this won’t be your cup of herbal tea, and it does occasionally become too wrapped up in itself; I’m sure aspects flew well over our heads. The script also seems to run out of steam, providing an ending that fizzles out into indie indecisiveness. Mind you, given one of the film’s subtexts is the fear of commitment, perhaps its ending is another reflection of the same thing. There was still easily enough to keep us interested, and it proves that good characters and solid dialogue are not limited by cinematic boundaries of genre or setting. I trust Chris learned not necessarily to judge a movie by its title!

Dir: Ingrid Jungermann
Star: Ingrid Jungermann, Ann Carr, Sheila Vand, Annette O’Toole

Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter

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Barb Wire… In space!”

Actually, if only this had been that, it would likely have been a great deal more entertaining. The most obvious point of comparison is lead Birdsall: as the poster on the right shows, she bears more than a passing resemblance to Pamela Anderson. The setting is also dystopian SF, though even more so than in Barb Wire. This takes place after a decade-long apocalypse, which pitted mankind against the artificial intelligences we had created, they having decided we were more a problem than a solution [coughSkynetcough] What remains of the human race, is now struggling to survive in the blasted landscape which remains.

Among them is Sienna (Birdsall), who hears of a planet which contains weapons that can fry the AI circuits, before they can carry out their nefarious plan to download all of humanity’s consciousness into the Matrix. She puts together a plucky team of stock cliches – the geek (McGrath), the muscle-bound fighter (Crawford, clearly the low-rent Vin Diesel. Seriously, he used to be on the British version of Gladiators, and his character was literally called “Diesel”), the robot with a line of snappy repartee – and flies off in a spaceship to find the bombs which are humanity’s last chance. On the way, they meet up with another robot – this one a pleasure model (Park) – and learn some rather disturbing revelations about Sienna’s own past [coughTyrellCorporationcough].

These revelations do, admittedly, explain her stylistic choices – and, cynics might suggest, her approach to acting. In between a fair amount of futuristic chit-chat of varying interest value, there’s a lot of running around deserts, pretending to fire laser weapons at robotic enemies that, very obviously, aren’t there at all. The physical look of the film isn’t actually too bad; the cinematography has a fairly epic scope to it. The main problem from a visual standpoint, is the CGI has been meshed very badly with the real footage: you never escape the knowledge that the former has been pasted on top of the latter. If your script is going to span the galaxy and feature multiple human vs. robot confrontations, you need to be able to deliver. It has been twenty years since Starship Troopers came out, and its CGI still kicks this film’s ass from here to Klendathu.

While not entirely devoid of pleasures, the ones to be found here are mostly minor. Birdsall does actually have some screen presence, and certainly looks the part, in a Barbarella-esque kind of way. There’s a nice scene at the beginning, where she’s trying to escape in a car which has an auto-pilot, and it refuses to leave until it has gone through its entire checklist of new driver items. That kind of self-effacing humour is something the film needed in greater quantities, and would have helped defray the woeful inadequacy of the technical elements, for wit is cheap. Though on the evidence of this, not as cheap as the visual effects software used here. If that isn’t good enough to let the audience take your film seriously, you probably shouldn’t either.

Dir: Neil Johnson
Star: Tracey Birdsall, Tim McGrath, Daz Crawford, Ashley Park

Here Alone

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“Forest of the Dead”

A viral plague has decimated mankind, turning its victims in mindless, flesh-craving ghouls. One of the few to have survived is Ann (Walters), who has taken up residence in the woods, where she has camped out. Ann uses the survival skills she received from her now-absent husband, Jason (West), only occasionally having to emerge and risk the threat of the infected, in order to gather supplies. Her secluded, yet relatively safe existence is disturbed, when she finds an injured man, Chris (Thompson) and his teenage daughter, Liv (Piersanti) on a road. They are supposed to be on their way north, to where the epidemic is reported to be in check. Yet Chris, in particular, seems curiously unwilling to be on his way.

If there’s nothing particularly new or inventive about this version of the zombie apocalypse, it’s not without its small-scale merits. Ann is far from some kind of survivalist Mary Sue: she’s barely getting by, perhaps having paid less attention to her wilderness lessons than she should have. Probably wisely, for a small budget film, the infected – the term “zombies” is never used – are kept largely out of sight, heard more than they are seen. While their shrieks are unnerving enough, the tension comes more from internal forces: the opaque nature of Chris’s motives, for example, or Ann’s dwindling supply of bullets. The former are particularly troubling: the dynamic between Chris and Liv just seems “off” in a variety of ways, and I was not surprised when this played a part in the film’s climax. However, things do not unfold in the way I expected, so credit for that.

The film does cheat a bit with regard to previous events. At the beginning of the film, Ann is already alone, and information about what happened to Jason and their child, is only doled out in teaspoon-sized flashbacks over the course of subsequent events. It matters, because these flashbacks reveal quite a lot about her character, and the way she interacts with other people: information we otherwise don’t have. By not getting it until later, we end up retro-fitting it into what we’ve already seen, and I’m not certain the additional complexity of structure imposed, serves any real purpose.

In the earlier stages, it reminded me of The Wall, with its tale of a woman thrown back entirely onto her own resources. While that solo adventure would have been difficult to sustain, it is the most interesting and original part of proceedings. I was rather disappointed when Chris + Liv showed up, because the entire dynamic changes at that point, and the film becomes something with which I’m somewhat too familiar. While there are twists down the stretch, this rejects the chance to truly separate itself from the large pack of zombie apocalypse movies in terms of plot. Fortunately, a solid performance from Walters helps the film sustain viewer interest through the weaker second half.

Dir: Rod Blackhurst
Star: Lucy Walters, Adam David Thompson, Gina Piersanti, Shane West

Colossal

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“A giant conundrum.”

After breaking up with her boyfriend, Gloria (Hathaway) holes up in her middle-American hometown. She gets a job in a bar, run by her childhood pal, Oscar (Sudeikis) – not that this employment does much for Gloria’s burgeoning alcoholism. Meanwhile, over in Korea, the city of Seoul is being plagued by a giant monster, which will appear out of nowhere, behave oddly, and then vanish again. Gloria eventually figures out that when she goes through a particular spot – a local children’s playground – at a specific time, the creature appears in Korea, and its actions reflect hers. Turns out Oscar can do the same, manifesting in Seoul as a giant robot, and he may not be as benign with his new-found powers, as Gloria is attempting to be.

This is a severe mess in terms of genre, and very difficult to put into any particular bucket. It’s part comedy, part drama, part fantasy – yet not sufficiently any of them to the point where I can confidently say it would appeal to fans of that kind of film. It is the kind of quirky role for which Hathaway is well suited, and Sudeikis does well, in a “low-rent substitute for Ben Affleck” kinda way. I just wish Vigalondo (whose time-travel flick, Los cronocrímenes, is one of the best of its kind) had taken the concept here and really run with the possibilities. I guess budget may have limited him there, but I’d like to have seen  Gloria and Oscar do more than standing around, waving their limbs somewhat. The trailer suggested a bit more than that.

I think this might be intended to be a parable for abusive relationships, with Oscar using controlling tactics and threats to ensure that Gloria doesn’t go back to the big city and/or her boyfriend there. Or perhaps Oscar is intended to represent the alcohol which is Gloria’s bête noire? You can more or less make up whatever you want here. And you’ll probably have to, because if this film doesn’t credibly explain how two people can project into South Korean monsters (it’s something to do with a childhood trauma, a smashed show-and-tell project and lightning), you know you’re not going to be given much in the way of character motivation.

Re-reading the above, it comes over as negative to a greater extent than it should. Gloria is a likeably flawed lead, I was kept interested, generally amused and occasionally impressed. Yet, it feels like a seriously wasted opportunity, something which could have ended up occupying a deliciously excessive and demented spot between Pacific Rim and Monsters vs. Aliens. Instead, it’s far lower-key and takes place on a surprisingly small scale, than anything involving a monster, hundreds of foot high, terrorizing an Asian city should. If your expectations are similarly restrained, this is likely to work better. I can state with a fair degree of certainty, you won’t have seen anything like it before. And once you’ve seen it, you will probably understand why.

Dir: Nacho Vigalondo
Star: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell

Unlocked

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“Lisbeth Salander vs. Elf”

That would have been a more appealing title. Although the incredibly generic one here reflects the incredibly generic plot, which sinks this, despite the efforts of a well above-average cast. CIA agent Alice Racine (Rapace) has, at her own request, been assigned to the backwater of an East London community, after blaming herself for failing to stop a bombing in Paris. She’s called out of her semi-retirement to interrogate a terrorist courier, believed to be carrying a message about an imminent biological attack on a US target in London. She cracks the subject and hands over most of the intel, only to discover the recipients are not the agency employees they claimed to be, and will kill her as soon as they get what they need. She goes on the run, unsure of who she can still trust: her mentor (Douglas), the MI-5 boss (Collette), or a burglar she encounters who happens to be a former British commando (Bloom). Can she stop the attack before it’s carried out?

Yeah, if you ever wanted to see The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo go hand-to-hand against Legolas, this film is for you. Anyone else? Probably not so much. It’s the kind of striking boilerplate spy vs. spy shenanigans we’ve seen a lot of lately. This reminded me particularly of Survivor, with Rapace standing in for Milla Jovovich, though to be honest, neither film makes much impression – and what they do, isn’t necessarily good. For example here, I spotted what the target was going to be as soon as it was mentioned, and a laughably long time before the movie’s characters were able to work it out. I hope American’s real intelligence assets are considerably smarter than the ones depicted in this film. The way in which Bloom’s character, Jack Alcott, is shoehorned into proceedings is no less clunky, and the story overall has no flow, lurching through the components to its finale (obviously not endorsed by the NFL, given the non-specific names used!).

The positives here are mostly from the performances, with the exception of Bloom, who seems woefully mis-cast – though it may partly be my difficulty in taking anyone with a man-bun seriously. Rapace gives a good account of herself, kicking ass with terse efficiency, particularly when escaping from the hotel room where she’s carrying out the interrogation. Collette, previously known to us from United States of Tara, turns out to be as good with a British accent as she is with an American one, especially considering she’s neither (Australian). There’s also John Malkovich as the CIA boss, and he’s watchable as ever, albeit underused. Seems like the Czech Republic largely stood in for London, which may help explain the limited sense of place, and Apted’s direction is little better here than in one of the more underwhelming Bond flicks of recent times, The World is Not Enough. Rapace needs to keep looking for the right vehicle, one which will make use of her undeniable talents.

Dir: Michael Apted
Star: Noomi Rapace, Orlando Bloom, Toni Collette, Michael Douglas

Elite

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“Because Mediocre  wouldn’t sell as well.”

A mission in central America against drug cartel boss Reynaldo Benitez (Garza) goes wrong, leaving eight Special Ops soldiers dead. This includes the husband of Naval Covert Operations Command agent, Abbey Vaughn (Gregory), who is intent on discovering the truth about what happened to her spouse. She links up with the only survivor of the operation, Lt. Sam Harrigan (Scarbrough), now living in a trailer, and spending his time drinking and practicing golf. Together with the rest of their team, they investigate the case, only to find the tentacles of organized crime are deeper embedded than they appear, and their inquiries put not only themselves, but Abbey’s family in serious danger.

The performances here aren’t the problem. Gregory and Scarbrough are both effective enough, and the supporting cast are equally watchable – special credit to Rousseau as team hacker Jazz, a character of whom I’d have liked to have seen more. The hand-to-hand combat scenes are also better staged than I was expecting. It appears a lot of the performers have MMA experience, along with indie wrestler Mike Dell, and this gives the fights a solid amount of credibility, with the punches appearing to have an impact on their recipients.

If only the same could be said for other aspects, which outweigh the positives overall. First, and largest, is the bane of many low-budget movies: bad audio. I had to sit with my finger on the remote control, perpetually adjusting the volume – one scene too loud, the next inaudibly quiet. The foley work on the gun-battles was simply laughable, using electronic bleeps and chirps that made bursts of semi-automatic fire sound more like birdsong. In general, anything involving armaments was problematic and unconvincing, with the production able to afford little or nothing in the way of collateral damage, to people or property.

The other main problem for me was the script, consisting of a collection of clichés and by-the-number plot points, without any genuine surprises to be found. It might have passed muster for a less discerning audience in the mid-eighties. Though unless they found the basic concept of moving pictures novel enough to be a distraction, I’m not even sure they would be satisfied. For example, immediately we saw the heroine’s father and daughter, I could guess exactly what their role in the film was going to be, and went 2-for-2 in my expectations.

It was particularly disappointing, because story-line is an area where resources shouldn’t be a problem. Yes, it will limit the scenarios open to the film-maker; however, you should still be able to do more than trot out hackneyed elements, arranged in a way that alternately bores and confuses (quite why an NCOC agent was conducting an investigation of a drug cartel escapes me, and I’m still uncertain whether a major character ended the film alive or dead). Even with a higher tolerance for small-budget cinema than most, this was still more chore than pleasure.

Dir: Mark Cantu
Star: Allison Gregory, Jason Scarbrough, Ione Rousseau, Larry Garza

M.F.A.

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“Like father, like daughter”

I say the above, since the father of the star here is Clint Eastwood, possibly the most famous vigilante in cinematic history. He gave us Dirty Harry, who memorably spat out lines such as, “When an adult male is chasing a female with intent to commit rape, I shoot the bastard – that’s my policy.” This apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Though Noelle, the art student who becomes an avenging force after being raped at a party by a fellow student, takes a little longer to get to that point of unrepentant street justice. Her first victim is purely accidental, her attacker falling over a balcony after she confronts him, in the hope of getting some kind of apology. Doesn’t happen, and his death doesn’t exactly cause her sorrow. When she realizes she is also far from alone in what she has gone through, she decides that active retaliation is the best approach.

There’s something particularly timely about watching this, the same week that the truth about Harvey Weinstein finally came out. For it’s clear that the film world is far from the sole province of jackasses who use their power to abuse women: the music business, for example, is no better, and colleges appear to be another rat-fest. Yet despite this, the script here is considerably more measured than I expected. Given the current climate, I certainly wouldn’t have blamed writer McKendrick (who plays Noelle’s room-mate Skye too) for going off on a misanthropic rant about #AllMen. It’s to her credit she doesn’t, adopting instead a laudably nuanced approach. The men here run the gamut from good to bad – perhaps more surprisingly, so do  the women. The campus victim support group is entirely useless; the college psychiatrist is worse still, actively engaged in suppressing incidents so they don’t enter the public record.

Even the vigilantism at the film’s core is not portrayed as universally the right thing. The film suggest it may do more harm than good when you carry it out on behalf of other people – perhaps doing more damage by re-opening wounds they are trying to heal. For some victims would rather forget it and move on, writing off their experience as “one shitty night,” and refusing to let it define who they are. Noelle’s action robs them of the ability to do that, arguably an abuse of power in another way. It’s all remarkably complex, and the film doesn’t shy away from any of the mess. I haven’t even discussed how Noelle takes her experience and transforms it through her (initially mediocre) art, truly a case of the Nietzschean aphorism, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

It’s all far more thought-provoking than I expected, and it helps there’s something of a young Angelina Jolie about Eastwood, between her high cheekbones and expressive eyes. Though it did take me virtually the entire movie to figure out what the title meant; I’ll spare the torment and let you know it’s a peculiarly American phrase, being an abbreviation for “Master of Fine Arts.” In the UK, there’s nothing “fine” about those degrees, they’re just M.A’s. Never let it be said we don’t educate as well as entertain here…

Dir: Natalia Leite
Star: Francesca Eastwood, Leah McKendrick, Clifton Collins Jr., Michael Welch