Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The meanness of the used-ta-been


The Coens are back with another oddball project, an anthology that, in some ways, is more coherent than a lot of their monolithic narratives; and it's a damn fine thing, too, although that doesn't stop parts of it from being somewhat less than worth your time.

Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Love and death

aka The Stairway to Heaven

Surely one of the best movies whose content was ever dictated by a government, A Matter of Life and Death is practically the perfect wartime romantic melodrama... except, I guess, for those parts where the content was dictated by a government.

Written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
With David Niven (Squadron Leader Peter Carter), Kim Hunter (June), Roger Livesey (Dr. Frank Reeves), Robert Coote (Flying Officer Bob Trubshawe), Kathleen Byron (An Angel), Joan Maude (The Chief Recorder), Abraham Sofaer (The Judge), Marius Goring (Conductor 71), and Raymond Massey (Abraham Farlan)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Saturday, November 24, 2018

No country for old women... or young women... or women generally


Overborne and overdetermined, Widows is a movie that never does anything terribly, and several things well enough, and maybe even a few things great.  But it is a tremendously mixed bag..

Directed by Steve McQueen
Written by Gillian Flynn and Steve McQueen (based on the TV series by Lynda La Plante)
With Viola Davis (Veronica Rawlings), Elizabeth Debicki (Alice Gunner), Michelle Rodriguez (Linda Perelli), Cynthia Erivo (Belle), Carrie Coon (Amanda Nunn), Colin Farrell (Jack Mulligan), Bryan Tyree Henry (Jamal Manning), Daniel Kaluyya (Jatemme Manning), and Liam Neeson (Harry Rawlings)

Spoiler alert: close enough to high to count

Monday, November 19, 2018

Does the letter of authenticity come with a letter of authenticity?


As we move through this second-most Academy-centric of months, we arrive upon Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a better class of would-be Oscarbait True Story: one with a strong hook (crime) and a strong aesthetic (brown), but which only uses those things as a starting point to get to what it's really after, namely one of 2018's better character studies, as offered by way of one of 2018's strongest (if not wholly surprising) lead performances.

Directed by Marielle Heller
Written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty (based on the book by Lee Israel)
With Melissa McCarthy (Lee Israel), Richard E. Grant (Jack Hock), Dolly Wells (Anna), and Jane Curtin (Marjorie)

Spoiler alert: moderate (technically N/A, but it's not that well-known a story)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sure, convince them they're straight! I know I really enjoyed dating a lesbian for six months in my first year of college, you fucking dolts


It's that time of year again!  'Tis the season of middlebrow movies made for decent middle-class liberals who want to feel superior to (choose one) [Nazis/slavers/Christian fundamentalists], as well as, to some extent, their victims.  Oho!  I see you've picked [Christian fundamentalists]!  Excellent choice!  Here's a dour film that tells you that gay conversion therapy is bad, and, sometimes but not that often, even how and why!  (Still, for what it is, it's a qualified success, so let's not be as mean as we could be.)

Written and directed by Joel Edgerton (based on the book by Garrard Conley)
With Lucas Hedges (Jared Eamons) Nicole Kiman (Nancy Eamons), Russell Crowe (Marshall Eamons), and Joel Edgerton (Victor Sykes)

Spoiler alert: N/A

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Mother, may I?


Stuffed, maybe overstuffed, with ideas and symbols and bids at meaning, the most important thing is that Suspiria does terrible things to you, but you realize you really like it.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Written by David Kajganich
With Dakota Johnson (Susie Bannion), Elena Fokina (Olga), Mia Goth (Sara), Chloe Grace Moretz (Patricia), Jessica Harper (Anke), Tilda Swinton (Madame Blance, Dr. Klemperer, et al), and Malgorzata Bela (Mrs. Bannion)

Spoiler alert: mild—well, severe for Suspiria '77, but come on now

Monday, November 12, 2018

They're not sending their best


A bomb-based thriller that's too wacky for its own good, yet, perhaps, not quite wacky enough, Blown Away splits the difference between sobriety and absurdity somewhat awkwardly, if never quite so awkwardly that the good parts (which is to say, the cool parts) wind up lost.

Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Written Jay Roach, John Rice, and Joe Batteer
With Jeff Bridges (Lt. Jimmy Dove), Suzy Amis (Kate), Lloyd Bridges (Max O'Bannon), Forest Whitaker (Officer Anthony Franklin), and Tommy Lee Jones (Ryan Gaerity)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Predator Week, part II: Oh, it's the urban jungle, I get it


Predator 2 never quite justifies its existence, but it mostly earns your attention, and that will have to do.

Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Written by Jim Thomas and John Thomas
With Danny Glover (Lt. Mike Harrigan), Ruben Blades (Danny Archuleta), Maria Conchita Alonso (Leona Cantrell), Bill Paxton (Jerry Lambert), Gary Busey (Peter Keyes), Kevin Peter Hall (a Predator, why is he credited as "the Predator"? the Predator is dead)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Disney's Challengers, part II: A bug's life

(aka Hoppity Goes To Town aka Bugville)

Consider the mystery of why hardly anybody ever mentions the Fleischer Studios' pair of feature-length cartoons to be solved.

Directed by Dave Fleischer and Shamus Culhane
With Stan Freed (Hoppity), Pauline Loth (Honey Bumble), Jack Mercer (Mr. Bumble and Swat), Margie Hines (Mrs. Ladybug and Buzz), Pinto Colvig (Mr. Creeper), Carl Meyer (Smack), and Tedd Pierce (C. Bagley Beetle)

Spoiler alert: mild

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Census Bloodbath: Overshoot the extreme, max the envelope, and so on


Yesterday was Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, yesterday was Halloween, here's our crossover!  As if he needs any introduction, our friend Brennan Klein of Popcorn Culture, as well as many other places these days, shall be taking on the task of reviewing three wholesome, edifying 1950s sci-fi films of the kind we so often do around here, while I review three slasher films straight from the pit of moral decay called the 1980s.

Directed by Michael Fischa
Written by James Bartruff and Mitch Paradise
With William Bumiller (Michael), Brenda Bakke (Laura), Ken Foree (Marvin), Alexa Hamilton (Priscilla), Rosalind Cash (Sgt. Stone), Francis X. McCarthy (Lt. Fletcher), Merrick Butrick (David), and Shari Shattuck (Catherine)

Spoiler alert: moderate