The most common knock against Marvel’s cinematic universe: All their movies look the same. In a mega-franchise spanning 14 films and counting, that look can get pretty stale. For the most part, these movies about bravery are pretty timid when it comes to visual storytelling.
After making his English-language debut with Stoker, Park Chan-wook returns to his native South Korea for The Handmaiden, a gloriously sensual and impressively layered thriller that’s every bit as Hitchcockian and gothic as its predecessor. In a brilliantly repurposed adaptation of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith, Director Park changes the setting of the story to Colonial-era Korea, which serves as a nuanced backdrop for what is his most masterful masterpiece to date.
A raw, exquisite portrait of young black masculinity, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight follows one life through three stages to tell a story of repressed desires and internalized suffering. Across three chapters we watch Chiron, a young South Florida boy, grow into a teen and later into a nearly unrecognizable man, as he seeks to understand the various shades of his identity.
Less than 48 hours after its existence was revealed to the world and less than 2 weeks after Michael Moore began shooting it — not finished, began — Michael Moore in TrumpLand arrives in theaters. Not surprisingly given that incredibly abbreviated schedule, the film is a bit of a mess; a heartfelt, scattershot, rarely funny, intermittently moving polemic about our country and its people.
The Jack Reacher of Lee Child’s novels is a massive 6’5” bruiser. The Jack Reacher of cinema is Tom Cruise, who’s only about 5’7. But there’s something satisfying about this casting. You expect a giant hulk to be able to handle himself in a fight. Cruise’s Reacher is an underdog every time he wanders into a fight and then takes them down three, four, or five dudes at a time. Is it plausible that a 54-year-old vagrant could maintain a flawless physique and dominate packs of professional killers even when cornered and heavily outnumbered? Probably not. Is it plausible that a kid who gets bit by a spider could turn into Spider-Man? There are things a viewer simply accepts because it is the premise of the movie.
Ang Lee is am ambitious filmmaker, but ambition doesn’t always pay off. With Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon he fused emotional relationships with the dazzle of wuxia action, and in Life of Pi he told a story about spirituality and survival through an innovative use of CG and motion-capture performance. In Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Lee is once again pushing the boundaries of filmmaking shooting the film in 120 frames per second (five times the normal rate of your average movie). What results is a stunning and unique viewing experience, but ultimately a failed experiment.
Hollywood is so obsessed with superheroes these days they made a superhero movie about an accountant. It’s called The Accountant, and it is indeed about a guy who prepares people’s taxes, looks for deductions, and monitors financial records for fraud. But in his off-hours, this guy is also a master martial artist and a sniper capable of hitting targets a mile away. He also has a secret identity and what amounts to a low-rent Batcave, an Airstream trailer full of weapons and cash, stashed in a storage unit. He’s played by former Daredevil and current Batman Ben Affleck. He doesn’t wear a cape, but he might as well.
When Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last January, it got a standing ovation before its premiere. People were excited to see this movie. Nine months later, the reaction to its arrival in theaters is a little bit different.
It’s no wonder Paul Hawkins’ debut novel, The Girl on the Train, novel was quickly pegged “the next Gone Girl,” and that DreamWorks scooped up the rights a year before the novel hit shelves. It’s a murder mystery told by an unreliable narrator full of twists, sex and violence. It has all the makings of a hit. But here’s a hot take: despite topping the bestseller list, Hawkins’ book isn’t good. Piggy backing on the hype of Gillian Flynn’s work, the novel uses a gimmicky narrative structure to glorify melodrama and violence. That could’ve been salvaged as a high-intensity thriller that indulged in the trashy source material, but director Tate Taylor’s (The Help) adaptation falls ill to the same shortcomings of the novel, resulting in a sluggish mess of self-seriousness.
Raw is the debut feature from French director Julia Ducournau, a fact that is nothing short of astonishing from the opening moments of this inventive and beautifully shot new horror film. To say that Ducournau’s cinematic introduction is assured would be an understatement; it’s a shrewd, insightful and surprisingly funny film that feels like the work of a more accomplished filmmaker who has refined their talents over the course of many films and many years. Though it is not without slight flaw, Raw is one of the smartest, most rewarding horror movies in recent years.