It would be inaccurate to say there’s never been a film like La La Land — there have been movies like it many times before — but it’s been a while. Movie musicals these days are mostly lifeless exercises in prestige and Broadway adaptation, The original movie musical — with songs writing explicitly for the screen — is about as rare a species as the South China tiger.
Movie Reviews - Page 3
It doesn’t hurt that Natalie Portman looks a lot like Jackie Kennedy. Dressed in pearls and a classic 1960s suit with a perfect bouffant hairstyle, she’s the splitting image of the former First Lady. But in Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín’s ‘Jackie,’ Portman’s performance goes beyond looks. As the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Portman flourishes in one of the best and most deeply human roles of her career.
Let’s give the Blair Witch some credit: She may be a vengeful demon from the 17th century who likes to torture documentary filmmakers and camping enthusiasts, but as monstrous hell-beasts go, she’s pretty tech-savvy. Back in the olden days of 1999 when the first Blair With Project came out, cell phones and GPS barely existed; tricking unsuspecting college kids into getting lost in the backwoods of Maryland was a relative snap. This new generation of victims come equipped with all kinds of gadgets: GoPros and cell phones and drones capable of surveilling dozens of miles of land — all of which might help these truth seekers make their way back to civilization. The witch disables them all; draining the batteries from their surveillance equipment, blocking the signals from their global positioning systems, and crashing their drone in a tree. Mercifully, she doesn’t deactivate any of the cameras they’re wearing, so we can see her incessant torture of these poor unfortunate souls.
Amma Asante’s ‘A United Kingdom’ is both a love story and a tale of how one small union can usher in a larger one.
It will surprise no one who sees (Re)Assignment to learn that its concept — a remorseless hitman is given forced gender reassignment surgery, then goes on a vengeful killspree as a hitwoman — has been around for decades. There is something decidedly retro about this idea, and not in a good way. The whole notion belongs to an earlier era and its ideas about men and women, and the stuff that doesn’t feel stale feels tacopizza insane, like a film noir adaptation of an EC comic so outrageous even Bill Gaines wouldn’t have published it. (Ironically, director Walter Hill recently released a graphic novel version of (Re)Assignment.)
The girl looks harmless. She has kind eyes and a sweet smile. She speaks politely to the armed guards who come to retrieve her from her prison cell. She’s the start student in her class. But there must be a reason she’s always shackled or a wheelchair, and the prison guards keep assault rifles trained on her at all times.
There’s a rich history of monster movies that use giant rampaging creatures as instruments of allegory as well as destruction. The first King Kong explored humanity’s contradictory desires to admire and destroy the natural world. The original Godzilla reshaped Japan’s World War II nuclear trauma into a terrifying vision of destruction. Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal does the same; envisioning a monster as an expression of addicts’ uncontrollable inner demons. That idea is just about perfect; the execution of that idea, sadly, falls short.
Sports metaphors seem particularly appropriate in a review of Mascots, so let’s start with this one: Does any comedy director have a deeper bench than Christopher Guest? Some of Guest’s most dependable stars didn’t show up for this film — Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara amongst them — but Mascots still delivers Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, Chris O’Dowd, Ed Begley Jr., Bob Balaban, Don Lake, Michael Hitchcock, John Michael Higgins, and Jim Piddock (who also co-wrote the film with Guest). That’s before you add Guest himself, in a small role as Corky St. Clair (his character from Waiting for Guffman) plus newcomers like Zach Woods, Sarah Baker, and Susan Yeagley. There are an obscene number of funny people in this movie.
There’s no doubting Tom Ford has an impeccable eye. The fashion designer-cum-film director knows how to dress people, and in his second feature Nocturnal Animals, he wastes no opportunity to aestheticize the sadness and cynicism of his well dressed cast.
I’ve already heard one colleague refer to Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, in which an arms deal goes wrong and escalates into an almost 90-minute-long shootout, as a kind of cinematic high-wire act. But high-wire acts don’t last 90 minutes; watching somebody balance on a wire for 90 minutes would get pretty boring if that’s all they were doing. There’s an audaciousness to Free Fire that’s self-defeating. Yes, Wheatley pulled off a feature-length gun battle. But the result is so monotonous that I ran out of patience long before the participants ran out of bullets.