Fanboy darling Edgar Wright has certainly earned his reputation as a passionate pastiche artist and intricate stylist; his genre-infused films pair narratives of arrested male development with whiplash camerawork and razor-sharp editing. That skill and craftsmanship is fully on display in Baby Driver, but it’s undercut here by a trite screenplay and an overweening sense that the film’s twee brand of coolness, inextricably linked to a jukebox of pop songs, is somehow irresistible.
What Kenneth Lonergan understands, probably better than any other writer-director working today, is how difficult it is to communicate grief in a convincing way on screen. With three feature films thus far, Lonergan’s acute exploration of coping mechanisms seems almost universal in scope, yet minimal in execution; with Manchester by the Sea, he’s crafted another incredibly
Park Chan-wook’s career has largely been steeped in a particular fusion of twisty revenge narratives padded with philosophical implications. His latest, The Handmaiden, feels particularly lacking in the latter area. In a 1930s, Japanese-occupied Korea, Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) is hired by conman Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) to assist in stealing the fortune of a Japanese heiress (Kim Min-hee of
Soon, just as there are plenty of adults who no longer remember a world before The Simpsons, nobody will recall a time when, for good or ill, there was not a new annual Star Wars movie. It’s no longer enough (either to shareholders or to pop culture at large) to expect a new installment of the core saga every few years (let alone every other decade), so with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Disney kicks off a line of one-off adventures. This one, set in-between 2005’s Revenge of the Sith and 1977’s A New Hope, follows a ragtag band of rebels on a likely suicide mission as they attempt to steal the plans for the original Death Star. Avoiding the greater mythmaking of the classic “episodes” in favor of turning Star Wars into a World War II movie-style combat drama, Rogue One is consequently packed with thinly sketched characters whose motivations barely have time to catch up with the film’s complicated but not necessarily complex plot, which is mostly a video-game-ish “go here, do this, get that thing” affair, with of course intergalactic democracy in the balance.
Never less than exciting even if the story and characters are generally on autopilot.
More remarkable are the deadly stakes and the impressively high on-screen body count. This is a relatively violent film, loaded with close quarters fighting and culminating in a massive, nearly 40-minute air/land/space battle that might be some of the most visceral action in the franchise’s history. Director Gareth Edwards shoots everything somewhat docu-verité style, with a lot of handheld, distinctive from the mostly tripod-locked style of the main entries. It’s never less than exciting even if the story and characters are generally on autopilot. Another matter entirely is the mandate of a newly expanding cinematic universe. There are plenty of cute little easter eggs here and winking nods there, but the decision to cram in lengthy cameos from major established characters (sometimes with the use of some state-of-the-art but still thoroughly unconvincing CGI) is a huge distraction reeking of fan service, gumming up the already wonky pace and making needless direct links to already well-documented stories (even if it does return a certain someone to scary status). There’s clearly plenty of room in the Empire for all sorts of stories (and you could do a lot worse than The Guns of the Navarone in a galaxy far, far away), but Rogue One‘s biggest problem is that it doesn’t feel entirely confident in telling a new or different one.
The Harry Potter franchise officially becomes an Expanded Cinematic Universe with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first in what Warner Bros. promises will be five J.K. Rowling-scripted original films, prequels to the Potter‘s proper. Centering around conservationalist wizard Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who travels the globe capturing said fantastic beasts and shoving them into
If the source material for Doctor Strange, the 14th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, suggested the company might finally be open to the surreal potential of their comics, what with sorcerers and cross-dimensional antics, the payoff is surprisingly dull, despite some frequently amusing eye-candy. The final third of last year’s Ant-Man was ultimately much trippier (and funnier), even though both films share the same problem
Based on the true story of Army Medic Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield here), a devout Seventh-Day Adventist and conscientious objector who rescued dozens of soldiers while refusing to kill an enemy or carry a weapon, Mel Gibson’s latest directorial effort is both a simple, deliberate Johnny-Goes-To-War melodrama and an incredibly brutal depiction of combat.
2012’s Jack Reacher was, at its best, an amusingly bare-bones action movie with a level of simplicity that may have felt a bit like a gritty ’70s throwback to some, but that more realistically resembled a made-for-cable movie circa the early ’90s. Never Go Back doubles down on the latter vibe and the result is virtually indistinguishable from something you might have watched on TNT in 1993 starring Michael Pare or James Remar
From the opening credits, something seems off about Under the Sun, and the “truth” it projects. “My father says that Korea is the most beautiful country in the eastern part of the globe,” asserts eight-year-old Lee Zin-mi, staring directly into the camera. Director Vitali Mansky—given a script by the North Korean government—was tasked with shooting a documentary about this young girl and her average life with her family who live in the greatest country on earth
At the start of American Honey, Jake and Star, its two lead characters (played by Shia LeBeouf and newcomer Sasha Lane, respectively) meet and somehow immediately fall for each other as Rihanna’s “We Found Love” blares over a Wal-Mart PA. “We found love in a hopeless place…” goes the song, and it seems like that’s the only working thesis for this deliberately grungy (yet undeniably gorgeous), busted pop fairy tale.
Late in Eastwood’s chronicle of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s emergency water landing of US Air 1549 (dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson”)—and the investigation that follows—Sully (a white-haired Tom Hanks) turns to his co-pilot (Aaron Eckhart), saying, “We did our job.” That pretty much sums up this simple story of pragmatic, unassuming, collective heroism and cool thinking in a state of crisis. Sully manages to save every passenger on board and is hailed as a hero by the media.