THE FAVOURITE is the best picture nominated latest from director Yorgos Lanthimos, who I know from THE LOBSTER. I’m behind on this guy because I still haven’t even seen DOGTOOTH, let alone THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, but I get the feeling this is the least weird of his movies. It’s also the only one he doesn’t have a writing credit on, instead using a script by newcomer Deborah Davis (her first produced screenplay, even though she wrote the first draft 20 years ago!) and Australian TV writer Tony McNamara. It’s a historical costume drama about palace intrigue, nothing conceptually crazy going on here, but it has a distinctive off-kilter feel and biting humor not always beholden to things people would’ve said at the time. (read the rest of this shit…)
Gotta love a title with a presenter and two ampersands. Remember, this is from David Leitch, co-director of JOHN WICK, director of ATOMIC BLONDE and DEADPOOL 2, stunt double of Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves. I still hope they make up some preposterous backstory where Shaw didn’t actually kill Han, but was forced to fake-kill him for Charlize Theron or some shit, so we don’t have to feel guilty for liking him. (That might have to be in FURI9US.)
Liam Neeson is… The Commuter, starring in his self-titled, totally solid addition to the catalog of Neeson vehicles directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (UNKNOWN, NON-STOP, RUN ALL NIGHT). Written by previously unknown Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi, this is a gimmicky suspense thriller taking place almost entirely in the limited location of a New York City commuter train, but it manages to also mix in a couple of impressive action exclamation points, not to mention the director’s endlessly playful computer-assisted camera show-offery.
The Commuter is Michael McCauley, an ex-cop who is suddenly fired from his current job at an insurance company, and then finds himself under siege in dark territory on the ride home. It’s the train he’s been riding for ten years, and most of the passengers know him by name, make small talk with him and ask about his wife (Elizabeth McGovern, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, CLASH OF THE TITANS) and kid (Dean-Charles Chapman, Game of Thrones). The usual sameness of his mornings is cleverly illustrated in an opening scene that shows him getting up, having breakfast, talking to the family and getting dropped off at the train, jaggedly cutting between seasons, emotions and conversations to show the passage of time without interrupting the flow of the daily routine. (read the rest of this shit…)
IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE (Kraftidioten) is another great movie I was pushed into watching by an impending remake. In this case the remake is the Liam Neeson movie COLD PURSUIT. The same director, Hans Petter Moland, first did the story in Norway in 2014 with Stellan Skarsgard (DEEP BLUE SEA) as Nels Dickman, the stoic small town snow plow driver who up and dedicates his life to violent revenge after a drug gang kills his son (Aron Eskeland). There’s a darkly comic tone as he questions and kills his way up the ladder, rarely having much to say to them, then easily disposing of the bodies in the snow. Each time someone dies in the movie their name is written on the screen in memoriam. At first it kinda seems like chapter titles, but as shit escalates these cards become comically frequent and even cut to as shorthand for “and then they killed him.” (read the rest of this shit…)
POLAR (a new Netflix original, exactly like ROMA) is one of these movies about a legendary hitman trying to retire. And it’s the type that takes place in a very exaggerated world where murder-for-hire is a thriving business populated with many quirky and talented individuals possessing a flair for fashion and creative violence. It seems like if it’s not inspired by the JOHN WICK saga it’s at least given aid and comfort by it, but technically it’s based on a comic book that started in 2012. Polar was a web comic, improvised by writer/artist Victor Santos in black, white and orange, and posted one page at a time, with no dialogue until it was later collected into a graphic novel by Dark Horse Comics. The movie is far from silent or monochrome and it’s more structured than that sounds like it would be, but when you hear it’s based on a comic book it makes plenty of sense. (read the rest of this shit…)
I was excited when I first heard of GREEN BOOK – a two-hander teaming two actors I love, Viggo Mortensen (AMERICAN YAKUZA) and Mahershala Ali (PREDATORS). I wanted to see that. And a true story drama but directed by Peter THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY Farrelly? That’s interesting. It wasn’t until I saw the second trailer that I had a sinking feeling of oh shit, is this some kind of respectability-politics-cures-racism bullshit? Oh no Viggo, what did you do? And then I started seeing really harsh reviews supporting those fears.
It was only after I saw the movie and tried to read up on it that I found out some relatives of Dr. Don Shirley, the classical pianist who Ali plays, strongly object to the movie. I’ve been struggling with this review since before the movie won the Best Comedy or Musical Golden Globe, which is when the good pitchforks were taken out of the china cabinet and sharpened. Now it’s also nominated for the best picture Oscar, taking up that bad guy slot as the movie that all cynical people assume will win and show how out of touch Hollywood is about race. (read the rest of this shit…)
There’s this weird psychological thing about the availability of movies. I looked at IMDb and determined that I’ve seen every Coen Brothers movie since THE HUDSUCKER PROXY in the theater, most of them probly on the first day or opening weekend. That’s thirteen films over a period of 24 years. But when THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS went straight to Netflix I let it sit there for more than two months before I finally got to it. Because, you know, every weekend I wanted to go see WIDOWS or CREED II or on and on, and I rented THE FOREIGNER I needed to watch that and return it and then I wanted to watch some Christmas horror, that was more timely, that had a sell by date. I procrastinate more when it feels like it’s accessible at any moment between now and the day whatever black magic they’ve been using to stay in business wears out.
I bring this up to explain how surprised I am at myself for seeing an article mentioning the release date of the Netflix original CLOSE and realizing it had gone up 18 minutes ago and then spontaneously actually watching it. I sorta did that for THE NIGHT COMES FOR US too, but that came with the pedigree of HEADSHOT. This one I had seen a trailer and knew Noomi Rapace (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, PROMETHEUS, PASSION, DEAD MAN DOWN, THE DROP) was a badass in it so it seemed like some DTV shit I could get behind. (read the rest of this shit…)
A SIMPLE FAVOR is an entertaining thriller from known-for-comedy director Paul Feig (THE HEAT). He brings to it some humor and his obvious rapport with the great casts he puts together, but if we had to categorize it we’d be forced to put it in with GONE GIRL, because it’s a twisty mystery based on a recent book by a female author and with entertainingly amoral, even wicked female characters.
Stephanie (Anna Kendrick, THE ACCOUNTANT) is a widowed “mommy vlogger” who, in between cooking and crafting demos, has been filling her subscribers in on the disappearance of her “best friend” Emily (Blake Lively, GREEN LANTERN). Even from the bits of vlog we see, before the omniscience of cinema kicks in, this seems fishy, because she admits she’s only known Emily for a few weeks. Their sons are in school together and tried to set up a playdate, causing intimidating fashionable rich mean lady Emily to begrudgingly bring Stephanie to her (extremely modern) house after school for drinks. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE OLD MAN & THE GUN is a slight but pleasant lovable-bank-robber tale that Robert Redford (THE HOT ROCK) apparently chose as his one last job. He plays Forrest Tucker, a real life thief who from the age of 15 to 83 spent his time stealing and getting locked up and escaping and repeating. Based on a New Yorker article, this takes place in 1981, when he’s 70 and at it again shortly after escaping San Quentin in a kayak he built and cheekily decorated with the county logo and a yacht club flag. I gotta admire attention to detail in a jailbreak, especially when it’s only for artistic purposes. (read the rest of this shit…)
Like many of you I was a pretty big fan of M. Night Shyamalan’s UNBREAKABLE when it came out in 2000. It was a different time. One year after THE SIXTH SENSE, the idea of Shyamalan as a master of suspense was not a punchline, and quiet, sad Bruce Willis characters were fairly new territory. It had only been about a month since the very first X-MEN movie came out, and would be years before Batman began and the Marvel Cinematic Universe followed, so when we were blindsided by the opening title card of oddly useless comic book statistics, and Samuel L. Jackson (THE SPIRIT)’s character proceeded to make grandiose generalized proclamations about the comic book mythology, it was semi-forgivable. The ads gave no hint of this, but the movie took the idea of super powers and put them in a grounded suspense thriller context that felt like a pretty new combination of flavors at the time.
Sixteen years later Shyamalan had been a laughing stock far longer than he’d been a respected auteur, and the popularity of SPLIT counted as a comeback. Though I found the “oh, this was actually a super villain origin story” ending a little anti-climactic, I thought most of the movie was effectively creepy and I was really impressed by James McAvoy’s playful turn as the many personalities of “The Horde.” And of course I enjoyed the wacko reveal at the end that it was I DON’T THINK THIS IS A SPOILER ANYMORE taking place in the same universe as UNBREAKABLE.
Now, finally, Samuel L. Jackson is… GLASS. Except he gets a “with” credit. McAvoy gets top billing, because he does the most acting, by many different meanings. (read the rest of this shit…)