Movies

Time to Die

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Stephen Vaughan/Warner Brothers Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

At its heart, the story of the blade runner demonstrates the importance of human feeling over machines. The blurred line of this story (as in the first installment, released in 1982 and again in 1992 in a director’s cut) is the problem that comes when the machines are designed to have human feelings, too. It’s unusual to see a movie exploring what it means to have a body. The failure of “Blade Runner 2049” is how it discriminates between men and women, and how that discrimination surpasses the distinction between human and machine. That failure leaves you with no hope for the future.

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The Fast and the Fallacious

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Maarten Vanden Abeele/Wild Bunch

MOVIE REVIEW
Racer and the Jailbird (2017)

Michael Mann’s “Miami Vice” had to revamp its entire second half from scratch after an incident on set, but if you saw the movie without knowing that you’d never be able to tell. Fatih Akin’s “Head-On” remains one of the best movies of the new millennium despite the lead actor having to be packed off to rehab for several months. The major plot shift that created is startling and noticeable, but the cast and crew were talented enough to adapt and make a movie of incredible emotional power. Something along those lines clearly happened to “Racer and the Jailbird.” If it didn’t, that is much worse, because the movie really looks like it did.

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Stars and Shadows Ain't Good to See By

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Scott Patrick Green/A24

MOVIE REVIEW
Lean on Pete (2018)

Novels are interior things which expose us to people’s thoughts first; from there we learn about how they move. Movies are exterior things; we watch first how people move and from there learn about how they think. Low-budget American movies tend to be about noise, covering a small budget through an enormous amount of dialogue. Low-budget British movies tend to be about silence, how people react to think and allow their thoughts to dance over their face. Andrew Haigh, a British director, has adapted Willy Vlautin’s American novel without a lot of money nor with much noise. Some parts of the adaptation work brilliantly. Others needed a little more thought.

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The Agony and the Effigy

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Parisa Taghizadeh/Sony Pictures Classics

MOVIE REVIEW
Final Portrait (2017)

Stanley Tucci's fifth film as a director – and the first in which he doesn't appear himself – tells an episode from the late life of artist and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, a topic that clearly chimes with Mr. Tucci's long-standing interest in fine art and the turbulent urges that go into its creation. "Final Portrait" features Geoffrey Rush in full shambling dishevel as the 63-year-old Giacometti and Armie Hammer as James Lord, a younger American who sits for one of the artist's last works and starts to wonder if it will never actually be finished. The film has the utmost compassion for artists helplessly at the mercy of their own creativity and libido; and if its small scale keeps the external world mostly out of view, it at least believes the art to be worth all the internal aggro.

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Nun of the Above

The-little-hours-movie-review-alison-brie-kate-micucci-aubrey-plaza
Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
The Little Hours (2017)

Watching Aubrey Plaza shout at people ranks high on my personal list of reasons to turn out for movies, only slightly behind the joys of Tracy Letts being cruel and vindictive. In "The Little Hours" she shouts and swears like a stevedore, a raucous deadpan dynamo restrained by a 14th century nun's habit and wimple in the same way that a tin can constrains an atom bomb. Jeff Baena's film transfers a bunch of thoroughly modern comics — Ms. Plaza, Molly Shannon, Nick Offerman, Kate Micucci, several others — to Middle Ages Tuscany with their vocal patterns and wry exasperations intact, for a tale sliced out of Giovanni Boccaccio's "The Decameron" that drips with frustrated desire and the sins of the flesh. Hit or miss, it's at least a reminder that American sex comedies weren't always modern-dress bosses and bridesmaids, or offcuts from the Judd Apatow factory.

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Eating Disorder

The-dinner-movie-review-richard-gere-laura-linney-steve-coogan-rebecca-hall
The Orchard

MOVIE REVIEW
The Dinner (2017)

The third film adaptation of Herman Koch's eponymous novel (following Menno Meyjes's 2013 "Het Diner" and Ivano De Matteo's 2014 "I nostri ragazzi"), Oren Moverman's "The Dinner" indeed plays out like a European art thriller — perhaps one by Thomas Vinterberg (despite that he's Danish and Mr. Koch is Dutch).

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Estranged Bedfellows

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Robb Rosenfeld/A24

MOVIE REVIEW
The Lovers (2017)

In "The Lovers," Debra Winger and Tracy Letts play wife and husband on the brink of divorce, keeping up appearances for the sake of a visit from their son and his girlfriend. Suffering symptoms of midlife crises and ennui, Mary (Ms. Winger) and Michael (Mr. Letts) absent-mindedly drift through their workaday obligations just so they can make excuses to each other to spend time with and pacify their respective long-suffering, ultimatum-giving paramours. As the extramarital affairs grow increasingly tedious, Mary and Michael inexplicably rekindle their passion for each other — which their son, Joel (Tyler Ross), interprets as a façade presaging the marriage's inevitable dissolution.

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Brexit Stage Left

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Phil Fisk/IFC Films

MOVIE REVIEW
The Trip to Spain (2017)

The third installment of the Steve Coogan-Rob Brydon-Michael Winterbottom BBC Two/Sky Atlantic six-part sitcom and companion abridged big-screen version, “The Trip to Spain” reunites the comedians and filmmaker for more culinary samplings, showbiz inside baseball, celebrity impersonations and narcissistic midlife crises. Their journey encompasses Getaria, Sos del Rey Catolico, Cuenca, La Mancha, Granada and Malaga in the titular country, this time with extra braggadocio from Mr. Coogan boasting his Oscar nod for “Philomena” and extra envy from Mr. Brydon toward James Corden’s newfound success as a talk-show host in America.

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Requiem pour un fou

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Jean-Claude Lother/Pathé

MOVIE REVIEW
Rock'n Roll (2017)

Guillaume Canet directs, co-writes and stars in "Rock'n Roll," a navel-gazing musical satire on the French film industry that centers on him and real-life partner, Marion Cotillard.

After a much-younger costar (Camille Rowe) breaks the news to him that he's no longer a cinematic sex symbol, the plot thrusts Guillaume (Mr. Canet) into full midlife crisis, partying and carousing until embarrassing cell phone footage of his debauchery ends up on YouTube and shooting up Botox to a point that jeopardizes the continuity of his new film. He's still able to line up directorial projects thanks to his Oscar-winning girlfriend, Marion (Ms. Cotillard), but she's preoccupied with mastering a Quebecois accent (and doing Céline Dion tributes) in preparation for an upcoming film role.

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Bust for Life

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Jaap Buitendijk/TriStar Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Being young is easy, in that many of your choices are made for you. You can’t control where you live or where you go to school. Your social circles are the ones your family moves in. The kids you spend time with on the playground become your friends. In many places with a homogenous background you all know the same things. You sing the same songs; tell the same stories; eat the same food; go the same places.

And then you grow up some, and start making choices. To cut your hair this way or that way. To play this sport or that instrument. To watch this program on the telly instead of that one; to love this band instead of that one; to have this tattoo or that piercing; to love this person instead of that one. So you grow apart from certain people because of these choices, and closer to others due to your interest in the same things. And then you fall in love and choose someone to spend your time with and that narrows things down still. And then you wake up one day – when you’re much older than you’d ever thought you’d be – and you have to reckon with all of your choices.

The 1996 film “Trainspotting” was famously about a group of junkies who “choose not to choose.” All their energy was on getting money for their next fix. The ferocity and single-mindedness with which they pursued their happiness through drugs catapulted “Trainspotting” past being another after-school special into a worldwide phenomenon. Its lust for life (sorry) was a rare thing, and the movie has absolutely stood the test of time. A sequel was not, of course, inevitable; who could imagine the characters would all live so long? But here it is; and here we are.

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