Family Feud

Courtesy photo

Animal (2023)

Even by Bollywood standards, “Animal” is bonkers. Just as an example, our hero Vijay (“Superstar” Ranbir Kapoor) and Geetanjali (Rashmika Mandanna), whom he had just smooth-talked into breaking off with her fiancé at their outdoor engagement celebration after luring her inside with a rendition of their old school anthem, both exit the cockpit of Vijay’s airborne private jet, leaving the plane on autopilot while they repair to the cabin for some sexy time. As they rouse themselves following the afterglow, the jet nearly crashes into a mountaintop. But that’s not all.

Continue reading "Family Feud" »

Apocalypse Now


The End We Start From (2023)

“The End We Start From,” which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, is a postapocalyptic thriller that begins as catastrophic weather and flooding ravage London and force people to evacuate. Although nature has emerged as a credible villain these days amid growing concerns of global warming, what the story, adapted from Megan Hunter’s novel, does with the premise isn’t exactly unique. In more ways than one, the film comes off like “A Quiet Place Part II” without the scary creatures.

Continue reading "Apocalypse Now" »

Precious Metal

DOK Leipzig

Tender Metalheads (2023)

It is exceedingly difficult to make a movie about the friendship between two teenage metalheads without the ghosts of Beavis and Butt-Head spoiling things, but a setting of pre-Olympic Barcelona certainly helps. The kids in “Tender Metalheads” use music as an escape, both from their difficult daily lives but also their fears about the future. The political situation of the time is never discussed directly, but the state of the adults – including a neglectful alcoholic mother and a couple scenes set in a shooting gallery (the drug kind) – makes those points indirectly. But despite people often falling short, this extremely endearing film makes it clear how hard everyone is trying to be supportive of each other. “Tender” isn’t in the title for nothing. This personable sweetness despite a gritty setting is unusual in a story about friendship, which makes this movie special indeed.

Continue reading "Precious Metal" »

Slow Burn

Martin Maguire

That They May Face the Rising Sun (2024)

John McGahern is a titan of Irish literature who is perhaps less well known internationally. This is partially because his early books caused tremendous scandal – they dealt directly with violence against children, defiance of the Catholic church and the patriarchy, topics that Irish society was not prepared to face in the 1960s and 1970s. His last novel, “That They May Face the Rising Sun,” was a calmer book, published in 2002. It’s now been adapted into an excellent movie by Pat Collins, who cowrote the script with Eamon Little, and it stays true to the book’s calm heart while giving space for subtle character acting of the best kind.

Continue reading "Slow Burn" »

The Persistence of Documentary

Atelier de Production

Daaaaaalí! (2024)

Quentin Dupieux is completely insane; and this is meant as an extreme compliment. His movies are utterly unpredictable, to the point where it’s permanently impossible to guess what will happen from one moment to the next, and generally acted in a deadpan style of extreme normality even in the most incongruous or hilarious situations. You can hear the glee of the people who decided to screen at this at the London Film Festival from here. On the surface, “Daaaaaalí!” is about the attempts of a young journalist named Judith (Anaïs Demoustier) to interview the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí (played interchangeably by Edouard Baer, Jonathan Cohen, Gilles Lellouche, Didier Flamand and Pio Marmaï) for her first documentary film. In reality, it is a surrealistic dreamscape about dreams coming true, priest-killing cowboys, car accidents, cowboy-killing priests and whether a former barista can ever leave her past behind. It is almost indescribably strange and that makes it wonderful.

Continue reading "The Persistence of Documentary" »


Brian Roedel/Netflix

Hit Man (2024)

In all my years of moviegoing I have never seen anything like “Hit Man.” I remember the choked surprise echoing around the cinema on sight of Catherine Zeta-Jones’s arse in “Entrapment.” Once a douche-bro military guy reduced himself to tears describing Emily Watson in “Breaking the Waves” to me. I’ve seen people hump publicity photos torn from magazines or write love notes to themselves from an actor to hang on their walls. The only other time I’ve experienced a cinema audience clapping a movie scene was for Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls,” but even that was nothing like this. Within “Hit Man” there’s a sequence where Glen Powell is so hot that the audience spontaneously burst into applause. We actually clapped because of how sexually attractive this man is. And we clapped after a scene – keeping in mind Mr. Powell cowrote and coproduced “Hit Man” with director Richard Linklater – in which two of his colleagues (Sanjay Rao and Retta) discussed how badly they want to fuck him. And – I cannot believe I am saying this because of how inappropriate it makes this review sound, but I also cannot tell a lie – even that fails to convey just how unbelievably attractive Mr. Powell is in this movie.

Continue reading "Moonlighting" »

Hayao's Moving Castle

The Boy and the Heron (2023)

© 2023 Studio Ghibli

It would seem that, toward the end of their careers, Martin Scorsese (whose films are about greed and jealousy) and Hayao Miyazaki (whose films are about how to grow up) have swapped places. “The Boy and the Heron” is a depressing, out-of-place addition to a filmic legacy built around the importance of maturity to cope with life’s unpredictability. Since “Spirited Away” won the animation Oscar in 2001, Mr. Miyazaki’s movies have been widely anticipated around the world, including at the London Film Festival, while firmly maintaining their fiercely Japanese cultural aesthetic. However, it is inevitable that someone whose work is for children will end up repeating themselves, mostly because the core audience won’t notice. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, but “The Boy and the Heron’s” message is one of self-regard instead of self-belief, which curdles the entire plot into a sour mess.

Continue reading "Hayao's Moving Castle" »

Life Lessons

Seacia Pavao/Focus Features

The Holdovers (2023)

On paper, “The Holdovers” appears to be right in Alexander Payne’s wheelhouse: much like his 1999 classic, “Election,” the story takes place in a school and centers on a teacher – another curmudgeon played by Paul Giamatti, just like in Mr. Payne’s 2004 Oscar-nominated “Sideways.”

Continue reading "Life Lessons" »

Moving Target


The Killer (2023)

The through line of David Fincher’s work is contempt. His characters display their contempt for the world around them through elaborately staged revenge plots of various kinds, usually murder. “Gone Girl” was an outlier in his oeuvre in that it was a woman expressing her contempt for her husband, her family and society at large. But with “The Killer” Mr. Fincher is back on home territory with this story of an assassin (Michael Fassbender) who is better than the world and everything in it. Except, of course, this is not true, but Mr. Fincher and his movie only understand one of the reasons why.

Continue reading "Moving Target" »

Swim Against the Current

Liz Parkinson/Netflix

Nyad (2023)

“Nyad” is a movie about the body that has almost nothing to do with sex, so of course it’s about lesbians of a certain age; but the lesbianism at the core of this story is both utterly essential and completely irrelevant. Diana Nyad’s (Annette Bening) sexuality is very much a part of her, but it comes second to her frankly irritating self-belief; and she doesn’t worry about that because she has delegated her interpersonal skills to her best friend, Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster). The closeness of Bonnie and Diana is beyond sex, and almost beyond friendship, in that it’s two people who love and need each other without their bodies coming into it. But Diana’s body is at the core of the story – will she, a woman now in her 60s, be able to complete a 105-mile swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys without dying? – and the way in which the movie asks these questions without being weird about the body at its core is remarkable.

Continue reading "Swim Against the Current" »

© 2008-2023 Critic's Notebook and its respective authors. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use
Subscribe to Critic's Notebook | Follow Us on Twitter | Contact Us | Write for Us | Reprints and Permissions