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December 2019

They Shall Not Grow Dull

1917-movie-review-george-mackay
François Duhamel/Universal Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
1917 (2019)

Alfred Hitchcock pulled it off in 1948 with “Rope.” Regarding “1917,” Paul Schrader wrote on Facebook: “The ‘one shot film’ is no longer an innovation. It has its own Wikipedia entry. The question is no longer ‘how did they do that shot?’ but ‘why did they do that shot?’ ”

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Taxied to the Dark Side

Star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-movie-review-joonas-suotamo-oscar-isaac-john-boyega-daisy-ridley-anthony-daniels
Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm

MOVIE REVIEW
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

The first three words in the crawl are "The dead speak!"

Other critics can talk about how the movie looks awful – the reliance on CGI and seizure-inducing light effects doesn't make up for its feeling of flatness. Others can tell you how the camera swooshing around constantly is supposed to provide big emotions. Others can tell you that the death of Carrie Fisher apparently killed all the ideas the film apparently had for its climatic 40-year resolution of this fight between good and evil, but that did not stop them using her likeness (body doubles, CGI superimposed on footage with poor Daisy Ridley, and yes, full CGI again) to make it appear she was part of this. And if that was the only way the dead spoke, it would almost – almost – have been bearable.

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Suffering Succotash

Cats-movie-review-francesca-hayward-robbie-fairchild
Universal Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Cats (2019)

There is nothing wrong per se with musicals, but Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh have been rubbish. With that out of the way, any big-screen adaptions of their work can be afforded some leeway to be judged independently of flaws inherent in the source materials. Regardless of what one thinks of Mr. Webber’s 1981 West End production, “Cats,” Tom Hooper’s expensive version feels like belling the cat. A musical of course necessitates the suspension of disbelief, but Mr. Hooper seems never to have quite made up his mind on whether to approach the material with theatrics or realism and winds up with something the cat dragged in.

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Hang 'Em High

Richard-jewell-movie-review-paul-walter-hauser
Claire Folger/Warner Brothers Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Richard Jewell (2019)

There are at least three aspiring heroes in Clint Eastwood’s “Richard Jewell”: Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser), the security guard turned suspect at the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing in Atlanta; Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm), an F.B.I. agent investigating; and Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter covering the story. How the three disparate attempts at heroism parallel and intersect might have made an interesting movie in expert hands, but "Richard Jewell” isn’t it. The film focuses on the demonization of Jewell by law enforcement and media, while itself hypocritically vilifying Shaw and Scruggs in the exact same fashion.

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