London

Souped Nazi

Jojo-rabbit-movie-review-taika-waititi-roman-griffin-davis
Kimberley French/Fox Searchlight Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Jojo Rabbit (2019)

It’s not that we didn’t think he had it in him. But it’s a sad reality that not everyone can make the jump from the minors to the majors. There are plenty of movie directors who can handle $5 million brilliantly but who choke under the pressure of $10 million, or $100 million. Or they can handle the pressure but not the studio. Or they can handle the studio but not the actors. Or they can do it, but only as a controlled implosion. It’s very, very rare for someone to not only do it all, but to make it look easy.

Continue reading "Souped Nazi" »

Opening a Pandora's Black Box

Cold-case-hammarskjöld-movie-review-mads-brügger-göran-björkdahl
Tore Vollan/Magnolia Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Cold Case Hammarskjöld (2019)

What happens when a well-meaning jackass decides to interfere in a complicated situation when his lack of nuanced knowledge is no barrier to him prancing around for the cameras as he pretends to achieve more than he is capable of? He crashes and burns.

Continue reading "Opening a Pandora's Black Box" »

A Hard Case to Crack

öndög-movie-review-dulamjav-enkhtaivan
BFI London Film Festival 2019

MOVIE REVIEW
Öndög (2019)

This Mongolian movie has some interesting points to make about survival on the steppes but does so over the body of its lead actresses. Perhaps it’s realistic, and sometimes it's hilarious. But mostly it’s unsettling – which is almost certainly the point.

Continue reading "A Hard Case to Crack" »

Baiting for Tonight

Hustlers-movie-review-constance-wu-jennifer-lopez
STX Financing, LLC

MOVIE REVIEW
Hustlers (2019)

What an entrance. About 10 minutes into “Hustlers,” Jennifer Lopez does a pole-dance routine that will go down in cinematic history as one of the most unforgettable character introductions since Rita Hayworth in “Gilda.” And this time it’s to no less of a song than “Criminal” by Fiona Apple. Constance Wu has nothing to do but stare in shock, and man, do we agree with her. The next scene is of Ms. Lopez in that outfit and a fur coat on a rooftop, smoking and looking so unbelievably beautiful that you almost forget you’re watching a based-on-a-true-story movie about a gang of strippers who drug and rob a bunch of men. As bait to get us on a hook, “Hustlers” uses the power of Ms. Lopez’s body very, very effectively. But it doesn’t reel us in as far as we should.

Continue reading "Baiting for Tonight" »

My Best Friend's Meddling

Animals-movie-review-holliday-grainger-alia-shawkat
Tamara Hardman/2019 Sundance Film Festival

MOVIE REVIEW
Animals (2019)

The process of how someone puts their career together is endlessly fascinating. How someone chooses their work and builds the life they want will never not be interesting in a film. And if the hero/ine of that story has a best friend? Jackpot. When lives entwine in crowded homes and clothes are shared along with every thought, things can get very interesting: whether in making art (“Frances Ha”), murdering an inconvenient parent (“Heavenly Creatures”) or getting overinvested in each other’s love lives (“Me Without You”). “Animals” does all of those things except for the murder. What it doesn’t do is give the friendship equal weight on both sides, which is its second-biggest weakness.

Continue reading "My Best Friend's Meddling" »

Fake It Till You Make It

J-t-leroy-movie-review-kristen-stewart-laura-dern
Allen Fraser/BFI Flare 2019

MOVIE REVIEW
J. T. LeRoy (2019)

Finally, Kristen Stewart gets a part that makes her happy. Ms. Stewart is notorious for her discomfort with the fame that has been the result of her acting talent – look at the photos of her barely hiding her misery on any red carpet. This feeling is the entire point of her character, Savannah, in “J. T. Leroy,” an inspired-by-true-events story of a famous literary hoax that captivated America last decade. The hoax is revealed right at the start. What the movie explores is why the characters needed to do it.

Continue reading "Fake It Till You Make It" »

Out, of Africa

Rafiki-movie-review-samantha-mugatsia-sheila-munyiva
Film Movement

MOVIE REVIEW
Rafiki (2019)

In the apocryphal past, movies were made locally and shown locally, so the makers could make assumptions about what the audience would understand – or not. Cultural relevance was a given and issues of representation were not as fraught as they are currently becoming, so characters onscreen were designed to be coathangers for the audience to hang their own personalities onto. Smaller movies can be much more widely seen these days but now the marketplace is global, there are so many options it’s almost impossible to decide. Even as the market widens – and it’s possible to make a movie on your phone and upload it to the Internet for the world to enjoy – the stories which tend to achieve the greatest success tend to center the same pale, male and stale characters as ever. There’s backlash, of course. Marvel is finally being called out for making blockbusters for over a decade without yet acknowledging that gay people exist, for example. Luckily, in other parts of the cinematic galaxy, we still have movies about regular heroes, just about. “Rafiki” is about two of them. The incredible story of two Kenyan girls in love as a superhero film, I hear you say? That’s right. Being gay is illegal in Kenya, and therefore the mere idea of making a movie about a lesbian relationship is an impossible act. But director Wanuri Kahiu did it, and so we have to ask ourselves, was all this courage worth it?

Continue reading "Out, of Africa" »

Hoot Dreams

Support-the-girls-movie-review-regina-hall-haley-lu-richardson
Magnolia Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Support the Girls (2018)

Women’s work is never done, they say. Lisa (Regina Hall), the lead character in Andrew Bujalski’s charming “Support the Girls,” knows that better than most. The movie opens with her crying in her car, before another day in the restaurant off a Texas highway that she manages begins.

Continue reading "Hoot Dreams" »

Lifting the Iron Curtain

The-white-crow-movie-review-oleg-ivenko-mar-sodupe
Sony Pictures Classics

MOVIE REVIEW
The White Crow (2019)

I blame John C. Reilly. “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” had such fun with the clichéd template of the artistic biopic that the genre still hasn’t recovered. Now biopics have to have an angle. For example, the Alberto Giacometti biopic, “Final Portrait,” focused on one specific sculpture of his. “The White Crow” similarly tries to have its cake and eat it: to focus both on the month Rudolf Nureyev spent in Paris before his famous defection in 1961, but also on the development of his talent as a child and as a young man. It doesn't quite succeed, but it’s such a Murderers’ Row of little known international dancing and acting talent that it's well worth seeing regardless.

Continue reading "Lifting the Iron Curtain" »

Little Trouble in Big China

The-crossing-movie-review-guo-chun-tian-huang-yao
Berlin International Film Festival

MOVIE REVIEW
The Crossing (2019)

Peipei (Huang Yao) turns 16 the day “The Crossing” starts. She lives in Shenzhen, a port city in southern China, but goes to school in Hong Kong. This means morning and night she must cross – by herself - the international border. Her father (Liu Kai Chi) lives in the shipyard where he works, and her mother (Ni Hongjie) is a party girl who only pays attention to her hangovers and her friends. But, in spite of all that, Peipei is a good kid. Since this is the instant she’s old enough, after school she gets a job as a waitress; but when a customer complains that’s the end of that. She’s desperate for independence, not least because her wealthy best friend Jo (Carmen Soup) has been planning for them to take a trip to some hot springs in Japan for some time.

Continue reading "Little Trouble in Big China" »

© 2008-2019 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