Live at the Apollo

Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features

Asteroid City (2023)

It's the way in which he uses physical things and precise language that makes him so easy to parody, but that is also his appeal. Wes Anderson is the only director currently working with such a clear visual style that it can be endlessly parodied without any further explanation. This is his gift but as “Asteroid City” makes clear, also his curse. Mr. Anderson is a sensitive, thoughtful director of grief and disappointment, but his messages of the need of kindness and the importance of true human connection are often lost under his aesthetic. That aesthetic overshadows how actors are fighting to work for him even in the smallest of parts; his gentle sense of humor is overlooked; and his willingness to explore even the tiniest detail within a frame makes his movies treasures which can be continually revisited without sound. On the other hand, deep in the credits of his newest offering, there’s mention of a yodelling consultant. So he’s on the verge of becoming a parody of himself.

Continue reading "Live at the Apollo" »


Festival de Cannes

The Animal Kingdom (2023)

It's difficult to think of a more horrifying subject. Two years before the start of the film, something happened which meant certain people began turning into animals. As in, their bodies morphed into that of a creature; and their minds stopped being human minds and became animal ones. All the while this is happening these poor people are fully aware that it is happening but utterly powerless to stop it. And it's introduced by a father Francis (Romain Duris) and son Emile (an exceptional Paul Kircher) bickering in a car stuck in traffic, until Emile has had it and goes for a walk. Francis (whose name is a very good metaphor) chases him until one of the windows in a nearby ambulance shatters. They crouch down as the doors burst open and a paramedic is thrown out, before a man bursts out - a man with compress bandages around his face and one of his arms now a wing. The noises he makes aren't fully human and father and son stare in surprise as the winged man screams before running off over the roofs of the cars, paramedics giving chase. But they have seen all this before, of course. One of the first people to turn was Lana, Francis’s wife and Emile’s mother.

Continue reading "Devolution" »

Sparring Partners

Iglesias Más/Sony Pictures Classics

Strange Way of Life (2023)

They don't even kiss; not their current counterparts, anyway. Silva (Pedro Pascal) and Jake (Ethan Hawke) were young cowboys together, and together in every sense of the word. Now Jake is a sheriff and Silva a rancher; and their meeting for the first time in 25 years is due to the awkward fact that Silva's son, Joe (George Steane), has killed Jake's sister-in-law. Has Silva decided to leverage the past in order to save his son? Or is there something else going on?

Continue reading "Sparring Partners" »

Close to the Sun

Well Go USA

Born to Fly (2023)

“Born to Fly” is much, much more interesting than its top line, a.k.a. the Chinese answer to “Top Gun: Maverick.” The influence of American war movies is strong on this one, in that there are shots and plot beats lifted straight from “Top Gun” and “The Right Stuff,” but that is not the point. And while the opening sequence features English-speaking black-helmeted pilots (who are never directly called American) harming innocent Chinese workers, damaging Chinese property and flipping Chinese pilots the bird, this is not a standard war movie. It’s instead meant as a testament to ingenuity, in how the Chinese army develops its fighter jet program without international tech or innovations from elsewhere. On the one hand, this is a huge testament to the war tactics referenced in the opening lines of “Patton.” But from “Born to Fly’s” point of view, there’s something bigger at stake here.

Continue reading "Close to the Sun" »

Hazardous Adventures

Pathé Films

The Three Musketeers: D'Artagnan (2023)

The swashbuckling appeal of four Frenchmen fighting with swords or guns against various dastardly villains has stood up to plenty of adaptations, with the most recent English-language one back in 2011. That was kind of a mess – if you need Mads Mikkelsen to demonstrate his villainy by tying a busty blonde to the front of a C.G.I. flying sailing ship, you are almost certainly trying too hard – but it was also a comedic romp. Director Martin Bourboulon has a background in comedy, but with “The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan” he decided to get as serious as a gun stuck in your face. With this movie France has made a blockbuster adaptation for itself and doesn’t care whether audiences elsewhere will like it. Of course, this story is as close to a guaranteed smash hit as you can get, but they do it justice.

Continue reading "Hazardous Adventures" »

Class Warfare

Tina Botková

The Chambermaid (2023)

This is the first lesbian film ever made in Slovakia. It is also the story of how class impacts our sexual choices, and also a packaged history of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It is also a very beautiful and beautifully sad story about how one young woman’s life is decided by most of the people around her without it changing who she is one whit. As an ode to self-determination this is a marvelous one.

Continue reading "Class Warfare" »

Free Berlin


Drifter (2023)

Who wants to be the 22-year-old that has their life completely figured out? While it is old news that a good way to revive a friend from an overdose is to shove a finger up their backside, it’s perhaps only in this pesky modern age that someone will flirtatiously ask for your Instagram details while you are trying to startle them back to consciousness. This is just one of the situations young Moritz (Lorenz Hochhuth) finds himself in after his life plans blow up in his face. On the other hand, he is 22, on his own in Berlin, with no responsibilities, such as having somewhere to live or paying for the electricity that charges his phone. If ever there’s a time in your life for overdoing things, that is it. And “Drifter” is a quietly curious depiction of all the fun one young man can handle.

Continue reading "Free Berlin" »

Lesbi Friend

Courtesy photo

Egghead & Twinkie (2023)

It is a bold choice to include a racist slur in your movie’s title, even when the reason for it is a key part of the plot. The main character has reclaimed the name for herself as an attempt to build her identity as a transracial adoptee, which is all the more important because she doesn’t know her own precise ethnic heritage. This is a heavy hook for a lighthearted movie about teenage foolishness and personal identity, but writer-director Sarah Kambe Holland is clearly aiming for a cheerful style to mitigate the slightly gloomy substance. For the most part it works, but the slightly false sweetness can be a little tough to swallow.

Continue reading "Lesbi Friend" »

Life After Death

Paulo Menezes

Cidade Rabat (2023)

Cidade Rabat is the neighborhood in Lisbon where Helena (Raquel Castro) was born and reared. She is a film producer, which means her life involves solving other people's problems, most of which they have also created, obviously. But after the death of her mother (Paula Bárcia), Helena begins to feel like she can truly chart her own course for the first time. The mistakes she makes, at last, will be wholly her own.

Continue reading "Life After Death" »

Occupational Hazard

Jacob Kohl

Nuclear Nomads (2023)

This depressing documentary by Kilian Armando Friedrich and Tizian Stromp Zargari follows some specialist employees of France’s electricity companies. France’s power grid relies on nuclear power, and that power relies on workers who are willing to risk their long-term health to do the maintenance work needed for the plants to operate safely. Messrs. Friedrich and Zargari wisely allow the subject matter to make its own political points, which allows the movie a breathing space most polemics don’t have.

Continue reading "Occupational Hazard" »

© 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