Thursday, March 30, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (Bill Condon)

Furry tail

I'll say this much for Disney's live-action remake of their animated feature: it improves on one scene, where Belle (Emma Watson) gushes to the Beast (Dan Stevens) about Shakespeare's Verona-set tragic romance. The previous incarnation of Belle sang about her love of books but never once mentioned a title or author, just details about some generic standard-issue romance (Stephenie Meyer? E.L. James?); at least this one volunteers an actual name, a published work, a real writer.

The Beast rolls his eyes--of course she'd pick that! Belle indignantly demands that he suggest a better alternative, and he promptly leads her to his vast library stack, with shelves stretching above and away from her. Yes the earlier flick did turn on their supposed love of literature but in this one you actually feel the sexy give-and-take of two bibliophiles wrangling over their preferred texts. 

And the Beast's eye roll? Who has ever run their fingertips across a sheet of pulped wood and scribbled ink sniffing its heady aroma and hasn't felt some measure of condescension for the relatively uninitiated? It's the movie's best moment, so funny and honest (particularly because the Beast doesn't think much of his expensive education, possibly because it failed to lead to a high-paying job) it actually made me sit up and pay attention for maybe O an entire minute.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Get Out (Jordan Peele)


Get who's coming to dinner

(WARNING: plot twists and ending to be discussed in detail!)

Call Jordan Peele's sneaky-clever directorial debut Get Out his take on Stanley Kramer's insufferably benign racial warmedy Guess Who's Coming To Dinner with knives drawn out midway between the fish course and dessert. The politeness and civility are still there only like a pair of lips drawn taut to conceal fangs.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Logan (James Mangold)


Old man

(Warning! Plot twists and ending discussed in detail)

The good news: James Mangold strikes gold, parlaying the success of his previous superhero production The Wolverine to direct a sequel but on his terms--low-key, character-driven, suffused with an inconsolable melancholy that I suppose is his hallmark.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker)

Troubling Birth

Nate Parker's best most audacious most brilliant stroke is to take the name of D.W. Griffith's unabashedly racist yet nevertheless great epic The Birth of a Nation and deliberately slap it on his own debut feature, an attempted biopic of controversial preacher and revolutionary leader Nat Turner. More, he does this in 2016, a hundred years plus one since the release of Griffith's film.


Thursday, March 02, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge (Mel Gibson)

Gorier than thou

Mel Gibson's latest Hacksaw Ridge tells the tale of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), who wanted to join the army and serve his country without firing a rifle. 

How's that again? 


Friday, February 24, 2017

Arrival (Denis Villeneuve)


The medium, the message

Denis Villeneuve's Arrival is an oddity of a major Hollywood production: a science fiction film boasting the latest special effects where the effects are at best incidental, a pooling together of men and material resources intent on promoting spiritual (immaterial?) and temporal transcendence to its audience.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Lego Batman Movie (Chris McKay)

Iron Man sucks!

The first twenty minutes of the movie are best (What is it about recent pictures that the first twenty minutes are always best? Have they forgotten to teach the importance of the next eighty at scriptwriting class?): Batman leads a spectacular public life, soaking in wave after wave of adulation with a celebrity's limitless confidence. The joke about his private life--in his vast Batcave located deep within Wayne Island, surrounded by miles of tunnels and tons of memorabilia and armadas of military-style weaponry--is that he doesn't have one; he's basically kidding himself saying everything is awesome when he (and we watching him) know otherwise (In short: life as someone like Trump would have it vs. life as it really is)