Both the main characters in Michel Franco’s Memory are struggling to deal with the echoes of their past. Sylvia (Jessica Chastain), a recovering alcoholic and single mother to 13-year-old Anna (Brooke Timber), desperately wants to forget the unspoken traumas of her childhood. Saul (Peter Saarsgard), on the other hand, can’t grab a hold of his past. He’s powerless as early-onset dementia slowly but inevitably steals it from him. After their high school reunion, he wordlessly follows her home and spends the night standing outside her building. In turn, she visits him at the house he shares with his brother (Josh Charles) and niece (Elsie Fisher). Then she takes him for a walk and accuses him of participating in a rape that she endured at the age of 12, a crime that he has no memory of committing. Continue Reading →
Rules of Engagement
Even William Friedkin's most loyal fans would admit the Nineties were not a particularly fertile artistic period for him. That decade saw him putting out the laughable horror film The Guardian (1990), the eventual release of his long-on-the-shelf and heavily recut 1987 death penalty drama Rampage (1992), the tepid sports drama Blue Chips (1994), and the resoundingly unnecessary (save for a nifty car chase) Jade (1995). On the small screen, he helmed two made-for-cable remakes, the Roger Corman production Jailbreakers (1994) with Shannen Doherty, Antonio Sabato Jr., and Adrien Brody, and 12 Angry Men (1997) with a powerhouse cast that included Jack Lemmon, George C. Scott, Ossie Davis, James Gandolfini and, perhaps inevitably, Tony Danza. Continue Reading →
Back to the Outback
Sometimes, it takes a moment for a movie’s subversive qualities to register. Bold artistic swings can take a moment to settle in. In the case of the new Netflix animated feature Back to the Outback, it wasn’t until after the credits began to roll that I realized something astonishing: Back to the Outback needle drops Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy”, but not Men at Work’s “Down Under.” It’s a rug pull if ever there was one. Continue Reading →
Mare of Easttown
Mare of Easttown may at times feel like it’s kicking a dead horse. It’s a grammatically perfect post-Cardinal Bernard Law, cold-case-comes-alive thriller with rich performances by its entire cast. Yet for a story about a maverick detective purporting to be about more than crime, it follows surprisingly predictable beats, leaving little room for illuminating nuance. Continue Reading →
Vin Diesel nicely keys into more stoic shootouts, but the movie around him can't weld together its medley of genre inspirations.
As Ray Garrison aka Bloodshot (Vin Diesel) tumbles down an elevator in midair combat with Jimmy Dalton (Sam Heughan) and Tibbs (Alexander Hernandez), one may experience deja-vu. This, in some ways, is unsurprising—Bloodshot rarely seems interested in breaking new ground. However, the scene brings a deeper kind of recognition derived not just from familiar story beats, but also the visuals. The plasticine nature of these CGI constructs turns out to be a covert bit of nostalgia, smuggling Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man-level effects into a nastier superhero film 18 years later.
The extent to which this will please viewers will, of course, vary. For this critic, there’s something charming about it. This is the kind of movie comic book fans would have been nearly thrilled to see in the early 2000s: a not-quite-faithful adaptation animated by competent direction and actors willing to embrace the content without tipping into self-seriousness.
That said, it feels likely to get a different reception in 2020. The superhero film has grown so much in scope and depth so much in the past two decades. As a result, Bloodshot feels a bit unstuck in time. It’s a throwback to an era that’s passed and, depending on how inclined audiences are to take a sidelong glance at it, the film also operates as a sort of commentary. It seems to be reflecting the evolution of the action movies from their ‘80s ascendance to their superpowered present. Continue Reading →