Yorgos Lanthimos directs a sumptuous adult fairy tale featuring Emma Stone at her very best.
Here’s the thing about Yorgos Lanthimos: you’re either on board with him, or you’re not. Even in The Favourite, arguably his most accessible film, there’s a sort of joyful grotesqueness to it, leaving the audience laughing and wincing simultaneously. His latest offering, Poor Things, is his most visually dazzling film yet, with moments of stunning beauty and bittersweet insight, but still isn’t afraid to test the audience’s sensibilities. It’s a film about what it means to be alive, every little disgusting aspect of it.
Based on Alasdair Gray’s novel of the same name, Poor Things opens in dreary black and white London, where eccentric scientist Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) is overseeing an experiment that’s both miraculous and horrifying. Baxter, whose face looks like it was carved into several pieces and then put back together the wrong way, has brought a woman back to life after she committed suicide. The woman, whom he’s renamed Bella (Emma Stone, with a magnificent pair of eyebrows), initially has the mind of a toddler, but she’s learning and maturing at an astonishing rate. Bella refers to Godwin as “God,” and so far knows no one and nothing else but him and their home together. Continue Reading →
To Live and Die in L.A.
It must have been easy to be cynical about William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. in 1985. After a blazing hot early 1970s, his critical and popular reputation bottomed out with four straight disappointments. So, it makes sense that someone might think Friedkin’s return to the cop-on-the-edge genre was a purely commercial decision, a hope to rekindle the fire he lit in 1971 with The French Connection. After all, that movie was both a commercial and critical smash. Continue Reading →
About twenty miles or so outside of Marfa, Texas, there’s a mural dedicated to the production of George Stevens’ Giant. Big wooden standees display James Dean with his arms draped over a rifle, framing him in the iconic Christ pose which would be the last image to represent Dean in the public consciousness before he died. Giant is about a great number of things, though, fittingly, what resonates all these years later is its ideas about the passing of time. Continue Reading →
Dead for a Dollar
With the exception of Clint Eastwood, Walter Hill is the contemporary filmmaker most closely associated with what was once the most American of film genres, the Western. They've been in relatively short supply for the last 50-odd years, but with projects like The Long Riders, Geronimo, Wild Bill, Broken Trail, and the pilot episode of Deadwood (not to mention modern-set takes on the form like Extreme Prejudice and Last Man Standing), Hill’s been doing what he can to keep the form and its traditions alive. His latest, Dead for a Dollar (his first film in six years), is unlikely to spur a revival anytime soon and its bypassing of theaters for a VOD release all but ensures that it will be overlooked by all but his most dedicated fans. The good news is that those fans—and any others who should come across it—will be rewarded with a sturdy, entertaining work that overcomes its occasionally apparent budget constraints to serve as a welcome reminder that Hill remains one of the most fascinating genre filmmakers of our time. Continue Reading →
CONTENT WARNING: This piece contains frank discussion of suicidal thoughts and ideation. If you find yourself struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please contact resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. Continue Reading →
Spider-Man: No Way Home
How Marvel's latest cuts through the MCU trappings to deliver one of Spidey's most personal stories yet.
Please note that this article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Spider-Man: No Way Home.
If you consume enough Spider-Man stories, you start to notice the malleability of the character. The assorted movies, shows, video games, and comic books all have their different takes on the wall-crawler and can plausibly plop him into different settings and moods. But you’ll also witness the two central aspects of Peter Parker that unite the various versions of the character across eras and mediums: (1) he chooses to do good, even when it’s hard, because he knows it’s the right thing to do, and (2) he suffers mightily for it. Continue Reading →
Back in 1998, Gus Van Sant released his remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. It wasn’t a good movie, but it provided two decent critical talking points. Firstly, was it actually a remake, or was it another adaptation of Robert Bloch’s novel? Given that Van Sant’s film was a shot-for-shot recreation of its 1960 predecessor save for two or three differences, it was a rarity in that, given its context, it ended up being the former. It, for all its failures in execution, used semiotics to circumvent the aforementioned semantics of its identity. Continue Reading →
A Most Wanted Man
Before he passed away at the age of 46, Philip Seymour Hoffman starred in 52 feature films. Starring roles, character pieces, chameleon work—he left a legacy nearly unmatched in both quality and quantity. Now, with P.S.H. I Love You, Jonah Koslofsky wafts through the cornucopia of the man’s offerings. Continue Reading →
Zack Snyder's Justice League
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a good movie. Its cast brings the famous DC superhero team to life through performances that range from reliably solid to very strong. Its action is clear, creative, and in a few places downright stupendous. Its thematic work is interesting, both on its own and in the greater context of its long and winding road to existence. There are multiple moments that qualify as full-on fantastic filmmaking, sequences that successfully connect western superheroes to the larger-than-life feeling of mystical Arthurian lore. To put it simply, I like it. I like it a bunch. Continue Reading →
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant
After Ukraine Is Not a Brothel and Casting JonBenet, Kitty Green makes her first scripted feature in one of the year’s very best. Julia Garner plays Jane, a Northwestern University graduate and aspiring film producer. Now she works as an office assistant for an industry executive. She does the work one would expect her, but it’s over the course of a day that she becomes aware of the predation going on. Comparisons to Harvey Weinstein have already been made, but to relate the two is to simplify the issues on screen here. Continue Reading →