Jonathan Glazer's first feature in 10 years is a near-unclassifiable work of patience and intentional distance from its historical horrors.
What am I to say here? What can I say?
I feel as if I’m to say nothing at all. My mind has gone and I feel sick, and while that’s due to the film in question, another degree of it comes from a deeper truth. I feel wrong in my reaction to it; it can’t help but feel inadequate. The Zone of Interest has leveled me like few things ever have, but that’s not the point. That’s not its point. Continue Reading →
I love detective stories. Tales of how, as Sara Gran would say, "truth lives in the ether." Explorations of people and places and how they shape each other. The journey down the streets towards a hidden truth. Dennis Lehane's Darkness, Take My Hand, is my favorite book. Rian Johnson's Brick and Ben Affleck's Gone Baby Gone are movies I think the world of, never mind all-timers like Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep and Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye. And, of course, the immortal Who Framed Roger Rabbit? from Robert Zemeckis. Any time there's a new detective film, whether it be an affably bleak comedy or an action-driven character study, it's a treat. Continue Reading →
Upon the news of the passing of William Friedkin, every headline reporting on the news focused on two films. It’s not surprising that the media spent so much time talking about The French Connection and The Exorcist, two bona fide masterpieces that paved the way for a new era of American filmmaking. What was disappointing was this seeming willingness to reduce a cinematic legend’s legacy to a burst of time in the early 1970s, thus dismissing the five decades that followed as either negligible or outright unworthy of interest. Continue Reading →
The first two entries in director/actor Kenneth Branagh’s foray into Agatha Christie adaptation lost the magic of the English writer’s mysteries. With his third attempt, A Haunting in Venice, Branagh decides to make considerable changes to the story. Using the bones of Christie’s Hallowe’en Party, writer Michael Green changes the setting from a small town in the English countryside to a palazzo in Venice. Branagh emphasizes the gothic elements of Christie’s story, leaning on the horror of the location, the manic nature of the children’s Halloween party, and the gruesome moments before and after an unexpected death. Continue Reading →
A Million Miles Away is one of those movies that live in the meaty part of the decent curve. Far too sturdy and well-made to be called bad. Too rote and predictable to really call good. It tells the true story of José Hernández (Michael Pena), an unquestionably inspiring man who did an impossibly difficult thing under impossibly difficult circumstances. Continue Reading →
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
In cinema, water is a site of birth, rebirth, and drastic transformations. In movies ranging from Sansho the Bailiff to Moonlight to Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, characters walk into vast bodies of liquid one person and exit another (if, that is, they resurface). It tracks, then, that the romantic drama Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe kicks off its central relationship at a community pool. A conversation between the film’s titular leads, set against the blue, kicks off a life-changing connection. Continue Reading →
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movies being covered here wouldn't exist. Continue Reading →
The Last Voyage of the Demeter feels like a movie from a different era. To a point, it is—writer Bragi Schut first drafted his adaptation of the 'Log of the "Demeter"' sequence in Bram Stoker's Dracula in the early 2000s. It's a capital letters Hollywood Creature Feature—a grimmer straight horror cousin to 2004's action/horror hybrid Van Helsing. At its best, it's an admirably gnarly monster flick—bolstered by sturdy craft from director André Øvredal and consistently good performances from a game ensemble. At its worst, it loses confidence and resorts to bumbling attempts to guide its audience by the hand—most notably in its prologue and epilogue. Continue Reading →
Okay, fine, Bird Box Barcelona isn’t exactly a sequel. It’s more of a continuation, as Netflix gets a belated start on making a franchise out of 2018’s Bird Box, a perfectly fine but unremarkable film that inexplicably became a smash hit. Smash or not, five years is a long time, so you might need a refresher course. Much of Earth’s population has been decimated by malevolent beings with visages so emotionally overwhelming that anyone who looks at them immediately commits suicide, and the survivors are forced to navigate what’s left of the world with their eyes covered, lest they see whatever “they” are. That’s really all you need to remember. Continue Reading →
“We can’t change ourselves, only what surrounds us.” Sylvie (Anouk Grinberg) says to her son Abel (director Louis Garrel) in the opening minutes of The Innocent. Louis Garrel has appeared in movies since he was 6 years old, making his debut in a movie directed by his father, Philippe Garrel, the last French New Waver, and his mother, actress Brigitte Sy, (1989’s Les baisers de secours aka Emergency Kisses) about a director and his actress wife. Louis Garrel appeared in seven of his father’s films, several directed by his former partner Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, directed movies with ex-wife Golshifteh Farahani and current wife Laetitia Casta, and played his father’s peer and champion Jean-Luc Godard in Le Redoubtable, based on the memoirs of Anne Wiazemsky, whose niece Léa is in The Innocent. Continue Reading →
In the strange 21st-century rise of conspiracy theories and cult-like behavior, the most frightening aspect of it is that some people really are true believers. Certainly, there are those who are just trolling, claiming to believe in insane things like Democrats eating Christian babies just to get a rise out of people. But what about those who are serious, who aren’t even textbook “crazy,” just normal people who at some point began to truly believe in chemtrails, or that everything that happens in the world is secretly orchestrated by an underground race of lizard people, or that the end times are here? What if they don’t want to believe these things, but they can’t help it? How do you reason with that? Continue Reading →
What makes a novel “unfilmable”? Often, it’s because it’s simply too large in scope and scale, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, which depicts the lives of seven generations of the same family. Or, as with Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, it’s too dense and labyrinthian. The more successful attempts, such as Denis Villeneuve’s Dune and Netflix’s adaptation of The Sandman, have been filmed in multiple parts, while failures like 2017’s The Dark Tower condense the story down to its most basic components, checking off the most salient points (“there was a tower, it was dark”) and nothing more. Continue Reading →
If Satan’s Slaves: Communion wants to be a local PSA for better management of high-rises instead of a second wringer for the Suwono family to go through, it can. There’s an elevator in the film’s setting that is home to a horrific banquet of images and sounds. There are happenings inside, outside of, and even underneath it that will get the one in your building more regular inspections and stricter compliance with the “maximum capacity” notice. Per the film, poorly maintained and overloaded lifts won’t just be an eventual Final Destination moment, it’s also how hell gets to be on Earth. Continue Reading →
Jon Hamm is a darn good comic actor, and he's a darn good comic actor with range. In Top Gun: Maverick for instance he played Naval Airboss Cyclone's abiding sternness and exasperation with Maverick for solid straight man work. Confess Fletch—which Hamm leads as unlicensed detective Irwin Maurice "Fletch" Fletcher (previously played by Chevy Chase in 1985's Fletch), by contrast, sees the Mad Men star go quietly goofy to strong effect. Even in a film packed with colorful and more openly eccentric weirdos, Hamm's Fletch is an odd man. Continue Reading →
From the start, GKIDS' latest acquisition, The Deer King, can call itself the spiritual sequel to Princess Mononoke without fear. Like Studio Ghibli’s 1997 title, the adaptation of Nahoko Uehasi’s eponymous novel series also has world-building text about clashing factions and ancient magic unfolding over vivid forests and stirring music. One of this film’s directors, Masashi Ando, was a supervising animator for the other one. Wolves and elks are again the beasts with the most screen time. Continue Reading →
The Portrait of a Lady
Campion followed The Piano with a Henry James adaptation dedicated to the magnificently fraught question of desire or duty.
Artwork: Felipe Sobreiro
In the wake of the critical success of The Piano, Jane Campion’s 1996 adaptation of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady barely made a splash at the box office, grossing only a fraction of The Piano’s $140 million US earnings. It too seemed to puzzle critics. Some called it “claustrophobic” and “stifling,” and to be fair–they’re not wrong. The world that James creates in his masterful 600-page novel is at once lush and chilling, thrillingly intimate and so frustratingly tragic that as a whole it’s nearly impossible to quantify. James’s Portrait is not necessarily Campion’s, and vice versa. But few authors have had such a clear-eyed view of the inner lives of women, so it’s fitting that Campion–a director who has always portrayed women as they are, without pretense or romanticization–should be the one to adapt James’s greatest work. Continue Reading →
Even if you’re not familiar with Agatha Christie’s vast body of works—she wrote sixty-six detective novels alone—you’ve probably heard of Hercule Poirot. He’s the world’s most famous literary detective, next to Sherlock Holmes. Death on the Nile marks Kenneth Branagh’s second outing directing one of Christie’s Poirot stories and starring as the mustachioed detective himself, following 2017’s tepidly received Murder on the Orient Express. Dogged by COVID-19 delays and scandals surrounding star Armie Hammer, Death on the Nile sometimes feels like it’s scrambling to justify its own existence, and only half-succeeds. Continue Reading →
Much to the Republican Party’s dismay, the birth rate in the United States has been gradually on the decline, hitting an all-time low in 2020. Couples are not only waiting longer to have children, they’re having less of them, with an average of 1.6 per family. While climate change and cost of living expenses are the primary factors in the decision to have fewer children (or none at all), a small part of it can also be attributed to more people accepting a difficult truth: that raising children can be an incredibly hard and thankless task. Maggie Gyllenhaal makes an assured debut as a writer and director in her adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter, a complicated and strangely moving psychological drama/thriller about two women who bond over this truth. Continue Reading →
Despite its top shelf cast & capable direction, this drama about tourists behaving badly is nothing we haven't seen before.
The Forgiven is a story about fantastically rich white people behaving badly in an “exotic” location, told by slightly less rich and hopefully better intentioned white people. So soon after HBO’s The White Lotus, it might be tempting to call this a new trend. But it’s probably more accurate to consider it business as usual.
This is not to say that it’s a bad film. The Forgiven is thoroughly competent in its writing, direction, and performances. It also happens to be — from its first scenes and the Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?-esque dynamic it establishes between its protagonists, to its ending which is strongly foreshadowed to the point of telegraphing — an obvious one. Continue Reading →
The country soundtrack kicks in. The plain, honey-coated lens flairs coat the screen. A truck parks and out steps Mike Milo (Clint Eastwood), met with the distance of his once-good friend Howard (Dwight Yoakam) who, like a soda machine someone’s kicked loose, dispenses copious exposition about Mike’s past. The man was a great rodeo rider before dabbling in pills and drink, and, according to his old pal, his rising age doesn’t help either. Howard wants fresh blood, but it seems the movie doesn’t. The delivery, the detachment, Yoakam’s thoroughly disinterested performance—the film borders on worrying at first. Continue Reading →