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      • Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim
        5/5 (2 votes)
        Pacific Rim Movie Review : Pathetically Grim

        Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. Let me say that again because it’s little a hard to believe. Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro film. The first time I saw the promo of this film, I said to myself it’s going to be...

      • 5/5 (1 votes)
      • Interstellar
        5/5 (1 votes)

        Nolan’s "Interstellar," about astronauts traveling to the other end of the galaxy to find a new home to
        replace humanity’s despoiled home-world, is frantically busy and earsplittingly
        loud. It uses booming music to jack...

      • San Andreas
        5/5 (1 votes)
        San Andreas

        In a match between a supremely catastrophic California
        earthquake and the former wrestling star turned movie action hero Dwayne
        Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock, aptly enough here I guess, although he’s not thusly
        credited), who are you going to bet...

        • Entertainer
          Entertainer published a blog post #372 January 21, 2020

          Matt writes: With the Academy Awards just weeks away, there appears to be a quartet of front-runners emerging in the acting races: Joaquin Phoenix in "Joker" for Best Actor, Renée Zellweger in "Judy" for Best Actress, Brad Pitt in "Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood" for Best Supporting Actor and Laura Dern in "Marriage Story" for Best Supporting Actress. As for Best Picture, the winner is anybody's guess: Sam Mendes' "1917" took home the top dramatic prize at the Golden Globes, while Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood" snagged the highest accolade at the Critics Choice Awards. This past Sunday, Bong Joon-ho's "Parasite" earned Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards and received a standing ovation, as did Robert De Niro when he won the Life Achievement Award (you can view his speech embedded below). Make sure to also check out Jana Monji's report from the Golden Globes as well as Sarah Knight Adamson's coverage of the Critics Choice Awards


          Saint Frances (2020). Directed by Alex Thompson. Written by Kelly O'Sullivan. Starring Kelly O'SullivanCharin AlvarezBraden Crothers. Synopsis: After an accidental pregnancy turned abortion, a deadbeat nanny finds an unlikely friendship with the six-year old she's charged with protecting. Opens in US theaters on February 28th, 2020.

          Lost Girls (2020). Directed by Liz Garbus. Written by Michael Werwie (based on the book by Robert Kolker). Starring Thomasin McKenzieAmy RyanDean Winters. Synopsis: When Mari Gilbert's daughter disappears, police inaction drives her own investigation into the gated Long Island community where Shannan was last seen. Her search brings attention to over a dozen murdered sex workers. Debuts on Netflix on March 13th, 2020.

          True History of the Kelly Gang (2020). Directed by Justin Kurzel. Written by Shaun Grant (based on the book by Peter Carey). Starring George MacKayEssie DavisThomasin McKenzie. Synopsis: The story of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang as they flee from authorities during the 1870s. US release date is TBA.

          I Was At Home, But... (2020). Written and directed by Angela Schanelec. Starring Thorbjörn BjörnssonEsther BussMartin Clausen. Synopsis: After a 13-year-old student disappears without a trace for a week and suddenly reappears, his mother and teachers are confronted with existential questions that change their whole view of life. Opens in US theaters on February 14th, 2020.

          Sergio (2020). Directed by Alice Winocour. Written by Alice Winocour and Jean-Stéphane Bron. Starring Eva GreenZélie BoulantMatt Dillon. Synopsis: An astronaut prepares for a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station. Debuts on Netflix on April 17th, 2020.

          Hillary (2020). Directed by Nanette Burstein. Synopsis: A look at the life and work of Hillary Rodham Clinton, interweaving biographical chapters of her life with behind-the-scenes footage from her 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. US release date is TBA.

          Guns Akimbo (2020). Written and directed by Jason Lei Howden. Starring Daniel RadcliffeSamara WeavingRhys Darby. Synopsis: A guy relies on his newly-acquired gladiator skills to save his ex-girlfriend from kidnappers. Opens in US theaters on February 28th, 2020.

          Charm City Kings (2020). Directed by Angel Manuel Soto. Written by Sherman Payne (based on the film by Lotfy Nathan). Starring Milan RayTeyonah ParrisJahi Di'Allo Winston. Synopsis: A young boy joins a dirt bike gang in Baltimore. Opens in US theaters on April 10th, 2020.

          The Lovebirds (2020). Directed by Michael Showalter. Written by Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall. Starring Issa RaeKumail NanjianiAnna Camp. Synopsis: A young couple is pulled into a bizarre (and hilarious) murder mystery. Working to clear their names and solve the case, they need to figure out how they, and their relationship, can survive the night. Opens in US theaters on April 3rd, 2020.

          The Kindness of Strangers (2020). Written and directed by Lone Scherfig. Starring Andrea RiseboroughZoe KazanBill Nighy. Synopsis: The story of people whose lives intertwine during a dramatic winter in New York City. Opens in US theaters on February 14th, 2020.

          Stargirl (2020). Directed by Julia Hart. Written by Jerry SpinelliKristin Hahn and Jordan Horowitz. Starring Giancarlo EspositoGrace VanderWaalDarby Stanchfield. Synopsis: A boy becomes intrigued by a mysterious and quirky student named Stargirl and spends his time trying to know more about her. Debuts on Disney+ on March 13th, 2020.

          Morbius (2020). Directed by Daniel Espinosa. Written by Matt Holloway, Art Marcum, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (based on the comic book by Gil Kane and Roy Thomas). Starring Adria ArjonaJared LetoMichael Keaton. Synopsis: Biochemist Michael Morbius tries to cure himself of a rare blood disease, but he inadvertently infects himself with a form of vampirism instead. Opens in US theaters on July 31st, 2020.

          Hope Gap (2020). Written and directed by William Nicholson. Starring Josh O'ConnorAnnette BeningBill Nighy. Synopsis: A couple's visit with their son takes a dramatic turn when the father tells him he plans on leaving his mother. Opens in US theaters on March 6th, 2020.

          The Night Clerk (2020). Written and directed by Michael Cristofer. Starring Ana de ArmasHelen HuntTye Sheridan. Synopsis: Voyeuristic hotel clerk becomes the subject of a murder investigation. Opens in US theaters on February 21st, 2020.

          Olympic Dreams (2020). Directed by Jeremy Teicher. Written by Nick Kroll, Alexi Pappas and Jeremy Teicher. Starring Gus KenworthyNick KrollAlexi Pappas. Synopsis: In the Olympic Athlete Village, a young cross-country skier bonds with a volunteer doctor after her competition ends. Opens in US theaters on February 14th, 2020.

          Ordinary Love (2020). Directed by Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn. Written by Owen McCafferty. Starring Liam NeesonLesley ManvilleAmit Shah. Synopsis: An extraordinary look at the lives of a middle-aged couple in the midst of the wife's breast cancer diagnosis. Opens in US theaters on February 14th, 2020.

          Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (2020). Directed by Daniel Roher. Synopsis: A confessional, cautionary, and occasionally humorous tale of Robbie Robertson's young life and the creation of one of the most enduring groups in the history of popular music, The Band. Opens in US theaters on February 21st, 2020.

          Spenser Confidential (2020). Directed by Peter Berg. Written by Brian Helgeland and Sean O'Keefe (based on the novel by Ace Atkins and Robert B. Parker). Starring Mark WahlbergAlan ArkinColleen Camp. Synopsis: An ex-felon named Spenser returns to Boston's criminal underworld to unravel a twisted murder conspiracy. Opens in US theaters on March 6th, 2020.

          The 4-Star Films of 2019


          Matt writes: This compilation of reviews features our writers' picks for the films from 2019 deserving of four stars, including "Ad Astra," "The Last Black Man in San Francisco," "Little Women" and "A Hidden Life." Click here for the full article.

          R.I.P. Buck Henry (1930-2020)


          Matt writes: The Oscar-nominated writer of "The Graduate" and co-director of "Heaven Can Wait," Buck Henry, passed away on January 8th and was eulogized by Brian Tallerico. Click here for the full article.

          Free Movies

          Half Shot at Sunrise (1930). Directed by Paul Sloane. Written by Anne Caldwell and Ralph Spence. Starring Bert WheelerRobert WoolseyDorothy Lee. Synopsis: The stage stars Wheeler and Woolsey play two soldiers who go absent without leave in Paris, during World War I.

          Watch "Half Shot at Sunrise"

          Hook, Line and Sinker (1930). Directed by Edward F. Cline. Written by Tim Whelan and Ralph Spence. Starring Bert WheelerRobert WoolseyDorothy Lee. Synopsis: An evil gunslinging midget comes to terrorize the good little people of Tiny Town. The townspeople organize to defeat him, and zany antics ensue.

          Watch "Hook, Line and Sinker"

          Angel and the Badman (1947). Written and directed by James Edward Grant. Starring John WayneGail RussellHarry Carey. Synopsis: Quirt Evans, an all round bad guy, is nursed back to health and sought after by Penelope Worth, a Quaker girl. He eventually finds himself having to choose between his world and the world Penelope lives in.

          Watch "Angel and the Badman"

          Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/ebert-club/372-january-21-2020
          By: Matt Fagerholm
          Posted: January 21, 2020, 6:01 am

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          The 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), which kicked off January 15th and runs through Saturday, January 25th, recently held the world premiere of Iranian-American director Kourosh Ahari’s debut feature, “The Night,” a horror film that is downright eerie in its timeliness. In light of the reckless actions made by world leaders earlier this month that have once again placed the blood of innocent lives on our hands, it seems only fitting that Ahari’s tale of an Iranian couple struggling to have a peaceful night’s rest in modern-day America would be so deeply indebted to “The Shining.” Kubrick’s 1980 landmark masterfully illustrated the cost of denial, particularly in regards to American history, and how we are doomed to repeat the sins of the past if we fail to retrace our ancestors’ footsteps. I have no doubt that Hotel Normandie, the establishment where an inebriated Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and his wife (Niousha Jafarian) choose to spend the night with their baby daughter, is spiritually linked to the Overlook Hotel as well as The Great Northern Hotel in Twin Peaks, two other cavernous inns haunted by the residue of memories we’d rather forget. Though I could more or less guess every twist prior to them materializing onscreen, Ahari’s picture still managed to unnerve me with its remarkable evocation of Kubrickian horror, an aesthetic that has eluded countless imitators, including last year’s “Doctor Sleep.” 

          My favorite shot in the whole film rests on the face of Hosseini, Asghar Farhadi’s invaluable frequent collaborator, for over three minutes as he tries desperately to fall asleep, despite having just endured a frightening series of supposed hallucinations. His wife reenters the room out of frame and starts inexplicably filing her nails. The longer the camera holds on Babak in close-up, the more our mind buzzes with possibilities as to what nightmarish sights are being shielded from our view. Composer Nima Fakhrara channels the galvanizing atonal shrieks of Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima,” a crucial selection on the soundtracks of “The Shining” and “Twin Peaks,” while Ahari cleverly christens “I Wanna Be Loved by You” as his film’s equivalent of “Midnight, the Stars and You.” The apparitions that terrorize the couple are all the scarier in their ordinariness, though George Maguire earns some nervous laughs as a hotel receptionist whose words of wisdom are no more comforting than those recited by Mrs. Dudley in “The Haunting.” As hinted by a disquieting painting that catches Babak’s eye in the lobby, not to mention his room number 404, the ghosts inhabiting Hotel Normandie conspire to take the form of our own collective doppelgänger, staring at us when we’d prefer to look away, thus bringing to light the truths we had hoped would’ve faded into the depths of our subconscious. 


          Among the most formative experiences of my youth was being introduced in elementary school to the mind-blowing photography of Lewis Hine, who chronicled the deplorable conditions suffered by young people in a successful effort to improve child labor laws in the U.S. Photographer Santi Visalli, one of the two titular subjects in Andrew Davis’ “Mentors—Toni & Santi,” another notable gem having its world premiere at SBIFF 2020, cites Hine as one of the idols who motivated him to ensure that his own work would have a historical impact, preserving its imagery for future generations, much like the wet cement that enabled Michelangelo’s paint to run deep into the Sistine Chapel. Sporting an integrity that would’ve made Louisa May Alcott proud, Visalli never relinquished the rights to his photos, even though he would’ve earned more money had he sold them to the respective publications that originally ran them, opting instead to make his visual documentation of world history accessible for students to study in universities. His belief that apprentices should begin working in the garden before the studio, in order to build an appreciation for the roots of what we so often take for granted, was taught to Visalli by his own mentor, renowned war photographer Tony Vaccaro. Deciding that he would take pictures in the same way that his abusive uncle hunted—shooting without aiming—Vaccaro sought to utilize a camera small enough to render his presence invisible, providing him with the ability to immortalize unfiltered moments stripped of all artifice. 

          Clocking in at 51 minutes, this affectionate profile is destined to be seen primarily on television, yet audiences lucky enough to catch it at festivals will have a rare opportunity to view many of the finest pictures taken over the past century on the big screen. What characterizes Vaccaro and Visalli’s work, above all, is its overarching humanity, which can be observed not only in how they lens their subjects but how they approach them beforehand. When tasked with photographing Frank Lloyd Wright, Vaccaro refused to pose him and instead offered him a haircut. Aware of David Rockefeller’s guarded demeanor prior to a photography session, Visalli loosened up the formidable banker by asking him about some of the cherished items in his office. 

          Visalli’s philosophy that you must be as skilled a psychologist as you are a photographer in order to take a great picture also extends to the filmmaking of auteurs like Davis, whose love of spontaneity inspired him to stage an unscripted chase sequence during Chicago’s massive St. Patrick’s Day parade in his classic 1993 thriller, “The Fugitive.” Rather than allow “Mentors” to devolve solely into biographical exposition, Davis includes various endearing vignettes of his subjects’ behavior, such as when ordering their favorite Italian dish at a restaurant or engaging in witty banter (Visalli quips that having Vaccaro as his wedding photographer was like hiring Picasso to paint the bathroom). Yet it is during the film’s opening sequence where Davis most poignantly captures the 60-year bond between these friends and collaborators—separated in age only by a decade—as they reunite for the first time in what feels to them like an eternity. Davis holds on this moment long enough for us to see the tears forming in their eyes, as the warmth shared between these men emanates from the screen and enters our souls. 

          Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/festivals-and-awards/sbiff-2020-the-night-mentorstony-and-santi
          By: Matt Fagerholm
          Posted: January 22, 2020, 3:04 pm

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          The 2020 Sundance Film Festival kicks off on Thursday night with some highly anticipated premieres, including the return of "Dear White People" writer/director Justin Simien with his comedy "Bad Hair," and a Taylor Swift documentary ("Miss Americana") directed by Lana Wilson. We'll be reviewing those two movies after they premiere, along with many others that are having their big debuts at the festival, across different categories. Each year's trip to Park City, Utah for the festival offers the discovery of new talent, and an affirmation that there are still plenty of inspired filmmakers out there, across narrative and documentary projects. It's the festival that just last year gave us breakout hits like "The Last Black Man in San Francisco," "The Farewell," "Brittany Runs a Marathon," "Honey Boy," "Late Night," "Luce," and more. As numerous successes have proven before, it only takes one screening up in the mountains to turn an intriguing logline into the next indie darling. 

          Listed below in alphabetical order (and with the official Sundance synopsis included), here are just a few films that we can't wait to discover in Park City over the next few days. 

          "The 40-Year-Old Version

          Starring Radha Blank, Peter Y. Kim, Oswin Benjamin, Reed Birney, Imani Lewis, TJ Atoms 

          Written and directed by Radha Blank 

          Category: U.S. Dramatic Competition 

          Radha, a once-promising playwright, is barreling toward the stigma of being single and a struggling artist at the age of 40. Facing nonstop rejections from the theatre community while teaching a motley group of teens, she becomes creatively re-invigorated when she returns to rapping, her long-forgotten passion. When her play finally gets going, however, she puts recording a rap demo on the back burner and must navigate the awful tension of compromising her voice for career success.


          Directed by Ryan White 

          Category: Documentary Premieres 

          The mysterious murder of North Korean royal family member Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia sparks a captivating global investigation. At the center of the story, two women are on trial for the murder. Are the women ruthless assassins or political pawns in a twisted game?

          The investigation goes far beyond the headlines, probing further into each woman’s upbringing, one in rural Indonesia and one in Vietnam, and, ultimately, what led them to participate in an alleged prank show that ended with Kim Jong-nam dead. Assassins questions every angle of this murder case, from human trafficking to high-level political espionage to the inner dynamics of the North Korean royal family.


          "Bad Hair

          Starring Elle Lorraine, Vanessa Williams, Jay Pharoah, Lena Waithe, Blair Underwood, Laverne Cox 

          Written and Directed by Justin Simien 

          Category: Midnight 

          Los Angeles, 1989. Anna Bludso (Elle Lorraine) is a scarred survivor of a scalp burn from a mild relaxer perm. She also has the smarts and ambition to be the next on-air star at Culture, a music video TV show. After years of struggling to be seen for her ideas and hard work, Anna fears the worst when her dreadlocked boss is replaced by Zora (Vanessa Williams), an ex-supermodel with a silver tongue. Zora warns Anna that her nappy look has got to go, so Anna bites the bullet and gets a weave. Turns out, her flowing new hair is the key to success—but it arrived with a mind of its own, and it bites back!

          "BLAST BEAT

          Category: U.S. Dramatic Competition 

          Starring Moises Arias, Mateo Arias, Daniel Dae Kim, Kali Uchis, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Vanderrama 

          Directed by Esteban Arango 

          Written by Erick Castrillion and Esteban Arango 

          On the cusp of the year 2000, Colombian brothers Carly (Mateo Arias) and Mateo (Moises Arias) prepare to move to the United States for their last years of high school. Metalhead Carly has his heart set on attending the Georgia Aerospace Institute and working for NASA, while his supportive parents (Diane Guerrero and Wilmer Valderrama) seize the chance to escape the political turmoil in Colombia and chase the American Dream. At first, Mateo is the only one to express any cynicism, but when the reality of their new life sinks in, the family struggles to adapt as their expectations are shattered. When events threaten to derail their future, Carly’s dream becomes his only lifeline.


          "Dick Johnson is Dead

          Directed by Kirsten Johnson 

          Category: U.S. Documentary Competition 

          What if you could make your loved ones live forever? Dick Johnson Is Dead is Kirsten Johnson’s delirious and desperate attempt to keep her aging father alive. In this effort she turns to the magic of cinema to kill him, resurrect him, and celebrate his last years on earth.

          Toggling between observational documentary and fictional fantasy, longtime cinematographer Kirsten Johnson peels back layers of moviemaking as she and her father share a quest to face his death together. Their challenge is heightened by the erosive effect of dementia, which menaces Dick Johnson (both the person and the movie), but will not deter their commitment to explore the unlikely ways in which we might love and know each other all the way to the end.

          "The Dissident

          Directed by Bryan Fogel 

          Category: Documentary Premieres 

          Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was critical of his beloved Saudi Arabia and of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s policies. On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul and never came out. His fiancée and dissidents around the world are left to piece together clues to his brutal murder—and in their dogged quest for truth, they expose a global cover-up perpetrated by the very country he loved.

          With exclusive access to the Turkish government’s evidence; to Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz; and to Khashoggi’s close friend and fellow Saudi insurgent, Omar Abdulaziz, Academy Award–winning filmmaker Bryan Fogel unearths hidden secrets in this real-life international thriller that will continue to rock the world long after the headlines have faded away.


          Directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash 

          Written by Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, and Jesse Armstrong 

          Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Pete (Will Ferrell), and their sons are on a balcony during an idyllic family ski vacation in the Alps when an avalanche suddenly strikes. While they all emerge physically unharmed, Pete’s actions during the avalanche reveal a side of him that leaves his family in a state of shock. The aftermath of this moment permeates the remainder of the trip, and the harder Pete tries to avoid the truth and gloss things over, the more Billie and her sons are forced to re-evaluate their lives and, more specifically, how they feel about Pete—as a husband, father, and man.


          "Farewell Amor

          Starring: Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Zainab Jah, Jayme Lawson, Joie Lee, Marcus Scribner, Nana Mensah 

          Written and Directed by Ekwa Msangi 

          Category: U.S. Dramatic Competition 

          It’s been 17 years since Walter was forced to leave his family in Angola. Now he is picking up his wife, Esther, and daughter, Sylvia, from the airport to bring them home to his one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment. The reunion isn’t seamless. Walter cooks a welcome dinner, and Esther wonders who taught him how to cook. Before they eat, Esther says grace, revealing her thunderous new passion for Jesus. And later, Walter realizes that he has not moved on from Linda, his lover who moved out of his apartment to make way for the family. When young Sylvia starts to explore the city and takes part in a dance competition, she unexpectedly opens up a pathway of muscle memory for the family to rediscover one another.

          "His House"

          Written and Directed by Remi Weekes

          Starring: Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu, Matt Smith 

          Category: Midnight

          Many refugee stories end in the same place: a safe (if slightly bewildering) new home. And that’s where His House begins, with a Sudanese couple arriving in a quiet English town for their "happily ever after." But as their acclimation process falters, we realize that there's more to blame than cross-cultural misunderstanding. Things begin to go disastrously wrong. “Screaming nightmares” wrong. “Blood magic” wrong. And then, it gets much, much worse.


          Starring Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Youn Yuh Jung, Will Patton, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho 

          Written and Directed by Lee Isaac Chung 

          Category: U.S. Dramatic Competition 

          It’s the 1980s, and David, a seven-year-old Korean American boy, is faced with new surroundings and a different way of life when his father, Jacob, moves their family from the West Coast to rural Arkansas. His mother, Monica, is aghast that they live in a mobile home in the middle of nowhere, and naughty little David and his sister are bored and aimless. When his equally mischievous grandmother arrives from Korea to live with them, her unfamiliar ways arouse David’s curiosity. Meanwhile, Jacob, hell-bent on creating a farm on untapped soil, throws their finances, his marriage, and the stability of the family into jeopardy.


          "Miss Americana

          Directed by Lana Wilson 

          Category: Documentary Premieres 

          Taylor Swift is a global icon who repeatedly tops the charts, fills stadium tours with rapturous fans, and continues to challenge herself both professionally and personally while remaining steadfast in her vision as an artist. Few have achieved as much as Swift, or have had their personal lives open to such public scrutiny, but in Miss Americana, she finds herself at a watershed moment in her career, using her platform not only as a singer-songwriter, but as a woman fearlessly harnessing the full power of her voice.

          "The Nest

          Starring Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Charlie Shotwell, Oona Roche 

          Written and Directed by Sean Durkin 

          Category: Premieres 

          Rory (Jude Law), an ambitious entrepreneur and former commodities broker, persuades his American wife, Allison (Carrie Coon), and their children to leave the comforts of suburban America and return to his native England during the 1980s. Sensing opportunity, Rory rejoins his former firm and leases a centuries-old country manor, with grounds for Allison’s horses and plans to build a stable. But the family buckles beneath an unaffordable lifestyle and increasing isolation as they head toward a seemingly inevitable breakdown.

          "On the Record

          Directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering 

          Category: Documentary Premieres 

          This documentary presents the haunting story of music executive Drew Dixon, whose career and personal life have been deeply affected by the abuse she faced from the men she admired in the industry she loves. Directed by the Academy Award–nominated filmmaking duo Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering (The Invisible War, 2012 Sundance Film Festival), the film follows Dixon (producer of hit records by 2Pac, Method Man, and Mary J. Blige) as she grapples with her decision to become one of the first women of color to come forward as part of the #MeToo movement.



          Starring Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, Bella Heathcote 

          Directed by Natalie Erika James

          Written by Natalie Erika James and Christian White

          When octogenarian Edna inexplicably vanishes, her daughter Kay and granddaughter Sam rush to their family’s decaying country home and find clues of her increasing dementia scattered around the house in her absence. After Edna returns just as mysteriously as she disappeared, Kay’s concern that her mother seems unwilling or unable to say where she’s been clashes with Sam’s unabashed enthusiasm to have her grandma back. However, as Edna’s behavior turns increasingly volatile, both begin to sense that an insidious presence in the house might be taking control of her.

          "Saudi Runaway

          Directed by Susanne Regina Meures 

          Muna is a young, fearless woman in Saudi Arabia who is tired of being controlled by the state and the harsh restrictions she endures as a woman. Her arranged marriage, in which she sees a prolonged life without free will, is imminent, so she decides she must escape in order to save herself. Muna secretly documents every moment of her claustrophobic existence using her cell phones, often filming through her hijab. Her camera also gives us intimate access to her innermost thoughts as it becomes her documentation and her lifeline. As her wedding and therefore her escape draw near, we are glued to Muna’s lens as she risks imprisonment to capture every beat of her journey. But will her meticulous plan to escape succeed?


          Starring Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, David Arquette, Kyle Mooney, Mischa Barton, Josh Ovalle 

          Directed by Eugene Kotlyarenko

          Written by Eugene Kotlyarenko and Gene McHugh 

          Meet Kurt, from @KurtsWorld96. He dreams of one day sitting atop a social media empire, but he’s not there yet. He currently drives for the rideshare company Spree, which is cool for him because he gets to hang with so many dope people all day long. Fortunately, Kurt has come up with the perfect way to go viral: #TheLesson. He’s decked out his car with cameras for a nonstop livestream full of killer entertainment. In the middle of all this madness, a stand-up comedian with her own viral agenda, Jessie Adams, crosses Kurt’s path and becomes our only hope to put a stop to his misguided carnage.


          "A Thousand Cuts

          Directed by Ramona S. Diaz 

          Category: U.S. Documentary Competition 

          In 2016, outsider candidate Rodrigo Duterte upset the political establishment in the Philippines by winning the presidency and promising vengeance and violence. Within hours of taking office, bodies piled up in the streets. Rappler, the country’s top online news site, investigated the murders and revealed a government-sanctioned drug war targeting poor addicts instead of lucrative dealers. In an attempt to suppress independent reporting, Duterte unleashed a powerful disinformation campaign that spread like wildfire throughout social media.


          Directed by Ai Weiwei 

          Category: Documentary Premieres 

          On a late-September day in 2014, students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College were brutally attacked by police forces and other masked assailants as they were travelling through the town of Iguala, Guerrero. Six people were killed and 43 students were abducted and never heard from again. Since then, the families of the students have lived in limbo with their unanswered questions—and the psychological and emotional toll of the endemic violence currently plaguing Mexican society.



          Starring Devin France, Yashua Mack, Gage Naquin, Gavin Naquin, Ahmad Cage, Krzysztof Meyn 

          Directed by Benh Zeitlin 

          Written by Benh Zeitlin and Eliza Zeitlin 

          Category: Premieres 

          Wendy and her brothers come from a warm working family. Raised amongst dinner plates and diner patrons, the children have an itch for the adventurous and slightly mischievous. After long nights watching trains rattle by their bedroom window, the kids are whisked away by a mysterious boy named Peter. A long journey taken on faith lands them on Peter’s island. There they discover a wild new world, one without grown-ups and suspended in time. Reveling in their youthfulness and sprawling freedom satisfies the kids at first, but nostalgia for their lives left behind seeps in. When threats to their eternal childhood develop, Wendy is tasked with saving herself, her brothers, and the other island children with the most powerful tool she has: love for her family.


          Directed by Janicza Bravo 

          Written by Janicza Bravo and Jeremy O. Harris 

          “You wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.”

          Zola meets Stefani at a restaurant where Zola waitresses, and the two immediately click over pole dancing. Only a day after they exchange numbers, Stefani invites Zola on a cross-country road trip, where the goal is to make as much money as possible dancing in Florida strip clubs. Zola agrees, and suddenly she is trapped in the craziest, most unexpected trip of her life.

          Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/sundance/sundance-2020-20-films-we-cant-wait-to-see-in-park-city
          By: Nick Allen
          Posted: January 21, 2020, 3:19 pm

          • Entertainer


            6 NEW TO NETFLIX

            "The Bling Ring"
            "The Evil Dead"
            "Get Him to the Greek"
            "The Master"
            "Steve Jobs"

            6 NEW ON BLU-RAY/DVD


            "The Addams Family"

            This column is generally about the best of the releases in the last two weeks, but we're making a pair of exceptions in this edition to fill it out a bit, because this animated version of the classic TV show about the creepiest family on the block isn't really the best of anything. Sure, some of the design is well-done (and Nick Kroll is always funny) but this whole venture feels like a bizarre waste of energy given how much it pales not just to the series but the Barry Sonnenfeld films. And I know voice work is often an easy paycheck, but it should be against the law to put such physically commanding presences as Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron together for the first time and then hide them behind animated characters. 

            Buy it here 

            Special Features
            NEW Deleted and Extended Scenes
            NEW Welcome to the Family – In this combined Making of/Character Profiles, we hear from the filmmakers and stars of The Addams Family about how the film came about, the animation process and insight into the characters.
            NEW Life of a Scene – From black & white storyboards and layouts to animation and lighting, follow along with filmmakers as they bring to life a scene from the movie.
            NEW Charades with Thing – There's nothing quite like a game of Charades with your friends. But what happens when the person giving the clues isn't exactly a person? What if he's just… a hand? On talent day, stars of the film are invited to play Charades with Thing. Talent goes head-to-head, competing to see who can guess Thing's clues. Graphics reveal the answers and keep score for each player.
            Addams Family Throwback
            "Haunted Heart" Lyric Video – performed by Christina Aguilera
            "My Family" Lyric Video – performed by Migos, Karol G, Rock Mafia & Snoop Dogg


            "The Fugitive Kind" (Criterion)

            The Criterion Collection is building a nice selection of early titles from one of the best American filmmakers of all time, Sidney Lumet. "12 Angry Men" is on Blu-ray already and "Fail Safe" joins it next month. In between, we get a film that Criterion already released on DVD and is now giving the monthly upgrade from standard to HD that they usually bestow on a title or two. "The Fugitive Kind" isn't one of Lumet's most beloved films for a reason. The director often stumbled a bit when he left NYC and he wasn't a perfect fit for a Tennessee Williams Southern drama, but there's so much power in the casting here that it overcomes the relative weaknesses. Just the magnetic presence of Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Joanne Woodward, and Maureen Stapleton make it worth a look, and the Criterion edition contains a rarely-seen TV presentation by Lumet called "Three Plays by Tennessee Williams" that adds Ben Gazzara and Lee Grant to the already-blinding star power of this release. 

            Buy it here 

            Special Features
            High-definition digital restoration, approved by director Sidney Lumet, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
            Interview from 2009 with Lumet
            Three Plays by Tennessee Williams, an hour-long 1958 television presentation of one-act plays, directed by Lumet and starring Ben Gazzara and Lee Grant, among others
            Program from 2010 discussing Williams’s work in Hollywood and The Fugitive Kind
            PLUS: An essay by film critic David Thomson


            "Gemini Man"

            So much was made of the FPS presentation of Ang Lee's new action flick that the quality of the movie was almost entirely ignored. This sci-fi tale of a man, played by Will Smith, who comes face to face with a younger version of himself, is much better than critics would have you believe. Sure, the dialogue is clunky, but there's a lot of craftsmanship to admire here, especially in the choreography of the action scenes, and the overall theme of confronting your own mortality in physical form is one that's well-handled by Smith. Perhaps my expectations were just incredibly low, but I found this immensely watchable. The irony of all the bells and whistles is that this strikes me more like as old-fashioned '90s movie that plays on TNT every other month. 

            Buy it here 

            Special Features
            60FPS (frames-per-second) ENCODE - for exceptional sharpness and clarity vs. the standard 24FPS and also includes an exclusive visual effects scene breakdown presented by WETA in 60FPS
            Alternate Opening
            Deleted Scenes
            The Genesis of Gemini Man
            Facing Your Younger Self
            The Future Is Now
            Setting the Action
            Next Level Detail
            The Vision of Ang Lee


            "Le Petit Soldat" (Criterion)

            The recent passing of Anna Karina should allow for a nice excuse to revisit her work with Jean-Luc Godard, and Criterion just released one of their earliest collaborations, "Le Petit Soldat." It's the film that Godard made right after the massive success of "Breathless" but was banned by the French government and not released until a few years later, after "A Woman is a Woman" and "Vivre sa Vie" had already enhanced Godard's opinion. It took even longer for critics to really appreciate Godard's film with Roger Ebert writing in 1969, "Starting with 'Le Petit Soldat,' Godard was forging his own individualistic art and becoming the most relevant director of our time." See where one of the most important voices in film history honed his distinct, strident, unapologetic style in this film, now in the Criterion Collection.

            Buy it here 

            Special Features
            High-definition digital restoration, approved by cinematographer Raoul Coutard, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
            Interview with director Jean-Luc Godard from 1965
            Interview with actor Michel Subor from 1963
            Audio interview with Godard from 1961
            New English subtitle translation
            PLUS: An essay by critic Nicholas Elliott


            "Pain and Glory"

            Pedro Almodovar's latest film is also one of his best, a deeply personal story of a director confronting his failures, addictions, and regrets. Antonio Banderas does the best work of his career as a character who is really a stand-in for the legendary writer/director, a filmmaker whose past arises as he deals with facing his own mortality and the pain of old age. It's really a tender, moving piece about how artists use their lives to inform their art, and how pain is often a part of that usage. We take our best and worst memories and filter them through our art, and Almodovar, always an open book of a filmmaker, has been doing that his entire career. This movie is a gift, one of the best of 2019. 

            Buy it here 

            Special Features
            Q&A with Director Pedro Almodóvar & Antonio Banderas
            Pedro Almodóvar: In His Own Words 


            "Zombieland: Double Tap"

            The general rap against this long-delayed sequel was who really wanted another "Zombieland" movie ten years after the first one? The young stars—Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone—had gone on to become household names who starred in Oscar winners. Why go back to this well? In theory, I'm not opposed to this film. It could have been a fun, nostalgic trip. It could have. What it actually is is a lazy cash grab with actors, especially Stone, who look like they're just waiting for the day's shoot to end. Only Woody Harrelson seems to be having any fun at all with a script that's dire and direction that's leaden. This movie is clunky and awful, another case in which we're using this column more as a warning than a recommendation. Go watch "Pain and Glory" or even "Gemini Man" this weekend instead. 

            Buy it here 

            Special Features
            Extended Bloopers & Outtakes
            Alternate & Extended Scenes
            "The Doppelgangers"
            "The Rides of Zombieland"
            "Rules of Making a Zombie Film"
            "Making Babylon"
            "New Blood"
            "Single Take Doppelganger Fight"
            Commentary with Director Ruben Fleischer
            "Zombieland Ad Council"

            Next Time: "Harriet," "Parasite," "Terminator: Dark Fate," and more

            Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/demanders/home-entertainment-guide-january-23-2020
            By: Brian Tallerico
            Posted: January 23, 2020, 1:33 pm

            • Entertainer
              Entertainer published a blog post Terry Jones: 1942-2020


              There will not be a single obituary of Terry Jones, who passed away at his home in North London at the age of 77 after a long battle with dementia that had robbed him of his ability to speak, that does not begin by mentioning his work with the legendary comedy troupe Monty Python. This is not exactly a surprise—when you are part of a group that legitimately helped to change the face of comedy, first on television and then on the big screen, in ways that can still be felt today, you have to expect that your connection to them will serve as the lead. And yet, to look at him chiefly as a member of Python is to do him a bit of a disservice because his work with the group only comprised one part of a career that also saw him working as an author, filmmaker, actor, poet and historian. Here was a true Renaissance Man and while his passing, although not entirely unexpected, is still a major blow, he has left behind a far-reaching legacy of work that will continue to amuse and astonish people for generations to come.

              He was born on February 1, 1942 in North Wales and when he was five, his family moved to the suburbs of London. He would attend Oxford University and while going after standard scholarly pursuits, he also joined the university’s Experimental Theater Club and developed an interest in writing and performing comedy. In 1963, he co-wrote and performed in his first revue, “Loitering With Intent,” alongside fellow student Michael Palin. The two would work together on subsequent revues and their efforts would be noticed by David Frost, who offered them jobs on “The Frost Report,” a television sketch comedy show that premiered on the BBC in 1966 and which also featured Eric Idle and Graham Chapman on the writing staff and John Cleese as one of the performers. The next year, Jones, along with Palin and Idle, worked on another series, “Do Not Adjust Your Set,” which included some animated elements from American Terry Gilliam. Eventually, these six men decided to come together for a television project of their own and in 1969, that show, eventually called “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” was broadcast for the first time.

              The show was unlike anything that had been seen before on television—a collection of oftentimes absurdist sketches that defied all the long-cherished traditions of comedy while blending together intellectual humor with pure silliness in ways that defied description. (Many sketch shows have had game show parodies, for example, but only Python would propose one that asked players to summarize the works of Marcel Proust in 15 seconds.) Over the course of the show’s four seasons, Jones played a wide variety of characters, including a cardinal in the Spanish Inquisition, a waiter driven to despair over a diner’s mild complaint about a dirty fork, a gaggle of middle-aged women and a naked organist. Many of these characterizations were on the broad side, especially when heard through Jones’s distinctive voice, and were very funny but he was capable of more subtle work as well when required. In the famous “Nudge, Nudge” skit, he plays an unassuming pub patron being hammered by Idle and his increasingly salacious line of questioning about his personal life and even though he doesn’t really have any funny lines to deliver, his restrained work is what helps to take one of the least conceptually radical of the Python bits (it even contained an honest-to-goodness punchline) and transformed it into one of their all-time classic routines.

              That sketch would later be restaged for And Now for Something Completely Different,” a 1971 feature film comprised of material taken from the first two seasons of the show that was done as a way of introducing the group to American audiences that had not yet seen the show. The film was not a success on either side of the pond—British audiences were annoyed that it was stuff they had seen before while American audiences simply did not get it—but the notion of doing a film, especially one that they had more control over, stuck with the group and in 1974, they began work on a screenplay that was set partly in the present day and partly in the time of King Arthur and the search for the Holy Grail. After electing to eliminate most of the modern stuff, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” began to take shape with the help of funding from the likes of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Genesis and Jones and Gilliam, neither of whom had ever made a film before, were elected to co-direct it. The resulting film has been enshrined as a comedy classic and indeed, it contains some of the funniest bits in the entire Python canon. Jones pops up as several characters, the funniest of which is Prince Herbert, who is “rescued” by Sir Lancelot (Cleese) from an arranged marriage. Forty-five years after its initial release, the film continues to inspire laughter from all who encounter it, whether they are newcomers or have seen it enough to recite the dialogue along with the performers, and it also works as one of the more convincing cinematic depictions of what life must of been like back then, a realistic background that only serves to make the surreal touches (such as pretending to ride horses while clapping coconuts to simulate the sound of hooves) even funnier.

              For the Python’s subsequent big-screen endeavors, Jones would become the sole director while Gilliam, who had filmmaking ambitions of his own, would focus on the visual style. The next film was Life of Brian,” (1979) an audacious and oftentimes outrageous religious satire that, contrary to popular belief, did not in any way make fun of Jesus, instead taking aim at organized religion and how it has exploited and misinterpreted his teachings over the centuries.  Jones’s handling of the material is spot-on—the film is hilarious thought but behind all of the laughs is a consideration of Christ and his teachings that puts a lot of more overtly serious-minded films on the subject to shame. Of course, there are so many laughs in the film that it might take a while to notice its more thoughtful elements. Many of those laughs are supplied by Jones, who gets arguably his best role ever as Mandy, the mother of the film’s central character, alterna-Christ Brian (Chapman) who gets two of the funniest moments—a take on the Nativity where she thanks the wise men for the gold and frankincense but tells them that they can skip the myrrh next time and the part where she delivers the immortal line “He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!”

              The last of the films to feature all six members of the group, “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life” (1983), is generally considered to be the weakest of their cinematic endeavors. While their previous films contained reasonably coherent narrative structures, the group was unable to come up with a similar concept here and instead elected to revert to a sketch format that vaguely covered the various stages of human life. At the time of its release, it got a mixed reaction—it got good reviews and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival but some audiences were put off by the angry tone and grotesque imagery of some of the sketches—but time has been kind to it. Although it is an undeniably uneven film, it has some great bits in it and demonstrates Jones’s increasing confidence as a filmmaker. Take the “Every Sperm is Sacred” sequence, which starts off as a barbed commentary on the opposition to birth control in the Catholic church and then transforms into a full-scale production number Yes, the idea is funny and the song is also hilarious but what makes the scene really work is the way that Jones stages it so that it looks and feels like a scene right out of “Oliver,” an approach that makes the material comes across as even funnier than if he had staged it in a more overtly comedic manner. Jones was also front and center for the most infamous bit in the film and possibly the entire history of the group—the sequence in which he portrays the nightmarishly obese Mr. Creosote dining out at an elegant restaurant and coming to an especially revolting end thanks to a wafer-thin mint. The sequence is undeniably disgusting—that is pretty much the whole point of the scene—but Jones throws himself into the outsized role with such zeal that you simply cannot take your eyes off of it, even though you probably wish that you could.

              After “The Meaning of Life,” Jones went on to work on a number of additional films that showed off a different and more whimsical sense of humor than the stuff he did with Python. He contributed to the screenplay of Jim Henson’s cult fantasy epic “Labyrinth” (1986), though little of his work is said to remain in the film. Personal Services(1987) was a charming comedy loosely inspired by real events, about a single mother (Julie Walters) who finds herself becoming a call girl and the madam of one of London’s most infamous brothels. Erik the Viking(1989) was a very loose adaptation of his 1983 children’s book “The Saga of Erik the Viking” that offered a spoof take on Norse mythology based around a viking (Tim Robbins)  who didn’t really feel an urge to rape, pillage or plunder. The whole thing was kind of an overstuffed mess and one of Jones’s weakest efforts but it does have some big laughs here and there and is not nearly as bad as its reputation might suggest. The best of his non-Python films, on the other hand, was “The Wind in the Willows” (1998), an enchanting live-action adaptation of the Kenneth Grahame book that nicely captured the gentle tone of the original story and which gave Jones a scene-stealing turn as the rambunctious Mr. Toad in a cast that also included Idle ad Rat, Cleese as Mr. Toad’s lawyer and Palin as The Sun. Sadly, the American release of that film was badly botched and it would be nearly two decades before he made another film. Alas, that was Absolutely Anything,” a botched 2015 science-fiction comedy that brought together a cast that included Simon Pegg, Robin Williams and all the surviving Python members but inspired very few laughs. His last directorial effort, Boom Bust Boom (2016), was a markedly different work, a funny and thought-provoking documentary the history of speculative economic bubbles and how people continue to fall for them with disastrous results.

              During these years, Jones was spreading his wings into other endeavors beyond filmmaking. Between 1981 and 2002, he wrote over twenty books ranging from works aimed at children to more scholarly works on subjects such as Chaucer and medieval history that often provided alternate perspectives to the conventional academic thinking. He became a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, writing numerous editorials on the subject that would eventually be published in the 2004 book “Terry Jones’s War on the War on Terror.” And in what would pretty much be his last truly public act, he reunited with Cleese, Palin, Idle and Gilliam in 2014 for a series of 10 live performances called “Monty Python Live (Mostly)” and if his performances may have seemed a little sluggish at times (understandable in retrospect), his obvious glee more than made up for it.

              If I was asked to pick one single thing from Jones’s vast body work to single out as an artistic pinnacle, I don’t think that I could do it. This is a man who did so much in so many fields that to try to winnow it down to one specific thing would seem to be a folly. Obviously, he will go down in history for his work with Python but, as I hope I have shown here, he was more than just a member of that group. He was a man who with a grand imagination, a keen wit and an endless curiosity about where we came from and where we are heading. These are the traits that fueled his work throughout the years and they are the reason why they will continue to live on long after his passing.



              Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/balder-and-dash/terry-jones-1942-2020
              By: Peter Sobczynski
              Posted: January 22, 2020, 6:29 pm

            • image

              There’s an immediate thrill in seeing the great Patrick Stewart playing his most iconic character, Captain Jean-Luc Picard. In an era dominated by reboots and nostalgia, it makes sense that the current state of this legendary franchise would lead us to “Star Trek: Picard,” premiering today on CBS All Access. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” is an essential show for my development as a TV critic, a program I still love to revisit. And so when “Picard” opens with my favorite ST Captain (sorry, Kirk fans) sitting across from Data (Brent Spiner), my heart skipped a beat. I’m truly sad to say that it was back to its normal pace long before the end of the third episode.


              Developed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon and Akiva Goldsman, “Star Trek: Picard” is a very talky, sometimes clunky return to the world of the legendary captain, with a few other familiar faces and plot threads from “TNG” along the way. It picks up with Picard retired on a vineyard in France. A reporter comes to interview Picard—one of the laziest tools for back story exposition imaginable—and we learn that Picard no longer has a good relationship with Starfleet. Roughly 15 years ago, something unimaginable happened—the synthetics revolted. Formerly loyal and reliable colleagues like Data turned so evil that it led to the destruction of Mars and its population. Of course, fans know that Data is dead, sacrificing himself at the end of “Star Trek: Nemesis,” the last fiction of this “ST” timeline. But his ghost and his importance as a friend and colleague haunts Picard.

              I mean that literally. Picard is having dreams of his old friend, someone who he can’t believe would have ever turned Terminator on him. At the same time, a young woman (Isa Briones) is attacked, her boyfriend killed in the assault. She discovers, almost Jason Bourne-style, that she has very special skills, defeating her attackers. And she has visions of Picard that lead her to France, and get our hero sucked back into a very important mission, one that involves familiar allies and enemies, as well as a face of two that will give “TNG” fans that aforementioned heart-skip.

              “The Next Generation” often embedded complex political and philosophical issues in its storytelling, and there are undeniably a few at play in the first three episodes of “Star Trek: Picard.” There’s an undercurrent of fate in how Picard gets drawn back into action, but there’s mostly a timeless one of sci-fi in which a leader’s principles don’t align with his perceived duties. Picard has become a rogue, unwilling to go along with a Starfleet administration that has painted all synthetics with the same brush and essentially deemed him a traitor. This means that “Picard” is now a show about a ragtag group of outsiders working off the grid, something much different than fans may be expecting. Of course, that’s not a bad thing, but the execution is clunkier and more exposition-heavy than it needed to be.

              It feels like the character of Picard worked better in episodic storytelling than in season-long narratives, as even Stewart gets swept away in the plot-heavy first three episodes. He’s still good, but nearly every scene here is about what just happened or what needs to happen next. That’s fine for a narrative that’s going to get wrapped up with a sly Picard smile before the credits roll but becomes a drag over multiple episodes with no sense of closure at all. I ended up hoping for moments that I could linger in like that opening scene with an old friend—something that felt closed rather than just pushing to another scene or even another episode.

              To be blunt, I don’t yet care about what’s happening in the timeline of “Picard,” and most of the goodwill I have toward this show is there because of my memories of “The Next Generation.” “Picard” has yet to step out of that shadow for me after three episodes, and the nostalgic charm has worn off. Now, here’s where a review of a show like this gets tricky—the first trio of episodes almost feel like a prologue to what "Picard" could or should be. So, of course, they’re going to feel more nostalgic. Without spoiling anything, the end of the third episode is like a major starting point for the series to really step into its own, and my hope is that “Picard” can still develop into something great. I’m not giving up on it. I just wish I could more wholeheartedly recommend the build-up and say I wasn’t at all concerned about where this ship is headed.

              Three episodes screened for review.

              Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/demanders/star-trek-picard-pushes-through-nostalgia-in-first-three-episodes
              By: Brian Tallerico
              Posted: January 23, 2020, 1:33 pm

              • Entertainer
                Entertainer published a blog post Color Out of Space


                According to IMDb, the seemingly inexhaustible Nicolas Cage has no fewer than six additional movies in various stages of production that are currently scheduled for release in 2020, ranging from high-profile studio outings to the kind of demented head-scratchers that he somehow manages to sniff out in the manner of a pig finding truffles. And yet, none of these films may be able to top his latest effort, "Color Out of Space," in terms of sheer nuttiness. Considering that the film takes its inspiration from one of the most famous short stories by the legendarily weird H.P. Lovecraft, and was directed and co-written by Richard Stanley (making his first stab at narrative filmmaking since being fired from his remake of “The Island of Dr. Moreau” after only a few days of shooting), there was very little chance that it was every going to be just another run-of-the-mill project. However, the addition of Cage to the already heady cinematic brew definitively puts it over the top, making it the kind of cult movie nirvana that was its apparent destiny from the moment the cameras started rolling.

                The film centers on the Gardner family, who have recently left the hustle and bustle of the city for a more bucolic life in a remote house near a lake in the deep woods of Massachusetts. While father Nathan (Cage) is gung-ho about becoming a farmer and raising alpacas (“the animal of the future”) despite no discernible talent for either, wife Theresa (Joely Richardson) is preoccupied with recovering from a recent mastectomy, eldest son Benny (Brendan Meyer) is off getting stoned most of the time, teen daughter Lavinia (Madeline Arthur) vents her annoyance at the move by dabbling in the black arts with her paperback copy of “The Necronomicon” and young son Jack (Julian Hilliard) more often than not simply gets lost in the shuffle. The Gardners are not crazy or hostile in any way, but it also becomes quickly obvious that their isolation has begun to drive them all a bit batty. 

                That weirdness escalates one night when the sky turns an almost indescribable shade of fuchsia, and a meteorite crashes into their front yard. Although the meteorite itself soon crumbles away, strange things begin happening in its wake. A batch of new and heretofore unseen flowers begin blooming while Nathan’s tomato crop comes in weeks ahead of schedule; the family’s phones, computers, and televisions are constantly being distorted by waves of static that render them all but useless. The Gardners themselves begin exhibiting signs of strange behavior as well: Nathan begins acting daffier than usual, flying off into rages at the drop of the hat; a seemingly dazed Theresa chops off the tops of a couple of her fingers while cutting carrots; Jack is constantly staring and whistling at a well that he claims contains a “friend.” Before long, everything in the area begins mutating in indescribable ways, and while Benny and Lavinia recognize what is happening around them, even they appear to be powerless to escape the grip of whatever is behind everything.

                The stories of H.P. Lovecraft have inspired, directly or otherwise, any number of films over the years but with very few exceptions (chiefly Stuart Gordon’s cult classics “Re-Animator” and “From Beyond”), most of them have not been especially good. In most cases, the problem is that Lovecraft’s stories tended to focus on indescribable horrors and much of the impact for the reader came from taking the vague hints that he did parcel out and then picturing it in their own minds, where their imaginations had no limitations or budgetary restrictions. To successfully adapt one of his works, a filmmaker needs either an unlimited budget to try to bring his horrors fully to life, or the kind of unlimited imagination that allows them to take Lovecraft’s suggestions and go off in their own unusual directions. When these requirements are missing, the results can be fairly dire, as anyone who saw “The Curse,” a dire low-budget 1987 adaptation of Color of Outer Space, can attest.

                In this case, the film works because it is clear that Stanley is not only working on the same wavelength as Lovecraft was when he wrote the original story, but has managed to transform the author’s decidedly purple prose into cinematic terms. Take the titular color, for example. In the original story, it is never properly described to us other than being of a shade never before seen on the typical color spectrum. That sort of non-description description can work on the page but isn’t especially helpful as a guide for someone who has to bring it to life. Stanley proves himself to be up to the challenge, and hits upon a wild color scheme that honors Lovecraft’s intentions by bathing everything in a genuinely otherworldly tinge. Not content to rest there, he builds upon that weirdness with an equally vivid soundscape, including a creepily effective score by Colin Stetson. Stetson's score shifts levels of reality in aural terms and conjure up the kind of terrors that are even harder to shake than the numerous and undeniably eye-popping physical mutations on display.

                Stanley also manages to work the film’s additional otherworldly element—Cage's performance—organically into the material, without losing any of its total strangeness in the process. For fans of oddball cinema, a Cage-Stanley collaboration is the stuff dreams are made of. In that respect, it does not disappoint. Obviously, once things go crazy in the second half, Cage brings out the weirdness full force (even randomly employing the wheeling vocal tic that he used decades earlier in “Vampire’s Kiss”). But what is interesting is that, instead of making Nathan into a completely normal guy who does an immediate 180 as a result of the strange occurrences, he and Stanley instead see him as a guy who is already a bit off right from the start, albeit in endearingly oddball ways. As a result of his work in these early scenes, there is an unexpected degree of poignance that he brings to the proceedings later on even as things go fully gonzo.

                The chief problem with “Color Out of Space” is that, at nearly two full hours, it is a little too much of a good thing at times, with some plot elements—chiefly one involving potentially shady dealings by the town’s mayor (Q’orianka Kilcher)—that could have easily been jettisoned. For the most part, however, the film is the kind of audacious and deliriously messed-up work that fans of Stanley, Cage, and cult cinema have been rooting for ever since the existence of the project became known. Both as an effective cinematic translation of Lovecraft’s particular literary skills, and as a freakout of the first order with sights and sounds that will not be easily forgotten, this is one of those films that I suspect is going to grow in significance and popularity in due time. Hopefully it will serve as just the first of many collaborations between Stanley and Cage, two decidedly kindred artistic spirits.

                Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/color-out-of-space-movie-review-2020
                By: Peter Sobczynski
                Posted: January 23, 2020, 1:34 pm

                • Entertainer
                  Entertainer published a blog post The Wave


                  The Wave” feels like an anachronism. In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, there were waves of movies about obnoxious, well-off white dudes learning a lesson about their false priorities and weak moral centers. “American Beauty” is one of the most notable given its Oscar success, but this was a crowded subgenre that mercifully went the way of the dinosaur. Watching people who arguably weren’t worth a second thought in terms of character suddenly realize they’ve been jerks most of their lives? What else ya got? At least, director Gille Klabin tries to amp up “The Wave” with aggressive visual style, but it’s still a movie that’s rotten at its core because it suffers from the same problem of all those “American Beauty” clones in that it never satisfactorily answers the question “Who cares?”

                  Frank (Justin Long) is an insurance lawyer who’s thrilled that he’s figured out a horrible way to bilk a grieving woman out of the money owed her after her husband’s death. Yeah, he’s a winner. From the beginning, Frank is a tough guy to root for, and, yes, of course, you’re supposed to think Frank is a jerk, but “The Wave” doesn’t lean hard enough into that concept. If he was a true anti-hero, there could be a bit of cathartic thrill in watching what he goes through in this hallucinogenic variation on “A Christmas Carol” but writer Carl W. Lucas isn’t willing to go there. Frank is really a good guy deep down, maaan, and it’s just the circumstance of his profession, his materialistic wife (Sarah Minnich), and his enabling friend Jeff (Donald Faison) that have sent him down the wrong road. The way "The Wave" is constructed, we're supposed to feel sympathy for Frank, and I simply never could. Not once. 

                  After discovering the loophole that could lead to his promotion, Jeff encourages his pal to go celebrate. They end up at a bar, where they meet two women named Natalie (Katia Winter) and Theresa (Sheila Vand), who catches Frank’s eye. When Theresa suggests they go to a house party after the bar, Frank relents, ending up in a back room with a mysterious man named Aeolus (Tommy Flanagan). Drugs are taken, and Frank wakes up in the house the next morning. Everyone is gone. His wallet too. Frank finds his way home, and then things start getting weird. Time jumps and Frank starts to wonder if he’s not still feeling the effects of whatever he took last night. Is any of this really happening? And what does it all mean?

                  A riff on Dickens with a modern Scrooge learning a lesson through the help of hallucinogenic drugs isn’t the worst idea, but “The Wave” suffers from execution problems on every single level. Before the long journey of Frank’s soul, the dialogue is unbearably shallow. Just listening to Frank and Jeff talk dude-bro in his office made me want to take something myself, and then seeing them flirt with people at a bar reminded me why I don’t go to bars anymore. It’s just a deeply unlikable movie mostly because it can’t figure out what it thinks of its protagonist. Justin Long plays Frank as more of a goofy opportunist, which makes the film feel like an awkward physical comedy of errors instead of the philosophical adventure that its writer and director probably thought they were making. And the cast never gels. Vand walks on from a more complex character study, Long thinks this is an “American Pie” sequel, and Faison clearly just doesn’t want to be there at all. “The Wave” is full of scenes that don’t click, probably because the filmmakers were just waiting for the next visual flourish or psychedelic moment to push us to the next harried plot point. It's exhausting. 

                  In the end, “The Wave” isn’t even satisfying as a morality tale. As so many unfocused films do, it comes to a twist ending that simply makes what came before it even more hollow. None of this makes sense. None of this is supposed to make sense. It’s a movie designed to replicate the confusion of its protagonist, but ultimately reflects the confusion of everyone who made it.

                  Original: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-wave-movie-review-2020
                  By: Brian Tallerico
                  Posted: January 17, 2020, 12:53 pm


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