Chappaquiddick review

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” declared then-candidate Donald Trump in the middle of the 2016 Republican primaries. Perhaps he was well acquainted with the chapter in the life of Ted Kennedy, the legendary “lion of the Senate,” chronicled in John Curran’s Chappaquiddick – and how it ultimately failed to move the needle among his constituents. Despite lies, misrepresentations and cover-ups, Kennedy’s involvement in the death of a political aide now serves as little more than a footnote on his Wikipedia page.

Curran, with stone-faced intent and brutal focus, makes the case that such an incident cannot help but illuminate the true character of a man. People may not need to reconcile Kennedy’s deficient response to a tragedy of his own creation with his legacy of championing liberal causes. But Chappaquiddick provides a sobering, non-ideological reminder that if such deeds do not become a part of a public figure’s narrative, then a frightening impunity for elected officials can reign.

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DOWNSIZING

Alexander Payne built a reputation as one of the sharpest wits and most brutal ironists in independent cinema, even to the point where the internet conversation around his last film even encompassed the question of whether he was mean to his characters – as if they were people. For his biggest, most expensive undertaking, he tries on something a little different: sincerity. That sensibility reared its head periodically in The Descendants and Nebraska, but it never reaches the default level the way it does in Downsizing.

His latest script with frequent writing partner Jim Taylor uses the instrument of satire to probe a lingering disaster first identified by 18th century British economist Thomas Malthus: overpopulation. Malthus predicted an increasing decline in society’s standard of living due to the scarcity of resources available on earth. Downsizing begins with two scientists announcing a remedy they believe can cure the problem in a presentation called “Human Scale and Sustainability.” Over the course of 200-300 years, they will transition humans to a vastly shrunken size, reducing their waste by decreasing their size thousands fold.

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Breathe Review

As an innovator in the field of motion capture technology, Andy Serkis might possess a greater understanding of the nuances and capabilities of the human face than anyone working in cinema. The knowledge shows early on in Breathe, Serkis’ directorial debut, as Andrew Garfield’s protagonist Robin Cavendish begins to succumb to paralysis from polio. Serkis shoots his affliction primarily in extreme close-up, a camera length at which Garfield is more than capable at conveying nuance. With just the slightest shift of his glance or the quiver of his lip, Garfield conveys as much as his grandest gestures in other films.

Unsurprisingly, Garfield nails the immediate micro-level specificity necessitated by portraying someone with such a debilitating condition. He’s robbed of so many key acting tools: the scope to take in an entire scene, the ability to react in full, the emphasis in his extremities. Yet within this tightly proscribed frame, Garfield still manages the full expressive capabilities for which has garnered great acclaim. In Breathe, he captures that same moving range from elation to depression.

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Battle of the Sexes Trailer

It’s difficult now to remember a time when people didn’t map political values onto nearly every cultural competition. In the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, everything from the Super Bowl to the Academy Awards inspired memes rehashing such flashpoints as Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote and not visiting Wisconsin. In an era when politics have become pop culture, it seems inevitable that people choose to project their anxieties onto whatever might grant them a moral victory.

Before these cultural issues were common talk, however, certain events served as release valves for social tension and battlegrounds for dueling ideals. Rather than serving as winking recipients of tribal loyalty, the participants openly embraced and championed the causes of a side. In 1972, the burgeoning women’s liberation movement in America began to meet fierce backlash from a patriarchal system unwilling to give up the benefits of privilege to achieve equality. As the Equal Rights Amendment languished, stakeholders on either side of the issue found a reason to cheer on the tennis court for either Billie Jean King or Bobby Riggs.

Their head-to-head matchup was more than just a series of serves and volleys. It was, as the title of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ new film about the duel suggests, a Battle of the Sexes.

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer Review

While watching The Killing of a Sacred Deer, a passage from Stephen King’s Pet Sematary came to mind: “It’s probably wrong to believe there can be any limit to the horror which the human mind can experience. On the contrary, it seems that some exponential effect begins to obtain as deeper and deeper darkness falls — as little as one may like to admit it, human experience tends, in a good many ways, to support the idea that when the nightmare grows black enough, horror spawns horror, one coincidental evil begets other, often more deliberate evils, until finally blackness seems to cover everything. And the most terrifying question of all may be just how much horror the human mind can stand and still maintain a wakeful, staring, unrelenting sanity.”

Yorgos Lanthimos, director of the bleak but funny The Lobster, takes his penchant for the unpleasant to the next level with The Killing of a Sacred Deer. As the film unfolds and grows progressively disturbing, you can’t help but ask yourself, “Why am I watching this?”

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Roman J. Israel, Esq. Review

Writer Dan Gilroy made an exciting directorial debut with 2014’s excellent Nightcrawler, a Los Angeles-based character study with a strong lead performance. Now Gilroy is back with yet another character study set in L/A. Sadly, lightning doesn’t strike twice for Gilroy – his new film, Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a mess.

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the shape of water

Thank the movie gods for Guillermo del Toro. One of our best living filmmakers, del Toro crafts gorgeous, poetic films that combine genres to great effect. No one working today is making movies like the Crimson Peak filmmaker, and with The Shape of Water, del Toro may have made his masterpiece.

The Shape of Water is a poetic love story set during the Cold War, after John F. Kennedy’s Camelot has come to a tragic close. “The end of Camelot [was] the peak of the promise of the future,” del Toro said, “jet-fin cars, super fast kitchens, television, everything that if you’re white, Anglo-Saxon, heterosexual, you’re good. But if you’re anything else, you’re not so good. Then when Kennedy is shot and Vietnam escalates, and the disillusionment of that dream occurs, I don’t think that has healed.”

This is a love story, yes, but it’s about so much more. As is his custom, del Toro builds an entire world, and populates it with memorable, believable characters. The Shape of Water is also a fairy tale, and all good fairy tales need a princess.

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darkest hour review

It’s been a surprisingly big year for Dunkirk. Earlier this year, Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk both told stories about the evacuation of British troops from the beach at Dunkirk during World War II. Now Joe Wright, who also chronicled the events of Dunkirk in Atonement, tells yet another version of this story with Darkest Hour.

Darkest Hour is the behind-the-scenes look at not so much the evacuation itself, but the events leading up the evacuation. The film’s main focus is British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Like Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Darkest Hour isn’t so much a biopic of a famous politician but rather a week-in-the-life type tale. As the film opens, parliament has lost faith in Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) for underestimating the nazi threat.

Chamberlain is forced to resign, and the only man the parties seem to be willing to back is Churchill. But while he may have party support, Churchill will soon find his new position is even more challenging than he could’ve imagined.

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current war tiff

The last thing cinema needs right now is another movie about a brilliant man whose brilliance is expressed through being a stubborn jerk. We already have a wealth of these artist as needlessly mean, antisocial guy portraits, and to keep adding more at this point goes well beyond beating a dead horse.

But Me and Earl and the Dying Girl director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon manages to get some great milage by taking such a setup and approaching it through a deconstructed lense with The Current War. The brilliant jerk in question this time is none other than the Wizard of Menlo Park himself, Thomas Edison. Edison, that brilliant inventor and sometimes thief, is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, an actor who has made almost an entire career playing brilliant jerks. It’s typecasting to the nth degree, but it also works. Cumberbatch brings an amusing, detached air to Edison, playing the genius as an overly competitive, short-tempered savant who wants to slap his name on everything.
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Molly's Game Reviews

The Toronto International Film Festival is in full swing, and one of the movies we were most excited to hear about was the directorial debut of The Social Network and A Few Good Men writer Aaron Sorkin. If the reviews from the festival are any indicator, not only does Sorkin have another fantastic movie to add to his career, but Jessica Chastain can add another acclaimed performance to her résumé.

Molly’s Game follows a former Olympic skier who turned from the sudden end of her athletic career to a thriving business throwing poker games for Hollywood celebrities, business tycoons and plenty of exclusive high rollers. To find out what critics are saying about Aaron Sorkin’s first turn at directing his own script, read out round-up of Molly’s Game reviews below. Read More »