The Current War had its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2017. The reaction from the audience in attendance: considerably mixed, bordering on mostly negative. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon understood where this was coming from: he wasn’t happy with the film, either. The filmmaker had been rushed to finish the film in time for TIFF and delivered a cut he was unhappy with. The urging for the rush job came from the film’s producer: Harvey Weinstein. After the TIFF screening, Weinstein, as was his habit, recut the film himself – a development that only made Gomez-Rejon more miserable.
And then everything came crashing down: numerous sexual misconduct accusations against Weinstein came to light, The Weinstein Company imploded, and The Current War was pulled from its November 2017 release. Now, the film about the battle between Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) is finally being released with a cut approved by Gomez-Rejon – a cut that uses a new score, adds a few new scenes, and presents a much tidier narrative. After all this time, will The Current War spark – or flicker out and go dark?
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Edward Norton’s adaptation of Jonathan Lethem‘s novel took over twenty years to bring to the screen. But while delays like this are traditionally to a film’s detriment, it actually works in favor of Motherless Brooklyn. The distance allowed by this time in development leads to a movie that is likely significantly more mature and thematically rich than what Norton would have made in 1999. Read More »
French maestro Olivier Assayas did not cement his status as a cinephile favorite over the last quarter-century through the mechanics of his film’s plots. Rather, he’s become a festival darling because of the singular sensation left lingering from watching his work. What happens in an Assayas film is never as important as how it happens – the technique, the intellection, the panache.
Assayas must have had his reasons for taking on a project like Wasp Network, a tale of espionage and counterterrorism. Whatever they were, however, do not come through clearly. The film offers few pleasures beyond the crossing of wires in its tale of tangled alliances in post-Cold War Cuba. Assayas becomes so subservient to the sheer volume of events and information he must bring to life that the film completely subsumes any sense of personal style or voice. The producers could have put any workman studio director’s name over the closing credits, and I would not have bat an eyelid.
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Watch out The Addams Family! There’s only one true animated film about a severed hand, and it’s the Netflix film I Lost My Body. Jeremy Clapin’s impressive first feature, this French animated movie is an artsy, macabre, mostly very emotional story told from the point of view of a severed hand with a case of reverse missing limb, who is on an epic quest to reunite with its owner.
Taking a minimalist, nearly lyrical approach to storytelling, Clapin opens his movie with a black-and-white flashback (one of many throughout the film) of a young Moroccan boy, Naoufel (Hakim Faris) whose father is teaching him how to capture a fly with his bare hands. Then we cut forward to a fridge in a small room, out of which comes a severed hand. After freeing itself from a plastic packaging and jumping out a window, it begins an arduous and frenetic journey through Paris. It’s a series of misadventures as the film flashes back and forth between the hand’s travels and Naoufel’s youth and moments leading to him being separated from his hand.
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If you’re going to open your film with a sequence straight out of the Bible, you had better not come to play. That’s the gambit Uruguayan director Federico Veiroj lays out at the beginning of The Moneychanger as the film’s titular financier, Daniel Hendler’s Humberto Brause, connects himself to the very profession that Jesus singled out for criticism at the temple. Connecting his story to such weighty history sets up a story with big stakes, and yet those are largely absent in the film.
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Science fiction elucidates, though it rarely does so with such precision. Minh Quý Truong’s Nhà Cây (The Treehouse) began as a documentary on indigenous tribes, but it morphed toward abstraction during its lengthy edit. What Truong wanted to say with his film — about the ways in which we remember, and about the ethics and brutality of the moving image — could not be contained within the literal, or within the traditionally cinematic. So, he chose a new narrative framework: human colonies on Mars in the year 2045.
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Kevin Smith burst onto the filmmaking scene in 1994 with the Sundance-selected indie comedy Clerks. No one knew that this film was just the beginning of what would become the View Askewniverse, an interconnected universe where nearly all of Kevin Smith’s movies (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) would exist, allowing for the kind of references and characters crossovers that are now a staple of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It’s been over a decade since Kevin Smith got to play in his cinematic world, both as a filmmaker and as the second half of the stoner duo known as Jay and Silent Bob. But now he’s returned, both in front of the camera and behind it, with Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. The Kevin Smith many people fell in love with in high school has mostly returned to form with this latest installment of the View Askewniverse. The movie is a satisfying, nostalgic sequel/reboot that delivers more heart than you might expect (and maybe more than it needs), but it can be a bit clumsy in its execution and there are many jokes that fall flat. Most importantly though, it’s the kind of movie Jay and Silent Bob fans were hoping for. Read More »
Zombieland: Double Tap, like its 2009 predecessor, is a triumph of casting and style over substance. As the original was, Double Tap has the slick sheen of the highest-end marketing campaign, looking polished and buffed even as it depicts the blood-soaked world in which a zombie apocalypse has taken over and a few human stragglers fight their way towards survival. Double Tap manages to succeed even mildly thanks largely to its core cast members, who charm their way through a script that sometimes smacks of being written on the day of shooting.
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To this day, Maleficent remains one of the outliers of the Disney live-action adaptation machine: a visually dazzling revisionist take on Sleeping Beauty that succeeded in being more than just a nostalgic grab bag of recreations of beloved animated moments. All of it was boosted by the strength of Angelina Jolie‘s bewitching turn as the titular Disney villain and a potent, if somewhat clumsily told, sexual assault metaphor. But after the 2014 film finished its retelling of Sleeping Beauty, what else could there be to tell? In Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, fairy genocide and dastardly politicking, apparently.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is an ambitious sequel that expands the world and once again pushes a socially relevant allegory to the forefront. It’s full of spectacular action sequences and awe-inspiring world building that is designed like a mix of Avatar meets The Dark Crystal. But this lofty sequel sacrifices all the storybook whimsy in favor of political intrigue and dark plots that are far too complicated to be wrapped up by a typical Disney happy ending, and end up landing with a thud.
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The 57th annual New York Film Festival started off strong, with Martin Scorsese’s interrogation of time in his mob masterpiece The Irishman. So it is perhaps rather fitting that the whirlwind two weeks of prestige films will end with a movie displaced out of time. Edward Norton’s noir passion project Motherless Brooklyn was a somewhat baffling capper to this year’s New York Film Festival, which was filled with its share of hits and misses. One of those misses is the impenetrable Lou Ye black-and-white romance drama Saturday Fiction. But a few of the gems were unmissable, including Agnes Varda’s final film Varda by Agnes.
Dive into our New York Film Festival 2019 Week 2 recap.
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