Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Review: Tully (2018)

* * * 1/2

Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Charlize Theron

Although they've had success separately, it feels safe to say at this point that director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody function best as a team. 2007's Juno remains their big hit, both commercially and in terms of awards, while 2011's Young Adult remains one of the most criminally under-seen and under-appreciated movies of the last decade. Their latest film, Tully, is neither the heart-warming crowd pleaser that Juno was, nor does it possess the same acidic, take-no-prisoners attitude of Young Adult, but it's a sharply written and wholly compassionate film about a woman who is drowning in the responsibilities and expectations of motherhood. That woman is played by Charlize Theron, an actress who has no fear of leaning into a character's worst qualities without trying to soften them, which is exactly what the role demands. The performance is tremendous and the film itself rises to meet it.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

* * *

Director: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Starring: Almost everyone

The success of Avengers: Infinity War - both creatively and financially - is a testament to the patience of Marvel Studios and Disney and the vision of the people behind it, particularly producer Kevin Feige, who has spent a decade bringing it together piece by piece. While seemingly every other movie studio has rushed to have (rather than build) shared universes that could double as money printers, Marvel has shown that there's no substitute for doing it one good movie at a time. Infinity War is the culmination of a decade of careful planning and 18 movies that have, save for a lesser entry here and there, mostly run the gamut from good to great. Since the film has already made over $500 million domestically and over $1 billion worldwide, I'm going to assume that spoilers don't matter in the discussion below. Consider yourself warned.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review: I Feel Pretty (2018)

* * *

Director: Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein
Starring: Amy Schumer

Michelle Williams is a goddamn genius. If AMPAS gave her an Oscar for her performance in I Feel Pretty (it would never happen, that's beside the point) I would be like, "Yep, absolutely." Her character work and total investment in that character make her the absolute highlight of a film that I suspect will be judged and denounced by significantly more people than actually bother to see it. I Feel Pretty is already one of the most divisive films of the year, with critics either really liking it or really hating it and think pieces about it popping up all over entertainment sites. I'm not going to suggest that I Feel Pretty doesn't have problems, but I do think that it's a lot less problematic than all the words that have been devoted to analyzing it would suggest.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Review: You Were Never Really Here (2018)

* * * *

Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix

If you have any doubt that Joaquin Phoenix is one of the greatest actors of his generation, it should be put to rest by You Were Never Really Here, Lynne Ramsay's lean and brutal adaptation of the novel of the same name by Jonathan Ames. He is at once savage and fragile here, his character broken and haunted and willing to perform incredible acts of violence. He finds no catharsis in these acts and neither does the film, which offers the least glamorized depiction of violence in recent memory, replacing the stylized trappings that can make violence on film seem like something celebratory and replacing them with a sense of disorientation. Running at a breathless 90 minutes and never pausing to let you find your footing, forcing you to just let yourself be pulled into its narrative riptide, You Were Never Really Here is one of the most stunning viewing experiences of the year.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review: Isle of Dogs (2018)


* * 1/2

Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, and the Wes Anderson players

I like to think that the title of Wes Anderson's latest film, though it refers literally to the location of much of the film's action, is its first joke. Traditionally, dogs do not fare well in Anderson's films. When they die, their deaths tend to be brutally violent (see The Royal Tenenbaums, see Moonrise Kingdom). When you say this film's title aloud, it sounds like "I love dogs," as in "despite killing fictional pets every chance I get, I'm not a dog hating monster;" and when you watch the film, it starts to feel like it's playing with you a little bit, using your knowledge of the fates of dogs in previous films to tease you at various points with the possibility that some of the canine characters have met with terrible fates, only to reveal it was a fakeout. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but maybe Anderson is having a bit of fun with his audience, making his meta-humor just as offbeat as his regular humor. However, playful as it might be, Isle of Dogs is actually pretty serious stuff and makes for Anderson's most overtly political (for better or worse) film to date.