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James Berardinelli review - ***1/2 out of **** James Berardinelli review - ** out of **** James Berardinelli review - *1/2 out of **** James Berardinelli review - ***1/2 out of **** James Berardinelli review - **1/2 out of **** James Berardinelli review - * out of **** James Berardinelli review - *** out of **** James Berardinelli review - ** out of **** James Berardinelli review - *1/2 out of **** James Berardinelli review - ** out of **** View all posts >


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[quote]As good as it is, October Sky proved to be a hard sell for Universal Pictures. It's one of those movies that doesn't lend itself to making a good trailer. With its lack of car chases, fist fights, and over-the-top melodrama, the film has to rely on solid acting, an intelligent script, and capable directing (by Joe Johnston), and those things don't come across in a 2-minute compilation of quick clips. October Sky deserves the chance to be seen and will not disappoint those who take it. [/quote] [quote]When it comes to courtroom dramas and Sorkin, one might connect The Trial of the Chicago 7 with 1992’s A Few Good Men. The films are much different in intent, however, with the former being a drama while the latter contains significant thriller elements. The screenplay is probably closer to Charlie Wilson’s War and Molly’s Game in approach (if not specifics). (Sorkin also directed Molly’s Game – his directorial debut – so a degree of synergy might be expected.) Although The Trial of the Chicago 7 has a serious message, it finds room for moments of (dark) comedy and (gallows) humor. The tone is never jokey but certain elements, like Judge Hoffman’s assertions that he isn’t related to one of the defendants, verge on the absurd. While some aspects of the story have been manicured, that one has been established as part of the written historical record. It’s one of the details that makes the movie both important in what it’s saying about freedom and democracy and enjoyable in its presentation of those themes.[/quote] For a movie you've never heard of, it sure had been referenced and spoofed in countless movies, TV shows, and video games: [url]https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106308/movieconnections/?tab=mc&ref_=tt_trv_cnn[/url] [quote]The Forty-Year-Old Version provides a megaphone for a new voice in cinema. When the film debuted at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, it earned Blank the Directing Award. Its availability on Netflix guarantees wide access and should provide a larger audience than she would have gotten had the movie gone the more traditional indie route of art house-to-VOD. Now it’s a question of whether this was a one-off or the beginning of a new chapter in Blank’s varied and versatile career.[/quote] [quote]Sadly, when the car turns off the highway onto a road to nowhere, the movie goes there as well. Or maybe a quote from earlier in the film about “fake, crappy movie ideas” is a better indication of the central problem. To the extent that Kaufman has something to say about memory, identity, and the ephemeral nature of existence, it doesn’t come across particularly well during the denouement, which seems more like an exercise in cinematic masturbation than storytelling. Needless to say, there’s no clear ending. I appreciate movies that make me think but get annoyed if they seem to exist largely to frustrate while stealing my time. Although there’s a desire to give the benefit of the doubt to any filmmaker who was once involved in the creation of screen treasures, there comes a time when one must ruefully give up the hope that the future will be reflective of the past. Freed from the constraints of his collaborators, Kaufman has ventured down a dark rabbit hole and I’m Thinking of Ending Things takes him deeper rather than bringing him back to a place where he can see the light.[/quote] [quote]Although Tenet doesn’t represent Nolan at his best (for me, that would be Memento, Interstellar, or The Dark Knight), it’s among the director’s most ambitious efforts and is a match for his most narratively complicated screenplays. Whether or not it’s the best way to re-open theaters after a nearly six-month hiatus remains to be seen. (Has too much pressure been placed on its shoulders?) However, under ordinary circumstances, it would have been among a select group of “must see” releases during the summer of 2020. As things have turned out, it may be the only one.[/quote] [quote]Perhaps the most surprising performance in Tenet comes from Branagh. Often lauded more for his directorial acumen than his on-screen work, Branagh is usually called upon to play either a supporting player or a tragic (but heroic) figure. Branagh isn’t known for his villainous attributes (although he’s no stranger to wearing the black hat) but the level of malice he exudes as Sator is chilling; the thing that makes him more frightening than cartoonish is the level of loathing and sadism that defines his character. He’s more of a sociopathic misanthrope than a megalomaniac. Tenet contains a number of top-notch action sequences, any of which could rival the centerpiece moments from a Bond or Mission: Impossible film. The two most impressive involve a runaway jet airliner and a heist facilitated by a convoy of large vehicles. Late in the proceedings, a convoluted conflict involves a strike team that is manipulating time (while their digital clock counts up from zero). A lot of directors understand how to mix a testosterone-and-adrenaline cocktail, but Nolan adds a third ingredient, intelligence, to his recipe. Considering the unusual circumstances surrounding its release, questions abound about whether Tenet is a must-see big screen experience or whether it can work in more modest setting (like a living room). To be sure, the spectacle elements demand the biggest screen possible to undergo the full sensory experience. The story, however, has been crafted with sufficient care that it will take center-stage when the action has been downsized. Tenet on home video may work in an entirely different fashion than Tenet in a theater. The time-related aspects may be easier to assemble.[/quote] [quote]The best thing about new interpretations of classic novels where directors take extreme liberties with the source material is that they develop a sense of unpredictability. The flip side is, of course, that straying too far from the official text can disappoint devotees if particular secondary stories are left out. It’s impossible for a long novel to be rigorously and faithfully adapted into a two-hour movie. Filmmakers who try that approach often end up with a mess. By taking a different road, Iannucci has provided something that captures the essence of David Copperfield without being constrained by every detail.[/quote] [quote]While Disney’s decision to change gears and release the film a year earlier than planned and on Disney+ (instead of theatrically) will not only provide a boon to the subscription channel’s base but makes this version of the play available to a wide audience, including potentially millions who wouldn’t see the live show. Director Thomas Kail, who supervised both the stage production and the filmed composite, has aptly selected which shots and angles to include. The end result provides nearly three hours of superior entertainment both for those who consider themselves Hamilton devotees and those without previous viewing experience. It’s no surprise that this is one of the best films of the year (and would have retained that distinction in any year it was released, not just this one).[/quote] [quote]The performances, which need to be considered more for their theatrical qualities than their motion picture impact (the two styles of acting, although similar in many ways, exist separately), are exemplary. And, as is always true of musicals, it’s as much about singing and choreography as emoting and reciting dialogue (indeed, there aren’t many spoken lines in Hamilton). When portrayals are comedic or overly broad (Jefferson and King George, for example), that’s intentional. Miranda in particular deserves the Tony nomination. (Some who have seen both the Miranda and post-Miranda versions of the play have indicated that there is a notable drop-off.) Hamilton’s popularity is richly deserved. The songs are catchy and the variety of musical forms not only shows Miranda’s versatility but gives everyone in the audience something to latch onto. Plus, although the book/screenplay occasionally fudges history, it provides a mostly accurate overview of many of the events of the late 18th century as the new country struggled to find its footing, proving that King George was right in pondering how the former colonies would do now that they were required to govern themselves. The movie’s length (160 minutes with only a 60-second intermission) proves not to be a factor; at no point does Hamilton start to drag or wear out its welcome. Much has been written about Miranda’s decision to cast black and brown actors in roles that would ordinarily be reserved for white men. He explained it this way: “Our cast looks like America looks now, and that's certainly intentional…It's a way of pulling you into the story and allowing you to leave whatever cultural baggage you have about the founding fathers at the door.” The color-blind casting (which has found critics on both the far right and far left) is more evident in the movie than on the stage but any surprise at seeing a non-Caucasian George Washington is quickly dispelled by the quality of the performance.[/quote] View all replies >