Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor; Cinematography: Dan Laustsen; Editing: Sidney Wolinsky; Production Design: Paul D. Austerberry; Set Decoration: Jeffrey A. Melvin & Shane Vineau; Costumes: Luis Sequeira; Score: Alexandre Desplat
Stars: Sally Hawkins (Elisa Esposito), Michael Shannon (Richard Strickland), Richard Jenkins (Giles), Octavia Spencer (Zelda),Michael Stuhlbarg (Dr. Robert Hoffstetler),Doug Jones (Amphibian Man), David Hewlett (Fleming), Nick Searcy (General Hoyt), Stewart Arnott (Bernard), Nigel Bennett (Mihalkov), Lauren Lee Smith (Elaine Strickland), Martin Roach (Brewster), John Kapelos (Mr. Arzoumanian), Morgan Kelly (Pie Guy), Marvin Kaye (Burly Russian), Brandon McKnight (Duane)
The Shape of Water is indispensable in furthering understanding of director Guillermo del Toro‘s sprawling, shared multiverse of fantasy films. It’s a fulfillment of his artistic aspirations, clarification of the obsessive themes and surreal subject matter dispersed throughout his cinematic diaspora. Moreover, the movie is a genuinely sincere and loving homage to the sort of flicks the director himself adored as a kid and which wielded the strongest impact on him as an artist, inspiring him to eventually immigrate to America’s moviemaking mecca.
20th Ct. Fox/DreamWorks/Amblin (2017) 116 min. PG-13
Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: Liz Hannah & Josh Singer; Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski; Editing: Sarah Broshar & Michael Kahn; Production Design: Rick Carter; Art Decoration: Kim Jennings & Deborah Jensen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo; Costumes: Ann Roth; Score: John Williams
Stars: Meryl Streep (Katharine Graham), Tom Hanks (Ben Bradlee), Sarah Paulson (Tony Bradlee), Bob Odenkirk (Ben Bagdikian), Tracy Letts (Fritz Beebe), Bradley Whitford (Arthur Parsons), Bruce Greenwood (Robert McNamara), Matthew Rhys (Daniel Ellsberg), Carrie Coon (Meg Greenfield), Jesse Plemons (Roger Clark), Jessie Mueller (Judith Martin), Michael Stuhlbarg (Abe Rosenthal)
Some movies are so timely they seem to have their finger on the political pulse of the republic. Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool was like that back in the ‘60s, The Conversation in the ‘70s, Wag the Dog in the ‘90s. But I’m surprised to be discussing Steven Spielberg, who has become one of the screen’s most reserved classicists of late, in the same breath with these other films.Irradiated by some Industrial Light & Magic effect, he seems to have hologrammed into the prescient screen prophet of our times, a clear-sighted Nostradamus, predicting Russiagate several years before the fact with his Bridge of Spies. That movie may have seemed a tad musty at the time of release, a Cold War artifact, but little did we know.
Screenplay: James Ivory; Based on the novel by André Aciman
Cinematography: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom; Editing: Walter Fasano
Production Design: Samuel Deshors; Art Direction: Roberta Federico; Set Decoration: Muriel Chinal, Sandro Piccarozzi & Violante Visconti di Modrone; Costumes: Giulia Piersanti
Stars: Timothée Chalamet (Elio Perlman), Armie Hammer (Oliver), Michael Stuhlbarg (Samuel Perlman), Amira Casar (Annella Perlman), Esther Garrel (Marzia), Victoire Du Bois (Chiara), Vanda Capriolo (Mafalda), Antonio Rimoldi (Anchise), André Aciman (Mounir), Peter Spears (Isaac)
Summer of love films set in sunny, foreign locales have been a hallmark of coming-of-age cinema for so long, at least as far back as movies like Three Coins in the Fountain, Roman Holiday, Summertime, Holiday for Lovers, and relatively more recent titles like A Little Romance, Enchanted April, Stealing Beauty, Under the Tuscan Sun, A Good Year, Mamma Mia! and Eat, Pray, Love, they’ve become somewhat passé. So much so that these stick a pin in the map movies now feel like displaced, modern descendants of E.M. Forster and Henry James. Americans abroad entries of more integrity, like The Talented Mr. Ripley, had to twist variations out of the theme in order to pull off the same premise.
Screenplay: Gary Dauberman, Cary Fukunaga & Chase Palmer; Based on the novel by Stephen King
Cinematography: Chung-hoon Chung; Editing: Jason Ballantine; Production Design: Claude Paré; Set Decoration: Rosalie Board; Costumes: Janie Bryant; Score: Benjamin Wallfisch
Stars: Jaeden Lieberher (Bill Denbrough), Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben Hanscom), Sophia Lillia (Beverly Marsh), Finn Wolfhard (Richie Tozier), Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie Kaspbrak), Wyatt Oleff (Stanley Uris), Chosen Jacobs (Mike Hanlon), Bill Skarsgård (Pennywise), Nicholas Hamilton (Henry Bowers), Jackson Robert Scott (Georgie Denbrough)
Consisting largely of extended flashbacks to the Eisenhower era, Stephen King’s novel IT was such a colorfully jumbled calliope of atomic age sci-fi (It! The Terror from Beyond Space, It Came from Outer Space, It Came from Beneath the Sea, It Conquered the World), and ‘50s creature features (like Them!, Tarantula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon), there’s poetic justice in the author’s hair-raising tale having wormed its way back into the sort of summer movie popcorn fare that originally inspired it, courtesy of director Andrés Muschietti’s big screen adaptation.
Screenplay: Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson & Fran Walsh based on King Kong by Merian C. Cooper & Edgar Wallace
Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie; Editing: Jamie Selkirk; Production Design: Grant Major; Set Decoration: Simon Bright & Dan Hennah; Costumes: Terry Ryan; Score: James Newton Howard
Stars: Naomi Watts (Ann Darrow), Jack Black (Carl Denham), Adrien Brody (Jack Driscoll), Andy Serkis (Kong/Lumpy), Kyle Chandler (Bruce Baxter), Jamie Bell (Jimmy), Evan Parke (Ben Hayes), Colin Hanks (Preston), Thomas Kretschmann (Cpt. Englehorn), John Sumner (Herb), Lobo Chan (Choy), Craig Hall (Mike), William Johnson (Manny)
When reigning Best Actress Brie Larson began absenting herself from the award show circuit last season, I was aghast to learn it was due to her prior commitment to Skull Island, the latest contribution to standing King Kong lore. Like most movie monsters Kong just doesn’t want to stay dead, so considering that Peter Jackson’s prior 2005 adaptation just passed its 10th anniversary, the time has come to revisit a modern classic.
Screenplay: Mark L. Smith & Alejandro G. Iñárritu; based in part on novel by Michael Punke
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki; Editing: Stephen Mirrione
Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Caitlin Jane Parsons & Hamish Purdy; Costumes: Jacqueline West; Score: Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio (Hugh Glass), Tom Hardy (John Fitzgerald), Domhnall Gleeson (Cpt. Andrew Henry), Will Poullter (Jim Bridger), Duane Howard (Elk Dog), Forrest Goodluck (Hawk, Glass’ son), Arthur Redcloud (Hikuc), Melaw Nakehk’o (Powaqa), Kristoffer Joner (Murphy), Paul Anderson (Anderson), Lukas Haas (Jones)
rev·e·nant (noun) a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead. A revenant is a visible ghost or animated corpse that was believed to return from the grave to terrorize the living. The word “revenant” is derived from the Latin word, reveniens, “returning” (see also the related French verb “revenir”, meaning “to come back”).
Based on the novel by Michael Punke, director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant is the (relatively) true story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a frontiersman in 19th ct. America who was mauled by a grizzly bear, and left for dead by companions John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Jim Bridger (Will Poullter) after they prematurely buried him alive.
Cinematography: Jarin Blaschke; Editing: Louise Ford
Production Design: Craig Lathrop; Set Decoration: Mary Kirkland
Costumes: Linda Muir; Score: Mark Korven
Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy (Thomasin), Ralph Ineson (William), Kate Dickie (Katherine), Harvey Scrimshaw (Caleb), Ellie Grainger (Mercy), Lucas Dawson (Jonas), Bathsheba Garnett (The Witch), Sarah Stephens (Young Witch), Julian Richings (Governor), Wahab Chaudhry (Voice of Black Phillip)
A true sleeper creeper, promos state The Witch is like watching something we shouldn’t be seeing, but see it for goodness sake! Having kept a low profile, the appeal of this movie should spread by word of mouth, the same way witch hunting hysteria did back in the day. One of the few horror films of recent vintage to genuinely unnerve viewers had to reach all the way back to the foundations of the country to find its scares.
DreamWorks/20th Ct. Fox/Participant (2015) 142 min. PG-13
Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: Matt Charman, Joel & Ethan Coen; Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski; Editing: Michael Kahn; Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo & Bernhard Henrich; Costumes: Kasia Walicka-Maimone; Score: Thomas Newman
Stars: Tom Hanks (James B. Donovan), Mark Rylance (Rudolf Abel), Amy Ryan (Mary Donovan), Sebastian Koch (Wolfgang Vogel), Alan Alda (Thomas Watters), Austin Stowell (Francis Gary Powers), Scott Shepherd (Hoffman), Dakin Matthews (Judge Byers), Billy Magnussen (Doug Forrester), Will Rogers (Frederic Pryor), Mikhail Gorevoy (Ivan Schischkin), Jesse Plemons (Joe Murphy)
At the height of the Cold War, insurance lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is assigned the case of Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a Soviet spy apprehended in the act of espionage. Though he’s pressured not to put together much of a defense, Donovan believes not to do so would be unethical. Arguing for imprisonment rather than execution, he convinces the feds Abel could be used as a bargaining chip with the USSR at some point in the future. Not long after, U-2 spy Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is shot down and another American, college student Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers) apprehended on the East German side of the Berlin Wall. Asked by his country to intercede on America’s behalf, Donovan attempts to negotiate an exchange of prisoners.
Cinematography: Dan Laustsen; Editing: Bernat Vilaplana
Production Design: Thomas E. Sanders; Set Decoration: Jeffrey A. Melvin & Shane Vieau; Costumes: Kate Hawley; Score: Fernando Velázquez
Stars: Mia Wasikowska (Edith Cushing), Tom Hiddleston (Sir Thomas Sharpe), Jessica Chastain (Lady Lucille Sharpe), Charlie Hunnam (Dr. Alan McMichael), Jim Beaver (Carter Cushing), Burn Gorman (Mr. Holly), Javier Botet (Ghosts of Pamela, Enola & Margaret), Doug Jones (Ghosts of Edith’s Mother, The Dowager Lady Sharpe)
Well-cast, sumptuous reimagining of the classic ghost story, Crimson Peak is classy entertainment, so we can forgive it the many delirious, unapologetic excesses into Gothic melodrama. There’s something decidedly refreshing about a film that accepts itself for what it is, as this one does, rather than striving to convince us it’s anything grander than that. Embracing the conventions of the genre wholeheartedly, the director Guillermo del Toro revels in his own richly absurd, deliciously overripe camp scares. He has no qualms about crafting a movie that’s a throwback to the most Victorian of haunted house humbugs.
Screenplay: Emma Donoghue, based on her novel Room
Cinematography: Danny Cohen; Editing: Nathan Nugent
Production Design: Ethan Tobman; Set Decoration: Mary Kirkland; Costumes: Lea Carlson; Score: Stephen Rennicks
Stars: Brie Larson (Joy Newsome), Jacob Tremblay (Jack Newsome), Sean Bridgers (Old Nick), Joan Allen (Nancy Newsome), Tom McCamus (Leo), William H. Macy (Robert Newsome), Amanda Brugel (Officer Parker), Cas Anvar (Dr. Mittal), Wendy Crewson (Talk Show Hostess), Joe Pingue (Officer Grabowski)
I’m nothing short of ecstatic about Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, the story of a kidnapped woman, Joy Newsome (Brie Larson), who escapes the garden shed where she’s been held prisoner for seven years, along with her born in captivity son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), exposing him to the outside world for the first time. Though the movie, adapted by Emma Donoghue from her novel is fictionalized, she was inspired by so many similar cases that have come to light recently, it bears the ring of authenticity.