Beautiful Boy

Amazon/Plan B (2018) 120 min. R 

Director: Felix Van Groeningen 

Screenplay: Luke Davies & Felix Van Groeningen based on Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff & Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff

Cinematography: Ruben Impens; Editing: Nico Leunen; Production Design: Ethan Tobman; Art Direction: Patrick M. Sullivan Jr.; Costumes: Emma Potter

Stars: Steve Carell (David Sheff), Timothée Chalamet (Nic Sheff), Maura Tierney (Karen Barbour), Amy Ryan (Vicki Sheff), Kaitlyn Dever (Lauren), Andre Royo (Spencer), Stefanie Scott (Julia), Amy Forsythe (Diane), Jack Dylan Grazer (Nic Scheff at 12), Timothy Hutton (Dr. Brown)

Critical response to it has ranged from lukewarm to rapturous, and there were high hopes built into Beautiful Boy prior to release. It seemed like surefire stuff. The story was timely, given the ongoing controversy concerning the nation’s opioid epidemic, and it was expected to be a major Oscar player during awards season. But despite respectable reviews, it has hit theaters with little fanfare, doing only modest business.

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The Post

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 SpiesThat movie may have seemed a tad musty at the time of release, a Cold War artifact, but little did we know.

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Call Me by Your Name

Sony Pictures Classics (2017) 132 min. R

Director: Luca Guadagnino

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.

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The Revenant

images20th Century Fox (2015) 156 min. R

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

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)

  1. 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.

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Bridge of Spies

bos-posterDreamWorks/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.

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Room

Room (2015) posterA24 Films (2015) 118 min. R

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

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.

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Brooklyn

Brooklyn_1Sheet_Mech_7R1.inddFox Searchlight Pict. (2015) 111 min. PG-13

Director: John Crowley

Screenplay: Nick Hornby; based on novel by Colm Tóibín

Cinematography: Yves Bélanger; Editing: Jake Roberts; Production Design: François Séguin; Set Decoration: Suzanne Cloutier, Jenny Oman & Louise Tremblay; Costumes: Odile Dicks-Mireaux; Score: Michael Brook

Stars: Saoirse Ronan (Eilis Lacey), Emory Cohen (Tony Fiorello), Jim Broadbent (Father Flood), Julie Walters (Mrs. Kehoe), Fiona Glascott (Rose Lacey), Domhnall Gleeson (Jim Farrell), Jane Brennan (Mrs. Lacey), Eileen O’Higgins (Nancy), Eva Birthistle (Georgina), Brid Brennan (Mrs. Kelly), Jessica Paré (Miss Fortini), James DiGiacomo (Frankie)

Despite its title Brooklyn is not a Spike Lee joint but rather a twee little piece of loveliness adapted from Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel of the same name about a wistful Irish immigrant from Enniscorthy, Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), who feels bereft of home and loved ones in 1952 New York until meeting and marrying Tony (Emory Cohen), an Italian-American. Returning home for a time following her sister Rose’s (Fiona Glascott) passing, Eilis’ faded love for all she’s been missing in her homeland is reawakened, threatening to severe the ties she’s established for a new life in America.

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In the Heart of the Sea

ItHotS poster Warner Bros. (2015) 121 min. PG-13

Director: Ron Howard

Screenplay: Charles Leavitt; based on story by Rick Jaffa, Charles Leavitt & Amanda Silver & novel by Nathaniel Philbrick

Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle; Editing: Dan Hanley & Mike Hill

Production Design: Mark Tildesley; Set Decoration: Dominic Capon; Costumes: Julian Day; Score: Roque Baños

Stars: Chris Hemsworth (Owen Chase), Benjamin Walker (George Pollard), Cillian Murphy (Matthew Joy), Brendan Gleeson (old Thomas Nickerson), Ben Whishaw (Herman Melville), Tom Holland (young Thomas Nickerson), Frank Dillane (Owen Coffin), Michelle Fairley (Mrs. Nickerson)

The aged survivor of a maritime disaster, Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) recounts his tale of woe to a young Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw). When a boy (Tom Holland) in 1819 Nantucket he signed aboard the whale ship Essex, under the inexperienced command of George Pollard Jr. (Benjamin Walker). Having been promised the post himself, resentful first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) has little respect for his captain, and the two men clash constantly over discipline and protocol.

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Ricki and the Flash

Ricki and the Flash poster Sony/TriStar (2015) 101 min. PG-13

Director: Jonathan Demme

Screenplay: Diablo Cody

Cinematography: Declan Quinn; Editing: Wyatt Smith

Production Design: Stuart Wurtzel; Set Decoration: George DeTitta Jr.

Costumes: Ann Roth; Score: Mark Wolfson

Stars: Meryl Streep (Ricki Rendazzo), Kevin Kline (Pete), Mamie Gummer (Julie), Rick Springfield (Greg), Audra McDonald (Maureen), Sebastian Stan (Joshua), Nick Westrate (Adam), Ben Platt (Daniel), Charlotte Rae (Oma), Rick Rosas (Buster), Gabriel Ebert (Max), Joe Vitale (Joe)

Ricki and the Flash should have been so much better, perfectly encapsulating as it does many of the recurring themes that director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Diablo Cody have consistently gravitated to over the years. Cody, whose been amusingly open about her freewheeling past as a stripper before reinventing herself as an upstart intellectual and Oscar-winning screenwriter, has always stood out as something of a scandal even amid the less than provincial Hollywood community, the way Clara Bow did in the Roaring Twenties and Marilyn Monroe in the conservative 50s.

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The Sacrament

sacramentMagnolia Pictures (2014) 99 min. R

Director: Ti West

Screenplay: Ti West

Cinematography: Eric Robbins; Editing: Ti West

Production Design: Jade Healy; Set Decoration: Adam Willis

Costumes: Wendy Moynihan; Score: Tyler Bates

Stars: A.J. Bowen (Sam Turner), Joe Swanberg (Jake Williams), Kentucker Audley (Patrick), Amy Seimetz (Caroline), Gene Jones (Father), Kate Lyn Sheil (Sarah White), Talia Dobbins (Savannah), Donna Biscoe (Wendy Johnson), Lashaun Clay (Robert Evans), Dale Neal (Andre Evans), Shirley Jones Byrd (Lorraine Davis), Christian OJore (Pilot)

Personally directed, written and edited by Ti West, The Sacrament is very much an auteur piece and like his earlier, equally unpleasant House of the Devil, West has again returned to an ’80s milieu for inspiration. Despite its contemporary setting, The Sacrament is actually a none too thinly disguised reworking of the 1978 incident at Jonestown, Guyana in which the parishioners of a religious commune known as the People’s Temple committed mass suicide following the assassination of visiting Congressman Leo Ryan and several of his aides seen as outside threats by loyalist sect members.

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