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.
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: 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 O’Jore (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.