Smartly prioritizing the bond of relationships over action in the way of the modern franchise series—doing so more organically than the Fast and the Furious series but missing the self-aware comedic patter of the Avengers films—The Old Guard is in the end only somewhat convincing on both counts…
In the 1990s, the Castro regime sent several operatives to infiltrate the Cuban-American emigre community in Miami. Olivier Assayas’ Wasp Network is a fictionalization of that somewhat forgotten sidenote of the post-Cold War years.
Based on Fernando Morais’s 2011 book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, the film starts out as a crisply paced, lavishly photographed, and character-based study of what the members of the so-called “Cuban Five” spy ring did and how they did it. Unfortunately, it spreads its attentions so wide and at times without consequence that the import of the events it depicts starts to get lost…
Based on Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses, about the decades Sheeran spent as a Zelig-like mob enforcer and assassin,The Irishman is one of the more curious and hard-to-pigeonhole gangster movies that Scorsese has ever done. Pulling back from the music-strobed buzziness of Goodfellas and Casino, and worlds away from the Nouvelle Vague/Cassavetes jitters of Mean Streets, it’s a cool, elegiac, and somewhat detached epic whose three and a half hours float by with a disconcerting calmness…
The Great Hack is a new documentary about how Cambridge Analytica worked with private user data happily served up by Facebook in order to minutely target propaganda that helped win the 2016 election for Donald Trump.
It’s a sign of how quickly it feels like the world is being torn apart around us that even a ripped-from-the-headlines documentary, such as Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim’s “The Great Hack,” can feel almost dated…
Taking a break from true-crime documentaries (the Paradise Lost trilogy, among others), Joe Berlinger directed a narrative adaptation of Elizabeth Kendell’s book The Phantom Prince, about her relationship with the serial killer Ted Bundy.
My review of Berlinger’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, running now on Netflix, was published at Eyes Wide Open:
Of all the serial killers who entered the lexicon of American culture over the past half-century, Ted Bundy, who confessed to over two-dozen murders committed in the 1970s and was executed in 1989, remains something of a standout. The likes of the Zodiac Killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, or Dennis Rader (aka the BTK) have shocked for many reasons, most particularly their depravity and ability to elude capture. Bundy, or at least the legend of him, followed a different trajectory…
Fyre was supposed to be the great music festival of 2017. Instead it turned into a social media schadenfreude disaster. Now Chris Smith (of American Movie fame) made a documentary out of it. Sometimes we get lucky that way.
Fyre opens in limited release and will be available on Netflix this Friday.
The video ads for the Fyre Festival looked amazing when they first rippled through the Instagram feeds of influencer models like Bela Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski in late 2016. For a certain kind of status-seeker, marooned somewhere cold and just waiting for the next warm-climate EDM gathering, the marketing for the music festival promised a bro heaven populated only by models…
Needing to avoid psychotic zombies isn’t the only danger faced by the harried survivors of an unspecified pandemic at the start of director Susanne Bier’s adaptation of Josh Malerman’s novel Bird Box. The hard-as-nails Malorie (Sandra Bullock) and her two five-year-old wards must also manage navigating a postapocalyptic wilderness while wearing blindfolds. Oh, and they’re in a boat on a fast-running mountain river with rapids approaching. Also, they’re threatened by invisible monsters who can only be spotted when nearby birds start chirping and who cause instant suicidal tendencies in those who look their way. Things aren’t looking good for the trio…
The new documentary The American Meme isn’t really about memes, it’s about people who either make their living on social media or just spend far too much time there (Paris Hilton, DJ Khaled, etc.). It’s available on Netflix this Friday.
[Marcus] mixes big sprays of social media content, from jabbing comedy videos to jealousy-inducing lifestyle-porn stills, with influencer interviews. The results cover the gamut from self-congratulatory spin (the social media-drenched DJ Khaled, who seems hell-bent on turning his existence into a bling-encrusted Truman Show) to self-immolating destructive toxicity (onetime photographer turned misogynistic party-dude troll Kirill Bichutsky, aka @slutwhisperer). It’s a glitzed-up ugly slew of fetishized consumerism and champagne-splashed Girls Gone Wildness, all captured in the hope that somebody out there will drop their thumb over the Like button before wandering deeper into the wilds of the Internet…
In Jeremy Saulnier’s bleak and bloody adaptation of William Giraldi’s bleak and bloody novel, a naturalist investigates the apparent killing of children by wolves in Alaska, only to encounter some far more dangerous creatures.
Jeffrey Wright never shows up to deliver good news. It would be nice if someday soon he gets to show up in a Judd Apatow movie. Suffice it to say that when Wright appears at a woman’s doorstep in Jeremy Saulnier’s gruesomely bleak Hold the Dark, it’s not to deliver a check from Publishers Clearing House…
In the second season of Netflix’s Missouri noir Ozark, the Byrd family finds themselves being mired ever deeper in a cycle of moral compromise.
My review is at The Playlist:
Like almost every other show on Netflix, “Ozark” follows the “If Only BBC” rule. (Meaning things would have been a lot snappier if they’d lopped off two, three, even four episodes. Unless we’re talking about the new seasons of “Arrested Development,” in which case full cancellation is the only answer.) The first season started off with a hell of a setup. Early episodes were packed with grit and speed like some godsend of modern noir. Season 1 soon lost its way, not sure just how Southern Midwest gothic it wanted to go. That same schizoid attitude, a little from here and a little from there, prevails in Season 2…
Those who track the ever-evolving ecosystem of Marvel series on Netflix have been generally pleased with the current season of Luke Cage, following the further exploits of the superhuman-strong fugitive just trying to build a quiet life in Harlem.
The new sci-fi movie from Duncan Jones (Source Code, Moon) is called Mute and it premieres on Netflix today. My review is at Film Journal International:
What might happen if M*A*S*H’s Trapper John and Hawkeye Pierce jumped about a century ahead in time, went AWOL and worked as black-market sawbones for gangsters in a post-EU Berlin? If you ever wondered about the answer to that question, then Duncan Jones’ Mute is the movie for you. If not, then your best bet would be to stay far away, as in Korea and Germany far away…
Richard K. Morgan’s cyberpunk noir novels posited a future world where death is mostly a thing of the past. Everyone’s mind can be downloaded into a surgically implanted “stack” which at the point of death can then be “resleeved” into a new body of whatever gender or race one prefers. It’s a fascinating concept that Morgan mined for a hardboiled capitalist critique but is worked out for mostly action-junkie hijinks in the derivative 10-part streaming adaptation of Altered Carbon, the first novel in the series.
Launching Friday on Netflix is Errol Morris’s immersive new six-part series Wormwood, which mixes hardboiled investigative documentary filmmaking with David Lynchian recreations. A four-hour theatrical edit is also playing in limited release.
When Eric Olson was still just a child in 1953, his father Frank died while away on business. The official explanation was that Frank fell or possibly jumped out of a hotel room. “At that moment,” Eric says in Errol Morris’ epic new investigation of the mysteries surrounding Frank’s death, “the world stopped making sense entirely.” That burning ember of uncertainty stayed with Eric the rest of his life…
A curious thing happened today at the awards meeting of New York Film Critics Online: We couldn’t agree on a best picture of the year. So we went with a tie (and they’re both great movies, so it’s really no issue): The Florida Project and Mudbound. Here’s the full list of awards:
Picture The Florida Project (A24) and Mudbound (Netflix) (tie)
Dee Rees, Mudbound
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Ensemble Cast Mudbound (Netflix)
Documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (Zeitgeist)
Foreign Language In the Fade (Magnolia)
Animated Coco (Disney/Pixar)
Dan Laustsen, The Shape of Water
Use of Music
Steven Price (music by) and Kristen Lane (music supervisor), Baby Driver
Top 10 Films Call Me by Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics) Dunkirk (Warner Bros.) The Florida Project (A24) Get Out (Universal) I, Tonya (Neon) Lady Bird (A24) Mudbound (Netflix) Phantom Thread (Focus) The Post (Fox) The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight)