Screening Room: ‘Hostiles’

The latest movie from Scott Cooper (Black Mass) is a pitch-black, viciously violent Western starring Christian Bale as a cavalry officer nearing the end of his string and Wes Studi as the Indian chief who Bale has to partner with for survival.

Hostiles opens in limited release tomorrow and expands widely in January. My review is at Film Journal International:

Hostiles is a western that wants to encompass the entire moral history of the Indian Wars into one fell, vengeance-rattled saga. Of course, it doesn’t succeed—that is the fate of westerns that overextend themselves. It doesn’t completely fail, either. There are images here that will bang around in your head with a chilly echo for days afterward, not to mention a nagging sense that one has just witnessed a great and unsolvable crime…

Screening Room: ‘Detroit’

A true-crime white-knuckler set in the chaos of the 1967 Detroit riots, Detroit is playing now in limited release and will be opening wider on Friday.

My review is at Film Journal International:

Set in the chaos of the 1967 Detroit riots, Mark Boal’s screenplay dramatizes and expands on a little-remembered episode of police brutality that crystalizes the violence of a country wrenching itself apart. In that crucible, Krauss (Will Poulter), a casually sadistic police officer who earlier in the riot shotgunned a man for running with looted groceries, ringleads a bloody interrogation whose methods fulfill all the worst fears of black Detroit residents…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Moonlight’

In the sumptuous melodrama Moonlight, Barry Jenkins’s Oscar-favored film explores the three stages of a young man’s life in a rough Miami neighborhood.

Moonlight is opening this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

It’s safe to say that after his last feature, 2008’s romantic talkfest Medicine for Melancholy, few people would have expected Barry Jenkins to be starting off his newest film with a do-rag-wearing drug dealer rolling through a rough-and-tumble Miami. The characters of the more extravagantly emotional and romantic (in all sense of the word) triptych Moonlight are on the surface light years removed from the urbane hipsters of that earlier film. But really, they’re still dealing with the same issues: namely, identity, their place and purpose in the world, and the search for love…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Aquarius’

aquarius1

In the newest film from Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho (Neighboring Sounds), Sonia Braga plays a retired writer trying to fight off the developers who want to demolish her cozy beachside building and all the memories it contains.

Aquarius, which was part of the just-concluded New York Film Festival, is playing now in limited release. My review is at PopMatters:

The heroine of Aquarius sees the whole world as a stage for her to command. It’s a testament to Sonia Braga’s control that she doesn’t turn this character into a domineering bore, even as she’s at the center of an overly spacious and repetitive narrative with too little to occupy herself…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Anomalisa’

Anomalisa_posterA bleak, Up in the Air-like story about a depressed businessman’s wanderings through an anonymous American heartland, the stop-motion animated film Anomalisa is the newest boundary-blurrer from Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). It’ll be the one that anti-Pixar Grinches in the Academy will be voting for in the animation category against the Inside Out majority.

Anomalisa opens in limited release this week and wider in January. My review is at PopMatters:

In today’s America, you must have money for your disaffection to be interesting. At least this is the case in Charlie Kaufman’s downbeat stop-motion animation film, Anomalisa. Like some slim and semi-acclaimed allegorical novel recently translated into English, it’s a story about a man alone in a strange city having dreamlike encounters while wrestling with his inner demons. Along the way, he meets a variety of people lower down the socioeconomic ladder than him, and treats them terribly…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘The Revenant’

Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Revenant' (20th Century Fox)
Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Revenant’ (20th Century Fox)

The Revenant, the new film from Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Gravity, Birdman), is a revenge epic based on Michael Punke’s 2002 novel and starring Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The_Revenant_2015_film_posterIt’s opening on Christmas Day in limited release and will expand wider in January. My review is at PopMatters:

A spiritual view of the natural world clashes with the animalistic drives of a fallen humanity in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s operatic wilderness survival tale,The Revenant. This freewheeling adaptation of Michael Punke’s novel about fur trappers, Indians, and soldiers tangling in primal ways on the Western American frontier in the 1820s stretches the limits of endurance in more ways than one. Inarritu’s film pushes against known boundaries of art, suffering, and revenge tale…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Joy’

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in 'Joy' (20th Century Fox)
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in ‘Joy’ (20th Century Fox)
Every holiday season now seems to come with a David O. Russell picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. This time out Lawrence plays Joy, a semi-fictionalized variation on the inspirational true story of Joy Mangano, a housewife-turned-inventor who became a multi-millionaire by creating the Miracle Mop and shilling them on QVC.

JoyfilmposterJoy opens, appropriately enough, on Christmas. My review is at Film Journal International:

David O. Russell’s newest ode to the multifaceted pluck of Jennifer Lawrence,Joy announces right off that it is “inspired by true stories of daring women.” Between that message and a bait-and-switch trailer, hyped up with a glowering Robert De Niro and shots of Lawrence blasting away with a shotgun, audiences may settle in thinking they’re about to be swept away by another American Hustle-like story of nervy outsiders working the system. But really, the film is about a mop…

Here’s the trailer: