Screening Room: ‘The Witches’

Back in 1990, Nicolas Roeg directed a gruesome, jauntily black-humored adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches. It had its flaws but … Anjelica Huston.

Robert Zemeckis’ new take for HBO premieres next week. And, well, Anne Hathaway… My review is at Slant:

For anybody arguing that the grand potential for boundary-breaking entertainment in 2020’s wide-open world of content-hungry streaming services has produced more mediocrity than anything else, Robert Zemeckis’s take on Roald Dahl’s dementedly fun short novel The Witches could serve as a key piece of evidence. While there are some elements to admire in this adaptation, particularly its being cast with mostly black performers, much of it falls into the category of Competent But Unnecessary Remake. In other words, another piece of family-friendly-ish content to fill the yawning hours of pandemic confinement…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘The Walk’

Philippe Petite (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) defies gravity in 'The Walk' (TriStar Pictures)
Philippe Petite (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) defies gravity in ‘The Walk’ (Sony Pictures)

In 1974, a lithe, clownish French tightrope artist named Philippe Petit strung a rope between the two towers of the World Trade Center and did a death-defying 45-minute act up there in the clouds, almost too high for people on the ground to see what he was doing. In The Walk, Robert Zemeckis translates that legendary bit of aerobatics into a 3D spectacle.

The Walk is opening this week in a limited 3D IMAX run, which is truly the way to take in its vertiginous heights, and then opens wider on October 9.

My review is at PopMatters:

Once upon a time, everything was not fenced off. Those who remember life in New York City before 9/11 will experience moments of cognitive dissonance while watching Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk. It’s jarring to see the Twin Towers again standing like steel sentinels over Manhattan. It’s stranger still to see people rushing through one of the lobbies while it’s still under construction… with nobody stopping them. The scene recalls a time when we didn’t think anyone would want to break in to the site or worse, want to destroy it…

You can also see my review of the 2008 documentary about Petit’s walk, Man on Wire, at Medium.

The trailer for The Walk is here: