Screening Room: ‘Una’

An adaptation of David Harrower’s play, BlackbirdUna is about what happens when a young woman tracks down the older man she had a relationship with when she was far too young and wants … well, it’s not sure precisely what she wants. But he thinks she’s about to burn his whole world down. and she just might.

Una opens this week in limited release. My review is at PopMatters.

Here’s the trailer.

Screening Room: ‘A Ghost Story’

In A Ghost Story, Casey Affleck plays a ghost who haunts the house he once shared with his beloved, Rooney Mara.

It opens this weekend in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

A good rule of cinematic thumb is that when a ghost movie isn’t trying to scare you: Watch out. Hijinks or romance are sure to follow, and not with good results. It’s also generally best to avoid movies whose specters are visible, since what one can’t see is almost always more terrifying than what you can see; invisibility just leaves open too many possibilities. Somehow, David Lowery has aggressively flouted these rules in A Ghost Story—by first not caring a whit whether you are scared and then giving his ghosts highly unusual corporeal form—and come out the other side with a truly spectacular movie…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Carol’

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett exchange Christmas cheer in 'Carol' (Weinstein)
Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett exchange Christmas cheer in ‘Carol’ (Weinstein)

priceofsalt1In 1952, Patricia Highsmith — riding high after the success of Strangers on a Train but before she started her Ripley series — published her semi-autobiographical novel about a love affair between two women, The Price of Salt, under a pseudonym. It went on to sell over a million copies.

Now, Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven) has adapted it for the big screen as a lush period romance, with Rooney Mara as the inexperienced shopgirl and Cate Blanchett as the older married woman who falls for her.

Carol is playing now in limited release. My review is at PopMatters:

Todd Haynes’ Carol offers two views of the holiday season. In 1952’s New York City, we first see family gatherings, snowy sidewalks, and shopping trips. Just below that surface, two women engage in illicit romance, at every turn reminded of everything they are not allowed to have. Their world doesn’t allow for same-sex attraction, much less the idea that two women could share a life together. As everyone else around them is making merry, their secret turns sharp enough to cut glass…

Here’s the trailer:

Now Playing: ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’

Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck fiercely in love in 'Ain't Them Bodies Saints'.
Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck fiercely in love in ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’.

aintthembodiessaints-posterThe award for this year’s least likely to be remembered movie title goes to David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a Terence Malick-inflected story of a young Texas couple (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) separated by prison after a crime spree. Keith Carradine and Ben Foster also star in this gorgeously photographed but rambling film.

My review ran in Film Racket:

Sunsets flood David Lowery’s soulful robber-on-the-run story, lens-flaring the screen and painting everything in a rustic ochre patina. It’s beautiful but gets in the way, as though distracting writer/director Lowery from getting to the business at hand. The cinematography is by Bradford Young (Pariah), whose patient lens captures the dusky halo of tree-shaded Texas streets and grassy fields under a humbling sky. What it can’t do is transform Lowery’s stretched-out short of a piece into a full-fledged story…

Here’s the trailer:

New on DVD: ‘Side Effects’

sideeffects1
Rooney Mara in Soderbergh’s ‘Side Effects’

side-effects-dvd-cover-30Steven Soderbergh’s pharma-thriller Side Effects —out today on DVD and Blu-ray—appears to be the polymath filmmaker’s last feature film. (His apparently truly last film, the Liberace biopic, Beyond the Candelabra, premieres on HBO this weekend, since no studio had the imagination or spine to release it even to a few theaters.)

My full review of Side Effects originally ran at Film Journal International, here’s part of it:

The film’s ad campaign hinted at something vaguely related to Contagion, playing up the fact that both movies share a director (Soderbergh) and screenwriter (Scott Z. Burns), and that they are structured around a specific modern-day fear. While that pandemic film was more a fully realized, flesh-and-blood fictional story than it was a docudrama, Side Effects is really a sleekly constructed noir where the pharmaceutical topicality is mostly backdrop…

You can watch the trailer here:

New in Theaters: ‘Side Effects’

sideeffects1

sideeffects-poster1In theory, this week’s pharma-thriller Side Effects is supposed to be Steven Soderbergh’s last feature film as director. He’s something of a workaholic, film-wise, so we’ll see if he sticks to that. But in any case, the film itself is an interesting swan song, not exactly career-defining but a neat piece of work regardless:

My full review is at Film Journal International:

The film’s ad campaign hinted at something vaguely related to Contagion, playing up the fact that both movies share a director (Soderbergh) and screenwriter (Scott Z. Burns), and that they are structured around a specific modern-day fear. While that pandemic film was more a fully realized, flesh-and-blood fictional story than it was a docudrama, Side Effects is really a sleekly constructed noir where the pharmaceutical topicality is mostly backdrop…

You can see the trailer here: