Screening Room: ‘Irresistible’

In Jon Stewart’s new political comedy, two high-powered political consultants turn a tiny mayoral race in Wisconsin into an absurd battle for national attention.

Irresistible opens this week in VOD. My review is at Slant:

The film doesn’t focus its ire on Trump, conservatives, and the like, but rather on the cable news and consultant infrastructure that was accelerating America’s collapsing democratic polity long before anybody in a red baseball cap screamed “Lock her up!” and will continue to do so after Trump leaves the White House. This makes sense from Stewart, who went after Glenn Beck back in 2010 not through white-hot invective, but by holding a rally dedicated to polite, level-headed disagreement. These are desperate times, but if Stewart wants to tack toward a more Frank Capra vein, that’s just fine. We already have one Adam McKay…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Battles of the Sexes’

Battles of the Sexes, the serio-comic new movie about that time Billie Jean King played a washed-up ex-tennis champion for $100,000 and the chance to show up the male gender, is playing in limited release.

My review is at PopMatters:

When Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) is at the salon and finds herself falling deep into the eyes of her hairdresser, Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough), it’s not as though the married tennis star is free to fling open the closet door. Billie might not be able to shake the electric sensation of that meeting, but there’s a tour to go on, not to mention sponsors and a public who wouldn’t approve…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘The Big Short’

thebigshort1When the housing market bubble started to implode back in 2007 and 2008, precipitating the latest financial crisis, it came as a surprise to much of the world. Michael Lewis’s book The Big Short tells the story of the analysts who saw the implosion coming and discovered that nobody wanted to hear about it. Adam McKay’s film adaptation is an awesomely angry screwball satire of the apocalyptic and short-sighted stupidity that lead to the crisis.

Big-short-inside-the-doomsday-machineThe Big Short opens in limited release today, then everywhere Christmas week. My review is at PopMatters:

So who blew up the economy back in 2007? One answer that’s often shouted on talk radio and social media is a moralistic tale about how poor (minority) folks took out mortgages they couldn’t afford, which caused the financial collapse, after which sober-minded middle-class (white) taxpayers had to pay for all those bad mortgages by bailing out the banks. It’s the Ant and the Grasshopper fable re-engineered with Tea Party fury.

Adam McKay’s blistering, righteously funny The Big Short offers another answer…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Foxcatcher’

Steve Carell and Channing Tatum in 'Foxcatcher' (Sony Pictures Classics)
Steve Carell and Channing Tatum in ‘Foxcatcher’ (Sony Pictures Classics)

One of the first films that the smart money says will be a 2014 Oscar contender, Foxcatcher is a stranger-than-fiction true story about a potentially insane man of wealth and his obsession with wrestling in general and a pair of Olympic wrestlers in specific. Given its solid performances from all involved (Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell, Channing Tatum) and the pedigree of director of Capote and Moneyball, it certainly has a shot at the Oscars; whether or not that’s deserved is another story.

Foxcatcher is opening this week. I reviewed it for Film Racket:

There’s an old joke about how poor people are crazy but the rich are merely eccentric. Bennett Miller’s based-on-a-true-story Foxcatcher vividly illustrates that joke. After all, how many poor people are allowed to own an armored personnel carrier with a .50 caliber machine gun, openly snort cocaine, wave revolvers around, and make documentaries about their pretend achievements, and not be called crazy? John du Pont was the scion of an industrial dynasty with an 800-acre estate and bank vaults full of money. Because of that, he is allowed to follow every controlling desire, even though anybody can see it will end in tragedy. The tautly acted but dramatically deficient Foxcatcher is the story of how a pair of brothers from humble means were pulled into du Pont’s orbit of pathology by the promise of greatness and kept there by the lure of money…

Here’s the trailer: