Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Crisp Criticism - "Widows", "Outlaw King", "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs", "Life and Nothing More"

Julien Faddoul

Widows ***

Four Chicago women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands' criminal activities, take fate into their own hands and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.
Although he’s utilizing all the familiar pulpy elements, it is no surprise that McQueen’s interpretation of a twisty (however ludicrous) heist film would be this acidic. Both the sociopolitical commentary and the character-drama are consistently engrossing, despite the two often having trouble congealing. The concerns are grim but the outlook is hopeful and astute, and the cast is an absolute dream.

d – Steve McQueen
w – Gillian Flynn, Steve McQueen   (Based on the TV Series Created by Lynda La Plante)
ph – Sean Bobbitt
pd – Adam Stockhausen
m – Hans Zimmer
ed – Joe Walker
cos – Jenny Eagan

p – Iain Canning, Steve McQueen, Arnon Milchan, Emile Sherman

Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Jon Bernthal, Garret Dillahunt, Michael Harney, Lukas Haas, Matt Walsh, Adepero Oduye, Ann Mitchell, Kevin J. O'Connor, Molly Kunz

Outlaw King **

Forced into exile by the English after being crowned King of Scotland, legendary warrior Robert the Bruce fights to reclaim the throne.
A frustrating film, for it settles for a scarcity of nerve at almost every thematic turn, regardless of the amount of blood on display. Nevertheless, this is a sumptuous, fast-moving drama which, while it rearranges history, seems accurate in spirit to the political upheavals of the time.

d – David Mackenzie
w – David Mackenzie, Bash Doran, James MacInnes
ph – Barry Ackroyd
pd – Donald Graham Burt
ed – Jake Roberts
cos – Jane Petrie

p – Gillian Berrie

Cast: Chris Pine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Florence Pugh, Billy Howle, Tony Curran, Callan Mulvey, Stephen Dillane, Alastair Mackenzie, James Cosmo

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs ***

An anthology film comprised of six stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West.
Violent, fairly bleak and mostly riveting; a kind of compendium on the Coens’ moral sensibilities – that the harshness and misfortunes of life are often meaningless, and that those who suffer are chosen inadvertently – and thus will appeal more to those who are already on their wavelength. Each segment is meticulously crafted, though interestingly, the brothers rely a great deal more on digital effects than they ever have before. Make of it what you will.

wd – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
ph – Bruno Delbonnel
pd – Jess Gonchor
m – Carter Burwell
ed – Roderick Jaynes
cos – Mary Zophres

p – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Megan Ellison, Sue Naegle

Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Tyne Daly, Brendan Gleeson, Jonjo O'Neill, Saul Rubinek, Chelcie Ross, Bill Heck, Harry Melling, Grainger Hines, Stephen Root, David Krumholtz, Clancy Brown, Ralph Ineson, Matthew Willig, Jesse Luken, Jefferson Mays

Life and Nothing More ***

In Tallahassee, Florida, Andrew yearns to find his purpose as a young African-American in today’s America. With his mother longing to find more to her life than parenting, Andrew is forced to take on the mounting pressure of family responsibility. His search for connection with an absent father, leads him to a dangerous crossroads.
Exquisite, penetrating, superbly acted slice of kitchen-sink sadness on America’s social sickness, assembled with remarkable simplicity. The kind of art that should vehemently be championed.

wd – Antonio Mendez Esparza
ph – Barbu Balasoiu
pd/cos – Claudia González
ed – Santiago Oviedo

p – Amadeo Hernández Bueno, Pedro Hernández Santos, Alvaro Portanet Hernández

Cast: Regina Williams, Andrew Bleechington, Robert Williams, Ry'nesia Chambers

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