Sunday, December 30, 2018

Crisp Criticism - "If Beale Street Could Talk", "Aquaman", "The Mule", "Mortal Engines", "The House That Jack Built", "Mary Queen of Scots", "Arizona", "Vox Lux", "Shoplifters"

Julien Faddoul

If Beale Street Could Talk ****

After her fiance is falsely imprisoned, a pregnant African-American woman sets out to clear his name and prove his innocence.
Baldwin once wrote: “Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go”. To many, movies are the food of their emotions – especially love – and although Baldwin was not referring to cinema specifically, cineastes understand that all contributions to the artform are connected in the “story of the cinema”, like waves are to the ocean. Jenkins’ adaptation is both a rose and its vaporizer; both a needle and its thread. In its depiction of swooning first love, its socio-political outrage, its illustration of the philosophies of solitude and solidarity, its extraordinary use of camera movement, sound design, editing and performance: it is superb work from all involved.

wd – Barry Jenkins   (Based on the Book by James Baldwin)
ph – James Laxton
pd – Mark Friedberg
m – Nicholas Britell
ed – Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders
cos – Caroline Eselin

p – Megan Ellison, Jeremy Kleiner, Dede Gardner, Adele Romanski, Sara Murphy, Barry Jenkins

Cast: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Aunjanue Ellis, Ebony Obsidian, Dominique Thorne, Brian Tyree Henry, Diego Luna, Dave Franco, Finn Wittrock, Ed Skrein, Emily Rios, Pedro Pascal, Bobby Conte Thornton Marcia Jean Kurtz

Aquaman *

Arthur Curry learns that he is the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, and must step forward to lead his people and be a hero to the world.
Certainly contains some of the most viscerally fun moments of any of these big-budget comic book movies, but they are few and far between, interspersed along side the typical tedium of global destruction and portentous dialogue.

d – James Wan
w – David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall, Geoff Johns, James Wan
ph – Don Burgess
pd – Bill Brzeski
m – Rupert Gregson-Williams
ed – Kiki Morri
cos – Kym Barrett

p – Rob Cowan, Peter Safran

Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen, Temuera Morrison, Ludi Lin, Graham McTavish, Michael Beach, Julie Andrews, Djimon Hounsou, John Rhys-Davies, Randall Park, Natalia Safran

The Mule

A 90-year-old horticulturalist and Korean War veteran is caught transporting $3 million worth of cocaine through Illinois for a Mexican drug cartel.
To be filed along side Eastwood’s frustratingly insubstantial works, in which his usual approach of classicism barren of perfectionism is merely deficient. Emotional beats are predictably spoon-fed and its main character seems completely devoid of introspection. Whatever, Clint.

d – Clint Eastwood
w – Nick Schenk   (Based on the Article by Sam Dolnick)
ph – Yves Bélanger
pd – Kevin Ishioka
m – Arturo Sandoval
ed – Joel Cox
cos – Deborah Hopper

p – Clint Eastwood, Dan Friedkin, Jessica Meier, Tim Moore, Kristina Rivera, Bradley Thomas

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Taissa Farmiga, Michael Peña, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia, Clifton Collins Jr, Dianne Wiest, Ignacio Serricchio, Alison Eastwood

Mortal Engines *

In a post-apocalyptic world where cities ride on wheels and consume each other to survive, two people meet in London and try to stop a conspiracy.
Striking use of visual effects can’t compensate for risible writing and acting; your standard big-budget franchise starter; you'll never hear of it again.

d – Christian Rivers
w – Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson   (Based on the Book by Philip Reeve)
ph – Simon Raby
pd – Dan Hennah
m – Tom Holkenborg
ed – Jonno Woodford-Robinson
cos – Bob Buck, Kate Hawley

p – Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Zane Weiner, Amanda Walker, Deborah Forte

Cast: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang, Colin Salmon, Mark Mitchinson, Regé-Jean Page

The House That Jack Built *

Failed architect, engineer and vicious murderer Jack tells Verge the details of some of his most elaborately orchestrated crimes, each of them a towering piece of art that defines his life’s work as a serial killer for twelve years.
APPLY NOW: Playful Danish provocateur and uncompromising self-aggrandized cinematic deity seeks open-minded roommate with an affinity for cognitive dissonance, conversations involving learned analogies and lover of all things Von Trier for a spacious two-bedroom house within a larger compound. Complex provides beautiful sparkling pool, though only the shallow end is currently accessible. Lease will be indefinite as due to protracted moments of awkward tension and gory dismemberment walkouts are not infrequent. Hilarity guaranteed. Loose beliefs on what constitutes misogyny and/or child abuse are a plus. Unorthodox artistic principles are optional. Ingenuity not required.

wd – Lars von Trier
ph – Manuel Alberto Claro
pd – Simone Grau
ed – Molly Marlene Stensgaard

p – Louise Vesth

Cast: Matt Dillon, Bruno Ganz, Uma Thurman, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Sofie Gråbøl, Riley Keough, Jeremy Davies, Jack Mckenzie, Mathias Hjelm, Ed Speleers

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Stuart's attempt to overthrow her cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England, finds her condemned to years of imprisonment before facing execution.
Perplexingly inept on the levels of staging, performance and schoolbook history. It's the kind of historical drama manufactured for the modern viewer: one that lacks an acute comprehension of the historical tensions over gender and theology, but possess an intrinsic awareness of what is required of loud British actors wearing big wigs and gowns.

d – Josie Rourke
w – Beau Willimon   (Based on the Book by John Guy)
ph – John Mathieson
pd – James Merifield
m – Max Richter
ed – Chris Dickens
cos – Alexandra Byrne

p – Tim Beaven, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, David Tennant, Guy Pearce, Gemma Chan, Martin Compston, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Brendan Coyle, Ian Hart, Maria Dragus

Arizona *

Set in the midst of the 2009 housing crisis, a single mom and struggling realtor witnesses a murder and becomes kidnapped by the assailant.
An interesting sardonic commentary on the American housing crisis that only goes so far before becoming outrageous just for the sake of it.

d – Jonathan Watson
w – Luke Del Tredici
ph – Drew Daniels
pd – Richard A. Wright
m – Joseph Stephens
ed – Jeff Seibenick
cos – Sarah Trost

p – Brandon James, Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas, Ryan Friedkin

Cast: Danny McBride, Rosemarie DeWitt, Lolli Sorenson, Luke Wilson, Elizabeth Gillies, Kaitlin Olson, David Alan Grier

Vox Lux *

An unusual set of circumstances brings unexpected success to a pop star.
Whether or not you jive with Portman’s hysterically over-the-top performance, this is a majorly irritating tic-ridden work. As with most films in which that is the case, there are moments of brilliance, especially in the engrossing first ten minutes. But soon after we take a nosedive into indie cliché, with a subsidiary of Being Raised Famous is Bad for Your Morale.

wd – Brady Corbet
ph – Lol Crawley
pd – Sam Lisenco
m – Scott Walker
ed – Matthew Hannam
cos – Keri Langerman

p – Andrew Lauren, DJ Gugenheim, David Hinojosa, David Litvak, Michel Litvak, Robert Salerno, Gary Michael Walters, Brian Young, Christine Vachon

Cast: Natalie Portman, Raffey Cassidy, Jude Law, Stacy Martin, Jennifer Ehle, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Abbott, Maria Dizzia, Celia Rowlson-Hall

Shoplifters **

A poor family of small-time crooks in Tokyo take in a child they find outside in the cold.
Softly vivid depiction of a makeshift family on the brink of disintegration, performed by an excellent ensemble. Despite critical plaudits (and being honoured with Palme d’Or this year), latter day Kore-Eda has just become too sentimental for my taste. This is especially burdensome in the film’s final act, where tragedies are piled on top of one another with such speed that the whole becomes retroactively contrived.

wd – Hirokazu Kore-Eda
ph – Ryûto Kondô
pd – Keiko Mitsumatsu
m – Haruomi Hosono
ed – Hirokazu Kore-Eda
cos – Kazuko Kurosawa

p – Hirokazu Kore-Eda, Kaoru Matsuzaki, Akihiko Yose, Hijiri Taguchi

Cast: Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Mayu Matsuoka, Jyo Kairi, Miyu Sasaki, Kirin Kiki, Sosuke Ikematsu, Naoto Ogata, Yôko Moriguchi, Yuki Yamada, Moemi Katayama, Kengo Kora, Chizuru Ikewaki, Akira Emoto

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