Friday, December 14, 2018

The Favourite

Set during the reign of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), The Favourite is a sly period dramedy focused on the rivalry between two cousins (Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) over position and the affection of the Queen. Filled with backstabbing, political maneuvering, and deception, the story begins with the arrival of Abigail (Stone), a former lady now forced into the role of a servant. Abigail is given a position in the palace by Lady Sarah (Weisz) who underestimates just how far her cousin will go to increase her station.

Set between the two women, and also the two political factions fighting over the war in France, at the heart of the film is Anne herself. Presented as a broken woman, who may not have been all that smart to begin with, Coleman infuses her with unexpected depths as we begin to wonder just how much of the manipulation she suspects. Beautifully shot by cinematographer Robbie Ryan, the look of The Favourite offers sharp contrast to the more vile machinations under the surface (not unlike its lead characters). Although there are men present, mostly in Parliament, the script views them as largely superfluous and spends little effort to hide where the true power in England lies.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Other Side of the Wind


It may have taken an extra 40 years, but the last film from Orson Welles is finally available to be seen. While it is nearly impossible to separate the film from its history (covered in detail in the new documentary They'll Love Me When I'm Dead), The Other Side of the Wind has the benefit of working despite this potential limitation and delivering a fitting last chapter to Welles' career with a biting satire and visual smorgasbord finally pieced together more than three decades after the director's death.

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

For more than a decade before his death, Orson Welles worked on a film that was never finished. The new documentary by Morgan Neville, featuring plenty of clips from The Other Side of the Wind and interviews with cast and crew, takes audiences back into Welles' struggle with the experimental film about an aging director and his tumultuous relationship with Hollywood. Although Welles repeatedly denied any autobiographical nature to the film, as the documentary points out, it's hard to not see the parallels to his own life.

With The Other Side of the Wind finally finished and released almost five decades after Welles began the project, They'll Love Me When I'm Dead is timely both in explaining the project's history and enticing viewers to seek out the movie itself. The documentary doesn't shy away from the rougher edges of Welles' nature whose bullying hardheadedness led to strained relationships. Like many documentaries in the same vein, the main takeaway from They'll Love Me When I'm Dead is how hard it is to get a film made. Whether a fan of Welles or just movies in general, the documentary is definitely worth your time.

Widows

Re-imaging a twelve-hour mini-series into a two-hour film, Steve McQueen delivers an action-drama featuring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki as the widows of an armed robbery team who are forced by the gangster (Brian Tyree Henry) turned political figure their husbands robbed to pay back what they owe.

There's an awful lot of plot and superfluous characters here, most likely because they appeared in the mini-series. A tighter focus on Viola Davis' character and the robbery itself could have helped shore up the script a bit more, which gets lost in the weeds a bit when dealing with the political aspirations of a criminal and the criminality of the son (Colin Farrell) running for his father's (Robert Duvall) office, as it seems to need at least one additional rewrite. The also the trouble with Debicki's arc, while her new-found self-confidence makes sense as part of the robbery I'm not sure how it makes her twice as intelligent by the movie's end (seriously, I was starting to expect a Keyser Söze twist). And the film isn't without twists, although none are particularly necessary to the overall plot or natural conclusion of the story. (And one actually wraps up things a bit too neatly.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Supergirl - Elseworlds (Part 3)


Although apparently it will be the last we see of him for awhile, Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) gets quite a bit of screentime in the the "Elseworlds" finale as Hoechlin does double duty as both the Man of Steel and the new form of John Deegan (Jeremy Davies). As with the previous two episodes, Part 3 gives us more nods and winks at both Crisis of Infinite Earths (which apparently will be next year's big crossover) and other famous moments of our heroes climaxing in the Flash (Grant Gustin) and Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) circling the globe (Superman: The Movie) so quickly they begin to burn themselves out of existence (Crisis of Infinite Earths). The visuals work quite well, even if the logic of the entire segment seems pretty shaky on multiple levels.

Arrow - Elseworlds (Part 2)


"Elseworlds" continues as Barry (Grant Gustin), Oliver (Stephen Amell), and Kara (Melissa Benoist) head to Gotham City in search of the person responsible for the changes to reality. Who they find is Batwoman (Ruby Rose). As with Part 1, this episode has plenty of Easter Eggs for DC Comics fans including John Wesley Shipp in his classic Flash costume appearing in a vision (not unlike the Flash did in Crisis on Infinite Earths). The episode also cements a couple of points that, up until now, the Arrowverse has been coy about discussing: Batman exists on both Earths, although he's been absent from the Gotham City of Earth-1 for quite some time.

The Flash - Elseworlds (Part 1)


The CW begins its latest crossover event on The Flash with Part 1 of "Elseworlds" as Barry (Grant Gustin) and Oliver (Stephen Amell) awake to a reality where they have each other's powers and skills and everyone treats Barry as Oliver and vice-versa. The goofy Freaky Friday set-up provides some humorous moments such as Oliver struggling to deal with the affections of Iris (Candice Patton) and Barry getting some long-waited payback. There are nagging issues here in how quickly both are able to get up to speed, but the episode's idea that the abilities/skills are inherent to them and just need to be tapped into does the bare minimum to gloss over the plot hole. Also troubling is Team Flash's reaction to the pair. While throwing them into the pipeline allows for a nice escape sequence, and offering a reason to tie-in appearances from both Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) and Superman (Tyler Hoechlin), you would think that Barry and Oliver (who still have their own knowledge) should have been able to prove who was who simply by talking things through.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

Rudyard Kipling's work has been adapted to film numerous times over the years. While some enjoyed Disney's 2016 live-action version of their earlier animated film, the mix of a realistic look with Disney sensibilities (animals that both sang and danced and then brutally murdered) didn't work for me.

Delayed because of the Disney release, Andy Serkis' version feels a bit more on point (and far more tonally consistent). The actor, who made a name for himself as one of the most famous CGI performers over the years, delivers a vibrant film making the most out of continued advancements of motion capture techniques. The film doesn't run from the dangers of the jungle, or try to make the animals into cute sidekicks to sell toys and merchandise to younger viewers.

The story follows Kipling's basic plot of a human baby raised by wolves. After brief set-up introducing Mowgli (Rohan Chand) to the tribe, the film jumps forward several years catching up with the man-cub when he's old enough to begin questioning his world and his place in it.

At Eternity's Gate

The latest from director Julian Schnabel takes us on a journey with Vincent van Gogh (Willem Dafoe) during the painter's final years. Shot in Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône and Auvers-sur-Oise, France, where van Gogh lived during his final years, the film offers beautiful shots of the French countryside, countless close-ups of Dafoe's face and paintings, and a somewhat unfocused narrative on the artist's eccentric nature, loneliness, and view of the world.

The strength of Schnabel's film is the look and style and its more silent moments centered around van Gogh where some of the magic of the artistic's work is shown, but when the film moves from this to longer dialogues, often oddly filmed in extreme closeups, in attempts to explain van Gogh, the sequences are more hit-and-miss. Oscar Isaac as Paul Gauguin and Rupert Friend as Vincent's brother lead a supporting cast of those moving in and out of the artist's troubled life. Their scenes with Dafoe, and those involving a schoolteacher and unruly students, turn out to be the best of the sequences featuring Vincent interacting with others. But at its best, At Eternity's Gate focuses on van Gogh's interaction with nature and art, which to him were much the same thing.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Friday, December 7, 2018

Asher

While Asher doesn't offer much in the way of surprise or suspense, there's something magnetic about Ron Perlman as the career fixer whose age has finally started to catch up to him. Perlman captures Asher's weary professionalism that is only ever disrupted by the chance meeting of a ballet teacher (Famke Janssen) whose life he literally falls into.

The script from first-time feature screenwriter Jay Zaretsky is pretty standard fare about an aging hitman whose life is about to get complicated by a new love and a past come back to haunt him. Perlman and Janssen help elevate the subject manner while director Michael Caton-Jones and cinematographer Denis Crossan combine to provide the film a visual style that highlights its stars and the world where Asher lives.

Filling out the story, the script throws in subplots involving Jacqueline Bisset the ballet teacher's mother suffering from Alzheimer's and troubles involving Richard Dreyfuss and Peter Facinelli as a honored boss and celebrity protege. Neither story offers easy answers, but, when force comes to bear, Asher will deal with all obstacles as best he can.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Melissa McCarthy stars as writer Lee Israel who resorted to forging documents from deceased authors and playwrights when her own career hit rock bottom. Can You Ever Forgive Me? has a couple of things going for it, the first being McCarthy. The dramatic role is quite a departure from McCarthy's usual loud and obnoxious comedies. Although neither McCarthy nor the script (based on Israel's own autobiography) can ever make the protagonist sympathetic, it is nice to see the actress take on a more serious role.

The second thing the film has going for it is Israel's story. While forgery is quite common, hers was an unique tale showcasing the author's hidden talent in crafting plausible fakes from literary's best. Forgery by typewriter, however, does have a downside in that it isn't very cinematic. Unlike movies about art forgery, Can You Ever Forgive Me? lacks great visuals to help sell the suckers (and the audience) on the con.

A common theme in films like this is the charming forger, who the audience begins to root for to succeed. That's never an option here as McCarthy's ball-busting portrayal is anything but sympathetic.

MCM London Comic Con October 2018 - Cosplay Music Video Part 2

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Justice League Action - Party Animal


The holiday-themed "Party Animals" gives us a look at the Justice League at Green Arrow's (Chris Diamantopoulos) Christmas party. Even Batman (Kevin Conroy) makes an appearance, when the Flash (Charlie Schlatter) learns that the Dark Knight's attendance is all the Emerald Archer wants for the holiday and decides to kidnap Batman at super-speed. The party is interrupted by the appearance of Plastic Man (Dana Snyder) who brings the tranked-out Solomon Grundy (Fred Tatasciore), captured earlier in the episode, as his guest. Grundy's outburst, and the sequence of events which follow offer the true meaning of the holiday. Green Arrow's insistence on letting the events play out even earns him some appreciation from Batman (and what more could Ollie ask for?).

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Green Book

Unlikely friendships are a well-mined trope in feature film. Just such a relationship is at the heart of Green Book starring Viggo Mortensen as an Italian thug and driver hired by a talented African-American pianist (Mahershala Ali) for a musical tour through the South. Getting its name from the book of hotels who will rent rooms to Blacks, Green Book offers the expected lessons in culture clash and gradual respect between its lead characters who learn from each other during their time on the road.

Although based on real events, the story follows the expected Hollywood script as Tony (Mortensen) and Dr. Shirley (Ali) bond on the road over their, mostly cute and/or innocuous, arguments and disagreements. Despite dealing racism, both blatant and subtle, Green Book never dives too deeply into the subject as to upset its crowd-pleasing dynamic. The result is a safe and predictable film that still delivers a solid story blustered by its two lead performances as Mortensen and Ali play well off one another. The film includes a large cast of those met on the road, but Linda Cardellini (as Tony's wife back home) proves to be the only stand-out, and even her inclusion feels plot-driven as a necessary witness to the effect Dr. Shirley has on her husband.

Daredevil - A New Napkin


Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio) has won. With the charges against him wiped away, anyone who could do damage to him has been killed or discredited. And with the FBI firmly under his thumb, the Kingpin prepares for his wedding. With Fisk's victory all but complete, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) plans on attacking the Kingpin on his wedding day and putting down the villain for good. To do so means on relying on the help of Poindexter (Wilson Bethel) who Daredevil has just the right leverage to push over the edge and aim straight towards Fisk. Meanwhile, one last chance at taking Fisk down legally falls directly into the laps of Foggy (Elden Henson) and Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) with a dying confession by Ray Nadeem (Jay Ali) that can unravel the Kingpin's entire operation.

Monday, December 3, 2018

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power - System Failure


"System Failure" introduces my favorite of all of the princess supporting characters showcased in the First Season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Unlike the other princesses, Princess Entrapta (Christine Woods) exhibits no special powers (unless you count her wild hair acting as an extra pair of hands when needed). Instead, the manic Entrapta offers a character thoroughly invested in technology, experimentation, and robots, which gets her in trouble here when some incompatibility between her robots and First Ones' technology leads to all the robots in her maze-like kingdom going berserk. When the virus infects She-Ra (Aimee Carrero) as well, it falls on her friends to save the day. Entrapta's experiments here, and later in the series, show us that the line between magic and technology is blurry on Etheria which relies on both for its very survival.