Thursday, June 30, 2022
Thursday, June 23, 2022
It's entirely possible that Baz Luhrmann's Elvis is exactly the movie the director wanted to make. Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, Australia, The Great Gatsby) tells stories in heaving rushes of narrative that rely on speed and visual flair as much as on content.
Friday, June 17, 2022
If you look at the picture on the right, you might suspect that you're about to read about a movie set in the world of golf. You'd be half right. There's golf in The Phantom of the Open, a British movie comedy starring Mark Rylance, but most of the golf is bad enough to be laughable. Early on, we learn that Rylance's Maurice Flitcroft qualifies as a caring guy: He married his wife Jean (Sally Hawkins) even though she was pregnant with another man's child. That child (Jake Davies) grows up to become become Maurice's boss at a shipyard in the port town of Barrow-in-Furness. Maurice and Jean have children together, twins played by Christian and Jonah Lees. The twins dream of becoming famous disco dances. Why not? It's the '70s. Maurice, who's 46, has his own dream. He wants to compete in the British Open, even though he knows nothing about golf and has never played the game. Based on a true story, Phantom of the Open follows the exploits of Maurice who in 1976 actually made his way into the British Open, where he chalked up a miserably high score of 121, the worst in the tournament's history. Rhys Ifans signs on as the official who wants to boot Flitcroft from the sport. The golf establishment is dutifully alarmed but the bumbling and unflappable Maurice assembles a fan base. Don't look for a life-changing experience, but Rylance and the rest of the cast keep director Craig Roberts' Phantom of the Open close to par.
Thursday, June 16, 2022
I can't say that I totally bought into Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, director Sophie Hyde's two-hander about an older woman (Emma Thompson) who hires a sex worker (Daryl McCormack) in a desperate attempt to add spark to a life that has grown pot-bound. A retired teacher and widow, Thompson's Nancy Stokes arranges to meet McCormack's Leo but approaches the task with a major case of ambivalence. Set almost entirely in the hotel room where Nancy arranges several meetings with Leo, Good Luck to You Leo Grande relies on McCormack's ability to project easy charm and Thompson's willingness to play a woman with qualms about her life, her aging body, and her grown children. Thompson's serio/comic gift enables her to play characters who seem to be in constant conversation with themselves. The movie concludes with an act of daring by the 63-year-old Thompson. Both actors are asked to turn the movie into an endorsement of the pleasure that liberates Nancy from what had been a repressively conventional marriage (no orgasms). Katy Brand's screenplay eventually asks Leo and Nancy to face each other minus the trappings of illusion, which, in turn, means facing themselves. The story evolves in predictable ways but McCormack and Thompson keep things real.
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
The movie Official Competition begins plausibly enough. A successful businessman decides that money isn't enough: He needs to leave a cultural legacy. What better way to make a mark than by financing a movie? Argentine directors Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn start with that premise but quickly settle into a look at the competitive conflict between two actors (Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martinez) who have been cast in a project that's supposed to fulfill the businessman's dream. Jose Luis Gomez plays the tycoon, a naive fellow who buys the rights to a novel he hasn't bothered to read. Sporting an out-sized pile of frizzy red hair, Penelope Cruz portrays the film's director, a woman with novel ideas about how to obtain the performances she wants from her two stars. Much of the film focuses on rehearsals as the actors prepare for the shoot. Banderas's Felix, who has had some popular success, eschews method-oriented probing. Martinez's Ivan, who teaches acting, takes the opposite view, insisting on depth and authenticity. Duprat and Cohen have a gift for sight gags, one involving a boulder that has been hoisted into the air by a crane. Cruz and Banderas display finely honed comic chops and Martinez helps ground the movie with Ivan's seriousness. Official Competition may not expand your view of filmmaking. But the movie proves entertaining and funny and Cruz and her two compatriots work at levels that fill Official Competition with enjoyment.
The Pixar universe keeps expanding. Based on a character developed in 1995's Toy Story, Lightyear begins by telling us that young Andy (remember him?) received a Buzz Lightyear action figure after seeing the movie that we're about to watch. Andy loved the that movie.
Thursday, June 9, 2022
I don’t know how realistic Adam Sandler’s NBA movie Hustle is, but I suspect blistering authenticity wasn’t really the point.
Giant genetically engineered locusts ravage midwestern crops, a greedy corporation poses as humanity’s techno savior — and, oh yeah, dinosaurs roam the earth.
Thursday, June 2, 2022
Few filmmakers are as deeply versed in sorrow as Terence Davies, the British director of such films as Distant Voices, Still Lives, The Long Day Closes, and, more recently, A Quiet Passion.
When Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005, contrary voices emerged. Perhaps, some thought, this much-celebrated but increasingly vulnerable coastal city shouldn't exist at all.