The most likable film of the young year hits disc and VOD services today, along with a new Christian Bale Western that got a bit lost in the year-end prestige-pic shuffle. It makes a fine double-feature with a ‘90s Western from the great Jim Jarmusch, which joins the Criterion Collection – along with Sofia Coppola’s first (and, perhaps, still best) movie. And are you in the mood to miss the Obama administration? Then boy have I got a movie for you.
ON DVD / VOD
The Final Year: Greg Barker’s political documentary focuses on former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy team – John Kerry, Ben Rhodes, Samantha Power, Susan Rice – and sixteen months into the Trump Era, it’s already a kick in the head to remember all the grown-ups that use to walk the halls of the White House. It’s tough to know how the film would play if, as its participants seem to have expected, Clinton had won; as it is, it’s like a cross between tragedy and Twilight Zone, what with all of Obama’s idealistic talk of “passing the baton” to a team that will “continue that agenda.” At 89 briskly-paced minutes, The Final Year skimps a bit on some topics, and has a tendency to portray POTUS 44 through rose-colored glasses – most obviously, the word “drones” isn’t uttered once (a particularly glaring omission when he visits Laos to condemn the “bombs that we dropped decades ago”). But it’s nonetheless a fascinating peek at the inner...
“Can’t mess with a 69-year-old broad!” announces Patti Smith in her new concert film Horses: Patti Smith and Her Band, and though it’s a follow-up to rather a devastating burn on an audience member who dares holler “take it off” when she futzes with her vest (“Oh, yeah for you, right– honey, I got better in the grave than you”), it also has feels like a mission statement for the movie – and, frankly, for its subject. Horses, which premiered last night at the Tribeca Film Festival, catches the rock legend two years ago, during their 40th anniversary performance of the seminal title album at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. And then they took the stage afterwards, making it quite clear that you can’t mess with a 71-year-old broad either.
The film, directed by Steven Sebring (who also helmed the 2008 documentary Patti Smith: Dream of Life) finds the band performing the album in sequence, complete with a side-change announcement by Ms. Smith (“Now you have to turn the record, place it on the turntable… bring the arm gently toward the vinyl to the groove… and play side B!”). There are the briefest of off-stage cinematic interludes between songs, and some stage patter between others (“There’s a part in this song for you to sing it.” “WE LOVE YOU!” “Well if you love me, you’ll fuckin’ sing it!”).
It’s no big secret that Robert De Niro is a tough interview. Not in the way that Tommy Lee Jones or Bruce Willis are – he’s not surly or nasty, or even all that evasive. No, he doesn’t much like doing interviews, but he’s very nice about it, almost apologetic. He considers himself a private person, and his work to be a private process, so he’ll answer your questions as best he can, but he has no qualms with doing so briefly and then sitting in the silence for a while, which is something that most actors do not do in an interview situation.
That disinterest in filling the quiet made him an… interesting choice to moderate Saturday’s “Tribeca Talks: Storytellers” conversation with actor (and now, director) Bradley Cooper, his four-time co-star. It’s not hard to guess why he was there; he’s one of the founders of the Tribeca Film Festival, and his participation is one of the chief draws for ticket buyers. They usually get to see “Bob” via the anniversary screenings of his classics – he’ll sit in on the panel for Goodfellas or Taxi Driver or The Godfather movies, say as much (or, more often, as little) as he’s comfortable saying, and that’s that.
This was more of a challenge. “I’ve never done this before,” he shrugged as he and Cooper began the talk, apologizing for bringing along several pages of notes that he sat aside and did not...
Yes, yes, we know, cat pictures on the Internet, how novel. Sneer all you like – your heart will most likely melt within seconds of your first look at these aww-some images of Nyankichi (which came to our attention via Bored Panda), a very good boy who has been accompanying his human on various trips throughout his home country of Japan. Nyankichi’s travels have netted him a forbidabble following on Facebook (123K likes!) and Instagram (69K followers); we combed through his feed to pluck out some of our favorite images of this very charming kitty.
Three years ago, when the trailer for Amy Schumer’s starring debut Trainwreck landed online, loathsome movie blogger and sentient cowboy hat Jeffrey Welles took to his glorified LiveJournal to announce to the world, unprompted, that he didn’t buy the movie’s premise because its star was not someone “a lot of guys want to bang.” Yes, that’s a direct quote. “[T]here’s no way she’d be an object of heated romantic interest in the real world,” insisted the self-appointed arbiter of boners (who, by the way, looks like this). “Schumer’s wide facial features reminded me of a blonde Lou Costello around the time of Buck Privates, or Jennifer Aniston‘s somewhat heavier, not-as-lucky sister who watches a lot of TV.” Wells was rightfully called out for this nonsense, not only by the online community, but by Schumer herself – both on Twitter and in the 12 Angry Menepisode of Inside Amy Schumer, which amounted to a 30-minute middle finger to Wells. Trainwreck, meanwhile, was a commercial and critical success, and that was that.
And that’s why it’s so bizarre that her new film, I Feel Pretty, feels like its makers read Wells’ original post, scratched their chins, and announced, “Wait, hang on. Let’s make a movie for guys like that.”
Produced by McG (so enjoy the irony of a film about unrealistic beauty standards coming from the guy who made the Charlie’s Angels movies) and written and directed by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (the team behind the passable How To...
If you couldn’t tell from the name, the year 1988 has special significance to our friends at the pop culture-consuming Gallery1988– after all, it’s the year that gave us such beloved movies as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Die Hard, The Naked Gun, They Live, and Beetlejuice. Art inspired by those films (and many more) are the focus of their latest exhibition, “30 Years Later,” which runs through April 21stat their Melrose Avenue location. But don’t worry non- (or lazy) Los Angelinos; we’ve plucked out some of the very best of the show, for your enjoyment herein (and you can buy them at the gallery’s online store here).
Remember last week, when we were all, “Oh, finally, the last of the Oscar movies?” Whoops, forgot about Best Picture and Best Actress nominee The Post. (Sorry, Steve.) It’s out this week on disc and demand, alongside a modest new father/son comedy, while a new brother/sister drama lands on Netflix. All that, plus a ‘30s and ‘50s classic joining the Criterion Collection, below.
6 Balloons:Marja-Lewis Ryan’s intense micro-drama runs a tight 75 minutes, but the relationships and conflicts are clear immediately, and she trusts the viewer to fill in the required backstories. Abbi Jacobson is suitably serious (but not without her dry wit) as a young professional riding a rising tide of crises and freak-outs as the surprise party she’s painstakingly assembled for her boyfriend is potentially derailed by the realization that she has to take her younger brother (Dave Franco, also excellent) to detox. The central metaphor of Ryan’s otherwise ace screenplay doesn’t quite work, and there is a sense that the picture ends just as it gets going. But it’s a movie that understands co-dependency from the inside, as well as the helplessness and hopelessness of trying to cure someone else’s addiction.
ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD
The Post: When it came out last December, Steven Spielberg’s dramatization of the battles between The Washington Postand the Nixon White House (and within the paper itself) over the publication of The Pentagon Papers was praised to the heavens for its echoes of contemporary politics and gender struggles. Some of that...
Awards season may finally, finallybe over, as the last two stragglers from this year’s prestige picture crop finally make their way onto disc and demand. Plus, we’ve got a forgotten gem of silent comedy, and a pair of last fall’s strongest dramas on your streaming platforms. Take a look:
Una: “I was never one of them,” Ray (Ben Mendelsohn) insists, and he says it so firmly, you almost believe him. By “them” he means pedophiles, and he is one; years ago, he had sex with a 13-year-old neighbor, and she thought it was love. And now here she is, an adult (played, with her remarkable combination of poise and brittleness, by Rooney Mara), showing up at the place where he works – under a new name – to make him answer for what he did back then, and the life she’s lived since. Throw in that this is a theatrical adaptation, and you can see how easily it could’ve gone wrong: staginess, melodrama, clumsy handling of sensitive subject matter. And yet somehow, it doesn’t; the rendering is cinematic, the staging is clever, and the performances are stunning.
ON AMAZON PRIME
The Florida Project: Director Sean Baker’s follow-up to the heartfelt, funny, and fabulous Tangerine focuses on a handful of wild, goofy kids, spending the summer at a Disney World-adjacent cheapo motel – getting by, hustling, and making their own fun. Little Brooklynn Prince is staggeringly good as Moonee, the spirited little girl at the story’s center, while newcomer...
It’s literally snowing in New York City today, but as far as studios are concerned, April is summer – this month’s slate includes another Avengers movie, a movie starring The Rock and a giant ape, and an inexplicable remake of Overboard. But this month’s indie line-up features some of the best movies we’ve seen this year, including thrilling new efforts from Lynne Ramsay, Andrew Haigh, and Claire Denis; here are our recommendations.
You Were Never Really Here
RELEASE DATE: April 6
DIRECTOR: Lynne Ramsay
CAST: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Judith Roberts,
At home, Joe (Phoenix) is a caretaker and mess-cleaner to his elderly mother; out in the world, he’s something of a freelance brutalizer, who can hurt or worse for the right price. This sounds like the set-up for a million empty genre movies, but Lynne Ramsay is no hack; in fact, she often chooses to blink during the violence rather than revel in it, and focus more on the pain in Joe’s eyes than the pain he’s inflicting. Here is genuinely unnerving, particularly as Ramsey lets us see more and more of the images he’s desperate to get out of his head – but it’s also full of transcendent compositions, human moments, and little unexplained touches. It’s stylish and sorrowful and strange, and a rewarding ride for those who are up to it.
AUSTIN, TX: The SXSW Conference and Festivals are drawing to a close this weekend, and the film fest was particularly strong this year – which is unsurprising, as the film side of the music and interactive event was celebrating its 25th anniversary. As a matter of fact, your correspondent didn’t see a single bad movie this year; there were a couple of mild disappointments, sure, but all things considered, the batting average was pretty high. Here are some thoughts on what Austin had to offer:
PRETTY GOOD DOCS
The SXSW documentary slate is traditionally very strong; these had their flaws, but are worth seeking out anyway.
Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes
The archival footage that populates Robert S. Bader’s documentary account of the on-screen relationship between heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali and talk show host Dick Cavett is so fascinating, so alternately funny and charged and enlightening, that the movie is almost worthwhile solely as a clip compendium. Almost. The trouble is that Bader moves beyond the early, necessary analysis of Ali’s persona – and how keenly he understood the medium of television – into a dubiously required primer and his career and controversies into what finally amounts to a full-on Muhammad Ali bio-documentary. Two problems: 1) there are more than enough of those in...
Now that the Oscars are a ways in the rearview and those “winner” stickers can be slapped on as they leave the warehouse, no less than three of this year’s big contenders (and one also-ran) land on disc and demand this week. Also, an atypical Scorsese picture joins the Criterion Collection, and two undervalued silent comedies make their Blu-ray debut. Let’s take a look:
ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD
The Shape of Water: Guillermo del Toro is, in many ways, as much an architect as a storyteller – his films construct magical worlds, and you just want to crawl through the screen and live in them. His Best Picture winner concerns a merman, a mute janitor, a closeted gay ad man, and a Russian spy whose allegiances are tested by his love of science. Oh, and it has Michael Shannon as a sadistic government agent, telling Biblical stories and ripping off his fingers. In other words, to quote Stefon, this movie has everything – but most of all, it has a heart, telling an honest-to-goodness inter-species love story with grace, charm, and affection. And, like so much of Del Toro’s work, it’s somehow constructed out of popular culture remnants, while taking flight as its own, singular creation. (Includes featurettes and trailers.)
I, Tonya: Craig Gillespie’s dramatization, and reexamination, of one of the biggest tabloid stories of the 1990s is based – per its opening credits – on wildly contrary (and “irony-free”) interviews with the major players in the bonkers...
One of Sunday night’s big Oscar contenders – and, in a happy coincidence, one of last year’s best movies – hits disc and rental today, alongside one of the finest (and certainly funniest) Marvel movies, an intense religious drama, and an oft-forgotten Spaghetti Western. Plus, one of 2017’s most underrated movies lands on Prime for your easy viewing enjoyment. Here we go:
ON AMAZON PRIME
Brad’s Status: “Isn’t that your friend from college?” on of Brad and Melanie’s friends ask, as he peruses the latest issue of Architectural Digest, and it is; that magazine cover, and the sight of one of his other friends on television, is “like a ghost I conjured to haunt me.” Brad is a character who, in his words, spends all his time “in my mind, puffing myself up and tearing myself down,” and Ben Stiller is marvelous in the role, capturing both his interior ranting and his exterior apologetic modesty. Brad’s Status is a mid-life crisis movie, but only in the particulars; the wider subject is the challenge, to people of all ages, of coming to accept who you are and what your life is – or, at the very least, trying to be. It’s a movie of both big laughs and stinging truths.
ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD
Lady Bird: Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut is busy on reflection but free-flowing in the moment, full of little undercurrents that would be major subplots in other movies, yet just become part of the tapestry of this one:...
While the world waits with bated breath for season eight of HBO’s Game of Thrones (more like panicked withdrawal, if we’re being honest), we’re thankful to have the new Game of Thrones Tarot to pass the time. George R. R. Martin’s fantastical world of dragons, White Walkers, and magicians comes to life in the Liz Dean-authored and Craig Coss-illustrated deck. It’s a real beauty, too.
“Archetypes are the foundation of every great tale — and Game of Thrones is an outstanding story, a rich weave … From the icy landscapes beyond the Wall to the hot deserts of Dorne, the world of Game of Thrones is replete with symbolism: an abundant source for a new tarot deck,” Dean said of the cards.
Every character is represented here, including our favorite shapeshifting Thronesian, Arya Stark — as the Death card, natch. Perhaps we can use these cards to predict the future of our players as the Seven Kingdoms unite — or as many as Jon Snow can convince, anyway — and defend themselves against the evil Night King.
Since the last and final season of Game of Thrones doesn’t debut until 2019, you’ll have plenty of time to practice the art of tarot with Chronicle Books’ beautifully illustrated deck. It even comes with a hardcover booklet to guide you.
The cards are telling us that you can pre-order the Game of Thrones Tarot, available on March 20.
Well folks, spring has sprung, and it’s a slow enough season at the multiplex that you’ll finally get to see some of the movies that worked us up on the festival circuit last year – two from Tribeca (Hondros and Flower), one from SXSW (Gemini), and three from Toronto (Lean on Pete, The Death of Stalin, and Outside In). So, y’know, maybe it’s like a little film festival every time you go to the art house? Maybe not, what do I know, I’m tired. On to the capsules!
RELEASE DATE: March 2
DIRECTOR: Greg Campbell
Here’s unflappable for you: in the opening sequence of this biographical documentary, war photographer Chris Hondros takes a phone call while in the middle of a terrifying fire fight, assuring the caller that “things are fine” and just requesting, “Lemme give you a call back in about a half hour?” It gives you an idea of the discipline and calm of the man at this film’s center, who said of war photography, “There’s absolutely no way to do it from a distance. You have to be close.” Hondros looks at what it took to get that close – the drive, the artistry, the balance required to stay sane while seeing so much bloodshed and despair. It’s a scary film and a moving one, particularly at the conclusion, in which Hondros reflects on the moments of humanity and generosity he’s captured – it’s catch-in-the-throat stuff, with, of...
Although the first Addams Family TV series only ran for two seasons in the 1960s, our gloomy friends at 0001 Cemetery Lane left an indelible mark on our hearts. They later became ’90s icons after Raúl Juliá, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, and Christina Ricci donned their goth best to play (respectively) Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, and Wednesday Addams.
LEGO fan Hugh Scandrett hopes the toy company will help him pay homage to the family in all-black everything by approving his nearly 3,000-piece recreation of the creepy, Second Empire-style mansion the family lived in on the series. If he gets enough signatures, it could become a reality. Another version of Scandrett’s creation floated around in 2016, but it had 7,000 parts (LEGO’s limit is 3,000). According to Dangerous Minds and Scandrett’s pitch page, this trimmed-down version includes:
-3-floor Mansion, each floor is a removable segment, like standard LEGO modular construction
-The Mansion measures 23” (57cm) high, 10” (25cm) wide and 15” (38cm) deep
-A full glass greenhouse
-Includes 8 minifigs: Morticia, Gomez, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Grandmama, Cousin It and Lurch
-The build includes 2,975 original LEGO pieces, no modifications
Take a closer look at all the moody details and offer your signature for support over here.
There’s a lot that’s new in this week’s jam-packed column, from three big nominees at this Sunday’s Oscars to two previous winners to our usual assortment of indies and classics. There’s so much to see! Movies are good, you guys.
Lincoln: With Steven Spielberg’s The Post and the Daniel Day-Lewis-starrer Phantom Thread up for a generous helping of Oscars on Sunday, Netflix couldn’t have picked a better time to re-up their 2012 collaboration, which itself picked up prizes for Best Actor and Best Production Design. Working from a hyper-intelligent screenplay by the great Tony Kushner (based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s essential book Team of Rivals), Spielberg wisely eschews the customary – and presumably hard to resist – cradle-to-grave arc typical of so many blander biopics, instead focusing on a single moment in the president’s political life that extends far beyond it. Day-Lewis is, as usual, sublime in the role; a jaw-dropping cast of ace character actors (including Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson, Bruce McGill, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Jackie Earl Haley, and Gloria Reuben) shines bright.
ON DVD / VOD
Quest: Director/cinematographer Jonathan Olshefski spent eight years, from 2008 to 2015 (the Obama years, in fact; Obama/Biden signs cover the neighborhood early on, and the elections provide useful guideposts to the chronology) with the Raineys, a fairly typical North Philadelphia family that, in that time and before it, face a number of everyday trials and tribulations. There are money...
The art of the album cover is a precise one; the artist must choose the photographer that puts across exactly the persona they wish to convey, entrusting them to work up a concept, style, and message that fits smoothly with the music inside. By the time the cover is in the consumer’s hands, a million important choices have been made – but Russian graphic designer Igor Lipchanskiy wonders, hey, what are they leaving out?
His clever designs, which we first saw on Kottke, peer outside the carefully-controlled frame of the album cover, imagining what could be happening just outside its borders. We’ve picked out a few of our favorites, which cast albums by Drake, Adele, Tom Petty, Moby, and more in an entirely different light; check out more on his Instagram.
Daily happenings in the White House are depressing enough to make you cringe, but some good news in the presidential department comes from former First Lady Michelle Obama. She’ll be releasing her “deeply personal” memoir titled Becoming on November 13.
“I talk about my roots and how a little girl from the South Side of Chicago found her voice and developed the strength to use it to empower others,” she wrote in an Instagram post on Sunday. The book comes almost two years after former president Barack Obama left office. (His memoir is expected in 2019.) Becoming will see a US and international book tour, along with 1 million books donated in the Obamas’ name to the nonprofit called First Book.
In a statement from Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle, the publisher called Becoming an “unusually intimate reckoning from a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.”
At first glance, Jonathan Higbee‘s art looks like straightforward street photography snaps of New Yorkers doing their thing. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that Higbee’s work is a series of visual puns captured purely by coincidence. In fact, that’s the name of his series, Coincidences. Website Ignant reveals that Higbee spends hours waiting for the right moment, reflection, or pose to photograph, creating an image that was chronicled purely by chance. See what we mean – and do a double take — in our gallery.
Rainer Sarnet’s Estonian mind-bender November is a pagan film poem about longing, where animism and dark magic are part of everyday life and peasants are sly enough to outwit the devil. Before the mid-19th century, Estonians called themselves “maarahvas,” or “people of the soil.” Through Sarnet’s lens, the Baltic Sea country’s tenebrous landscape hides the secrets of the ancients in its forests, bogs, and mires.
Shot in striking black-and-white by cinematographer Mart Taniel, November tells a story of unrequited love and the harshness of living. With greed comes damnation, or in the case of this strange brew, werewolves in disguise, wandering ghosts, and plague goats. Audiences will surely compare the movie to its aesthetic brethren: the humorous grotesqueries of Jan Švankmajer, the gothic fantasies in Jan Potocki’s The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, Tarkovsky’s mobius strip of the personal, poetic, and political, and so on. November engages these impressionistic influences, woven with Estonian folktales, and based on Andrus Kivirähk’s cult novel Rehepapp, but its a remarkable beauty all its own.
November from Oscilloscope Laboratories — winner of Best Cinematography at Tribeca 2017, and Estonia’s official submission to the 2018 Academy Awards — arrives in New York City theaters today and expands to Los Angeles on March 2.
In this tale of love and survival in 19th century Estonia, peasant girl Liina longs for village boy Hans, but Hans is inexplicably infatuated by the visiting German baroness that possesses all that he...