Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

The Killing of a Sacred Deer - Review

The Killing of a Sacred Deer, by FilmZ

In his latest film, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos and writing partner Efthymis Filippou have cooked up an ancient dish.  The title references a story of Agamemnon, the legendary Greek king who accidentally kills a deer belonging to the goddess Artemis.  In retribution, he must sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia.  This mashup of the Biblical "eye for an eye" with the contemporary Sophie's Choice creates fertile soil for Lanthimos to sow more absurdist satire, but compared to his previous critical success, The Lobster, TKoaSD comes across as pretty straightforward psychodrama, yet still a satire, lightly seasoned with the blackest of humor.  For those familiar with Lanthimos' films, the characters still speak in a stilted deadpan, the effects of which can range from humorous to jarring.  This has been explained as Lanthimos' wanting for us to search for truth, for meaning in the text rather than have the actors' inflection to influence us.  Perhaps that is true, but then he paradoxically hits us over the head with an unnerving atonal soundtrack that blares at those times he wants our hair to stand on end.  Whether one loves or loathes the overall effect, his films are unique events.

Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a successful heart surgeon; with a beautiful home, gorgeous wife Anna (Nicole Kidman)--also a doctor--and two beautiful children, 14-year-old Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and pre-adolescent Bob (Sonny Suljic).  True, there is a hint that he once may have had a drinking problem, but he hasn't touched alcohol in three years.  One could certainly understand why his seemingly perfect existence would make him aloof, with just a touch of arrogance.  It seems odd, then, that Steven has taken 16-year-old Martin (Barry Keoghan) under his wing.  It looks like the Big Brothers program in action: he meets the boy at a diner, buys him an expensive watch, and indeed, Martin's father died not long ago, and the boy seems adrift.  But why does Steven lie to his family about where he has been and to his anesthesiologist friend (Bill Camp) about the reason Martin is visiting Steven at the hospital?

This relationship becomes the driving force that impels the drama's evolution into suspense.  Martin is a strange boy, ill-at-ease and yet increasingly demanding as he insinuates himself more and more into Steven's life.  The surgeon decides to invite the boy to his home for dinner and to meet his family, a decision we begin to feel is roughly akin to inviting a vampire into one's home--and our intuition would be accurate.  Kim develops a crush on Martin and he begins to show his bad influence on both of the Murphy children.  Anna is kind and cordial, but we also see a leeriness at the edges.  In thanks for the meal, Martin reciprocates by inviting Steven to his home for dinner.  Steven demurs, but he learns that the invitation is not so much a request as a demand.  Things get even stranger when it becomes evident that Martin is playing Cupid, trying to set Steven up with his widowed mother (Alicia Silverstone), a plot she seems to be in on.

After that, Steven tries to distance himself from the boy, but Martin is having none of it.  He is now in charge of the relationship.  Martin surprises Steven in the hospital, even after the surgeon urges the boy to clear visits with him first.  It is here that Martin fully divulges his intentions: a curse targeting Steven's family--to Martin the only fitting justice--that leads to the third act of ever-increasing horror.  We also come to fully understand Steven's motivation to steward the boy.  It's a smart plan well-written and delivered by Lanthimos, Filippou, and the cast, vacillating between dark humor and psychological horror, between satire and morality tale.  It takes us toward a resolution only Steven can decide, one that may cause Martin to lift his curse but will bring down another that the Murphy family can never shed.  As our traveling partner, Serfing Dude, said later about the climactic point, "I knew it was time to either light up or run to the bathroom."

Two years ago, when we saw The Lobster, Lanthimos' first English-language film, we didn't appreciate it as much as some.  Since then, it has worn better in our memory, and it prepared us for The Killing of the Sacred DeerTKoaSD is more Greek tragedy, less black comic satire than The Lobster, and the deadpan dialogue has been dialed down--Colin Farrell, a veteran of both films, voices emotion here, at times of frustration and rage.  Barry Keoghan wears the flat affect well as the emotionally barren teen who sets the plot in motion.  After seeing him as doomed boys in both '71 and Dunkirk, we can say that his screen presence is undeniable.  Cassidy and Suljic are striking young actors with similarly gorgeous eyes; both drew empathy and wore their parts like gloves.  It was Kidman, though, who provided the true soul of the Murphy family.  She carried out Lanthimos non-inflection dictum (which he denies, BTW) only by softening her tone.  Still, she is a marvelous actor, and the camera caught small, sharp glances that added a subtext of underlying family discord, heightening the drama and, overall, improving the film.  TKoaSD tied for Best Screenplay at Cannes, and the film contended for the Palme d'Or.  We hope that one day Lanthimos drops the flat affect and tone; rather than a hallmark of style, it is an annoying, distracting detraction.
7.0 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
5.5 out of 10 on an Awards Scale (Outside chance for Barry Keoghan Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay)

The Florida Project

The Florida Project by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

You would be forgiven if, upon watching the trailer for The Florida Project, you thought you were tuned in to an update of the old Our Gang/Little Rascals comedies, this time with Darla in the lead.  A tribe of six-year-olds running amok through modern-day tenements spreading hi-jinks and making all of the adults around them tear out their hair.  But director Sean Baker (Tangerine) who also co-wrote along with Chris Bergoch, has something deeper and more multi-layered in mind, and as he shot Tangerine exclusively on iPhone 5s smartphones, The Florida Project has a distinct cinema verite look.  Despite the fact that it focuses on one summer in the life of a little girl living hand-to-mouth in the shadows of Disneyworld's opulence, Baker avoids romanticism and sentimentality.  It's a smart move that elevates the film.  Still, though, does it deserve the wild adulation it has accrued?  As our own Captain HE observed after FilmZ asked that very question: "I think [the raves are] the reaction of people who never experienced this lifestyle up close and personal."

Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) is the ringleader of a band of wild children that run rampant through the environs of the Magic Castle motel, a shelter for the working poor one roof away from homelessness.   For a child unaware of this stark reality, it is in its own way an idyllic playground where a kid can cut the electricity for the entire complex and watch what happens.  During one foray into neighboring Futureland motel complex, Moonee and the kids sit on the balcony and spit on a car below.  When the woman who owns the car catches them and forces them to clean it off, the kids meet the car owner's granddaughter Jancey (Valeria Cotto), a sweet child who immediately joins the core crew that also includes Scooty (Christopher Rivera).

Though the kids stay one step ahead of most adults, motel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) sees all with baleful reflection.  He is our surrogate observer, and though his eyes tell us they have seen too many bad ends, his actions hold the optimism that his interventions and deep-seated affection--especially for the children--just might be enough to keep the denizens of the Magic Castle above water.  Most problematic in that respect is Halley (Bria Vinaite), Moonee's 22-year old mother.  Halley provides by subsistence: selling cheap perfume in parking lots of the posh hotels that cater to Disney tourists; sending Moonee for free breakfast, sneaked out of the back door of the diner where Scooty's mother Ashley (Mela Murder) works; relying on excuses and Bobby's good nature for late rent payment.

Halley loves and cares for Moonee, probably to the best of her ability, although that ability is limited by the endemic social conditions that accompany poverty.  As a result, Halley is more of a fun big sister, and her lack of training--as a mother and as a wage earner--severely limits the effective stewardship she can provide the little girl.  As Moonee's reckless summer of fun continues unabated, Halley's tenuous grasp on economic viability loosens--both elements converge after one of the kids' misadventures when the aware, responsible Ashley sees through Scooty's feignred innocence and forbids him from hanging around with Moonee anymore literally ending Halley's and Moonee's free lunch.  All this time we watch and identify with Bobby's reactions, and we begin to feel, as he seems to fear, that things will not end well.

From the descriptions above, it's obvious that TFP is episodic, a series of events and vignettes disparate and loosely constructed.  As the story progresses, loose threads connect events and lead toward an abrupt conclusion, our only clue coming from an equally abrupt change of style.  At Cannes, Baker revealed his dream: to make a film about children “that focused on their resilience, their innocence, and their comic nature."  Mission accomplished, and to that end a success.  The vast majority of critics love The Florida Project and Willem Dafoe's restrained, nuanced performance as the gruff but kindly Bobby.  Some have wanted to include Brooklyn Prince in Oscar talk, and as precocious and natural as she is, she is a kid play-acting, and some of the notes, like a close-up crying scene, do not ring true.  Bria Vinaite delivers a convincing if uneven performance (Baker uses a number of non- professional actors).  The major flaw in this film comes from Baker's dream: while it is entertaining to watch children's hijinks, it is overdone--redundant and dragging, at times.  Cinematographer Alexis Zabe captures the tacky pastel palette and sun-bleached summer of tourist-trap Florida.  Some have compared TFP to last year's Moonlight in projecting an Oscar surprise for another Florida-based film.  And while TFP is timely, focusing on modern-day Joads at the moment Washington has chosen to transfer even more of the nation's wealth to those who already control most of it, it is not a Grapes of Wrath so much as a precocious docudrama.
7.5 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
7.5 out of 10 on an Awards Scale (Dafoe is a frontrunner for Supporting Actor, probable nomination for Picture, outside chance of nominations for Director, Original Screenplay

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Yes, the title reads on the screen: outside, with a lower case "o."  Why?  That isn't explained.  And inexplicable is the perfect descriptor for Martin McDonagh's film work--in a good way, usually (if you've seen the auteur's In Bruges or Seven Psychopaths, you know what we mean).  Inexplicably random and bizarre events occur within the story, and people respond in inexplicably bizarre and random ways.  You either buy it or you don't--the audience at the Toronto International Film Festival bought it, bestowing on TBoEM its eponymous award.  One thing we have to admit: McDonagh's films are certain to surprise.  He clearly is inspired by the work of the Coen brothers--their juxtaposition of humor and horror, of quirkiness and violence.  But their styles diverge in two distinct ways: 1) Coen characters can be eccentric and at times behave in extreme ways, but their behavior is plausible in character, if extreme; 2) Coen situations at times brush up against tragedy, but seldom does tragedy become a hallmark element of their films.  Judging by trailers alone--even the Red Band one--filmgoers will be surprised by both of these elements, and while tragedy adds depth to TBoEM, the implausibility detracts from it (we won't delve into spoilers, so you will see; just be prepared).

As the film opens, Mildred (Frances McDormand) is driving along a two-lane blacktop in her beat-up station wagon.  Seven months before, her daughter was brutally raped and murdered.  No clues were left, and the crime seems destined to go unsolved, an unacceptable fate to Mildred.  She passes three derelict billboards and gets an idea: hustling to the ad agency, she pays owner Red Welby (a nicely weird Caleb Landry Jones) to post a provocative series of messages, reading respectively:  "Raped While Dying," "And Still No Arrests," "How Come Chief Willoughby?" calling out the town's Police Chief (Woody Harrelson).  This catches the attention of the whole town, most sympathetic to Willoughby and his family--wife Anne (Abbie Cornish) and two little girls.  Some try to reason with her--an exchange between Mildred and a Catholic priest goes badly for the cleric; the town dentist tries to get tough with her and regrets it.  Most radically offended: Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), Willoughby's racist, momma's-boy deputy.  Driven on by his back-hills' mother from Hell, Dixon takes things to a whole different level of crazy.  The more the townfolk oppose her, the more Mildred digs in her heels, bringing humiliation to her innocent son Robbie (Lucas Hedges) at school and drawing renewed hostility from her estranged abusive spouse (John Hawkes), who prefers a peaceful existence with his newfound 19-year old love.  Not everyone is hostile to Mildred, though: the town's small minority population identifies with her as fellow victims, and Peter Dinklage, all mulleted and mustachioed, is a wishful suitor, becoming both accomplice and alibi.  We know events will escalate, but the levels they reach, and the redemption that comes is wholly unexpected.

What we have come to expect from McDonagh is a story that immediately engages us and at times veers tortuously into unexpected directions, but the true rewards of TBoEM are the well-drawn, complex characters.  Woody Harrelson has never been better; all canny intelligence leavened by homespun charm.  Sam Rockwell has the supporting role of a lifetime; rarely have we been treated to a character as despicable, funny, pitiable, and heart-rending--sometimes all at once.  Even minor characters are well-drawn and get their moments to shine.  But the movie belongs to McDormand.  McDonagh wrote the part specifically for her, and it fits her like a glove.  She mentioned that she interpreted Mildred as a John Wayne-type, and it shows, even down to her walk; indeed, the film takes on aspects of a classic Western, righting a wrong in a small town, à la Wayne's own The Sons of Katie Elder.  Still, though, McDormand retains enough of her own persona to go off on her patented profane riffs and sardonic rants.  Carter Burwell's score, resonant with both American and Celtic folk roots. carries an air that wafts between home-spun and elegiac, the latter especially evident in Renee Fleming's heartbreaking Celtic rendition of "The Last Rose of Summer."  Expect to hear it often on Oscar night.
8.5 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
9.0 out of 10 on an Awards Scale (certain nominations for Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Score).

Brief Reviews: Murder on the Orient Express (2017) and LBJ (2016)

Murder on the Orient Express by FilmZ

It's probably unfair to review director/star Kenneth Branagh's 2017 Murder on the Orient Express when I hold Sidney Lumet's 1974 version in such high esteem.  Still, it's Agatha Christie, and when it comes to murder most cozy--nothing beats a ride across snowy Europe on the world's most romantic train with the ritziest of 1930's Art Deco trappings.  No one does it better; all you have to do is stay faithful to the template.  Well, Branagh stays reasonably faithful, but his vision is lighter and his interrogation techniques and plot development are more overt to accommodate modern mass audiences and non-readers who lately have proven that being forced to think doesn't sit well with them.

Hercule Poirot (Branagh), self-professed as "perhaps the greatest detective in the whole world," has brilliantly solved a mystery at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall through the use of his acute attention to detail and fastidious need for order and justice.  Now, he relies on Bouc (Tom Bateman), manager of the famed train, to secure him a compartment for a luxurious, restful ride home.  Along for the ride is a classic cast of Christie-types: crooked businessman Ratchett (Johnny Depp), his secretary/lawyer MacQueen (Josh Gad), his manservant Masterman (Derek Jacobi), socialite/vamp Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), a Countess (Lucy Boynton), a count (Sergei Polunin), a Princess (Dame Judy Dench), her secretary (Olivia Coleman), a racist professor (Willem Dafoe), a missionary (Penelope Cruz), Dr. Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom, Jr.), prim tutor Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley), and car dealer Marquez (Manuel Garcia Rulfo).  The victim is drugged and stabbed multiple times, an avalanche strands the train in a mountain pass, and Bouc pleads with the Belgian detective to please solve the crime before rescuers and the police arrive and surely accuse one of the minority passengers--and save the reputation of the railroad.  And so, with methodical precision, Poirot goes to work.

MotOE is a beautiful film--its cinematography, production design, and costume design dazzle, as the film spins perhaps Dame Christie's best, most satisfying whodunit.  For those reasons alone, we recommend it despite its blemishes.  The supporting cast seems more caricature than character (did Branagh see fit not to rein them in?).  Poirot has been played by many fine actors, none better than Branagh, but we've come to expect the little detective to be fastidious, narcissistic, and formal--David Suchet has indelibly hewn closest to the book's image.  Branagh has Poirot giggling over the pages of Dickens, mooning over a photo of a mysterious woman (huh?), and twisting the English language in a silly way rather than a Belgian way.  All this is not necessarily to the film's detriment as the director is playing a long game: at the end of the film, a message arrives, urgently requiring his services to solve a Death on the Nile.  We look forward to it, but for a stand-alone film, stick with the 1974 Albert Finney version, which had six Oscar noms and one win (Ingrid Bergman).
The 2017 film:
7.0 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
6.0 out of ten on an Awards Scale for the nice period production values.
The 1974 version:
8.5 out of 10 on an Entertainment (and whodunit) Scale
8.0 out of 10 on an Awards Scale
*       *       *

LBJ by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Rob Reiner's LBJ was a Toronto International Film Festival entry in September 2016, and it's not certain why it took over a year to release (perhaps to gain distance from Bryan Cranston's Tony-Award winning performance of the President reprised on HBO?).  As LBJ's credits rolled at the end, Captain HE, a member of our August body gave credence to that theory by remarking that Woody was all right, but, boy, we should have seen Cranston.  Word has it, in fact, that Woody Harrelson consulted with Cranston before taking on the role.  Several positive aspects: Harrelson's commitment to the role, the always excellent Richard Jenkins as racist Southern Sen. Richard Russell, and Reiner's period authenticity.  One warning: Harrelson's heavy prosthetic makeup takes some getting used to; I kept thinking I was seeing Rondo Hatton as LBJ (seriously, Google images of the old-time actor).

The action unfolds from the perspective of Lyndon Johnson, opening with the primary season for the 1960 Presidential election.  Johnson's coyness about running allows the charismatic JFK (Jeffrey Donovan) to clinch the candidacy at the Democratic Convention, and Kennedy surprises everyone, most of all brother Bobby (Michael Stahl-David) and LBJ himself, by asking the big Texan to be his running mate.  LBJ discusses his deepest thoughts with his wife, Lady Bird (Jennifer Jason Leigh), most personally, his dismay that however respected he may be, he is not embraced with the affection JFK enjoys.  Rather than react with bitterness, this melancholy reality spurs Johnson to be the best he can be, a difficult task, considering that Bobby (painted as a snotty and snobbish Macchiavelli) does his best to make LBJ a nonentity.  Bobby doesn't count on Johnson's savant-like ability to maneuver through the Byzantine swamp that is Congress, so given nothing to work with, Johnson works the angles and his connections to carve a meaningful place in the Administration.  Then comes that fateful day in Dallas, and Johnson is thrust reluctantly into the Presidency at one of the most critical social junctures in American history.

Screenwriter Joey Hartstone makes the good decision to avoid a broad brush approach--Vietnam is hardly mentioned--instead, the spotlight falls on the Civil Rights Act.  It is foreshadowing to see the smug caucus of Dixiecrat Senators, led by Russell, cock-sure that Johnson's ascendency brings the death knell to Civil Rights legislation.  Instead, it brings the best scenes of the film: the tête-à-têtes between Russell and LBJ over equality for Black Americans.  Between threats, pleas, bombast, and reason, LBJ shows his true mettle.  Had the whole film, or even half of it, delivered the electricity of Harrelson's and Jenkins' performances, LBJ the film might have grasped the affection that LBJ the man so desired.  Instead, it suffers for the risks it didn't take.
6.5 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale (not an Awards player)

Lady Bird

Lady Bird Review by FilmZ

As much as we like Laurie Metcalf and Lucas Hedges, and as much as we love Saoirse Ronan, we had reservations about Lady Bird.  The coming-of-age movie seemed to have epic twee potential, hardly the stuff to attract the likes of Guy S. Malone, Researcher; Dude of the Serf; Captain HE; and your humble servant, FilmZ.  Still, we are nothing if not open-minded, and based on its rave receptions at the Telluride and Toronto festivals, we decided to give it a shot.  Upshot: we are men enough to admit writer-director Greta Gerwig keeps her autobiographical baby twee free.   Neither quaint nor sentimental, Gerwig uses snappy, snarky quick-cut scenes to whisk us along through Lady Bird's (Ronan) momentous senior year in high school and the culmination of a stormy relationship with her judgmental, overworked, and stressed-out mother, Marion (Metcalf).

It is Sacramento, "the Midwest of California," in 2002: Christine McPherson, who prefers her "given" name, "Lady Bird" ("... given to me, by me") is an odd duck, a misfit who revels in her uniqueness even as she longs to be one of the cool kids at her Catholic high school.  Lady Bird and her best friend, Julie (Beanie Feldstein), plan their self-actualization as they snack on Communion wafers, a juxtaposition of the normal and the absurd that provides much of the film's humor and endearment.  Their quest takes them to the drama club, where Lady Bird meets Danny, a sweet soul.  But the transience of youth leads her to Kyle (Timothée Chalamet), a guitar-playing nouveau-Kerouac and a new best-friend--wealthy, popular Jenna (Odeya Rush).  Gerwig remembers well the ups and downs, fits and starts, and the Icarian flights to the sun where wings scorch and aspirants plummet to earth.

At Lady Bird's side throughout is her doting father (Tracy Letts), who hides his career downturns from her even as he becomes both confidant and buffer between her and her mother.  Central to the story, though, is the relationship between Lady Bird and Marion McPherson, and it is what makes the film transcendent.  The mother-daughter complexity: each elicits both empathy and ire, each is right and wrong, each knows the other well but at the same time lacks understanding.  And the perfect match of actor to role as achieved with Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf.  It is that relationship that bookends the film and drives it, even at those times when it is only in the back of our minds.

Lady Bird is a triumph for Greta Gerwig in her first film as sole director, a labor of love put forth without a false step.  It is a comedy-drama that allows us to relate to the characters as real people living within the artifices of high school and to remember the intense love-hate between a parent and a child striving for independence.  The film should garner a Best Picture nomination and Saoirse Ronan could end up as the frontrunner for Best Actress.  The 23-year old has a gift for timing that wrings out the power, humor, and truth from every beautifully-written line.  Which brings us to the third probable nomination: Original Screenplay.  Laurie Metcalf has the role of a lifetime, and it could lead to a Supporting Actress nomination.  And finally, if there is any justice Greta Gerwig will earn recognition as Director.

9.0 out of 10 - Entertainment Scale (Dude and Capt. HE declared it their favorite film so far this year)
9.0 out of 10 - Awards Scale

2017: Early Look at Movie Awards Prospects

2017: Early Look at Movie Awards Prospects by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Some of 2017's most anticipated films have not even been released yet, but awards handicappers are already hard at work.  Nominations for some major awards are still two months away, which means we're dealing with a smattering of educated guesses on top of some wild guesses.
In our compilation below it's important to note two qualifications:
1) the lists are will likely change over the next eight weeks, and we will keep you updated;
2) these films, performances, and achievements do not necessarily coincide with those FilmZ and I consider to be the BEST, but rather most awards-friendly.  (We will post our personal favorites sometime after the New Year.)

Below, we have compiled ten major categories as we picture them panning out if award nominations were to be released tomorrow.
Within each group--Frontrunners and Threats--candidates are alphabetically ordered.  The favorite in each category is in Bold

Call Me By Your Name
The Darkest Hour
Lady Bird
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The Big Sick
The Florida Project
Get Out
Molly's Game
The Phantom Thread
Victoria and Abdul

Guillermo del Toro - The Shape of Water 
Luca Guadagnino - Call Me by Your Name
Martin McDonagh - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
Christopher Nolan - Dunkirk
Steven Spielberg - The Post 

Paul Thomas Anderson - Phantom Thread 
Darren Aronofsky - mother! 
Greta Gerwig - Lady Bird
Jordan Peele - Get Out 
Joe Wright - Darkest Hour

Sally Hawkins - The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margo Robbie - I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan - Lady Bird
Meryl Streep - The Post

Jessica Chastain - Molly's Game
Judy Dench - Victoria and Abdul
Jennifer Lawrence - mother!
Daniela Vega - A Fantastic Woman
Kate Winslett - Wonder Wheel

Timothée Chalamet - Call Me by Your Name 
Daniel Day-Lewis - Phantom Thread
James Franco - The Disaster Artist
Tom Hanks - The Post
Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour

Andrew Garfield - Breathe
Jake Gyllenhaal - Stronger
Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out
Jeremy Renner - Wind River
Denzel Washington - Roman J. Israel, Esq

Mary J. Blige -- Mudbound
Holly Hunter -- The Big Sick 
Allison Janney -- I, Tonya
Melissa Leo -- Novitiate 
Laurie Metcalf -- Lady Bird

Hong Chau - Downsizing
Lesley Manville - Phantom Thread 
Michelle Pfeiffer - mother! 
Kristen Scott Thomas - The Darkest Hour
Octavia Spencer - The Shape of Water

Willem Dafoe - The Florida Project
Armie Hammer - Call Me By Your Name
Richard Jenkins -  The Shape of Water
Sam Rockwell - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Michael Stuhlbarg - Call Me By Your Name

Idris Elba - Molly's Game
Woody Harrelson - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Ben Mendelsohn - The Darkest Hour
Mark Rylance - Dunkirk
Michael Shannon - The Shape of Water

Roger Deakins - Blade Runner 2049
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom - Call Me by Your Name
Bruno Delbonnel - Darkest Hour
Dan Laustsen - The Shape of Water
Hoyte van Hoytema - Dunkirk

Alexis Zabe - The Florida Project
Janusz Kaminski - The Post
Edward Lachman - Wonderstruck
Philippe LeSourd - The Beguiled
Rachel Morrison - Mudbound
Vittorio Storaro - Wonder Wheel

Get Out
Lady Bird
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The Big Sick
The Darkest Hour
The Florida Project
The Phantom Thread

Call Me By Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Last Flag Flying
Molly's Game

The Beguiled
The Death of Stalin
Victoria and Abdul

Bladerunner: 2049
The Darkest Hour 
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Baby Driver
Call Me By Your Name
Get Out
The Post

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Kingsman: The Golden Circle, reviewed by Guy S. Malone

In 2015, Kingsmen: The Secret Service sneaked into theaters with modest expectations and turned out to be an original, exciting, and fun skewering of spy films--James Bond meets Monty Python.  As a result, Kingsman: The Golden Circle arrived with great expectations--perhaps, unfairly, too great.  The most important carryover from the first film is that K:TGC never takes itself too seriously--it is a saving grace, really.  FilmZ and I wanted to like K:TGC in the worst way, and that's exactly how we liked it.  K:TGC is such good-natured fun that we can't find it in our hearts to hate it.  Yet the hackneyed, silly plot and pyrotechnic overkill wear thin over the course of a 2:21 runtime in which it seems nothing ended up on the cutting room floor.

A good example is the opening chase sequence that displays outstanding effects and imagination, but it's never a good sign when an action scene goes on so long that it becomes boring.  It pits our Kingsman hero, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) against old nemesis, Charlie (Edward Holcroft), a failed trainee for Her Majesty's Secret Service, now a cybernetic assassin in the employ of arch-villain Poppy (Julianne Moore).  Operating out of a kitschy 1950s-themed stronghold in the deep forest of Cambodia, Poppy is the mastermind of the largest worldwide drug cartel.  Her evil plan: distribute a poisoned product that will bring slow, painful death to all users unless world leaders decriminalize all recreational drugs.  If they accede to her demands--thus making her a legitimate businesswoman who can return to civilization--she will send out drones with the antidote.  Oh well, there have been dumber plots.  Poppy's first step: she has discovered the Savile Row tailor shop Kingsman as the front for the British Secret Service she tries to eliminate all of the Kingsmen at once, a plan that leaves only Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong)--the Kingsman version of Bondian tech wizard Q--alive.

Eggsy must abandon his love, Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström), and head off to the US with Merlin to unite with their American brother-organization, the Statesmen, whose cover is a distillery, led by Champagne, or Champ (Jeff Bridges).  Other Statesmen are Tequila (Channing Tatum), Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal, channeling Burt Reynolds).  For some reason, the Statesmen have been holding a man they call The Lepidopterist," whom Eggsy and Merlin are shocked to learn is really Harry (Colin Firth), AKA Galahad, the greatest Kingman of all, who was killed--shot through the eye--in the first movie (a miracle brought about after that film grossed over $400 million worldwide).  Anyway, the Statesmen have discovered a way to heal such wounds with a sophisticated air splint--I know, I know--so Harry has lost only an eye and his memory.  Now, it is left to the remaining Kingsmen and the Statesmen to intrepidly and implausibly bring down Poppy and her plot.  And, in the process, free Elton John from servitude to Poppy--I know, I know.

Writer Matthew Vaughn can spin an action yarn, but his dialogue is often wooden and clunky, a trait that creates significant hurdles for Director Matthew Vaughn, who never fails to coax mediocre (or worse) performances from some very good actors.  In this case, feel sorry for 2014 Oscar-winner Julianne Moore's daffy Poppy and 2010 Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges' Rooster Cogburn parody.  Colin Firth (2011 Oscar winner), Halle Berry (2002 Oscar winner), and Mark Strong escape relatively unscathed only because they are playing caricatures as arch as their archetypes.  And the star, Taron Egerton, has his character, Eggsy, down pat; both likable and convincing.  Back to the dialogue: I am not a prude; the occasional F-bomb can add perfect seasoning to dialogue.  Note: I said, Seasoning.  Like salt.  Not slathered and forced where it doesn't belong, like the rube who pours ketchup on a steak dinner and slops it into the Cabernet.  (Have you ever been around that middle school boy who shoe-horns F-bombs into his conversations at inappropriate times, just for the sake of impressing you with how badass he is?)  On the plus side, as we said, K:TGC is played for both tongue-in-cheek and zany fun; the VFX and action choreography are imaginative and sometimes spectacular.  We hope that, should a third Kingsmen be made, Vaughn eschews the low-brow and returns to the surreal, infectious satire that made the original so fresh.
6.0 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
4.0 out of 10 on an Awards Scale (outside shot at VFX and some small, niche awards)

Victoria and Abdul

Victoria and Abdul Review by FilmZ

When it first showed up on the horizon, Victoria and Abdul seemed to be a plug and play Academy Awards contender: historical drama extolling racial diversity, directed by Stephen Frears (Philomena, Dangerous Liaisons), starring seven-time Oscar nominee (and once-winner) Dame Judy Dench, and backed by a distinguished award-winning cast and crew.  As blatant Oscar-grabs go, only Steven Spielberg's The Post, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks surpasses among 2017 releases.  And yet, although a dish may have the finest ingredients and arrive at the table with a beautiful presentation and rich aroma, the meal itself turns out good but not great.

Victoria and Abdul begins with scenes juxtaposing late-19th Century British pageantry and Indian subcontinent squalor.  In London, the Empire is in full flourish, but inside the Royal House, we find an aging Queen Victoria (Dench) has lost the will to live.  She is jaded, bored, and her children are disappointments, particularly heir-apparent Bertie (Eddie Izzard).  Prime Minister Lord Salisbury (Michael Gambon in a cameo) is concerned, as is Victoria's staff, headed by Sir Henry Ponsonby (the late Tim Pigott-Smith).  Fate intervenes when word gets back to India that the Queen was highly complimentary of several carpets gifted to her.  In response, India decides to mint a special coin commemorating her Jubilee, and they choose Abdul (Ali Fazal) and Mohammed (Akeel Akhtar) to present it to her.  Under strict orders to refrain from eye contact with Her Majesty, Abdul can't help himself, and when Victoria returns the glance and takes in the tall, handsome stranger, her will to live is rekindled.  She bids Abdul and Mohammed stay as her personal footmen throughout the Jubilee, but soon Abdul's gentle nature and exotic stories win her heart and she orders the assignment to become permanent.  Abdul's sweet innocence charms the Queen (think Rasputin if he were beneficent and servile).  The more influence (and prestige and power) the Queen grants him, the more indignant and scandalized the Royal household becomes, the more obstinately loyal the Queen becomes to Abdul, the more the household plots to bring Abdul down.  From that point, the story shifts from Masterpiece to Lifetime.  In service to the plot, most are reduced to caricatures: Victoria is regally quirky, Abdul is pureness and light, the household members bring a variety of racist aristocrats.

The quality of Victoria and Abdul comes from its first-rate cast and its production values.  Judy Dench brings her expected A-game, as does Tim Pigott-Smith, sadly, in his last role.  More surprising are Ali Fazal's enchanting turn and Eddie Izzard's surprising invisibility beneath the mustache and bluster of Bertie.  Akhtar provides one of the most powerful scenes in the film, standing defiantly against a Royal attempt to wheedle and then intimidate.  The rest of the supporting cast deserves recognition, as well: Paul Higgins as the flummoxed Dr. Reid, Olivia Williams as the snobbish Lady Churchill, Fenella Woolgar as a skittish Miss Phipps.  Alan MacDonald's production design, Sara Finlay's Art Direction, and Consolata Boyle's costume design bring sumptuous verisimilitude to both turn-of-the-20th-Century Britain and India.  We were unaware of the source material, so it is difficult to tell whether Shrabani Basu's book or Lee Hall's screen adaptation is responsible for the one-dimensional cultural stereotypes that wear threadbare by the film's final act.  Given all of the style, it's unfortunate that the substance didn't measure up because, in the end, it's about the story.
7.5 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale (averaging my 7.0 and Filmzarina's 8.0)
7.0 out of 10 on an Awards Scale -- Judy Dench has stiff competition for Best Actress, Tim Pigott-Smith possible for BSA, better chances for Production, Art, and Costume Design awards.

American Made

American Made -- a Review

[Forenote (feel free to ignore):  A bare quorum of our group made it to American Made. Accompanying me were: Guy S. Malone, Researcher, who is required to attend all films he recommends; Don Swedanya, so traumatized by our recent string of dramatic fare that his acid reflux registers on a seismograph; and Serfing Dude, who has been tenaciously loyal in attending our offerings (perhaps it is his hope that mind-altering herbal remedies might accompany our journeys.]

The good news is that everyone in our group enjoyed and can recommend American Made.  Whatever anyone may think of Tom Cruise personally, the guy makes exciting films, and he gives it all he has in the process.  In his newest film, American Made, the star is still charismatic, and while he is no Brando, he does get into his inch-deep characters.  Most of the time, that means some variation of the All-American boy, but his most interesting films are when he plays against that type.  A personal favorite is Collateral, where his silver-haired sociopathic hit-man Vincent nearly wins over the cab driver (Jamie Foxx) he draws into hauling him from kill to kill.  In Edge of Tomorrow, his first collaboration with director Doug Liman, Cruise leaves the badassery to Emily Blunt as he plays a reluctant (very reluctant) hero.

American Made gives Cruise another shade, a biographical treatment of anti-hero Barry Seal, a TWA pilot who turns in his commercial wings for a private gig after amiable CIA agent Monty "Schafer" (Domhnall Gleeson) discovers his aptitude for both risk-taking and smuggling while flashing an innocent 68-tooth grin.  Monty offers Barry a hot spy plane and sends him off to take aerial photography of the burgeoning Communist guerrilla operations in Central America. Of course, Barry is sworn to secrecy, and his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright), a former fast-food worker, worries at first about the loss of benefits and their plan for a family.  But Barry is so talented that the ever-inventive Monty expands his job description to include gun-smuggling with Barry's side of drug-running.  The money rolls in, Barry's operation builds--as does the danger--and before we know it, Barry is up to his neck in helping build what was to become the Medellin drug cartel and the Iran-Contra affair that almost brought down the Reagan Administration.

Barry Seal's story has been told before, most notably in the 1991 Dennis Hopper TV movie drama Doublecrossed, but despite the political weight and dire consequences inherent, American Made goes for a lighter touch.  While Gary Spinelli's screenplay gets a bit cute and convoluted at times, action film artist Doug Liman (Bourne trilogy, Edge of Tomorrow) directs it with high pace and panache, giving nods to the light-hearted larceny of American Hustle (down to the quote, "Some of this actually happened") and the amusing explanatory tangents of The Big Short.  Although American Made doesn't quite reach the level of those two films, it definitely belongs in their company as a satire of modern American Machiavellian political fiascos.

Domhnall Gleeson nearly steals the show as Monty, the amiable CIA agent who invents and operationalizes Wile E. Coyote schemes.  Also notable are Sarah Wright, whose Lucy gives willful ignorance a seductive touch; Caleb Landry Jones as JB, Lucy's vindictive loser of a brother, who is sure to rattle Barry's house of cards; and Jessie Plemons as Sheriff Downing, who balks at investigating the many shady dealings because of the riches being showered in his small town.  American Made makes an entertaining appetizer leading into the awards season buffet.
8.0 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
5.0 out of 10 on an Awards Scale

mother!--A No Spoiler Essay and Review

A Few Thoughts on mother! -- Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Five days after seeing it, I am still processing this film, but I have reached one conclusion: mother! is the most polarizing, subversive work of cinematic art to come out of a major studio in years, and it is destined to become, at the least, a cult classic.  That's a lot packed into one sentence.

Love it or hate it director Darren Aronofsky's film is a work of art in that he leaves its interpretation up to the viewer.  Whatever conclusions you draw, please do it for the right reasons, and it is important to note that mother! is NOT for everyone.  I say this with no snobbery or antipathy.  Everyone has his or her own taste in movies, and for some, that translates into two hours of escapism and fun that they can walk away from afterward--entertainment that is sweet but as nourishing as the fountain soda they drank during the movie and as disposable as the cup it came in.  In other words, just like the majority of films that major studios send our way these days.  Heck, many of the most entertaining movies our little band sees every year fit this category, and the best we can offer in later discussion is how much or how little we liked it and why.  mother! doesn't let you off so easily.  mother! is more like rare tenderloin washed down with 25-year old Macallan.  It smacks you in the face, intoxicates, exhilarates, maybe even makes you sick; but its heady earthiness sticks with you.

 That's mother!.  The characters don't have names, it doesn't have a linear plot, the setting is surreal, there are no musical cues to tell you what to think and feel; it is an allegory with subtexts and metaphors that are open to various interpretations.  Some see it as anti-Christian, others see it as pro-Christian, a dark satire of fame, a scathing criticism of idol worship, a glorification of the sacred feminine, anti-feminist, an indictment of human destruction of the planet, the Apocalypse.  mother! is about creation and Creation. and at one point, her very words,"You never loved me. You only loved how I loved you" carry both personal and Cosmic import.  This film challenges the viewer to think, to analyze, to interpret, to create his or her own meaning; in that way, Aronofsky shows the utmost respect for the audience. If you decide to see mother! see it on its terms, not yours.

As he developed his script, Darren Aronofsky arranged a meeting with Susan Griffin, who in 1978 wrote the ecofeminist classic, Women and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her.  In her book, Griffin explores myth and literature and mounts a convincing sociological argument that the patriarchy often connects women with nature and is bent on dominating both.  Griffin and Aronofsky found each other kindred spirits--it helped that Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the title character, also read Griffin's work and raved about it in an interview with Charlie Rose two years ago.  In the end, Griffin was influential in developing the spiritual foundation of the film.

A caveat: mother! comes to theaters with an R-rating, and it is well-earned for some nudity and language, but mostly for violence.  This surreal film has several disturbing images and one scene, when taken out of context, sounds frightful.  In context, though, the imagery and those scenes add to the fever dream third act and drives the film toward its wild and brilliant conclusion.

Credit must be given to Darren Aronofsky for writing and directing such an original film, to Paramount for taking the chance that no major studio has dared since the heyday of Stanley Kubrick, to Jennifer Lawrence for using her star power cache (at significant professional risk) to help make it happen, and to Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris, and others (most notably brothers Domhnall and Brian Gleeson and Kristen Wiig) for lending their estimable talents to this challenging film.  In their commitment to this film, the primary cast spent three months rehearsing in a New York warehouse before moving to a remote location outside of Montreal for filming.

As we have made clear on several past occasions, we are fans of Darren Aronofsky's work, and we believe Jennifer Lawrence to be the brightest star of her generation.  The director demanded much from her, and she gave perhaps her best performance; cast against type, her restraint and subtlety are mesmerizing.  Aronofsky had his cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, film mother! in 16mm with three settings: Lawrence's POV, tracking her, or close-up on her face.  By all accounts of those closest to the film, she went to the depths of emotion that frightened others on set.  So impressed was Aronofsky after two test showings that he wiped Johann Johannsson's soundtrack from the film.  He said he didn't want music to lead the audience.  To him, Jennifer Lawrence is the soundtrack--so much so, in fact, that even the eerie, creaking sounds of the house are her voice, distorted and modified.

I will see mother! a second time in the theater, maybe a third, and I'm sure I will continue to process this film.  Whether that is a commentary on the film or the limits of my mind is open to discussion.  At this point, you are probably expecting a grade for this film.  The first and most respected critics, those who attended the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals, for the most part, loved mother!; at worst, several gave it mixed reviews, and the British press and public have been most positive. Because it is too ambitious and outrageous for general audiences and, probably, AMPAS itself, any awards it garners will be both a surprise and a credit to the awarding body because Paramount, Aronofsky, Libatique, and the incredible cast are all deserving.  With that in mind, we will stray from our usual rating method and say:
9.0 out of 10 for artistic merit
6.0 out of 10 for general audiences and awards potential

Wind River

Wind River

Taylor Sheridan's acting resume started in 1995, but it was two decades before he burst into our consciousness with his writing debut of Sicario, one of the best action films of 2015.  He followed up the very next year with Hell or High Water, another action film set in his native Texas, this time earning an Original Screenplay Oscar nomination.  On top of that, in his debut, Sheridan won Un Certain Regard - Director at the Cannes Film Festival.  Is it any wonder that Guy Malone, Researcher, placed Wind River, Sheridan's latest effort high on our priority list?  Proving great minds think alike, the Weinsteins picked up the rights to this crime thriller.

Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a US Fish and Wildlife agent, picks off wolves who have been preying on local livestock with his sniper rifle.  As he treks back across the frigid Wyoming landscape, he comes across the body of a young Native American woman, barefoot, miles from nowhere.  He calls Ben (Graham Greene), the head of a six-man constabulary assigned to cover the Wind River Reservation, an area the size of Rhode Island.  Suspicious circumstances--the woman was raped and her lungs had burst--brings in the FBI in the person of rookie Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), sent from the regional office in Las Vegas.

It is at this juncture that a more traditional Western would have forgotten the rigors of FBI training and the resourcefulness of its agents and had the wily tracker (probably John Wayne) carry the little lady, at first stubbornly naive but later worshipfully grateful, to a fitting conclusion and they would live happily ever after.  Sheridan has different ideas, as anyone familiar with his previous work well knows.  Once acclimated, Jane follows her law and order instincts to drive the investigation, but she is a pragmatist; realizing she doesn't know the territory, she enlists Cory to assist.  For his part, the tracker has his own interest in the case.  The deceased woman, Natalie, had been the best friend of his own deceased daughter, so her death cuts doubly deep through his scars.  From here, those expecting a whodunit will be disappointed; there's no challenging trail of clues and red herrings to sift through.  Even as a police procedural, it is overt and heavy-handed; we get a lead, another lead, and a revealing flashback that solves the case.  Wind River does deliver in other ways, though: a tense Mexican standoff, satisfying vengeance, and several unexpected twists on the John Wayne formula.

It also gives us is a window into the lives of forgotten people stuck in picturesque but remote isolation.  Sheridan has something to say, and those accustomed to his writing know his characters tell it in terse remarks, some of which plays out as dry wit, some as frontier working-man wisdom, some a mixture of both.  As such, Graham Greene's supporting lawman was casting made in heaven; his deadpan expression and sidelong glances were made to deliver Sheridan's lines.  Elizabeth Olsen, recently so good as a shallow socialite in Ingrid Goes West is equally effective as an inexperienced but resourceful and decisive FBI agent.

Beyond dialogue, Sheridan, an ombudsman for Native Americans, offers a worldview; he shows their existence as a vast confinement that few successfully escape while many fall into depression, drugs, or lawlessness.  Brought to a personal level, Sheridan's musings play out in a study of souls isolated within and without, and Renner's laconic reflection of that results in his best performance yet.  As one of my partners, Ambrose Woolfinger pointed out to me, the best scene is one of its quietest, and it is at the end.  Cory visits Natalie's father, Martin (Gil Birmingham, a Sheridan favorite), two men bound by the loss of daughters.  In a touching soliloquy, Cory tells Martin he must allow himself to suffer or else he will be robbed of even his memories of Natalie.  It is sage advice, something Cory has yet to accept himself.  As a Native American, Martin knows what Cory means.

7.5 out of 10 on the Entertainment Scale
7.0 out of 10 on an Awards Scale (Wind River is likely to fall short of major awards consideration, but it is a good candidate for Independent Spirit Awards. )

Brief Reviews: Ingrid Goes West and Good Time

Ingrid Goes West

Disclaimer: Aubrey Plaza would have to fling feces at my colleague, Guy S. Malone, Researcher, for us to turn on her, and even then, I would probably laugh.  Plaza is both producer and star of Ingrid Goes West, roles she adopted on her recent gem, The Little Hours.  As such, she has creative control and thus carte blanche to allow her talent to flow unchained.  Hours was a hilarious, over-the-top satire; Ingrid is satire, too, but it is also a cautionary tale about social media with a message that darkens the comedy, and it is only her comic persona that prevents it from becoming pitch black.

Ingrid Thorburn is a mess.  Her mother has died, but in her life, that is merely a sad-face emoji.  Upset because she wasn't invited to a wedding of a young woman she was following on social media, Ingrid crashes the reception and Maces the bride, an act that lands her in a mental institution.  The doctors treat her depression, but they can't reach delusions that are locked inside her smartphone.  She can, however, seem well and happy when her fixations latch onto another queen of the ether: This time it is Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), the brightest star in the Instagram galaxy, who is a #blessed "influencer"--she has so many followers that companies pay her to drop the names of their products.  Properly smitten with a girl crush, Ingrid takes the $60,000 she has inherited from her mother and hatches a harebrained plan--she decides to move to California and insinuate herself into Taylor's life.  In Venice Beach, she rents a flat from Dan Pinto (O'Shea Jackson, Jr) a Batman freak and aspiring screenwriter who either has a crush on her or feels sorry for her or both.  Her focus elsewhere, Ingrid dognaps her way into Taylor's home that she shares with her man-bunned, no-talent artist husband, Ezra (Wyatt Russell).  Aside from serial wince-inducing, comic gaffes, Ingrid cons everyone but Taylor's handsome but horrid brother, Nicky (Billy Magnussen), a catalyst for third act tragi-comic comeuppances leading to the only possible finale appropriate for an Aubrey Plaza film.

Ingrid Goes West isn't for everyone.  Some older filmgoers or those not steeped in that lifestyle may not truly appreciate the efforts of Matt Spicer, who directed and co-wrote (with David Branson Smith), but it's definitely for the under-30 crowd that can relate to the vapid, all-consuming world of social media.  We are only now learning the psychological effects of the morphine drip addiction smartphones provide that keep some of us constantly wired.  For Ingrid, the addiction has swallowed her identity.  The cast is uniformly excellent, and it's unfair to all to single any out.  We'll do it anyway.  Jackson, the son of rapper Ice Cube, is a natural, ranging between enthusiastic Batman fanboy to the tender but frustrated romantic foil of Ingrid.  Magnussen brings charming despicability to the level of fine art.  The film, though, is Plaza's.  Her Ingrid elicits sympathy, disdain, and laughs, sometimes all at once.  In the future, when she is receiving her first Oscar, we will look at this role as seminal in that evolution.
7.5 out of 10 on the Entertainment Scale
5.0 out of 10 on an Awards Scale (In a weaker year for Actress, Plaza might merit consideration)

Good Time

As he requested his ticket, my friend Dude said "One for 'Fake Good Time.' "  His words would have enraged our compadre, Guy S. Malone, Researcher, whose job it is to make sure we attend no clunkers.  Luckily, GSM, R was at the concession stand, but Dude's pre-emptive strike was eerily prophetic.  Good Time was a Cannes nominee for Palme d'Or (Best Picture) and winner of Sound Track.  It also brought raves but no nomination for star Robert Pattinson.  We agree on Pattinson, but this gritty crime-action film by Josh and Benny Safdie served to underline the variance we have with the taste of the Cannes Film Festival folks.

Connie Nikas (Pattinson) hates his grandmother's guardianship treatment of his mentally challenged brother, Nick (a convincing Benny Safdie).  A loser who is not particularly bright himself, Connie is nonetheless a loyal brother.  With the promise of a peaceful, safe life on a farm, Connie plans a bank robbery with Nick as an accomplice.  What could possibly go wrong?  Everything, it turns out: a dye-bomb renders the money worthless, but worse, Nick is taken into custody, and Connie realizes he has just placed his brother's safety, perhaps his life, in jeopardy.  This sends him on a 24-hour odyssey, first, trying to raise bail, later, trying to spring Nick.  As day progresses into night, each successive move Connie makes becomes more desperate, and he becomes more frantic.  And, as the new day dawns, so does Connie's short, strange trip.

In Good Time, Robert Pattinson carries the film.  He is in nearly every scene, and the British actor is convincing as a two-bit outer-borough punk.  This continues a good year for him, following a diametrically opposed role as a philosophical and honorable adventurer in The Lost City of Z.   Some cast members have thus far gone unmentioned because, as good as they are, they seem merely plot contrivances to sell Connie's character flaws and increasing desperation.  Two Oscar nominees appear briefly: Jennifer Jason Leigh is Corey, Connie's whiny, gullible girlfriend who has topped out Mom's credit card; and Barkhad Abdi is Dash, an amusement park security guard (don't ask).  We believe the Cannes Sound Track award was an ironic choice.  The tinny cacophony was evidently meant to make the movie seem fast-paced, but it was distracting and nerve-jangling.  The relatively economical 101-minute runtime seemed too long by a half-hour.  One couple walked out and Dude wanted to, but he only stuck around so as to spare the feelings of Guy S. Malone, Researcher.
6.0 out of 10 on the Entertainment Scale
5.0 out of 10 on an Awards Scale (Robert Pattinson a long-shot possibility)



Months before its release, we marked Detroit as a must see on our calendars, a true chapter from the violent peak of the 1960s Civil Rights movement.  Director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), working with writer and frequent collaborator Mark Boal, zeroed in on an incident at the Algiers Hotel one night in 1967 and brought all of her skills to bear to deliver her specialty--a powerful and immersive experience.  So much so that there were reports of scores of theater attendees walking out of the film as anger emanated from both African-American and White factions at her depiction of riots and police brutality.  Forewarned, we headed out with our intrepid band, and it can be reported first-hand that one among us did walk out, another later said he almost left, and those remaining averted our eyes on several occasions.  (Guy S. Malone, Researcher, as usual, was banished to another row for masticating his Jujyfruits so loudly it sounded like the Scottish Grenadiers slogging through a peat bog.  But we digress.)

Bigelow opens with a written intro superimposed over painted panels, describing the migration of Blacks and Whites in America and concluding with a lesson in urban geography.  Those few moments are the last peaceful ones as we cut to July 23, 1967, and a police raid of an illegal after-hours club in a Black neighborhood that is already restive.  As the police take party-goers outside, the streets go from simmer to boil.  Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd goes street-level as the scene escalates to looting, Molotov cocktails, and violence.  City and State Police try to take control, and by the time the National Guard arrives, what has become known as the 12th Street Riot is on.

Meanwhile, at a nearby Motown revue, an aspiring soul group, the Dramatics, await the opportunity that could finally bring them recognition; before they can perform, though, the violence outside forces the theater to evacuate.   Lead singer, Larry (Algee Smith), and his best friend, Fred (Jacob Latimore), decide to hole up in a dive motel, The Algiers.   There, they meet two suburban girls, Julie (Hannah Murray) and Karen (Kaitlyn Dever), flirting with the sexual revolution.  The girls take them to a party third-floor party where Vietnam Air Cavalry veteran Greene (Anthony Mackie) quietly stands by as the roisterous Carl (Jason Mitchell) and Aubrey (Nathan Davis, Jr.) carry on.  As one of the words practical jokes ever, Carl shoots a starter pistol, a fateful event.  Down below, police and National Guard dive for cover, thinking there is a sniper.  Caught on the street with them is Dismukes (John Boyega), a security guard for one of the local stores.  Soon, an assault is mobilized, and as the third-floor partiers are overwhelmed by massive force.

All of the foregoing is setup and prologue for the events that follow as a trio of city police--Krauss (Will Poulter), Flynn (Ben O'Toole), and Demens (Jack Reynor) take charge of, if not responsibility for, interrogating the suspects on-site.  Led by Krauss, events become increasingly violent and sadistic, prompting other officers to vacate the scene and leaving Dismukes as the rational observer of events.  Those disputed events lead to an investigation and an equally disputed trial, highlighting a third act that is as rushed as the interrogation scenes are grimly dragged out.  That is when John Krasinski shows up as the police defense attorney, representing a Machiavellian system of law that follows an Inquisitional system of order and remains a blot on America's record of race relations to this day.

With a runtime of 2:23, the Algiers Hotel incident lasted 37 minutes longer than it took for Christopher Nolan to evacuate Dunkirk.  During the interrogation scenes, it is evident that Bigelow wants the audience as much as possible to stare in the face of racist police brutality, but it is equally evident that the words "duration" and "endurance" come from the same root.  It is simply too much, as a matter of both taste and art.  We are not squeamish; to the contrary, we have gone out of our way to attend horror movies since our tender pre-adolescent years.  And although we won't go as far as those who call Detroit "violence porn," we will say that the camera dwells a bit too lasciviously on the agony and the anguish of the victims of the interrogation.  From an artistic standpoint, while it is well-composed, well-shot, and drives home the point of the entire film, it does so at the expense of the investigation, the trial, and the consequences to all involved.

Our previous remarks to this point may give the impression that the film is a failure, and that is not the case; Detroit is a good, in some ways a very good, film.  The problem is, it will probably fall just outside the nominee lists in a number of categories.  It may well make some top-ten film lists, but it's unlikely to be top-five in anything.  Few do war films better than Kathryn Bigelow, and Detroit is a domestic war film.  From the beginning through the aftermath of the interrogation, we are immersed in an action movie, shoulder to shoulder with the combatants.  But like many war movies, the characters are thinly-drawn caricatures whom we only care about because of the position they occupy as victim or perpetrator--the kid-singer with the dream, the honest best friend, the rebellious princess, the stoic observer, the strong but silent soldier, the sadistic cop, the nasty lawyer.  Make no mistake, the performances are uniformly good to excellent; they just aren't nuanced.  And in the case of potential acting nominations, the producers bet on the wrong horse: It seems that many people are desperate to make John Boyega happen; in fact, an EW critic drooled, "It's a pleasure just to watch him think."  Really?  They should have pushed all of their chips behind Will Poulter, the British actor with the perfect American accent.  He seems cast against type, with his Alfred E. Newman face, but even in repose he conveys menace, and when he feels the suspects are withholding information, the brutal racist oozes from every pore.  He is the best bet for an acting award.  For others, see below.
8.0 out of 10 on the Entertainment Scale
7.5 out of 10 on an Awards Scale (Outside shot at nominations for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Supporting Actor, maybe Sound Editing)

The Big Sick

The Big Sick

What to make of a romantic comedy that, on the surface, appears similar to a hundred other romcoms?  This critically acclaimed indie is a bit different.  Backed by (Judd) Apatow Productions, it has a strong pedigree, and it was written by stand-up comic Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily Gordon, chronicling their courtship (at this junction, is it a spoiler to say it has a happy ending?).  The Big Sick also walks two tightropes.  First, it addresses Nanjiani's immigrant struggle to assimilate his young adult American lifestyle with his family's traditional Pakistani culture and do it without becoming preachy or political; second, as the title suggests, it faces Emily's mortal struggle with a life-threatening illness without becoming maudlin.  It mostly succeeds on both counts.

One night, as he is performing his stand-up act at a small comedy club, Kumail gets involved in a cute exchange about the nature of heckling with a young woman, who turns out to be Emily (Zoe Kazan).  They hit it off immediately, but such is the nature of romcoms, neither is in the market for a relationship at the moment.  She is a grad student in psychology at the University of Chicago and he is trying to get his comedy act off the ground while making ends meet as an Uber driver.  Yet they can't stay away from each other (and she always has a ride home).  As their relationship grows, so does their commitment.  But so does a secret Kumail harbors: his traditional Pakistani family wants her to meet a traditional Pakistani girl.  His dinner-time visits to his parents' home are as awkward as they are transparent, given his mother's "Look who just happened to drop in" matchmaking, but they also point up the cultural dilemma he faces, and it soon becomes a matter of choosing between family and love.  Kumail is afraid of telling Emily about his family, and he cannot tell them about her.  The time for an easy explanation long past, when the truth comes out, the secret becomes a lie Emily cannot tolerate, and she breaks off the relationship.

Time goes by, and both are moving on, but then the dilemma announced in the title occurs.  Emily is stricken by a puzzling illness, one that is life-threatening.  Kumail is the first to the hospital, but soon Emily's parents arrive.  Terry (Ray Romano), tact-challenged for a college English professor, and Beth (Holly Hunter), a straight-shooting Southern woman who was raised in a military family intent to pick up the baton from Kumail and have him go on with his life.  But Kumail won't go away.  It is here where the main course of the film is served, as Kumail, the man who broke their little girl's heart, tries to justify his presence, Beth vacillates between fretting and confronting, and Terry awkwardly plays peacemaker, trying to understand Kumail's position while trying to avoid Beth's underlying wrath directed at him.  This is also where the dual-tightropes converge: the journey from alienation to understanding even as Emily's life hangs in the balance--and to do it all with humor and grace.

The film started off slowly, and initially, only some of the jokes landed--it's hard to tell whether or not this was intentional because a significant part of the first act takes place in comedy clubs among comics, some of whom with greater aspirations than talent.  Nanjiani and Kazan are a cute couple, and they bring believable romantic chemistry, and his Pakistani family is as likeable as it is stereotypical: Azmat (Anupham Kher), the reasonable but henpecked father; Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff), the no retreat, no surrender mother; and Naveed (Adeel Akhtar), the "good" brother who dutifully grew a beard and married a Pakistani girl.  But the scene--and movie--stealers are Romano and Hunter.  Like the comedy veterans they are, they inhabit their roles, making their line-delivery organic, thus taking a sometimes uneven screenplay to heights that might even earn awards.  Director Michael Showalter, a long-time comedy writer, takes on his biggest project to date and earns even bigger ones in the future.
8.0 out of 10 on the Entertainment Scale
7.5 out of 10 on an Awards Scale (Will challenge for a number of Indie "Spirit" Awards; Possible Golden Globe - Best Picture, Comedy/Musical, Screenplay; AMPAS: Supporting Actress (Hunter) and Original Screenplay are long shots).

The Little Hours

The Little Hours

When The Little Hours opened at Sundance, Catholic League president Bill Donohue flatly stated, "It is Trash. Pure Trash."  It is telling that Writer-Director Jeff Baena and Producer-Star Aubrey Plaza used the quote to highlight the movie's marketing campaign on their movie poster.  Such is the anarchic but good-natured irreverence emblematic in this little satire, loosely based on several stories from Giovanni Boccaccio's 14th-century work, The Decameron.

It is 1349, and in a remote convent in Tuscany we meet three nuns unlike any Catholic sisters you ever met: Allesandra (Alison Brie) is in the convent until her daddy can acquire the dowry that will fetch her a good husband, Ginerva (Kate Micucci) is a slightly deranged suck-up, and Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) is the mean and snarky alpha-nun.  They spice up the daily tedium of embroidery and laundry duty by bullying the handyman, spying on each other, engaging in sexual fantasies, and other, more secretive, pastimes.  All of this occurs under the benign and clueless noses of Mother Superior Sister Marea (Molly Shannon) and the Father Tommasso (John C. O'Reilly).

When the handyman finally has had enough and quits, Tommasso lucks into a replacement: Massetto (Dave Franco), a servant on the run from the paranoid Lord Bruno (Nick Offerman), who has discovered Massetto in flagrante delicto with his wife Francesca (marvelously sarcastic Lauren Weedman).  To protect the new handyman from the three sisters' abuse, Father Tommasso comes up with the dubious idea of having Massetto pretend to be a deaf mute.  The priest's plan, of course, goes awry when the sisters set eyes on the handsome young Massetto and realize the opportunity his inability to speak presents to their blasphemous machinations.  Things kick into high gear when Fernanda's friend, the wild Marta (Jemima Kirke) visits the convent, and peaks with the surprise arrival of Bishop Bartolomeo (Fred Armisen).

For a limited budget indie, The Little Hours has big budget production values.  Dan Romer's score establishes both period and mood while Quyen Tran's cinematography elicits a sunny, earthy pastoral beauty that belies the ongoing shenanigans.  Speaking of contradictions, the humor draws largely from an anachronistic pairing of characters using contemporary American dialect with a story set during the Middle Ages.  Adding to the fun, Baena has gathered some of today's most gifted comics and given them a script that is little more than a general outline then urged them to improvise, thus allowing each actor's idiosyncratic personality to emerge full-blown.  The end result is something approaching the subversive wit of Monty Python with nearly the same zany antics of the Mel Brooks gang.  To say The Little Hours falls short of those classic ensembles is not a put-down; quite the opposite, it is a compliment to its aspirations that it set the bar so high and then went for it.  We hope this group reunites for further efforts in the future.
8.0 out of 10 on the Entertainment Scale
5.5 out of 10 on an Awards Scale (Cinematography a long shot possibility)

A perspective on Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk

Having been a fan of Christopher Nolan films since I saw Memento in 2000, I eagerly anticipated Dunkirk.  We've seen nine of his films, from his great ones--Inception, The Prestige--to his near misses--Interstellar--from comic book heroes--the Dark Knight trilogy--to tarnished heroes--Insomnia--his films are always beautiful, intense, and usually mind-bending experiences.  Our regular movie group saw Dunkirk on IMAX cinema last week, that rare occasion we got the whole gang together (Serfing Dude; Don Swedanya; Ambrose Wolfinger, Ph.D.; Prof. Quincy Wagstaff; Captain Lou Albano, HE; Guy S. Malone, Researcher; even two special guests, the Kreidenheimer Twins, showed up).  All of us were psyched, and, as usual, we commiserated afterward over Black Cows and Ginger Ale.  Guy and I like to hear our friends' thoughts because they season our own impressions as they marinate in our minds before submitting them for your approval.  None of us felt it was the "Best movie of the year" as so many have already crowned it.  Still, all thought it was very good, unique film.

It's important to emphasize the term unique as the prime descriptor for Dunkirk because it is not the standard war movie we've grown up on: not the brooding antiwar films we know so well, and certainly not the John Wayne gung ho type (almost a genre unto itself) of an even older generation.  And, although its immersive effects and visceral impact are reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge, those films are still representative of that old paradigm of what a war film ought to be.  Christopher Nolan's film is far removed from them.  Dunkirk is unique even among the true originals, like Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory, Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, and Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, although it remains to be seen whether or not Dunkirk will take its place among those all-time classics.

Dunkirk is a war film done as a work of impressionism.  The canvas is Dunkirk and its beach, the Strait of Dover, and, just beyond the horizon, the shores of England.  Soldiers on the beach wait to be ferried away from the clenching claws of the German army on land, U-Boats at sea, and Messerschmitts in the air.  Five representative characters emerge: 1) Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) represents the officer upon whom we depend for our bearings--our context and perspective;  2) Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) represents the civilian flotilla dispatched to carry out the massive evacuation effort; 3) Shivering Soldier (Cillian Murphy), who shows the emotional costs of the men (and also hints to us of Nolan's warped timeline); 4) Farrier (Tom Hardy) a Spitfire pilot whose sense of duty compels him to place himself in the same mortal peril as the men on the beach; 5) most importantly, Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), one of the soldiers on the beach.  [Point of information: "Tommy" was a catchall term for any British soldier in WWII, and Nolan purposefully picked an unknown actor and then cast as many generic look-alikes to show that there were over 300,000 "Tommies" on the beach that day.]  Nolan then shifts from character to character in frenetic splashes, shifting not only in place but also in time (one of the auteur's favorite game pieces).  What results is a chaotic swirl whose sense and sequence only become clear as Hans Zimmer's ticking-clock score hurtles us toward the conclusion of the lean 106-minute film.

Because of Nolan's writing and filming decisions, we have the feeling there will be much revisionist thought on Dunkirk before the Acadamy Awards air next winter.  After all, paradigms do not easily shift--especially a paradigm so firmly entrenched in the collective American consciousness as the war movie.  To illustrate, a friend sent me a writer's perspective on Dunkirk from a respected periodical.  While paying lip service what Nolan was going for, the writer showed that he didn't understand it at all.  He would have preferred Nolan's film plus a documentary that detailed British, French, and German troop movements plus rally-round-the-flag motivational speeches to stir the emotions. That movie would have made The Longest Day seem like an evening news sound bite in comparative duration.

As to its promise for awards, Dunkirk will be a rare bird.  Its minimalist dialogue and presentation of Everyman warriors will probably preclude Screenplay or Acting nominations: it's unusual for an Oscar favorite to miss out on those categories.  And make no mistake, it will be among the favorites for end-of-year awards.  Nolan himself should receive strong consideration for Best Picture and Director.  In other major categories, we can expect recognition for Hoyte van Hoytema's Cinematography, Lee Smith's Editing, and Zimmer's Original Score.  Throw in a couple secondary categories, and Dunkirk is in line for up to seven nominations.
8.5 out of 10 on the Entertainment Scale
9.0 out of 10 on an Awards Scale (see last paragraph above)

The Race Begins: 2017 Movie Update

The Race Begins: 2017 Movie Update

It's time for my updated list of awards potentials, art house gems, and personal prejudices.  

Back on March 12, we listed movies to look forward to in 2017.  Since then, dates have changed dates: some films moving to 2018, some jockeying for better dates, and some avoiding the looming Star Wars monster in December.  With summer movie season on the wane, and in the wake of the Toronto and Venice International Film Festivals' initial selections, here we go.

Guy S. Malone, Researcher

7/28 Atomic Blonde -- Charlize Theron, James McAvoy
Charlize is a comic book super spy who goes into Cold War Berlin and kicks ass.  Did I mention Charlize Theron is in it?

8/4 Detroit – Will Poulter, John Krasinski, John Boyega, Anthony Mackie
Kathryn Bigelow directs the factual drama, set in 1967, in which a Detroit police raid ignites one of the largest citizen uprisings in US history.

8/4 The Dark Tower – Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey
The first chapter of Stephen King series about Roland Deschain, a gunslinger who travels an Old West-like alternate dimension seeking the Man in Black and a legendary Dark Tower.

8/4 An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (Documentary)
Al Gore brings us closer to an energy revolution.

8/4 (Limited) Wind River - Elizabeth Olson, Jeremy Renner, Graham Greene, Gil Birmingham
Director Taylor Sheridan (Sicario and Hell or High Water writer) teams a rookie FBI agent and a veteran tracker to solve the mysterious death of a Native American girl on a remote reservation.

8/11 The Glass Castle – Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, Woody Harrelson
A girl comes of age learning to survive in a dysfunctional and poverty-stricken family consisting of an alcoholic father and eccentric artist mother.

9/15 Mother! – Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris
Paramount moved up the release of Darren Aronofsky's secretive psychological thriller to accommodate Venice Film festival competition and Toronto International Film Festival.

9/22 Battle of the Sexes - Emma Stone, Steve Carell
Based-on-truth story of the events surrounding the 1973 tennis challenge match between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs.  Another festival invitee.

9/22 Kingsmen: The Golden Circle – Taron Egerton, Sophie Cookson, Mark Strong
The sequel to the James Bond/Monty Python mash-up wherein our British heroes join their US counterparts, the Statesmen to take down super-villain (Julianne Moore).

9/29 Victoria and Abdul - Dame Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Michael Gambon
The true story about how Queen Victoria, against propriety and custom, strikes up a friendship with a clerk who has traveled from India to participate in the Queen's Golden Jubilee. Festival-bound.

10/6 Blade Runner: 2049 - Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Harrison Ford
Director Denis Villeneuve takes us 30 years after the original in which a young blade runner discovers a potential Earth-shattering secret that leads him to track down the original BR.

10/6 The Mountain Between Us - Kate Winslett, Idris Elba
Stranded on a snow-covered mountain after a plane crash, two passengers must work together to survive the bitter elements and find their way to safety. Festival invitee.

10/13 Marshall - Chadwick Boseman, Dan Stevens, Sophia Bush
(Previously unlisted) The early career of Thurgood Marshall, as he battles his way to become the first African American US Supreme Court Justice.

10/20 The Snowman – Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson. 
Detective Harry Hole tries to locate a missing woman, and his only clue is her pink scarf found tied around the neck of a snowman.

10/27 Suburbicon - Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin
Goerge Clooney directed, Joel and Ethan Coen wrote the comedy/crime mystery set in a suburban town where ordinary people turn to extraordinary stupidity and murder.  Venice and TIFF invitee.

11/? Wonderstruck – Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Cory Michael Smith          
Todd Haynes drama following the mysterious connection between a young Midwestern boy and a girl from fifty years earlier.

11/03  Thor: Ragnarok – Chris Hemsworth
Thor gets help from an A-list and bad-ass cast: Cate Blanchett, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, and Karl Urban

11/10 Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson
Months after the murder of her daughter, a woman challenges the town's revered police chief to solve the mystery.  Martin McDonagh (In BrugesSeven Psychopaths) directs the dark comic drama.

11/10 Murder on the Orient Express – Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Pfeiffer
Dame Agatha Christie’s brilliant detective Hercule Poirot must solve the mystery of an American tycoon killed on the famous train.

11/17 Justice League - Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, J.K. Simmons
(Previously unlisted) Bruce Wayne (Batman) enlists the help of Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) to recruit Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash to face an attack of apocalyptic proportions.

11/22 (Limited) Darkest Hour - Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Lily James
In the late-1930s, Churchill versus Hitler.

12/8 (Limited) The Shape of Water – Michael Shannon, Sally Hawkins, Michael Stuhlbarg
Guillermo del Toro fantasy-thriller, set in 1963, a cleaning woman falls for an aqua-man being captive in a testing laboratory.  Venice and TIFF invitee.

12/15 Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac
The continuing story of Rey’s epic quest to rake untolled sums of cash into Disney’s coffers.

12/20 Jumanji – Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillen, Jack Black, Kevin Hart
Kids in school detention find an old video game console.  When they play it they get sucked in and have to win the game in order to get out again.

12/22 The Current War - Benedict Cumberbatch, Katherine Waterston, Michael Shannon
Historical bio-drama about the competition between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse to market a sustainable electrical system.

12/22 Downsizing – Matt Damon Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz
Alexander Payne social satire in which a man concludes his life would improve if he would shrink himself.  Venice opener, also at TIFF

12/22 (Lim.) The Papers - Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, Michael Stuhlbarg
Steven Spielberg's historical drama about the Pentagon Papers scandal which spanned four presidential administrations, ultimately pitting journalists against the US government.

12/25 The Greatest Showman - Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson
Biopic about P.T. Barnum, founder of Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus.

12/25 (Lim.) Phantom Thread (formerly: Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Project) – Daniel Day-Lewis, Leslie Manville.  Drama set in the 1950s, a perfectionist dressmaker serves royalty and the highest echelon of British society.

TBD  Annihilation – Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac
Alex Garland sci-fi thriller; an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor join a biologist in search of her husband who went missing in an environmental disaster zone.

TBD Hostiles – Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Ben Foster
In late 19th Century, a cavalry officer reluctantly agrees to assist a Cheyenne chief and his family as they travel through hostile territory.

TBD Mudbound - Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund
Sundance favorite about racism in post-WWII Mississippi.

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