“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Does this time-honored axiom hold up in modern cinema? We have watched through the decades as film-making has advanced ten-fold with improved CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) and motion capture technologies. We have even seen classics such as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” remade and retold in movies countless times since its creation in 1818, but to what end? Surely if you could capture the imagery kindled by a readers imagination on the big screen, we would have done it by now, no? On the other hand, isn’t it much simpler to experience a story in vibrant colors and imagery without the tedious perusal of paragraphs on paragraphs of visual depictions and adjectives – not to mention keeping track of all of the names and references listed in longer novels?
The Bibliophile or the Cinephile
If you have read the book before you’ve seen the movie, already you’ve created a universe of your own imagining, and soared through the narrative arc creating personal meaning and memories of the tale. Each character’s name brings a face and a story of its own; the tragedy, adventure, or turmoil ascribed to them is the reader’s own. You walked with the hobbits through every step of the journey to Mordor, you stood in the court room alongside Atticus Finch, and you rode the dragons with Eragon. How can the experience of a theater buff possibly compare?
From the movie-goers perspective, though, how could one enjoy a book if they’ve seen the story in IMAX 3D? You could spend a hundred pages to detail one frame of the final confrontation in Avengers: Endgame or almost any moment in James Cameron’s Avatar. The pace of the silver screen is much faster too – you can watch 3 movies in under 4.5 hours, but reading a novel can take days, and the book becomes less of a page-turner when you can see the twists coming (plus you don’t get the convenience of pre-popped popcorn and a large soda in your recliner at home). In addition, the farsighted demographic may have a bias in favor of the cinema
Undoubtedly, the experience can be left up to the preference of the individual; though it seems more likely for an avid reader to go to see the movie than it is for a theater buff to pick the book up off the shelf. Directors of the silver screen are allowed to impart their own interpretation of a story to the viewer through the various scenes in a movie (whether including or excluding details of events), while novelists leave subjective context for the reader to create their own explication. So which do you prefer? Are you an avid filmaholic or a die-hard bibliomaniac?
Without a doubt, this pandemic is impacting the film and television industry. Things will no longer be the same. On the more positive side, many production companies are adapting to the new normal, but this is not without a price.
In terms of costs, the movie and television industries have had to shell out a million or more dollars to address the pandemic issue. Some of these costs include actors being required to do daily testing, so they can safely interact with each other. Other expenses come from meticulously cleaning the set, which is a crucial part of the new protocol. Some producers are flying out actors and crew members to the production site via private plane to eliminate exposure. Because of these additional steps involved in shooting a movie or T.V. show, extra time is required to complete the work. As a result, this pandemic is turning out to be a costly endeavor for many in the entertainment industry.
Increase in Production Costs
The Halt in Production vs. The Show Must Go On
Under the pandemic, some production companies have given up taping altogether due to uncertainty. Some companies have temporarily halted filming until this whole thing has blown over. At the same time, other shows have taken to broadcasting from home without their audiences. For instance, shows like “The View” and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.” Nonetheless, there are production companies that are still filming and rehearsing by implementing the CDC’s safety protocols. These companies have taken on the old saying, “the show must go on.
Postponements of Box Office Hits
There were several feature films scheduled to come out this past summer. One such film is “No Time to Die,” the new James Bond movie. Studio executives have postponed the release of this feature-length film at least twice. This Bond film is a box office hit without a doubt, but due to Covid 19, postponements are a real problem. There were even talks of putting some of these films on streaming entertainment service companies; however, studios prefer the box office effect and opted to hold off the release. These executives are hoping people get cabin fever and rush back to theaters. Returning to the theater is a high stake gamble on their part. People may begin to enjoy streaming new movies from the comforts of their own home with a less expensive bucket of popcorn from the local store
With everything, there is always a silver lining. The Covid pandemic is impacting the whole world, and those in the film and television industry are no different. Many people who are home whether, by choice or misfortune, are binge-watching old and new shows, and those studios that are pushing through and embracing the new normal are the benefactors of this new captive audience. Indeed, the world will not likely go back to the way things were; all that can be done is to sit back and watch as a new way of doing cinema and television emerges.
Some of the greatest movie franchises are trilogies. Lord of the Rings, the original Star Wars releases, and Back to the Future. When a trilogy just won’t cut it or a film franchise develops a cult following, Hollywood green lights another movie. Rambo and The Fast and The Furious franchise are perfect examples.
Now, you can add Gerard Bulter’s Mike Banning to the list. Recently, Millennium announced the fourth installment in the Fallen series Night Has Fallen.
The Series So Far
The franchise began in 2013 with Olympus Has Fallen. Mike Banning (Butler), a disgraced Secret Service Agent, thwarts a North Korean attack on the White House and the attempted assassination of the President of The United States.
In 2016, Butler reprising his role as Banning in London Has Fallen. This time, Banning and the President faced terrorists bent on revenge for a drone strike years before while attending a state funeral in London.
The most recent installment hit theaters in 2019. In Angel Has Fallen, Butler once again reprised the role of Mike Banning. Banning evaded law enforcement after being framed for an assassination attempt on the President. He eventually clears his name and becomes Director of the Secret Service at the end of the film.
The Future Of The Franchise
With no release date set, the next installment will film in various locations across Europe. With 2020 and the lockdowns in Europe limiting Hollywood’s ability to film, chances are production won’t start until 2021.
After the announcement of Night Has Fallen, the studio confirmed two more movies are in development. There are talks of a potential TV spin-off as well. This move by Millennium makes financial sense the series grossed roughly $521 million since 2013.
Where Will The Story Take Banning?
Questions remain about how this new installment will further the story of the aging Mike Banning. Many have compared Butler’s character to Matt Damon’s Bourne. While there are some similarities, the storylines are vastly different. One focuses on espionage, the other on protecting the President. It will be interesting to see how the studio handles the new installment and if they take a page out of the globe-trotting Bourne’s playbook.
In the end, will Butler hand the mantel over to a young fresh action star? Time will tell, but it is unlikely. Butler, while not an American, is about an All-American action hero as you can get. His star appeal is undeniable as he trends well with both men and women.
Ultimately Night Has Fallen will have to tackle a tough production schedule, fight a pandemic, and deal with an aging action hero. But, if anyone can do it, it will be Mike Banning’s, Gerald Butler.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Hollywood film sector. Theaters are closed, films are delayed and video streaming has significantly impacted the industry. Last year alone, more than $42 billion was made at the box office. More than 400,000 businesses and two million jobs are dependent on Hollywood. Numerous changes in the film industry began before the pandemic.
Fewer Americans are attending films and ticket sales have declined despite the investments in cinemas, audiovisual technology and comfort. The exclusive rights of theaters to films are challenged by streaming, downloading and sales available shortly after the initial release. Cinemas now have exclusivity for approximately two months less than during the past.
The reason is consumers now prefer streaming videos and SVoD services. The result is a decline in incentives for running movies in theaters for long periods of time. Studios are releasing movies exclusively for the services they provide, further decreasing the availability of films in theaters. In the past, between 20 and 25 films were released by the six major studios including Walt Disney, Universal and Paramount.
Today, the same studios are releasing fewer films. This signifies a shift in power. Films are being released and shown to the consumers by Amazon and Netflix. Hollywood can no longer rely on box office revenue due to digital content. Profits have become dependant on advertising revenue and subscriptions as opposed to releasing television series and movies.
Optimizing new releases for specific schedules, holiday weekends or primetime slots has become a thing of the past. Increased engagement is the current goal. Lost earnings have resulted in bundled subscriptions created to increase revenue. Nearly half of all tickets sold are at cinemas. With films released right to the consumers, the profit margin is threatened.
Theatrical releases have been bypassed leading to boycotts and disputes. The biggest impact is expected to hit independent theaters. The exclusive rights to movies are generally given to the major chains. Some people believe the cinema operators are consolidating to survive. Others are targeting consumers with loyalty programs based on important consumer data.
Technology is being used for the integration of communications systems to effectively target consumers attending the theater on a regular basis. The benefits are only available to the largest movie studios. Fewer films are now available, with the impact questioning the future of Hollywood. Disney has become important for the growth of the industry.
Despite the key six franchises only achieving revenue growth of 10 percent since 2000, Disney has more than doubled its share during the last 10 years. Financing movies has increased in risk due to COVI-19 due to the increased cost of insurance and health security. Raising capital is more difficult for smaller studios. This might result in a decrease in film diversity.
Distribution has been affected due to theater consolidation. Smaller studios may have to rely on alternative options for the promotion and funding of new films. Gaming companies and SVoD services are now enjoying a slice of the revenue once provided for Hollywood. Whether or not Hollywood will recover remains to be seen
It hasn’t been easy for Harry and Meghan, but they are slowly adjusting to their new lives with baby Archie far away from Buckingham Palace and the U.K.’s long tradition of monarchy.
H and M Reinvent Themselves
The Duke, 35, and Duchess of Sussex, 38, ‘stepped back’ in January as senior members of the royal family to create a new destiny and a life of purpose. The pair are hoping to split their time between living on Vancouver Island and in sunny Los Angeles.
Before she married Prince Harry, Meghan Markle had a solid career in the television series called “Suits” in the role of Rachel Zane. She enjoyed acting, and rumor has it that the Duchess got quickly bored with the royal lifestyle. Now, away from the royal bubble, she hopes to regain her popular following as an up and coming star, and Harry fully supports her ambition.
With Energy Out Of The Gate
When Meghan and Harry got engaged, she suggested to the media that she was retiring from acting and welcomed a new change. She was excited to begin working with Harry as a team. She had been on “Suits” for seven years and had made her mark in the entertainment field.
Now, she had the opportunity to bring new energy and ideas with the prince to a global platform. She would take her new role seriously and with respect because her voice was now one that people were listening to. Meghan wanted to strike a proper note.
Her Royal Duties Weren’t Enough
The Duke and Duchess were photographed often by famous British royal photographer Arthur Edwards. He covered their every move in public and could see how Meghan had captured the hearts of the British people, but slowly, things started changing. A toxic relationship had developed between Harry and the media. He began shutting them out, and it was unusual to see his once normal, happy demeanor disappear.
Edwards blamed Meghan for Harry’s sudden coldness to everything royal. He believes that royal living just wasn’t enough for Meghan, and he says that the couple could not have it both ways, half in the U.K and the other half in the U.S.
The photographer says that being patrons of charities demand a lot of time and being immersed in a community and its people.
MM’s Job Is Truly Magical
Disney is called the Most Magical Place On Earth, and that appears to be where Meghan is headed. She nailed a great gig, and it looks like Harry set the wheels in motion for his partner.
The pair was on the red carpet of the “Lion King” premiere in July 2019. Harry mentioned to then Disney CEO Bob Iger about Meghan being available for voice-over work.
London sources say the actress already performed her role and did the voice-over before the couple’s six-week holiday break. It’s a win-win for everyone as she signed the Disney deal in return for a donation to the wildlife charity “Elephants Without Borders.”
Robert De Niro has been appearing in films since the 1960’s, and many of these are considered classics. While, it’s a difficult task to pick out the best films from an actor who has appeared in so many terrific ones, it’s also an enjoyable one. From oldest to most recent, here are the finest (arguably) Robert De Niro movies!
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Although critics at the time this film came out thought that the story line featuring Robert De Niro, who played godfather Vito Corleone in his youth, slowed down the main plot featuring Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, over the years this film has come to be recognized as one of the best films in American cinema history. It also firmly established the powerful on-screen chemistry of De Niro and Pacino.
Taxi Driver (1976)
In Taxi Driver, De Niro plays a character who goes from slightly eccentric to full-blown violent. As with other characters, he gains sympathy even as he repulses, and his dark deeds become understandable. It’s hard to imagine many actors other than De Niro who would be able to play an individual who becomes an assassin for no good reason and still be able to portray him sympathetically.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Released at a time when America was just beginning to try and process its national experience in Vietnam. The viewer sees De Niro’s character in his normal and happy youth, and then they see what happens to him as a result of serving in Vietnam. The before and after is a metaphor for the entire nation, and audiences felt like they were watching a real person who they knew in De Niro’s character.
Raging Bull (1980)
Filmed in black and white, this film is haunting. De Niro plays an aging boxer who becomes a comedian after he has been beaten to the pulp in the ring too many times. While his character is not likable, he earns the viewer’s respect for his perseverance.
The King of Comedy (1982)
This film explores the relationship between fans and celebrities, and it looks at the warped perceptions ordinary people often have of the famous. De Niro plays a part where he drifts to the wrong side of the line between being a fan and being a stalker, and he does it in his own inimitable way.
The Untouchables (1987)
Robert De Niro plays Al Capone in this film, and he even gained weight for the picture so that he could look even more intimidating. Even as his character is pursued by good cops played by Kevin Costner and Sean Connery, it’s De Niro’s performance, especially in the infamous baseball-bat scene, that stays with the viewer.
This film is one of several where the combination of Martin Scorcese’s direction and De Niro’s acting, combined with a mafia-related script, yields an awesome film. The fast-pace and violence of this film captivates the viewer, and it’s impossible to look away from the first scene to the last. Although Ray Liotta’s character is the protagonist in this picture, De Niro’s performance is at its heart.
Cape Fear (1991)
In this film, De Niro plays a deranged ex-convict bent on getting revenge on the lawman who put him in jail. De Niro takes creepiness to another level in his portrayal of a bad guy who is persistent, cunning and obsessed. He’ll even go after his enemy’s teenage daughter.
With Al Pacino’s cop to De Niro’s robber, this film has two very strong leads. Even as De Niro plots bank robberies, you gain sympathy for him as you see him struggling with the challenges of running his crew and trying to have a relationship. This film also has one of the best gunfight scenes in film history.
As in Goodfellas, this film has De Niro and Joe Pesci playing gangsters who work together. In Goodfellas, however, the relationship is more volatile, and casino-manager De Niro is sometimes repelled by the disregard Pesci’s character shows for the boundaries. Set in 1970’s Las Vegas, this film sparkles.
Most people look at Mark Hamill and can’t see past Luke Skywalker. Though his iconic role in the “Star Wars” franchise is one to remember, he’s been in many other movies. Here’s a look at the six best Mark Hamill movies.
1. Joker – Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
It may come as a surprise, but Hamill has been playing Joker for about 30 years. Hamill plays Batman’s adversary in “Batman: The Animated Series.” His voiceover work is stunning as he shows his wide voice range of acting between mayhem and evil.
2. Ted Mitchum – Brigsby Bear
Hamill jumped into show off his dramatic side in the indie drama/comedy “Brisby Bear.” He played an obsessive father raising his adult son as if he were still a child. The movie reveals Ted abducted the son as a baby. He and his wife raised the boy by watching the fictional series, “Brigsby Bear.” The adult son finds out the truth, and decides to make the series into a movie. The movie shows off Hamill’s sweet side so much that you forget he kidnapped the boy.
3. Professor James Arnold – Kingsman: The Secret Service
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a goofty, raunchy movie. Hamill played Professor James Arnold, a fun, edgy dude. The movie is wild and crazy, but provides a way for Hamill to show off his diverse acting skills.
4. Firelord Ozai – Avatar: The Last Airbender
Hamill gets to play the antagonist voiceover card again with Firelord Ozai in “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” As the main bad guy, Firelord Ozai tries to destroy nations and destroy anyone in his way. Hamill has a way to make people fall in love with, yet hate the villian. No one knows why, but Hamill is one of the best voiceover villainous characters out there.
5. Private Griff – The Big Red One
Hamill stepped away from the galaxy into a very serious 1980 war drama in “The Big Red One.” As Private Griff, a member in a squad of soldiers in Africa during World War II. He showed off his serious, dramatic side in this supporting role. Though it’s a smaller role, Hamill stands apart in this film. He was trying so hard to step away from his Skywalker role into something else. He succeeded.
6. Colonel Muska – Castle in the Sky
Enter another amazing showcase of Hamill’s voiceover acting. Hamill played Colonel Muska in Disney’s “Castle In The Sky” in 1986. Muska was an evil man who tried to take control over a castle in the sky. Though usually known for his “good guy” roles, Hamill turned the tables to play an animated antagonist. People say he’s so good at voicing Colonel Muska they often don’t even recogize him.
There are always so many movies to pick from these days, and oftentimes movies do not seem to meet the expectations of every viewer. To help simplify the matter, I have compiled a list of 10 must-see movies as well as a quick synopsis of each.
‘A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood’ is set to release on November 22nd. Tom Hanks plays the role of Fred Rogers, and the greatest criticism in regards to the film seems to fall along the lines of stating that it’s too obvious. If you loved Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, then this is a film you do not want to miss.
‘Little Women’ is another well-known classic, and it is set to release on Christmas day. This is the 8th big-screen remake of the classic, however, there is a star cast that has been picked to make this film a little different from the original 1868 classic. Greta Gerwig has written and directed this film, and there is great anticipation in regards to what she has in store for audiences.
‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ will hit theatres on December 20th. This film is the third installment of the sequel trilogy, and it is sure to please every Star Wars fan who has been waiting for the latest edition of the Star Wars saga. If you have wanted to see the greatest battle between good and evil, then do not miss the latest edition of Star Wars this year.
I list ‘Frozen 2’ as a classic simply because the first film created such a stir among the movie industry. If you have ever wondered about the origins of Elsa’s magic, then you will definitely want to mark your calendars for November 22nd.
If you have always wanted to see the Broadway classic ‘Cats,’ then do not miss your chance to see the movie on December 20th. You will enjoy many of the well known songs as well as a twist on the live show that captivated audiences for years.
‘Knives Out’ will hit theatres on November 27th. If you have waited for an action, comedy, and mystery movie all rolled into one, then you will definitely want to check out the whodunit movie of the year.
‘Uncut Gems’ is set to release on Christmas Day. Adam Sandler plays a more serious role as he walks the audience through the life of a compulsive gambler who constantly places high stake bets.
‘1917’ will also be released on Christmas Day, however, this film is set during the first World War.
Movies Based on True Stories
‘Bombshell’ is set to release on December 20th, and with Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman as the leading ladies of this film, you can expect nothing short of great acting. The story of the Fox News creator is told from the viewpoint of these highly acclaimed actresses who play the role of high profile on-air personalities.
‘The Banker’ is due to hit screens on December 6th. This movie highlights the problems that two African American businessmen fought in the 1950s. You can expect humor, racial injustice, and the fight for equality.
These are the top 10 must-see movies before the end of 2019. Each film is unique and has been suggested to present some of the greatest adaptations and stories of all time. Mark your calendars to ensure you don’t miss a single one.
As Fall season approaches, this is a great time to be a movie fan. Oscar season is also rapidly approaching, which means that movie studios will release films as they look to make one final award-winning push. If you are a fan of movies and the film industry in general, here is a look at several movie-themed podcasts that you should consider listening to.
For over a decade, Filmspotting has produced weekly installments of film analysis. Many of the episodes start with an in-depth look at one of the top new releases. Each episode also features filmmaker interviews and theatrical reviews. The podcast is hosted by Adam Kempenaar, Josh Larsen, and Sam Van Hallgren. Kempenaar has a film studies degree from the University of Iowa. He is also a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. Larsen is a former film critic for the Chicago Sun Times. Filmspotting is known for creating several unique lists based on a number of different movie topics. The podcast also has a popular segment where listeners try to figure out which movie the hosts are recreating a scene from.
How Did This Get Made
The How Did This Get Made podcast explores the deconstruction of movies that are universally recognized as terrible. The comedic podcast is hosted by June Diane Raphael, Jason Mantzoukas, and Paul Scheer. The hosts make jokes about the films as they try to figure out the plot. Scheer discusses online reviews of each film. Eventually, the hosts make a final decision on the overall quality of the film. Some episodes of the podcast are recorded live in front of an audience. Every other week, Scheer answers fan questions and discusses different movies and TV shows that he personally enjoys.
The Scriptnotes podcast strives to provide listeners with a clear idea of how the film industry operates. The podcast is hosted by screenwriters Craig Mazin and John August. Mazin wrote Chernobyl, a miniseries which helped him win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series. August helped create Go, Charlie’s Angels, and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Mazin and August offer advice on how to create a great screenplay. Mazin and August also discuss current events within the industry. During the Three Page Challenge segment, Mazin and August review screenplays submitted by different readers.
The Rewatchables podcast is available through The Ringer network. The podcast features sportswriter Bill Simmons and a guest discussing movies that are considered culturally significant. Some of the movies discussed on the podcast include Remember The Titans, The Shining, and Den of Thieves.
You Remember This
The You Must Remember This Podcast is highly recommended for film historians. Karina Longworth explores many of the secrets during Hollywood’s first century. Longworth is a former film editor at LA Weekly. She has also written for Grantland and Vanity Fair. As Longworth discusses topics such as Marilyn Monroe and The Hollywood Black List, she strives to educate readers about an industry that has greatly relied on spin and myths.
Masculinity gets a beatdown in Riley Stearns’ The Art of Self-Defense, a scathing satire about the fragile and toxic variations of modern manliness. After nearly dying from an assault by helmeted motorcyclists, wimpy Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) finds empowerment at the karate dojo of Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), a martial-arts guru who helps him become that which he most fears. Stearns’ off-kilter script is defined by awkward conversations and absurd twists, and its droll approach to its material generates considerable black humor. As he becomes more devoted to the dojo, Casey is drawn deeper into a demented space marked by homoeroticism, sexism, and devious criminality. What he learns, ultimately, is that violence has the power to both transform and corrupt — a lesson that Eisenberg brings to amusingly wacko life via a performance in which Casey’s seething anger and resentment at his own powerlessness lies just beneath his placid surface, ready to erupt at a moment’s notice in a flurry of kicks and punches.24. Toy Story 4
Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of Pixar’s animated toys are back in Toy Story 4, and though their return engagement may not be wholly necessary — considering 2011’s ideal franchise-capping Toy Story 3 — it proves a charming, funny and deceptively weighty saga about independence, purpose and loyalty to both loved ones and, just as importantly, to one’s self. Now the property of kindergarten-bound Bonnie, who’s disinterested in playing with him, Woody finds meaning in life by protecting her newest plaything: Forky (Tony Hale), a makeshift weirdo crafted from trash. Their ensuing road-trip odyssey leads Woody to Bo Peep (Annie Potts), now enjoying her freedom as a “lost toy.” Director Josh Cooley and writers Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom pepper their material with the usual barrage of sharp jokes, and the voice cast — including Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as a conjoined bunny and duck — is, as always, top-notch. Plus, it has Keanu Reeves stealing every scene he’s in as Duke Caboom, the greatest Canadian motorcycle daredevil to ever grace the silver screen.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
23. The Dead Don’t Die
Jim Jarmusch crafts an undeadpan comedy of apocalyptic proportions with The Dead Don’t Die, a Night of the Living Dead riff played for bleak satire. In the “nice” town of Centerville, chief Cliff (Bill Murray) and officer Ronnie (Adam Driver) are forced to contend with a zombie outbreak caused by…well, maybe it’s the polar fracking that’s knocked the Earth off its axis, or the MAGA-type insanity peddled by local farmer Frank (Steve Buscemi), or simply good ol’ fashioned American materialism. “This isn’t going to end well,” warns Ronnie at regular intervals, which he knows because he’s read Jarmusch’s script — just one of many instances in which the film indulges in goofy self-referentiality. A stellar cast that also includes Chloë Sevigny, Larry Fessenden, Danny Glover, Selena Gomez, and Tom Waits (looking like a reject from Cats) go through their end-of-the-world motions with laid-back confusion and panic (they’re barely animated themselves). Meanwhile, Jarmusch stages scenes of gruesomeness with a shrug-ish good humor that belies this simmering-with-anger critique of a world going, perhaps deservedly, to hell.22. Fast Color
“If something’s broken, it stays broken,” intones Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) at the outset of Fast Color, which then proceeds to show that things — and people — can be mended through the power of family, love, and connection to the past. Director Julia Hart’s sophomore feature (co-written with Jordan Horowitz) is an unconventional superhero saga about Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who in a near future decimated by lack of rain, flees government agent Bill (Christopher Denham) while trying to control her extraordinary abilities, which manifest themselves as seismic seizures. Ruth’s flight takes her to her childhood home and her mom Bo and daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney), both of whom have the capacity to wield swirly-colored constructive/deconstructive energy. The volatility of youth and the vitality of kinship (with present and former relatives) serve as sturdy thematic undercurrents for this low-key genre tale. Far more subdued than its summer-blockbuster brethren, it’s a showcase for Hart’s vibrant visuals and Mbatha-Raw’s heartfelt performance as a woman finding strength not from independence but, instead, from bonds of blood.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
The kindness of strangers is exploited for demented purposes in Greta, Neil Jordan’s playfully bonkers thriller about the trouble that befalls young Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) after she finds a pocketbook on a New York subway and returns it to its owner, lonely Greta (Isabelle Huppert). Courtesy of that humane act, Frances –grieving the death of her beloved mom, as well as adjusting to her new Manhattan environs with the help of her wealthy roommate (Maika Monroe)—nets herself a surrogate mother figure. Their friendship, however, is eventually revealed to be predicted on a lie that turns the proceedings cockeyed. Jordan laces the film with erotic undercurrents but otherwise refuses to unduly embellish his material, instead content to keep it on steady ground even as it grows loopier. It’s Huppert who truly elevates this story about twisted maternal obsessiveness, her Greta a cunning predator who uses sophistication and solitary sorrowfulness to mask more devious desires. Sad, elegant and extremely unhinged, she’s a stalker to remember. 20. Avengers: Endgame
Marvel saves the best for last—at least in terms of this phase of its sprawling cinematic universe—with Avengers: Endgame. This entry is theculmination of its decade-plus run of interconnected films, which offered not only surprising twists and electric superhero spectacle, but also routine chances for its illustrious cast to actually act. Helmed by Joe and Anthony Russo with the same juggling-multiple-strands craftsmanship they brought to their prior franchise installments, this latest saga finds Earth’s Mightiest Heroes trying to undo big bad Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) population-halving “Snapture.” To discuss plot particulars would be to spoil some of the fun, although the real enjoyment derived from this extravaganza comes from its self-referential fan-service nods, its ability to embellish every portentous moment with character-specific humor, and its satisfyingly seamless and cohesive conclusion. It’s a superior piece of tentpole cinema, thanks in large part to A-game performances from stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Mark Ruffalo.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
19. The Mountain
A hallucinatory nightmare of loneliness, alienation, and Oedipal desire, Rick Alverson’s The Mountain boasts shades of Stanley Kubrick and Yorgos Lanthimos even as it carves out its own peculiar, penetrating identity. Set free from the company of his remote skating-instructor father (Udo Kier), miserable Andy (Tye Sheridan) — desperate to reconnect with his institutionalized mother — sets out on a trip with Dr. Wallace Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum), who wants Andy to photograph the psychiatric patients he treats with his unique electroshock-and-lobotomy procedures. Set during the 1950s, theirs is an expedition marked by disintegration and yearning for escape and deliverance, and it ultimately leads to the home of a French healer (Denis Levant) who wants Fiennes to perform his technique on his daughter Susan (Hannah Gross), with whom Andy develops a connected-by-disconnection relationship. Aided by unnervingly stoic, expressive turns from his leads, Alverson dramatizes this off-kilter madness via painterly compositions of figures trapped in cramped, confining architectural spaces, set to ominous audio tones and blowing wind. In this surrealist landscape, humor and horror are almost indistinguishable, epitomized by Levant’s unforgettable dance of the deranged.18. Plus One
Weddings can be a torturous drag for singles, so longtime friends Alice (Maya Erskine) and Ben (Jack Quaid) decide to spend their overbooked nuptials season tag-teaming events as platonic dates. Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer’s romantic comedy is, per formula, bound to have its seemingly opposite protagonists discover their attraction for one another, yet predictability is of no concern when the amorous action is as consistently funny and charming as it is in this jaunty indie. Be it stumbling their way through one ceremony and party after another, or embarking on their own unlikely relationship while dealing with their troublesome parents, Alice and Ben prove to be exceptional company. She uses booze and a sharp tongue to cope with her loneliness, and he clings to high standards as a way to avoid commitment and stave off potential abandonment. Erskine in particular is a revelation—a charismatically uninhibited riot, she seems destined for Hollywood’s A-list.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
17. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
John Wick dispatches adversaries in a frantic knife-throwing fight, on horseback through the streets of New York City, and with a library book (!) in Chad Stahelski’s latest go-round—and that all happens in the first 20 minutes. No franchise delivers more crazily choreographed violence than John Wick, in which savagery is carried out with both concussive force and dancer-like grace. In Parabellum, Wick teams up with Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane, and Halle Berry (and her two crotch-fixated German shepherds) in order to stave off death at the hands of the world’s assassins, all of whom seek a bounty on his head. Improving on Chapter 2, director Stahelski stages his set pieces as exercises in vicious physicality. Through it all, Keanu Reeves strikes a dashing pose as the increasingly harried (and bloodied) Wick, his trademark designer suits and walk-softly-and-carry-a-big-gun demeanor once again employed to expert effect in a series that continues, like Reeves himself, to improve with age.16. High Life
Fertility and desolation, creation and destruction, isolation and togetherness all intermingle in hypnotic fashion in High Life, Claire Denis’ entrancing sci-fi reverie. Indebted, spiritually if not narratively, to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Denis’ story concerns a space ship on which a doctor (Juliette Binoche) attempts to successfully conceive children through experiments with convicts as they all hurtle toward a black hole whose energy they seek to harness. One of these passengers is Monte (Robert Pattinson), who’s introduced caring for an infant, alone, in what’s soon exposed as a flash-forward. Barren spaces abound, and the French auteur infuses her material with a sense of ominous hollowness, born from longings—for purpose, conception, and reinvention—that remain unfulfilled. No clear-cut answers await those who make it to the end of this mesmerizing journey, only a mood of enigmatic ennui, bursts of sexualized violence and hunger (the latter coming via Binoche’s unforgettable visit to a room known as the “f–k box”), a superbly cagey Pattinson turn, and a finale of cautious optimism.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
15. Birds of Passage
Capitalist modernity, taking the form of the marijuana trade, corrupts a local Colombian culture in Birds of Passage, an ethnographically rich crime drama from Embrace of the Serpent director Ciro Guerra. Split into five sections spanning 1960-1980, and set in the country’s northern La Guajira region, Guerra’s film (co-directed by his wife and producing partner Cristina Gallego) details the disintegration of a Wayuu community thanks to enterprising Rapayet (José Acosta), who marries the daughter of terrifying matriarch Ursula (Carmiña Martinez) and transforms everyone’s fortunes by smuggling weed procured from relatives. The tension between tradition and progress is almost as taught as that between mercy and brutality, as the clan’s rise to drug-running prominence comes at a catastrophic cost. Interjecting their verité tale with doses of hypnotic dreaminess, Guerra and Gallego capture the insidious ways that greed spreads like a poison, cutting people off from their heritage, their morality, and ultimately, from their loved ones and themselves.14. Ash Is Purest White
Cohen Media Group
Love is fractured and the past is torn asunder in Ash is Purest White, another remarkable saga from Chinese auteur Jia Zhang-ke about individuals trying to plot a course through a rapidly developing nation. Employing expansive and boxy aspect ratios to denote different time periods, and embellishing his action with pop songs (including the theme from John Woo’s “The Killer”), Jia dramatizes the romance between gangster Bin (Liao Fan) and girlfriend Qiao (Jia’s wife and favorite leading lady, Zhao Tao). This abruptly ends after the latter is imprisoned for using a firearm to save her beau during an attack. Upon release, Qiao strives to acclimate herself to a modernizing world that doesn’t care about the collateral damage left in progress’ wake. From young upstarts looking to take Bin’s position, to work along the Three Gorges (which will ultimately submerge towns), change is afoot. Divided into three sections, it’s an epic vision of sacrifice and tenacity in a tumultuous age, led by Zhao’s commanding performance as a woman whose cunning resourcefulness is matched by her devotion. ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
13. Her Smell
Elisabeth Moss gets her riot-grrrl on in Her Smell, delivering a tour-de-force performance of rampant egomania and self-destruction that galvanizes Alex Ross Perry’s film. A mid-‘90s Courtney Love-type who resides in the center of a tornado of her own making, Moss’ Becky Something leaves only chaos in her wake, much to the chagrin of her bandmates (Agyness Deyn and Gayle Rankin), ex (Dan Stevens), young daughter (Daisy Pugh-Weiss), mother (Virginia Madsen), collaborators/rivals (including Amber Heard and Cara Delevingne), and heroically loyal manager (Eric Stoltz). Split into five chapters that are interlaced with flashback home videos of happier early times, Perry’s tale traces Becky’s journey from apocalyptic drugged-out collapse to cautious resurrection. Throughout, his handheld camera is exactingly attuned to his protagonist’s scattershot headspace. There’s a vicarious thrill to watching this rocker spiral into the abyss and pull herself back out. While Moss doesn’t hold back in depicting Becky’s ugliness, she taps into the underlying hurt and vulnerability fueling her firestorm heart, peaking with a heart-rending single-take piano rendition of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven.”12. Shadow
Well Go USA
As evidenced by Hero and House of Flying Daggers, Zhang Yimou is no stranger to dazzling martial-arts action. Still, Shadow is an aesthetic wonder, drenched in ash-gray hues and wielding serpentine cinematography to enhance its tale. The film follows a military commander’s “shadow” (Deng Chao)—i.e. double—who, when not falling in love with his superior’s wife (Sun Li), attempts to incite a war with a rival kingdom against the wishes of his self-serving king (Zheng Kai). Epitomized by the yin-yang symbol on which many battles are fought, dualities (masculine and feminine, light and dark, real and imitation, mortal and ghostly) are rampant throughout. Romance and court intrigue are also part of this stunning package, yet far more exhilarating than the stock story is the director’s precisely choreographed wuxiacombat, highlighted by Zhang’s signature slow-mo shot—in which his camera trails behind a running fighter’s blade as it scrapes against the ground, casting water skyward—and often carried out with the most badass umbrellas ever committed to film.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
Diane (Mary Kay Place) is always looking out for others, be they her good friends, her older relatives, or her son Brian (Jake Lacy), who can’t get his drug habit under control. Kent Jones’ Diane is a character study of this solitary Massachusetts woman, filled with telling details and sharply observed moments that speak to her Christian altruism, her tough love, and the secrets that continue to torment (and, perhaps, drive) her. Revelation, resurrection, abandonment, and mourning all factor into her haunting story. In his debut, the critic-turned-writer/director cuts efficiently. No gesture or expression is wasted, and yet he also tends to linger—on a notepad’s to-do list, or a face trying to hide the reality behind a recent utterance—in order to evoke greater unspoken truths. Buoyed by a script attuned to the sorrowful rhythms of older age (and New England), Jones’ film rests on the shoulders of Place’s stellar, lived-in performance as Diane, a fallible woman whose selflessness is colored by anger and regret. 10. Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Kaili Blues director Bi Gan concludes his sophomore feature with a 56-minute single-take sequence shot in 3D, his camera trailing alongside (and above, and behind) his protagonist, Luo Hongwu (Huang Jue), as he navigates a rural dreamscape that he’s travelled to while sitting in a movie theater. The past, memories, and the cinema are inextricably intertwined in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. The story—about Luo’s return to his Kaili hometown, where he remembers an old comrade and looks for former love Wan Qiwen (Tang Wei)—comingles today and yesterday in poignant fashion. Motifs involving broken timepieces, dripping water, starry skies, flight and fire all pepper Gan’s latest, which is bookended by telling images of rotating colored ceiling lights and a room spinning around blissful lovers. As beguiling as it is gorgeous, his oblique film charts Luo’s experience in a world at once real and imagined, along the way spying him in, and through, numerous mirrors and glass filters until he resembles a displaced ghost in search of home.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
9. Apollo 11
The term “awe-inspiring” may be overused in critical circles, but it roundly applies to Todd Douglas Miller’s Apollo 11, a definitive documentary about the United States’ first trip to the moon. Premiering on the 50th anniversary of that momentous event, it utilizes a treasure trove of recently discovered 65mm footage and audio recordings to offer an up-close-and-personal view of the preparations for launch, the men and women toiling behind the scenes to ensure its safety, the crowds gathering to witness history, and the outer-space flight itself, shot by cameras accompanying (and sometimes manned by) Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. That imagery boasts breathtaking scale, conveying the literal and figurative enormity of everything involved with the Apollo 11—making it ideally suited for IMAX. Nonetheless, in any format, Miller’s curatorial effort is a work of thrilling enormity, presenting this pioneering triumph as the byproduct of myriad individuals, immense ingenuity, and the colossal bravery of three men who dared to venture to the stars. 8. The Souvenir
Young love is a vehicle for self-definition in Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, the writer/director’s finely calibrated coming-of-of age drama. Aspiring London filmmaker Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) falls for older, cultured Anthony (Tom Burke), who has a habit of making every compliment sound self-serving. Hogg depicts their affair with little concern for superfluous in-between stuff, cutting pointedly to the couple’s most crucial incidents together, and in the process she strikes an assured balance between realism and impressionism. A semi-clandestine drug habit eventually becomes a complicating factor for the duo, but the real heart of this enthralling film is Julie herself, whose interior state is brought to vivid life by the director’s intimate, aesthetically diverse approach. Awash in talk about movies and moviemaking, Hogg’s feature is elevated by Byrne’s star-making turn as a young woman caught between genuine love, her recognition that her relationship is perhaps doomed to fail, and her desire to find her voice—personally and artistically—on her own.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
7. An Elephant Sitting Still
Tragedy comes from rejection, resentment, alienation, rage, and sorrow in An Elephant Sitting Still, an intimate epic about Chinese citizens who view themselves as powerless and worthless. The outstanding debut feature from Hu Bo (who died shortly after production was completed) concerns a collection of individuals whose lives intersect during the course of a single day. This includes Wei Bu (Peng Yuchang), an angry high-school student who accidentally commits a catastrophic crime; Yu Cheng (Zhang Yu), the guilt-stricken gangster brother of Wei Bu’s victim; Huang Ling (Wang Yuwen), a classmate of Wei Bu’s who’s involved with her vice dean; and Wang Jin (Liu Congxi), a grandfather being coerced by his son and daughter-in-law to move into a nursing home. Hu shoots each protracted scene in long, unbroken takes, habitually foregrounding his subjects in shallow focus while staging key action in the fuzzy background. At nearly four hours, the film imparts an overpowering sense of its characters’ despair, and the misfortune that befalls them whether they remain alone or try to engage with others—a despondency only amplified by its empathy.6. Gloria Bell
Growing old isn’t easy for Gloria Bell (Julianne Moore), the single heroine of Sebastián Lelio’s outstanding English-language remake of his 2013 Chilean drama. Between friends being laid off, concerns about retirement, and adult children navigating their own fraught romantic paths, Gloria makes her way through middle age with a brave face, finding temporary solace on the dance floor and, for a time, in the arms of Arnold (a magnificent John Turturro), a recent divorcé struggling to break free from his ex-wife and two needy daughters. With a light touch that allows for instances of escapist lyricism (none better than recurring shots of Gloria spinning amidst swirling colors), Lelio fashions a tender, incisive, heartbreaking ode to the myriad complications of adulthood, where efforts to move forward are burdened by regrets, entanglements, and longing for connection. Led by a tour-de-force turn by Moore, whose expressive work is some of her finest to date, it’s a small-scale story marked by a profound understanding of life as it’s actually lived, and felt.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
Dark, demonic power courses through Hagazussa, a legitimately evil folk story of inheritance, corruption, and damnation. In the Austrian Alps circa the 15th century, young Albrun (Celina Peter) tends to her mother (Claudia Martini), a supposed witch, in their remote log cabin. Years later, adult Albrun (Aleksandra Cwen) cares for her infant daughter in that same abode, whose only visitor is Swinda (Tanja Petrovsky), a neighbor who, like the local priest, seems concerned with saving ostracized Abrun’s soul. Light on dialogue but heavy on black-magic mystery, writer/director Lukas Feigelfeld’s fable casts its spell via slow-burn plotting and malevolent imagery, culminating with a kaleidoscopic underwater visual orgy of blood, roots, bone, tendrils, and mutating shapes. Like the mist that covers the mountainous region’s treetops, suggestions of profane forces are everywhere—in the sight of Albrun milking her goat, or a shrine for a skull—and they burrow under one’s skin, much like the unholy whispering and thunderous bass heard on a soundtrack that heralds madness, doom, the end.4. The Beach Bum
Matthew McConaughey is the king of bongo-drumming laissez-faire cool, and in The Beach Bum, he assumes the role he was born to play. That would be Moondog, a South Florida “bottom feeder” who, having set aside his once-illustrious poetry career, is now content to coast through his beachside town’s many imbibing establishments. He’s looking for his next toke, drink, and beautiful woman to bed. Writer/director Harmony Korine’s shaggy-dog saga follows the bedraggled Moondog from one absurd adventure to the next (with, among others, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Zac Efron, Martin Lawrence, and Jonah Hill), channeling both his gift for taking life as it comes, and his ability to derive sensualist pleasure from each new encounter. With long hair and a fanny pack permanently affixed around his waist, McConaughey is a magisterial stoner hedonist, and if his rollicking escapades aren’t enough to deliver a potent contact high, Korine and cinematographer Benoît Debie’s rapturously colorful portrait of Florida’s posh and downtrodden landscapes more than do the delirious trick. ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW3. Climax
Gaspar Noé’s cinema routinely traces the line from harmony to chaos, and that’s once again true in Climax, the inspired-by-real-events tale of a dance party descending into hellish madness. Beginning, portentously, with interviews seen on a television set surrounded by the director’s favorite VHS horror films, the French auteur’s latest is arguably his least provocative to date. Regardless, it’s still an escalating nightmare scored to thumping electronica and populated by a raft of potential monsters. Even during its more serene early scenes, his characters’ choreographed numbers exhibit a frightening intensity, and once these artists unwittingly drink some LSD-spiked punch, their emotional equilibrium and interpersonal relationships spiral terrifyingly out of control. Often executed in long single takes, Noé’s swirling, floating, slithering camerawork is as dexterous as his physically agile subjects. The result is an aesthetic performance piece that feels like the psychosexual underworld dance freak-out that Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria wanted to be, replete with a finale that takes up residence in some hallucinatory ninth circle of Hell. 2. Under the Silver Lake
There are codes within codes within codes in Under the Silver Lake, David Robert Mitchell’s deliriously shambolic neo-noir about stoner sleuth Sam (Andrew Garfield, never better) traversing a Lynch-ian L.A. landscape in search of a mysterious missing beauty (Riley Keough). Also channeling the spirit of Robert Altman, Brian De Palma, Alfred Hitchcock, and Hollywood golden-age classics (set to a Henry Mancini-esque score), Sam’s cine-odyssey is a quest for meaning in an overstuffed pop-culture world. Movies and myths collide, both mirthfully and mournful, as Sam strives to uncover the knotty conspiracy-theory connections linking everything and everyone. From Super Mario Bros.,new-age cultists, pirates and bomb-shelter tombs, to masturbatory porn patterns, dog killers, comic books (Spider-Man, wink wink) and song lyrics scribbled on pizza boxes, secret world-governing ciphers are ubiquitous. Mitchell reveals them through an adventure that’s witty, aesthetically dexterous, and laced with dark disillusionment about the puppetmaster powers-that-be and their covert machinations. Reconfiguring noir’s fatalistic heart for our tangled modern condition, it’s a portrait of the surreal new bleakness, with everything part of a grander whole that offers no substance or solace—leaving only that eternal desire for truth, and togetherness.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW
Music Box Films
In a Europe that simultaneously resembles today and 1940, German expat Georg (Franz Rogowski) endeavors to escape Paris before the arrival of encroaching Nazi-esque fascists. Arriving in Marseilles, he befriends the African son (Lilien Batman) and wife (Maryam Zaree) of a former comrade. Through circumstance, he also assumes the guise of famous writer Weidel, whose possessions he acquires and whose documentation permitting travel to Mexico await him at the port city’s embassy. So too does Weidel’s wife Marie (Paula Beer), who repeatedly mistakes Georg for her husband, and who longs for reunion even as she continues an affair with a man (Godehard Giese) whose obsessive amour prevents him from departing. Borders to cross and barriers impeding passage are omnipresent in Transit, which like so much of writer/director Christian Petzold’s transition-fixated oeuvre, is a forlorn romantic reverie about identity, regret, trauma, and rebirth. Moreover, it’s another of his masterworks to confront issues of personal and national consciousness through a distinct cine-filter, with Casablanca and The Passengerproving two of its many spiritual touchstones. It’s an entrancing and inherently mysterious ghost story that’s both timeless and, sadly, of our particular moment.