Dumbo Aftermath (This Week’s Movies)


Dumbo (Walt Disney Pictures)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald, and etc.

Dumbo. “As with Burton’s puzzling run of recent films, the actual business of telling a story seems not terribly important to him.”

The Aftermath. “The film fails to psychologically prepare us for Rachael and Stefan abruptly unbuckling their costumes and getting busy on the nearest horizontal surface, but the casting makes it inevitable.”

For the Scarecrow Video blog, I contribute a Seasoned Ticket piece that surveys a batch of Seattle arthouse happenings: War and Peace, the Icelandic film Woman at War, a local run of the acclaimed A Bread Factory, a revival of Christopher Munch’s The Hours and Times, and a new one from Joel Potrykus, Relaxer. Read that here.



Movie Diary 3/27/2019

The Curse of the Cat People (Gunther V. Fritsch, Robert Wise, 1944). Wonderful Val Lewton-produced childhood dream, full of empathy for all concerned – including the fantasy figure (Simone Simon) carried over from the original Cat People. Beautiful photography by Nicholas Musuraca, with small-town atmosphere that seems ghostly even before Simon shows up, and nice use of the Ambersons mansion.

Isle of the Dead (Mark Robson, 1945). A very static situation, as a group of people hunker down on the island when plague is suspected. Still, it has some of the quality of a restless night’s sleep, all shadows and repeated glimpses of the same handful of sets. The soundtrack, typical for a Val Lewton production, is superb: The eerie sounds carried on the wind at night are actually hair-raising, not something we’re supposed to be scared by but actually aren’t. Karloff has a good workout.

Movie Diary 3/26/2019

Dumbo (Tim Burton, 2019). No vocalizing mouse, no jive-talking crows, and very little charm on display for this variation on the 1941 classic. Burton’s last few things have had an anti-corporate spirit, and in this one the corporation is coded as Disney itself – but is that truly what interests him these days? Would like to see him get back to dancing skeletons. On the plus side: Michael Keaton’s Criswell wig, and Eva Green’s gamine act. (full review 3/29)

The Aftermath (James Kent, 2019). Postwar Hamburg, where movie logic says something must happen if you put Keira Knightley and Alexander Skarsgård under the same roof, even if her husband (Jason Clarke) is also there. These days even a dull movie feels refreshing, just because of the lack of rush. (full review 3/29)

Movie Diary 3/24/2019

Fires on the Plain (Kon Ichikawa, 1959). Scathing anti-war film that begins with a tubercular soldier (in the Philippines in the waning days of WWII) being told he should go back to the jungle hospital and get well so he can die for the Emperor’s glory, and if he doesn’t get well, he should kill himself. This was two years before Catch-22 was published.

Cutter’s Way (Ivan Passer, 1981). One of the great films of its moment. Also the last film of the 1970s? It hasn’t lost anything over the years, and if anything looks more horrifyingly preiscent.

Gloria Dragged Us (This Week’s Movies)


Lupita Nyong’o: Us (Universal Pictures)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald, and etc.

Us. “Maybe it’s inevitable that Peele’s second film as writer-director doesn’t light up the sky in the same way — but at least it throws off plenty of sparks.”

Dragged Across Concrete. “Wants to be hard-boiled, and sure enough, it’s a 10-minute egg.”

Gloria Bell. “Moore has always been good at playing it cool until she needs to turn on the juice, and that’s the case with Gloria, an understated soul until she’s had enough.”

Come to Scarecrow Video on Saturday 3/23 at 1 p.m. for another session of Scarecrow Academy, where we are pondering the films of 1959. Up this time: Kon Ichikawa’s Fires on the Plain, a blistering anti-war picture. You can RSVP here if you’d like; the event is free.

For Scarecrow’s blog, I look back to Sebastian Lelio’s Gloria, remade this week as Gloria Bell, by Lelio himself. Read that one here.

Movie Diary 3/19/2019

Us (Jordan Peele, 2019). A home-invasion scenario with massive implications. Lots of creepy-crawly appeal. It begs to be interpreted. Lupita Nyong’o lets off formidable movie-star sparks. It’s not another Get Out. (full review 3/21)

Movie Diary 3/18/2019

Dragged Across Concrete (S. Craig Zahler, 2018). From the director of Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, films that are violent, gross, and slightly insane – and also among the most impressive examples of recent movie storytelling. This one, a rogue-cop picture, is only just a little less impressive (maybe because the dialogue sometimes spells things out), but still a patient, well-acted exercise. Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, and Tory Kittles lead the terrific cast. (full review 3/22)