Skywalker Bombshell Cats (This Week’s Movies)


Judi Dench: Cats (Universal)

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

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. “I don’t go into a Star Wars movie with the fear that my childhood will be ruined if the moviemakers give Boba Fett the wrong color headpiece, so for me The Rise of Skywalker (dumb title, by the way) played just fine as a sci-fi spectacle.”

Cats. “Cats is not good. But the blame goes to the clumsy style of director Tom Hooper, not people wearing digital fur.”

Bombshell. “The movie sets up a weird dynamic: While we absolutely root for the Fox women in their legal action, we can’t quite forget that they’ve made a fortune by serving up Ailes’ incendiary views for years. ”

More 80s reviews at What a Feeling! this week, including vintage takes on Euzan Palcy’s A Dry White Season, Nicholas Meyer’s The Deceivers, Emile Ardolino’s Chances Are, Taylor Hackford’s Against All Odds, and Zane Buzby’s Last Resort.

With Terrence Malick’s new film A Hidden Life opening, I take the chance to look back at my mixed feelings about Malick’s The New World, via a Seasoned Ticket post for the Scarecrow Video blog.

Beneath the Filth (This Week’s Movies)

There must be a joke in here somewhere: Seth MacFarlane, A Million Ways to Die in the West

There must be a joke in here somewhere: Seth MacFarlane, A Million Ways to Die in the West

Links to reviews I wrote this week for the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

A Million Ways to Die in the West. “When it comes to laxatives playing a role in the plot, well, tighten your belts.”

Filth. “Aims for unrelenting misery.”

Beneath the Harvest Sky. “The classical form of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty from On the Road: the calm observer type who can’t quit palling around with his irresponsible life-force chum.”

Look for a new installment of the Overlook Podcast going up today. The website with our previous chats is here.

At the Seattle International Film Festival this weekend, the highlight is the local preem of Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s lilting account of growing up (filmed over 12 years to accommodate the aging of its central actor); Linklater is interviewed on stage Saturday at 5. Much-touted arrivals include Frank, with Michael Fassbender; The Trip to Italy, Michael Winterbottom’s follow-up to The Trip, again featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon; Chuck Workman’s What is Cinema?, a compilation montage with interviews; Don McKellar’s Canadian comedy The Grand Seduction; a digital restoration of Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town; a revival of Richard Rush’s The Stunt Man, a movie rescued by enterprising Seattleites back in the day; plus the world premiere of Seattle filmmaker Kay D. Ray’s Lady Be Good: Instrumental Women in Jazz.

Sweet November (The Cornfield #47)

At least one more review from 2001, this one a particularly flaccid remake.

Pat O’Connor’s directorial output has been sufficiently uneven (Cal on the plus side, Inventing the Abbotts on the other) that it is credible he could turn out something as monumentally silly as Sweet November. I, for one, find it hard to believe this film was not actually directed by Randal Kleiser, the delirious auteur of Grease, The Blue Lagoon, and the incomparable Summer Lovers. Surely the Kleiseresque signature is writ large across the walks on the beach, the close-ups of puppies, the rich Dark Victory-style explosion of melodrama halfway through…oh, just the whole overripe free-spiritedness of it all.

Truth be told, Kleiser would have made a more entertaining job of this mess. Sweet November is a re-do of a 1968 film, with Sandy Dennis in kook mode. The whole idea is Sixties-ish: a soulless advertising man has his life co-opted for a month by a flaky young woman, who’s in the habit of bringing men into her home for thirty days of spiritual rehab. One at a time, of course. November’s man is Nelson Moss (Keanu Reeves); he’s recently broken down while trying to sell a client on an inappropriately sexy campaign for marketing hot dogs. The scene is one of the funniest Reeves has ever played, although he reverts to his customary uncertainty thereafter. He meets free spirit Sara Deever (Charlize Theron) when he literally passes her the salami, a joke the movie doesn’t seem to have noticed.

Sara “liberates” dogs from a research laboratory, which appears to be her only occupation. When she convinces Nelson to move into her wacky San Francisco apartment, she urges him to dump his old friends, nags him about his habits, and gets rid of his clothes. Could somebody get the Saving Silverman guys at work on this woman? Nelson, for his part, is self-centered and humorless.

We spend two hours with these people.

It couldn’t get worse, but the big plot twist is yet to come. There’s very little else going on in the film; Greg Germann summons up some laughs as Nelson’s ad partner, but the movie strongly disapproves of him. Jason Isaacs, last seen massacring members of Mel Gibson’s family in The Patriot, is Sara’s best friend, who naturally would be a gay transvestite downstairs neighbor. (See? Randal Kleiser movie.)

Charlize Theron has charm and skill, but no actress could survive this role, which has the gravity and verisimilitude of a sketch from a late-sixties Nancy Sinatra TV special. Reunited with her Devil’s Advocate co-star, Theron looks as though she’s still trying to think of some way to animate Mr. Reeves. Since that corresponds to her character’s situation—joshing and cajoling a reluctant man into life—her casting is the only apt thing in this movie.