The Friday (6/5/2020)


Michael Stuhlbarg, Elisabeth Moss: Shirley (Neon)

My review this week for the Scarecrow blog, and etc.

Shirley. “It’s hard to think of better casting for the mid-20th century couple than Elisabeth Moss and Michael Stuhlbarg.”

At my 1980s blog What a Feeling!, we’ve posted five reviews from the era: Janet Greek’s underrated horror pic Spellbinder; Richard Marquand’s hit legal thriller Jagged Edge; Norman Jewison’s crazy-nun drama Agnes of God, from the Meg Tilly moment; Bob Rafelson’s Black Widow, the sleek neo-noir matching Debra Winger and Theresa Russell; and John G. Avildsen’s Lean on Me, with Morgan Freeman as an inspirational teacher.

Invisible (This Week’s Movies)


Mia Goth, Anya Taylor-Joy: Emma (Focus Features)

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

The Invisible Man. “That rare film in which screen space becomes a living, vital presence. ”

Emma. “There are so many bright young actors here, this movie could well become the Dazed and Confused of British cinema.”

Seberg. “Seberg remains a bit of a blank.”

Join us Saturday (2/29) afternoon at 2 for another session of Scarecrow Academy, where we’ll speak of Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie (1943), offered up for “The Art in Horror: Horror and the Director.” It’s a free event, at Scarecrow Video.

For the Scarecrow Video blog, I revive an interview with Invisible Man director Leigh Whannell and his partner in crime James Wan, on the occasion of their visiting Seattle for the release of Saw in 2004. Read it here.

At What a Feeling! this week, we take a look back at more 1980s reviews: Jean-Jacques Annaud’s The Bear; Lindsay Anderson’s Britannia Hospital; Robert Townsend’s Eddie Murphy Raw; and Tony Scott’s Beverly Hills Cop II.

Kitchen Art (This Week’s Movies)


Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish: The Kitchen (Warner Bros.)

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

The Kitchen. “A hurried crime spree with too many unanswered questions.”

The Art of Racing in the Rain. “I kept wishing a talking cat would saunter in to poke fun at all this sentimental gush.”

ECCO. “Slowly — very slowly — moves into the kind of ambitious territory Christopher Nolan likes to stick his nose into.”

For this week’s Scarecrow Video blog, I contribute a Seasoned Ticket post on Last Year at Marienbad, playing this week at the Beacon Cinema. Read it here.

Listen Up Birdman (This Week’s Movies)

Michael Keaton, Edward Norton: Unexpected Ignorance in Birdman

Michael Keaton, Edward Norton: Unexpected Ignorance in Birdman

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

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). “Keaton is a splendidly weathered, human presence.” (In case of Herald paywall, Seattle Weekly version.)

John Wick. “Ridiculous but satisfying action.” (Weekly version.)

Listen Up Philip. “Philip is self-centered, vindictive, and – worst of all – articulate.” (Weekly version.)

Stonehearst Asylum. (dead link, review below)

by Robert Horton

There may be no ideal time to wander into the halls of a remote Victorian-era home for the mentally impaired, but the waning days of December 1899 appear especially unfortunate. Nevertheless, a young doctor named Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess, from Cloud Atlas) arrives at Stonehearst Asylum just in time for Christmas dinner—because of austerity measures, the menu this evening includes roast squirrel. Almost the entirety of Stonehearst Asylum unfolds inside the place, so we have plenty of time to consider the dismal setting and the wretched circumstances of the inhabitants. Still, Newgate is taken under the wing of the hospital’s director, Dr. Lamb (Ben Kingsley), an intense sort who seems open to new ways of treating his patients. Another bright spot is a patient, Mrs. Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale), imprisoned here for reasons that would hardly be considered insane in another era: She’s been abused by her husband and rendered sensitive to touch.

If this movie doesn’t have too many actual surprises in store, it at least benefits from a certain novelty factor—who makes period horror features based on Edgar Allan Poe stories anymore? That alone buys Stonehearst some goodwill, even if its initial intrigue gives way to pedestrian storytelling of the “Why didn’t he just do this?” variety. Director Brad Anderson, whose curious career has often veered into the twilight zone (The MachinistTranssiberian), goes all in with the shadowy corners and steampunk devices. It follows that there is a dungeon below the asylum; and yes, it does hold secrets.

Other than the old reliable topic of whether the patients are saner than the doctors, Stonehearst Asylum is content to rely on its atmosphere, actors, and a couple of gimmicks to get by. The deadly earnestness of Sturgess and Beckinsale means we have to look around for more extravagant turns, including David Thewlis as a creepy handyman, Sophie Kennedy Clark (from Nymphomaniac) as a lovestruck nurse, and Michael Caine and Sinead Cusack as voices of reason. And Kingsley, of course, whose temperature is always on the boil—you really can imagine his character scuttling around a Poe story. Even for genre fans, though, the action here will feel hackneyed. Nothing wrong with being old-fashioned, but few movies can recover from stodginess.

Saturday October 25, I’ll be reading at Elliott Bay Book Company in support of Frankenstein (see below), my book from Columbia University Press. The free event begins at 7 p.m.


At the Overlook Podcast, Steve Scher and I talk about Birdman and Michael Keaton. Spend a little time with us here.