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.

Official Gold Aqua (This Weeks’ Movies)


Keira Knightley: Official Secrets (IFC Films)

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

The Goldfinch. “Somehow the deep thoughts on the immortality of art don’t sit well with gunplay that seems to have crept in from a so-so NCIS episode.”

Official Secrets. “Does a clean, devastating job of laying out the ways that, as the central character puts it, “we were lied into an illegal war.””

Aquarela. “Not only are the super-high-definition visuals completely spellbinding to watch, the soundtrack is astonishing.” (For the Scarecrow Video blog.)



Cold Glass Destroyer (This Week’s Movies)


Tomasz Kot, Joanna Kulig: Cold War (Palace Films, Lukasz Bak)

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

Cold War. “Along with the off-center black-and-white cinematography, Pawlikoski’s most effective tool here is the way music provides the pulse of the story.”

Glass. “I hope Shyamalan drops his grand ambitions to explain the Unified Theory of Everything and gets back to freaking us all out.”

Destroyer. “Switching the sex around doesn’t make it fresh.”

I contribute a Seasoned Ticket entry for the Scarecrow Video blog, this time looking back at M. Night Shyamalan’s second feature, Wide Awake. Read here.

Eyes Wide Shut (The Cornfield #53)

We begin the year with a holiday picture, and a review from in 1999; this was written, as I say below, very quickly after seeing the film, and time has only enhanced my strong feeling for the movie. Having posted a number of things for the absurd idea of “the Cornfield,” I may step back a bit from that Sunday habit, although the Crop Duster diary and links will continue full force. In the spirit of this movie, have a dreamy New Year.

Cruise, the news, and framed picture (from the Overlook Hotel collection?)

You think being a film critic is easy, right? Try sitting down to write a review of the new Stanley Kubrick picture two hours after you’ve seen it, without a chance to mull, consider, or generally roam around inside the movie for a while. (Deadlines are tight, and I am guessing that Warner Bros. screened the film late for critics because the possibility of leaks, especially in this age of insta-reviewing, was too great.) Not just any Kubrick movie, either, but the last Kubrick movie we’ll ever see, unless he created some secret opus in the maddening twelve years that passed between the release of Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut.

How is it? It’s Kubrick, for sure, and in often mesmerizing form. Eyes Wide Shut was widely rumored to be about sex, but this turns out to be wrong. There is much nudity, and a small amount of rutting (supposedly hotsy stuff between Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman is very brief, and nothing that hasn’t been shown in the trailers). No, this film is about dreams and imaginings, and the way a fantasy might be as thrilling and as dangerous as reality. This film, based on Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle, is a dream-movie.

The opening of the film follows a very successful Manhattan couple, Bill and Alice Harford (Mr. and Mrs. Cruise), to a lavish party at the mansion of a high-rolling friend, Victor (Sydney Pollack). Bill flirts with two Gen-X tootsies as Alice enjoys a bizarre interlude with a dashing Hungarian (Sky Dumont — where on earth does Kubrick find these people?). Bill, a doctor, is called upstairs when Victor’s companion-for-hire (Julienne Davis) overdoses. The next night, the Harfords’ mutual teasing about their flirtations leads to Alice’s ferocious soliloquy about her erotic fantasy — never consummated — involving a man they met the summer before. This is enough to send Bill on a strange journey into a sexual underworld, both simple (an unexpected kiss from an acquaintance) and outlandish (a secret society of lethal swingers). It all happens the same night as Alice’s confession, after which nothing is the same for the Harfords. Cruise, who delivers an intensely committed performance, carries most of the narrative load in the film, yet Kidman’s two major scenes, her fantasy and an especially unsettling dream, are given a prominence by Kubrick that underscores their importance in the design.

And what a design Eyes Wide Shut has. It looks and moves like no other movie, except Kubrick’s previous films; thus a tony New York mansion uncannily resembles The Shining‘s Overlook Hotel. Some of the glacially paced conversations are puzzling even by Kubrick’s measured standards, but this film demands that you re-program your expectations of how a 1999 film hurtles along, and I found it very rewarding to be treated in a non-Armageddon way.

For the most part, the actors have that glazed quality that Kubrick evidently desired, which in many cases leads to a kind of mysterious neutrality: Todd Field as Bill’s med school friend, Marie Richardson as an ardent fan of Bill, Alan Cumming as a swishy desk clerk, Rade Sherbedgia as a corrupt owner of a costume store, and Leelee Sobieski as his jailbait daughter, who may be employed by her father in a particularly depraved way. Kubrick’s style with actors is sometimes derided as inhuman, but his methods capture a precise sense of the anxious, the banal, the fatuous. Cruise’s performance in the early reels is a superb look at bourgeois self-satisfaction, unction at its extreme; Harford’s civilized adieu to the poor nude junkie who has almost died at the party — “Goodnight, Mandy” — is supremely clueless.

The orgy sequence is sure to raise questions of just how out of touch Kubrick was toward the end of his life; some of it undeniably looks like decades-old Fellini, or Edgar Allan Poe’s rendition of the Playboy Club. Yet this is a film about fantasy, daydreams of danger; it’s easy to see this as a vision conjured up by a man who lived inside his own head for decades, a man ruled by anxieties and social awkwardness, who might wonder what it would be like to walk on the wild side, drop through the rabbit hole for one dangerous night. Repeatedly, we watch Bill Harford’s face as he strolls along a Greenwich Village street (by way of Kubrick’s London soundstage) or rides in a cab; is he enraged by thoughts of his wife’s erotic fantasies, or aroused by them? Or merely looking forward to the next liberating exploit? In any case, when was the last time a movie came to life by showing us the adventure of a man thinking?

Big Footloose Thing Year (Weekly Links)

Julianne Hough and other people, Footloose

Links to reviews I wrote for the Herald, and etc.

The Thing. “A reasonable job of keeping the screws tightened.”

Footloose. “Like watching a tribute band imitate the original.”

The Big Year. “It never feels like a real movie.”

Trespass. “It shames me to say I enjoyed this trashy movie.”

On KUOW’s “Weekday,” I talk with Steve Scher about the re-dos of Footloose and The Thing and why someone thought we needed them. The session is archived here; the movie bit kicks in around 20:15 or thereabouts.

At What a Feeling!, some horror reviews for the pre-Halloween season. There’s a double of The Stepfather and Wanted Dead or Alive, and another double of Impulse and C.H.U.D.

On Sunday afternoon, I’ll introduce a screening of Nicolas Philibert’s Nénette, his 2010 documentary about a longtime resident of the Paris Zoo. That’s 2 p.m. at the Frye Art Museum, free; more details here.