Annihilation This is just one of several similar stories in the last week or so that have asked why the … Continue reading Picking Up the Spare: Game Night, Mute and More
There are a quite a few movies coming out this month that are based on existing novels.
The source novel for this Jennifer Lawrence-starring film was written by former CIA agent Jason Matthews, so his insights into the world of espionage and spycraft should be given some weight. That book came out in 2013, before we were all talking about actual, real-time intelligence operations being carried out by Russian forces, so the story of a beautiful spy and the agent she seduces has some increased relevance.
Based on the novel Blue Angel, the movie follows a college professor and frustrated author as he goes down the dangerous path of becoming infatuated with a female student in one of his writing classes, with disastrous consequences for his personal and professional life.
Stories about teachers having illicit affairs with their students are nothing new. There have been countless variations on this theme over the decades and even centuries, with the older teacher (usually a man) feeling that such an affair will quench the ennui building inside him. Following this pattern is this week’s limited release Submission, starring Stanley Tucci, Addison Timlin and Kyra Sedgwick.
Tucci plays Ted Swenson, a college professor who teaches literature, writing or something along those lines. A well-known writer himself, he struggles with balancing his own aspirations with the requirements of teaching. He becomes enamored with the talents of Angela (Timlin), one of his students who is stoking the embers of his desire for her own reasons. As the two become more and more entwined the stakes become higher as the fallout affects not only Ted’s career but his marriage to Sherrie (Sedgwick).
With so much conversation in the news about Russian intelligence operations and related issues, a movie about an undercover spy might seem a bit too real. But that’s exactly what we’re getting with this week’s Red Sparrow. Jennifer Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, a young ballerina who is recruited into a special division of Russian intelligence called “Sparrow School” that specializes in turning young women into operatives capable of using any means at their disposal to achieve their objectives.
Her first mission is to target Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), a CIA officer on his first assignment charged with managing the assets planted most deeply behind the Iron Curtain. When she arranges coincidental meetings between the two of them what starts out as pure manipulation and suspicion soon leads to something else that may have consequences not only for the two personally but the countries they’re proxies for.
A quick look at what’s new on home video this week:
While the conversation around the movie has certainly faded – especially in light of both awards season and the release of Black Panther – Coco was a massive hit, bringing in over $200m at the domestic box-office (and much more outside the U.S.). That was in large part for the same reasons Black Panther has been such a success: When you make a movie that’s relevant to an audience that’s not just the same white people you’ve been mining for years you open up exciting new opportunities. I feel like the post-release conversation around this one wasn’t at the same level as other Pixar releases, but maybe home video will help even that out a bit.
It’s always angry white guys we’re told to lionize as heroes for when they take the law into their own hands. They – and only they – are allowed to process tragedy through revenge, vigilantism and other violent means. If a white woman or person of color takes this path, there’s suddenly an overwhelming amount of hand-wringing and talk about how it’s more useful to work within the system and be polite toward those in power (usually older white men).
If you look at Wikipedia’s page of vigilante films you’re hard-pressed to find more than a couple that feature anyone other than a white protagonist. These characters are held up as doing what’s necessary to avenge their loved ones and work outside a system that’s failed them. That message, though, isn’t received well by even our current society when, say, it’s a black father looking for answers as to why his child was killed and the police department seems uninterested in finding answers.
Unquestioningly falling into that tradition is this week’s Death Wish, an update of the 1972 film of the same name with Charles Bronson. This time around Bruce Willis takes the lead as a man whose family is murdered during an armed robbery and, frustrated by the inability of the police to find the perpetrators, sets out to dole out justice on his own through whatever means are needed.
Before we get even further, the question has to be asked: Is this message anywhere near as relevant today as it was 46 years ago?
As I write this, the students who survived yet another mass shooter in Parkland, FL are leading a quiet revolution. Well…not quiet, but certainly not armed. They are using their natural skills with social media to dunk on conservative talking heads and reluctant lawmakers who have dragged their feet on gun control laws. They’re encouraging companies who have done business with the National Rifle Association to rethink those relationships. They are, in a tragic turn of events, the ones inspiring more adults to speak up and apply pressure while all too many people can do is blithely fantasize about how *they* certainly would have rushed in to face danger on their own, even as others wouldn’t. That mindset has been instilled in many by the kinds of movies that glorify the lone action hero, standing up to protect the innocent. Those are just movies, though.
So as we have what seems to be a national debate as to whether our schools need to be filled with armed teachers (no), guarded by a squad of highly-trained marksmen (no), and turned into permanently locked-down prison camps (no), MGM wants us to go see a movie with the core message of “violence is always the answer.”
The Vanishing of Sydney Hall tells a somewhat J.D. Salinger-type story, which is interesting considering we’ve gotten more than a couple *actual* Salinger stories on screen in the last couple years. Logan Lerman plays Sydney Hall, a young man who achieves significant literary and personal success at an early age and then completely disappears from public view.
After a decade, someone is trying to find Hall because his books seem to offer the only clues to a string of recent arsons. The Searcher (Kyle Chandler) is looking for Hall to find answers, piecing together what few clues there are to track him down. It’s clear, though, that he doesn’t want to be found and will take great pains to maintain his privacy. The Searcher’s quest, though, provides insights into Hall’s past and what motivations drove him to write the book he’s famous for and then disappear.
Black Panther Whole-heartedly agree with Owen Gleiberman at Variety when he says Black Panther’s massive success (especially combined with Girls … Continue reading Picking Up the Spare – Black Panther, Half Magic and More
The new movie The Cured takes place in a world that’s been ravaged by an outbreak of a disease that turned people into murderous zombies. That may sound like a familiar premise, but the twist is that it’s set after that disease has been ostensibly cured (hence the name), the surviving victims beginning to reintegrate into a society that still doesn’t fully trust them.
Ellen Page stars as Abbie, whose husband was killed during the outbreak. She takes in Senan (Sam Keeley), her brother-in-law who has been cured after being infected himself. Not everyone in the area is thrilled with having Senan back, nor are they happy with Abbie’s decision. Those fears may be well-founded as the tension between the cured and those in “normal” society seems to be growing toward a showdown.
Game night in the suburbs, particularly amongst adults, is usually a pretty boring affair unless someone has a bit too much wine. In the new movie Game Night that’s usually the case as a group of friends regularly gets together to have a bit of fun. One night Brooks (Kyle Chandler) says he’s put together a whole mystery for people to solve that will seem super-real. So when he’s actually abducted, is it part of the game or something more sinister?
That’s what the rest of the crew has to figure out. Annie (Rachel McAdams) and her husband Max (Jason Bateman) along with Kevin (Lamorne Morris), Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and others find themselves pulled increasingly out of their depth as they wind up having to navigate the criminal underworld to get their friend back and avoid getting into trouble themselves.