Like unassuming ripples that evolve into waves to be reckoned with, the ragtag group of sailors spotlighted in the new Alex Holmes-directed documentary “Maiden” – about the first ever all-women crew to compete in a yacht race around the world – are connected by a dream that evolves into an unspoken understanding surrounding the magnitude of their 1989 voyage.
It’s astonishing that it happens over a brisk 95 or so minutes; while the movie tends to cut away from its emotional pinnacles a bit too soon, watching “Maiden” feels like we’re witnessing the historic 1989 journey of British skipper Tracy Edwards and her crew in real-time, feeling the shifting perceptions of those watching the sport. It’s a vitally raw example of the value of documentation and a timely (and timeless) portrait of a barrier-breaking endeavor playing on the strength of depicting an easy-to-root-for team with a dream within the context of an athletic event that stands as ripe fruit for storytelling in its own right: The many-thousands-of-miles-long Whitbread Round the World Race. Continue reading →
The emotionally resonant and sharply-written “The Farewell” is so laser-focused on deconstructing the dichotomies woven into its narrative – individuals and society, emotions and gulfs, love and pain – yet the most acute yin/yang in this semi-autobiographical wonder of a movie from Lulu Wang is of the purely filmmaking kind: The movie is tantalizingly patient, unfolding with ease and confidence despite its foundational plot – the end of a life – calling for anything but patience, ease or confidence.
Yet the movie’s penchant for pensiveness, balanced by a kind of humorous caliber of caustic wit that’s universal in its domesticity, feels utterly appropriate for Wang’s movie, which feels like no less than a landmark in cross-cultural storytelling—and a too-rare example of a story that transcends the limits of its medium by acknowledging it shouldn’t try to meet them. Continue reading →
If the works of The Beatles are integral to a movie’s narrative, but the movie doesn’t acknowledges it, do The Beatles make a sound?
That ends up, unintentionally, being the thought-experiment driving the vastly underwhelming “Yesterday,” rather than its elevator pitch for the ages: What if you, a struggling musician, woke up to a world in which The Fab Four never existed? Directed by the typically-reliable Danny Boyle, “Yesterday” is a two-hour long and winding road through two stories with clashing styles and sympathies, yet the most confounding thing about this project – one that would’ve worked better as either a 3,000-word experiment in “The Atlantic” or an 8-episode Netflix experience – is that neither justifies the existence of the other. Continue reading →
There are many moments in Joe Talbot’s new film, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” in which serene sequences you expect to be able to sink into – the focused painting of a windowsill, the playing of a piano, the beginning of a life-affirming speech – are shattered all-too-early, interrupted by reality. And reality, in this movie, is a thing to reckon with at every street corner; its most enticing versions are manufactured, or else the ugliest of situations are dressed in bright optimism destined to burn out before we’d had a chance to prepare for it.
The film is one of the more hopeful stories of hopelessness I’ve ever seen. It’s stuffed with a Wes Andersian air of whimsy and engrossing shots of a city mired in gentrification, but also brimming with an urban melancholy spray-painted on the walls of commercial manifest destiny—though you wouldn’t know it by the pair of best friends at the movie’s center, its beating heart. Continue reading →
Spider-Man’s movies, more than any other superhero this side of the DC/Marvel divide, are identified by their villains—how memorable they are, and often the tangible connection they have to the movie’s most memorable scenes.
The one with a tentacled Alfred Molina, and the train battle.
The one with a winged Michael Keaton, and the twist that bares its teeth en route to a high school dance.
The one with a cackling Willem Defoe, and that stupendously horrific metal mask.
In “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” the big bad is the big bowl-headed Mysterio—a fascinatingly zany, stoicly formulaic amalgam played by the consistently zany, never-formulaic Jake Gyllenhaal, who fills his armored suit with the unkillable ambition of a smartass whose plans seemingly depend on being little more than a smartass. Gyllenhaal’s presence is the movie’s cheeky wink in A-list actor form, never less than incredulous and never more than high-concept gag, Continue reading →