Movie Reviews

  • Home Entertainment Consumer Guide: June 13, 2019
    by Brian Tallerico on June 13, 2019 at 3:03 PM

    14 NEW TO NETFLIX "50/50""A.I.: Artificial Intelligence""Batman Begins""The Box""Cabaret""Carrie""The Dark Knight""Equilibrium""Everybody Knows""Good Night, and Good Luck""Magic Mike""Network""Platoon""Ralph Breaks the Internet" 5 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD "Blue Velvet" (Criterion) David Lynch's 1986 masterpiece is one of the more controversial films for regular readers of Roger Ebert because of how strongly Roger reacted to the film. His one-star review is even referenced in the booklet included with the new Criterion Blu-ray release. You'll see that I used the m-word, so I disagree with Roger, but I've always used that review as an example of how a piece of writing can be great even when it doesn't match your opinion. For me, "Blue Velvet" was a formative movie, a film I saw right around the premiere of "Twin Peaks" and sent me down the rabbit hole of Lynch and surreal cinema. The film has held up beautifully, feeling even more like a small town nightmare than it did when it was released. It's a movie in which I can find something new every time—this viewing allowed a deeper appreciation of Dennis Hopper's performance, and how much he used his own demons to craft it. And the Criterion release includes some great archival material, including almost an hour of deleted scenes, and a great making-of documentary from 2002 that includes interviews with all of the players.  Buy it here  Special FeaturesNew 4K digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray, both supervised by director David LynchAlternate original 2.0 surround sound­trackThe Lost Footage, fifty-three minutes of deleted scenes and alternate takes assembled by Lynch“Blue Velvet” Revisited, a feature-length meditation on the making of the movie by Peter Braatz, filmed on-set during the productionMysteries of Love, a seventy-minute documentary from 2002 on the making of the filmInterview from 2017 with composer Angelo BadalamentiIt’s a Strange World: The Filming of “Blue Velvet,” a 2019 documentary featuring interviews with crew members and visits to the shooting locationsLynch reading from Room to Dream, a 2018 book he coauthored with Kristine McKennaPLUS: Excerpts by McKenna from Room to Dream "Captain Marvel" While it's undeniably important to have female heroes front and center in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck's blockbuster is still a disappointment, one of the clunkier and ineffective entries in the expanding catalog of movies about people with superpowers. The first act of this film is as shaky as the MCU gets as we experience the same confusion as Carol Danvers, the woman who will eventually become the title character. It eventually finds its way, but even the action is poorly staged and the storytelling forgettable. All that remains is a center of strong performances from Samuel L. Jackson, Annette Bening, Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, and, eventually, Brie Larson, who takes some time to find her footing as this character. While the film is a miss, I've included it in this column due to its many hardcore fans and the gifts that Disney/Marvel gives them when it comes to their HD releases. The HD and audio on these Blu-rays are the kind of top-tier quality that you should use them to show off your new TVs. And the special features are predictably copious, including that deleted scene that has already driven the incels crazy.  Buy it here  Special FeaturesAlternate Movie VersionsBecoming a Super Hero Big Hero Moment The Origin of Nick Fury The Dream Team The Skrulls and the Kree Hiss-sterical Cat-titude Deleted ScenesGag Reel  "Captive State" Another film that I don't particularly like has found its way into the column but that's mostly to balance it out with all the Criterion greatness this week. And this one may intrigue you in the way it intrigued me. Director Rupert Wyatt used the momentum given him by "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "The Gambler" to make an original sci-fi film that's more about resistance than alien powers. With echoes of "District 9" and a great young cast, this seemed like a fascinating project from the minute it was announced. And it's undeniably ambitious, introducing us to several characters across a Chicago that has been overtaken by an alien superpower and the people that fight back. It's also remarkably flat in terms of entertainment value. "Captive State" is more incoherent than it needs to be, often feeling like a compressed season of television instead of a feature film. Still, Wyatt does find a memorable visual here and there, which might make it worth a rental for hardcore genre fans. I was just hoping for more.   Buy it here  Special FeaturesAudio Commentary with Director/Producer/Co-Writer Rupert Wyatt and Producer David CrockettIgniting a War - FeaturetteBuilding the World of Captive State - Featurette "Gloria Bell" Audiences and critics too swiftly dismissed this remake when A24 released it earlier this year, but I suspect it will find a loyal, satisfied audience now that it's on the home market. Viewers were likely made aware that is largely a note-for-note remake of Sebastián Lelio's 2013 "Gloria," only now in the English language and anchored by the singular Julianne Moore. Lelio has been vocal about how he literally just wanted to give Moore the platform of this brilliant character, and the idea of seeing what is largely the same film turned off some critics. Not this one. Moviegoers are accustomed to seeing the same plays revived with different casts, and they know that each performer brings a different energy, even if it's the same material. And damn does Moore bring the energy. Her performance here is one of the best of 2019 to date.  Buy it here  Special FeaturesAn Extraordinary Woman: Making Gloria Bell - FeaturetteAudio Commentary with Director Sebastián Lelio "Swing Time" (Criterion) George Stevens' 1936 RKO musical is one of the best pure dance movies of all time, capturing Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire at their glorious peaks. The pair had made a few movies together by this point (including the masterful "Top Hat") but this is often considered their best, a perfect blend of their on-screen personas with great music and choreography. It's hard to pick a best moment from a film that includes so many timeless beats. Film history will never forget "A Fine Romance," "Bojangles of Harlem," or especially one of the most covered songs of all time, "The Way You Look Tonight." As for that middle one, the new Criterion deftly covers the racial issues of what Stevens and Astaire did in "paying homage" (or stealing from depending on how you read it) Bill Robinson, particularly in an excellent special feature interview with Mia Mask. "In Full Swing" is also a lovely appreciation of a movie that's nearly impossible to dislike. There are a lot of serious, intense, international dramas in the Criterion Collection. It's nice to have one that just makes people happy.  Buy it here Special FeaturesNew 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-rayAudio commentary from 1986 featuring John Mueller, author of Astaire Dancing: The Musical FilmsArchival interviews with performers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and choreographer Hermes PanNew interview with George Stevens Jr.In Full Swing, a new program on the film’s choreography and soundtrack featuring jazz and film critic Gary Giddins, dance critic Brian Seibert, and Dorothy Fields biographer Deborah Grace WinerNew interview with film scholar Mia Mask on the “Bojangles of Harlem” numberPLUS: An essay by critic Imogen Sara Smit […]

  • BAMCinemaFest 2019 Preview and Highlights
    by Vikram Murthi on June 13, 2019 at 1:50 PM

    For over a decade, BAMCinemaFest has been a premiere showcase for new independent films, and this year is no exception. The 2019 slate features a wide variety of personal films, from buzzy Sundance indies (“The Farewell”) to world premieres helmed by new international talent (“Sunrise/Sunset”). Many of the documentaries playing in the festival have already screened at this year’s True/False and are well worth your time: Brett Story’s “The Hottest August,” Roni Moore & James Bladgen’s “Midnight in Paris,” and Juan Pablo González’s “Caballerango.” But a few others deserve individual attention. Below are four films worth seeking out at this year’s BAMCinemaFest. “So Pretty” Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli’s “So Pretty” stands out as a clear highlight of this year’s festival and the kind of American independent film that deserves the spotlight treatment. Rovinelli’s film follows a group of queer friends and activists who have carved out a quasi-utopic space in Brooklyn but are itching to expand it beyond their confines. Her community portraiture embraces nuance and diversity without underscoring it for an audience’s benefit. Some are more outwardly radical than others. Gender expression varies across the spectrum. Relationships are comfortably fluid. Rovinelli has zero interest in holding a straight audience’s hand. She immerses you in the culture and demands your engagement. Rovinelli’s control of the political dimension in “So Pretty” feels especially notable. At a time when so many films across the budgetary spectrum engage in woke cataloging, ticking off boxes that require perfunctory coverage, it’s genuinely refreshing to watch one that treats activist politics as a casually integrated element of its subjects’ lives. Protest signs and community organizing are just natural extensions of the characters, as routine as breathing and sleeping. The reasoning here is painfully obvious to anyone with eyes or ears: queer rights are under attack by a right-wing government and a capitalist system, hence being openly queer is an inherently radical act. What’s invigorating is that there’s no explanation of that reasoning to be found in “So Pretty.” Rovinelli also creates space for joy, love, and sex. “So Pretty” features queer and trans bodies entangled in amorous states; the camera lingers on their passion but also provides them with privacy. Kinks are celebrated, heartbreak is addressed, bonds break and form, and Rovinelli presents it all with unguarded grace. It’s a depiction of life as lived that feels spirited because it doesn’t mandate praise for such a choice. Rovinelli implicitly suggests it should be the norm. “So Pretty” pivots off of Ronald M. Schernikau’s “So Schön,” a German novel about four young queer men in West Berlin posthumously published in 2012. Rovinelli’s actors read excerpts from the novel, either in voiceover or directly to the rest of the cast, which reflect their own current situation. Having not read the novel, I can’t comment about any specific allusions, but the broader intention feels clear to me: this community, marginalized by various global societies, has always existed, and will continue to exist, and it’s important to situate a historical timeline, if for no reason than to confirm one’s place within an ever-fluctuating movement. If “So Pretty” only accomplished that, it would have still been a success. Thankfully, it does that and more. “The World Is Full of Secrets” A horror film that operates almost entirely through suggestion, Graham Swon’s minimalist feature “The World Is Full of Secrets” employs lengthy monologues and hazy dissolves to collapse past stories of violence into our eternal present. Swon eschews standard genre tropes in favor of a slow cinema approach designed to lull audiences into hypnotic unease. It’s a micro-budget take on the Southern Gothic tradition. On a crisp summer night in 1996, five suburban teenage girls pass the night away by telling scary stories at a sleepover. These stories involve brutality against women, either by peers or patriarchal figures, from the Roman era to the 20th century. In the process of trying to scare each other, they awaken some dangerous spirits that take hold of the night. An elderly narrator offers historical context and an ethereal presence in between the retellings. Swon engenders the feeling of a late night campfire, where the slightest noise or passing shadow can activate a rattled imagination. Two stories are shot in static long takes, each over 20 minutes long, which creates a haunting, soporific effect, as if peril will strike in the liminal space between consciousness and sleep. The teenage actresses deliver their stories with adolescent vulnerability, occasionally stepping on words and adding flair to liven the events. Barton Cortright’s double exposure photography provides spiritual translucence; the stories are projected through their faces and their aftereffects radiate outwards. They are a part of the same continuum, a timeline of gendered cruelty within a fundamentally unsafe world. It’s easy for one’s attention to flag during any of the stories; Swon even cheekily hangs a lampshade on the audience’s potential boredom. But rapt awareness isn’t required to be engaged with “The World Is Full of Secrets.” The film’s framework allows for the experience of dipping in and out of a tale without negating the core fear. Its aesthetic power lies in its unnerving imagery combined with an ASMR-esque voiceover, not necessarily every bit of substance. The scares won’t make anyone jump, but the foreboding might send chills up your spine, which is Swon’s exact intention. “Vision Portraits” When filmmaker Rodney Evans was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare disease that gradually deteriorates all sight, he never contemplated abandoning his art. Instead, he incorporated his disability into his method. His documentary “Vision Portraits” profiles three other working visually impaired artists—photographer John Dugdale, dancer Kayla Hamilton, and writer Ryan Knighton—who each navigated a similar path. It also functions as Evans’ coming out to the visually impaired community, an attempt to actively confront his own artistic identity and work through how he engages with the world. “Vision Portraits” succeeds most when it interrogates the artistic process and how loss of sight doesn’t preclude loss of vision. All three admit that they needed to let go of their egos and accept more direct assistance, whether that’s through collaborators or technology, but each illustrate how their disability ultimately liberated their craft. Dugdale, the most compelling of the trio, effectively communicates how the mind can visualize images on its own without assistance from the eyes. (He even conducts an exercise with Evans and the audience in which he tells him/us to close his/our eyes, illustrated by the camera going dark, and to imagine a series of images at rapid speed.) Meanwhile, Hamilton expresses how dance allows her to tap into her physicality, especially how her visual impairment can be employed as a bridge between herself and the audience. Similarly, Knighton discusses how embracing his deteriorating eyesight gave him permission to be more honest in his writing. When Evans turns the camera on himself, however, “Vision Portraits” tends to fall back on some standard personal essay clichés. Though his individual anecdotes captivate, as well as his insight into how his narrow visual field improved his facility behind the camera, Evans’ insistence on forcing tidy insights into voiceover sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s an understandable impulse, but an unnecessary one given that so much of his conclusions are already conveyed through the lens of technique. Moreover, Evans conveys the experience of blindness best through visual means rather than direct address, e.g. the multi-colored abstract illustration of Dugdale’s aurora borealis-inspired inner vision says more than his words could ever communicate. Still, Evans acutely understands how art functions as a crucial intermediary between interiority and expression. It’s why the film’s oneiric interludes, including excerpts from Evans’ poetry, feel purposeful rather than slight: they’re an attempt to simulate a reality that’s inaccessible to many. That instinct helps keep “Vision Portraits” afloat and away from too many blandly inspirational clichés. Process and experience elucidate the individual in more ways than one. “The Mountain” When’s own Glenn Kenny capsuled Rick Alverson’s latest feature “The Mountain” at last year’s Venice Film Festival, he included this humorous takedown: “This is a meticulously made movie, which is impressive, given how much Alverson clearly despises the medium, and human life itself. I’m surprised he has this kind of motivation.” I completely understand this judgment. If you’re not on Alverson’s wavelength, then his films might as well be akin to watching someone scrape their nails on chalkboard while cackling like Woody Woodpecker. His alienating approach to form and character will never be to everyone’s liking, let alone his take-your-medicine worldview. With that said, however, I’m glad he exists. Alverson’s films explicitly tackle the emotional constipation of the white American male, how that repression manifests itself through expression, and how it reflects the national character. But that thematic drive would be trite if it weren’t for Alverson’s distancing technique, which severs traditional avenues of audience surrogacy and forces viewers to address the gap before them. Alverson takes a circuitously cerebral route to an emotional response by asking people to contemplate their discomfort or unease or boredom. It’s inevitable (and forgivable) that some are unwilling to make that journey with him, but it’s a wholly valid modus operandi, and one of the best available to addressing ideas of privilege, entitlement, and power without relying upon a heavy hand. “The Mountain” trades in the self-consciously abrasive tone of “The Comedy” or “Entertainment” for steely formalism and a passive, borderline-silent protagonist. After his ice skater father (Udo Kier) abruptly dies, the disaffected Andy (Tye Sheridan) joins psychiatric doctor Wallace “Wally” Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum) on a road trip to various sanitariums. He’s tasked to photograph Wally’s method of transorbital lobotomy, a simplified, non-surgical procedure available to state institutions with little resources and low funds. (Goldblum’s character is based off real-life physician Dr. Walter Freeman who specialized in lobotomy.) Andy silently observes as Wally performs these procedures upon vulnerable members of the population, i.e. white women and black men, while drinking and womanizing in his off hours. Wally rarely considers the trail of human destruction in his wake. Andy can barely comprehend it. “The Mountain” can be too monotonous at times, even when Denis Lavant’s character adds some discordant energy to the proceedings, and Alverson’s sensibilities occasionally lead him to bite off more than he can chew. Yet, the film’s eerie, glacial mood, amplified by Robert Donne and Daniel Lopatin’s score as well as Lorenzo Hagerman’s washed-out photography, compels because it situates “The Mountain” in a specific mid-century American context. Old power structures reign supreme but aren’t immune to free-floating restlessness or despair; white men can silence the defenseless with impunity but find no solace in such an endeavor. Alverson locates incompleteness in his subjects through gender; they lack a mollifying femininity that could give them perspective, evoked through hermaphroditic imagery. “The Mountain” doesn’t prescribe the possibility of change for anyone; in fact, their inability to change dooms them from the jump. No epiphanies await after you finally reach the summit. BAMCinemaFest runs at Brooklyn Academy of Music from June 12-27. For more information on the series, click here.&nbs […]

  • Men in Black: International
    by Monica Castillo on June 13, 2019 at 1:37 PM

    Just because two stars are brilliantly paired together in one movie, it doesn’t guarantee their chemistry will carry over to another. The rapport between Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth in Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Ragnarok” became one of the recent highlights of the Marvel movies—Thompson played a world-weary fallen warrior against Hemsworth’s clueless and sometimes emotional Norse god. Their dialogue comically dug at one another’s failings and wounded egos. Many fans wished to see these two actors trade witty barbs once again, but the pair’s new movie, “Men in Black: International,” strips away just about everything fun from the duo except their on-screen presence. The latest “Men in Black” sequel no longer follows Agents Jay (Will Smith) and Kay (Tommy Lee Jones), although their likenesses are one of the many Easter eggs sprinkled throughout “MIB: International.” Instead, there’s a new hero, Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and his mentor, High T (Liam Neeson), in the middle of a daring mission on the Eiffel Tower. Inexplicably, the story then jumps to Brooklyn 20 years prior, where a young Molly (Mandeiya Flory) first sees the Men in Black and encounters her first alien. She grows up (now played by Tessa Thompson) obsessed with space and joining the Men in Black. She gets a lucky break from Agent O (Emma Thompson) and sets off for her first mission. I enjoyed my biggest laugh in the ‘90s Brooklyn sequence when Molly’s dad quotes Morris Day from “Purple Rain” while wearing a Prince shirt. Unfortunately, I still had over an hour and forty minutes left to go. Part of what made the original “Men in Black” movies enjoyable was Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones’ extraordinarily at-odds dynamic. Smith had an effusive reaction for every situation while Jones stuck an unmoving scowl on his face. For the new movie, Matt Holloway and Art Marcum’s script wastes this potential conflict by making the characters uninteresting. Agents H and M—which sounds like a reference to the clothing store—come across as co-workers who don’t really have much of a connection to each other outside of greeting each other in the morning and on their way out. There are hints of an attraction to each other, but that’s really misusing what made Thompson and Hemsworth so fun to watch before. Neither of the actors has Smith’s charisma to turn around bland dialogue and situations, so audiences are left with two famous faces and not much else to look at. The script is easily the movie’s worst quality, as so many pieces fall into place out of convenience. Certain rules of this franchise, like not being seen with alien tech in public, are wholeheartedly ignored in scenes involving an alien motorcycle. Other plot points are so telegraphed they can hardly be considered a twist. “Men in Black: International” is also the latest movie to shoehorn in a few empty pop feminist lines and call it progressive like when Agent M brings up why the organization’s name doesn’t include the Women in Black. Yet, not long after this scene, Agent M has to ask if she’s getting offered to an alien as a sexual companion. If this is Hollywood’s idea of feminism, I really wished they’d invest in women writers. The story didn’t need to go there, much like it didn’t need to add on excess exposition, other dull side characters and random country jumping to fulfill the need to see Westerners run through foreign marketplaces. Throughout the MIB franchise, there have been a series of sometimes memorable but mostly annoying alien sidekicks. This movie’s unfortunate duty falls to Kumail Nanjiani, who to the best of his abilities, does land a few punchlines and earn a few laughs as a tiny “pawn”-like alien who pledges allegiance to a queen, Agent M. If even Nanjiani can’t make all of his jokes land, what chance do the two straight-faced leads have? Director F. Gary Gray keeps the movie from entirely falling apart, but his efforts feel uninspired. Events happen and the agents move on, giving no time for emotions when there’s danger or death. Even for an action movie about aliens, it’s too heartless. The quality of CGI effects varies between impressive and wildly cheap. There’s a shot of the moon that looks like stock footage and a roughly rendered CGI shot in the chase sequence that appears as if they were cutting corners. The shape-shifting galaxy-patterned villains make for formidable and cool-looking opponents, but even much of their potential goes untapped. Most of what’s enjoyable about this sequel have been cribbed from other movies, like the star pairing from “Thor: Ragnarok,” the villains’ similarity to the Twins in “The Matrix Reloaded” and the many references to the original “Men in Black,” including the score and the basic character arcs of a rookie learning the ropes from a top agent. Without its stars’ chemistry, there’s little life left on this sequel planet besides surface-level jokes, too-cute aliens and a convoluted story. […]

  • One from the Heart: Jimmie Fails and Joe Talbot on The Last Black Man in San Francisco
    by Nick Allen on June 13, 2019 at 1:32 PM

    The first movie by San Franciscans Jimmie Fails and his childhood pal Joe Talbot is not strictly a biography (it’s “more than twenty percent autobiographical,” according to Fails a recent interview with Rolling Stone), but it is transparently a product of their friendship, and the city they love. Fails plays himself in a scenario that is true: there really was a Victorian in San Francisco that belonged to his family decades ago, since owned by someone else, and he was fixated on trying to get it back. In this film (of which Fails has a story credit), when the current owners leave the place vacated because of a dispute with their family members, Jimmie and his philosophical buddy Montgomery (Jonathan Majors) quietly move in. In the film's press notes, Fails aptly calls it "a love story between me and a house."  And yet with Talbot's incredibly promising cinematic eye for tone and pacing, "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" is so much more than just Jimmie's tale. It's also an ensemble piece, imbued with humor and beauty by Danny Glover, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan and Mike Epps, who play peripheral family members with their own places they call home. Talbot gives these characters and others plenty of narrative space in which to exist, and it leads to rich visual storytelling—this is one of those rare movies in which each major sequence could be its own ponderous short film, and here it creates an unforgettable mini-universe of complex, lovely San Franciscans.  Together (along with co-writer Rob Richert), Fails and Talbot have crafted a luminous American story that's as likely to make you laugh hard as it is to break your heart. Its passion, too, is always more layered than you expect: the movie mourns a city that's losing its soul just as intensely as it celebrates a tender friendship. It's sentimental in the most cinematic way, how it answers to frustrations about gentrification with a hug, and treats aggressive characters as the means for a heart-to-heart conversation. It's the first feature project for either Fails and Talbot (having previously collaborated on the 2017 short, "American Paradise,") and yet "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" feels like they've been telling this story for decades. sat down with Fails and Talbot to discuss their passion project, Fails’ dreams of one day making a period piece about the Harlem of the West, the moment they found out that Shia LaBeouf was a huge fan and more.  I'll never forget seeing this movie on a Saturday morning at Sundance when it had its world premiere, and how instantaneously people fell in love with it. But what was the psychological experience like for you guys?  JIMMIE FAILS: I don’t know. That was a trip.  JOE TALBOT: A24 told me, “You’re going to have to introduce it,” and I was like, “No one wants to hear me talk. They just want to see the movie,” but they said, “It’s kind of a tradition.” So I finally worked up the courage and I get out there, and I look in the audience and I see Barry Jenkins and Boots Riley, and it’s like, "Oh, God." We finished the movie like four days before Sundance. And in a way, you’re just grinding to get to the end, and you’re trying to put the finishing touches on it, and in some ways you’ve lost perspective at the very end because you’ve watched it 100 times at that point. It’s a weird feeling: you get that first laugh, and your nerves start to come down a little bit. I think part of it too is that we’ve never done anything like this before, so I was too naive to realize how stressed out I should be, because I didn’t even realize everyone starts tweeting as soon as the movie’s done. I think part of it is that ignorance is bliss [laughs]. Or less stress, at least.  Jimmie, what was it like for you?  JF: I was just like, there were moments where … don’t get me wrong, I love the movie that we made but it’s hard for me to watch myself, so I was just kind of like [aggressively squirms in chair].  What scene?  JF: There’s not even a particular scene, there’s just certain angles of your face where you see … you know what I mean? You’re just like, “Ahh, shit.” But nonetheless the reception we got after was like, there were cute old ladies coming up to me wanting to take a picture, but couldn’t take the picture because they were crying still. That means more to me than anything. It was cool to see that you did something that made people feel something, and that they responded to a story that’s so personal. That was the victory for me.  JT: It was as relieving as it was rewarding in some ways. You never forget the first few responses like, you can’t tell if they’re totally outliers and they’re crazy yet, but they made you feel like, “Oh, we really made a film.” There’s a teenage girl—she was like 15 and she’s there with her best friend, and they clearly made this trek to Sundance, their first Sundance, and I remember being that age and seeing movies that affected me like “Ghost World” and "Do the Right Thing." She was just bawling. I started getting teary and then Jamal Trulove, who plays Kofi, started getting teary. It was this domino of tears, it was like, that feeling of when you’re so impressionable that a movie can make you really feel, that felt really special to see someone having that.  And that you gave it to them.  JT: Well, you dream of having that. One of the best things, at the last Q&A at Sundance, this guy gets up in the back and he goes, “Un-f**king real, best movie of the year. Wow. Can’t believe it, like, it’s an honor.” And he sits down and Jimmie goes, “Thank you … Shia LaBeouf?”  JF: I was like, “What the fuck?”  JT: Shia came up with his mom and she was like, “Oh, well we loved your movie,” and Shia’s like, “MOM! These are the guys!”  JF: He’s like, “This is him right here!” I walked up to him and I was like, “What’s up, Shia?” And he was like [claps his hand, makes aggressive hugging gesture]. Alright, shit. Alright. [laughs]  I know that you guys have been working on this movie since 2014, and I dug up the video from back then of you two promoting the project on Kickstarter, riding a tandem bike. It’s a beautiful short.  JF: “I’m Jimmie Fails!”  JT: That bike broke so many times. We kept taking it back to the bike place. They were like, “Are you guys f**king idiots? It’s not that hard to ride a tandem bike.” And it wasn’t Jimmie, it was me, I have a hard time pedaling. Clearly he and Mont are much better than that in the film. But, that was fun to do, actually. We had slowed down traffic actually, going through Golden Gate Park …  JF: Yeah, I remember that.  JT: There’s just a line of cars like a funeral procession behind us.  JF: People just like, BEEP BEEP!  How many times during the process of making “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” did it feel like it wasn’t going to happen?  JT: Once a week.  JF: Yeah. Probably more than once a week. It was just … you always gotta reward yourself on the little victories along the way. And it’s also just the people that surround you. We had good people on this. I think that was the main thing. Good people—his parents had given us the space, we lived at his parents’ house when we were working on it. It was always, “At least we have this security.” They were very supportive, too. They’re still very supportive. We already get press breaks sent to me from A24, but they fucking send us articles and email them and we’re like, “Yo, we got this already, thank you. Love you guys.” They’re journalists, though.  JT: They’re faster than A24, they get the breaks. I think my dad just keeps hitting “Refresh” every five minutes. [laughs] But it’s exactly like Jimmie said—we cobbled together this team by the time we had a Kickstarter, and not only was it like the thing that got us being able to develop it together, and prove the script as a team, and not just be isolated off in a room writing which I would have found really depressing, it was also like ... you get those “No’s,” and rather than going home alone and crying in your pillow, I cry on his shoulder. And we’re all there rallying, and I think over the years these people who had initially reached out who saw our Kickstarter or the concept trailer, became like our best friends in the world. They’re family now, they’re over at my house when I’m not there, kind of thing.  JF: Now I know why the saying “blood, sweat, and tears” exists. That actually was put into this. Actually bled. All of these people we met, we’re just there. That’s important, especially for this film—it’s the only way it’s going to happen. You can’t just have actors acting across from each other. That wouldn’t have worked. It was like an actual family. Even the crew. They made it comfortable for me to be able to do it.  JT: I think we cobbled together a group that was like, the last artists in San Francisco. They took it personally and made it their own. It was one of the last places people could congregate as artists.  Jimmie Fails and Joe Talbot / A24 I watched a Variety interview from Sundance featuring you guys, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan and Jonathan Majors. I was struck by how Jonathan described the set as “gentle.” How did you guys go about achieving that?  JF: That’s the first thing he said about the script when he got it and read for the part. That was like, moving forward, and the changes that happen in the script, that’s all in the back of your mind. You want to have that tenderness moving forward. Because there are movies like ... Oakland has a lot of movies about gentrification that are a little more angry—not that you don’t feel that way about gentrification, of course we’re angry. But that’s Oakland. That’s the difference between us and Oakland. As a San Franciscan, we’re just approaching it in a different way, or we just wanted to. That’s just the type of people we are. I think that was important to do that, because it’s just a different way to come at it, because you’re not really holding anyone, you’re just not coming at anyone aggressively. We’re not coming at gentrifiers aggressively, we’re just trying to educate you on who you’re pushing out and what you’re pushing out, and how you’re changing the city, as opposed to being like, “F**k you, get the f**k out!”  JT: That love and that empathy I think does come from the fabric of San Francisco that we grew up in, and you see it in movies like “Harold & Maude.” That movie has no bad characters, it treats everyone with complexity and love. It also comes at the Bay Area from a different angle, it’s not the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s like San Bruno, it’s the weird kind of, what you think are the less attractive outskirts of the city, that it uses and props up in these beautiful ways, that was an inspiration both in how to lead with hopefully what felt like more empathy for everyone, but also with how to render the side of San Francisco that we grew up in, and give it the cinematic treatment that’s more given to the Golden Gate Bridge or Fisherman’s Wharf.  Was there ever an angrier version of this story?  JT: The first draft was angrier because I think we were still working through it, through our emotions. I think with each draft it got more complex, and I think more layered, and it became more and more focused on being in some ways to the San Francisco that we care about. I think in that way, that’s something that, Jimmie is fighting for this home. If you don’t feel his love, and see what’s worth loving in this city, everything from the small interactions with the naked man in the bus stop who we actually probably have some connection to, to the very details of the house that make it so special, it was important to capture those that I think you really see why his fight is worth fighting. I think otherwise, it’s intellectual. And you’re being told, “I get that this is important.” Versus the visceral feeling of, “I love this city, too. I don’t want him to lose this city.” We tried to do it through love, because I think that’s a more universal emotion that we’ve felt for a place.  Jimmie Fails in "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" / A24 What are some dream projects for you guys in the future?  JF: Other stories about the city, honestly. Other stories about the San Francisco history, more specifically like a period piece. I would like to explore the actual stories that we’re talking about when talking about before the urban redevelopment, and the Harlem of the West actually going on there. There’s always movies about Harlem, but not the Harlem of the West. So why can’t we do some of those? There’s tons of stuff you could do.  JT: I think also, in some ways, we see this as the first installment in a potential San Francisco trilogy, of other stories in San Francisco that are dealing with the same themes. There’s one in particular that we’ve just begun to kind of dig into, and it’s a very different story, but it also deals with longing for the past and takes on a more head-on where the future is being created in the Bay Area. I think there are so many more stores … that’s the thing, we tried to pack in a lot with this one. But we go on these walks, and Jimmie has this comedic side that’s really funny, and we’ve been thinking about how fun it would be to do something in that space, too.  Speaking of funny, I have to ask—why does Jimmie wear flannel in both “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” and the short you guys made before it, “American Paradise”? Jimmie, I saw your Instagram post about that.  JF: Well, I’m still Jimmie in “American Paradise.” It was supposed to kind of tie together. Like, that was [actor Prentice Sanders] before, the inspiration for the character of Montgomery. And that grandpa, that’s supposed to be Prentice’s grandpa telling the story basically. It’s supposed to tie back into “Last Black Man” in a way, and I’m talking about how I want a boat. But the next movie, no. The flannel’s gone. [laughs]&nbs […]

  • Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese
    by Matt Zoller Seitz on June 12, 2019 at 4:41 PM

    "Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story" is one of the most frustrating Martin Scorsese films as well as one of the most out-of-character. Decades in the making, in a way, this is an engaging but disorganized and long-winded (two hours, twenty minutes) account of the time in 1975 that Bob Dylan, nine years on from his motorcycle accident, convened a vagabond caravan of musicians, poets, reporters, photographers, money men, and hangers-on to tour the United States in the lead-up to the country's Bicentennial celebration. The tour was a bust, financially and in terms of cultural impact—or at least that's how Dylan, 78 at the time of this film's streaming premiere, remembers it, while cautioning Scorsese and the viewer that he barely remembers anything at all. Nevertheless, the Rolling Thunder Revue rejuvenated Dylan as a musician, in the manner of Elvis Presley's 1968 "comeback" special. And it generated enormous amounts of tour footage, some of which is reproduced here, within a highly conceptual framework, by Scorsese. The issue of authorship is nearly as central to this movie as the story of Dylan roaming the United States, driving his own tour bus and performing in small- and medium-sized halls, accompanied by the likes of Joan Baez, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Roger McGuinn, Scarlet Rivera, Joni Mitchell, Ronnie Hawkins, and (in one of his final filmed appearances) Sam Shepard. Scorsese, who over the course of his long career has essentially stamped certain American rock acts, including Dylan, The Rolling Stones, and The Band with "Property of Martin Scorsese," is the credited director, naturally. And as edited by Damian Rodriguez and David Tedeschi, the film bears many Scorsesean hallmarks, including surprising transitions from one idea to the next, and sequences that have been cross-cut in order to provoke questions and create sensations rather than serve up fixed meanings or answers.  But once you look at what the thing actually is, what it's made of, and how the pieces have been arranged, things get curiouser and curiouser. The film is woven around footage shot during the tour by real-life Chicago cameraman Howard Alk (1930-1982), who was hired by Dylan to make a project that somehow never got turned into an actual feature film. The footage has been re-contextualized by Scorsese and presented as the work of European filmmaker Stefan Van Dorp, a nonexistent person played by Argentinean performance artist Martin von Haselberg (husband of Bette Midler, briefly glimpsed in 1975 footage). In interviews, Van Dorp talks in the cliched "high culture" cadences of a mid-20th century moneyed WASP, and speaks on camera of his subjects and collaborators (excluding Dylan and a few others) in an exasperated, withering manner.  Other fictional or questionably involved characters enter the narrative as well, including Paramount Pictures CEO James Gianopulos as the tour promoter; actor Michael Murphy as nonexistent Congressman Jack Tanner (whom he played in two projects for the late Robert Altman); and Sharon Stone, costar of Scorsese's "Casino," as herself, telling the story of how she attended one of the Rolling Thunder Revue concerts as a 17-year-old in the company of her mother and was invited to join the caravan. Is Scorsese trying to create his own, epically scaled answer to "This is Spinal Tap" or "Zelig"—a mock documentary integrating the real with the fictional, prompting audiences to question the distinctions between them? Maybe. "The Rolling Thunder Revue" starts with a snippet of a silent-era George Melies film of a magic trick and returns to it later, as if to signal that an aspect of illusion is built into the project. The collision of verified events and never-before-discussed anecdotes (some of which, like Congressman Tanner's friendship with President Jimmy Carter, are obviously fabricated) undermines the veracity of everything in the story, like the anecdote about Rivera supposedly taking Dylan to see KISS and inspiring him to don Kabuki-inspired  facepaint.  And to what end? What you're seeing, for the most part, are real events that happened in real places to real people, and which therefore have archival value. Even if one were to thread up unedited footage at random, the images and sounds would still tell us a lot about the culture and emotional temperature of the U.S. circa 1975. The concert footage (much of which concentrates exclusively on Dylan, regardless of assurances that the tour was a democratic endeavor) is riveting, showcasing inventive re-arrangements of many Dylan classics, including "Simple Twist of Fate," "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall," and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll."  In comparison to the material that stands on its own, the absurd touches feel glommed-on and pointless, and much of the time, they don't work. When the Van Dorp character prattles about how he wanted to show "the contrast between the excesses of the people on the tour and the dissolution of society [in] the land of pet rocks and Slurpees from 7-Eleven," it's like being forced to listen to a reading of a satirical short story by a fiction writer who understands the dictionary definition of satire but never figured out what, exactly, he intended to make fun of. The culture itself? The popular art form that tries to respond to the culture? The mentality of the artist mocking other artists trying to respond to the culture?   This is a documentary, and at the same time, it's also a prank or a joke. But it's not particularly funny when it's plainly trying to be. Why? Maybe because it's lumpy and unfocused, meandering from absurdism to poker-faced sincerity (as in self-contained sections about the plight of Native Americans and the fate of one of Dylan's real-life subjects, wrongly imprisoned boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter). Or maybe it's because when you think of Scorsese, one of the great living American filmmakers, a lot of different words and phrases spring to mind, but "goofy" and "wry" and "light touch" aren't among them.  The unsung hero in all this is Alk, whose footage gives the movie its artistic and historical nucleus. He was friends with Dylan from 1963 on, and worked with him on several movies, including "Eat the Document," "Hard Rain" (also about the Rolling Thunder tour) and Dylan's semi-improvised, self-directed "Renaldo and Clara" (where a lot of the footage comes from). Aficionados of analog-era, fly-on-the-wall nonfiction camerawork will admire the intelligence that Alk brings to every composition and camera move—assuming it's Alk's work that we're mostly seeing here, and it's impossible to know for sure, since Scorsese never identifies the footage that way, and lets us believe that "Van Dorp" shot all of it, because that's the joke. There are instances where he even seems to have dubbed Dylan and other real-life personages addressing Alk as "Van Dorp."  Meanwhile, Alk's unobtrusive artistry shines through anyway—as in a lovely moment where Dylan and Ginsberg visit the cemetery where Jack Kerouac is buried, and the camera briefly sneaks away from the two men swapping Kerouac quotes to wander over to the writer's grave site, perfectly framing the rectangular headstone to create a frame-within-a-frame. At one point, Van Dorp gripes about an obsequious Rolling Stone reporter, real-life journalist and gadfly Larry "Ratso" Sloman, stating that "he didn't want anyone else with vision around." This feels like a self-deprecating joke on Scorsese's own status as an auteur who puts his name on nonfiction projects partly comprised of archival footage created by others. But erasing credit for another artist's work—even an obscure one, even inadvertently, and even in the service of satire and conceptual art—is a dicey business. It backfires here, contributing to the current national malaise wherein facts are provisional and nothing can be trusted anymore, and making the project feel insensitive to the hard-won achievements of real people without whom it would not exist. Buried beneath layers of metafictional tomfoolery is a moving film about an anonymous artist whose achievements remain unrecognized, even by people ideally positioned to throw a spotlight on them. […]

  • Kevin Bacon Leads Showtime Crime Saga City on a Hill
    by Brian Tallerico on June 12, 2019 at 3:19 PM

    Kevin Bacon’s Jackie Rohr reminded me of an era of television that seems to have receded culturally. In the years after Tony Soprano changed the landscape forever, networks scrambled to find their own flawed anti-heroes to lead their dramas. Some of these worked out for the best (Walter White, Don Draper), but the vast majority didn’t understand what made these troubled men interesting or sympathetic and the deluge of them really helped push television to its high-concept era (which we’re still in with hits like “Westworld,” “Stranger Things,” and “Game of Thrones”). One could only take so many jerks that were really good guys if you spent enough time with them (especially as real jerks started to dominate the headlines). Perhaps we’re just far enough removed from the overdose of anti-heroes that there’s room for them at the TV table again as I found Bacon and most of “City on a Hill” engaging and interesting as the kind of old-fashioned drama that we don’t see that often anymore. Showrunner Tom Fontana is a legend, having been a part of “St. Elsewhere,” “Oz” and “Homicide: Life on the Street,” and he brings his expertise to a show that has just enough crackling dialogue and fascinating characters to keep its sometimes-clunky plot moving. “City on a Hill” is a sprawling crime drama set against the backdrop of 1990s Boston, a part of the world rife with corruption (go Google Whitey Bulger) but also a major city that was changing in such a way that the old systems were about to collapse. Jackie Rohr is a part of that system—an FBI vet that’s so well-respected that he doesn’t buy a drink in any bar in the city and can cut corners and push the boundaries of the law in a way that gets the job done. He’s introduced spewing profanity and subplots over the first few episodes involve his drug habit, along with a worry that he may have caught an STD from his mistress. He’s not exactly a role model for his kid's Career Day. And yet Bacon keeps him from sliding into “Bad Lieutenant” territory, never going as far as to ask you to like Rohr but to respect how he takes care of business. Rohr’s life is changed when he meets a new Assistant District Attorney named Decourcey Ward (Aldis Hodge) and the two are forced to partner on solving a string of robberies, including one that has left a crew of an armored truck missing and presumed dead. Don’t worry, this is not a Boston cop version of “Green Book.” Ward and Rohr find ways to navigate each other’s backgrounds and have very different degrees of integrity, but they won’t be hugging on the holidays any time soon. And “City on a Hill” wisely gives the men interesting personal lives. The underrated Jill Hennessy is excellent as Jackie’s wife Jenny, a woman who may be realizing that anti-heroes make shitty husbands, while Lauren E. Banks gets her own early arc as Decourcey’s partner Siobhan, who finds herself torn between her husband and a local religious leader who basically sees authorities like government officials as the enemy. As if that’s not enough for a drama, we also get to know the robbers, led by Frankie Ryan (Jonathan Tucker) and his dimwit brother Jimmy (Mark O’Brien). Frankie is the brains of the operation and Jimmy is the liability, but even the cliché inherent in that set-up feels freshly maintained by Fontana and the team behind “City on a Hill.” Again, it helps to have a female counterpoint character who feels fully considered too in Frankie’s wife Cathy (Amanda Clayton). Executive Producer Jennifer Todd says in the production notes that “City on a Hill” is a show about “people who talk too much and are really bad at communicating.” I like how much that captures about this show, one in which the dialogue is crisp but never sounds forced or clichéd. These are fast-talkers and fast-movers who often speak and act before they think, and it takes someone who has a history of managing large casts across multiple storylines to really bring a show like this one together. It helps to have an ensemble who all seems to be on the same page as well, and there’s not a weak link in this one. Bacon will be the stand-out for most people, but his performance doesn’t work without the counterbalances of Hennessy, Hodge and even the great vets Kevin Chapman and Sarah Shahi. And it’s great to see Jonathan Tucker in what feels like it will become a really juicy role. At its best, “City on a Hill” reminded me of crime movies like “The Town”—and it should be noted that Boston royalty Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are producers here—and “A Most Violent Year.” Some of the plotting over the first few episodes could be tighter, but I was never bored and I’m eager to see more. I’m also confident that this show will only get more engaging as the heat is turned up on its characters and everyone involved learns how to lean into what really works about this program. With a new Netflix series dropping every other day and more and more networks fighting for the scraps that remain, a show like “City on a Hill” can get lost in the shuffle. Don’t let that happen. Three episodes screened for review. […]

  • Danzig the Director, Tammy and the T-Rex, Joe Bob Briggs and More: A Preview of Cinepocalypse 2019
    by Nick Allen on June 12, 2019 at 2:38 PM

    Chicago’s Cinepocalypse festival has only been around since 2017, and yet it is quickly becoming one of the most essential genre fests in North America. This year’s enticing lineup only proves Cinepocalypse’s mad grandiosity, with a slew of premieres, special guests, repertory screenings, as spiked with movie geek goodies like the world premiere of an R-rated “gore cut” of the infamous “Tammy and the T-Rex,” and two events that will be hosted by the everlasting costumed metal band, GWAR.  The festival kicks off on Thursday night with the world premiere of “Verotika,” which is written and directed by the legendary punk rocker Glenn Danzig. The film—an anthology project based on “the output of Danzig’s long-running, mature comic book publishing company Verotik"—will see Danzig make his debut as a filmmaker, inherently rendering this particular event a moment in music and film history.  On Friday night, Cinepocalypse will have its first repertory screening with “Flatliners,” directed by Joel Schumacher. Schumacher was supposed to attend the festival as a judge, but will be fulfilling those duties from afar—still, the Music Box is going to treat viewers to a rare 70mm print of a film that Roger called “an original and intelligent thriller” back in 1990.  Later that Friday evening, Lucas Heyne’s “Mope” comes to Cinepocalypse to gross out and inevitably polarize viewers with its grimy comedy about two wannabe porn stars. It’s a true story, and that makes its third act even more tough, as curious viewers will find out. Maybe you’ll have more fun with it than I did, (though I laughed a good deal), going into it knowing that. Plus, it has David Arquette in an obscene supporting role you’re not likely to forget.  Saturday will see the North American premiere of "The Swerve," a slow-burn psychological thriller written and directed by newcomer Dean Kapsalis. While this selection might be one of the festival's quieter picks, the movie casts a spell as it shows a housewife, mother, and teacher (played impeccably by Azura Skye) losing her mind. "The Swerve" is the type of character study that has a rich cinematic quality to it, including its cinematography and spare score, all that takes the film to a shocking climax. Consider it one of the more unsuspecting titles of the fest, but a worthwhile one all the same.  On Saturday night, Cinepocalypse will have the Midwest premiere of “The Lodge." Brian Tallerico caught the movie during its world premiere at Sundance and called it "a truly unsettling movie, the kind of horror film that rattles you on an almost subconscious level, making you more uncomfortable than going for cheap scares. Don’t ask questions or dissect the believability of the plot. Just check in.”  Sunday starts off with the world premiere of the animated film “Attack of the Demons,” a cut-paper animation genre dive with a Romero, Bava-inspired vision that speaks for itself. And though this Sunday might also be Father’s Day, it will be unofficially known as Lucky McKee Day at the Music Box:  Cinepocalypse will see the “May” and “The Woman” present the world premiere of his new movie “Kindred Spirits,” starring Thora Birch, Caitlin Stasey, and Macon Blair. After that, Cinepocalypse will host a screening of “Darlin’,” which is a direct sequel to McKee’s “The Woman,” written and directed by its star, Pollyanna McIntosh. Our own Brian Tallerico gave the film a positive review out of SXSW, calling it “a movie that never stops moving and tackles the patriarchy with bloody teeth.”  On Monday night, Cinepocalypse will give the world premiere to an R-rated “gore cut” of the infamous “Tammy and the T-Rex,” directed by “Mac and Me” auteur Stewart Raffill. The original version of “Tammy” was PG-13 with its story of a high school boy (played by Paul Walker) whose brain is put into a T-Rex, who seeks vengeance to reunite with his girlfriend Tammy (Denise Richards). But this new 35mm cut, straight from the prestigious halls of the Academy Film Archive, reportedly puts back in the head-crushings that were excised to make it more teen-friendly.   Tuesday night will feature a very special guest, as critic, horror savant, and “Last Drive-In” host Joe Bob Briggs presents “Joe Bob Briggs: How Rednecks Saved Hollywood.” According to the Cinepocalypse website, the presentation will use over 200 clips to “review the history of rednecks in America as told through the classics of grind house and mainstream movies” and be a “fast-and-furious two hours.”  The closing night film will be a 35mm presentation of the slacker-rocker comedy "Airheads," with director Michael Lehmann in the attendance. This is one of those events in which the Q&A should be worth the admission alone, not just because of the wonder that is "Airheads," but the other titles in his filmography, like “Heathers” and "Hudson Hawk." Someone can even ask him whether he qualifies his movie "40 Days and 40 Nights" as an Easter-themed sex comedy.  That's just a taste: other line-up highlights include a presentation of the latest "Into the Dark" movie, "Culture Shock"; a 4K, producer's cut presentation of dopey '80s gem "Hot Dog ... The Movie" presented by Katie Rife of the AV Club and Mike McBeardo McPadden, author of Teen Movie Hell; two feature-length blocks of shorts programming; the world premiere of Chicago-set slasher "The Lurker" and more.  Cinepocalypse 2019 starts on Thursday, June 13 and ends on June 20 and takes place at Chicago's Music Box Theater. For more information, including tickets and showtimes, click her […]

  • FX's Pose has Glamour and Righteous Rage in Second Season
    by Allison Shoemaker on June 11, 2019 at 2:34 PM

    “Wake the f**k up,” Pray Tell (Billy Porter) urges one of the bright lights of the ballroom scene, after they skipped an ACT UP die-in protesting the role the Catholic Church was playing in the AIDS crisis to rehearse a big performance. His message is not a subtle one: Like ACT UP, the organization he begins working with in "Pose'"s strong second season, he wants to make clear that Silence = Death, that the joyful, beautiful things in life won’t mean anything if the community in which they exist dies out. Who has time for subtlety or playing nice? Like Pray Tell, “Pose” has no interest in softening its messaging—though it remains an undeniably gentle series, the capital-I Issues it addresses are approached even more directly than in its already direct, earnest first season. In my review of that season, I wrote, “'Pose' tries, and tries fervently, to be the most honest and responsible version of itself that it could be. If it sometimes tries just a little too hard, then those missteps are both understandable and forgivable—and maybe even a little endearing.” That’s all still true. This season of “Pose” is more assured, just as engaging, and certainly angrier than the first—it jumps ahead to 1990, and thus it makes sense that Pray Tell, Blanca (MJ Rodriguez), and others would see their grief and fury continue to mount as their tally of funerals attended also climbs. What’s different is that, in the four episodes provided to critics, “Pose” seems a bit less interested in the rich, complex emotional lives of its characters than in the injustices of the world they inhabit.  (I should also note that the first season took a significant step away from its slightly pedantic tendencies in the very first episode following that initial set provided for review; I would not be remotely surprised if the same was true here. This is a writer’s room with a lot to say, and perhaps once they check a few major boxes, they feel free to take more unexpected swings.) Luckily, both the characters and the injustices remain compelling, and the former is what makes “Pose” worth watching. As the series resumes, we learn that the unlikely peace forged at the end of the first season between Elektra (Dominique Jackson) and Blanca and the rest of House Evangelista seems poised to break, that Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) is still dancing and Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel, thriving in a larger role) has gotten his life together. Meanwhile Angel, (the excellent Indya Moore), still sometimes heads down to the piers to make money as a sex worker, despite the danger. But when Nurse Judy (Sandra Bernhard, also in an increased role) tells Blanca that her T cell count is down, bumping her diagnosis from HIV to AIDS, she finds herself once again on a mission to fulfill her dream, and the dreams of others. And right on time, Madonna’s “Vogue” arrives, positioning the community Blanca loves for something like mainstream acceptance.  Life gets in the way, however. Blanca wants to open her own nail salon, Vogue Nails, but butts up against a nightmarish landlady (Patti LuPone); Angel aims to break into modeling but crashes up against barricades both financial and psychological; Pray Tell joins the resistance but can’t bring himself to take AZT, fearing the side-effects, and all the while his acrimonious relationship with Candy Ferocity (Angelica Ross, even better this season) grows tense. Even Elektra, thriving in a new career particularly suited to her temperament and talents, winds up in a dicey situation that leads to one of the season’s most daring storylines, balancing slapstick comedy with all-too-real horror. Jackson, in particular, has grown as a performer, while Moore, Porter, and Rodriguez continue to give some of television’s finest performances. These actors are so good, in fact, that they make the occasional Very Special Episode moments and history lessons not only palatable, but engaging. It does still sometimes feel like taking your vitamins, but they’re delicious vitamins. And, as with last season, the costuming is excellent, the production design immersive, and the ball scenes as intoxicating and electric as ever. This reaches its peak in the conclusion to the fourth episode, directed by Ryan Murphy. While all of “Never Knew Love Like This Before” exists in a new mode for “Pose,” the ending feels like a spiritual successor to the end of the pilot, which centered on Damon’s extended, unexpected dance school audition. Anchored by a gripping performance and by a director who trusts the nature of that performance is all that’s needed to bring it home, it’s high watermark for “Pose,” perhaps rivaled only by Rodriguez and Porter’s duet in season one. One thing, however, is abundantly clear: There are more high watermarks ahead. Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Steven Canals, and the rest of the “Pose” writers’ room clearly approach this series with an intensity of focus not dissimilar to Blanca’s in this season. Everything about this show indicates that they feel a sense of responsibility to not waste an opportunity, to seize this moment with both hands and use it to tell stories too often cast aside. There’s humor, glamour and righteous rage, but above all, there’s love. The most glorious thing about “Pose” remains unchanged: At its heart, it’s simply a family drama. The family is one its characters built themselves, in a world where love can be scarce. […]

  • From Don't Look Back to Rolling Thunder Revue: The Cinema of Bob Dylan
    by Peter Sobczynski on June 11, 2019 at 2:34 PM

    Taken simply on its own merits, “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese” is certain to go down as one of the finest documentaries of the year. Following in the footsteps of Dylan and Scorsese's previous collaboration, “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan,” the film is an eye-opening look at a brief but important chapter in Dylan’s personal and professional legacy—his wildly ambitious 1975 concert tour that found him performing shows in smaller venues, as the center of a ramshackle cast of performers and hangers-on that at times included the likes of Joan Baez, Ronee Blakely, Alan Ginsberg, Sam Shepard, Ronnie Hawkins, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, T-Bone Burnett and Patti Smith. Virtually from the moment the whole thing was conceived in the wake of Dylan's massive 1974 comeback tour with The Band, the tour was shrouded in myth and mystery. But with its stunning archival material of thrilling concert performances and sometimes startling behind-the-scenes material, as coupled with new interviews that include Dylan himself in his first extended on-camera talk in more than a decade, "Rolling Thunder Revue" offers a revelatory glimpse of the subject that both hardcore Dylanologists and complete neophytes will find absolutely compelling. "Rolling Thunder Revue” proves to be even more valuable as the latest addition to a small but fascinating canon of films that have served to complement Dylan’s groundbreaking work as a singer/songwriter. Factoring in how his songs are filled with dense imagery and allusions to classic films, along with his willingness to create and shed personas in the way an actor takes on different roles, Dylan’s musical life has long been informed by the world of cinema and throughout his career, he has used the tools of that particular medium to further pursue his artistic muse. At the same time, other filmmakers have sought to explore the singer's ongoing legacy, and have sometimes even given him on-screen roles designed to make use of his undeniable presence, while others have based stories around the mythos that is conjured by the simple mentioning of his name.  "Don't Look Back" Perhaps Dylan’s best-known cinematic endeavor—and certainly the one that's had the biggest cultural impact—was his first, D.A. Pennebaker’s groundbreaking 1967 documentary “Don’t Look Back.” Shot over the course of three weeks in England in the spring of 1965, the film captures Dylan as he is preparing to shift from his acoustic, folk-based sound to full-blown rock ’n’ roll, a move that, as odd as it might seem today, would confound and outrage many of his fans. Instead of the hagiography that one might expect, Pennebaker offers an eye-opening look at Dylan as he goes through the motions of his tour, dealing with fans, the media, assorted hangers-on and even a couple of would-be Dylans with a combination of charm, cutting wit and outright arrogance that is fascinating to behold. At the same time, he cheerfully pokes holes in the persona that has been constructed for him as a noble, truth-telling protest poet while at the same time beginning to construct the one that he would fully adopt for the public in a few short months.  If nothing else, “Don’t Look Back” is jam-packed with a number of great scenes that would become celebrated moments in Dylan’s legacy. The opening sequence in which “Subterranean Homesick Blues” plays on the soundtrack while a bemused Dylan holds and discards a collection of cue cards featuring some of the lyrics—not only has this scene been endlessly parodied and homaged over the years by everyone from ESPN to "Weird Al" Yankovic to the 1992 political satire “Bob Roberts,” it essentially served as a basic prototype for what would become known as the music video. The scene in which Dylan patiently listens to folk singer Donovan croon one of his songs and then responds with a devastating rendition of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” is almost too cruel to watch. Although one’s attitude towards the version of Dylan seen here may vary depending on one’s age—what comes across as mere truth-telling at a younger age may come across as mere obnoxiousness a few years down the line—the impact of “Don’t Look Back” on both the documentary format in general and the Dylan myth in particular cannot be denied. Dylan’s transition from acoustic to electric could be witnessed more fully in another 1967 film, “Festival,” an Oscar-nominated documentary on the Newport Film Festival that incorporated performances from the biggest names in folk shot during the 1963-1965 editions. Included is Dylan’s infamous 1965 set in which, after a couple of acoustic numbers, he played a few songs with an electric backup band that inspired a number of boos from the crowd, either because of the heresy of playing electric or because the sound system was so crummy that no one could hear anything.  From there, Dylan set to work on a film commissioned by ABC television that would document his 1966 U.K. tour backed by the Hawks, later to be known as The Band, that had been delayed in the wake of his motorcycle accident later that year. Once again, Pennebaker was hired to direct the film but after looking at Pennebaker’s cut, Dylan reportedly decided it was too similar to “Don’t Look Back” and elected to re-cut the film himself (with Kartemquin Films co-founder Gordon Quinn serving as one of the editors). When he finally showed his version, now known as “Eat the Document,” ABC swiftly rejected it for being too incomprehensible to broadcast. Although never officially released, it finally hit the bootleg circuit around 1972.  There are some fascinating moments to be had here and there—performances from the famous Manchester Free Trade Hall concert where an attendee yelled out “Judas,” a duet with Johnny Cash, and an alternately intriguing and depressing sequence in which a zoned-out Dylan and a seemingly equally addled John Lennon ride around in the back of a limousine—but the interesting stuff is padded out with a lot of what could politely be described as filler and even at a relatively brief 52 minutes, it feels much longer. Dylan fans in 1972 were better served with the release of “The Concert for Bangladesh,” a film commemorating a 1971 benefit concert that marked one of Dylan’s first public appearances after spending years out of the limelight and off the concert trail. "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid" Although Dylan’s name had come up in casting discussions for a number of films over the years—there was a point when he was being thought of to co-star in “Bonnie & Clyde”—Dylan’s first acting role did not occur until 1973, when he was brought in by friend Kris Kristofferson to write the title song for the new film that he was working on, Sam Peckinpah’s “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.” The story goes that Peckinpah had never heard of Dylan or his music, but was taken enough by him to not only have him compose the entire score but play an actual on-screen role as Alias, a loner who ends up joining with Billy the Kid (Kristofferson) as he is being pursued by former friend and current lawman Pat Garrett (James Coburn) and, it is implied, will promote his legend after their fatal confrontation. The film had a legendarily troubled production that continued on even after filming stopped, and culminated with Peckinpah being pushed out after completing his cut and the studio reediting it into a bewildering mishmash that was disowned by practically everyone who worked on it. In 1988, however, Peckinpah’s version was discovered and released to great acclaim with many considering it one of the greatest Westerns ever made. (A couple of decades later, a third version would be cobbled together from the two previous iterations and a few heretofore unseen scenes.)  As for Dylan, his impact on the film is somewhat mixed. His character largely comes across like an afterthought, especially in the truncated version, and there are times when he seems just as bewildered by his presence as everyone else. That said, the raw charisma he demonstrated in “Don’t Look Back” is on full display here to the degree that whenever he's on-screen, he winds up grabbing the focus of viewers, even though he is oftentimes just standing there doing nothing. Dylan’s musical contributions, on the other hand, were more duly celebrated—his score has a nice sonic match elegiac feel of the film and the lead song, a little ditty entitled “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” would go on to be one of his most enduring hits. After going off on his mammoth 1974 comeback tour with The Band, Dylan began making plans for what would become the Rolling Thunder Revue and in addition to trying to arrange and stage such a complicated endeavor, Dylan chose to make things even more complicated by using it as a way of fully indulging in his dreams of working in film. The first project to emerge was simple enough—a concert film shot during one of the final shows from the tour that would be broadcast on television under the title of “Hard Rain.” Unlike “Don’t Look Back,” which was more interested in portraying the world that Dylan was living in at the time, “Hard Rain” is a straightforward performance film with nothing else to suggest the carnival-like atmosphere of the tour. As cinema, it isn’t much but as a concert recording, it gets the job done—although one can sense a certain amount of burnout among the players, the renditions of such then-current tunes as “Shelter from the Storm” and “Idiot Wind” are put forth with such ferocious energy that they come close to suggesting the then-developing punk rock sound. Before long, however, it would become clear why “Hard Rain” was so slight in regards to everything other than performance—Dylan was putting together his own film, in which he would direct a loose narrative that would combine performance footage, behind-the-scenes interviews with the various participants and a number of dramatic scenes in which the various participants would pretty much improvise situations in front of the camera. (Although Dylan brought in Sam Shepard to help prepare a screenplay, Shepard is not credited in the finished film.) Using the classic film “Children of Paradise” as a clear thematic and structural inspiration, the film found Dylan himself dealing with the mythology that had grown around him, while at the same time grappling with the age-old question of male-female relationships. And like “Children of Paradise,” Dylan would recount his story of love and loss and thinly veiled autobiography (Dylan himself stars in the film, but the role of “Bob Dylan” is actually played by Ronnie Hawkins.) on a massive canvas, clocking in at just under four hours in length. Perhaps inevitably, when the film, “Renaldo and Clara,” finally emerged in early 1978, it received absolutely scathing reviews, even from the rock press, and had its release cut short after playing in only a couple of cities for a few weeks. So total was its failure, in fact, that to this day, the film has never been officially released in any home video format, though recordings made from a rare broadcast on British TV in the early 1980s can be found if you know where to look for them. As perhaps the biggest white whale in Dylan’s entire artistic canon, “Renaldo and Clara” is a work that looms large in the mind of any Dylan fan. Though there are enough points of interest to make it worth considering even though most people, even Dylan fans, are likely to consider it unwatchable. The dramatic scenes are almost entirely a wash that are not even saved by the vaguely hinted and potentially intriguing notion that all the actors are playing variations of the same character—it does contain enough moments of intrigue to make it of interest to viewers who possess both a lot of patience and a willingness to sort through a lot of nonsense in order to get to the good stuff. The concert footage is uniformly excellent and not even Dylan’s odd decision to appear on stage wearing white face paint and even the occasional mask can entirely distract from thrilling renditions of tunes like “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Isis” and “Hurricane.” The key problem seems to be that no one had any real idea of what the film was supposed to actually be in the first and when Dylan sat down to transform the reported 100 hours of footage that had been shot, his only hope at salvaging it was to adopt an aggressively non-linear format that might evoke memories of some of his more audacious musical moments. At a conventional running time, this approach might have actually worked but at four hours, it cannot help but come across as a largely formless mess. (Perhaps belatedly recognizing this, Dylan eventually put together a two-hour version of the film that was reportedly almost entirely comprised of musical performances, though this edition soon disappeared from view as well.)      "The Last Waltz" Dylan would regain a little face, cinematically speaking, a little later in 1978 with the release of “The Last Waltz,” Martin Scorsese’s celebrated document of the final concert performance of The Band in which he turned up as one of a number of special guest performers. But that would be the last time that he would turn up on the big screen for the next decade or so. During this time, he did find himself occasionally working with name filmmakers on projects of wildly varying quality. To promote the release of his 1985 album Empire Burlesque, he brought in Paul Schrader, who was just coming off of “Mishima,” to direct a Tokyo-based video for the song “Tight Connection to My Heart,” which somehow got transformed into a borderline incomprehensible tale in which Dylan dresses like a refugee from a “Miami Vice” ripoff, simultaneously romances two women, is accused of murdering a yakuza member and occasionally remembering to lip-sync to the lyrics that have only a tenuous connection to the onscreen action.  The following year, Dylan worked with Gillian Armstrong on “Hard to Handle,” a straightforward concert video chronicling an early show from the much-anticipated tour he undertook with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. In 1990, he made a cameo appearance in a film directed by Dennis Hopper and alternately known as “Catchfire,” “Backtrack” or “That movie where Dylan turns up as a chainsaw sculptor and that isn’t the weirdest thing about it.” And yet, even the Schrader video seems like a staid choice when compared to his first straightforward acting job since “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid," “Hearts of Fire.” Released in 1987, the drama told of an ambitious would-be singer (played by would-be pop star Fiona) finds herself torn romantically between the reclusive rock legend who becomes her mentor (guess who) and a current-day musical star (Rupert Everett). Despite the number of talented people involved with the project—the screenplay was co-written by Joe Eszterhas and it was directed by Richard Marquand, whose previous films had included the hits “Return of the Jedi” and “Jagged Edge” (and who passed away shortly its release)—the entire thing is so silly that it makes the later vehicles of Elvis Presley seem artistically sound by comparison. And yet, despite the absurdity of the whole thing (it is perhaps the one entry in the Dylan canon that comes closest to being outright camp) and perhaps in no small part to having no real competition from his co-stars, it's Dylan who gives the proceedings the closest thing that it has to some kind of weight and focus. "Masked and Anonymous" Needless to say, it would be a long time before anyone dared to put Bob Dylan before a movie camera again. When it did happen, after a period in which he managed to reestablish himself both critically and commercially, and even won an Oscar for composing the song “Things Have Changed” for “Wonder Boys,” it not only found Dylan taking a significant creative position for the first time in a film since “Renaldo and Clara” but also directly engaging with his own considerable cultural legacy in ways that he had never attempted before. Collaborating with Larry Charles on a screenplay reportedly inspired heavily by notes scribbled by Dylan on scraps of paper over the years (and which they would credited pseudonymously), “Masked and Anonymous” (2003) was set in an unnamed land suggesting a banana republic version of the United States. Dylan plays Jack Fate, a once iconic and now nearly forgotten rock legend who, as the story opens, is bailed out of jail by an old friend (John Goodman) to play a televised benefit concert, though who exactly is benefitting from it is never entirely clear. While making his way to the show, Jack encounters a world gone increasingly wrong—one where chaos and conspiracy rule the day—while trying to come to grips with his own past and dealing with the litany of people who want to use and exploit him for his own ends. Appearing alongside Dylan was a startlingly deep all-star cast that included the likes of Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz, Mickey Rourke, Angela Bassett, Ed Harris and Luke Wilson, just to name a few. Perhaps inevitably, when the film was released, it was slaughtered by critics with a ferocity that made their treatment of “Renaldo and Clara” seem nuanced by comparison, and rejected by audiences so harshly that it disappeared from theaters within a couple of weeks. But in their rush to dismiss the film as little more than a self-indulgent vanity project, critics failed to recognize that this work came closer than anything else to the qualities that made Dylan’s best songs so memorable—poetry, caustic wit, mistrust of authority in all forms, surrealistic flights of fancy and ambiguity—and translated them into cinematic terms. Like one of his classic songs, "Masked & Anonymous" takes audiences on a wild ride and is more interested in letting them come to their own conclusions as to what it all means, rather than telling them exactly what they are supposed to feel at any given point.  For students of Dylan, the film is a bounty of riches that finds him acknowledging his past while simultaneously refusing to allow himself to be defined by it, even at the risk of his own personal and professional freedom. Funny, strange, occasionally moving, sometimes shockingly prescient (the scene in which Mickey Rourke delivers a speech naming himself the new and unquestioned leader of the land certainly plays a lot differently today than it did just a few years ago) and filled with great music (with a soundtrack ranging from a collection of Dylan covers from around the world to several killer performances by Dylan and his real-life touring band), “Masked and Anonymous” is an absolute must-see for anyone with even the slightest interest in Dylan and his legacy, and a work ripe for rediscovery for anyone in the mood for something way off the beaten path. "I'm Not There" A few years later, writer/director Todd Haynes created a project that would also examine Dylan and his legacy, albeit in a format featuring no fewer than six different actors, including Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, Ben Whishaw, Marcus Carl Franklin and Cate Blanchett (pictured above), representing him during key moments from his entire history, and in the service of a screenplay in which the name “Bob Dylan” would not be formally mentioned once outside of an opening caption declaring it to be “inspired by the music and many lives of Bob Dylan.” Between the casting gambit and a deliberately fractured narrative structure, “I’m Not There” (2007) may sound pretentious but the result is a startlingly beautiful and thoughtful work that is perhaps the most cogent and interesting artistic contemplation of Dylan’s life and work from an outsider to date. (Although Dylan signed off on the project, he made no other real contribution to it other than to supply an outtake of the title song to use on the soundtrack.)  Like “Masked and Anonymous,” Haynes and co-writer Owen Moverman approximated Dylan’s approach to songwriting by utilizing a densely packed collection of words and images that do not necessarily carry any single fixed meaning, and which will resonate in different ways with different viewers. Likewise, the mixing of the various eras may seem haphazard at first but the juxtapositions end up playing beautifully throughout. (Even the Western-themed fantasy section with Richard Gere, the portion most criticized at the time of its release, ends up paying off nicely, especially upon a second viewing.) The performances are also exciting throughout as well—while Blanchett deservedly received most of the accolades (including an Oscar nomination) for her evocation of the “Don’t Look Back”-era Dylan, Bale is equally strong in his representations of Dylan during his groundbreaking folly days and later during his evangelical period. Whether taken as historical fiction, cultural analysis, or as a wild cinematic trip, “I’m Not There” is a work as audacious and challenging as the person that it celebrates. "No Direction Home: Bob Dylan" Offering a more straightforward look at Dylan’s life are the two epic-sized documentaries directed by Martin Scorsese, the first being 2005's “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan,” which covers the period between his first arrival on the music scene in New York up to the point where he seemed to walk away from it all following his notorious motorcycle accident. “No Direction Home” originally began as a series of interviews conducted by Dylan’s manager, Jeff Rosen, with the likes of Joan Baez, Allan Ginsberg, Pete Seeger and even Dylan himself, who reportedly spoke on camera for over 10 hours (said to be Dylan’s only specific point of direct involvement with the film) and Scorsese was brought in later on to give shape to the massive collection of interviews and rarely seen archival material (including footage taken from the “Eat the Document” shoot) and turn it into a proper film. As the American filmmaker who had done the most to fuse the worlds of rock music and cinema together, Scorsese was the ideal choice to helm the project and what he has created is a compelling and personal work that never descends into mere hagiography. In charting Dylan’s initial ascension, he allows critiques about Dylan’s ambitions, his attitude and his occasional tendency to poach musical ideas, while at the same time showing how he grew and developed as an artist, sometimes to the chagrin of a public that wanted him to stay just as he was. “No Direction Home” is a masterful work of cultural biography, both in terms of popular music in general and Dylan in particular and deserves consideration as one of the best documentaries about a singer ever made. And as good as “No Direction Home” is, “Rolling Thunder Revue” is arguably a better and more revealing work. Similar to “No Direction Home,” the film began with a series of interviews conducted by Rosen with many of the still surviving participants, including Dylan, Baez and the late Sam Shepard, and Scorsese was brought in to give the material, which included the footage shot by the multiple camera crews utilized by Dylan for “Renaldo and Clara,” a final form. It's fascinating how "Rolling Thunder Revue" serves as a sort of redux of “Renaldo and Clara,” accentuating the stuff that worked in the original film (such as the still-stunning performance footage) while deleting the stuff that didn’t—namely the improvised dramatic sequences involving the romantic upheavals among the various characters—and replacing it with explorations of the real-life tensions that were going on in the background, ranging from the expected romantic boondoggles to the ways in which many of the players found themselves jockeying for positions in Dylan’s favor as the tour progressed.  In addition to serving as a sort of corrective to “Renaldo and Clara,” “Rolling Thunder Revue” offers up any number of priceless moments, some of which may even come as a surprise to ardent Dylan scholars—including electrifying footage of Patti Smith performing and conversing with Dylan, Joan Baez busting out a couple of unexpected dance moves to hilarious effect and, most bizarrely, the revelation that the white makeup Dylan wore onstage for most of the tour was apparently inspired in part by a conversation that he had with a 19-year-old Sharon Stone backstage about the KISS shirt she was wearing. And unlike the accompanying box set of musical performances from the tour, the film manages to somewhat convey the audacious scope of the entire enterprise. In the end, everyone admits that from a financial perspective, the Rolling Thunder Revue was a disaster that was just too big and weird for its own good. From an artistic point of view, however, “Rolling Thunder Revue” demonstrates that it was as unusual as its creator and that at its best, it hit peaks that are still astonishing to behold today. So where does this leave Bob Dylan in cinematic terms? At this point, it is fairly unlikely that he is ever going to take another stab at acting, and there have only been rumors of movie projects based on songs like “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” and “Brownsville Girl.” On the documentary side, however, things are certainly more promising, as there are a number of periods of his career that could be reexamined in the same manner of “Don’t Look Back,” “No Direction Home,” and “Rolling Thunder Revue.” That said, Bob Dylan will always remain one of the most mysterious artists of the 20th century and beyond, and while there are no simple explanations for the man or his work, his cinematic output—as questionable as it has been at times in terms of quality—goes a long way to showing how he dealt with the questions raised by his work. Throughout these films, he remains the rarest of creatures in an era when no one seems to have secrets anymore—a genuine enigma. […]

  • #356 June 11, 2019
    by Matt Fagerholm on June 11, 2019 at 5:01 AM

    Matt writes: Sometimes the job of a critic is to provide a platform for films not receiving their deserved attention from audiences. In light of its underwhelming box office numbers, I'd like to place a spotlight on one of the year's most acclaimed movies, Olivia Wilde's "Booksmart," a wonderful comedy about teenage friends encouraged to break the rules in their final hours as high schoolers. Our critic Monica Castillo awarded the film four stars, while our Assistant Editor Nell Minow interviewed its brilliant leading ladies, Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever. Watch the first six minutes of the picture embedded below, then see the rest in theaters. It is entirely worth the ticket price. Trailers The Goldfinch (2019). Directed by John Crowley. Written by Peter Straughan (based on the novel by Donna Tartt). Starring Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson, Ansel Elgort. Synopsis: A boy in New York is taken in by a wealthy Upper East Side family after his mother is killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Opens in US theaters on September 13th, 2019. Luce (2019). Directed by Julius Onah. Written by J.C. Lee and Julius Onah. Starring Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth. Synopsis: A married couple is forced to reckon with their idealized image of their son, adopted from war-torn Eritrea, after an alarming discovery by a devoted high school teacher threatens his status as an all-star student. Opens in US theaters on August 2nd, 2019. Ad Astra (2019). Directed by James Gray. Written by James Gray and Ethan Gross. Starring Brad Pitt, Liv Tyler, Tommy Lee Jones. Synopsis: An astronaut travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. He uncovers secrets which challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos. Opens in US theaters on September 20th, 2019. Mike Wallace is Here (2019). Directed by Avi Belkin. Synopsis: A look at the career of '60 Minutes' newsman, Mike Wallace. Opens in US theaters on July 26th, 2019. Our Time (2019). Directed by Carlos Reygadas. Starring Natalia López, Phil Burgers, Carlos Reygadas. Synopsis: A family lives in the Mexican countryside raising fighting bulls. Esther is in charge of running the ranch, while her husband Juan, a world-renowned poet, raises and selects the beasts. When Esther becomes infatuated with a horse trainer named Phil, the couple struggles to stride through the emotional crisis. Opens in US theaters on June 21st, 2019. After the Wedding (2019). Written and directed by Bart Freundlich (based on the film by Susanne Bier). Starring Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup. Synopsis: A manager of an orphanage in Kolkata travels to New York to meet a benefactor. Opens in US theaters on August 9th, 2019. Sword of Trust (2019). Directed by Lynn Shelton. Written by Lynn Shelton and Michael Patrick O'Brien. Starring Marc Maron, Jon Bass, Michaela Watkins. Synopsis: Cynthia and Mary show up to collect Cynthia's inheritance from her deceased grandfather, but the only item she's received is an antique sword that was believed by her grandfather to be proof that the South won the Civil War. Opens in US theaters on July 12th, 2019. Them That Follow (2019). Written and directed by Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage. Starring Kaitlyn Dever, Walton Goggins, Olivia Colman. Synopsis: Set deep in the wilds of Appalachia, where believers handle death-dealing snakes to prove themselves before God, Them That Follow tells the story of a pastor's daughter who holds a secret that threatens to tear her community apart. Opens in US theaters on August 2nd, 2019. Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019). Written and directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo. Starring Jillian Bell, Jennifer Dundas, Patch Darragh. Synopsis: A woman living in New York takes control of her life- one block at a time. Opens in US theaters on August 23rd, 2019. Honeyland (2019). Directed by Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov. Synopsis: The last female beehunter in Europe must save the bees and return the natural balance when a family of nomadic beekeepers invade her land and threaten her livelihood. Opens in US theaters on July 26th, 2019. The Edge of Democracy (2019). Directed by Petra Costa. Synopsis: The 2nd Brazilian's Impeachment, starred by Dilma Rousseff, of Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT). Debuts on Netflix on June 19th, 2019. Animals (2019). Directed by Sophie Hyde. Written by Emma Jane Unsworth. Starring Holliday Grainger, Alia Shawkat, Fra Fee. Synopsis: After a decade of partying, Laura and Tyler's friendship is strained when Laura falls in love. But what is really stopping her from fulfilling her dreams? US release date is TBA. The Quiet One (2019). Directed by Oliver Murray. Synopsis: A unique, never before revealed and behind the- scenes look at the highs and lows of the life and career of Bill Wyman, former founding member of the Rolling Stones and renaissance man of rock and roll. Opens in US theaters on June 21st, 2019. Rolling Thunder Revue (2019). Directed by Martin Scorsese. Synopsis: Part documentary, part concert film, part fever dream, capturing the troubled spirit of America in 1975 and the joyous music that Dylan performed during the fall of that year. Debuts on Netflix on June 12th, 2019. Ford V Ferrari (2019). Directed by James Mangold. Written by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Jason Keller and James Mangold. Starring Christian Bale, Caitriona Balfe, Matt Damon. Synopsis: American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford and challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. Opens in US theaters on November 15th, 2019. Three Peaks (2019). Written and directed by Jan Zabeil. Starring Alexander Fehling, Bérénice Bejo, Arian Montgomery. Synopsis: Aaron wants to become a family with his girlfriend and her 8-year-old son, but high up in the Italian Dolomites, his attempts to win the boy's acceptance turn into a dangerous power game. US release date is TBA. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019). Directed by André Øvredal. Written by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman and Guillermo del Toro (based on the novel by Alvin Schwartz). Starring Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Austin Zajur. Synopsis: A group of teens face their fears in order to save their lives. Opens in US theaters on August 9th, 2019. Onward (2020). Written and directed by Dan Scanlon. Starring Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Octavia Spencer. Synopsis: Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there. Opens in US theaters on March 6th, 2020. Chaz Ebert applauds "Pavarotti"  Matt writes: publisher Chaz Ebert admired Ron Howard's new documentary, "Pavarotti," so much that she decided to pen her own essay on the film, in addition to our site's official review written by Glenn Kenny. She also presents Amber Cullen's article originally published in the Lyric Opera magazine detailing Chaz and Roger's love of opera, and the special place it had in their relationship.  "Alien" at 40 Matt writes: Valerie Kalfrin revisits Ridley Scott's 1979 horror masterpiece in honor of its fortieth anniversary, exploring how the film is both ahead of its time and squarely of its time. Click here to read the full article. Free Movies Scream Blacula Scream (1973). Directed by Bob Kelljan. Written by Joan Torres, Raymond Koenig and Maurice Jules. Starring William Marshall, Don Mitchell, Pam Grier. Synopsis: The vampire Mamuwalde (Blacula) is stirred by African voodoo, and is forced to kill again. Watch "Scream Blacula Scream" Friday Foster (1975). Directed by Arthur Marks. Written by Orville H. Hampton. Starring Pam Grier, Yaphet Kotto, Godfrey Cambridge. Synopsis: At Los Angeles airport, magazine photographer Friday Foster witnesses an assassination attempt against billionaire Blake Tarr and is drawn into a murky political conspiracy. Watch "Friday Foster" 'Sheba, Baby' (1975). Written and directed by William Girdler. Starring Pam Grier, Austin Stoker, D'Urville Martin. Synopsis: A Chicago private detective returns back home to Louisville, Kentucky, to help her father fight mobsters. Watch "'Sheba, Baby'" […]

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