Opens unpromisingly despite Ethan Hawke… actors laboriously declaiming portentous dialogue in fake accents. It does start to get trippy, with more CG than expected (incl. cartoon-ass animals), and at the “years later” jump the tedious-to-thrilling ratio is 50/50. Subwoofer cinema, a sonically unpleasant movie – I should’ve played the Harriet Tubman album again. Alexander Skarsgård (Florence Pugh’s fake bf in Little Drummer Girl) swears revenge, loses his way, meets Björk, swears revenge again, kills Fjölnir’s son and refuses to say where he’s hidden the heart. Lotta people get chopped up with swords. Three good performances in this: Björk > Skarsgård > Dafoe
Willow Maclay argues there are four good performances:
Nicole Kidman also gives one of her best performances in some time as an incestual madwoman, driven berserk by the times, and dripping with salacious fury in her scene of revelation. This contrasts with her elegant work as a Queen and mother, and suggests that a proper feminine presentation can be hiding a cannibalistic fury behind doors.
Virtually every landscape is CGI’ed to the point of absurdity. The Northman strives for the painterly but more closely resembles those 4K test images they show on the TVs at Costco.
On the run after killing his dad, Bradley Cooper wanders mutely into a carnival needing work and food and gets shown around by Willem Dafoe. Ron Perlman is there of course, typecast as a strongman. Cooper’s talents are gradually put to use until he runs off (openly, not in secret) with Rooney Mara to run their own upscale act stolen from mentalist Toni Collette and her late partner David Strathairn.
A couple years later in the plotty, less compelling back half of the movie, the spook act impresses Mary Steenburgen and he’s set up with haunted and dangerous Richard Jenkins. Psychologist Cate Blanchett gives him inside dirt on Jenkins then swindles him, Rooney dislikes his turn to crime-laced trickery, and after it all goes wrong he leaves town in a chicken car, wounded, with nothing and nobody, and comes crawling to new circus master Tim Blake Nelson.
It’s convenient when you’re a circus psychic that everyone in the 1940’s had the same backstory. The movie is as obvious as I’d guessed from the trailer, but the actors and the look of the thing make it completely worthwhile.
Back in theaters for this one. I love going into Wes movies with absurdly high expectations, because he always meets them. I’ll read the hater critics some other time – maybe they were looking for something more than an endless parade of favorite actors and impeccable production design, but I wasn’t. Much of the movie is in 4:3 black and white, and either my screening was over-matted or the titles appear at the extreme top and bottom of frame.
Bookending segments in the newspaper office, with editor Bill Murray alive in the first piece and dead in the second. Bicycle tour through the town of Ennui by Owen Wilson. Story 1 is relayed by Tilda Swinton, involving art dealer Adrien Brody patronizing imprisoned painter Benicio del Toro whose guard/model is Léa Seydoux (they get some actual French people in here sometime). I was least involved in the middle piece, about faux-May’68 student revolutionary Timothée Chalamet’s affair with reporter Frances McDormand. Then Jeffrey Wright is reporting on celebrated police chef Steve “Mike Yanagita” Park, who helps foil a plot by Edward Norton to kidnap chief Mathieu Amalric’s son.
Michael Sicinski (Patreon) also liked the Benicio story best:
By contrast, Anderson’s snotty riff on May ’68, “Revisions to a Manifesto,” succumbs to the director’s worst comedic instincts, essentially declaring that political desire is nothing more than sublimated horniness … The final segment, “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner,” sort of splits the difference, although it is elevated considerably by a fine performance from Jeffrey Wright, channeling James Baldwin as a melancholy ex-pat uncomfortable with his journalistic distance. The story itself is mostly just a riff on The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s portrait of courtly civility as a bulwark against anarchy. But it’s Wright’s representation of honest inquiry, and humanistic curiosity, that makes it far less silly than it should be.
Watched again a month later, with Katy this time.
No Sudden Move has lost its status as the year’s most grotesque use of a wide-angle lens, courtesy of some Abu Ghraib flashbacks that turn Oscar Isaac and Willem Dafoe into carnival-mirror dwarfs. Isaac served time for torturing the enemy while his superiors stayed free and rich, and a fellow torturer’s son Tye Sheridan tries to rope Isaac into a revenge plot, but Isaac wants to stay cool and quietly win card games using Tiffany Haddish’s money. Nice to see a movie where cooler heads prevail, the kid is set straight and Isaac gets the girl… oh no, that’s not what happens, two people die and Isaac goes back to jail. I can’t decide how I feel about it – the tone felt off, or maybe I just felt weird being at the Grand all by myself, anxiously trying not to expect First Reformed 2.
“It’s impossible to live without reason.” A series of unreal scenarios.
After talking about being afraid of the sled dogs on trips to northern Canada with his dad when he was little, cut to Willem Dafoe bartending in northern Canada with sled dogs out back – I buy this, this is the most grounded the movie is gonna get. He’s watching a guy play video slots when they’re both suddenly attacked by dogs. A pregnant woman gets naked for him in front of her grandma. He goes into the basement and is suddenly sliding down a rock cliff… has conversations with other Willems Dafoe… by the time he sleds past a scene of mass executions towards a cave that becomes a madhouse of nudes, the movie still has no coherent reality and is nearly half over. Since there’s no real cause and effect, one scene bleeds or jerks into the next – he goes from tundra to desert to greenery, he has sex with a girl who turns into his mom, he sleeps outside then a fish talks to him. It almost has the unstuck-in-time feeling of Je T’aime X2, but it’s more unstuck in different Dafoe movies. There are a lot of bare-breasted women; Ferrara still knows what’s important. Maybe it’s meant to be a fragmented story of a haunted guy with guilt over his parents’ deaths and a failed marriage seeking solace in the black arts?
The best piece I’ve found is Neil Bahadur in In Review:
The figure of Dafoe’s character Clint himself seems to be on a quest to narrativize his own life, only just barely possessing a grasp on reality by journey’s end, having montaged his life’s experiences and ideas throughout the film’s runtime instead … The terror of Siberia (possibly Ferrara’s first true horror film) is in Clint’s back to nature resolve, only to discover that the dreams of the 60s have shattered and nature is nothing if not ruthless. The true horror is determinism — the entire film is driven by an anxiety that people cannot shake their past … not just in choice but even in their own genetic code.
Watching The Shallows, I was delighted that Blake Lively and the movie allow their injured seagull to survive to the end, but now I realize this avian assistance was the key to Blake’s survival, because Rob Pattinson’s luck turns bad when he cruelly murders an injured gull, and after a descent into pain and horror and madness, he ends up gull food. Let these sister films be warnings to any who would wish harm to our seagull friends.
Eggers sounds like a delightful interview subject:
My understanding is that they were rescue birds that were injured and rehabilitated, and after that rehabilitation couldn’t really survive back in the wild again. So giving them things to do makes them happy. So they were very eager to learn how to fly on a windowsill, peck a windowpane three times, and jump off, and then get a little food reward. Actually the seagulls were incredibly easy to work with, unlike a certain black goat that, I mean, I have no fond memories of working with.
Set in 1890ish Maine, Rob Pattinson is on the run under another man’s name, spilling his beans to crusty old Willem Dafoe, as the two of them tend a lighthouse for a season. Unclear how much time passes, or what is real vs. hallucinated, but it’s all very beautifully shot, and if this Eggers makes another dark film about witches or lighthouses I will go see it.
Not trying to brag or nothin’, but I kept telling myself this movie felt like Atomic Blonde, only to find out later that it was secretly codirected by that movie’s David Leitch, so I guess I know my Russian secret-agent hit-man action thriller directors. I skipped this Keanu Reeves revenge flick when it came out, but I keep hearing good things about it and the sequel, so finally checked it out in between viewings of American Made.
The late Michael Nyqvist with Dennis Duffy:
Keanu is sad after his girl’s death from illness, left only with the dog she left him, an awesome car, a weapons arsenal, and intense murder skills, so when the local crime lord’s son kills the dog and steals the car, Keanu will not be persuaded to stop killing people (this one is more revenge-driven than the previous movie I watched, which was simply called Revenge).
Fun movie, with some interesting comic-booky elements (a hitman society with a safe-zone hotel headquarters), with appearances by Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo, Jerry Horne, Lester Freamon and Cedric Daniels.
Terrific shots of awesome mountains with Willem Dafoe spitting wisdom about the sublime, the combination of beauty and terror that scaling these beasts engenders. Almost the entire movie is in slow-motion, the camera always gliding on helicopters or drones. From the history of mountain climbing forward, it gets more dangerous – now that just anyone can climb Everest if they’re rich enough for the gear and sherpas, the serious new climbers embrace a higher risk factor. This culminates in a Red Bull-branded extreme sports montage, which Dafoe solemnly condemns after showing us rad footage of it for fifteen minutes, the movie getting to have it both ways.
Young mom Halley, impulsive and disrespectful, is barely getting by, staying in a motel run by Willem Dafoe, living on food smuggled from her friend Ashley. But the film takes the perspective of her bright, energetic daughter Moonee, who is making new friends, tormenting Willem, accidentally burning down neighboring properties, and so on. The kids are barely aware of the adult world’s workings, and Moonee doesn’t realize how precarious her situation has been until child services arrives for her at the end.
Dafoe is getting award nominations, and deservedly so, if only for the scene in which he chases off a possible pedophile and the one where he tries to reason with some cranes blocking the driveway, but Moonee and her friends Jancey and Scooty with their completely naturalistic play and banter are the reasons this film will be loved forever.