Using a similar animation technique that he did on some of past films (like "Waking Life" and "A Scanner Darkly"), Richard Linklater takes us on a nostalgia-fueled trip down memory lane, in one of the best films of this young year, "Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood."
It masquerades as a story about the moon landing, but it's really a celebration of a different time, back when the future looked hopeful, and a child's mind - as well as an adult's - could still be filled with wonder.
The totality of the new pandemic comedy, "The Bubble," reminded me of a scene from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." When Clark Griswold excitedly goes to plug in the electric cord that will turn his home into a spectacle of lights, nothing happens. The switch is off, and he can't seem to figure out why all of his hard work wasn't paying off, and why the lights weren't firing on.
That's "The Bubble" in a nutshell: All the lights are in place, there seems to be an impressive display on the horizon, but just nothing turns on. Nothing works. There are jokes, a fantastic ensemble and clever set-ups, yet the laugh switch rests firmly in the "off" position.
The pandemic had much more of an impact on the movie industry than just at the box office. You can sort of tell the kind of film that was made during lockdown: Small, character-driven dramas or thrillers that utilize very few locations and minimal casts.
This weekend there is an example of how to accomplish this effectively (see "The Outfit"), and how difficult it can be. With "Windfall" (on Netflix Friday 3/18), we're happy that the cast and crew got out there and made a movie, but the result is a banal so-called "thriller" that's so minimal you'll nearly forget it's even there.
Time travel films invite scrutiny, perhaps more than any other genre of film. One staple that nearly EVERY time-travel story always adheres to is that you are not to run into your past self. We all know this is a HUGE time-travelling no-no. To do so throws things way out of whack and could in fact fold the time-space continuum into itself, creating a paradoxical implosion that would end the universe as we know it. Or something like that, typically.
"The Adam Project" has a clever take: What if we just don't think so hard about all that time-travel logic? What if we just went on an adventure? It seems simple (and perhaps blasphemous to the diehard sci-fi geek), but throwing logic out the window would allow a person to not only run into their former self, but actually talk, chat, hang-out and even save the world together along with their mini-me.
That's the underlying premise of "The Adam Project," a film that by no means is a "good film," yet it has enough clever dialogue and meaningful moments buried within it to qualify as a passable, family-friendly time-travelling adventure...one that I'd bet will land successfully with kids and adults alike.
The perils of online dating are on full display in the compelling new Netflix documentary, "The Tinder Swindler," which very will might become the latest true-crime obsession on the popular streaming platform.
Olivia Colman is a great actress, who in "The Lost Daughter," has never been better. She plays Leda Caruso, an academic who is vacationing in Greece, alone. It's a deeply compelling character study of not just this woman, but of all women, who face societal pressures to not only become mothers, but the best mothers that they can be. Existing solely for the sake of others is perhaps the most selfless act in the world, but it doesn't leave a lot of room for personal - or what some may consider "selfish" - happiness.
Directed and adapted by actress Maggie Gyllenhaal - in this her directorial debut - "The Lost Daughter" bucks conventions to become one of the few films of 2021 that is simply impossible to forget.
American film audiences aren't exposed to as many foreign films as they perhaps should be, but if they do come across an Italian import in recent years, there's a good chance that it was made by Paolo Sorrentino. The highly-lauded writer/director is responsible for the gems "Il Divo" and "The Great Beauty," and is also the creator of the HBO series "The Young Pope." His last American-language film, "Youth," was one of the best films of that year.
His most recent film, "The Hand of God," (now available to stream on Netflix) may not be his best or most effective film, but it is definitely his most personal. It's an autobiographical tale about a young boy and his colorful upbringing in 1980s Tuscany, Italy, that leads him to a life of film...a fate that he may never have had a chance to escape from.
It may include the greatest ensemble cast of A-Listers and talent that you'll ever see: Meryl Streep. Jennifer Lawrence. Leonardo DiCaprio. Jonah Hill. Timothée Chalamet. Mark Rylance. Ariana Grande. Ron Perlman. Rob Morgan. Cate Blanchett. Tyler Perry. Melanie Lynskey. Himesh Patel. And even Kid Cudi.
It's very easy to get hypnotized by their brilliance, and swept in on the sheer star-power of those sharing the screen together. "Don't Look Up" is a brash and super-funny political satire from the mind of Adam McKay, director of "Vice" and "The Big Short" in recent years, not to mention his iconic films with his old business partner Will Ferrell, like the two "Anchorman" movies, "Step Brothers," "Talladega Nights" and "The Other Guys."
But for all it gets right, it's also a bit of a mess, with way too much jammed into its over-long run time (2 hours and 18 minutes). Still, it's maybe the best comedy of the year, and could yield a few acting nominations as well this awards season, especially for Leonardo DiCaprio, who is given a big "Network"-level monologue at one point that could land him an Oscar on the strength of that one scene alone.
Sandra Bullock flexes her dramatic muscles in the deeply troubling and mostly forgettable drama, "The Unforgivable."
"The Power of the Dog" is a slow-burn balancing act, that admittedly, felt like a lot to chew on upon first viewing. But wow does its flavor linger.
A beautifully composed, intimate story of a man, a boy and a couple in the open ranges of Montana set the mid 1920s, "The Power of the Dog" is one of the most stellar achievements in story-telling you'll ever witness, a film that is challenging and compelling all the same, that wraps itself around the viewers, twisting our perceptions, and almost assuredly forces deep, intellectual post-viewing discussions.
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