Surprisingly, the key to understanding the ambitious rock opera, "Annette," might be found in a documentary that came out earlier this year. That doc, "The Sparks Brothers," was about the 80s rock band Sparks, made up of brothers Russell and Ron Mael, whose quirky lyrics, music videos and rhythms led them to becoming one of the most influential bands of that decade, despite having never existed in the mainstream.
To call them and their music "eccentric" doesn't quite describe it. But their documentary is a good primer to trying to understand "Annette" - music and script by the Mael brothers - which is a film that by-and-large will not connect with most common movie-goers, and is even so bonkers and "out there" that it hasn't even been a sure-thing with critics either (as of this writing, it's clinging to a "Fresh" score of 70% on RottenTomatoes).
If you've seen "The Sparks Brothers," it may help get you close to the wavelength in which "Annette" exists, but even then, it's an over-long, showy and mostly hollow musical, kept interesting in spite of the Maels, not because of them. That's because one of the finest actors of his generation, Adam Driver, delivers one of the most boldly dedicated performances of his career, giving us an anchor of emotion in a sea of lunacy.
The soapy, melodramatic romance, "The Last Letter from Your Lover" has it all when it comes to what one might expect from such a film: Forlorn lovers, forbidden affairs, characters with amnesia, car wrecks, handwritten letters complete with voice-over, lavish costume designs and sets, chance encounters, and a love that spans decades.
It's a bit predictable and unapologetically cheesy at times, but it's also reminiscent of a different era of film...they just don't make movies like this one anymore, so it feels oddly invigorating to see that this sort of classic romance is still alive and well, at least on the big-screen.
The new, subversive romantic-comedy, "Good on Paper" is a showcase for stand-up comedian Iliza Shlesinger. She stars as a version of herself and also wrote the screenplay, based on her real-life dating experiences.
There are some funny moments and truths realized in her story about how a relationship can go from seemingly perfect to downright scary, but as a whole it isn't executed well and much of her comedy seems, well, better on the page than it does in real-life situations.
The pandemic wasn't just rough on the box office and the existing slate of films that had been scheduled for release, but also the few films that did manage to get made in 2020 have left a lot to be desired as well. Enter "Malcolm & Marie" a wordy, tiresome examination of a couple who are as caught up in themselves as writer/director Sam Levinson seemingly is of his own work.
Simple, touching and powerful, "Supernova" explores the harsh realities of finality, loyalty, love and the explosiveness of human connectivity.
There is a timeless quality to "Martin Eden," a film shot and produced in modern times but with a look and feel as if it might have been made several decades ago. The young actor at its center, Luca Marinelli, gives an amazing, lived-in performance that deserves all the praise it's been getting...its no wonder that Marinelli won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival, and that his name might be one that Americans will need to learn come Oscar season.
Earning the acclaim of being the very first movies shot in LA during the pandemic, "Songbird" already feels like a fossil of a film. This muddled, mess of a horror-thriller seems to be cashing in on COVID-19, as surely its big draw is its apparent "relevance" to the moment.
There may not be a more irrelevant film this year.
Aye, aye, aye. From John Patrick Shanley - the man who wrote "Moonstruck" and directed films like "Doubt" and "Joe Versus the Volcano" - wait until you get a whiff of "Wild Mountain Thyme," a movie so bad that I could easily see it becoming a cult-classic for all the wrong reasons.
One of the greatest things about film is the ability to learn and grow through the experiences of others not like yourself...stories told by people or points of view that you might not have otherwise experienced. In the mainstream, for example, we have rarely seen REAL stories about LGBTQ love and family life, let alone in a Christmas movie. Several minorities and groups - like the LGBTQ community - haven't had fair representation on film, to put things mildly.
With "Happiest Season," we get a bona fide lesbian Christmas comedy, one that is really funny, super-relatable to all and also full of heart. Maybe one future Christmas years from now, "Happiest Season" will be known as one of the better Christmas movies period, and not just that it's an LGBTQ Christmas movie.
Two remarkable performances make "Ammonite" worth discovering, but this film crumbles under its own weight.
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