Reviews: 'Cold War,' 'They Shall Not Grow Old,' 'Miss Bala' and 'Velvet Buzzsaw' opening Friday, Feb. 1
It's a cold, cold weekend at the box office, as no new releases look to chart all that well at the box office. No surprise, considering the major releases are an Oscar-nominated foreign film, an artsy-independent Netflix movie, a WWI documentary and an action film that was not screened for critics.
Here are reviews for movies opening Friday, Feb. 1, 2019:
It's beautiful, heart-breaking and at 89-minutes long, very lean. It's no surprise then, that "Cold War" from Poland, was nominated for Best Foreign Film at this year's Academy Awards.
It's the story of a man and a woman who fall in love, set against the backdrop of post-war Poland in the 50s and 60s. Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) is a music director who discovers the lovely singer Zula (Joanna Kulig) and they instantly connect. But as politics and communism cloud their lives, they dream of escaping the cold grip of their surroundings.
Based loosely on his own parents, writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski also scored a surprise Oscar-nomination for Best Director. And shot in stark black-and-white, it landed a third nomination for Best Cinematography (Lukasz Zal). The brisk pace and short run-time of "Cold War" add to the fleeting nature of the love story at its center, and each scene feels necessary, as Pawlikowski gracefully navigates and explores the couple's relationship.
"Cold War" is sub-titled, but romance transcends spoken language. Do yourself a favor and make "Cold War" part of your required pre-Oscar viewing.
Genre: Drama, Romance, Foreign. Run Time: 1 hour 29 minutes.
Starring: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc, Agata Kulesza.
Co-Written and Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski ("Ida," "The Woman in the Fifth," "My Summer of Love").
"They Shall Not Grow Old"
"Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson has meticulously restored, colorized and compiled the documentary "They Shall Not Grow Old" out of hundreds of hours of old film and still images from World War I, particularly of UK forces between 1914 and 1918. The result is a shocking and brutal jolt of history, the importance of which cannot be denied.
The film is narrated by unseen, unnamed voices, from soldiers that were there. They tell of how they all felt a sense of duty to their country to enlist when they heard that their country was at war with Germany, and they walk us through what it was like to train in the armed forces. As the story gets into the actual battles that were fought - where over 1 million British soldiers died on the battlefield - the movie transforms from the familiar black-and-white film clips to stunning full-screen color (and even in 3D, if you can find a theater near you showing it in that format).
Seeing footage in color, now over 100 years old, does shed new light on the Great War for generations desensitized to violence, and who are so far removed from the events of World War I that it sometimes doesn't feel real. This, of course, is all by design by Peter Jackson, who intends to make us remember, by showing us history in a way that we've never experienced it before.
He succeeds in this, but also in pointing out another truth that seems alien to modern people: There was no internet, no social media, and hardly any recording technology at all. To hear that these men went off to fight for their country, to watch as their friends and fellow countrymen were slaughtered and maimed on the battlefield by bullets, bombs and cannons, there was simply no precedent for this sort of thing. Those back at home did not have movies or TV to reference, so nobody knew or could have even fathomed the sorts of things that these men experienced. As one man puts it in the film, upon returning home from the war, one of his co-workers asked him: "Where have you been lately? Working the night shift?" Talk about a thankless job.
If there was a gripe to be made, it's in the narrative choice by Peter Jackson to fill every second of film with voice-over. There is no room for the images to breathe, no dramatic pauses for the viewer to even catch their breath. It would have helped. That quibble aside, "They Shall Not Grow Old" may now be the definitive piece of film on World War I, destined to be taught and studied by anyone wanting to grasp what war was like at the turn of the 20th Century. This movie doesn't get into politics, and doesn't bother with the big-picture. Instead it stands as a personal examination of what a soldier endures, and sacrifices.
Genre: Documentary, History, War. Run Time: 1 hour 39 minutes.
Directed by Peter Jackson ("The Hobbit," "The Lovely Bones," "King Kong," "Lord of the Rings").
One of the strangest - and possibly worst - movies you'll see all year is now playing on Netflix. "Velvet Buzzsaw" is the latest film from writer/director Dan Gilroy ("Roman J. Israel, Esq." and "Nightcrawler") and is a cautionary tale: Just because Netflix will let filmmakers do whatever they want, doesn't mean they should be given the freedom to do what they want. Yes, a little bit of restraint might have helped in this case, and "Velvet Buzzsaw" is anything but high-art.
It's sometimes a satire of the stuffy art-world, and at other times a gratuitous horror romp. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the eccentric art critic Morf Vandewalt (perfectly named to put an emphasis on his elitism), whose reviews could make or break an artist's career. There is a large ensemble of strange individuals populating this odd cinematic universe, with Toni Collette, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs and John Malkovich weaving in-and-out of the spotlight. When a man mysteriously dies, it's discovered that he has a whole collection of mysterious art that is not only brilliant, it's to die for.
Dan Gilroy wowed Hollywood with his feature debut, "Nightcrawler," which was one of the best films of 2014. That film also starred Gyllenhaal and was one of his best performances, so it's not surprising that Gyllenhaal would trust Gilroy again. And while Jake has been on quite an impressive run, this performance is inconsistent and a bit much...at times he's believable and at other times, unintentionally laughable.
Gilroy seems to have a lot to say about art, criticism, ego and false praise, but "Velvet Buzzsaw" is all over the canvas, and paints itself into a corner with a cast of characters that - while colorful - aren't fully shaped. The result is just drab.
Genre: Horror, Thriller. Run Time: 1 hour 52 minutes.
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, John Malkovich.
Written and Directed by Dan Gilroy ("Roman J. Israel, Esq.," "Nightcrawler").
This movie was not reviewed but is in wide-release this weekend.
Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller. Run Time: 1 hour 44 minutes.
Starring: Gina Rodriguez, Thomas Dekker, Damian Alcazar, Anthony Mackie.
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke ("Miss You Already," "Plush," "Lords of Dogtown").
All of these movies open Friday, Feb. 1st, 2019. Check here for show times.
Movies opening next weekend include: "Cold Pursuit," "The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part."
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