New release “staff picks” for a post-video store world.
In 2019, I’d like to watch more interesting movies made with love by filmmakers – and less mediocre movies recommended by corporate algorithms. Join me! Don’t trust the robots. They don’t care about you.
Dir: Joseph Kahn; Starring Calum Worthy, Jackie Long
The film I was MOST excited to see this year, Bodied is the latest independently financed film from Joseph Kahn, the genius behind Detention, Torque, and the fantastic video for “Everybody” by The Backstreet Boys (and so many others). A battle rap supervillain origin story, Bodied is – to quote Birth.Movies.Death.’s Siddhant Adlakha’s great review: “a provocative, hilarious and heart-poundingly intense critique on the increasingly fragile dynamic between free speech, racism, appropriation and online outrage…. It’s not just a conversation starter. It might be the conversation starter. Hell, it might even be the conversation itself, unfettered, unfiltered, and in the guise of rip-roaring entertainment as Joseph Kahn drops the mic, picks it back up and demands you investigate your biases from every conceivable angle before dropping it again and breaking the stage.”
Bodied isn’t just cerebral, though, and it’s not at all pretentious – in true Kahn fashion, it’s really funny and fast and visceral and beautiful to look at. And it’s kind of a Rocky movie. Just not like any Rocky movie you’ve ever seen before.
File under: Superspies
Dir: Christopher McQuarrie; Starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Henry Cavill
Maybe the best of all the Mission Impossibles, Fallout gets at the heart of what makes Ethan Hunt a great character – he’s SO badass that he can save the world a million times without any civilian casualties because he knows how to wield the power of skits, parkour, costumes, and believing in yourself. Emotionally resonant, high-stakes, fast-moving, and you get to see where that Henry Cavill meme came from. Fallout is such a blast!
File under: Girl Power
Dir: Wash Westmoreland; Starring Keira Knightley, Dominic West
As the story goes, Colette’s spouse was so insistent on exploiting her talent that he went so far as to lock her in her room, doing everything he could to force her to write novels (about women, for women) so that he could slap his name on them and get paid. Yuck. There’s a happy ending here, though – through moxie, sexual liberation, and courage – by the end of her life, Colette herself was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature. She seems like a heck of a lady!
Dir: Anne Fletcher; Starring Danielle MacDonald and Jennifer Aniston
A ragtag group of misfits, eveningwear, drag queens, and Dolly Parton – this is a formula for a film made for a very specific group of people, and that group most certainly includes ME. I’m so glad!
Dir: Paul Feig; Starring Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively
I think the phrase “Mommy Noir” is a little too impressed by its own cuteness – and so I’m embarrassed to admit that it feels like an appropriate synthesis. If A Simple Favor actually is as dark as its plot suggests and as stylish as its posters imply, it should be a great time.
File under: Provacateurs
Dir: Sam Levinson; Starring Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Abra
A confrontational, violent tale of feminine rage in Salem, MA, it’s The Purge meets Mean Girls meets Neon Demon meets… The Crucible? Spring Breakers? Reading the audience reviews made me really want to see it – so polarizing! Some of the mens are so mad!
Dir: Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui
Alexander McQueen’s designs are often lauded for their savagery, violence, darkness and for their overwhelming beauty in the same breath. Critics say the same of this doc, a portrait of a skilled artist with vision who burned bright and hot.
Dir: Lars von Trier; Starring Matt Dillon, Bruno Ganz, Uma Thurman
Ever the polarizing provacateur, Lars von Trier really has the critics all wound up with this one (filmmaking aside – he’s undeniably a master at that). They seem to agree that Matt Dillon is great in it – and that overall, this is an unpleasant, cruel, and depraved SOMETHING. Some see the film as iconic, the apex of von Trier’s career, a masterwork – others, a desparate cry for attention from a “needy child.” Audiences are slightly more (well, 12%) impressed than critics – though the people who didn’t like the film really, really hated it. 100 people in the audience at Cannes just walked out. Which side do you think you’ll be on?
File under: Families (complicated)
Dir: Alfonso Cuarón; Starring Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey
Look at all those awards! Look at that rating! Oooh lala.
Dir: Yen Tan; Starring: Cory Michael Smith, Virginia Madsen, Michael Chiklis
A film festival favorite, this trailer had multiple gut-punch “oofs” in it for me. Coming home to your family after your life has started to take shape in a new place in a really different, subversive way – even without the layer of being closeted with your family while you’re living through the 1980’s AIDS epidemic – is complicated stuff. Critical consensus is that Yen Tan embraces all that complexity with passion and reverence, without looking away or oversimplifying things for the sake of a neat ending.