A tech worker for an Alexa-esque device hears a suspicious video recording.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Starring Zoe Kravitz
Review by Jon Kissel
I’m using Facebook less and less, as my most friends have long since migrated off it to other social media and the ads are suffocating. It’s entertaining to watch people fall further down various conspiracy holes, but it’s not a good kind of entertainment. I know that a lot of work goes into making the news feed as banal an experience as possible. Despite the cleanliness of what pops up on my screen, armies of workers are scanning posts for content that is beyond the pale, from child pornography to live beheadings. I can’t imagine calling a shift when one sees a mere three human deaths a good one, because the average is nine. Plenty of articles have been written about the psychological toll that kind of job takes, and in Steven Soderbergh’s latest, one of these workers takes center stage. In Kimi, vast human experiences are served up to an already-shaky woman, little tidbits that are mostly useless and occasionally horrifying. The perfect job for the Covid era of the film, especially for the agoraphobic protagonist, can’t fully protect her from the outside world.
Playwright/filmmaker brothers Martin and John Michael McDonagh have made eight films between them. In the best of them, John Michael’s Cavalry stars Brendan Gleeson as a version of Paul Schrader’s lonely man, the last decent priest during a period of maximal Irish disillusionment towards Catholicism. Martin’s experienced greater success with films like In Bruges and Three Billboards, but thanks to the brilliance of Cavalry, the superior comedy of John Michael’s The Guard, and an insistence on working on American-set films despite neither McDonagh doing their best work in the US, Martin’s been stuck in his brother’s shadow. With The Banshees of Inisherin, Martin’s finally made a film that matches his older brother by returning to the McDonagh’s ancestral home of Ireland. The bleak melancholy of the setting and the wry humor of the characters are a perfect mix in Martin’s best film to date. Despite its setting amidst the Irish Civil War, the McDonagh brothers need not fight against each other for supremacy. They can now lay claim to their own masterpieces.
It’s understandable if a viewer is out on Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis from its first scenes. Unfolding kaleidoscopes of rhinestones bedazzle the title card while breakneck zooms in and out of Colonel Tom Parker’s (Tom Hanks) eye accompany his portentous narration in an accent best described as indescribable. It’s overpowering in its first five minutes and there’s another 150 to go. Luhrmann will immediately abandon his framing device of the Colonel’s deathbed confession by showing childhood scenes of Elvis that he wouldn’t have known anything about, and the movie will make awful decisions in its storytelling and its filmmaking over and over again. Luhrmann and Hanks are both doing all they can to break Elvis, but in the titular role, Austin Butler keeps putting it back together. This is a mess that indulges in all of Luhrmann’s worst impulses to such an aggressive degree that it implies the director is in on the joke of his own filmography. However, there’s so many lifeless, rote musician biopics that injecting some gonzo energy into one is appreciated, especially with Butler at the center.
In another of those coincidences of studio groupthink, three adaptations of the Pinocchio story landed on streaming services in 2022. A Pauly Shore-starring Russian knockoff languishes on Amazon Prime, Robert Zemeckis continues his CGI beclowning with a critically panned version on Disney+, and Netflix flexes its quality control muscles with Guillermo del Toro’s version. By far the best received, Del Toro’s stop-motion film is a serious contender for a Best Animated Film Oscar, especially in a year when Disney is dragging its feet. However, Del Toro’s pet interests and style don’t work with a script that’s stuck between irreverence and historical trauma. Combined with sloppy plot mechanics and a refusal to take advantage of the storytelling elements dropped in the viewer’s lap, Pinocchio lifelessly flails around for unearned emotional power. This might be the best version of this story that came out in 2022, but when Zemeckis and his non-union Russian equivalent are the competition, that’s not much of a compliment.
Marvel Cinematic Universe directors would ideally use the clout they get from working with Disney on major projects to get their own passion projects made. The one-for-me, one-for-them system sounds like a fine way to make movies, but Ryan Coogler’s only worked on Black Panther properties since signing on, James Gunn hasn’t done anything non-comic book, and Jon Watts has parlayed his Spider-Man gigs into more Spider-Man gigs. Guillermo del Toro did it right in the mid-2000’s, translating his success on Blade II into the film that’s defined his career. Del Toro was born to make Pan’s Labyrinth, and much of what he’s made after has been a riff on its themes. A grim fairy tale set against a dark historical time brings out Del Toro’s imagination and his humanism, providing him with his artistic thesis statement.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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