The social structure of a wealthy high school is upended by a broody newcomer.
Directed by Michael Lehmann
Starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater
Review by Jon Kissel
We discussed personal favorite World’s Greatest Dad a few years ago, and I praised that film to the rafters for its satirical, black-hearted take on dead teenagers and the survivors’ subsequent reactions. It turns out World’s Greatest Dad had an antecedent in Heathers, a film somehow blacker and more cynical than Bobcat Goldthwait’s black and cynical work. World’s Greatest Dad exists in a recognizable reality that acknowledges that everyone has their particular weaknesses and blind spots that can be exploited at will, but Heathers takes place in a heightened world where empathy is a foreign word and death and murder are meaningless outside of whatever personal gain can be wrung out in the aftermath. I thought Heathers was going to be some pointed teen comedy, like a sharper Clueless or Fast Times, but it stands alone in the (personally foreign) teen comedy genre.
I’ve now seen two John Lee Hancock movies but I suspect that I know exactly what the rest are like: earnest performances from actors in inoffensive packages. Unmemorable scores, Americana, fundamentally conservative. That’s always been my impression of The Blind Side and Saving Mr. Banks. The Alamo is the kind of movie a bored history teacher would show his class. My mom loves The Rookie (nuff said), and The Highwayman was only notable because it was about the cops who chased down Bonnie and Clyde, in opposition to the classic film that followed the robbers and heralded the beginning of Hollywood’s last golden age. Football, baseball, Disney, pop history, and Texas Rangers are all boxes for Hancock to tick on his USA bingo card, and with The Founder, fast food gets inked out, too. I eagerly await his future work about Levi Strauss, the digging of the Erie Canal, and Pecos Bill.
The mileage one gets out of MacGruber is going to be directly proportional to how much the viewer appreciates Will Forte’s facial gymnastics. I personally love it every time his weird face scrunches up in agony or fury, so this is a movie that works on me. Jorma Taccone, away from his Lonely Island roots, essentially makes a straight action flick and staffs it with a character who not only is a ripoff of an absurd 80’s primetime detective but is also the direct antithesis of every bad-ass testosterone-fest from the same decade. A solid premise plus whatever Forte is doing with his eyes in any given moment makes MaGruber into one of the decade’s better comedies, and one more unjustified commercial flop on the Lonely Island’s collective resumes.
If you’re a fan of Spider-Man, you’re in the midst of a golden age. Tom Holland is widely praised as the best live-action representation of the character, a stance I agree with based on the fact that he’s a credible high schooler and not a man in in his early 30’s creepily walking down a school hallway. As if Holland’s five appearances in four years wasn’t enough web crawling, Sony produced the animated adventure Into the Spider-Verse, introducing no less than seven new versions of the character in one outing while also creating what many are calling one of the best superhero movies ever. Away from the growing umbrella of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Into the Spider-Verse is allowed to go wherever it wants to, freed from any kind of realism or prior lore. That freedom is coupled with an earnestness that the character has presumably had for its entire life, and while I don’t subscribe to the fawning praise for the film, the film is a refreshing diversion from an increasingly serialized genre.
The films of Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda typically contain no drama at all. In something like Our Little Sister or Still Walking, he makes the equivalent of TV hangout sitcoms where he organically clues the viewer in to various dynamics and watches as the characters visit a graveyard or prepare a complicated dish. Not every film has to have physical stakes, and his often don’t. I’ve seen about half of Koreeda’s films and Shoplifters has the highest stakes, by far. There’s a constant risk of discovery in the central family-ish unit, and Koreeda has called Shoplifters his ‘socially conscious’ entry. One can’t make a political point without some kind of conflict, and Shoplifters certainly has that. It also has what makes Koreeda such a notable filmmaker i.e. a realistic adherence to workaday life that still allows for the possibility of beauty to enter at any moment.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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