Guillermo del Toro, a director best known for his creature design, makes a Gothic doomed romance in Crimson Peak, but del Toro being del Toro, he can't help but include some supernatural elements. His heightened, Bronte-ish tale of murder and subterfuge and illicit passions is a familiar story dressed up with del Toro's fantastical sensibility. Unsatisfied with the drafty mansions these stories take place in, he puts his titular decrepit estate on top of a red clay mine, causing the structure itself to bleed with viscous fingers of earth that rise out of the ground, almost pulling the building into hell. Crimson Peak is a pleasure to watch frame to frame, even as the plot gets increasingly predictable.
In a filler between Episodes III and IV of the Star Wars saga, Rogue One was a standalone film that brought a group of unlikely heroes together for a cause greater than themselves. It was action packed, creative, yet predictable. But all in all, Rogue One fit nicely in the ongoing epic.
Story developers John Knoll and Gary Whitta gave director Garreth Edwards something only George Lucas experienced throughout this series; creative freedom. Rogue One nearly had new characters to handle a dire mission with little limitations and Edwards succeeded. With characters like Galen, Lyra, and Jyn Erso; Orson Krennic; Cassian Andor; K - 2SO; Chirret Imwe; Baze Malbus; and Saw Geerera, Edwards showed both his creativity to the standalone film and its characters and his limitations to the greater story.
2015 redeemed the long-distance sequel with the good-to-great Mad Max: Fury Road, Creed, and The Force Awakens having a combined 50 years between their latest and previous outings. While George Miller didn't let a 30-year break impede him from making his apocalyptic masterpiece, Ben Stiller only needed half the time to mar his comic legacy. Zoolander 2 reinforces the default assumption that a lot of years between franchise entries is not a good sign.
John Carney, director of all-timer Once, is likely to never run out of films to make about struggling individuals who just want to express themselves through music. There'll always be a new permutation of roadblocks, cathartic lyrics, and vigorous stage performance for his effortlessly charming stories, and when Carney's as skilled at putting the pieces together as he is, that's fine. In his latest, Sing Street, the writer/director transplants his story structure onto teenagers, the group most likely to fully embody the earnestness that Carney deals in, on stage and off of it. It's a charming mixture of mood and subject, though it's much easier to believe Glen Hansard or even Keira Knightley as capable lyricists than the adolescent boys of Sing Street.
I was recently in the room while Angry Birds: The Movie was playing. It's bad for many reasons, especially compared to how successful the similarly-branded LEGO Movie was, but one of its cardinal sins was how little it asked of its audience. It was the definition of lowest common denominator children's programming, all splash and no substance, and is exactly the kind of media Ben Cash, the eponymous Captain Fantastic, would classify as brain-rotting pablum that will guarantee a worse world for his and everyone else's children. Actor-turned-director Matt Ross' film insists on no limits towards a child's education, be it physical or intellectual, and then beautifully walks the narrow path between capturing the children being raised in this fashion as either too precious or as miniature adults. This is the kind of film that makes a person question themselves. When was the last time I read a book and discussed it, or killed a wild animal for food with my bare hands? More the former than the latter, but still a good question to ask.
Some movies you watch knowing you aren’t going to enjoy but you just can’t help it. I remember first seeing a trailer for The Neon Demon and thinking it looked really interesting. I googled and saw it was from Nicholas Winding Refn who we at the MMC remember from Only God Forgives and it’s 1.1 group GPA (despite the B+ Joe gave it) and the famously overrated Drive. NWR serves as writer/director on The Neon Demon just as in Only God Forgives while only directing Drive and the similar not so subtleties of sexual predation are evident.
A small, sweet film about flawed parents in a decaying community, Bob Nelson's directing debut The Confirmation carries the same patience for small-town dynamics that defined his script for Nebraska. Starring Clive Owen as alcoholic and near-penniless handyman Walt, the film plays out over a couple days while his young son Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher) learns lessons, good and bad, from his wayward father. While Walt has to watch Anthony for a weekend, his most prized possession, an antique tool set, is stolen and he desperately needs it back, both for sentimentality's sake and for its practical use.
Random projects from the MMC Universe.