An adventurer catches wind of a secret Thai island.
Directed by Danny Boyle
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton
Review by Jon Kissel
There are movies tethered to their time, and then there’s Danny Boyle’s The Beach. Philosophically, this film is the essence of pre-dot-com-bubble, pre-9/11 America, a frivolous place with a flat culture that must be abandoned to find whatever life really is. A person can only view a work for the first time once. I don’t know what it would have been like to watch The Beach in 2000, but watching it nineteen years after its release is an eye-rolling experience.
As the fourth Star Wars film in four years, the troubled production that was Han Solo’s origin story is the sore thumb of the bunch. While each previous film has its detractors, some louder than others, Solo is the film whose critical dismissal and lackluster commercial haul was striking enough to push the giant ship of Disney away from continued annual returns to George Lucas’ universe. The energy of Solo itself is like a self-fulfilling prophecy, such that the actors and filmmakers may have anticipated how their work was going to be received, put their heads down, and made it to the final frame. From Ron Howard on down, no one seems creatively inspired or happy to be here, resulting in a film that has little impact after the credits roll.
The world as we know it came extremely close to dramatic changes a mere decade ago. During the fall of 2008, it was a very real possibility that there was going to be no cash in ATM’s, that paychecks wouldn’t clear, and that the spiraling panic would destroy the global economy and produce the violent aftershocks that economic calamities always produce. We escaped that outcome in the immediate, though the same results may still be coming on a slower timeline. In the intervening years, a liberal canard has emerged in the idea of ‘doing everything right,’ and still struggling to stay ahead of disaster. While some portions of the American public, usually the minority portions, have long dealt with this uncertainty, it’s a new feeling for many. What is it like to constantly have the Sword of Damocles hanging over you, to know that a health emergency or a layoff caused by macro forces beyond one’s control can move a family from their home to a week-by-week hotel room? The brilliant Take Shelter places that dread within the context of mental illness, of a schizophrenic bread winner who senses calamity even when the skies are clear. Jeff Nichols, cinematic chronicler of the rural American male, makes his masterpiece by tapping into the psychic undercurrents rippling through the 21st century US and bringing them to the surface.
Hugh Jackman's portrayed Logan, otherwise known as Wolverine, in nine films dating back seventeen years. Over that period, the X-Men films featuring Jackman have been all over the map, spanning from the execrable to the entertaining. However, he's never been at the center of a film like Logan, his final bravura outing in the role. While the X-Men films keep getting bigger, with larger casts and greater destruction, the stand-alone Wolverine films keep getting smaller as the casts constrict and there's a turn toward the internal. That focus bears substantial fruit in Logan, by far the best X-Men film in the extended franchise, and one of the best superhero films in the present era that Wolverine and the X-Men arguably kicked off.
Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron returns to his homeland for Roma, an autobiographical film about an upper class family in Mexico City. Cuaron last filmed in Mexico for Y Tu Mama Tambien, an all-timer that also backdropped Mexican political strife against regular people living their lives. Roma features less horny teenagers than his first masterpiece, and instead focuses on the family maid caught in the throes of her own personal drama, the family’s dissolution, and protests in the streets. Like the best films, Roma gives the impression that concurrent stories are happening around the one being told here, and I went into this film sure that it would knock me out. However, Roma somehow never breaks through my emotional barriers, leaving me to praise and admire it but not exalt it as the modern masterpiece that so many critics have hailed it as.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.