A family man begins having visions of catastrophe and prepares.
Directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain
Review by Jon Kissel
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.
This is our first review of 2019, so what better way to start it off than to talk about how 2018 went for the movie business? Disney’s many properties grossed 63% of the total grosses of the top ten, and 47% of the top 20, with the top three earners of the year all sending money back to the House of Mouse. Add in the properties from Fox, which will be brought under the Disney umbrella at the end of the month, and those numbers bump up to 71% and 57%. This is a monopoly concern, but for Ralph Breaks the Internet, it’s an opportunity to stuff all these properties in one film. The original Wreck-It Ralph did the same with video game characters, but the difference is between characters whose moments have passed (Zangief, Q-Bert) and characters that show up on theater screens every year. It makes me queasy from a commercial standpoint, and as far as the film that contains billions of dollars worth of intellectual property, it makes it lazy. The silence that engulfed the theater during long stretches Ralph Breaks the Internet is a sign that complacency has overtaken a property that started strong. Why write a strong joke when Iron Man can be in the background?
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.