John Hillcoat has several feathers in his cap, particularly his two bleak masterpieces (The Proposition, The Road) and his rambunctious Prohibition tall tale (Lawless). That's a track record to recommend, but it all comes to a halt with Triple 9, Hillcoat's stultifying attempt to make a modern Heat. His earlier films never get anywhere near boring, but his latest is stuck in the quicksand of uninteresting characters and genre rehashes. Hillcoat has assembled an A-list cast to reprise tropes that were either created or better utilized in far superior films.
The films of eccentric visionary Yorgos Lanthimos take universal emotions and then find ways for their characters to go extremes to avoid them. The parents of Dogtooth don't want to fear for their three kids, and are therefore forced to come up with increasingly batty methods to constrain their now adult children's world. In Alps, the relatives of the dead don't want to live in grief, instead going to absurd lengths to keep some version of the departed in their lives. The Lobster, Lanthimos' English language debut, follows the same thematic pattern, except on a grander, societal scale. No one in this civilization wants to feel loneliness, so the whole edifice of the state is built with companionship as its organizing principle. Somehow even more bonkers and intriguing and well-crafted than the perfect Dogtooth, The Lobster is a constant surprise, full of left turns and reversals until the viewer is only left with the surreal genius of Greece's premier auteur.
In a year bombarded with half-baked sequels and pedestrian rehashes, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is a pleasant surprise. It’s no masterpiece by any means, but when it comes to creating characters I cared about and telling a self-contained story while still laying pipe for future installments in the new franchise, “Fantastic Beasts” gets the job done.
In Hirokazu Koreeda's follow-up to the charming I Wish, the Japanese director makes another finely-calibrated drama about fractured families. Where I Wish gave the viewer the children's POV and all the kid logic that went with it, Like Father, Like Son is told from an opposite perspective; that of a stoic and cold father. Both films take the unique and specific circumstances of their characters and find the kernel of universal emotion resting at the center, marking Koreeda for this viewer as a go-to director for perceptive and heartfelt storytelling.
Random projects from the MMC Universe.