It is a miracle that anyone could breathe life into a murder mystery film. But Rian Johnson is the perfect choice. His Knives Out is an entertaining and at the same thriller that has more to it than just solving a murder. Christopher Plummer’s Harlan Thrombey is the patriarch of a wealthy white clan. His greedy family becomes involved in an investigation by Lakeith Stanfield’s detective, and Daniel Craig’s Southern P.I. Knives Out’s joy is not in solving the mystery (its twists and turns are predictable, and it loses momentum near the end), but in seeing an outstanding cast constantly outdo each other. Knives Out will leave you with a favorite performance. It could be Toni Collette’s raunchy parody of a lifestyle guru or Chris Evans’s family black sheep dirtbag role. Or Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049), Harlan’s caretaker.
Glory and Pain
Pedro Almodovar’s new film is a touching reflection on the ways that our past can shape us. Antonio Banderas, his long-time collaborator, is back and better than ever as Salvador Mallo. He plays the role of an elderly, lonely film director, who acts as Almodovar’s stand-in. Salvo is grounded by his memories, such as sweet moments with his mother (Penelope Cruz), and his first experience of wanting another man. However, he is also limited by his physical limitations that keep him from making new films. Pain and Glory is emotionally and sensitive and can be described as a close embrace that soothes and stings at the same time.
Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is the movie you should see this fall. The Snowpiercer and Okja director’s film follows two families. One is the Parks, a wealthy family that lives in a home with glass walls and another is the Kims, a poor clan that makes pizza boxes to make money in a basement apartment. Parasite, another brilliantly clever tale about class and survival from the director, is a fantastic tonal juggling act which defies easy genre classification. This tale combines dark humor, suspense and tragedy with sharp social commentary. It’s an exciting rollercoaster ride that will keep you guessing at every turn and leave you feeling a little paralyzed by its beauty.
Ford v Ferrari
Logan director James Mangold’s latest film features Matt Damon as Carol Shelby, a car designer who is recruited by Ford Motor Company to assist them in beating the Italians at 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. He assigns Ken Miles (Christian Bale), the most competent driver he can find to the wheel. This quickly becomes problematic when Ford executives reject Miles’ erratic behavior as being incompatible with their image. Although the behind-the scenes automotive drama may seem a bit formulaic at times Ford v Ferrari is a thrilling spectacle when it gets to the track. Mangold creates a series of thrilling, stylized racing sequences which form the heartbeat of the movie. They will draw you in.
A Hidden Life
Terrence Malick’s 2011 Palme d’Or-winning film The Tree of Life has been one of the most experimental and criticized films of his career. The other film from Terrence Malick is a return to his narrative-based style. The true story of Franz Jagerstatter, an Austrian conscientious objector, who refused to fight for Hitler, is the heart and soul of A Hidden Life. Malick’s trademark lyrical style, with floating wide-angle shots and a ponderous voiceover, is still evident as Franz and his wife (a remarkable performance by Valier Pachner), contemplate moral dilemmas around injustice, suffering and the roles that man and God play in each. Although A Hidden Life is not as profound and soul-stirring than his most important and profound works, it is always an enjoyable treat to see Malick in his spiritually transportive and meditative groove.
It would be unfair to call Hustlers the female Magic Mike, or a gender-swapped Scorsese Gangster Pic. Lorene Scafaria’s film is another New York crime story. It is based on the true story about a group of exotic dancers who conned Wall Street men to make huge amounts of money. But what makes Hustlers so special? The way women, their perspectives and stories are valued. Hustlers is the story of Destiny, a new strip club member (played by Constance Wu), and Ramona, a club veteran (played brilliantly by Jennifer Lopez, and deservedly Oscar-worthy) as they try to find a way to survive after the 2008 recession. Scafaria’s film is both smart and energetic, told with visual panache. It also tells a compelling story about women–especially low-income women of colour–going to all lengths to survive.
Portrait of a Lady on fire
A quietly consuming and very clear electricity exists between people who are longing for each other, especially when they are in queer relationship. This burning desire can transform subtle glances into fireworks and butterflies. It transforms small gestures and flirtatious smiles to a secret language. This tender, aching intimacy is what Celine Sciamma’s brilliant Portrait of a Lady on Fire creates between two women in 18th Century France. Following Marienne (Noemiemerlant), the artist is commissioned to paint the portrait of Heloise (Adele Haenel) in the latest French film (Girlhood, Tomboy). Portrait is a slow-burn romantic drama about queer love and how passion transforms artistic expression. It’s the kind of film that you quickly fall in love with and, like an old lover, it stays with you for a long time.
Robert Eggers’s sequel to The Witch is an enchanting and grimy descent into madness. Two lighthouse keepers, Robert Pattinson’s taciturn Ephraim, and Willem Dafoe’s grouchy gaseous Thomas arrive on an island for four week’s work. This charmingly absurd tale is full of seagull fights and copious farting. Prepare for Pattinson masturbation as well as an undeniable erotic tension. Jarin Blaschke shot The Lighthouse on 35mm black-and-white in a 1.19 to 1 aspect ratio. It is as stunning as the vision of a glowing mermaid swimming on a rock. The Lighthouse, like the Kraken’s tentacles, slowly weaves through your mind, grasping tighter until it reaches the end of your expectations.
Uncut Gems is a Safdie Brothers movie that doesn’t stress you out. Benny and Josh Safdie have been working on a long-in-progress film about the Diamond District. It is full of seedy characters who find themselves in anxious situations on Manhattan’s grimy streets. Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a con artist jeweler who is drowning in gambling debt and is incapable of making good decisions. This dramatic role is another highlight of Sandler’s acting. Uncut Gems is a film that, like Good Time takes us on a dark and chaotic path as Howard escapes debt collectors and finds himself in a predicament alongside NBA star Kevin Garnett (playing himself in an entrancing role). However, the film a little lacks the starling punch and adrenaline. The Safdie film is a thrilling crime thriller that will make you gasp in horror and laugh every second.