Menu

DARKEST HOUR: HISTORY IN THE PRESENT TENSE

It’s easy to portray Winston Churchill in a heroic light with the benefit of hindsight. Darkest Hour reveals how isolated he was when he accepted the post of Prime Minister in 1940 and expressed his firm belief in waging war against Hitler to the bitter end. He had virtually no support and was surrounded by formidable foes. This ambitious film takes what we know as history and captures the immediacy and uncertainty of that fateful period. Director Joe Wright and screenwriter Anthony McCarten take us inside Churchill’s world—a dark place, for the most part. If you’ve ever visited the Imperial War Museum in London you know how authentic this is. Strategies were argued and crucial decisions made in this claustrophobic atmosphere, in a nest of rooms and…

Read More…

COCO: CELEBRATING A COLORFUL CULTURE

Pixar movies always look good, but Coco is in a class by itself. Ablaze with eye-popping color, every widescreen frame is filled with richly detailed settings and appealing characters. Any concerns about overlap or redundancy with Jorge Gutierrez’s impressive The Book of Life (which also dealt with Day of the Dead) should be put aside. Coco has its own story to tell, which it does with gusto and great respect for the culture it depicts. The movie opens with a mariachi band playing “When You Wish Upon a Star” over the Latinized Disney logo. How can you not smile in response? Scenes continue on that high note (pun intended), using traditional Mexican paper cut-outs to provide the exposition we need to engage in the story. Next we meet our vivacious, wide-eyed…

Read More…

WONDER: CYNICS NEED NOT APPLY

Wonder is a beautiful movie, and Stephen Chbosky was a perfect choice to direct and co-write it. The author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, who directed his own screen adaptation, isn’t afraid of honest emotion. What’s more, he is clearly in touch with his younger self. That alone would make him a candidate to translate R.J. Palacio’s best-selling young-adult novel to film. Wonder is a tearjerker that earns our tears by drawing us into its world and giving us a deep connection to its leading characters. Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) has had 27 operations by the time we meet him, at the age of 10. He suffers from craniofacial syndrome, which causes everyone who sees him to stare—in horror, disbelief, or in some cases pity. He knows this…

Read More…

MUDBOUND: REAL LIFE, NOT SO LONG AGO

Mudbound is easy to admire but tough to watch at times. It tells a truthful tale from America’s not-so-distant past, contrasting the lives of two families—one black, one white—struggling to eke out an existence as sharecroppers in Mississippi during the 1940s. No one has it easy in this hardscrabble life. In adapting Hillary Jordan’s best-selling novel, director Dee Rees has tried to avoid the obvious but can’t sidestep the inevitable. Her film takes place at a time of segregation, injustice, and blind hatred. It is also a period of coexistence, but that uneasy détente hangs by a thread. The versatile Jason Clarke plays the head of the white family, a stubborn man who’s not very bright but still has what Rees calls the “currency” of his…

Read More…

JUSTICE LEAGUE: HEROES WORTH IDOLIZING

There is something intrinsically compelling about a gathering like this. At its best, Justice League is a lot of fun–the kind of fun I look for in a comic-book superhero movie. It even removes the unpleasant aftertaste of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice–and for that alone I am grateful. In fact, the film makes a concerted effort to rebuild the image of Superman as an object of awe and the ultimate superhero.  I grew up with that character and he still holds a special place in my heart, and when he stands strong as part of the Justice League I revert to my boyhood feeling of hero-worship. The core of the story by Chris Terrio and Zack Snyder (with a screenplay credited to Terrio and Joss Whedon) is…

Read More…

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh likes to mess with us. The results can be disarming (In Bruges) or distressing (Seven Psychopaths), but in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri he explores new dramatic territory. Who else would present us with a protagonist we are bound to root for—then have her indulge in wildly extreme and dangerous behavior? He does the same with the ostensible villain of the piece, a hot-headed, racist deputy…but in reverse. How does he expect us to respond? I surmise that he is trying to show that no individual is entirely good or entirely bad. While that may seem simplistic, it’s rare to find such contradictory characters in mainstream American films. It definitely helps to have actors as gifted as Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and…

Read More…

THE OLD DARK HOUSE, T-MEN, AND THE BIG KNIFE SPARKLE ON BLU-RAY

The Criterion Collection remains the Gold Standard for the treatment of films old and new on Blu-ray…but lately, several other distributors are making efforts to emulate Criterion. That’s a win-win for film buffs. Cohen Media, for instance, has just issued a visually stunning edition of James Whale’s The Old Dark House (1932). For decades, this tantalizing title has only existed in substandard prints. The new Blu-ray is simply breathtaking, and it includes bonus features that were prepared more than twenty years ago for its laserdisc debut: a charming commentary by costar Gloria Stuart, an informative one by Whale biographer James Curtis, and a recollection by director Curtis Harrington of how he prodded Universal Pictures to save its 35mm material even though they no longer owned rights to…

Read More…

THOR RAGNAROK: IRREVERENT FUN IN THE MCU

Marvel has a gift for repeatedly giving its fans the unexpected. Who would have dreamed that Thor, one of their most stoic characters, would star in one of the studio’s goofiest films? Thor Ragnarok opens with the mighty warrior in smartass mode, spewing wisecracks at a hellish fire monster. What’s more, Chris Hemsworth is fully up to the task. This sets the stage for a wild and woolly adventure that has the fingerprints of its director, Taika Waititi, all over it. Eric Pearson, Chris Kyle, and Christopher L. Yost are the credited screenwriters, but the Kiwi filmmaker and performer who made Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and the hilarious vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows (in which he also starred) is the dominant force behind this singular entry in…

Read More…

LADY BIRD: A TRUTHFUL TEENAGE PORTRAIT

Greta Gerwig has made an impressive debut feature as writer and director with Lady Bird. It isn’t every day you see a film so attuned to the outsized drama of adolescent life. The film is bursting with life and rich in observations both large and small. Saoirse Ronan plays a Catholic high school senior in Sacramento, California who has given herself the name Lady Bird. She “hates” her home town, but what she actually hates is living on the wrong side of the tracks and being an outsider at school. She and her mother (played with heartbreaking honesty by Laurie Metcalf) are almost always at loggerheads. She knows her mom truly loves her, but she’s too wrapped up in herself to care about the struggles of…

Read More…

LAST FLAG FLYING: THREE GREAT ACTORS AT WORK

It’s a pleasure to watch Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne bring their disparate characters to life in Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying, an actor’s vehicle if there ever was one. The year is 2003: George W. Bush is in the White House, the U.S. has invaded Iraq, and mobile phones are all the rage. But for three Vietnam vets who haven’t seen each other in decades, life has taken them on widely divergent paths. Cranston is a cocky wiseguy who owns a rundown bar in Norfolk, Virginia. Fishburne has become a pastor at a Southern church, with a loving and supportive wife. Carell has the saddest story to tell: his wife died of cancer not long ago and his son has just been…

Read More…

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Ad

PODCAST

 photo MALTIN_ON_NOVIES_AD2_zpsboz6pvfm.png

PAST MALTIN ON MOVIES PODCASTS

APPEARANCES/BOOKING

 photo MALTIN_APPEARANCESON_NOVIES_AD_v2_zpscy41sntv.png

Ad

CALENDAR

November 2017
S M T W T F S
« Oct    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930