Monthly Archives: August 2017

25 Most Anticipated Films of Fall/Winter 2017

2017 has proven to be one of the best years for film in recent memory, and the hits are bound to keep coming in the fall and winter. It Comes At Night may have led us down a dark and unsettling path earlier this summer, but we will likely remain wholly unprepared for the brilliant discomfort of Yorgos Lanthimos’ upcoming film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer. (This film has been described as more agonizing than Lanthimos’ previous work, The Lobster, which came this close to showing a man blind himself with a steak knife. Let that sink in.) Regarding films that don’t require an immediate, consolatory hug upon viewing, Baby Driver was a fun joyride — a perfect forbear for the frenetic energy of Kingsman: The Golden Circle. And then there’s a little indie coming in December called Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a family drama about space people who should never have become parents.  

The following list represents the films that make us at MovieMinis spontaneously squee. But since the list only includes 25 films, it doesn’t truly represent the amount of squeeing we do. The cutting room floor is littered with heavy hitters such as Steven Spielberg’s The Post, as well as The Current War, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse. There are also Cannes darlings that didn’t make the cut (but which you should see anyway) such as Michael Haneke’s Happy End and Palme d’Or winner The Square. We feel a great pang of guilt for excluding Justice League (squee!).

Regardless, here are our 25 most hotly anticipated films from the remainder of the year.

25. mother!

Paramount/Courtesy

The illustrated posters of mother! were merely beautiful yet unnerving glimpses into the horror of Darren Aronofsky’s next film. Bring in the trailer and it seems as though the director is returning to the brilliance of the genre that he dabbled in with Black Swan. And if this film really will follow in that one’s footsteps, then audiences should expect committed and haunting performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, as well as a story with some of the most affecting scares since, well, Black Swan. Let’s just hope it appropriately contextualizes the relationship between a 27 year old and a 48 year old because, if it doesn’t, that might be more frightening.

— Kyle Kizu

24. Thor: Ragnarok

Marvel/Courtesy

Taika Waititi is easily one of the funniest filmmakers working today — just see here and here. His films bring loads of heart and even more laughs, something direly needed for Thor, a franchise whose second entry literally self-proclaims doom and gloom. Throw in Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, the magic of Jeff Goldblum, a colorful Jack Kirby aesthetic and elements of Planet Hulk, and Thor: Ragnarok could be one of the best MCU entries to date. Oh, and in the last shot of the most recent trailer, Hulk goes toe-to-toe with Surtur the fire demon. In the immortal words of Ricky Baker, “Shit. Just. Got. REAL!”

— Harrison Tunggal

23. Suburbicon

Paramount/Courtesy

Suburbicon pulses with star power. The film is written by the minds of the Coen brothers, George Clooney (doing double duty as director) and his frequent collaborator Grant Heslov. If that isn’t enough, it stars Matt Damon, who invokes his Jason Bourne days by taking a fire iron to some poor thug’s face. The film also includes Julianne Moore (her third film on this list, she’s in Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Wonderstruck) and Oscar Isaac, whose mustache here deserves it’s own billing. Here’s to hoping that said mustache stays intact over the course of this darkly comic crime caper.

— HT

22. It

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Stranger Things, but a million times scarier. If that seems like an oversimplification of the upcoming Stephen King adaptation, it isn’t anything less than the utmost excitement condensed into seven words. Despite an initial rocky start (writer-director Cary Fukunaga left the project in 2015), It appears to deliver well-acted, visually stunning horror fare — such that will strike an existential fear of killer demon clowns into the hearts of a whole new generation.

— HT

21. The Meyerowitz Stories

Netflix/Courtesy

Welcome back, Adam Sandler. No, seriously. After a string of critically lashed Netflix comedies, here comes Noah Baumbach to remind us all, that when Sandler wants to, he can be one of the most emotionally affecting actors on the screen. Throw in Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and the full support of Netflix, and The Meyerowitz Stories appears to be the first Netflix Oscar-contender that will gain traction among voters, audiences and critics when it releases in mid-October.

— Levi Hill

20. Coco

Pixar/Courtesy

Coco is a Pixar film. Need we say more? Well, we can. The film follows a young kid who dreams of becoming a musician and, through a spiritual connection with an ancestor, he enters the Land of the Dead. The trailer shows that the film will be a visual wonder, but the subject matter offers a look at Latino culture, one that mainstream cinema largely ignores. And with longtime Pixar veteran Adrian Molina stepping into the director’s chair alongside Pixar legend Lee Unkrich, Coco looks to be informed and genuine in its endeavors as well.

— KK

19. Mute

Netflix/Courtesy

Many may only think of Warcraft when they hear the name Duncan Jones, which is a shame because this is the director behind Moon and Source Code, two phenomenal sci-fi films. With Mute, Jones returns to the universe of Moon, but this time he takes us to the futuristic, seemingly Blade Runner-esque Earth within it. That tiny detail may be the biggest sign that this film could be special. Moon crafted such a thorough sense of society down on Earth, one that Jones has explored for years in planning for Mute, so the storytelling should be refined and invigorated.

— KK

18. Wonderstruck

Amazon/Courtesy

Todd Haynes’ upcoming Wonderstruck is based on the Brian Selznick novel of the same name, and the last time Selznick’s work was adapted for the big screen, the result was the Martin Scorsese stunner Hugo. With Selznick himself penning the screenplay, Wonderstruck seems poised to deliver a timeline-hopping, visual treat that will remind us of that which fills us with childlike wonder — film, museums and, if the trailer is to be believed, cool David Bowie covers.

— HT

17. Battle of the Sexes

Fox Searchlight/Courtesy

Sometimes talent alone can put a film on this list. Recent Academy Award winner Emma Stone, comedic (and now dramatic?) powerhouse Steve Carell, the co-directors of Little Miss Sunshine and the writer of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours will bring us Battle of the Sexes. But that title, and the story behind it, makes this film about more than just talent — or maybe precisely about talent, that which is underserved. The story of tennis star Billie Jean King facing off against Bobby Riggs is an uplifting and landmark tale, with a whole lot of lively fun throughout, that could make for a wonderful and necessary statement in today’s landscape.

— KK

16. The Death of Stalin

IFC Films/Courtesy

Armando Iannucci may be the king of political satire, his time as Veep showrunner offering us some of the most gut-busting commentary on the current state of D.C. Pair him with the juicy material of the Soviet regime in the immediate aftermath of Stalin’s death — utilizing a bluntly British angle (they’re not even attempting Russian accents) — and you’ve got a comedy to die for.

— KK

15. Roman J. Israel, Esq

Columbia Pictures/Courtesy

Nightcrawler is aging like fine wine, with many critics and movie fans looking back at it as not only an absolutely brilliant movie, but also a significant independent film and a vehicle for one of the best performances of the 21st century from Jake Gyllenhaal. So any movie that writer-director Dan Gilroy does next is on a must-see list. Cue Roman J. Israel, Esq, a film where Denzel Washington has an afro and plays a snazzily dressed defense attorney.

— KK

14. Last Flag Flying

Amazon/Courtesy

Honestly, if there is one film on this list that just can’t go wrong (outside of the movies that have already premiered), it is Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying. Starring the dream-team worthy trio of Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne, the film is a years-after sequel to the Oscar-nominated, Jack Nicholson-led and Hal Ashby-directed The Last Detail. With that set-up, Last Flag Flying could potentially end up being the de facto critics favorite with Linklater’s humanist style mixed with the socially angry, if touching tale of three Navy vets coming to terms with the world they live in that Ashby knocked out of the park back in 1973.

— LH

13. Lady Bird

A24/Courtesy

Casual fans of indie cinema know Greta Gerwig as the magnetic star of films like Frances Ha, Mistress America and 20th Century Women, but those of us obsessed with the genre know that it’s behind the camera where she makes even more of an impact. After writing a number of successful indies, Gerwig will make her solo directorial debut this fall with Lady Bird. While not much is known about the plot, the film follows a high school girl (Saoirse Ronan) as she spends a year in Northern California. Joining Ronan is a heavy hitting cast of indie favorites that includes Timothée Chalamet, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts and Lucas Hedges.

— Kate Halliwell

12. Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Fox/Courtesy

Matthew Vaughn established himself as an action director extraordinaire with the first Kingsman — the film’s church scene now infamous as one of the most exhilarating fight sequences in recent memory. With that style, Vaughn’s dry British wit, the brilliant cast and brand new American territory to explore, The Golden Circle is set to be one of the most fun films of the fall — and sometimes, fun is all we need.

— KK

11. Molly’s Game

STX Entertainment/Courtesy

Aaron Sorkin is widely known as one of the great writers — of most mediums — of our time. The fact that Molly’s Game is written by him is enough reason to be excited, but the film is also his directorial debut, which elevates our hype tenfold. Even if the film isn’t good, it will be fascinating to see his visual style directly translated to the big screen. But it seems like there are too many pieces in place for this to be a dud — Jessica Chastain munching on Sorkin’s words is the dream performance we need.

— KK

10. Downsizing

Paramount/Courtesy

When every single one of your films (except your first) received Oscar nominations and endless critical heap, audiences will take notice when your next film comes out. And thus is the case with Alexander Payne, who, to this day, seems incapable of making a bad scene, let alone a bad movie. However, the science-fiction satire Downsizing, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, promises to be a marked difference from the traditionally very naturalistic stories Payne has told in the past. Yet, that’s what it makes it this writer-director’s most intriguing project yet.

— LH

9. Hostiles

Lorey Sebastian, Le Grisbi Productions/Waypoint Entertainment/Courtesy

Hostiles may not release this year as it currently doesn’t have a distributor, but it’s set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in a bid for an acquisition. Made by Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper, the film stars Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Ben Foster and Timothée Chalamet, so it’s got a great chance of being picked up for an end-of-year release. And that team of talent is precisely why this movie is so salivating. Christian Bale is never anything less than entirely transformed, Rosamund Pike needs more roles after her Oscar-nominated, frightening turn in Gone Girl, Ben Foster is one of the most underrated actors working today and Timothée Chalamet is on the verge of breaking out with Call Me by Your Name later this year.

— KK

8. The Shape of Water

Fox Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy

The great Guillermo Del Toro returns to the big screen with The Shape of Water, which stars Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg. The film’s stellar trailer teased a sweet romance with sci-fi elements, but also raised the possibility that The Shape of Water is a secret Hellboy prequel centering on Abe Sapien. Even though Del Toro has since debunked those rumors, we’re still thrilled to see him combine the things we love about his filmography — fairy tales with a touch of the macabre and of course, amphibian men.

— HT

7. The Disaster Artist

A24/Courtesy

James Franco can never be faulted for producing/starring/writing/directing in a seemingly impossible amount of projects in one year. What he could have been faulted for in the past, though, is that each project he stood behind the camera on felt like an interesting misfire. Not anymore. With stunning, Oscar-potential raves out of SXSW, Franco seems to have found the perfect source material for his stylings: the best worst movie of all-time, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. With Franco directing and, more excitingly, playing Tommy Wiseau on the set of The Room, The Disaster Artist promises a hilarious, if pointedly tragic real-life story of a failed artist. But really, we can’t wait to hear “YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!” again.

— LH

6. The Florida Project

A24/Courtesy

Sean Baker turned heads and took home awards with his 2015 film Tangerine, notably shot entirely on iPhones. He returns this year with The Florida Project, which follows a six-year old girl (Brooklynn Prince, this year’s Jacob Tremblay) and her adventures living in a run-down motel near Disney’s Magic Kingdoms. With Willem Dafoe and a host of talented newcomers rounding out the cast, this one is not to be missed.

— KH

5. Blade Runner 2049

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Getting another Denis Villeneuve film immediately after last year’s Arrival is already worth celebrating, but the fact that his upcoming project is a Blade Runner sequel (shot by Roger Deakins, no less) makes the occasion seem like Christmas — of the neon, steampunk, existentialist variety, of course. With Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford teaming up, the hype couldn’t be bigger for this film, which will hopefully answer the greatest question of our time — what happened to the other 2,047 Blade Runner sequels?

— HT

4. Call Me by Your Name

Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy

The trailer alone launched one thousand Armie Hammer crushes and caused us all to stop and consider spontaneous trips to Italy; the film itself might cause actual meltdowns (in the best way). Timothée Chalamet and Hammer star in Luca Guadagnino’s book-to-screen adaptation as two bisexual Jewish men who fall in love over the course of a sun-drenched summer. The film has drawn rave reviews from early festival screenings and has film buffs all over the world hungry for its November release. Peaches, anyone?

— KH

3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

A24/Courtesy

Following the surprise Oscar nomination for the dark (twisted) comedy/science fiction fantasy film The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Colin Farrell return with an even more twisted, full-on psychological horror film. The early reviews for Sacred Deer, out of the in-competition bow at Cannes, promise that it will blend the calculated coldness of craft found in a Stanley Kubrick movie mixed with the cynical social commentary found in the best genre films. Add in the rising star Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk) as what appears to be the villain (but nothing is that simple in a Lanthimos tale) and the where-is-she-not Nicole Kidman as Farrell’s estranged wife experiencing horrific acts she has no fault in causing, and Sacred Deer promises to be the feel-bad movie of the Fall movie season.

— LH

2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Lucasfilm/Courtesy

You don’t hire director Rian Johnson to make a cookie-cutter Star Wars movie. The man behind Looper, Brick and two of Breaking Bad’s most daring episodes seems poised to deliver — dare we say — the best Star Wars entry of all time. Forget getting answers to questions we’ve had since 2015 (Is Rey a Kenobi? Is Snoke actually Sy Snootles? Will Luke get a haircut?). We just want another Rian Johnson movie.

— HT

1. Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Fashion Film

Jürgen Fauth/Courtesy

Quite simply put, There Will Be Blood is one of the best films of the 21st century and Daniel Day Lewis’ performance in it is one of the best of all time. So, with Paul Thomas Anderson pairing up with DDL yet again for what is, apparently, DDL’s last performance ever, this film — rumored to be titled either Phantom Thread or Woodcock — will be a special one in the history of cinema, even if it’s not as breathtakingly affecting and engaging as TWBB (and, of course, it easily could be). Add in the rumors that the film is Fifty Shades of Grey if directed by Mike Leigh and we are more in than we’ve ever been for anything, honestly.

— KK

Featured image via Warner Bros.

‘Dunkirk’ receiving Oscar push with Toronto International Film Festival IMAX screening

Christopher Nolan has a storied history with the Oscars. Many point to the snub of both The Dark Knight and Nolan as the reason why the Academy expanded the number of possible nominees to ten for the year after that film’s release. Most also call the omission of Nolan from Best Director for Inception a major snub of its year.

So, as Dunkirk was approaching, many felt that even if the film was great, it might have trouble being recognized at the Academy Awards. But when Dunkirk dropped, reviews raved not quite like they ever have for Nolan, with The Hollywood Reporter calling it an “impressionist masterpiece” and IndieWire claiming it as “the best film he’s ever made.” It also stands as his most well-received film on Metacritic, amassing a monumental score of 94, 12 points higher than his next best, The Dark Knight, at 82.

Currently, 9 out of the 20 experts on Gold Derby are predicting Dunkirk as the Best Picture winner with every expert expecting it to get nominated. Out of those same experts, 16 of them are predicting Christopher Nolan as the Best Director winner. Their predictions factor in festival premieres they’ve already seen and anticipate the strength of yet-to-be-released Oscar hopefuls, so it’s clear that, with its wide inclusion, Dunkirk has already stamped itself as a serious threat.

But Nolan isn’t one to campaign for awards, his films rarely showing up at festivals, so Dunkirk seemed like it would have to hold and hold strong — as summer releases generally have a harder time getting nominated — once the festival circuit fired up and the fall season began. It looks like, though, in a move that acknowledges the film’s potential, Dunkirk will be joining them.

Nolan’s World War II epic will screen at the Toronto International Film Festival (via The Hollywood Reporter), which takes place September 7-17 and is where Nolan’s first film, Following, premiered. It won’t be a typical festival appearance, however, as it was IMAX who approached Warner Bros. to organize an IMAX 70mm screening of the film at the world’s first permanent IMAX theater, Cinesphere, in honor of the company’s 50th anniversary.

But the exposure should be just as ripe. TIFF’s director and CEO, Piers Handling, will introduce the film and its artistic director, Cameron Bailey, will host a Q&A with Christopher Nolan himself.

In a statement, Handling said the following:

“Dunkirk is quite remarkable. It sets a new standard for the visualization of war. Its form and structure is immersive and experiential and its attention to detail exemplary. This is a story for the times – one of resilience against all odds, ordinary people surviving amidst chaos. Christopher Nolan captures this seminal moment in history with an artist’s eye.”

Dunkirk is currently still in theaters, but will start to exit IMAX venues this Thursday. If the film is nominated for Best Picture, which a majority of critics expect, then it may return to screens at the beginning of 2018.

Featured image via Warner Bros.

Trial: Pitch the Obi-Wan Kenobi ‘Star Wars’ standalone film

*Trials is a weekly series in which two writers tackle a proposed question or task. After they’ve written their opening statements, the writers will offer rebuttal arguments against the other’s and for their own, and a third writer will come in to make the verdict.*

This week’s task: Pitch the Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars standalone film.

Writers: Kyle Kizu and Harrison Tunggal
Judge: Levi Hill

Lucasfilm/Courtesy

Kyle’s pitch:

Fans have wanted a standalone Obi-Wan Kenobi film for years now. But the deep crave for one seems to always brush over one fact: it’s going to be incredibly difficult to pull off. Casting anyone other than Ewan McGregor would be a publicity nightmare, so let’s operate under the assumption that he’ll return for the role. And with McGregor aging 10+ years since the prequels, it’d be wildly difficult to sell Kenobi as younger than he is in The Phantom Menace. All of this means that the only period of time a film could work with is the roughly 20 years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope — most of which are spent on Tatooine.

The film would obviously be a contained one, and would be much more interesting if entirely on Tatooine. It doesn’t have to be a massive epic in the vein of The Force Awakens or Rogue One. In that light, and considering that, technically, Stephen Daldry isn’t officially signed on to direct just yet, I would shift to Their Finest’s Lone Scherfig. With her most recent film, Scherfig shows an adept ability at implying scale while remaining intimate, as Their Finest is relatively contained, but the sense of World War II is still deeply felt. That sensibility could translate to an Obi-Wan film in which the aura of the galactic struggles are still present amid a story bound to a single planet. And Scherfig also could nail Kenobi’s snark and humor, qualities very present in her film, specifically with Bill Nighy and Sam Claflin’s characters — two actors that could be brought in here.

As for the story, and the themes accompanying, I feel as though it’s necessary to maintain what is perhaps the heaviest influence on the franchise: the Empire as the Nazis. After the surfacing of neo-Nazis in the U.S., the film could prove profound in today’s age while also being loyal to the timeless, very Star Wars-esque good vs. evil story. Much of what Obi-Wan Kenobi would be doing on Tatooine is watching over and protecting a young Luke, but the story could also introduce problems of the Empire ravaging villages across the planet while Kenobi attempts to shelter women and children in a similar manner to the many heroes that helped people during the Holocaust. Think The Zookeeper’s Wife meets Schindler’s List meets Star Wars. And in Their Finest, Scherfig deals with the war in which Nazis took action, meaning she’ll be familiar with these ideas.

The film could almost be an underground story, featuring world-building of much more depth than A New Hope, really making Tatooine feel like a planet with a fully informed environmental/societal system of living — something that no Star Wars film has yet truly done.

Luke wouldn’t even really need to be in the film that much, functioning as merely a named presence — perhaps just “the boy” — which could make an ending in which Luke does appear, one in which Kenobi accidentally encounters him and is forced to introduce himself as “Ben,” incredibly exciting.

Harrison’s pitch:

Any Obi-Wan film without Ewan McGregor is bound to invite the ire of Star Wars fans across the galaxy. Likewise, such a film that isn’t titled High Ground: A Star Wars Story would be a massive missed opportunity. Thus, High Ground (okay, maybe a different title), starring Ewan McGregor, opens in the small town of Anchorhead, on the planet Tatooine. Fulcrum (John Cho) is a swashbuckling rebel spy going through a black market weapons deal, which is interrupted when Imperial forces descend on the town. Fulcrum is the sole rebel survivor, who is saved when the forces of Gallus the Hutt (voiced by Idris Elba) — larger than Jabba and capable of walking via robotic spider legs —  completely destroy the Imperial presence. However, Gallus takes Fulcrum hostage, and effectively seizes control of the town. Even though Anchorhead is safe from the Empire, it isn’t safe from Gallus, who begins extorting money from residents, brutalizing them in the process.

This is where we find Obi-Wan Kenobi, living a spartan lifestyle. He watches over young Luke Skywalker and the Lars homestead, while attempting (though failing) to communicate with the Force ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson). He just can’t tap into the Force like he could before, especially since he found out that Anakin lived on, and became Darth Vader. He is a man plagued by the specter of failure.

However, his life changes when he is approached by Fendis Beed (Élodie Yung), one of the most notorious bounty hunters in the galaxy, who is hired to save Fulcrum. Kenobi refuses, insisting on keeping a low profile. But when Gallus takes Owen Lars (Joel Edgerton) as ransom for not paying his dues, Kenobi joins Fendis to free Owen and Fulcrum. During the mission, Kenobi is torn between toppling the violent Hutt regime (and creating the power vacuum for an Imperial presence) and allowing Gallus to terrorize the people of Anchorhead. He ultimately embraces his heroic former self, and alongside Fendis, Fulcrum and Owen, he frees Anchorhead from the grasp of Gallus, drawing his lightsaber and using the Force for the first time in years.

Still, Kenobi’s heroic actions have allowed the Empire to settle in the nearby Mos Eisley without fear of Gallus’ forces, and for that, he can’t help but feel great guilt. In a moment of catharsis, he finally communes with Qui-Gon Jinn, who assures him that saving Anchorhead was the action of a true Jedi Master. Jinn tells Kenobi not to fear the looming presence of the Empire, as he will give him the training necessary to better protect Luke and to become the ultimate defender of Tatooine.

Lucafilm/Courtesy

Kyle’s rebuttal:

Your story is fully fleshed out, as I expected. It’s engaging, action-packed and ripe for character exploration of Obi-Wan. It also brings in actors that I could only dream of in a Star Wars film. John Cho?! I’m in. However, I wish you went further with investigating the character of Obi-Wan. There’s so much moving in your pitch before we reach Obi-Wan that by the time we do, it almost feels like there’s not enough time for him specifically. The idea of him holding on to immense guilt is pitch perfect and necessary, especially after what he went through in the prequels. But I fear that, with the layered plot you set forth, we would only get the surface level of those emotional concerns, which leads me to my next problem.

While reading through your pitch, I was engaged, but I was questioning what might the value of this story be to the larger idea of Star Wars. I think that if you sell Obi-Wan’s character journey more thoroughly, we could feel this sense of history, fate and interpersonal relationships of Star Wars on a whole, which could make the moment when Obi-Wan sacrifices himself in A New Hope even more profound than it already is. But right now, I don’t really feel that when reading your pitch. You definitely have notions of it in there, but there’s more work to be done for it to be fully realized because, right now, I don’t know if this film would be, in the larger picture, as satisfying and valuable as it could be.

I feel as though my thematic concerns make up for the lack of plot, as plot can be built more easily around theme, while theme is more difficult to insert into an established plot. And with prevalent imagery akin to the Nazis, an evil force we’re beginning to struggle with again today, and a deeply intimate, contained and harrowing journey for Obi-Wan as well as for the people in crises at the hands of the Empire — at the hands of deranged nationalism — my idea for an Obi-Wan standalone film both works on its own terms while also contributing to the grander narrative of the universe.

Harrison’s rebuttal:

First and foremost, major props for suggesting a Star Wars film that functions as political allegory. Even more props for putting Lone Scherfig in the director’s chair. I thoroughly enjoyed her work in Their Finest, and I couldn’t agree more about her strengths — she can balance intimacy and scope like Anakin balances the Force. But for an Obi-Wan film, I don’t want an epic scope at all, implied or otherwise. An Obi-Wan film should be as intimate a character study as possible, and I think the scope that you implied would detract from that intimacy.

More specifically, I don’t think the Empire should figure heavily into another spinoff, since stormtroopers have been cannon fodder for Rogue One and (presumably) for the Han Solo film. Additionally, since the First Order is essentially a re-branded version of the Empire, we will have gotten seven total films that feature the Empire as the overarching antagonist. Many fans have complained that the Disney-era of Star Wars hasn’t dared to expand its universe, and making the Empire the antagonist of an Obi-Wan film would only further this problem. My film sidesteps this issue by making Gallus the Hutt and his army of scum and villainy the primary antagonists. Even though Gallus was inspired by the comic book character Grakkus, it would allow for the familiar iconography of the Hutts, while expanding the canon of the film universe.

Most importantly though, your film lacks emotional resonance. We know Obi-Wan is a hero, so I think a subversion of our expectations — a broken man who doesn’t believe in himself, and can’t even use the Force properly — is more interesting. My film ratchets up the emotional impact by having Obi-Wan reluctantly return to heroics, before finally communing with the Force through his contact with Qui-Gon Jinn. Qui-Gon represents the specter of failure that haunts Obi-Wan — he failed to save Qui-Gon, he failed to kill Anakin and he failed the entire Republic. Qui-Gon’s appearance to Obi-Wan to validate his actions and offer consolement would be one of the most emotional moments in all of Star Wars canon.

Ultimately, I believe that my film does more to expand the universe while offering emotional stakes that we haven’t seen fully realized since The Empire Strikes Back.

Lucafilm/Courtesy

Levi’s verdict:

First off, both ideas are perfect, and if there was a way to find a happy medium between the two, a balancing of the Force, let’s say, then I think all Star Wars fans would see a standalone masterpiece. However, as in most lightsaber duels, someone will inevitably win and the other ends up missing a limb, but able to fight another day. So let’s just hyperspeed into this thing, like the Millennium Falcon…

Thematically, reading Kyle’s pitch, it just felt right. The power of Star Wars movies, and really genre films at large for that matter, is their ability to have social commentary about political machinations. It’s not a hidden truth that the Empire is meant to represent the Nazis, and the Rebels are meant to represent anyone with the decency to stand up to them. Thus, having a film almost explicitly laying out that good vs. evil dichotomy, under those terms and having them stand in for today, is a brilliant move. Also, Lone Scherfig, while not an obvious choice, is literally a perfect choice. Their Finest balances humor, action and drama with the best of movies — all elements that have made Star Wars the most endearing franchise in the world.

With that being said, though, Harrison is my winner. The amount of Star Wars lore he’s able to fit into his pitch, along with the incredible casting (EWAN MCGREGOR, JOHN CHO, IDRIS ELBA AND ÉLODIE YUNG TOGETHER!!!), as well as having a perfect character arc for the one-and-only Obi-Wan just felt right. Both Kyle and Harrison were right in making the films have a more intimate scale, because truly, how many more Death Stars and countless Stormtroopers can we see destroyed before Star Wars finds something a tad more original. But where Kyle focused on the theme, and rightly pointed out Harry’s lack of theme and potentially too jam-packed story, I think Harry’s rebuttal ultimately was the deciding factor for me.

To see Obi-Wan struggle with a crippling inability to use the force and with the guilt of his (in)action only adds immense depth to his character. And assuming Star Wars: The Last Jedi shows an equally down-and-out Luke, there could be some interesting thematic parallels regarding the pressure of being the Jedi tasked with saving the Rebels and destroying the Empire. Or, if Rey does end up being a Kenobi, is she destined to follow in the same tracks as her ancestor?

Regardless of plot details for sight unseen films, Harrison’s Obi-Wan standalone is both an emotionally resonant tale of one of Star Wars most loved icons, as well as a perfect set-up for Rogue One and A New Hope.

Winner: Harrison Tunggal

 

Do you agree with Levi’s verdict? Sound off in the comments for which pitch you would’ve chosen, or if you have a pitch of your own.

Featured image via Lucasfilm

Top ten films premiered at Telluride Film Festival since 2010

Amid the swaths of festivals, Telluride, taking place between September 1-4, stands out as an unpretentious yet incredibly prestigious venue for some of the most honest films of the year. Like the town in which it takes place, Telluride is small and intimate. It evokes the best of what a film community can be, in genuine artistry, but also in just being fans of movies and of movie-makers; it was a key moment in the great friendship between the La La Land and Moonlight creative teams, which maintained despite the audience split that sprouted during the awards season. And while many of the Oscar hopefuls look to the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival for their starts, the quieter premieres at Telluride often have the grander impact. Since 2010, the best of the best from Telluride Film Festival are breathtaking. From Oscar winners to profound independents to landmark documentaries, the top ten Telluride films of the last seven years show the best of what cinema can be.

10. Wild

Fox Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy

While many may point to Dallas Buyers Club and Big Little Lies when thinking of Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée, it would be a shame to ignore the gem that is Wild. First and foremost, any film that features the sublime, timeless, astounding Laura Dern in even just a slightly weighty role is one to adore. But Wild crafts not only its character, Reese Witherspoon’s Cheryl, so instinctively, but it also crafts the journey of Cheryl so tenderly and affectingly. Cheryl confronts the wild in her long walk from the top of the U.S. to the bottom, and the film follows suit, embracing a sort of vulnerable physicality in its color palette, in its subtle sound and intimate cinematography. Wild may not be the most jaw-dropping or impressive film, but it’s one that finds its way underneath one’s skin and into one’s bones because it is so human.

— Kyle Kizu

9. Frances Ha

IFC Films/Courtesy

Frances Ha is director Noah Baumbach’s ebullient tribute to the cinema of the French New Wave. We follow the titular Frances (the incredible Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the screenplay with Baumbach) as she meets friends, moves from apartment to apartment and tries to reconcile her dreams of dancing with the possibility that they’ll remain dreams and nothing more. Though the film is in black and white, the spread of emotions that Frances endures is hardly so — the film pinwheels from her trademark levity to crushing lows, before rising to a strained melancholy and finally settling on a relieved contentedness. That such dichotomies coexist in the film isn’t jarring, but rather endearing. We’ve all had nights that started out perfectly, but then take a hard left into awfulness that only seems to get worse, and that’s a sentiment that the film understands and addresses with humor and sensitivity. Befittingly, the film isn’t reliant on plot, but that’s okay — we’re happy to have known Frances, if but for an hour and a half.

— Harrison Tunggal

8. The Descendants

Fox Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy

Against all odds, Alexander Payne’s 2011 film The Descendants pairs adultery, comatose spouses and Hawaiian real estate in a simultaneously heartwrenching and hilarious examination of what family really means. The film follows Matt King (George Clooney) as his wife is injured in a jetskiing accident and he is forced to decide whether or not to leave his now comatose wife on life support — a decision made more difficult by the realization that she had been having an affair. Clooney and Shailene Woodley, in arguably both their finest work to date, carry the film on their transparently expressive faces, captured lovingly in close-up by cinematographer Phedon Papamichael. True to the book on which it is based, The Descendants almost veers too far into cruel, biting satire at times, but no one is better suited to walk the balance between bleak humanity and the humor found in everyday life than Alexander Payne. While certain scenes stand out as all-timers (Clooney’s famous hospital monologue, Woodley’s character revealing her mother’s affair), The Descendants in its entirety is a hard look at dealing with the past, managing the present and confronting the future.

— Kate Halliwell

7. Steve Jobs

Universal Pictures/Courtesy

Steve Jobs had such a dramatic journey to the big screen — an intensely buzzed-about Aaron Sorkin script originally connected to David Fincher and with Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale rumored to star. But the creative team it ended up with was a perfect match. Danny Boyle’s high-energy direction scores Jobs with an electric edge and Michael Fassbender transforms subtly yet entirely, embodying the icon with a domineering physicality, especially in vocal tone, while deconstructing his problematic persona and humanizing his core — not necessarily sacrificing one for the other. The film has massive ambitions, with a story structure similar to a play and carrying a character in light of Citizen Kane. It might not reach all of its goals, but it finds a place in contemporary cinema that so many films have tried for but failed.

— KK

6. Under the Skin

A24/Courtesy

On very simple terms, Under the Skin is an astonishing vehicle for the auric, subtle physicality that Scarlett Johansson can take hold of in a performance, as well as for the viscerally invasive work of composer Mica Levi — many critics still cite her score as one of the best of the 21st century. But, quite obviously, Under the Skin is anything but simple. Delving deep into the avant garde, as well as other more visually focused traditions, Jonathan Glazer’s sci-fi picture, about an alluring woman, is oftentimes terrifying without us even realizing how intensely so until afterward, or until the pop of a body contorted by forces beyond its control. As viewers, we oftentimes feel like a victim trapped beneath — a purposeful effect that produces a pure sense of the image, oftentimes simple in color and composition but wildly unnerving in context, that only cinema could. Of course, this leaves little easy explanation and few paths for traditional absorption, making Under the Skin difficult to encounter. But if we surrender ourselves to visual language, the film will prove deeply human, without much of the sentimentality, and gendered in its experience, deconstructivist in its angle and, honestly, just fucking weird — in a good way.

— KK

5. Prisoners

Warner Bros./Courtesy

The sense of mounting dread that director Denis Villeneuve builds in Prisoners is staggering to behold. Drenched in darkness and shadow by the master himself, Roger Deakins, this film transports the viewer into a world of ubiquitous horror, one where corpses fill basements, families descend into violence and even moments of reprieve contort into the realization that we’re all shackled to those we love, for better or worse. This is a film where your heart keep sinking to depths you didn’t know existed, right to its final shot. Prisoners also sports a stellar cast firing on all cylinders — Hugh Jackman’s intensity makes his performance in this film one of his finest, Jake Gyllenhaal showcases the cold determination he would later dial to eleven in Nightcrawler and Paul Dano ratchets up the tension by keeping the audience on its toes. Additionally, Viola Davis brings her eminent gravitas while Terrence Howard matches Jackman’s fear and desperation as they search for their missing daughters. Prisoners is arguably Denis Villeneuve’s best film, and we can’t wait to see how his sensibilities translate to Blade Runner 2049 and other future projects.

— HT

4. Anomalisa

Paramount Pictures/Courtesy

This stop-motion picture is difficult to confront, venturing into the abstract in many areas. But, as one should expect with Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa, a film without actual humans, is filled with a humanity unlike most other films. It is, in large part, because of the voice work. David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh provide an affectingly raw basis within this world, conveying vulnerability and the weight of the human condition through tiny inflections. And Tom Noonan, literally voicing every other figure, is shockingly hilarious and horrifyingly scary at the same time. Yet, the voices become that profound because of the imagery within which they inhabit. Kaufman and co-director Duke Johnson frame each shot with a deep understanding of theme, that everything so blandly and terrifyingly blends together, that the world is unrewarding and depressing, that finding someone within the void is miraculous and losing them to the blend is a nightmare. The amalgamation brings about an intimacy that only a masterful film could build.

— KK

3. Room

A24/Courtesy

Book-to-movie adaptations, as a rule, are difficult to pull off, and that challenge increases exponentially when the source material in question is narrated in entirety by a five year old boy with a limited understanding of the world. It gets even harder when that world consists of a tiny one-room shed, and the boy’s mother — the room’s only other occupant — chooses to raise him as if that one room really is the entire universe. So begins Lenny Abrahamson’s adaptation of Room, starring Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson as a mother and son held in captivity until their eventual escape. Room is effectively split in two halves, which places the duo’s plotting and escape at odds with their tentative transition back into the outside world. The film would go on to win Larson her first Oscar and cement Tremblay’s place as Hollywood’s cutest kid, but it served as far more than a vehicle for its stars-to-be. Bleak, hard-to-watch moments combine with an enduring sense of childlike curiosity in what is already deservedly considered to be one of the best book adaptations of all time.

— KH

2. The Act of Killing

Final Cut for Real/Courtesy

The Act of Killing is a difficult film to watch, and if you’re at all connected to the killings that took place in Indonesia from 1965-1966, then Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary is downright excruciating. The film’s two main subjects, Anwar Congo and Herman Koto, belonged to a government death squad that extorted from and killed more than one million communists and Chinese Indonesians. They gloat about the lives they took and how they took them, going to obscene lengths to reenact their methods. It’s a sick parody of cinephilia — Congo and Koto claim to be inspired by the violence in the films they idolized, and some of the reenactments are draped in the trappings of their favorite genres. And these are just barely the reasons why The Act of Killing is a disturbing watch — ultimately, we’re left wondering if there’s redemption in remorse. After seeing the utter impunity of the murderers, such a question becomes disturbingly difficult, if not impossible, to answer. Unpleasant as it may be, The Act of Killing is truly an essential film, reminding us that the soul is at stake when blind nationalism supersedes morality.

— HT

1. Moonlight

David Bornfriend/A24/Courtesy

With a rare 99 on Metacritic, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight is cinematic perfection. For anyone who’s seen the film, such a statement stands on its own, though additional validation comes from its historic Best Picture win at the 89th Academy Awards. But forget the craziness surrounding the moment of its victory — such things are much too loud for a film like Moonlight. It is a film predicated on an intimate viewing experience, one in which quiet subtleties in the performances of its all black cast and precise details in the filmmaking precipitate an immense significance. From the close-ups of Trevante Rhodes and Andre Holland as their characters reunite, we see heartbreak and hope at the same time, and years of toxic, performative masculinity erode with just one look. From the final embrace of these two men, we see a moment of LGBTQ+ representation that is executed with the utmost sensitivity and tenderness. Then there’s James Laxton’s cinematography, where a shallow depth of field puts us with the characters, exacting a sense of empathy that lends the film its total hold over our emotions. It is impossible to overstate the significance of Moonlight, especially when empathy and sensitivity are becoming ever rarer, but with Barry Jenkins behind the camera, there’s hope that such qualities will persevere, at least on the big screen.

— HT

Featured image (modified) via Ken Lund.

Evangeline Lilly shares first look at suit in ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’

In anticipation of 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, actress Evangeline Lilly took to Twitter to share a first look at her character, Hope van Dyne/the Wasp. She also used the occasion to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late, great comic book artist, Jack Kirby, who co-created the Wasp with Stan Lee.

“I am honoured to be on set today playing #TheWasp on what would be Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday,” Lilly wrote. Aside from the Wasp, Kirby was the co-creator of several famous Marvel comic book characters like Ant-Man, Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Hulk.

Hope van Dyne was last seen in the mid-credits scene of 2015’s Ant-Man, when her father, Hank Pym, revealed a brand new Wasp suit to her. That suit was mostly silver, blue and red. It also sported four wings, lacked sleeves and included a helmet similar to Ant-Man’s. The suit seen in Lilly’s tweet is mostly black, lacks wings but includes sleeves. The picture also does not show the Wasp’s helmet.

Ant-Man director Peyton Reed will return to helm Ant-Man and the Wasp, which is the 20th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the first film to follow the (presumably catastrophic) events of Avengers: Infinity War.

Also returning is Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), who co-wrote the screenplay. Michael Douglas (Hank Pym), Michael Peña (Luis) and T.I. (Dave) will be back to flesh out the film’s supporting cast.

The film also added Michelle Pfeiffer (Janet van Dyne), Laurence Fishburne (Dr. Bill Foster), Hannah John-Kamen (Ghost) and Randall Park (Jimmy Woo) to its cast.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is slated for a July 6, 2018, release. To tide our excitement for the return of Ant-Man and the Wasp (sleeves and all), we have Thor: Ragnarok arriving in theaters on November 3, 2017.

Image via Marvel Studios.

Ed Skrein leaves ‘Hellboy’ reboot due to issues of whitewashing

Last week, British actor Ed Skrein, recently of Deadpool, joined the Hellboy reboot currently underway with David Harbour (Stranger Things) set in the lead role and Neil Marshall (The DescentGame of Thrones) in line to direct.

The casting, broke by The Hollywood Reporter, was an example of whitewashing because the character, Major Ben Daimio, is Japanese-American in the source material.

After the casting was announced, Jeff Yang, a CNN contributor and Editor-In-Chief of secretidentities.org, made a popular Twitter thread calling out the whitewashing, not only in Hellboy, but also within Hollywood in general. He offers various Asian actors that could’ve played the role of Daimio.

This year has seen plenty of controversy, of both whitewashing and cultural appropriation, with Ghost in the Shell, Iron Fist and Death Note, the last of which Netflix released this past weekend. Last year, Marvel and Tilda Swinton also encountered whitewashing backlash in regard to Swinton’s character in Dr. Strange.

While those actors stuck with their projects, Skrein is the first to step down from a role with consideration to whitewashing, at least of a major studio project. He made the announcement on Twitter this afternoon.

Skrein states that he was “unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage” and that, once it had been brought up, he decided to leave the film because of the “worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voices in the Arts.” He says: “It is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to inclusivity.”

Lionsgate also released an official statement along with Skrein’s exit, which can be found with The Hollywood Reporter‘s story.

“Ed came to us and felt very strongly about this. We fully support his unselfish decision.  It was not our intent to be insensitive to issues of authenticity and ethnicity, and we will look to recast the part with an actor more consistent with the character in the source material.”

Look below for Skrein’s official statement from Twitter:

Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

‘Death Note’ Review: A boring, misguided and troubling adaptation

Death Note has some minor positives — the rendering of the demon Ryuk is terrifying and visually perfect. Since this is a demon based in Japanese culture, he should’ve been voiced by a Japanese actor, but Willem Dafoe is, admittedly, wickedly and deliciously good. Lakeith Stanfield, Shea Whigham and Margaret Qualley are also all fairly serviceable in their roles.

But everything else about Netflix’s most recent original release is shockingly bad. No matter how well the supporters performed, they couldn’t make up for Nat Wolff. Not only does Wolff struggle to deliver his lines convincingly, and not awkwardly, but his facial expressions border on camp, which might’ve been an interesting choice had it been on purpose.

Wolff’s character, Light Turner, doesn’t receive any help from the writers or director Adam Wingard either. The story fails to sell Light’s motivations and never frames him in any way where audiences can feel any sort of sympathy for his psychological downfall. In fact, it’s difficult not to hate him intensely.

Death Note had a shot to be morally fascinating and, for a second (it was only a second), it seems like it might pull it off. But instead of thoroughly investigating the psyches of characters with the power of death in their hands, the film reverts to a cat and mouse game that also fails to be engaging.

For Death Note to have succeeded in its themes of morality, however, it would’ve had to be moral itself. The handling of Margaret Qualley’s Mia is sexist  — the character is merely used as a tool to progress Light’s journey. At one point, the film even goes so far as having Mia say that cheerleading is meaningless. And her fate, nonsensically and grossly explained, is infuriating.

The whitewashing and cultural appropriation are also embarrassingly bad. Death Note sells itself as an American adaptation, but the simple presence of Ryuk invokes Japanese culture and ethics. The film shamefully uses Japan and Japanese people at its convenience, even having the only named Japanese character put under mind control before being murdered. Both aspects disqualify it from being an “American adaptation.” It’s horrifically ignorant and entirely offensive.

Grade: 2.5/10

Box Office Report: As summer closes, box office reaches historic low with top earner merely making $10 million

Box Office Report for the weekend of August 25 to August 27:

As the summer closes with its last weekend, the box office has reached the year’s lowest point and, as reported by Box Office Mojo, the worst weekend in about 16 years.

The Ryan Reynolds/Samuel L. Jackson-starring The Hitman’s Bodyguard took home the top spot with an estimated $10.05 million, bringing up its domestic total to approximately $39.61 million. The film’s reported budget is $30 million, meaning that, despite it’s mostly negative reception as it sits at 39% on RottenTomatoes after 143 reviews, it will almost certainly make its money back, and then some. The weekend gross of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, however, is the lowest earning top spot of the year. One would have to go all the way back to the weekend of February 3-5, when M. Night Shyamalan’s Split made $14.42 million, to come close to a worse #1 earner. Some say that the film’s finalized weekend number — its ‘actuals’ — will dip, meaning that it could even sink below $10 million.

Annabelle: Creation placed second with an estimated $7.35 million. Taking place within the Conjuring franchise, which itself has crossed $1 billion, the film should cross $100 million domestically within the coming weeks (it currently sits at $77.88 million). With a budget of $15 million, the horror prequel will be, relatively, one of the year’s most profitable films.

New releases, though, proved incredibly unappealing, with the animated film Leap! being one of only two to break the top ten. The Weinstein Company acquisition, which premiered internationally last year, made only $5.01 million domestically.

Wind River, which performed well during a limited release, expanded to over 2,000 theaters, and took home an estimated $4.41 million at the domestic box office. The indie, coming from Sicario and Hell or High Water screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, features what many critics are calling Jeremy Renner’s best performance.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk stuck around in the top ten after its 6th weekend in theaters, raking in another $3.95 million to claim the 6th spot. At this point, the World War II epic has yet to fall more than 47% from weekend to weekend, and never more than 41% after its second weekend, showing that it has strong legs. With a domestic total currently sitting at $172 million, the film will soon beat The Boss BabyGet Out and The LEGO Batman Movie to become the highest domestic grossing film that is not a sequel or a franchise vehicle — an accomplishment that Nolan is incredibly familiar with.

After Spider-Man: HomecomingThe Emoji Movie and new release Birth of the DragonGirls Trip, like Dunkirk, finds itself in the top ten after its 6th weekend, making an estimated $2.26 million domestically. The all-Black, all-female comedy recently crossed $100 million domestically.

Finally, in a bid for the 5th spot on the “highest domestic grossing superhero films” list, which is currently held by Iron Man 3 at $409.01 million, Wonder Woman added 1,407 theaters, expanding to a total of 2,210. The DC Extended Universe picture took home $1.68 million, bringing its domestic total to $406.2 million. It should claim that 5th spot in due time, putting it behind only The Dark Knight RisesAvengers: Age of UltronThe Dark Knight and Marvel’s The Avengers respectively.

The following weekend may be even more abysmal, with very few new releases that could make any notable dent. Unless Tulip Fever somehow strikes a chord with audiences, next weekend’s top earner may be well under $10 million.

The one after that, however, will see the release of It, which Variety reports could make about $50 million domestically its opening weekend, according to early box office tracking. With Jennifer Lawrence’s mother!, Kingsman: The Golden CircleThe LEGO Ninjago Movie and Tom Cruise’s American Made coming in the weeks following, the fall season will hopefully reinvigorate the box office.

*All weekend numbers are domestic, meaning that they’re from theaters in the U.S. and Canada, and are also estimates, reported by Box Office Mojo, with actuals coming out in the next few days.*

‘It’ praised as ‘scary and faithful’ Stephen King adaptation in first reactions

It, an adaptation of the first half of Stephen King’s novel of the same name, has screened for some of the press. After the social media embargo lifted last night, critics tweeted out their first reactions, and they have been overwhelmingly positive.

Everyone has unanimously agreed that It delivers on its scares. But critics have also said that the film is “surprisingly funny” and “adorably romantic.” Praise has also been handed out to Bill Skarsgård, the actor who plays Pennywise, with one critic deeming the character the “Freddy Krueger of a new generation.”

Another Stephen King adaptation, The Dark Tower, released earlier this year on August 4 to lukewarm reception. That film currently holds a 16% on RottenTomatoes after 194 reviews and a score of 34 from 46 reviews on Metacritic. Currently, the film has made only $74 million on a $60 million production budget. Factoring in theater take and marketing costs, The Dark Tower will almost certainly end up losing money.

So the initial positive reception of It will likely be a relief to Stephen King fans, and fans of the horror genre as well. And the box office also looks to fair much better. Last week, Variety reported that It is poised for a $50 million domestic debut — more than The Dark Tower has made domestically after one month — according to early tracking numbers. According to ForbesIt has a production budget in the range of $35-$40 million.

Look below for critics’ Twitter reactions to It:

It is set to release on September 8 and comes from Mama director Andrés Muschietti. It stars the aforementioned Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher (St. VincentMidnight Special), Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things), Sophia Lillis and Nicholas Hamilton (Captain FantasticThe Dark Tower) among many other young actors, all of whom the critics are very excited about.

The film was originally attached to Cary Joji Fukunaga (season one of True DetectiveBeasts of No Nation), who also originally wrote the film with Chase Palmer. Fukunaga left the project in 2015 due to creative differences, but the two still have writing credits on the film.

‘The Glass Castle’ Review: Woody Harrelson keeps this uneven but sincere family drama from shattering

The re-teaming of Brie Larson and writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton, having made the harrowing drama Short Term 12 together in 2013, should’ve been better than this. Strangely, Larson feels almost miscast in her role as Jeannette Walls, whose memoir this film is based on. But perhaps even more strangely, The Glass Castle is the kind of misfire that’s fascinating, the kind of misfire that almost becomes more earnest and truthful in its faults.

It’s faults are there and they nearly shatter the film. The story works through two timelines, one when Jeannette is a child and living with her parents in eccentric and rundown homes, and one when Jeannette is engaged and living in a fancy apartment. Such an approach aims at developing emotion through the comparison, through the juxtaposition of moments, yet The Glass Castle never seems to entirely commit to the structural concept and, when it does, never fully earns the ideas it wants to build in the larger image.

And for a story from a woman who deals with hardship after hardship as her parents push her and her siblings into an unconventional style of living, The Glass Castle upsettingly underserves Jeannette, always being about what happens to Jeannette and rarely being about Jeannette. Instead, the film’s true main character is Woody Harrelson’s Rex.

While that fact is problematic, and a sign of the male writers and male director, it does give Harrelson a vehicle for something truly profound. The character of Rex is a tragic man, an emotionally abusive alcoholic whose ideology puts his children in danger. And Harrelson sells every bit of it. From his playful, eccentric monologues, to his towering and terrifying yells, to his stunningly beautiful and soft moments of humanity, Harrelson fully capitalizes on his strengths as an actor, building one of his most human characters. It’s his owning of the character, his inhabitation of Rex that makes it difficult not to tear up when Rex has his most raw moments of connection with his family.

And that’s why the faults don’t cause The Glass Castle to collapse on itself. The story is about imperfection, in person and in family, so if the film is imperfect, it can be forgiven.

Grade: 6.8/10

« Older Entries