If this new movie — referred to in some circles as Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island — were a pilot for a TV reboot, it would come off as overwrought and underwritten but still possibly on the right track for a revived anthology series. As a movie, those flaws are magnified to the size of the silver screen, and its contrivances and coincidences come off as even less convincing.
The film’s various elements work in wonderful concert to keep the momentum brisk but still grounded in a stylized version of human empathy, from Jay Cassidy and Evan Schiff’s whiz-bang editing to Daniel Pemberton’s consciously grandiose score. The cast makes each moment count.
Abrams certainly knows how to manipulate, but when he does it, you can see the strings. How much or little you enjoy The Rise of Skywalker will rely almost entirely on whether or not you mind that every laugh and tear and jolt feels like it’s coming right off a spreadsheet.
Writer-director Rian Johnson assembles the makings of a great whodunnit for Knives Out and winds up making a good one. It’s a perfectly entertaining film, but its attributes and apparent ambitions make the results just a bit disappointing.
The movie is more successful as a thriller than as a thoughtful examination of war and its horrors; Mendes seems less interested in bigger ideas about the nightmare of battle and its effects on his characters than he is in Hitchcockian audience manipulation.
In an era in which sentimentality is a seasoning that filmmakers either shun entirely or employ with too heavy a hand, Gerwig crafts a work about love and family and devotion and empathy that is moving without being manipulative. This is a Little Women for the ages.
There’s a lot to like here, from a rich palette of autumn colors to a potentially provocative subplot that will teach children that nations need to acknowledge and atone for their historical sins, but in the final tally, this is a sequel that exists not because there was more story to be told but because there was more money to be made.
Think of Last Christmas as director Paul Feig’s Christmas album; it won’t be the first comedy anyone thinks about in his accomplished filmography, but viewers might find themselves reaching for it come December all the same.
It’s far more successful with holiday magic than it is with character-based comedy, but that’s not enough of a flaw to keep young audiences (and their parents) from potentially turning this feature into a cherished annual tradition.
This is a movie that’s rife with characters, with incidents, with ideas, with history, and as such, it will benefit from multiple viewings. But even after the first watch, The Irishman hits hard, and it’s a reminder that nearly 30 years after “GoodFellas,” Martin Scorsese still has fascinating mob tales to tell, and fascinating ways to tell them.
The broadness of Phoenix’s work allows the rest of the ensemble — particularly Conroy, Zazie Beetz as a single-mom neighbor, and MVP character actors like Bill Camp, Shea Whigham and Brian Tyree Henry — to dial it down and give effectively human-size performances.
While director Andrews, most known for his stage work, doesn’t always know how to lift this story beyond banal biopic choices, he’s certainly tapped into something special with Stewart, who continues to reveal new layers with each film.