Western Stars isn’t a rockin’-out extravaganza; it’s intimate in its embrace. Yet it’s a moving testament to how much Bruce Springsteen has still got it. It’s a concert film you’ll want to experience with others, as a ray of light in the dark.
“Harriet” is a conscientiously uplifting, devoted, rock-solid version of her story. Yet when it comes to putting the audience in touch with what’s extraordinary about Harriet Tubman — not just illustrating what she did but letting us connect with that quest, and with her, on a moment-to-moment level — “Harriet” is a conventional and rather prosaic piece of filmmaking.
It’s like a Wes Anderson movie set during the Third Reich. ... And yet it’s not as if it’s a terrible movie; it’s actually a studiously conventional movie dressed up in the self-congratulatory “daring” of its look!-let’s-prank-the-Nazis cachet.
What you experience isn’t the book, exactly; it’s the strenuous creative labor that went into adapting it. What cast a winding spell on the page has become an occasionally compelling but mostly labored live-action illustration.
Too many movies set in this period end up as action films in medieval drag. The excitement of “The King” is that Michôd lays out the consequences of combat with gruesome precision, demythologizing the battle.
Gray proves beyond measure that he’s got the chops to make a movie like this. He also has a vision, of sorts — one that’s expressed, nearly inadvertently, in the metaphor of that space antenna. Watching Ad Astra, you may think you’ve signed on for a journey that’s out of this world, but it turns out that the film’s concerns are somberly tethered to Earth.
At once funny, scalding, and stirring, built around two bravura performances of incredible sharpness and humanity, it’s the work of a major film artist, one who shows that he can capture life in all its emotional detail and complexity — and, in the process, make a piercing statement about how our society now works.
As someone who’s absorbed bits and pieces of the Miles Davis story over the years but never felt like I had the big picture, I found “Birth of the Cool” to be intensely gratifying. Nelson is a filmmaker with a sixth sense for how to nudge history into the present.
The plot — which is to say, the plot against the president — is, once again, a violently overwrought confection of “topical” comic-strip ludicrousness; that’s the DNA of the “Fallen” series. Yet when you’re watching a big-budget B-movie, there’s good preposterous and there’s bad preposterous.
It takes a lot of chops to shoot the majority of a movie underwater, and Johannes Roberts is a skillful crafter of images ... But he’s a throw-what-he-can-at-the-audience director, and there’s little in 47 Meters Down: Uncaged that really sticks. The shocks, however, are consistently well-timed, and for the audience that seeks out a movie like this one that’s probably enough.
Linklater, as brilliant a filmmaker as he is, is a kind of Zen rationalist; his shot language and essential humanity invite us to look at Bernadette and think, “You need help.” But that stops the character, even in her baroquely witty lashing out, from becoming a projection of a larger passion.
We see, in Melissa McCarthy’s increasingly fierce performance, a hint of what the movie might have been: the tale of a new kind of feminine mystique — a methodical fury that weds the imperatives of a mother to the style of a gangster. But that movie needed a better script.