A deeply personal work from Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar, Pain and Glory follows the existential odyssey of a filmmaker (Antonio Banderas) who, in the autumn of his life, is afflicted with a cluster of physical ailments and finds himself drifting into uncharted waters.
When a revival screening of one of his controversial classics reunites him with the film’s star, filmmaker Salvador Mallo (Banderas) renews his friendship with its lead actor, Alberto (Asier Etxeandia). A longtime junkie, Alberto lures Salvador into dulling his pains through opiates, and also reminds him of a script that Salvador wrote and abandoned long ago. As the duo turn the script into a live stage show, Salvador vividly remembers a flood of old acquaintances — from his beloved mother (Penelope Cruz) to an old flame who was ravaged by addiction. Infused with dazzling color and emotional dynamism, Pain and Glory is immersed in the thrall of memory (and the fleeting bliss of narcotics) while celebrating art as a balm for the burdens of mortality. In Spanish with subtitles.
(Spain / 2019 / Written and Directed by Pedro Almodóvar)
R / 1 hr 53 mins.
The third feature from writer-director Trey Edward Shults (Krisha, It Comes at Night), Waves casts its lens on an African American family in south Florida — assembling a riveting saga out of fraught exchanges, constant motion, a killer soundtrack, and the dramatic tale of a domestic life caving in.
On the surface, Tyler’s got it all going on (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), with a wealthy family who supports him, a spot on the wrestling team, and a popular girlfriend (Alexa Demie). Under intense scrutiny from his father (Sterling K. Brown), Tyler is committed to greatness and spends his mornings and nights training for his sport. But when he’s pushed to his limits, cracks start to show, and the stage is set for a true American tragedy. Like two movies in one, the first half of Waves centers tightly on Tyler, while the second half follows the aftermath of his actions as they ripple outward and affect the life of his sister. Propelled by color, energy, and a pulsating soundtrack from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Shults’ film places the audience inside its characters’ perspectives to evoke visceral feelings of propulsion, shock, and aftermath.
(USA / 2018 / Written and Directed by Trey Edward Shults)
R / 2 hrs 15 mins.
Lifting Harriet Tubman from the pages of history, Kasi Lemmons’ portrait of the powerful American icon evokes the surge of faith, principle, and raw courage that drove her to greatness.
Living under slavery on a Maryland plantation, Araminta Ross (Cynthia Erivo) goes by the name Minty. At a time when about half the state’s Black residents are free and half enslaved, Minty risks her life for her freedom. As she walks 100 miles north to Philadelphia, she gains help from a loose collection of new friends and abolitionists. When she makes it to freedom, she’s given shelter by a sophisticated, free-born woman (Jangle Monae) who helps her to claim her place and power in the new society. And there in Philadelphia, she takes the new name Harriet Tubman. Against all advice but driven by visions of God, Tubman returns south to lead her loved ones to freedom — at first on her own, and later as part of the Underground Railroad. Delivering an exemplary performance, Erivo is riveting in every scene, portraying the legendary American leader with both scale and depth.
(USA / 2019 / Co-Written and Directed by Kasi Lemmons)
Unrated / 2 hrs 5 mins.
Not everyone will like JoJo Rabbit, and at times you’ll wonder if you should. A coming-of-age comedy whose hero is a 10 year-old German boy during World War II who wants to be a Nazi? Adolf Hitler as comic relief? As it walks some precarious high wires, Taika Waititi’s latest (Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok) takes a risky premise and delivers a piece of grandly entertaining provocation. The result, as reviewer David Edelstein suggests: You may just find yourself loving that it exists.
It’s the final year of World War II, and Jojo Betzler (a wonderful Roman Griffin Davis) wants nothing more than to be “the bestest, most loyal little Nazi.” But in reality, he’s a sweet kid who earns the nickname “Jojo Rabbit” when he refuses to be violent at training camp. Goaded along by a devil on his shoulder, JoJo receives frequent visits from an imaginary friend — Adolph Hitler, portrayed by Waititi himself as a bumbling moron who offers cigarettes to kids and whose advice is always terrible. In the real world, JoJo’s friends consist of a strutting kids’ camp counselor (Sam Rockwell), a woke mom who’s working with the resistance (Scarlett Johansson), and a wide-eyed young boy called Yorki (Archie Yates).
The movie’s humor is deliberately broad, almost vaudevillian at times (The words “A Jew!” are followed by “God bless you,” and when one Nazi is ordered to round up a pack of German shepherds, he returns with a bunch of men in lambswool suits.). But Waititi isn’t making light of Nazis. He’s mocking them, denying them the dignity of taking them — as distinct from the very real threat they pose — seriously. Nazis are dolts, he says, and isn’t it fun to watch as they lose the war? But there’s real gravity in JoJo, too. When JoJo finds a Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in his attic, he begins to question everything he’s been taught. “You’re not a Nazi” says Elsa as the two come to know one another. “You’re a 10-year-old boy who likes dressing up in a funny uniform.” By the time Allied troops converge on the city and Waititi delivers a huge, slow-motion battle scene, Jojo’s world has been turned upside down. Based on the book Caging Skies, JoJo Rabbit won viewers’ hearts at its world premiere and went on to win the Audience Award at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. No matter where you stand, the film’s sincere attempt to balance history, tragedy, laughter, and style make it something audiences will be talking about for the rest of 2019.
(Germany, USA / 2019 / Co-written and directed by Taika Waititi)
PG-13 / 1 hr 48 mins.
Winner, deservedly so, of the Cannes Film Fest’s top prize, the Palme D’or, here’s a film its director calls “a comedy without clowns and a tragedy without villains,” a film that keeps us delightfully off balance as it mixes pathos and satire with thrills and drama as it nails the dichotomy between the struggling poor and the wildly rich.
A vertical story of class struggle — meet the moldy basement dwelling Kims: Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) an unemployed husband and father; his hard-working wife Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin), his clever twenty-something daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam), and his teenaged son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik). And then there’s the Park family living in a fabulous airy house with their teenage daughter Da-hye and terribly spoiled young son Da-song, who has suffered a childhood trauma that occasionally causes him strange behaviour. Due to an unexpected stroke of luck and some clever moves, Ki-woo is hired by the Parks to be the private English tutor of Da-hye, and soon figures out how to get his sister hired as an art therapist. Before long all the Kims are inside the Parks bastion of privilege as the destinies of the two families become interlaced. As they become enmeshed, the film takes us on a fascination ride that culminates in a powerful and utterly original outcome.
(Korea/ 2019 / Directed by Bong Joon-ho)
R / 2 hr 2 mins.
A strangely hypnotic tale of two lighthouse keepers on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s -Robert Eggers follow up to his horror masterpiece The Witch.
Robert Pattison and Willem Dafoe play the two who try to maintain their sanity while living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
“…In this storm-battered maritime horror, set on a remote lighthouse station in the 1890s and shot in severe black and white. You would struggle to describe either man as conventionally handsome here – even before the wind, brine, seagulls, blunt force trauma, flying excreta and unspecified Lovecraftian sludge take their toll. But both have a kind of sublime ugliness that is wholly in keeping with a film that feels less made than hoisted up like treasure from the belly of some rust-bitten shipwreck.
Pattinson plays Ephraim Winslow, the taciturn new apprentice to Dafoe’s lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake, who comes across like Captain Haddock crossed with Gollum. As the film begins, both men arrive at their posts through a cloak of fog, braced for a four-week shift….Both have their secrets, and these slowly emerge as a tempest closes in and prolongs their stay indefinitely, while tempers fray, rations moulder, identities crumble, and a small, scrimshaw mermaid Pattinson finds tucked in his mattress exerts an unearthly pull. The Shining-on-Sea? Sort of…. It’s cinema to make your head and soul ring.” —Rob Collin, The Telegraph.
(US/ 2019 / Directed by Robert Eggers)
R / 1 hr 50 mins.
HONEY BOY, written by and starring Shia LaBeouf (playing his own father) is based on his experiences growing up as a very successful child actor whose abusive drug-addicted father, a former rodeo clown, was his guardian during his early booming career, speaks to anyone who has lived with alcohol or drug abuse in their family or anyone who loves a gripping, well-acted tale.
Shia LaBeouf goes in search of himself and takes on the daring and therapeutic challenge of playing a version of his own father as he struggles to deal with his own frayed mental health. Filmmaker Alma Har’el brings to life the actor’s stormy childhood and early adult years as the traumatized actor struggles to make peace with his ascent to stardom, and subsequent adult crash-landing into rehabs and recovery. Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges are brilliant playing the star at different stages in his frenetic career. Artist and musician FKA twigs makes her feature acting debut, playing a neighbor and kindred spirit to the young boy in their garden-court motel home. A one-of-a-kind collaboration between filmmaker and subject, exploring art as medicine and imagination.
(US/ 2019 / Directed by Alma Har’el)
R / 1 hr 33 mins.