Over the course of 18 films and 10 years, Kevin Feige and his army of Marvel men and women have laid a pretty nifty foundation upon which the Marvel Cinematic Universe rests. What started with humble beginnings with 2008’s Iron Man has since blown up into a cultural and financial supernova with no less than 30 recognizable characters and all that comes to a head with the Russo Brother’s astonishingly ambitious though perfunctorily flawed Avengers: Infinity War. Read More
Candy-colored Thor: Ragnarok is a retro, dimension-hopping hoot. Rambunctious, joyous and just plain fun to watch, Ragnarok is shellacked with vintage Taika Waititi style, the critical darling director behind such rollicking Rotten Tomatoes-adored comedy-adventures as Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows and Boy retaining his idiomatic filmmaking tactics even under the watchful eye of notoriously handsy Marvel producers. The best of the Thor films (and this coming from someone who actually admits to enjoying the previous two), Ragnarok employs Taika’s signature witty, irreverent approach to comedy and his knack for building genuine camaraderie among squirelly outcasts to craft the funniest blockbuster of the year, one that doubles as a hell of an odd-couple intergalactic road trip, even if it still barely breaks the lather-rinse-repeat nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe mold. Read More
That Spotlight feels like the epitome of a Law and Order episode genetically crossbred with a 70s-style political thriller is both its salvation and its glass ceiling. A real Indominus Rex of drama, Spotlight is a fleet-footed arcane beast attacking with precision and blunt deadly force. Its movements however are about as predictable as a 40-foot dinosaur. With its classical movie trappings, there’s other reasons it may be likened to a dinosaur. On the one hand, the formula is soothing in its familiarity – anyone who’s seen an episode of network television over the last half-century can immediately tap into the procedural structure at play – but in dealing up this very specific, very familiar hand, Spotlight also affixes a rev limiter to its emotional combustion engine. That it is then able to color in more shades than the finite Crayola 8 without devolving to sentimentality or cheap heroics is what allows Spotlight to stand tall. To peer out from the brush and declare its potency. To be the king of the jungle. Read More
What to say about The Avengers: Age of Ultron? It’s certainly a Marvel movie; a spectacle-heavy rationing of motormouthed zingers, busy with whip-pan, slo-mo action montages and done up like a prom queen with CG glitz. It’s the insatiable younger brother to Joss Whedon’s initial compulsory corporate softball tournament; a large and in charge super-conglomeration that rarely stops to make time to make sense, and though darker (emotionally), bigger (logistically) and meaner (spiritually), it’s not nearly as much fun as when space worms were involved. The Marvel brand has been defined by its sense of “fun” and Age of Ultron certainly houses the brand of larger-than-life, escapist entertainment that Marvel fans have emptied out their pockets for in the past but it misses the shock-and-awe boat that installment numero uno rode in on, instead serving up a welting reminder of the inconsequential, aggressively episodic nature of this whole shared universe business. By the end of Ultron’s short-lived age, tables have been set but little has actually changed. This is Lather, Rinse, Repeat: Age of Redundancy. Read More
On the most recent season of American Horror Story (Freak Show) there’s a depraved foil by the name of Dandy Mott, a highfaluting, affluent shut-in with a penchant for inflicting violence on those his physical inferior. His tailored suits and slickly oiled part stand in stark contrast to the tattered, deformed calvary of freaks that make up the namesake of the season, but beneath the perfumed facade of opulence and manicured sophistication is a reeking air of base barbarism. His is a most brutish proclivity nurtured utmost by an uninhibited sense of entitlement. In possessing all, nothing has value. Not even human life. With great money comes great power… and little responsibility. As King Joffrey infamously teased, “Everyone is mine to torment.”
Since the most recent economic collapse and subsequent Occupy movement, those in the upper echelon, the “one-percenters”, have become a sort of nationally derided myth. They jet around the world in lavish abandon, attending lush fundraisers, imbibing impossibly priced champagne and banging it out with gaggles of Eastern European models. Maybe slashing the throats of homeless vagabonds every once in a while for good measure. They’ve become caricatures, long teeth and all; braggarts removed from reality; personified wallets who can’t fold into the ebb and flow of middle-class normality. In this folklore view of the uber-wealthy, Patrick Batemans are hiding everywhere. If ever there was a symbol for the recklessly moneyed lifestyle of the criminally wealthy, it’s John du Pont. He’s pretty much the Batman of being a douchey trust-fund baby.
Watching interviews with Du Pont, it becomes immediately clear how out of his depth he is in just about any situation. From charities to coaching, he fumbles his way through his affairs unconvincingly. Writing checks his brain can’t cash. Like a special needs kid quoting Rudy. It’s almost heartbreaking how bad this guy is at being human. Droning on about discipline, responsibility, ornithology, or philately, there’s something to the way he speaks (so soft, so mindless) that makes you want to tune out. That demands it. His patterns of speech may be polished but they’re oh so hollow, like a Kenny G record. He’s basically a walking, talking Ambien with stubby teeth and a quality for malfeasance. There’s no question that were he not quite literally made of money, no one in their right mind would give this loon the time of day.
Foxcatcher follows the true story of du Pont and his relationship with Olympic gold medalists Mark and Dave Schlutz. After winning the top prize for wrestling at the 1984 summer games, Mark (Channing Tatum) still exists in the shadow of older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) until mysterious millionaire John du Pont invites Mark to take part in a training initiate known as “Foxcatcher”. While training at du Pont’s world class facility for the upcoming Worlds championship, Mark and Du Pont strike up an odd relationship that doesn’t fit neatly into a coach-pupil/father-son/boss-employee box. At times, their connection is that of an upsetting bromance. It’s odd but in a very specific, unclassifiable way. Picture an out-of-shape bag of man “pinning” down an Olympic athlete – who rightfully can’t mask his disdain for this lesser act of ego-masturbation – and you’ll get a general sense of their relationship. The whipping boy and the mutt seems as close as I can get.
If you didn’t live through the ’80s (or watch the trailer) you might not know how this story ends and I’m not going to spoil it for you here. We’ll just say that things get a little messy. In a first-degree kind of way. But it’s a quietly devastating tale, more than worth the journey.
As Du Pont, Steve Carrell is a frightfully vacuous vessel of self-righteous delusion. So he’s Michael Scott without the punchlines. (That’s what she said!) He’s the kind of guy who pats himself on the back and won’t stop until you join in on the patting. A pasty, flat-faced, shark-nosed, long-gummed mama’s boy with drug-fueled paranoid fantasies, he’s a misanthrope at an arm’s length from reality. Director Bennett Miller approaches his character with similar distance.