Movies with Milan

Movies with Milan

Movies reviews from Milan PaurichFull Bio


Movies with Milan 1-12-24


ANYONE BUT YOU--After an extended foray into kid-friendly fare (Jamie Foxx's 2014 "Annie" reboot; the "Peter Rabbit" movies), director Will Gluck returns to his "R"-rated, "Easy A"/"Friends With Benefits" roots for a predictable, if fitfully amusing trifle. In rom-coms, casting and chemistry is everything, and Gluck is blessed with two of the most photogenic and appealing young actors working today. Ben (Glen Powell from "Top Gun: Maverick") and Bea ("White Lotus" breakout Sydney Sweeney) are exes who discover to their mutual horror that they're headed for the same destination (Australia, mate) wedding. To avoid embarrassing questions, they agree to pretend they're still a couple for the event. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or rom-com connoisseur to deduce that their play-acting will turn genuine before the flight home. Powell and Sydney strike bonafide comedic and romantic sparks. They're like a junior league Clooney and Roberts and single-handedly make this formulaic programmer (almost) worth leaving the house for. (C PLUS.) 

AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM--In what might be his final turn as Arthur Curry/Aquaman, Jason Mamoa's brawny insouciance remains the primary reason this D.C. super hero franchise is easier to take than the average Marvel or D.C. outing. The storyline--Black Monta (Yahya Abdul-Manteen II) unleashes something called the Black Trident, forcing Aquaman to reteam with his estranged Atlantis king brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) to save the world from extinction--is strictly boilerplate, but returning director James Wan brings a certain snap to the rote proceedings and unlike, say, "The Marvels" or "Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3," it's never actively boring. Drive-by cameos by Nicole Kidman, disgraced Johnny Depp ex Amber Heard and Dolph Lundgren add a modicum of spice to the same old-same old template. (C PLUS.)

THE BEEKEEPER--Decidedly not a film about apiaists, Jason Statham's latest starring vehicle--his fifth in the past year alone--is about an ex CIA operative (Statham's Adam Kay) who enacts scorched earth vengeance on weaselly miscreants behind an elaborate online phishing operation targeting senior citizens. (The title stems from the name of Kay's former covert paramilitary outfit.) Better than any January Jason Statham movie has a right to be, it was directed by masculinist auteur David ("Fury," "End of Watch") Ayer who knows his way around turbo-charged action setpieces. Costarring the always welcome Jeremy Irons and, as the designated Big Bad techie, Josh Hutcherson. (B MINUS.)

THE BOOK OF CLARENCE--British musician-turned-filmmaker Jeymes Samuel, who previously directed Netflix's rollicking 2021 hip-hop western "The Harder They Fall," takes on another Old School Hollywood staple for his sophomore outing: Cecil B. DeMille-style Biblical epics. LaKeith Stanfield plays Clarence, the ne'er do well twin brother of Apostle Thomas (also Stanfield) who transforms himself into a new Messiah to hone in on some of J.C.'s action. Despite opening with a chariot race between Clarence and Mary Magdalene (Teyana Taylor), Samuel's wickedly amusing multicutural romp is more "Life of Brian" than "Ben Hur." Although it loses some of its satirical sting in the third act when it turns into a conversion narrative, a game cast (including Alfre Woodard, R.J. Cyler, Omar Sy, Benedict Cumberbatch and James McAvoy as Pontius Pilate) and stunning visuals (the film was shot on location in Matera, Italy) insure that it's never boring despite a somewhat protracted 136-minute run time. (B PLUS.)

THE BOY AND THE HERON--Still grieving the loss of his mother who died in the 1945 fire bombing of Tokyo, 12-year-old Mahito is sent to live with his maiden aunt in the countryside. It's there he encounters a mysterious gray heron who lures him into an enchanted tunnel where a fire maiden--who may or may not be a younger version of his dead mom--resides. (Yes, it's complicated.) Although he announced his retirement in 2013 after disbanding animation house, Studio Ghibli, visionary director Hayao ("Spirited Away," "Princess Mononoke") Miyazaki returns with a quasi-autobiographical new anime that should have no trouble delighting longtime fans. Like many of Miyazaki's films, it has the sinuous quality of a waking dream, referencing everything from classic Greek mythology to "Alice in Wonderland" and "Beauty and the Beast." The second half is overly busy and even hard to follow at times, but the hypnotic visuals will keep you entranced. (B PLUS.)

THE BOYS IN THE BOAT--A pokily paced, dully earnest sports underdog movie whose real-life bona fides don't make it any less tedious to sit through. University of Washington engineering student Joe Rantz (Callum Turner) joins his school's 8-man rowing crew to help pay for tuition--he's currently living in Seattle's Hoovertown--and winds up competing in the 1936 Summer Olympics. (Yes, the same Olympics Games that were held in Hitler's Nazi Germany.) Director George Clooney, working from a by-the-numbers screenplay by "Revenant" scenarist Mark L. Smith, has made a slick, good-looking film that stubbornly fails to come to life. There's nice work from Turner, Joel Edgerton (coach Al Ulbrickson) and Hadley Robinson (Joe's debutante girlfriend), but to little avail. It's the sort of movie your grandparents might enjoy when they catch it on Amazon Prime in a few months. (C.)

THE COLOR PURPLE--Based on the long-running Broadway musical version of Alice Walker's beloved novel, Blitz Bazawule's colorful screen adaptation is so well cast and acted that it's easy to overlook the fact that none of the songs (by Brenda Russell, Stephen Bray and Allee Willis) are particularly memorable. Former "American Idol" winner Fantastia Barrino plays Celia (the same role that catapulted Whoopi Goldberg to stardom in Steven Spielberg's 1985 version), a chronically put-upon Black woman who raises herself up during the course of the story which takes place between the early to mid-twentieth century. Bazawule's movie doesn't really kick into high gear until the third act, but winds up delivering more of an emotional kick than Spielberg's somewhat prosaic version. Taraji P. Hensen (Shug Avery), Danielle Brooks (Sofia), Colman Domingo (Mister) and H.E.R. (Squeak) all deliver memorable performances. Brooks is a real scene-stealer, and Domingo makes Mister's climactic conversion the most moving part of the film. (B PLUS.)

FERRARI--Michael ("Heat," "The Insider") Mann's enthralling new movie about the Italian auto magnate isn't a biopic in the conventional, cradle-to-grave sense. Instead Mann focuses on a particularly significant period in Ferrari's life in the summer of 1957 when his burgeoning empire was on the verge of bankruptcy. Still mourning the death of his son a year earlier, Ferrari (Adam Driver in a remarkably soulful performance) entertains bailout overtures from Ford and Fiat, but winds up pinning his company's future on how well his racing team performs in Italy's Mille Miglia race. Briskly paced, madly stylish and enormously entertaining, Mann's first film in eight years ranks among his finest. Besides Driver, the cast includes stellar turns from Penelope Cruz (Ferrari's long-suffering spouse/business partner), Shailene Woodley (his longtime mistress and the mother of his illegitimate son), and Gabriel Leone (hotshot race car driver Alfonso De Portago). The climactic racing footage is predictably thrilling, but it's the small, intimate moments that carry the most emotional weight and make it so memorable. (A.)

GODZILLA MINUS ONE--Still experiencing PTSD after watching his fellow soldiers die at the hands of Godzilla on Odo Island, former WW II kamikaze pilot Koichi (Ryonosuke Kamiki) makes it his mission to destroy the radioactive lizard when he materializes in Tokyo several years later. This is the first period film--and one of the best--in the beloved kaiju series that launched all the way back in 1954. And if the CGI isn't airbrushed-to-perfection like the recent MonsterVerse 'zilla flicks, there's a comforting nostalgia factor to director Takashi Yamazaki's lo-fi FX. To quote Blue Oyster Cult, "Oh no, there goes Tokyo, go, go, Godzilla!" (B PLUS.)  

HAS ANYBODY SEEN MY GAL--Before he became Universal's in-house master of domestic melodrama with masterpieces like "Magnificent Obsession" and "Imitation of Life," Douglas Sirk directed this charming 1952 musical comedy which launched his unofficial "Americana" trilogy ("Meet Me at the Fair" and "Take Me To Town" would soon follow). If you love Vincente Minnelli's "Meet Me in St Louis"--and who doesn't?--this should be right up your alley. The great Charles ("The Lady Eve," "The More the Merrier") Coburn plays Samuel Fulton, an eccentric millionaire who poses as a destitute lodger at the home of his lost love's daughter, middle-class housewife Harriet Blaisdell (Lynn Bari). Samuel thinks he's dying, and hopes the Blaisdells will prove worthy of his future inheritance. To test them, he anonymously drops $100,000 into their laps which Harriet uses to buy a gaudy McMansion. Determined to marry her daughter Millicent (Piper Laurie) off to a snooty socialite, social- climbing Harriet forbids Millicent from seeing her longtime beau, good guy soda jerk Dan (Rock Hudson who would go on to appear in eight future Sirk movies). The Blaisdells eventually run out of money and are forced to move back to their original, considerably more humble house, but a happy ending is preordained. Set during the Roaring '20s, the film is awash with nostalgic period tunes like "When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along" and "Gimme a Little Kiss, Will Ya, Huh?" As Roberta, the youngest Blaisdell, Gigi Perreau comes close to stealing the movie, and there's an amusing cameo by a pre-stardom James Dean. The KL Studio Classics Blu-Ray includes an audio commentary with Laurie and critic/historian Lee Gambin; "Fun on the Lot," an affectionate look back at the making of "Gal" with Laurie and Perreau; and the original theatrical trailer. (A.)   

THE HUNGER GAMES: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES--What's a "Hunger Games" movie without Jennifer Lawrence? On the basis of this two-and-a-half-hour-plus slog of a prequel, not much. Set 64 years before the events chronicled in the four previous films based on Suzanne Collins' YA novels, "S&S" serves up the origin story of Coriolanus Snow (androgynous Brit "It Boy" Tom Blyth) who rises from humble origins to become the sociopathic dictator memorably played by Donald Sutherland in the preceding chapters. Because he hasn't yet morphed into a tyrant, young Coriolanus is even given a love interest: District 12 "songbird" Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler, Maria in Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story"). Their puppy dog romance is no more compelling than anything else here, but at least some of the casting is..interesting. As a distant relative of Caesar Flickerman, Stanley Tucci's unctuous master of ceremonies, Tucci doppelganger Jason Schwartzman steals every scene he's in playing a proto-Caesar. Less successful is the embarrasing scenery-chewing of Viola Davis and Peter Dinklage as, respectively, head gamemaker Dr. Gaul and Academy Dean Casca. Director Francis Lawrence had better luck shepherding J-Law's last three H.G. movies (the series ended in 2015). But if the "I Am Legend" and "Constantine" helmer thought he was going to be gainfully employed for the foreseeable future with additional Collins' adaptations, he's bound to be disappointed since it's doubtful this late-to-the-party addendum will launch another franchise. (C MINUS.) 

THE IRON CLAW--A sort of WWF "King Lear," Sean ("Martha Marcy May Marlene," "The Nest") Durkin's emotionally wrenching family drama about the real-life Von Erich wrestling dynasty is so beautifully crafted and superbly acted that it handily earns its considerable tears: this is the best male weepie of 2023. In a career performance whose physical transformation rivals Robert De Niro's in "Raging Bull," Zac Efron plays the Von Erich son most eager to win dad's approval. As the family's domestic tyrant, Holt McCallany is utterly chilling in his personification of toxic masculinity. It's easy to see why his wife (a sympathetic Maura Tierney) and other sons ("The Bear" star Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson and impressive newcomer Stanley Simons) positively cower in his wake. Set between the mid-1970's and early '80s, Durkin's film recounts a tale of such unimaginable familial woe that McCallany's pater familias begins resembling Job as much as he does Shakespeare's Lear before it's over. Besides enviable work with his actors, Durkin does such a pitch-perfect job of recreating the '70s period flavor that it feels like a movie that could have actually been made in the New Hollywood era. High praise indeed. (A.)  

THE MARVELS--Director Nia ("Candyman 2021") DaCosta's sequel to 2019's "Captain Marvel--the single worst big-screen MCU entry to date--is marginally better, or at least a little easier to sit through. (At 105 minutes, it's also the shortest Marvel Corp. film product in recent memory, so be thankful for small favors.) A bored-looking Brie Larson reprises her role as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, and DaCosta ratchets up the Girl Power hijinks by pairing her with both a Jersey City super fan (Kamala Khan) and estranged niece/S.A.B.E.R. astronaut Monica (Teyonah Parris). The hackneyed plot once again revolves around super heroes saving the universe (yawn) while navigating some prerequisite metaversian wormholes. Not being a Marvel-head, I had a hard time following most of it. Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury does a drive-by cameo, but it's not enough to shake DaCosta's film out of its terminal stupor. (C MINUS.) 

MEAN GIRLS--Angourie ("The Nice Guys," "Honor Society") Rice is the best reason to see this serviceable adaptation of the 2018 Broadway musicalization of Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams' 2004 sleeper. Stepping into the old Lohan role of Cady, the new girl at a clique-ruled high school who ingratiates herself with "The Plastics" (led by Renee Rapp's truly terrifying queen bee Regina) before taking them down with the help of a posse of misfits (Auli'i Cravalho and Jacquel Spivey), Rice is immensely winning. Tina Fey--who wrote the original movie, the stage version and this iteration--reprises her role as a teacher, and Jon Hamm, Jenna Fischer and Busy Phillips (all very good) play typically clueless grown-ups. None of the songs or production numbers are especially memorable, but tweeners are sure to eat it up. (B MINUS.) 

MIGRATION--Benjamin Renner, director of the delightful Oscar-nominated 2012 animated feature "Ernest and Celestine," helmed this beguiling and (no pun intended) featherweight Illumination 'toon. There's very little "plot" to speak of, but this 80-minute divertissement provides intermittent delight thanks to some frequently gorgeous CGI animation and the pleasure of spending time with its flock of fine feathered friends voiced by the likes of Kumali Nanjioani, Awkwafina, Elizabeth Banks, Keegan-Michael Key and Danny DeVito. 


NAPOLEON--Opening in 1769 when the ambitious young Corsican officer witnesses the guillotining of Marie Antoinette and climaxing with his exile (and death) on the Island of St. Helena, Ridley ("Alien," "Blade Runner") Scott's 159-minute epic starring Joaquin Phoenix as the titular military genius is visually dazzling, if somewhat malnourished dramatically. For all its surface glitter--and some stunningly immersive battle scenes--it never remotely quickens the pulse or touches the heart. Phoenix's dependably quirky (and frequently very funny) portrayal of Monsieur Bonaparate bests previous big-screen Napoleons Marlon Brando ("Desiree") and Rod Steiger ("Waterloo"), but it's probably not for all tastes. Rather than cutting a heroic or even dashing figure, his Napoleon is instead an insecure man-child with antisocial tendencies. His enduring love for Josephine (Vanessa Kirby, very good), even after they divorce because she's unable to sire an heir, is the most compelling part of the movie. Their witty, sexually-charged scenes hint at the film this might have been if Scott had shown as much interest in marital drama as he does in staging elaborate battle sequences. Despite laudable ambitions, the best Napoleon biopic remains Abel Gance's five-and-a-half-hour 1927 silent masterpiece. (B.)  

NIGHT SWIM--It wouldn't be January without a new Blumhouse horror flick, and this year's model is better than most, if not quite up to last year's standard-bearer ("M3gan"). The movie's major assets are its two leads, "Banshees of Inisherin" Oscar nominee Kerry Condon and Wyatt Russell, star of the late, great AMC series, "Lodge 49." Making a backyard swimming pool--hence the giveaway title--the nexus of supernatural terror admittedly takes a leap of faith, but first-time feature director Bryce McGuire gives it the old college try. Expanding his 2014 short, McGuire adds a Gothic fairytale dimension that brings a quasi mythological gloss to the jump-scares. Russell, Condon and newcomers Gavin Warren and Amelie Hoeferle as their kids are all very good, and it doesn't overstay its welcome at a corcumspect 98 minutes. For the first new movie of 2024, you could do a lot worse. (C PLUS.)  

TROLLS BAND TOGETHER--Part origin story, part adventure flick, director Walt Dohrn's third CGI Trolls 'toon should please fans of the earlier movies (released in 2016 and 2020 respectively) without necessarily gaining any new admirers. When Branch (Justin Timberlake) learns that his estranged brother Floyd (Traye Silum) has been kidnapped by psychotic sibling singers Velvet and Veneer (Amy Schumer and Andrew Rannells) and being held captive in a diamond perfume bottle (don't ask), he elects to join the rescue mission. The best parts of the movie are flashbacks to Branch's past as a member of boy band BroZone (Timberlake's own NSYNC history adds an amusing meta dimension to the subplot), and Anna Kendrick brightens up her few scenes as Branch gal pal Poppy. The "Taste the Rainbow" color palette remains as eye-massaging as ever, but the whole thing will seem pretty jejune unless you're 6. Or younger. (C.)   

WISH--The bland uniformity/homogeneity that's plagued CGI 'toons this century strikes again in Disney's 62nd animated feature; it feels interchangeable with any number of animated Mouse House movies of recent vintage ("Moana," "Coco," ad nauseam). Set on Rosas, a Mediterranean island ruled by seemingly benign sorcerer Magnifico (Chris Pine having a larf), directors Chris ("Hercules") Buck and Fawn Verasunthorn's assembly-line mediocrity has another teen heroine Asha (LGBT spokesmodel Ariana DeBose) championing (here we go again; yawn) Girl Power. During a job interview to become Magnifico's new apprentice, Asha is crestfallen to learn that Rosas' "cool guy" ruler is as much of a sham as the Wizard of Oz. Instead of granting the wishes of his subjects, he's been hoarding them in floating bubbles instead. After encountering a magical wishing star ("When you wish upon a star," yadda-yadda), Asha impulsively launches a Rosas resistance movement that turns her into an overnight media sensation. Y'know, like Taylor Swift. While the unmemorable songs all sound like Lin-Manuel Miranda rejects and the attempts at humor generally fall flat, the absence of a palpable heart is the film's most conspicuous failure. Maybe it's time for Disney to go back to the drawing board instead of simply regurgitating the same old/same old. 


WONKA--Paul King, director of the delightful "Paddington" kidflicks, was the perfect choice to helm this fantastical origin story of iconic chocolatier Willy Wonka. A sumptuously-appointed sugarplum fantasy that's a glorious throwback to 1960's family musicals like "Mary Poppins" and "Dr. Dolittle," it stars the perfectly-cast Timothee Chalamet as a twentysomething Willy still attempting to forge his candy 

empire in Dickensian England. While housed in the prison-like boarding house of Miss Hannigan-ish landlady Mrs. Scrubitt (Oscar-winner Olivia Colman having a larf), Willy teams up with orphan Noodle (an appealing Calah Lane) to combat Big Bad Slugworth (Paterson Joseph) and the nefarious Chocolate Cartel who will do anything to foil the new kid on the candy block. The fact that the Police Chief (an amusing Keegan-Michael Key) is on the Cartel's payroll only makes Willy's task more Sisyphean. But spurred on by Noodle's nudging and the divine intervention of a persnickety Oompa Loompa (Hugh Grant in a scene-stealing performance), Willy and his heavenly confections ultimately reign supreme. Nathan Cowley's spectacular production design, Park Chan Wook mainstay Chung Chung-hoon's dreamy cinematography and six Leslie Bricusse-worthy songs by Neil Hannon are merely icing on King's supercalifragilistic cake. (A.)


DON'T LOOK NOW--At the time of its 1973 release, the extended nude sex scene between Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland got more attention than the film itself. (There was even a heated debate about whether Christie and Sutherland were actually, y'know, getting it on.) If leading American critics had been more genre-savvy back then, they might have noticed that director Nicolas Roeg had actually made a giallo pastiche very much in the operatic, style-besotted tradition of Italy's Dario ("The Bird With the 

Crystal Plumage,"The Cat o' Nine Tails") Argento. But since Argento's movies largely played grindhouses and Roeg's Daphne Du Maurier's adaptation was more of an arthouse attraction, nobody at the time made the connection. Seen fifty years later, Roeg's giallo bona fides are unmistakable and only enhance the pleasures, both aesthetic and sensual, of the overall viewing experience. Still grieving the drowning death of their 10-year-old daughter, married couple Laura (Christie) and John (Sutherland) Baxter fly to Venice where John's been commissioned to restore an old church. Laura, meanwhile, befriends two eccentric middle-aged sisters (Hilary Mason and Clelia Matania), one of whom is a blind psychic who claims to be in contact with her daughter and warns John of some incipient, unknown danger. Could that danger have something to do with a series of random murders along the canal? Everyone and everything here comes across as slightly disoriented and out of sync; Roeg's trademark jigsaw editing style in which past, present and future commingle contribute to our growing sense of unease. The justly famous climax in which John chases a tiny figure in red (his daughter?) at night ranks with Janet Leigh's "Psycho" shower as one of the greatest OMG moments in Cinefantastique history. The Criterion Collection includes both a 4K UHD copy as well as a Blu-Ray disc--both approved by cinematographer Anthony Richmond--and a treasure trove of extras on their new release. Included are "'Don't Look Now': Looking Back," a 2002 documentary with Roeg, Richmond and editor Graeme Clifford; a shop-talk conversation between film historian Bobbie O'Steen and Clifford; composer Pino ("Carrie") Donaggio's 2006 interview; a making-of featurette about the writing/shooting of the movie with Christie, Sutherland, Richmond and co-screenwriter Allan Scott; Roeg's 2003 Q&A conducted at London's Cine Lumiere Theater; an appreciation/appraisal of Roeg's stylistic signature with director-admirers Steven Soderbergh and Danny Boyle; and an essay by critic David Thompson. (A.)

DREAM SCENARIO--When an ex girlfriend tells evolutionary biology professor Paul (Nicolas Cage) that he's been appearing in her dreams, he's flattered if a little confused. But after thousands of random people he's never met begin dreaming of him, Paul turns into an overnight internet sensation. A dweeby academic with an inferiority complex, Paul is singularly unprepared for his new celebrity status. But when the dreams about him begin segueing into nightmares, he becomes a social pariah, jeopardizing both his university tenure and marriage (Julianne Nicholson plays his long-suffering wife). Norwegian writer-director Kriostoffer ("Sick of Myself") Borgli's surreal cringe comedy is a "Being John Malkovich" for the TikTok era, and the cancel culture satire we've all been waiting for. The third act has some problems--Borgli doesn't quite know how to land the plane--but it's consistently amusing and the mercurial Cage delivers one of his finest recent performances. (B PLUS.) 

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON--Newly returned from WW I, Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) hooks up with his uncle, William "King" Hale (Robert De Niro), in Osage County, Oklahoma. What he doesn't realize--not at first anyway--is that Hale is behind a homicidal plot to murder off local Native Americans in order to steal their oil rights. (Osage is populated by oil-rich Osage Indians, incurring the enmity of the white citizenry.) With the encouragement of his uncle, Ernest marries a wealthy Osage woman (Lily Gladstone's Mollie) whose fortune William has designs on. It's not until ex-Texas Ranger and newly appointed F.B.I. agent Tom White (Jesse Plemons) comes to town that Hale's nefarious scheme finally begins to unravel. Based on David Grann's award-winning non fiction book, Martin Scorsese's massive three-and-a-half hour masterpiece is the event of the fall movie season: a mournful, aching epic that shines an unforgiving spotlight on one of the most shameful chapters in modern American racial history. Stunningly lensed by the great Rodrigo ("The Irishman," "The Wolf of Wall Street") Pirieto and superbly acted by DiCaprio, Gladstone, De Niro, et al, it's the kind of dauntingly ambitious filmmaking very few directors even attempt in these days of corporate, IP-driven franchise movies. Despite echoes of previous benchmarks of American cinema like "There Will Be Blood," "Days of Heaven" and "Heaven's Gate," Scorsese's humbling and ennobling film remains very much its own thing. If you care about the future of Hollywood movies, don't dare miss it. (A PLUS.) 

THE LAST PICTURE SHOW--I always refer to Peter Bogdanovich's 1971 New Hollywood classic as "The Great American Movie" the same way Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" is routinely described by literature mavens as "The Great American Novel." I've felt that way since I first saw it as a 13-year-old at the time of its initial release, and still feel that way today after having probably seen it at least a hundred times. Needless to say I know "The Last Picture Show" by heart: every line of dialogue, every song cue, every pan and edit is ingrained in my DNA, It's hard to describe the seismic impact the movie had when it premiered at the 1971 New York Film Festival. The New Hollywood era which helped revolutionize the industry had been alive and kicking since 1967, but audiences (even young people who so many of the movies actively courted) began to sour on perceived pandering. Groovy rock soundtracks and proto music video editing were no substitute for solid narrative structure and characters worth giving a damn about. By essentially making the French Wave film John Ford never directed, Bogdanovich almost single-handedly reversed New Hollywood's downward spiral. The rest, as they say, is history. Yet when Bogdanovich returned to the setting (Anarene, Texas) and many of the same "Picture Show" characters (Jeff Bridges' Duane, Cybill Shepherd's Jacy, Timothy Bottoms' Sonny, Cloris Leachman's Ruth, etc.) for 1990's "Texasville"--adapted from another Larry McMurtry novel--the movie was indifferently received by most critics and flopped at the box office. Maybe they were confused by the tonal and aesthetic differences between the two movies. While "Picture Show" was a heart-wrenching drama, "Texasville" was essentially a comedy, albeit a Renoir-esque comedy of manners in which the foibles of now middle-aged characters were affectionately, if astringently celebrated. What nobody seemed to realize at the time was that Bogdanovich had made another brilliant symphony, albeit one in a distinctly different key. Hopefully the Criterion Collection's glorious new three-disc Blu-Ray which includes a 4K UHD copy of "Picture Show" as well as "Texasville" in both its original color theatrical cut and Bogdanovich's preferred, 25 minutes longer b&w version (previously available only on laser disc) will serve as a corrective to the sequel's initially lukewarm reception. Most of the extras are recycled from Criterion's 2010 box set, "America Lost and Found: The BBS Story," but they're eminently worth revisiting. There are two separate audio commentary tracks featuring Bogdanovich, uber-producer Frank Marshall and costars Shepherd, Leachman and Randy Quaid; three--count 'em--documentaries about the making of the film; screen tests/location footage; excerpts from a 1972 French television interview with French New Wave charter member Francois Truffaut discussing America's "New Wave;" an introduction to "Texasville" with Bogdanovich, Shepherd and Bridges; a "Picture Show" essay by critic Graham Fuller; and excerpts from Bogdanovich's 2020 interview with Peter Tonguette in which they discuss "Texasville." (A PLUS.)

THE PRINCESS BRIDE--Rob Reiner's universally beloved 1987 cult favorite based on William Goldman's 1973 novel receives the full Criterion Collection bells-and-whistles treatment, and it's a beaut. Curiously, as someone who read and adored Goldman's book at the time of its release (I was a high school sophomore) and yet felt vaguely disappointed by Reiner's adaptation when it first came out, I can't express how much I love this movie today. A rewatch courtesy of HBO ten years ago finally turned me around--I still can't fathom how it wasn't love at first viewing--since it pretty much embodies everything my adolescent self found beautiful about the fantasy genre: a willowy princess with long, flowing locks, a friendly giant, swordfights galore, a suave and debonair prince willing to do anything to save said princess, breathlessly paced rescues and, oh yeah, giant rats. The film takes all the traditional elements of the swashbuckler genre and exaggerates them to delirious comic effect, resulting in a classic that will have you falling in love with the characters and cheering them on every step of the way. I've probably seen it a dozen times, and each time I'm reminded why it remained the best fantasy film until Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. The lavishly illustrated, clothbound Criterion box set is loaded with extras, including a 4K UHD disc of the movie and a Blu-Ray copy that contains a plethora of yummy special features. The audio commentary features Reiner, Goldman (recorded before his 2018 death), producer Andrew Scheinman, Billy Crystal (Miracle Max himself) and Peter Falk (the kindly granddad whose bedtime story bookends the film); featurettes about the screenplay and Goldman's tapestry based on his novel, as well as tutorials on makeup, fencing and, yes, fairy tales; an edited audiobook reading of the book by Reiner; interviews with Reiner, Goldman, Crystal, Robin Wright (Princess Buttercup), Cary Elwes (Westley), Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya), Chris Sarandon (Prince Humperdinck), Christopher Guest (Humperdinck's nefarious henchman), Fred Savage (Falk's grandson, and the lucky recipient of the fairy tale that comprises the movie) and art director Richard Holland; an on-set video diary filmed and narrated by Elwes; five behind-the-scenes videos with commentaries by Reiner, Scheinman and Crystal; author Sloane Crosley's essay about the film; and Goldman's introduction to his "Bride" script, excerpted from his "Four Screenplays" collection. (A.)  

PRISCILLA--Think of writer/director Sofia ("Lost in Translation," "The Virgin Suicides") Coppola's exquisite Priscilla Presley biopic as the "B" side to Baz Luhrmann's Oscar-nominated 2022 blockbuster, "Elvis." Based on Priscilla's 1985 memoir "Elvis and Me," it's also the superior film. Opening in 1959 when the 14-year-old Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny in a career-launching performance) first meets 24-year-old Elvis (Jacob Elordi from HBO's "Eophoria") at a West German Air Force base. Against the wishes of her parents, Priscilla is whisked back to the states where she becomes the pop star's child bride. Coppola infuses the movie with the same swoony, dreamlike quality she brought to her remarkable 2000 debut, "The Virgin Suicides." And virtuoso cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd--who also shot Coppola's "The Beguiled" and "On the Rocks"--finds the perfect mix of light and darkness for this true-life fairy tale. The second half of the film, centering on Priscilla's emancipation from the cosseted, dollhouse-like existence she was imprisoned in, is ineffably moving. (A.)

THE RED BALLOON AND OTHER STORIES--I first saw "The Red Balloon," Albert Lamorisse's Oscar-winning 1956 short, at my Catholic elementary school. While Sister Bertha never adequately explained why she chose to show the film, my second grade class was suitably enthralled. The fable-like tale of a young boy (Lamorisse's adorable son, Pascal) being pursued by, yes, a red balloon would remain a talisman of my youth. The 34-minute masterpiece even inspired a wildly popular Chef Boyardee commercial that was a fixture on network TV back in the '60s. In this new Criterion Collection Blu-Ray box set, "Balloon" is coupled with four other Lamorisse films: shorts "Bim, the Little Donkey" (1951) and "White Mane" (1953), and the medium-length features "Stowaway in the Sky" (1960) and "Circus Angel" (1965). It's one of the most delightful--and long overdue for Lamorisse fans like me--home video releases of the year. And unlike most Criterion releases, it's eminently suitable for family viewing. 

Lamorisse (who died while shooting a documentary in Teheran in 1970) began his career as a photographer before turning to filmmaking in the late '40s, specializing in the fantasy world of children. All of his works were marked by a distinctly poetic quality, most redolent in the exquisitely realized "Red Balloon." 

"Bim, the Little Donkey" is the story of two boys who put class differences aside (one is rich; the other poor) to rescue the titular donkey from some dastardly thieves. Shot on the Tunisian island of Djerba, it features enchanting, fairy tale-like narration by the celebrated French author Jacques Prevert.

The magical bond between children and animals also figures prominently in "White Mane" where an untamed stallion forms an allegiance with a pre-pubescent lad (Alain Emery). Like "Balloon," it won the Grand Prix for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival.   

Another boy-and-his-balloon story, "Stowaway in the Sky," once again stars Pascal Lamorisse, this time as a stowaway on his inventor granddad's new hot-air balloon which he pilots across France. Lamorisse created an aerial photography technique (Helivision) specifically for this movie, and it pays huge dividends in the frequently breathtaking shots of castles, the Mediterranean Sea, cathedrals and the Alps.

In "Circus Angel," Lamorisse's last completed film, a young man (Philippe Avron) dons a pair of wings for his flying circus act. Things get a little complicated, however, when he's mistaken for an angel by gullible locals while traveling in the French countryside. 

"Balloon" and "Mane" are both presented in 4K digital restorations while "Bim," "Stowaway" and "Circus" are 2K restorations. Extras include an English-language version of "Bim;" a new interview with Pascal Lamorisse; the 2008 documentary, "My Father Was a Red Balloon," with Pascal and his daughter; Lamorisse's 1957 and 1959 French TV interviews; English narrations for "Mane" and "Stowaway" by, respectively, Peter Strauss and Jack Lemmon; an English-dubbed soundtrack of "Circus;" and a warmly appreciative essay about Lamorisse's ouevre by critic/filmmaker David Cairns. (A.) 

SALTBURN--Invited to spend summer break at the 12th century country estate--the titular "Saltburn"--of Felix (Jacob Elordi), the Oxford classmate he's secretly been crushing on, scholarship nerd Oliver (Barry Keoghan of "The Banshees of Inisherin") feels like Roald Dahl's Charlie after winning one of Willy Wonka's Golden tickets. Newly ensconced in Saltburn's cloistered world of old money and social privilege, Oliver undergoes a startling metamorphosis. As Felix's eccentric-bordering-on-bonkers parents, Richard E. Grant and Rosamund Pike win the lion's share of chuckles in writer/director Emerald Fennell's well-nigh irresistible follow-up to her Oscar-winning "Promising Young Woman," but they're the kind of laughs that stick in your throat. Everything climaxes at a nocturnal midsummer party where Fennell really goes for broke. (Prepare to drop your popcorn bag.) It's not a movie for everyone; the tonal shifts could give you whiplash if you're not on Fennell's polymorphously perverse wavelength. Yet film buffs who revere Joseph Losey's Harold Pinter collaborations ("The Servant," "Accident," "The Go-Between") and Peter Greenaway's meticulously curated provocations ("The Draughtsman's Contract," "A Zed and Two Naughts," et al) will think they've died and gone to cineaste heaven. (A.)   

SILENT NIGHT--After watching his son die in a Christmas Eve drive-by, Brian (Joel Kinnaman) begins a grueling training regime to prepare for a scorched earth style revenge against the gang members responsible. Hong Kong genre virtuoso John ("Hard Boiled," "Face/Off") Woo's first Hollywood film since 2003's disappointing "Paycheck" is basically streamlined nihilism and pretty darn effective. The movie's central gimmick of being almost entirely dialogue-free--after being shot in the throat, Brian lost his voice--works better than it (no pun intended) sounds, and Woo hasn't lost his knack for staging elaborately choreographed action setpieces. It's not classic Woo, but it'll suffice. (B.)  

THANKSGIVING--2007's "Grindhouse" featured Eli Roth's faux trailer for a holiday-themed slasher movie called "Thanksgiving." It only took 16 years, but the "Hostel"/"Cabin Fever" auteur has finally delivered on the promise--or threat, depending upon your tolerance for extreme gore--of that wink-wink, nudge-nudge coming attraction. A Black Friday tragedy at a Plymouth, Massachusetts Big Box store inspires psycho "John Carver" to go a-hunting for something other than a turkey dinner. Sheriff Patrick Dempsey (a long way from McDreamy Land) tries to stop the masked madman before he kills...and kills again. If you like slasher movies with tongue firmly in cheek, this could become a future holiday staple in your household. (B MINUS.)

VIDEODROME--While searching for even more intense programing for his cable channel that specializes in soft and hardcore porn, Max Renn (James Woods) discovers underground shingle Videodrome which secretly broadcasts non-stop (and seemingly real) torture, mutilation and murder. Although Max's initial interest is finding some outre low-budget programming to keep his subscribers pacified, he gradually finds himself obsessed with the transgressive, hallucinatory 'drome imagery. Gradually his concepts of illusion and reality become unmoored, and Max starts ranting about "The New Flesh" where the inanimate, animate and organic queasily merge. Determined to uncover the secrets of the outlaw channel, he begins a search for the station's mastermind, the creepily monickered Dr. Brian Oblivion. Woods is deliciously slimy (never more so than when his stomach opens up and swallows a gun, a video cassette and a hand), and as his masochistic sometime lover and Videodrome junkie, Blondie lead singer Deborah Harry practically sets the screen ablaze with her feverish intensity. Canadian body horror meister David Cronenberg's heady provocation left audiences cold and/or repulsed in early 1983 (mainstream critics weren't much kinder). But along with Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy"--another major studio release from that year that alienated everyone outside of cinephile circles--it's become one of the key cult films of its era, and is now justly lauded for Cronenberg's eerie sociological prescience. The new Criterion Collection set includes a Blu-Ray disc and a 4K UHD copy (approved by Cronenberg himself), as well as numerous salient extras. Among them are two separate audio commentary tracks, one featuring Cronenberg and cinematographer Mark Irwin, the other with Woods and Harry; Cronenberg's 2000 short film,"Camera;" an audio interview with makeup effects creator Rick Baker and video effects supervisor Michael Lennick; a short documentary by Lennick about the movie's video and prosthetic effects; an unedited version of the film-within-a-film's "Samurai Dreams" with Cronenberg's commentary; a 1982 roundtable discussion with Cronenberg, John Carpenter, John Landis and Mick Garris; original theatrical trailers and promotional featurette; and essays by Carrie Rickey, Gary Indiana and Tim Lucas. (A.)   

---Milan Paurich 

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content