Luckily for film lovers, it’s a four day weekend. Skip the madness of holiday sales and use the time off to catch up on filmgoing. This is a time of year where the some of the best movies make their way from the festival circuit into wide release, vying for awards, affections, and a place on your year-end lists.
- Knives Out (2019 | USA | 130 minutes | Rian Johnson)
Chris was absolutely right when he called the latest from Rian Johnson “the most fun you can spend with a terrible family this holiday season“. At least the second “rich family behaving terribly to an outsider in a giant old mansion” movie of the year (It would make a nice comeuppance of the wealthy double feature with the gorier, campier, better-than-it-had-any-right-to-be Ready Or Not), it’s hard to imagine a better way to spend those postprandial hours fighting off the ol’ tryptophan. It moves along at a perfect clip, sets up a solvable mystery, and has a bunch of big stars having a great time hamming it up on a fantastically decorated set. That it skewers the wealthy while doing so is just gravy. ☆☆☆☆½ (wide release)
- Waves (2019 | USA | 135 minutes | Trey Edward Shults)
With hyperkinetic camerawork, vibrant colors, and heart-wrenching performances, Trey Edward Shultz follows a well-off high-pressure family breathlessly into a crisis and then, in what almost feels like a different movie, through the slow unsteady bloom of catharsis. Sterling K. Brown swings for a best supporting actor nomination as the patriarch; Taylor Russell and Calvin Harrison Jr. make a splash as the kids, and the soundtrack is practically a co-star. A very special movie that’s a tough, but moving hang. ☆☆☆½ (Egyptian)
- Dark Waters (2019 | USA | 126 minutes | Todd Haynes)
I’ve read that this was largely a passion project for Mark Ruffalo and you can see how its themes fit into his ongoing environmental activism. I am, however, surprised that they decided to open it on such a crowded weekend when a dour look at a major legal case could be a tough sell to holiday moviegoers. Nevertheless, he and Todd Haynes do some good work bringing the real life story of corporate attorney Rob Bilott and his all-consuming lawsuit against Dow Chemicals to the screen. [review] It’ll be good counter-programming for those looking for seriousness and outrage, as if there isn’t enough of that to go around. (Regal Meridian, Thornton Place, wide release).
- Marriage Story (2019 | USA | 136 minutes | Noah Baumbach)
Speaking of tough sells, what’s more fun on a family filled weekend that D-I-V-O-R-C-E? Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver each turn in tremendous and revelatory performances; Laura Dern is ferocious and hilarious; Alan Alda is lovably ramshackle; Ray Liotta takes a break from those Chantix commercials to dispense some real talk. I have sung the praises of Noah Baumbach’s story of an amicable separation slowly mutating into an unstoppable monster at every opportunity, so there’s little else to say beyond letting you know that you can now see it in a theater and have your heart broken with a crowd, provided you’re willing to drive up to the Crest. At least the ticket will be cheap! Otherwise, wait and watch it on Netflix and confine your emotions to the couch. But it’s also funny at times, easily among Baumbach’s warmest works; and there’s something that happens toward the end that is so utterly magical and unexpected that it floored me both times I saw it. ☆☆☆☆☆ (Crest, Netflix December 6)
- Queen & Slim (2019 | 132 minutes | USA | Melina Matsoukas)
Directed by a multiple VMA winner, written by Lena Waithe (who won an Emmy for her work on Master of None), and starring Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya (exceptional in Get Out and Widows, among others), this provocative love-on-the-run road movie set off by police violence is getting great reviews. It’s on my increasingly long list of movies to catch before the end of the year. (wide release)