Previews Reviews

On Screen: A Hidden Life, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, CATS, and Bombshell

Actual footage of everyone racing to multiplexes tonight. (STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, Lucasfilm)

With apologies to Endgame, this is easily the biggest week of the moviegoing year, with a film that’s been anticipated for nearly forty years finally making its way to the screen. Can it possibly satisfy the fans who have been eagerly awaiting the resolution to decades of unanswered questions about … what does it means to be a Jellicle?

Oh, yeah, there is another: J.J. Abrams returns to the helm for Star Wars Episode IX, bringing the trilogy of trilogies that George Lucas started in 1977 to a rocky landing. Spoiler: The dead speak! Kylo Ren rages! And so on and so forth. It’s playing everywhere at every time, including the Cinerama, whose opening weekend shows sold out instantaneously. May the Force be with all of us for the discourse yet to come.

Below, notes on this week’s splashy wide releases, plus a suggestion for something far more contemplative.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019 | USA | 141 minutes | J.J. Abrams)

J. J. Abrams  wraps up forty-two years of space magic with an unfortunate overcorrection to the militant fan reaction to Rian Johnson’s penultimate episode. It’s impossible to deny the film’s many Star Warsian pleasures, but in what feels like an anxiously corporate  attempt to give everyone something to like, Abrams leaves us with nothing to truly love. [full review]

Cats (2019 | USA | 110 minutes |Tom Hooper)

Tom Hooper employs the horrifying powers of “digital fur technology” to bring the fantasy musical about a London clowder of cats convening for an annual talent competition from stage to screen. As expected from the deeply disturbing summer trailers, the results are not good. [full review]

Bombshell (Lionsgate)

Bombshell (2019 | USA | 138 minutes | Jay Roach)

John Lithgow channels the loathsome Roger Ailes; Charlize Theron’s transformation to Megyn Kelly in the thick of an early Trump firestorm is utterly remarkable; Nicole Kidman provides gravitas as spurned host Gretchen Carlson; and Margot Robbie gives a stunning performance as network-climbing ingenue who gets the worst of it. These actors come together in  snappy, star-studded film about how one disgusting guy at Fox News was so much worse than all the other still significantly awful people who work at that snakepit of propaganda and deception. Peddling lies is all fun and games until suddenly it isn’t. (☆☆☆☆)

A Hidden Life by Terrence Malick, a gorgeous look at an ugly time in history.

A Hidden Life (2019 | Germany | 173 minutes | Terrence Malick)

Director Terrence Malick’s career has spanned decades from Badlands with young Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen in 1973, the star studded The Thin Red Line, and now the heart-wrenching, quietly brutal and cinematically gorgeous A Hidden Life. In the last few years Malick has brought beauty to a new cinematic level in the investigation of the human spirit, nature, architecture, and quite simply the world around us. I can’t wait to see A Hidden Life, the true story of an Austrian family man refusing to give in to his countries tyranny and suffers for it, suffers without the thought of anyone but his family knowing of his sacrifice for the sake of human life, of morality, and his own soul. (Morgen Schuler)

When I saw it at Telluride I wrote: “Terrence Malick puts his beloved wide angle lenses and perpetual pastoral admiration to exceptional effect, presenting a deeply resonant and visually engrossing tribute to fortitude and passive resistance to evil.” [full review] (Egyptian, Friday-Sunday; Uptown beginning Dec 24)