Matt writes: It’s immensely poignant that in the same year the Marvel Expanded Universe celebrated its tenth anniversary with the release of its twentieth feature, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (on the heels of “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” no less), superhero maestro Stan Lee passed away at age 95. His death brings a new level of meaning to the aching loss that pervades the finale of “Infinity War,” though Lee got the last laugh with his hilarious cameo in the “Ant-Man” sequel, which brought down the house at the preview screening I attended. In addition to reading Peter Sobczynski’s tribute to Lee, make sure to read Roger Ebert’s four-star review of the film that kicked off the MCU: Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man.” Below is an excerpt of Ebert’s analysis (for the full review, click here)…
“The movie is largely founded on its special effects. When somebody isn’t talking, something is banging, clanging or laying rubber. The armored robotic suits utilized by Tony and Obadiah would upstage lesser actors than Downey and Bridges; it’s surprising how much those two giant iron men seem to reflect the personalities of the men inside them. Everything they do is preposterous, of course, but they seem to be doing it, not the suits. Some of their moments have real grandeur–as when Tony tests his suit to see how high it will fly, and it finally falls back toward earth in a sequence that reminded me of a similar challenge in ‘The Right Stuff.’ The art direction is inspired by the original Marvel artists. The movie doesn’t reproduce the drawings of Jack Kirby and others, but it reproduces their feeling, a vision of out-scale enormity, seamless sleekness, secret laboratories made not of nuts and bolts but of…vistas. A lot of big budget f/x epics seem to abandon their stories with half an hour to go, and just throw effects at the audience. This one has a plot so ingenious it continues to function no matter how loud the impacts, how enormous the explosions.”
They Shall Not Grow Old (2018). Directed by Peter Jackson. Synopsis: A documentary about World War I with never-before-seen footage to commemorate the centennial of the end of the war. Opens in US theaters on December 17th, 2018.
Never Look Away (2018). Written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Starring Tom Schilling, Sebastian Koch, Paula Beer. Synopsis: German artist Kurt Barnert has escaped East Germany and now lives in West Germany, but is tormented by his childhood under the Nazis and the GDR-regime. Opens in US theaters on November 30th, 2018.
Fighting With My Family (2019). Written and directed by Stephen Merchant. Starring Florence Pugh, Dwayne Johnson, Lena Headey. Synopsis: A former wrestler and his family make a living performing at small venues around the country while his kids dream of joining World Wrestling Entertainment. Opens in US theaters on February 14th, 2019.
Gloria Bell (2019). Directed by Sebastián Lelio. Written by Sebastián Lelio and Alice Johnson Boher. Starring Julianne Moore, Alanna Ubach, Jeanne Tripplehorn. Synopsis: A free-spirited woman in her 50s seeks out love at L.A. dance clubs. Opens in US theaters on March 8th, 2019.
Birds of Passage (2019). Directed by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra. Written by Maria Camila Arias and Jacques Toulemonde Vidal. Starring Natalia Reyes, Carmiña Martínez, José Acosta. Synopsis: During the marijuana bonanza, a violent decade that saw the origins of drug trafficking in Colombia, Rapayet and his indigenous family get involved in a war to control the business that ends up destroying their lives and their culture. Opens in US theaters on February 13th, 2019.
Piercing (2018). Written and directed by Nicolas Pesce (based on the novel by Ryû Murakami). Starring Christopher Abbott, Mia Wasikowska, Laia Costa. Synopsis: A man kisses his wife and baby goodbye and seemingly heads away on business, with a plan to check into a hotel, call an escort service, and kill an unsuspecting prostitute. Opens in US theaters on December 7th, 2018.
The Intruder (2019). Directed by Deon Taylor. Written by David Loughery. Starring Dennis Quaid, Meagan Good, Joseph Sikora. Synopsis: A psychological thriller about a young married couple who buys a beautiful Napa Valley house on several acres of land only to find that the man they bought it from refuses to let go of the property. Opens in US theaters on April 26th, 2019.
The Limit (2018). Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez. Starring Michelle Rodriguez, Vin Conzo, Michael L Garcia Jr. Synopsis: Michelle Rodriguez will give life to a genetically enhanced weapon of mass destruction, and set out to destroy the secret agency that created her. US release date is TBA.
The Informer (2019). Directed by Andrea Di Stefano. Written by Andrea Di Stefano, Matt Cook and Rowan Joffe (based on the novel by Börge Hellström and Anders Roslund). Starring Rosamund Pike, Ana de Armas, Joel Kinnaman. Synopsis: An ex-convict working undercover intentionally gets himself incarcerated again in order to infiltrate the mob at a maximum security prison. Opens in US theaters on March 22nd, 2019.
Everybody Knows (2019). Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi. Starring Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Jaime Lorente. Synopsis: Laura, a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires, returns to her hometown outside Madrid with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding. However, the trip is upset by unexpected events that bring secrets into the open. Opens in US theaters on February 8th, 2019.
Backtrace (2018). Directed by Brian A. Miller. Written by Mike Maples. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Ryan Guzman, Matthew Modine. Synopsis: The lone surviving thief of a violent armored car robbery is sprung from a high security facility and administered an experimental drug. Opens in US theaters on December 14th, 2018.
Buffalo Boys (2018). Directed by Mike Wiluan. Written by Mike Wiluan and Raymond Lee. Starring Zack Lee, Sunny Pang, Conan Stevens. Synopsis: Two brothers named Jamar and Suwo came back to the land of Java to avenge their father, who was a Sultan, after years of exile in America. US release date is TBA.
Dumplin’ (2018). Directed by Anne Fletcher. Written by Kristin Hahn (based on the novel by Julie Murphy). Starring Danielle Macdonald, Jennifer Aniston, Odeya Rush. Synopsis: Willowdean (‘Dumplin’), the plus-size teenage daughter of a former beauty queen, signs up for her mom’s Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town. Debuts on Netflix on December 7th, 2018.
The Mercy (2018). Directed by James Marsh. Written by Scott Z. Burns. Starring Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis. Synopsis: The incredible story of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst and his solo attempt to circumnavigate the globe. The struggles he confronted on the journey while his family awaited his return is one of the most enduring mysteries of recent times. Opens in US theaters on November 30th, 2018.
On the Basis of Sex (2018). Directed by Mimi Leder. Written by Daniel Stiepleman. Starring Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Gary Werntz. Synopsis: The story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her struggles for equal rights and what she had to overcome in order to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Opens in US theaters on December 25th, 2018.
Serenity (2019). Written and directed by Steven Knight. Starring Diane Lane, Anne Hathaway, Matthew McConaughey. Synopsis: The mysterious past of a fishing boat captain comes back to haunt him, when his ex-wife tracks him down with a desperate plea for help, ensnaring his life in a new reality that may not be all that it seems. Opens in US theaters on January 25th, 2019.
Replicas (2019). Directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff. Written by Chad St. John. Starring Keanu Reeves, Emily Alyn Lind, Alice Eve. Synopsis: A scientist becomes obsessed with bringing back his family members who died in a traffic accident. Opens in US theaters on January 11th, 2019.
Dumbo (2019). Directed by Tim Burton. Written by Ehren Kruger (based on the novel by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl). Starring Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Colin Farrell. Synopsis: A young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly, helps save a struggling circus, but when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer. Opens in US theaters on March 29th, 2019.
Gillian Flynn on “Widows“
Matt writes: Chicago-based author Gillian Flynn has had an amazing year, from the brilliant HBO adaptation of her debut novel, Sharp Objects, to the script she co-authored for Steve McQueen’s electrifying thriller, “Widows,” which earned four stars from Brian Tallerico. Read Allison Shoemaker’s recent interview with Flynn here.
2018 Indie Memphis Film Festival
Matt writes: Sheila O’Malley recounts her experience of serving on a jury at the 21st Indie Memphis Film Festival earlier this month. She also discusses such highlights as “Mr. Soul!”, “Rukus,” “Shoot the Moon Right Between the Eyes” and more. For her full coverage, click here.
Lady of Burlesque (1943). Directed by William A. Wellman. Written by James Gunn (based on the novel by Gypsy Rose Lee). Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Michael O’Shea, J. Edward Bromberg. Synopsis: After one member of their group is murdered, the performers at a burlesque house must work together to find out who the killer is before they strike again.
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946). Directed by Lewis Milestone. Written by Robert Rossen. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott. Synopsis: A man is reunited with his childhood friend and her husband, who believe he knows the truth about the death of her rich aunt years earlier.
The Omen (1976). Directed by Richard Donner. Written by David Seltzer. Starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Harvey Stephens. Synopsis: Mysterious deaths surround an American ambassador. Could the child that he is raising actually be the Antichrist? The Devil’s own son?