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The best isn’t Silence

New year, new movie releases: Hidden Figures, Train to Busan, and more

Silence: Andrew Garfield ponders the limits of God’s mercy.
Silence: Andrew Garfield ponders the limits of God’s mercy.
Movie

Underworld: Blood Wars

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This is the fifth — the fifth — time Kate Beckinsale has leathered up as Selene, the slinky vampire heroine of her kind’s endless battle with the world’s werewolves. This particular entry in the supernatural saga was released internationally in 2016, the same year Beckinsale played a Jane Austen heroine in <em><a href="/movies/love-friendship/">Love & Friendship</a>.</em> What range! Anna Foerster directs.

Find showtimes

Hmph. Happy New Year, indeed. All y’all out there in movie-pass land had a chance to win tickets via the Reader to see an advance screening of Underworld: Blood Wars. But not us critics. Like Henry Hill at the end of Goodfellas, we have to wait around like everyone else.

Movie

Hidden Figures ***

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NASA’s gone funky when a trio of African-American women (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe), all experts in the field of analytic geometry, prove they have the right stuff needed to crack the elite white boy’s space program. An important historical achievement — and apparently, the space center’s best kept secret — is brought to light in this entertaining, at times thoughtful big screen adaptation. Filmed in the bright, colorful mode of a ’60’s romantic comedy, the film admirably captures the look and feel of the period — and it does so without lecturing or wagging an admonishing finger. Those pondering the meaning of seamless editing need look no further than Peter Teschner’s flair for cutting on action. The exposition is cumbersome at first as co-writer and director Theodore Melfi’s (St. Vincent) script has a habit of repeating itself: two runs to the bathroom were enough to get the point across. Still, a crowd pleaser in the best sense of the term.

Find showtimes

Speaking of Underworld, I recently had occasion to revisit star Kate Beckinsale in Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco. Amazing. Well, maybe not amazing in the “unbelievable” sense; she was back in front of Stillman’s lens for last year’s Love and Friendship, and it’s clear she hasn’t forgotten how to act. Still: five Underworld movies? Small wonder that Goodfellas director Martin Scorsese says cinema is gone.

Movie

Train To Busan <em>(Bu-San-Haeng)</em> ***

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A self-centered fund manager (Yoo Gong) learns what it takes to be a good father during a South Korean zombie outbreak in this terrific, mostly trainbound thriller. It starts, unsurprisingly, with getting over that “self-centered” bit and paying attention: to your kid, to your mom, to your fellow passengers — really, to anything and everything beyond the bottom line. If only all morality tales and class-struggle allegories could be this bloody and moving (in every sense) — just try not to chuckle when the zombie virus animates its first victim (a deer run over by a pig farmer who is having the worst day ever), not to seethe when the bastards start trampling the innocent, not to cringe when the undead claim beloved characters, and not to tear up at the increasingly frequent moments of heroic sacrifice. Director Yeon Sang-ho makes smart use of the cramped quarters, and while it’s true that his zombies’ abilities tend to vary according to the requirements of the moment, it’s easy to overlook amid the onslaught of action and emotion.

Find showtimes

Not that he’s doing much to keep it going, not with his long-delayed passion project Silence, anyway. A young priest’s crisis of faith in the midst of horrific suffering and tangled social circumstances should be catnip for me, but...well, I’ll let Scott’s review suffice. Hmph.

Movie

Cameraperson ***

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At the outset, cinematographer Kirsten Johnson asks us to consider this collection of footage she shot for various documentaries as her memoir, because while only a few actually depict her personal life (as mother to twins and as daughter of an Alzheimer’s sufferer), she says that “these are the images that have marked me and leave me wondering still.” (It is not difficult to see why, but in case you need help, there’s a scene wherein a woman who counsels victims of a mass rape in Serbia wonders, “How do we free ourselves of these stories?”) Johnson’s camera works hard to bear witness to the struggling world — an aspiring boxer, a busy Nigerian midwife, an Alabama single mother seeking an abortion, a Muslim family in the aftermath of ethnic cleansing, and more. But it works almost as hard to find life amid the death and love amid the ruins, to understand what makes the struggle worthwhile. Put briefly, she earns her juxtapositions of wildflowers and barbed wire. By the end, it’s clear that the arrangement of scenes has been thoroughly artful, and that Johnson is quite justified in her initial request.

Find showtimes

What does it say when Scott prefers a period biopic such as Hidden Figures to the master’s latest? (At the very least, maybe it says that he’s not quite the “ignorant, obviously racist...troll” that at least one of Moonlight’s passionate defenders accuses him of being (see the comments). Hmph!)

As for me, I found all my New Year’s cheer at the Digital Gym, first with the genre excellence of the zombie drama Train to Busan, then with the genre-busting innovation of the memoir-in-documentary-film-clips Cameraperson. Score another one for women in cinema. On the wide-release front, A Monster Calls was a hot psychological mess full of good intentions and grim execution. Pretty visuals, though, the monster excepted.

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Silence: Andrew Garfield ponders the limits of God’s mercy.
Silence: Andrew Garfield ponders the limits of God’s mercy.
Movie

Underworld: Blood Wars

thumbnail

This is the fifth — the fifth — time Kate Beckinsale has leathered up as Selene, the slinky vampire heroine of her kind’s endless battle with the world’s werewolves. This particular entry in the supernatural saga was released internationally in 2016, the same year Beckinsale played a Jane Austen heroine in <em><a href="/movies/love-friendship/">Love & Friendship</a>.</em> What range! Anna Foerster directs.

Find showtimes

Hmph. Happy New Year, indeed. All y’all out there in movie-pass land had a chance to win tickets via the Reader to see an advance screening of Underworld: Blood Wars. But not us critics. Like Henry Hill at the end of Goodfellas, we have to wait around like everyone else.

Movie

Hidden Figures ***

thumbnail

NASA’s gone funky when a trio of African-American women (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe), all experts in the field of analytic geometry, prove they have the right stuff needed to crack the elite white boy’s space program. An important historical achievement — and apparently, the space center’s best kept secret — is brought to light in this entertaining, at times thoughtful big screen adaptation. Filmed in the bright, colorful mode of a ’60’s romantic comedy, the film admirably captures the look and feel of the period — and it does so without lecturing or wagging an admonishing finger. Those pondering the meaning of seamless editing need look no further than Peter Teschner’s flair for cutting on action. The exposition is cumbersome at first as co-writer and director Theodore Melfi’s (St. Vincent) script has a habit of repeating itself: two runs to the bathroom were enough to get the point across. Still, a crowd pleaser in the best sense of the term.

Find showtimes

Speaking of Underworld, I recently had occasion to revisit star Kate Beckinsale in Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco. Amazing. Well, maybe not amazing in the “unbelievable” sense; she was back in front of Stillman’s lens for last year’s Love and Friendship, and it’s clear she hasn’t forgotten how to act. Still: five Underworld movies? Small wonder that Goodfellas director Martin Scorsese says cinema is gone.

Movie

Train To Busan <em>(Bu-San-Haeng)</em> ***

thumbnail

A self-centered fund manager (Yoo Gong) learns what it takes to be a good father during a South Korean zombie outbreak in this terrific, mostly trainbound thriller. It starts, unsurprisingly, with getting over that “self-centered” bit and paying attention: to your kid, to your mom, to your fellow passengers — really, to anything and everything beyond the bottom line. If only all morality tales and class-struggle allegories could be this bloody and moving (in every sense) — just try not to chuckle when the zombie virus animates its first victim (a deer run over by a pig farmer who is having the worst day ever), not to seethe when the bastards start trampling the innocent, not to cringe when the undead claim beloved characters, and not to tear up at the increasingly frequent moments of heroic sacrifice. Director Yeon Sang-ho makes smart use of the cramped quarters, and while it’s true that his zombies’ abilities tend to vary according to the requirements of the moment, it’s easy to overlook amid the onslaught of action and emotion.

Find showtimes

Not that he’s doing much to keep it going, not with his long-delayed passion project Silence, anyway. A young priest’s crisis of faith in the midst of horrific suffering and tangled social circumstances should be catnip for me, but...well, I’ll let Scott’s review suffice. Hmph.

Movie

Cameraperson ***

thumbnail

At the outset, cinematographer Kirsten Johnson asks us to consider this collection of footage she shot for various documentaries as her memoir, because while only a few actually depict her personal life (as mother to twins and as daughter of an Alzheimer’s sufferer), she says that “these are the images that have marked me and leave me wondering still.” (It is not difficult to see why, but in case you need help, there’s a scene wherein a woman who counsels victims of a mass rape in Serbia wonders, “How do we free ourselves of these stories?”) Johnson’s camera works hard to bear witness to the struggling world — an aspiring boxer, a busy Nigerian midwife, an Alabama single mother seeking an abortion, a Muslim family in the aftermath of ethnic cleansing, and more. But it works almost as hard to find life amid the death and love amid the ruins, to understand what makes the struggle worthwhile. Put briefly, she earns her juxtapositions of wildflowers and barbed wire. By the end, it’s clear that the arrangement of scenes has been thoroughly artful, and that Johnson is quite justified in her initial request.

Find showtimes

What does it say when Scott prefers a period biopic such as Hidden Figures to the master’s latest? (At the very least, maybe it says that he’s not quite the “ignorant, obviously racist...troll” that at least one of Moonlight’s passionate defenders accuses him of being (see the comments). Hmph!)

As for me, I found all my New Year’s cheer at the Digital Gym, first with the genre excellence of the zombie drama Train to Busan, then with the genre-busting innovation of the memoir-in-documentary-film-clips Cameraperson. Score another one for women in cinema. On the wide-release front, A Monster Calls was a hot psychological mess full of good intentions and grim execution. Pretty visuals, though, the monster excepted.

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