The Killing of a Sacred Deer (D). OK, this art-house flick had a couple of things going for it. Number one, it was directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, who directed the surpassing weird 2016 flick The Lobster. And really number one, it stars the luminous Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge!). Unfortunately, the movie left me cold. Colin Farrell (who was in The Lobster and recently appeared with Kidman in The Beguiled) plays Steven Murphy, a successful heart surgeon who is married to a successful eye doctor (Kidman) and has a beautiful house and two nice kids. But as in The Lobster, everything is just a shade off; everyone is stiff, and every conversation is stilted. And Steven has a mysterious relationship with an odd sixteen-year-old boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan, Dunkirk), who imposes himself on Steven more and more as time passes. I can say no more without committing spoilers, but suffice to say there are elements of suspense, horror, and black humor that get ratcheted up the deeper into the movie we go. The performances are good (accepting that the director wanted his actors to act like strange, semi-anesthetized human beings), and none other than good old Alicia Silverstone (Clueless) pops up as Martin’s mom. But at two hours the weirdness went on a little too long for my taste, and I didn’t think the ending was great.
The Beguiled (B-). Director Sofia Coppola is back with another quiet, moody little flick (see, e.g., Lost in Translation, Somewhere). The divine Nicole Kidman (Dead Calm) stars as Miss Martha, the headmistress of a girls’ boarding school in 1864 Virginia. (For all my Millennial readers out there, 1864 was during the Civil War.) Most of her students are gone, but a few are still stranded there, along with one lonely teacher, Miss Edwina (Kirsten Dunst, Wimbledon). The ladies are getting by, but everything changes when one of the younger students goes out to gather mushrooms and returns with Corporal McBurney, a handsome Union soldier (Colin Farrell, The Lobster) with a nasty leg wound. The ladies’ fascination with the Irishman easily overrides their initial impulse to alert the Confederate authorities, and soon they are all vying for his attention—especially the oldest student, Alicia (Elle Fanning, Super 8). And McBurney quickly figures out the school could be a nice refuge from the rest of the war if he plays his cards right. But can he manage the ladies’ rivalries and his own building passion?
The movie held my interest, thanks mainly to nice performances from all involved—even the younger actresses get a few scenes in which to shine. But the plot is rather slight, there are maybe a few too many languid shots of the stately plantation house and the surrounding forest, and I wasn’t convinced by one of the character’s behavior at the end. Still, it was nice to see the luminous Ms. Kidman in a movie that wasn’t terrible. And at 93 minutes, the movie doesn’t overstay its welcome. Finally, I learned in some long ago trivia game that Elvis Presley’s hit song “Love Me Tender” is written to the melody of a Civil War era song called “Aura Lee.” I had never heard “Aura Lee” before, but I’ll be danged if one of the characters in this movie doesn’t sing a bit of it. Nice.
The Lobster (C-). This movie has too much critical buzz–and sounded just too weird–for me to miss. It’s an allegory or satire or something about the pressure society puts on people to pair off romantically. In the alternative universe of The Lobster, everyone has to pair off. If your partner leaves you for another person, you get shipped off to a hotel where you can mingle with loads of other single people. And if you don’t find a partner within 45 days, you get turned into the animal of your choice and set free. Remember, I said it was weird. Anyhoo, Colin Ferrell (Total Recall) is our guide to this insane asylum. He lands in the hotel at the very beginning of the movie, where he sort-of befriends a guy with a limp (Ben Whishaw, Spectre) and a guy with a lisp (John C. Reilly, Chicago). Some hotel residents desperately want to find someone, while others seem more or less resigned to their fate. Oh, and there’s a band of “Loners” (including Léa Seydoux, Spectre, and Rachel Weisz, Agora) running around out in the woods around the hotel–defiantly (and illegally) single people who have their own weird code of conduct about relationships. What will Ferrell do? Seek love, join the Loners, or settle for becoming a lobster? It’s all very weird and artificial and sort of interesting, but I really can’t say I really enjoyed it all that much.
Ondine (C). This Irish movie is about a fisherman named Syracuse (Colin Farrell, Crazy Heart). He’s a sad sort of guy — he’s a recovered alcoholic, his marriage is busted up, and his precious little girl Annie is in a wheelchair and has serious kidney disease. But his luck seems to change when his fishing net pulls in a seriously waterlogged woman with a strange accent. She calls herself Ondine and at first begs Syracuse not to let anybody else see her. He lets her stay as the seaside cottage his ma used to live in, but Annie sniffs out his secret soon enough and becomes convinced that Ondine is really a selkie — a sort of water fairy that can change shape from a seal to a human, or something like that. Is she really? And if so, will her selkie husband come try to take her away from Syracuse and Annie? I can go along with this kind of fairy-tale stuff, but as my grade shows this movie didn’t really work for me. I will add that I thought Ondine was only moderately pretty, but she has a great figure, and the director doesn’t neglect to show it off….
Crazy Heart (B-). Jeff Bridges (Starman) stars in the Oscar-bait role of Bad Blake, a washed-up country singer-songwriter who supports his alcoholism by playing tiny concerts in bowling alleys and bars across the Southwest. During his travels, he meets the proverbial Good Woman — a reporter and single mother named Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Dark Knight), who interviews him for a local newspaper. We also encounter the Young Upstart (Colin Farrell, Minority Report) and the Sage Old-Timer (Robert Duvall, Tender Mercies) as Bad begins a tentative quest for redemption. It’s not a bad movie, and Bridges is probably not capable of a bad performance, but it’s all so familiar and predictable it’s hard to get too excited about it.
FINALLY, a mainstream movie that is rated R, instead of PG-13. Michael Mann did not hold back creating a movie version of his famous 80s television show. Like the television show, the movie takes you on a ride, and it is one that does not stop. It is less flashy than the television show, but violence, nudity, and coolness are everywhere. Mann (Heat and Collateral) wrote and directed the movie, and no one is better at shootouts and car chases. In damn good casting, Colin Farrell (The Killing of a Sacred Deer) and Jamie Foxx (Baby Driver) replace Don Johnson and Phillip Michael Thomas as James “Sonny” Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs. They have the clothes, cars, boats, guns and, of course, the women. The script is very simple with little dialogue and only a plot twist or two. Farrell and Foxx are two undercover cops trying to bust Cuban and Colombian drug dealers. The rest of the cast is very solid. If you liked the television show — and who didn’t? — you will enjoy the ride.
Bleacher Bum Review Scale: