The Killing of a Sacred Deer

A new review from the pen of The Movie Snob.

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.

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The Beguiled

New review from The Movie Snob.

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.

Lion

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Lion  (B).  Based on a true story!  In 1987, a little boy in a crowded Calcutta orphanage has the amazing good fortunate to be adopted by a warm, loving Australian couple.  Twenty years later, Saroo seems to be doing great–he’s studying for a career, and he has a bunch of good friends and a sweet girlfriend.  But there’s a worm in the apple: Saroo is not an orphan, and he knows it.  He had a mother, brother, and sister in a remote Indian village, but through a chance misfortune he got locked in a train car that took him to Calcutta—1600km away.  He didn’t speak the language spoken there, and he didn’t know his own mother’s name or, apparently, the correct name of their village.  So he ended up in the orphanage.  But now, all these years later, there’s a little something called Google Earth™ that might hold the key to finding his long-lost family.  This is a pretty good movie, but I’m not sure it deserves all the Oscar© hoopla it has gotten.  I can buy the best supporting actress nomination for Nicole Kidman (Paddington) as the long-suffering adoptive mom.  But I don’t see best picture, or even the best supporting actor nod for Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) as the grown-up Saroo.  Rooney Mara (Side Effects) has virtually nothing to do as the girlfriend.  The kid who plays young Saroo is pretty amazing, though.

Genius

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Genius  (B).  This movie isn’t doing too well with the critics (current score of 56 over at metacritic.com) but I think they are somehow overlooking the fact that Nicole Kidman (Dead Calm) is in the movie.  Just kidding!  Anyhoo, perhaps my low expectations led me to enjoy it more than I otherwise would have.  It’s a biopic about editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth, The King’s Speech) and novelist Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow).  Back around the year 1929, Wolfe was a manic would-be writer out of North Carolina with a married mistress (played by Kidman), and Perkins was a buttoned-down family man with five daughters.  The movie basically just tells the story of their sometimes-difficult relationship as Perkins shaped Wolfe’s thousands of pages into manageable novels that met mainstream and critical success.  Other authors that Perkins edited also pop up, like a washed-up F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce, Memento) and a macho Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West, 300).  And the always-welcome Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes) has a small part as Mrs. Perkins.  I thought it wasn’t a bad movie.  It may have helped that I had actually read one of Wolfe’s novels, Look Homeward, Angel; you can read my review here and see if it sounds like your cup of tea.

Strangerland

New review from The Movie Snob.

Strangerland  (D+).  The beautiful and talented Nicole Kidman (The Others) returns to her roots Down Under for this unsuccessful tale of suspense and family dysfunction.  Katherine (Kidman) and Matthew Parker (Joseph Fiennes, Shakespeare in Love) have moved their 15-year-old daughter Lily and their somewhat younger son Tom to a tiny god-forsaken town in the middle of nowhere Australia.  Tom is miserable, and Lolitaesque Lily is plainly way too fond of the skeezy older boys at the makeshift skatepark outside of town.  Then the two kids go missing just before a wicked duststorm shuts the place down.  The local lawman Rae (Hugo Weaving, The Matrix) is in way over his head as he tries to coordinate post-storm search efforts, figure out what the parents are hiding, ignore the fact that his girlfriend’s brother may have been involved in Lily’s disappearance, and control his attraction to the not-quite-all-there Katherine.  Kidman throws herself into her crazy role with abandon, kind of like she did in The Paperboy, but she unbalances the picture and blows Fiennes off the screen whenever they have a scene together.  The film is 112 minutes, but it feels WAY longer.  Skip it.

Paddington

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Paddington  (B-).  This family-friendly movie about a marmalade-loving bear has gotten strong reviews, but I thought it was only slightly better than passable.  Paddington is a talking bear who travels from darkest Peru to modern London in search of a new home.  Strangely, Londoners are completely unfazed by the presence of a bear in their midst—or by the fact that he can talk.  Alone and friendless, Paddington is taken in temporarily by a kindly family headed by Henry (Hugh Bonneville, TV’s Downton Abbey) and Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins, Never Let Me Go).  A wicked taxidermist played by the beautiful and talented Nicole Kidman (Trespass) is hot on Paddington’s trail, although it is beyond bizarre that a talking bear would be more valuable stuffed than alive.  I guess kids would like it, and this has to be Nicole’s highest grossing movie (about $76 million to date) in a very long time.