‘Bones and All’ is the Cannibal Love Story We Could Never Have Prepared For

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“Send us your bones!” (CREDIT: Yannis Drakoulidis/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures
© 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Starring: Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Mark Rylance, André Holland, Michael Stuhlbarg, Chloë Sevigny, David Gordon Green

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Running Time: 130 Minutes

Rating: R for Bloody Chomping and Some Horny Cannibals

Release Date: November 18, 2022 (Limited)/November 23, 2022 (Expands Nationwide)

What’s It About?: If you only knew the poster and the title of Bones and All, you’d probably think it’s some overflowingly passionate romance. You know, the sort of thing where the main characters scream, “I love you! With every fiber of my being! BONES AND ALL!” Director Luca Guadagnino and one of his stars, Timothée Chalamet, certainly have memorable experience in the genre, what with 2017’s Call Me by Your Name. And in fact, it basically is that movie, except that the main characters have an unquenchable hunger to literally consume their fellow human beings.

What Made an Impression?: When Mark Rylance shows up, hoo boy, there’s no turning back. He’s a veteran “Eater” who arrives to provide some guidance to Maren (Taylor Russell), who upon turning 18 has been abandoned by her father (André Holland), who has decided that everyone will be safer if she’s on her own. With an inscrutable accent and an outfit that screams “arts and crafts cannibal hobbyist,” Rylance’s Sully is an unforgettable presence who is sure to make you confused about what type of movie you’re watching. Is it campy comedy, quirky indie whatchamacallit, or disturbing-to-the-nth-degree psychological horror? At first, Sully seems kind of charming, but then he’s totally a villain. This is the kind of movie that you have to sit with for a while to fully digest it, as it’s kind of inventing its whole deal as it goes along.

Now, you may be wondering: will I, or should I, root for the central love story? Maren and Lee (Chalamet) both seem like decent people, who just have the rare (mis)fortune of being bound by an unusually violent biological impulse. They do their best to not be too destructive about it and to live as normally human as possible when they can. But it’s more or less impossible to be 100% perfect in their efforts. I found myself on their sides, as much as I could be. A big reason for that was because I just wanted to see where this was going. Bones and All has a similar vibe of social alienation as most vampire tales, but with a taste that I’ve never quite experienced before. Simply put, I’ve never before gone bones and all the way myself, and now that I have, I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it, but I do kind of want to try it again.

Bones and All is Recommended If You Like: The Vampire Diaries, Road Trips, Allowing yourself to be disarmed

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Bites

Watch Out!* Here Comes ‘The Phantom of the Open’! (*I Should’ve Said ‘Fore,’ Obviously)

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The Phantom of the Open (CREDIT: Sony Pictures Classics/Screenshot)

Starring: Mark Rylance, Sally Hawkins, Rhys Ifans, Jake Davies, Christian Lees, Jonah Lees

Director: Craig Roberts

Running Time: 102 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: June 3, 2022 (Theaters)

Twice while watching The Phantom of the Open I violently kicked my leg forward as a reflexive response to some frightening golf shots. Luckily nobody was sitting in front of me, and the theater had been recently renovated so the seat had no trouble surviving the impact. On the first occasion, Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance) missed a close putt (and then three more immediately afterwards!), and in the second case, his ball hard-sliced right into a camera lens. Those are the kinds of moments you expect in a biopic about a guy who somehow managed to play in the oldest golf tournament in the world despite having basically zero previous golf experience! But you don’t necessarily expect those moments to be thrilling and so satisfying. And yet that’s what they were, as they helped to peel away the suffocation of the game’s exclusivity and assured us that it would all end up okay.

Grade: 100 Bogeys out of One Birdie (Attempt)

‘The Outfit’ is the Latest Evidence That Mark Rylance is Always a Cut Above

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The Outfit (CREDIT: Nick Wall/Focus Features)

Starring: Mark Rylance, Zoey Deutch, Dylan O’Brien, Johnny Flynn, Simon Russell Beale, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Alan Mehdizadeh

Director: Graham Moore

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: R for Turf Warfare and Mid-Century Profanity

Release Date: March 18, 2022 (Theaters)

Before watching The Outfit, I had no idea what the difference between a tailor and a cutter was. Actually, scratch that: before watching The Outfit, I had no idea that “cutter” was even the name of a profession. But now that a character played by Mark Rylance has told me what’s what, I won’t soon forget it. Basically, the gist is that whereas a tailor typically focuses on one particular article of clothing, a cutter can make adjustments to the entire ensemble. So that’s my biggest takeaway from this movie, and for that I’m quite grateful!

Rylance takes on the role of Leonard, a post-World War II transplant from London’s Savile Row who’s running a steady business in Chicago when we meet him. He left his bombed-out hometown to escape violence, but now he finds himself smack dab in the epicenter of gangster warfare. That’s right, the title of this flick refers to “outfit” in both senses of the term!

With that setup, this is more or less a how-to guide for how to survive amidst violence when you don’t have any interest in being loyal to either side. Leonard and his trusty assistant Mable (Zoey Deutch) both have the requisite amount of craftiness and self-reliance to keep themselves out of harm’s way just enough. By the time the credits are about to roll, there’s a very high probability that you’ll find yourself shouting, “That son of a gun was in control the whole time!” And hey, if you want somebody acting as a smooth operator in the middle of chaos, Mark Rylance is your guy!

Director Graham Moore (who also co-wrote the script with Johnathan McClain) keeps the action confined entirely to Leonard’s shop. You might call that a stagey decision (and honestly I’m surprised that this wasn’t based on a play), but the claustrophobia it conveys sure feels right. Besides, cinematographer Dick Pope always knows exactly where to direct our attention. And that tight confinement also makes it feel like we’re getting to know everyone better than we would have otherwise, which is especially appreciated when the cast includes the likes of Johnny Flynn and Teen Wolf vet Dylan O’Brien as the gangsters, which leads me to ponder, “Damn, these guys are now old enough to play career criminals?” Overall, it’s a nifty little construction, with every cut exactly where it’s meant to be.

The Outfit is Recommended If You Like: Crisp diction, secret pockets, acting showcases

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Cutters

‘Don’t’ Look Up’ Might Make You Scream, Except That Its Characters Are Doing Enough of That Already

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Don’t Look Up (CREDIT: Niko Tavernise/Netflix)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Mark Rylance, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Scott Mescudi, Himesh Patel, Melanie Lynskey, Michael Chiklis

Director: Adam McKay

Running Time: 138 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: December 10, 2021 (Theaters)/December 24, 2021 (Netflix)

Timothée Chalamet should have been in all of Don’t Look Up.

Or at least like 75% of it. I’m thinking the ideal situation would be that he’s a main character, but he’s barely in the trailer, if at all. So when he shows up, you think he’ll hang around for just a few scenes, but instead he gradually just takes over the whole affair. A miniature version of that is what actually happens in the Don’t Look Up that we did get, as he shows up about 2/3 of the way through and plays a fairly large part from that point forward.

What I’m trying to say is, instead of recreating the broad reality of people yelling at clear and present disaster, Don’t Look Up probably would’ve been better off primarily focusing on the peculiarities of random skater boys rolling through the apocalypse.

Grade: Look Up About Half the Time

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Ready Player One’ Wrings Some Beauty and Profundity Out of Empty Calorie Storytelling

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CREDIT: Warner Bros.

This review was originally published on News Cult in March 2018.

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, Mark Rylance, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg

Director: Steven Spielberg

Running Time: 140 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Explosions (Both VR and Real Life), Threats of Gun Violence, Partial Referential Nudity, and PG-13’s One Free F-Bomb

Release Date: March 29, 2018

The premise of Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One is basically nerd wish fulfillment writ large: in a dystopian future, a gamer completes a series of puzzles based on pop culture touchstones in a massive virtual reality simulation for the prize of a billionaire’s inheritance. As it plays out, though, (in both the book and Steven Spielberg’s adaptation) it is more of a Robin Hood fantasy, with the winnings serving as the golden ticket to end income inequality. The improbability and the wish fulfillment are all well and good, but they do mean that everything wraps up a little too perfectly, so satisfaction must be found in the details and the execution. Spielberg has remained a proficient craftsman his entire career, so even though Ready Player One’s separation between right and wrong might be a little too stark, it still pulls off some genuine wonder.

The film keeps the same basic outline at the novel, save for switching out some of the homages, both because Spielberg wanted to limit references to his own past work and presumably because of rights issues. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) spends most of his time as his avatar Parzival in the VR world known as the OASIS, partly because his real life is situated in a ugly heap of metal, literally, as his home, like many in 2045, exists within one of many trailers stacked on top of each other. He hangs out with his crew of fellow gamers, whom he only knows virtually, which frankly isn’t all that different than how it is for some folks already in 2018. Wade of course falls in love with Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), a bit of a legend in the OASIS, who feels like she is specifically engineered to be the perfect girl for him, which is a bit of a pain, but at least Sheridan and Cooke keep it charming.

This crew’s quest finds them at odds with Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), the brazenly stereotypical asshole CEO of a global conglomerate who employs an army of corporate drones to win the inheritance because he wants to turn the second biggest company in the world into the biggest company in the world, and he’s not averse to killing to get his way. He is plenty scary, but RPO could have benefited greatly from actually exploring what makes him tick.

It is appreciated that Wade is not a chosen one archetype so typical of the genre. The reason he succeeds is because he puts in the relentless work to understand the parameters and intricacies of the journey. That we get to see his process makes his racing a DeLorean around King Kong actually thrilling instead of just a prompt for ticking boxes off the reference checklist.

It is well worth noting that while the references draw from decades of pop culture, they are primarily based around the touchstones of the 1980s. That decade was partly defined by Spielberg, and it consisted of Cline’s formative years, but they are very much not the formative years of RPO’s main characters, nor much of the target audience. But within the narrative, they are the formative years for James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the OASIS co-creator who designed the game and bequeathed his fortune. Thus, the hours of study that Wade and his crew put in resonate in the way of culture being a way in to understand one’s fellow human beings.

With wizardly blond locks and profound diffidence, Rylance plays Halliday a lot like Garth Algar, but if Dana Carvey had envisioned the Aurora metalhead as the greatest tragic figure of all time. Ready Player One works best as an exploration into this one man’s psyche. His social awkwardness goes beyond any simple diagnosis, and Rylance does not shy away from the discomfort. Creating an all-encompassing VR world may be a bit of an overcorrection to his loneliness, but it is heartwarming that Halliday finds a way to make a genuine connection with the world, though it is more than a tad bittersweet how he accomplishes it.

Bottom line: with so much of Ready Player One rendered as virtual reality, it is frequently an off-putting eyesore. But it has moments of beauty, like Parzival and Art3mis’ free-floating dance; as well as strokes of demented remix genius, as when zombies overrun a rendering of Kubrick’s The Shining. Weirdly enough, the references actually end up having more soul and thoughtfulness than the characters (with the exception of Halliday).

Ready Player One is Recommended If You Like: Heavy referentiality whether justified or shameless, Mark Rylance getting deep into character work, The dance scene from WALL·E

Grade: 3 out of 5 Omnidirectional Treadmills

This Is a Movie Review: Only Christopher Nolan Could Make a War Movie as Intricately Crafted as ‘Dunkirk’

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in July 2017.

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, James D’Arcy, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan

Director: Christopher Nolan

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for All the Moments That Make You Duck and Cover

Release Date: July 21, 2017

Christopher Nolan has established his reputation as filmmaker by tweaking the genre formulas of noir, superheroes, and mindbenders, inventing new dialects within pre-existing cinematic language. A war movie would not seem like the most obvious next logical step for him, as it would not seem to invite such inventiveness. But Nolan does indeed apply his puzzle-box approach to Dunkirk, and the end result makes perfect sense. The rescue of hundreds of soldiers after a massive military defeat is an attempt to impose order on a fundamentally chaotic situation, and accordingly, what Dunkirk accomplishes is a union of control and constant unease.

Nolan’s method of choice for dramatizing the 1940 World War II evacuation from the titular French beaches is ingenious, but it could have just as easily been a folly in less steady hands. There are three intercut portions: taking place over a week, the boys on the shore waiting to be rescued; taking place over a day, a mariner navigating his fishing vessel across the English Channel to provide support; and taking place over an hour, Air Force pilots clearing the skies to make the rescue easier. The order of events is accordingly difficult to keep track of, and ultimately beside the point. Dunkirk is about the overwhelming experience, as it asks the audience to simultaneously intuit both sustained and short-burst tension.

While the acting is uniformly solid, no single character makes much of an impression, unless you count the music as a character. The dialogue is perpetually difficult to parse: the accents are thicker than your average Brit, the constant dusk and frequent profile shots make it hard to lip read, Tom Hardy wears a mask. But it is Hans Zimmer’s relentlessly thrumming score that gets most in the way. A constant tick-tick-tick is the new BWAHHH. According to Christopher Nolan’s analysis of war, the fight to defend ideals is often cacophonous and rarely allows for relief.

Dunkirk is Recommended If You Like: Saving Private Ryan crossed with Inception, Their Finest

Grade: 4 out of 5 Open-Faced PB&J Sandwiches

This Is a (Quickie) Movie Review: Bridge of Spies

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Bridge-of-Spies

Bridge of Spies sneaks up on you. The 20th century conflict between the Americans and the Soviets was not just cold, it was also dry. Accordingly, Bridge of Spies is mostly procedural. Discussions of due process are elucidated, and negotiations are often portrayed as merely functional. This approach is boosted with impassioned integrity and deadpan existentialism (the best running gag is Mark Rylance as Soviet spy Rudolf Abel asking “Would it help?” when told he never worries). Then, the movie brings out its finishing move, throwing down with the scale of all that negotiator James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) achieves, through the power of patience and keeping the faith.