I Saw ‘Mothering Sunday’: Here’s What I Saw

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Mothering Sunday (CREDIT: Sony Pictures Classics/Screenshot)

Starring: Odessa Young, Josh O’Connor, Colin Firth, Olivia Colman, Sope Dirisu, Patsy Ferran, Glenda Jackson

Director: Eva Husson

Running Time: 110 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: March 25, 2022 (Theaters)

For a good stretch of Mothering Sunday, Odessa Young walks around a big English country estate while totally naked. She’s by herself, just exploring the place, luxuriating in her own body. There’s a few moments when it cuts to some other characters and you think she’s about to be discovered, but that’s just misleading editing, because they’re in some other time and/or place. Anyway, it’s the most long-lasting incidental nudity I can ever remember seeing in a movie, and it had me thinking, “Well, I guess she’s comfortable.” Anyway, her character starts out as a maid and eventually becomes a highly acclaimed writer. Not a bad way for a life to turn out. Elsewhere, Colin Firth and Olivia Colman play characters who get very emotional.

Grade: 3 Typewriters out of No Clothes

‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ in the Right Place and the Right Time

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CREDIT: 20th Century Studios/Screenshot

Starring: Jack Dylan Grazer, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Olivia Colman, Rob Delaney, Olivia Colman, Kylie Cantrall, Ricardo Hurtado, Cullen McCarthy, Ava Morse, Marcus Scribner, Thomas Barbusca, Liam Payne, Ruby Wax

Directors: Sarah Smith and Jean-Philippe Vine

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: PG

Release Date: October 22, 2021 (Theaters)

Often when reviewing a movie, I ask, “Do I want to do what the title tells me to do?” And Ron’s Gone Wrong might just be the perfect movie to do that with. Here’s the deal: do I want to go as wrong as Ron? Heck yeah, I do! In fact, I think that’s pretty much the message of the movie. Most of the cool new robot buddies in this flick are basically designed to invade kids’ privacy, but Ron’s code is a little wonky, so he’s more concerned about being a good friend. It takes him a while to get it right, but quite frankly, truly memorable friendship requires a little chaos. Thank you for being a friend, Ron, and for showing us all the way to be wrong.

Grade: 4 Rights out of 5 Wrongs

The Comforting Confusion of ‘The Father’

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The Father (CREDIT: Sony Pictures Classics/YouTube Screenshot)

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss

Director: Florian Zeller

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: February 26, 2021

Whenever I think about The Father, I can’t help but pronounce it the way that Mike Myers does when he encounters Marv Albert in the “Dieter’s Dream” SNL sketch (“Fah-thuh!”, although for some reason I add a “z” i.e., “Fah-zhuh”). Weirdly enough, that’s an apt comparison, as Florian Zeller’s film is pretty much equally surreal as the avant-garde German talk show host’s trip into the subconscious. Apparently, the way to make a movie about dementia exciting instead of a total bummer is to arrange it according to the whims of the dementia-addled mind. It’s rough to see Anthony (Hopkins) losing his sense of reality, but it’s fascinating to be bent back and forth by the facial mismatches and temporal-spatial distortions he’s experiencing. In the absence of a cure, maybe embracing the absurdity is the best way to handle something as disorienting as dementia. At the very least, it worked for this movie.

Grade: 4.0 out of Dec. 31 Missing Watches

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 2/26/21

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Tom & Jerry (CREDIT: Warner Bros/YouTube Screenshot)

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Movies
The Father (Theaters) – Olivia Colman plays Anthony Hopkins’ father
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run (March 4 on Paramount+) – This is the day CBS All Access rebrands as Paramount+.
Tom & Jerry (Theaters and HBO Max) – Colin Jost in the Wedding of the Century!
The Vigil (Theaters and On Demand)

TV
RuPaul’s Drag Race: Corona Can’t Keep a Good Queen Down (February 26 on VH1)
-78th Golden Globe Awards (February 28 on NBC)

Music
-Alice Cooper, Detroit Stories – Loved him on The Muppet Show; glad to see he’s still making music.

This Is a Movie Review: Loopy Royal Period Piece ‘The Favourite’ is a Career Highlight for Its Three Lead Actresses

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CREDIT: Yorgos Lanthimos/Twentieth Century Fox

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

Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Running Time: 120 Minutes

Rating: R for A Very Sexual Royal England

Release Date: November 23, 2018

The hype for The Favourite indicates that it is not your typical period royal court drama, which is to be expected, given that it is directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek auteur behind such clinically chilling visions as The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. And while The Favourite is certainly an oddity within the genre, that does not mean it is totally anachronistic. Lanthimos’ version is probably not an exact reflection of how the people within the orbit of the British Queen Anne spoke and behaved some 300+ years ago, but it does not seem impossible that they could have acted that way. People use certain four-letter words that are seldom heard from movie characters with the poofiest wigs and dresses, but these are words that have been around for centuries and surely some people were using them back then. Besides, The Favourite is not especially concerned with historical accuracy; the story behind it all is just inspiration for Lanthimos to craft his own devilishly compelling tale.

The most reasonable way to think of The Favourite is as a showcase for its three lead actresses (who get a little bit of help along the way from a few dudes), who have rarely, if ever, been better. Olivia Colman is Anne, hobbled by gout and occasional indecisiveness, perhaps more than a little manipulative in how she courts favor, but breathtakingly formidable once she has made up her mind. Rachel Weisz is Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, close advisor (and much more) to the queen. She prides herself on being ten strategic steps ahead of everyone else, which is her greatest strength, even when it appears to be her downfall. Her wits allow her to get out of any sticky situation, up to and including kidnapping by a brothel. And Emma Stone is Abigail, Rachel’s cousin and new arrival to the court. She initially appears to be so unfailingly kind that it makes her a little stupid, but ultimately it is clear that she is a full-fledged ingratiator. Stone has never before immersed herself in such a dark persona. If Lanthimos has done his job right, and I think he has, your loyalties will constantly switch along with the characters to the point that you just want to applaud everyone.

The Favourite is Recommended If You Like: Amadeus, All About Eve, Persona

Grade: 4 out of 5 Powdered Wigs

 

This Is a Movie Review: Kenneth Branagh’s Take on ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ Has a Killer Instinct But Not a Killer Execution

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CREDIT: Nicola Dove/Twentieth Century Fox

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

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Marwan Kenzari, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Running Time: 114 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Stab Wounds and Attempted Gun Wounds

Release Date: November 10, 2017

Kenneth Branagh’s take on Hercule Poirot, one of the most famous and prolifically portrayed detectives in English literary history, is the sort of man who cannot enjoy his breakfast unless his two eggs are perfectly symmetrically arranged. As he puts, “I can only see the world as it should be.” His skill at identifying culprits so precisely derives from his distaste for his surroundings being askew in any capacity. And when a crime has been committed, things are certainly askew. For a Poirot newbie like myself, this thesis statement is clear and compelling enough. It points to a tradition that has led to a recently predominant style in which brilliant detectives do not fit on a normative intellectual scale.

As for how this version of this most classic of Poirot cases plays out, Branagh is eager to put his many new spins on locked room mystery tropes. But first, certain typical patterns are unavoidable. Each passenger must be introduced with just enough color to make everyone a legitimate suspect, and the camerawork must be painstakingly particular to note every cabin, door, and hidden compartment. But once the setup is through, there is fun to be had (or at least attempted) in mixing up expectations. Oftentimes, characters in these stories try to get away with little lies or hide pieces of their identities that ultimately prove to be quite telling. In this case, the experiment – and alas, mistake – is that everyone gives themselves away with such dishonesty.

A good mystery should be a few steps ahead of most of its viewers. Branagh does indeed pull that off, but he is also a few steps ahead of his own movie, which is not similarly advisable. The result is an end product in which the love for the genre is clear, but the volume at which it is being poked and prodded is too much weight to bear. Most of the performances are overly stiff, stuck in roles within roles in which the unnatural seams start to show. Only Michelle Pfeiffer manages to truly cut loose. Branagh’s formal openness is a good start, but ultimately a star-studded affair like this one requires much more lasting personalities to really hit.

Murder on the Orient Express is Recommended If You Like: Agatha Christie completism, Marvelous mustaches, the Michelle Pfeiffer Renaissance

Grade: 2.75 out of 5 Symmetrical Arrangements