How Many Men Does It Take to Man Up ‘Men’?

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“Men!” (CREDIT: A24)

Starring: Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear, Paapa Essiedu, Gayle Rankin

Director: Alex Garland

Running Time: 100 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: May 20, 2022 (Theaters)

Men, men, men, men, manly men, men, men… I’m sorry if any reference to Two and a Half Men gives any of my readers immediate stress nightmares, but I couldn’t get that repetitive theme song out of my head in anticipation of seeing the Alex Garland-written-and-directed Men. So that’s what’s setting the tone of this review, and we’re simply going to have to deal with it. I’m a musically-oriented person, and that’s just the way it is. If you name your movie “Men,” then I’m going to get a song about men stuck in my head! Thankfully, though, that earworm vibe is sort of appropriate. It’s kind of what the widow Harper Marlowe (Jessie Buckley) experiences herself in a much darker fashion. So in a roundabout sort of way, my subconscious knew exactly what to do to take care of me. It definitely helped to process that climactic “birth” scene.

Grade: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Man!

It’s Not Time to Die, Because It’s Time for a Review of ‘No Time to Die’

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Starring: Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Ana de Armas, Rory Kinnear, Billy Magnussen, Christoph Waltz

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Running Time: 163 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Spy Violence with the Bloodiest Moments Artfully Obscured

Release Date: October 8, 2021 (Theaters)

The Daniel Craig version of James Bond carries the weight of his previous chapters: the physical scars, the emotional scars, all the expectations of the world. Ergo, the conclusive entry No Time to Die really goes out of its way to tie everything together and put a nice little bow on the whole affair. That was also actually kind of the case six years ago with Spectre, but that earlier film had a lot of viewers going, “Wait-wait-wait, hold on, you don’t have to tie ALL of these seemingly disparate threads together.” But now that I’ve seen No Time to Die pull it off, I appreciate the effort, and I can confidently say that the Craig Era is fully synthesized with a satisfying emotional resolution.

As we check back in with Bond, he’s hanging out with Léa Seydoux’s Dr. Madeleine Swann in Italy, and they appear to be a full-fledged item. I preferred him with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, but she’s dead now. She’s not forgotten, though, as James makes sure to set aside some of his time in Italy to visit her tomb. At this point in his life, he’s really trying his damnedest to get out of the spy game once and for all, and Madeleine can be a chance for him to do that, but he doesn’t fully trust her. Besides, go-to evil organization SPECTRE is still causing plenty of chaos, and new foe Safin (Rami Malek) has dangerous world-altering plans that James and Madeleine eventually get caught up in. There are a bunch of motivations working at cross-purposes here.

The most satisfying element of No Time to Die is the bonhomie. Everyone at MI6 respects each other as colleagues. Some of them would even go so far as to call each other friends. James is given the space he needs to be retired, but when it’s time for him to spring back into action, everyone is happy to have him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Q, Moneypenny, and Felix Leiter more pleased and honored to be in the company of their fellow agent. Even Lashana Lynch as the newly designated 007 has nothing but mutual respect to offer James. Ralph Fiennes as M, meanwhile, just looks eternally stressed out. He obviously has to answer to a multitude of masters, but I’m sure he appreciates his agents in his own way.

Anyway, Safin has this whole plan involving poison that’s going to usher in a new world order or something like that. I’m not entirely sure how the mechanics of it work, but I’m happy that it underscores (instead of getting in the way) the emotional resonance. James Bond is no longer just the uber-cool guy with the tuxedos and the gadgets and the martinis. Now he’s also a true part of our parasocial family.

No Time to Die is Recommended If You Like: The emphasis on character and continuity in this Bond era

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Missiles

Movie Review: ‘Peterloo’ Tracks the Unfolding of a Deadly Historical Domestic English Tragedy

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CREDIT: Simon Mein/Amazon Studios

Starring: Rory Kinnear, Maxine Peake, Pearce Quigley

Director: Mike Leigh

Running Time: 154 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for A Chaotic Deadly Scene Shot Fairly Tastefully

Release Date: April 5, 2019 (Limited)

I have two big takeaways from Peterloo:

  1. The working class has been fighting for its rights for hundreds of years and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
  2. The suffix “-loo” was the “-gate” of its time.

Neither of those conclusions really speak to whether or not Peterloo, the latest from English director Mike Leigh, is a good movie, so on that score, let me say the following. Rory Kinnear is a riveting speaker. The running time is about a two and a half hours, and it certainly covers a lot of territory, but it also somehow manages to end abruptly. And it manages to treat its title massacre tastefully without shying around from the bloody awfulness.

For those, like myself, who are not experts of nineteenth century British history, you may not be familiar with the Peterloo massacre and you may thus be surprised to discover just how deadly it was. In August 2019, a crowd of about 60,000-80,000 had gathered in Manchester to protest parliamentary reform. To handle the crowd, a cavalry was sent in, which led to eighteen deaths and hundreds of injuries. The film is mostly build up leading to the main event, and thus most scenes consist of people hashing out what direction this country’s society should be headed in, and how much they are willing to risk to make it happen. The working classes sound frustrated, but also perfectly reasonable. Really, they only want what everyone deserves. Meanwhile, the lords grumble, stoking unfounded fears of spreading “tyrannism.” Quite frankly, they sound awfully silly with their pomp and arrogance. I certainly agree with the points that Leigh is presenting. I hope most people do. Ultimately though, as a cinematic experience, Peterloo is adequate, but it could have been more rousing.

Peterloo is Recommended If You Like: The rights of the working class, 19th Century English society in all its variety

Grade: 3 out of 5 Rousing Speeches