‘Promising Young Woman’ is not the revenge story you’re looking for

Images courtesy Focus Features.

3/10 I think we all really needed this. Three years after the Harvey Weinstein saga kicked into gear in October 2017, horrifically realizing the old casting couch, “who’d she blow for that role” stereotypes in a way that reveals what poor taste those jokes were always in, after four years of “grab her by the pussy,” it’s so wonderful to finally get some cinematic catharsis, an extravagant, brutal rape-revenge story in Promising Young Woman.

In the film, Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) is a formerly promising young woman who dropped out of med school to take care of her friend Nina, who was gang-raped while blackout drunk and harassed off campus by her main assailant’s lawyer when she sought justice. Nina is referred to in the past tense throughout the film, and we’re meant to assume the worst. Thomas spends her weekends going to clubs and pretending to be extremely drunk, intending to lure in an opportunistic man to take her home and try to rape her. She then snaps out of it and…

…gives them a mild talking to. There’s no murdering, no dismemberment, none of that sort of graphic catharsis, she just sort of tells them off and enjoys the reversed power dynamic without actually employing it to any advantage.

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‘Wonder Woman 1984’ is deranged and obscene

Images courtesy Warner Bros.

3/10 Wonder Woman 1984 is not a film, it is a composite abomination in the spirit of Victor Frankenstein’s blueprints, a shambling patchwork horror of not just its surface-level influences, but the insane business practices and technological shortcuts that brought moviemaking to the point that this was an acceptable product. It is a monument to the madness that for decades Hollywood has refused to stay, the next step in an intellectual property arms race that Warner Bros. lost before it even began participating in and yet refuses to concede even as it is in the process of conceding. It is the modern product of an archaic factory serving a dying business model, one that it has turned against and is now helping to cannibalize.

Washington D.C., 1984- Diana Prince (Gal Gadot, who also produces) leads the archaeology department of the Smithsonian Institute, using the position to hunt for potentially dangerous artifacts of the Greek pantheon. Along with gemologist Barbara Anne Minerva (Kristen Wiig), she discovers the Dreamstone, one of six singularities an ancient gem with monkey’s paw-style wish fulfillment powers, granting any request but at great and unspecified cost. Diana wishes for the resurrection of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), the first man she ever laid eyes on who, 66 years after his death, she has refused to move on from, and Minerva, who admires Diana, wishes to become “like her,” unwittingly making herself into a physical rival for Wonder Woman.

Infomercial personality Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), who has been tracking the stone for years, gains access to the Smithsonian by offering a large grant to the archaeology department, steals the stone and uses his wish to absorb its power. Lord is instantly transformed into a warlock-god who can use the Dreamstone consciously, duping people into wishes that benefit him and leveeing costs that also benefit him. He begins frantically soliciting wishes from everyone he meets, sowing economic and political chaos and striking off the Cold War in a matter of days.

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‘Soul’ also made me very uncomfortable

The dreamy landscape of the Great Before. Images courtesy Walt Disney Pixar Animation Studios.

7/10 Soul is a charming and often hilarious movie about the desperate drive to live, both in the physical and spiritual senses. It’s a great watch, none of its flaws are damning, and I would recommend it for just about everyone.

But my dreams are dark, and much like Onward from the same studio earlier this year, they are all I can see in this film.

New York City- Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), an aspiring jazz pianist who’s gotten a little too old to aspire, is finally offered a full-time middle school teaching position and the security that comes with it. The same day, he gets the break he’s been waiting for his whole life when a former student hooks him up with Dorothea Williams (Angela Basset), who headlines a major local quartet. Over the moon after his successful audition, Gardner falls down an open manhole and dies. He refuses to go into the afterlife and tries to will himself back to his body.

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‘Greenland’ strong, stirring, timely

Images courtesy STX Films.

8/10 I’d been greatly looking forward to Greenland since its first trailer as an easy target for mocking, but spent significantly less time laughing at it than I was prepared to. This is a good, affecting movie.

Atlanta- construction engineer John Garrity (Gerard Butler, who also produces) begins repairing relations with his estranged wife, Allison (Morena Baccarin), and their son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). The first step in this process is helping host a viewing party for Clarke, an interstellar comet passing close to Earth that’s scheduled to send several small meteors into the atmosphere. It’s quickly discovered that the projections were very wrong, and Clarke will in fact result in showers of major impacts across the globe leading up to a nine-mile wide planet killer heading into the Mediterranean. Garrity and his family are selected by the government for evacuation to bunkers in Greenland, but are kicked off their flight when they mention Nathan’s diabetes. With a day and a half before the big one hits, Garrity takes his family on a desperate scramble to Canada, where they hope to board a private flight to the bunkers.

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‘Mank’ a decent Welles impression at the expense of a Fincher movie

Images courtesy Netflix.

7/10 Mank is a fine film and certainly more than you could expect from a typical Oscar-season offering, but something’s missing.

March 1940, Victorville, California- Outcast Hollywood screenwriter Herman J. “Mank” Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), confined to his bed with a broken leg, dictates the first draft of the screenplay that would eventually become Citizen Kane. The film was generally known, even before it was released, as an unauthorized and deeply unflattering portrayal of newspaper icon William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), with whom Mank was close though the early ‘30s. Mank details their relationship through several flashbacks.

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