‘Chaos Walking’ solid, unique and urgent

The passive image of the noise alone is evocative, the visual of Hewitt’s thoughts surrounding and overwhelming him. Images courtesy Lionsgate.

8/10 Chaos Walking is a troubled, inventive exploration of masculine crisis and fear of the self that executes its main hook cleverly and evocatively. It’s a valuable meditation for an era of men inundated by stories of our peers’ abuses and the abuse-as-political identity that characterized Donald Trump’s rise to power.

A seemingly unnamed new world, 2257- humanity is 23 years into the colonization of a strange new planet on which all sentient males are affected by “the noise,” a psychic field that constantly projects their thoughts around their heads. Females are immune to this phenomenon. From the books this movie is based on, “the noise is a man unfiltered, and a man without a filter is just chaos walking.”

Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) is the last boy born before the sentient native species slaughtered all the colony’s women. He discovers Viola Eade (Daisy Ridley), herself the only survivor of a shuttle from the second wave of colonizers that crash-landed near Prentisstown. She’s taken in, but Mayor David Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen) and Prentisstown’s all-male population quickly turns on her. Hewitt’s adoptive parents task him with protecting and escorting her to the next town over, despite him having been told that Prentisstown was the only surviving city.

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‘Raya’ another perfectly enjoyable product of an exhausting, cynical machine

The concept art, at least, is spectacular. Images courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

7/10 Outside the theater for Raya and the Last Dragon, a survey company stooge hands out questionnaires in cheap plastic bags meant to reassure moms who don’t really understand how COVID-19 spreads. When asked, he tells me all the big movies are doing it. I’m something of an authority on what all the big movies are doing, and I don’t need to be to know that’s a lie, but he clearly doesn’t know anything beyond what he’s told, so I don’t grill him too much.

The survey itself though, which is all about demographic information and how well the viewer connected with each of Raya’s menagerie of characters, tells me plenty. Disney wants hard data on which characters to spin off and who to aim that media at. I can’t imagine why they think a pen-and-paper survey would be an effective way of gathering this data in the age of Twitter fandom, especially for a movie that was available to stream day-of for that hefty $30 premium charge, or why the stooge is handing these things out before the movie where they’ll be largely forgotten in the theater instead of directly after, but the priorities at least make sense.

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‘Tom and Jerry’ is listless and unfunny

Images courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

3/10 Who was Tom and Jerry for?

Manhattan- In a world of cartoon animals, an alley cat named Tom scratches out a living as a street pianist, but is routinely assaulted, robbed and otherwise tormented by a mouse called Jerry. Jerry, who is between homes, carves out a residence on the 10th floor of the Royal Gate Hotel, and Tom, seeking revenge, follows.

At the same time, Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz), a gig worker trying to make it in the city who’s between jobs and possibly also between homes, bluffs her way onto the staff of the Royal Gate over the suspicions of her new boss, Terrence (Michael Peña). On the eve of a high-profile wedding, Terrence assigns her to discreetly find the mouse that seems to have taken up residence at the hotel.

It takes about 20 minutes for it to become clear how the human plot will intersect with Tom and Jerry. That’s a perfectly acceptable amount of time for the plot to really get rolling, it just feels longer when you keep pausing to get more food.

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‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ is the urgent black story of 2020

Yeah, I know it’s 2021, but the copyright for this movie is 2020. It was delayed, you know why. Images courtesy Warner Bros.

9/10 Three and a half years after the Charlottesville rally, after a year of grotesque displays of police violence, Judas and the Black Messiah is the story that puts these things in context, and it’s a fine film.

Chicago, 1968- Professional criminal Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) is caught red-handed stealing a car and impersonating a federal officer. Instead of sending him to prison, real FBI agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) sets him up as an informant. O’Neal spends a year or so spying for Mitchell on the Illinois Black Panther party and its chairman, Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), eventually playing a key role in Hampton’s assassination.

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A24 manufactures another masterpiece in ‘Saint Maud’

Images courtesy A24.

9/10 When theaters closed last March and everything that was about to release was delayed, the biggest pain point for me was Saint Maud, set for an April 10, 2020 release and positioned as A24’s next horror masterwork. Now, almost a year after the bomb dropped, Maud has finally proceeded into American theaters, and she doesn’t disappoint. 

On the English coastline, a palliative care nurse who introduces herself as Maud (Morfydd Clark) begins working with Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a moderately famous American dancer dying of lymphoma. Maud had accidentally killed a patient when working at a hospital, after which she moved to private care and converted to Catholicism – she seems to have taken the name “Maud” as part of her conversion. Deeply traumatized, profoundly isolated and in constant stomach pain, Maud sinks rapidly into her mental and physical health crises, interpreting all her symptoms as communications from God and harming herself as a way to become closer to him. She determines to save the soul of Amanda, who is an atheist.

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