A24 as genre in ‘Lamb’

You can really see the Midsommar in what feels like a deliberate homage here, when she puts Ada in a crown of flowers. Images courtesy A24.

3/10 As movies continue to centralize and series entries become more uniform, A24 studios, which still feels like an upstart studio after nine years in operation, has been a haven for weirder films. But as the distributor has become more widely known and more associated with narrower kinds of entries, we’ve seen tropes and very specific audience expectations develop, threatening to turn what started out as weird and new into a genre to be repeated ad nauseum.

Lamb is that development.

Rural Iceland- Sheep farming couple María and Ingvar (Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason) discover one of their flock has given birth to a lamb with the torso and lower body of a human. They name the hybrid Ada after their own lost daughter and raise her as their own child. Most of the surface-level conflict in the film is between them and Ada’s birth mother, who wants to raise her own child, and Ingvar’s brother Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson), who comes to crash with them after Ada is about a year old and is shocked by her presence.

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A strange ‘Time to Die’ for Bond in the MCU era

Images courtesy United Artists Releasing.

8/10 What a long, strange trip it’s been for James Bond in the 21st century.

In No Time to Die, we rejoin Cmdr. James Bond (Daniel Craig, who also produces), retired for the third time in Craig’s run with the character with his lover young enough to be his daughter, Madeline Swann (Léa Seydoux), but just as the series can’t get over his first film, Casino Royale, Bond can’t get past his love interest from that installment, Vesper Lynd. He is ambushed constantly by swooping gaggles of assassins, but Bond has no time to die, so he goes rogue for the third time in Craig’s run with the character to kill his way to the, well, there isn’t really a truth to kill his way to at this point, but if there had been, he sure kills enough people that he would have got to it.

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Palme d’Or winner ‘Titane’ gorgeous, wild experience, but once is plenty

Image courtesy Neon.

8/10 Film is traditionally seen as a director’s art form – for better or worse – and one of the primary tensions of the Disney era has been watching more and more decisions get taken out of the director’s hands. In Marvel movies in particular, what cameras get used and post-production color grading decisions and frequently casting decisions are made at the corporate level, fight scenes are famously outsourced to second units. This is not an environment where directors can develop in or where art gets made, where decisions are getting taken out of their hands to be made with the bottom line in mind, and it’s had me worried about where the next generation of directors are going to come from. There are thriving submarkets of both haunted-house and more independent horror, and there’s always Oscarbate movies to look to, but all of those subsections are growing more uniform in their own ways.

Titane is a rough watch that I don’t know if I’m going to revisit,but I’m not going to ignore the answer to my own fears when it straps itself into a Cadillac and tries to run me over.

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‘Sopranos’ prequel is a big nothing

Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini who originated the Tony Soprano character in legendary fashion, doesn’t show up until the 52 minute mark and isn’t given much of anything to do. I can believe him as an uncomfortable teenager who becomes the Tony of the show eventually, but he never seems comfortable in the role. Images courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

5/10 The Many Saints of Newark opens with Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher Moltisanti in “The Sopranos,” narrating about what will happen in the future and spoiling one of the show’s best plot points for seemingly no reason. Many Saints is a competent enough film, but I would strongly advise against watching it for that reason alone unless you’ve already seen the entire show. It was made exclusively for “Sopranos” experts, anyhow, and never makes any attempt to exist as its own piece of media.

Newark, July 12, 1967- A black cab driver named John William Smith is arrested and beaten by Newark police, kicking off the 1967 Newark riots. Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.), an associate of Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), joins the riots, and eventually flees the state to avoid a murder warrant. Moltisanti and the rest of the DiMeo crime family, including older characters who appear in “The Sopranos,” take advantage of the police’s increased focus on black Newarkers. Four years later, McBrayer returns and attempts to organize the remaining black community into a crime organization to rival the DiMeos, triggering a race war.

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‘Venom 2’ is obviously incomplete and breathtakingly bad

The director and the art director just had an argument about how many arms Carnage should have. Images courtesy Sony Pictures Releasing.

1/10 Venom was fun enough to be enjoyable though its flaws. That kind of good will doesn’t last.

San Francisco- Freelance reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy, who also has a story credit) works with the FBI to find the lost victims of serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), because Kasady has decided that he and Brock are “kindred spirits” and he’ll speak to no one else. Kasady is found guilty of murder in a litany of unsolved disappearances thanks to Brock’s work, and the governor reinstates the death penalty in California specifically for his case. Visiting him as he’s about to be executed, Cummyeyes McGoo Venom (also voiced by Hardy), the alien symbiote that lives in Brock’s body, spawns into Kasady, creating Cummyeyes McGoo, Jr. Carnage (also voiced by Harrelson). The newly empowered Kasady breaks out and starts wreaking havoc in search of his long-lost love, Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris).

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