‘Phantom Thread’ arrives in wide release

Images courtesy Focus Features.

9/10 Undoubtedly the coolest title of 2017, Phantom Thread, has finally arrived in theaters. Why is it called that? Why did a movie with artistic heavyweights Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis take this long to get here? Who knows.

In 1950s London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis in his “final film“) cycles through women like the changing seasons, with only his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), who he still lives with, remaining constant. On sabbatical, he meets Alma Elson (Vicky Kreips) at a remote diner and the two fall in love. Elson moves to the city with Woodcock but quickly discovers that he’s already quite in love with himself.

Phantom Thread is a charming if slightly poisonous love story taking place over a period of several years. The film is framed as Elson explaining her relationship with Woodcock to a doctor in hindsight, and it feels like a memory as you’re watching it — short, unrelated snippets play out back to back to back, with no obvious rhyme or reason. Taken together, they paint a picture of a relationship that seems much larger than its 130 minute confines.

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‘I, Tonya’ sticks landing

In a stacked field behind Frances McDormand and Sally Hawkins, it’s unlikely Margot Robbie will get the recognition she deserves for I, Tonya, but she’s been not getting the recognition she deserved since her very first role in Wolf of Wall Street. Fortunately, carrying a complex, high-level movie with a performance to match is the rule for her and not the exception — they’ll be calling her name on the Oscar stage for years to come. Image courtesy Neon.

9/10 In the early 1990s, trailer trash reject Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie, McKenna Grace as a child) bullied her way through prejudice to the height of figure skating artistry. The movie about her life, I, Tonya, follows right in her footsteps, fighting through its own white trash reality show plotline to reach the plateau of 2017 movies.

In the film, Harding grows up abused by her mother, LaVona Golden (Allison Janney). Golden sees from an early age that she has a knack for figure skating and forces her to focus on it relentlessly, at the expense of any normal childhood or even schooling.

Harding eventually transitions to an abusive boyfriend and husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan). Now an Olympian, Harding receives death threats during her training for the 1994 games. Gillooly tries to send a similar threat to main rival Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver), but the threat becomes an assault and spirals far enough out of control to end Harding’s skating career at just age 23.

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Spielberg’s ‘Post’ doesn’t live up to itself

Images courtesy 20th Century Fox.

7/10 The Post is much more challenging and nuanced than expected, but it ultimately falls short of its ambitions.

In 1971, the New York Times drops a bombshell — according to a leaked study that would become known as the Pentagon Papers, the Vietnam War was not a noble effort to help the South Vietnamese stave off communism. In a conspiracy going back decades and spanning five different administrations, presidents had secretly escalated tensions and broadened the scope of action in Vietnam and systematically lied to Congress and the public about it.

After releasing three articles of their five-part series, the Nixon administration files and injunction prohibiting the Times from publishing further. Washington Post and Times-Herald editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) is desperate to find the papers and continue stories on them with his own publication. When he does, he forces publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), who inherited the organization from her late husband and has no real business running a newspaper, in a position where she must actively defy the federal government.

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The most important movies of 2017

Image courtesy Universal Pictures.

Top 10 lists are stupid and dumb and boring to write and boring to read. At Reel Entropy, we know better, so we do better — instead of talking about the best movies of the year, we’re going to bring you a list of what look to be the most influential.

Get Out

Jordan Peele’s vicious social satire came out early and dominated headlines for months, and has begun to take them over again as awards voters thrust it back into the public eye. The film skewering the under-the-surface racism of liberal America released on wave of horrifying police violence against black Americans and with the general public’s tacit endorsement of Donald Trump’s overt racism still a fresh wound.

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‘Molly’s Game’ spectacular

Chastain is an absolute force and the engine that drives this movie. It’s insane to think that she’s relegated to second-tier status in a shockingly crowded Best Actress race. Image courtesy STXfilms.

9/10 Aaron Sorkin has been holding out on us.

Molly’s Game, the revered writer’s directorial debut, is based on the life of underground poker mistress Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain, with Samantha Isler and Piper Howell playing her as a teenager and a child). The film follows her through three parallel time periods — her youth before scoliosis ruined a promising skiing career, her life running exclusive high-stakes underground poker games in Los Angeles and New York, and the federal prosecution against her after the Russian mob started using her games to launder money.

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