There's blood, sex, or betrayal in just about every frame of The Handmaiden, and most of the time it is all three. The Handmaiden is so exuberantly confident in itself as a film that one gets the feeling that director Park Chan-wook is begging his viewers to recoil and judge. Yet, what makes The Handmaiden such a crowning cap (so far) to an illustrious career is the sense of almost miraculous levels of beauty. I could still every frame and see something gorgeous, illuminating, and perplexing. Sexual jokes aside, this is one pretty movie to look at.
Sooki is a petty thief, getting by on some measly coins she scraps together. She begins as the "heart" of the story, but the film eventually unravels in a tour-de-force of betrayal and comeuppance. The film is confusing in some parts, layering a motivation on top of another until the final fifteen minutes enapsulates the full range of what brought everyone to this fanciful abode. Park Chan-Wook knew he was shooting for the moon on this one, and he delivered a rambunctious, exhilerating, deeply sensual, and thought-provoking piece of unbridled entertainment. And he made it stunning, to boot.
Ove's spouse dies. He has health problems. He is old and he is angry at the world, and part of our sympathy for the decrepit crank comes from an intrinsic understanding of what he is going through. A Man Called Ove looks at our own mortality and asks us what we are doing here and why we are here at all. If all of this sounds lofty and a little too pretentious, just look at the basics. Ove is old. He meets a friendly younger person and her family, played elegantly by Bahar Pars, and he discovers a little about himself. It is a character story at heart with some dark comedic elements to keep us on its wavelength of sacharine misery. I never expected much from A Man Called Ove- seemingly another "old man realises the value of life" story. But, it isn't as presumably dull as it can seem. Ove is rich in human story and brimming with satisfaction at the way it brings lives together. It is also entirely too smart for its own good. Expect sentimental nonsense and leave with a glossy tear in the eye.
Anthropoid is the severely under-told story of a group of intensely brave Czech men who choose to embark on a dire and demanding task that will likely end up in their deaths. This film is not for those looking for a light-hearted adventure story to complement their upbeat feelings for the holidays. Anthropoid may take a piece from you, but not without giving a little back. What these people did (real people, let that sink) will shake your foundation and really make you mull over the reality we have today. It's a rough world. People have done rough things. Is that something we can live with?
What helps drive the plot portion of the film is the idea of media having a responsibility to deliver the “real” stories. Christine wants to cover stories of substance, but her awkward social disposition makes this a far harder task than it would otherwise be. It’s a suitable topic, given the stomachache-inducing mess of this recent election and the current place of “Internet meme news.”
Christine realizes that she may be beyond all hope. It’s darkly comedic, with an undercurrent of real sadness. Why didn’t anyone help her? Could they have? Christine is one of the best films the Corazon has ever played, and it is held together by a performance that is all-encompassing. Rebecca Hall envelops everything around her, and forces the viewer to wonder what they are doing in the room in the first place.
What better way to bring out the darkness of freewill and humanity than with an adorable puppy? Wiener-Dog is not about a wiener dog at all, or at least not directly. It is about how people can be broken. Yes, even Danny DeVito (scratch that- especially Danny DeVito).
The awfulness of our characters are correlated with the pure innocence of our titular hero, the Wiener Dog. The wiener dog goes by a few names in the film, particularly Cancer and Doo-Doo (meaning exactly what you may think).
The film is rife with an undercurrent of humanistic villains. If you know anything about the work of director Todd Solondz, you know he is not willing or even able to shy away from the true grimness of humanity. In the film we have a possibly abusive atheistic mother who teaches her child a little bit of despair. We have a drug-abusing bully who confides in his mentally-retarded brother. We have another drug-abuser who visits her nanny once every half a decade to ask for money for her dreadful boyfriend's artistic adventures (and drugs, duh). We have a disillusioned failed screenwriter who possibly straps a bomb to the aforementioned puppy. And there's even long extended shots of diarrhea.
Yet, the film offers a little glimmer of hope- a light at the end of the tunnel with our throughway. Our adorable puppy, who bounces through various lives and shows that there is a small amount of hope in even the most depraved and unloved. Maybe.
Molly Ringwald is the epitome of the 80's. Her mannerisms, smiles, snarkiness, and pursuit of teenage love is something that older viewers will look at with an unbridled nostalgia, and younger viewers will feel both entranced and embarrassed by. Pretty in Pink is surprisingly somber. If all the Rolly Ringwald films were connected (she being the same character), this is the film where she finally realizes what maturity means.
It may be easy to dismiss the film for being a walking 80's cliche, and some moments will definitely cause a cynical eyeroll. But, the film has an almost shocking amount to say about privilege, social classes, and puberty. The characters are all in a self-absorbed bubble, but that's a John Hudges thing. But, it has charm. And if you dig a little deep and get to that place of being young and having the whole world ahead, Pretty in Pink is a modern princess tale.
70% of proceeds of all ticket sales will go to support the efforts of "Pink Up the Pace," a local breast cancer research and support organization.
Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley are caricatures of history. What we remember is the corrupt scandal that forced Nixon’s resignation in the mid-70’s. We also remember the iconic mannerisms and the very much immortalized “Thank you, thank you very much” that helped make Elvis Presley “the King” for legions of followers, young and old.
Elvis & Nixon is a simple story. One egomaniac wants to meet another egomaniac. They egotistically wrangle over the ownership of a bowl of m’ms, and they navigate the protocol for bringing a gold plated collectible World War II gun into the oval office.
The last 30 minutes of the movie is an elaborate dance between two icons. What resulted was a famous photo- a clash of two massive demographics, and an effort to make one bristled leader of the free world more appealing to young people. As if Nixon cared. He only wanted a signature for his 22-year old college student.
Elvis & Nixon is shockingly well-acted by two titans. The underappreciated Michael Shannon turns an aging Presley into something more than a caricature. He is the true heart of the film. His peptalk prior to the inevitable meeting is the most daring moment of the film. Kevin Spacey is, for better or worse, a more straightforward and self-serious interpretation of Nixon. He could have been a hologram of the man himself.
Elvis & Nixon is a heartwarming tug on the sleeve. But, it also asks us to remember that these two icons were actual people. It reminds us that Elvis Presley, for all the jams and all the crazy bombasticity, was a largely broken man, turned into a cartoon by the fans that made him “lucky enough for two people.”
The film makes a juxtaposition between the racism of the 40’s and 50’s (and today- wink wink), alongside the racism forced by the Nazis against everyone not blue-eyed and blond-haired. So it is only appropriate that a black man from America breaks all the records- besting the best the Germans have to offer, blue eyes and all.
Race is a bit heavy-handed. But, with the racial turmoil of 2016 bubbling beyond the surface and over the edge, it is a very necessary heavy-handedness. Race plays Nazis against Americans, blacks against whites, and European Olympic contenders versus the reluctant Owens. He never asked for the responsibility, but he has it anyway. His failure is a victory for the worst of morality.
The film shows, in sobering detail, that the era of Nazi’s and blatant racism aren’t all that different from today- and tomorrow. It is our courage that keeps us going.
Welcome to the Corazon team, Ryan Merkel. He is a writer who loves to watch movies. Naturally, this makes him a critic.