The Power of the Dog

I just watched “The Power of the Dog”, the new film by Jane Campion and starring Benedict Cumberbatch. This film has already won a few awards and is receiving rave reviews. Well, I was not as impressed. I found it slow and the characters were not relatable or interesting. Cumberbatch, sporting an American accent, plays a nasty ranch owner during the 1920’s. He doesn’t have many redeeming qualities. The character is very different from anyone he has played before. Everyone underplays and they are somewhat boring. I cannot recommend this movie.

Tick, Tick…Boom!

“Tick, Tick…Boom!” is the story of Jonathan Larson, who wrote “Rent”, before he became famous. It is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directing debut in film. Essentially a musical, it showcases Larson’s music before “Rent”, when he was trying to get noticed. The songs are pretty good but the real revelation is Andrew Garfield. He can really sing! I was surprised how good he was. Most of the film explores his constant pursuit of the big break and the constant setbacks around his 30th birthday. “Tick, Tick..Boom!” is the name of one of his plays before “Rent”. An interesting story and an incredible performance from Garfield. It can be seen on Netflix.

Passing

“Passing” is a new film on Netflix. It stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as black women who grew up together and are now living in New York City during the 1920’s. Negga is passing for white, married to a man who hates blacks. Thompson is married to a black doctor. Both women are living middle class lives. Negga begins spending time with Thompson, her family (especially her husband), and her social circle. The story is a bit slow, but both actresses are quite good, especially Negga. Worth seeing if you have the time.

Encanto

“Encanto” is the latest computer animated film from Disney. It tells the story of a Columbian family who live in an enchanted house. Each of the offspring has a special gift, except one, Mirabel. It is about how she ends up saving the family legacy. The film is colorful and each character is developed nicely. The music has a Latin flavor. Great for the kids, but there is a lot for adults to like as well.

House of Gucci

I was looking forward to seeing “House of Gucci” because of the cast, director and story. The former did not disappoint. Adam Driver, Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons were very good. However Lady Gaga and Jared Leto were outstanding. Gaga is phenomenal. She carries the movie, giving a confident performance, and ends up dominating the film. Jared Leto plays a Gucci cousin who is not too swift. His makeup makes him unrecognizable and he completely submerges himself into the role. The movie itself is not quite as good as the acting. I found it choppy and a bit too long. I would have expected a smoother flow of the plot. The story, based on fact, is compelling and interesting, a true crime drama of the rich and famous. Worth seeing, but not necessarily in the theater.

King Richard

“King Richard” is the true story of Venus and Serena Williams and how their father Richard taught, pushed, guided and obsessed over making them tennis super stars. Will Smith gives what is probably his best performance to date. He makes Richard pushy, difficult, obsessive and at the same time loving and warm. Richard set extremely high standards for his daughters and against all odds they make it because of their skill, but also because of their father’s chutzpah. Even though we know the ultimate outcome the film is suspenseful and compelling. Smith’s greatness in this role shines because at times you love him and at other times you hate him because of the way he treats his daughters. This film is two hours long and I was not bored at all. A great story with a one-of-a-kind performance. Don’t miss it!

The French Dispatch

“The French Dispatch” is one of the films I have been looking forward to seeing. It is Wes Anderson’s latest and it does not disappoint. Anderson is known for making films that are a bit off-center and odd, but funny. Not everyone gets his sense of humor, but those of us who do appreciate its uniqueness. This is not a main stream movie. The French Dispatch is actually a magazine, similar to the New Yorker and the film covers the writing of a few of its stories. Bill Murray, an Anderson regular, plays the editor, and each of the stories stars some great actors like Benicio Del Torro, Adrian Brody, Frances McDormond and Timothee Chalmete. The stories keep your interest and keep you guessing. A worthy contribution to the Wes Anderson collection. I enjoyed it.

Eternals

“Eternals” is the latest attempt by Marvel to establish a new franchise. A whole new set of characters are introduced. They are a race of super beings who use their powers to protect the human race from creatures out to destroy them. Their orders are to not interfere with human conflicts such as wars. The new heroes have some humor as well as flaws. Their master controls them until they find out his ultimate goal. Intriguing and well filmed by Chloe Zhao, who won an Oscar last year for “Nomadland”, “Eternals” is as different a project as she could find. The actions sequences keep coming and are well done. Lots of special effects. In the end the film did not leave me wanting more. Compared to the Avengers it is lacking something. This film should be seen on the big screen to get its full effect.

Belfast

I am way behind on my movie reviews. “Belfast” is Kenneth Branagh’s latest film and it is his most intimate one so far. It is his “Roma”. The autobiographical story takes place in Northern Ireland during the conflict between the Protestants and Catholics. It is told through the eyes of a little boy, played by newcomer Jude Hill, and he is phenomenal. He is an innocent, caught up in the fighting and hate while he tries to live his life as a ten year old boy. His parents argue about moving away from Belfast, their life long home. He is especially close to his grandfather. Well acted, beautifully filmed in black and white and a compelling story, this film will likely be recognized when awards time comes. Jamie Dornan, of Fifty Shades of Gray, plays the father and this role may redefine his career. Caitriona Balfe plays the mother and she is outstanding. The grandparents are played by Judi Dench and Ciaron Hinds. All of these cast members deserve recognition. This film will probably make many of the top ten lists for 2021.

Spencer

“Spencer” tells the story of one Christmas toward the end of Princess Diana’s and Prince Charles’ marriage. They are with the entire Royal Family for their traditional three or four days. Diana, who is played convincingly by Kristen Stewart, is in pain and probably going through a mental breakdown. I was struck by how impersonal the royals were to each other. Diana’s anguish is very understandable. Her scenes with her children are warm and playful, but with most of the other adults they are cold and distant. Stewart does a better job than I expected with a spot on British accent. Lucky for her that the part did not require much smiling because she is not known for that. She is being mentioned for acting nominations. While interesting, this movie is slow. It’s more about manners and doesn’t have much action.