Early in Justice League, while director Zack Snyder abuses yet another Leonard Cohen song, we see a glimpse of a Metropolis Post front page with a headline about vanishing heroes that puts Kal-El in the middle of a triptych with Prince and David Bowie. It feels like a joke from Men in Black (another comic book-derived movie) 20 years ago. Anyway, it’s good to see that Metropolis is still a two-paper town.
Here’s my review of Justice League, where I did not really have room to complain that J.K. Simmons, the J. Jonah Jameson of Sam Raimi’s no-longer-canonical Spider-Man trilogy, is now Commissioner Gordon, which feels like double-dipping, or that Gordon has once again been demoted to empty trenchcoat after being a vibrant, fully-developed character in Christopher Nolan’s no-longer-canonical Dark Knight trilogy. These movies, man.
Up until now, Martin McDonagh’s best plays and movies have all been set in rural Ireland, or in an unnamed fictional totalitarian state, or In Bruges. That changes with the superb Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, his first U.S.-set story that doesn’t feel like the work of a tourist. Here’s my NPR review.
Thor: Ragnarok is the best Thor movie by an Asgardian mile, but don’t let that backhanded compliment stop you. With dual villains played by Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum plus a Mark Mothersbaugh score, it’s a stealth The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou reunion. Lo, here’s my NPR review.
I’m an admirer of all the principals involved, so it brings me no joy to report to you that Suburbicon—cowriter/director George Clooney’s deeply misguided retread of a Coen Bros. script from 30 years ago—is the biggest embarrassment to Hollywood’s liberal piety since Crash. At least Oscar Issac is having a good time.
Writing a review the same day I see a film or a play will never be my favorite way to work, but the results aren’t always bad. It’s trickier when the subject is as provocative and original as Yorgos Lanthimos’ movies tend to be. His latest, a mix of Greek myth and The Shining-era Stantley Kubrick, is well worth seeing even if it’s not quite as strong as The Lobster.
“Let’s just watch the movie on my phone.” My NPR review of Martin Campbell’s The Foreigner, which I enjoyed for its Northern Irish political skullduggery and for Pierce Brosnan’s sleazy performance but found far less involving as a vehicle for producer-star Jackie Chan. In addition to a bunch of decent-but-not great movies (and the giant flop Green Lantern, which I never saw) Campbell made the best-in-class 007 adventure, Casino Royale, so a mediocre espionage film from him counts as a disappointment.
Here’s my NPR review of American Made, Doug Liman’s heavily fictionalized but ecstatically true crime biopic starring Tom Cruise as C.I.A. gunrunner and dope smuggler Barry Seal. As I discuss in the piece, Liman’s father, Arthur Liman, was heavily involved in the 1987 U.S. Senate hearings into the Iran-Contra affair, of which Seal’s covert flights were an operational element. (Here’s Arthur.)