Movie reviews: new releases for October 29

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  • Focus Features
  • Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie in Last night in Soho

Wood * 1/2

Monster movies don’t have a “no logic” card; if anything they have to work Stronger to make sense of their world. This sense is rare in co-writer / director Scott Cooper’s adaptation of a short story by Nick Antosca, about a college teacher named Julia (Keri Russell) who recently returned to her hometown in rural Oregon. , where one of his students, introverted Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas), is linked to a beast from local native folklore. The storyline briefly hints at the idea that this creature is some sort of avenging angel for desecrating the environment through the extractive industry, which doesn’t seem at all relevant to the main themes of children trying to survive. violent parents. But the far bigger problem is that the monster, while visually striking, is not given any “rules” that create tension or a sense of the stakes: not about its eating habits, or its life cycle, or what holds it. from a distance. The result, while shot in an effort to emphasize the perpetual darkness of the Pacific Northwest, is a mess that seems to miss a whole bunch of important exhibits – in part to give its subtext more resonance, but especially so that the monster isn’t just a cool piece of concept art that the writers seem to be making up as they go. Available October 29 in theaters. (D)

The French Dispatch ** 1/2
See the feature review. Available October 29 in theaters. (D)

In Balanchine’s class ** 1/2
It’s always going to be frustrating when a documentary seems to tell you what it’s about and then keeps rushing around so it’s too rarely actually about that thing. Director Connie Hochman has especially in mind the legacy of legendary choreographer George Balanchine, founder of the New York City Ballet and, according to the information given to us here, an almost cruelly rigorous teacher. As Hochman presents profiles of former Balanchine students who have gone on to teach on their own, including Merrill Ashley and Edward Villella, it looks like the film will explore people who feel the pressure to pass on Balanchine’s choreography, even if they are not. sure they have the personality to demand the same perfection. The problem with In Balanchine’s class is that it turns too much into a documentary about George Balanchine – and while some background information about his life and artistic philosophy is needed to explain why he did what he did, he ultimately isn’t. the part of this configuration that is the most interesting. Professional athletes who have been trained by disciplinary coaches always talk about the tension between what you learned and how unhappy you were at the time; this opportunity to explore this dynamic in the arts ends up taking too obvious a path, and does not teach us enough. Available October 29 via SLFSatHome.org. (NR)

Last night in Soho **
Edgar Wright has certainly proven his ease over the years with stylish genre pieces, but here he often doesn’t seem to know what to do when trying to pair his style with real substance. In contemporary England, country girl Eloise Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) moves to London to pursue her dreams as a designer of clothes and her fascination with the music and fashion of the big city of the late 1960s. This fascination is changing. obsessed after moving into a new apartment and begins to dream of an aspiring alter-ego singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) around 1967, except those dreams could be visions from the past or manifestations of mental illness. . McKenzie is solid at conveying some basic fragility in Eloise, which pairs well with Taylor-Joy’s glamorous confidence, and it’s fun to see Wright nod to the icons of 1960s England in the casting of Diana Rigg and Terence Stamp. Yet as effectively as Wright slips from mystery to psychological horror, including a formidable montage capturing the mundane repetitive nightmare of forced sex labor, he always seems more interested in impressing audiences than in confronting just how good Eloise can truly be. unstable, which begins to feel exploitative. Not all horror movies need to have a deep subtext on trauma, but it’s potentially more awkward to try and talk about it as much as you need to at one point. Available October 29 in theaters. (D)

The Man in the Field: The Life and Art of Jim Denevan **
Running 74 minutes doesn’t seem to leave time for much filler, but Patrick Treyfz’s documentary consistently shows how difficult it is to profile someone who seems determined not to be profiled. This subject, on paper, looks endlessly fascinating: Jim Denevan, founder of the ephemeral outdoor catering concept called Outstanding in the Field, as well as a creator of intricate and temporary artwork on the beaches near his home. of Santa Cruz. One of the talking heads provides at least a link between these two passions – Denevan’s notion of being “place-minded” – which might have been enough. Denevan, however, is just a terrible subject on camera who usually has little to say, so we have to spend what seems like an eternity on his makeshift dental hygiene regimen because he can’t find his toothbrush. . Treyfz bounces between venues for Denevan’s culinary events with little meaning or purpose, and only offers seconds of context for his artistic creations in the tradition of environmental artists (it seems inexcusable that Andy Goldsworthy isn’t even noted). As we spend a few painful minutes digging into Denevan’s history with several mentally ill family members, Man in the Field has lost track of why it was worth spending time with this. guys. Available October 29 via SLFSatHome.org. (NR)

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BLEECKER STREET FILMS

Mass ***

Analysis of actor Fran Kranz’s writer / director debut is the emotional equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock’s “refrigerator logic”. Its script is like a play, chronicling a meeting on a Saturday afternoon between four people whose lives were forever linked years earlier by a school shooting: Jay (Jason Isaacs) and Gail (Martha Plimpton) , whose son was one of the victims; and Richard (Reed Birney) and Linda (Ann Dowd), whose son was the shooter. When it comes to filmmaking, Kranz doesn’t do much other than go from steady camera work to a more nervous handheld as the tensions rise, although he does have a great panning shot slowly over. the table where the figures are seated, emphasizing the space between them. But structurally, he makes the interesting choice of booking the reunion with the mundane details of the Episcopal Church where the reunion takes place, giving a sense of the simple moments these characters might never know again. And the performances are uniformly formidable, seething with rage, guilt, self-recrimination and a desperate search for meaning in a tragedy that seems meaningless. The script sometimes feels like it hits a checklist of expected points on this sensitive topic, but the way the performance hits those points can make you choke on tears anyway. Available October 29 in theaters. (D)

A Mouthful of Air ***
Director’s first-time adaptation Amy Koppelman of her own 2003 novel comes with an audience warning about its themes of depression and self-harm, which is just one example of the sensitivity that Koppelman shows towards his subject. Julie Davis (Amanda Seyfried) is an author of children’s books and a new mother who survives an attempted suicide; Less than a year later, Julie and her husband (Finn Wittrock) find themselves waiting again, leading to new anxieties and difficult choices. It would be easy to expect a work from a novice writer-turned-director to lean into dialogue, but Koppelman exhibits an intuitive visual sense as a filmmaker, times when emotions are communicated by nothing. other than a hug, to the animation bringing some of Julie’s stories to life. And she’s just as adept at working with her actors, as Seyfried’s performance takes unexpected turns in the way she reads a counterintuitive line or facial expression. The more overtly dramatic scenes of Julie struggling with anxiety attacks are a little less successful than the more subtle things, and it’s not easy to convey everything Koppelman wants to say about Julie’s relationship with her ex. -father, which emerges mainly in a flashback. But for a story dealing with many difficult concepts, it almost surprises you with its sense of grief. Available October 29 in theaters. (D)


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