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Thu12122019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Robert Eggers, the man who gave us The Witch—a film for which I’m eternally grateful—is back with The Lighthouse, a trippy, gothic sailor’s yarn about two very strange men (Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe) working a difficult shift in a lighthouse in the late 19th century.

It’s close quarters for the two, with every fart being heard loud and clear, and every glitch in each other’s personalities grating on the sensibilities. As the trippy drama plays out, paranoia degrades into delusional mania, before moving into psychopathic actions (or not, depending upon whether you view the whole thing as a fucked-up dream).

Shot in black and white with a scope that reminds of old silent movies, the film starts with the two actors in a truly intense place, and they ratchet it up from there. Dafoe is incredible as the weathered sailor restricted to land duty—and possibly in the game of driving his employees crazy, one right after the other. Pattinson matches him every step of the way, with a performance that reminds of early Brando. That’s right: I just compared him to Brando.

Eggers has just two feature-film credits as a director—but he’s already proven he can direct with the best of them. Both of his films are like unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The man is a true original—and these actors take his vision to incredible heights.

I’m still not entirely sure what happened in The Lighthouse, but I know it disturbed the living piss out of me, and it contains two of the year’s best performances.

The Lighthouse is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Partially inspired by real events, and partially inspired by the plays of William Shakespeare, Netflix film The King features Timothée Chalamet as Hal, King Henry V of England—and it’s a barnburner of an acting turn.

Chalamet has made a name for himself by playing complicated, quiet characters, but this role gives him a chance to rage on occasion—and he’s more than up to the task. Joel Edgerton (who co-wrote the screenplay) is on hand as Falstaff, Hal’s complicated right-hand man, and Robert Pattinson once again shows that he just might be the finest actor of his generation with a brave and crazy performance as The Dauphin of France. Simply put: Pattinson’s accent is one of the greatest things I’ve witnessed in a movie this year, as is his final stunt in full armor.

Director David Michod stages some fine action scenes, and Lily-Rose Depp makes a nice late-film appearance as Catherine, Hal’s bride-to-be—who will not stand for any of his toxic-masculinity bullshit.

Chalamet and Pattinson impress the most in this grand experiment of a period-piece film. I want a sequel.

The King is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Robert Pattinson, the man who will be Batman, continues establishing himself as one of his generation’s finest actors with High Life, a dark, scarily effective sci-fi thriller.

Directed and co-written by Claire Denis, the film stars Pattinson as Monte, a death-row inmate sent into space with a crew of prisoners, including a murderous doctor played by Juliette Binoche. The prisoners dedicate their lives to scientific experiments rather than rotting in cells back on Earth.

It’s established early that Monte and his toddler daughter are the only survivors of the flight after things went terribly wrong. The deterioration of the mission is told in flashback. Mia Goth and Andre Benjamin play two other members of the ill-fated crew.

Everybody is terrific in this movie, which turns out to be one of the darker, more-effective sci-fi offerings in years. The mission’s ultimate goal is to pass through a black hole and see what is on the other side. Even with his crew gone, Monte forges on as his daughter ages along with him in space. It’s all very eerie, but also moving.

Cool trivia note: The baby is played by Scarlett Lindsey, the daughter of a friend of Pattinson, which explains their amazing rapport.

High Life is available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Damsel stars Robert Pattinson as Samuel, a man in the Old West searching for the girl (Mia Wasikowska) he loves. His intent: Find her and ask for her hand in marriage; he even has a preacher (David Zellner) and a pony in tow.

This film is unorthodox from the get-go, with Robert Forster playing a preacher who paints a dire picture of the Old West in the film’s opening minutes—a scene that might contain the best screen moments of Forster’s career. His depiction of the West as a crazed place of misery sets the stage for what’s to come: a strange, dark and morbidly funny look at a time that cinematic Westerns tend to romanticize.

Pattinson continues to be one of the more adventurous actors out there, while Wasikowska delivers the film’s most dominant performance.

An event around the film’s midway point completely changes the direction of the movie. David and Nathan Zellner, who wrote and directed the film, succeed in giving us something original.

Damsel is available on DVD and Blu-ray, and via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Robert Pattinson continues his daring post-Twilight career with his best role yet in Good Time as Connie, a small-time crook who gets his mentally handicapped brother, Nick (Benny Safdie, who co-directed the film with brother Josh), imprisoned on Rikers Island.

The movie is a dark and twisted adventure as Connie tries his darndest to free his brother from prison and take him far away from society. His efforts include pulling the wrong guy (Buddy Duress) out of a hospital; Connie thought the guy was his brother, but he’s actually a messed-up dude who jumped out of a moving car while on acid. He turns out to be an unreliable accomplice as they try to recover some lost drugs, intending to sell them and post bond for Connie’s brother. Things don’t go according to plan.

The film plays as a nice homage to Martin Scorsese without feeling like a rip-off. The Safdie brothers know how to get good laughs out of bad situations, and they’ve caught lightning in a bottle with Pattinson and Duress. They also managed to get Jennifer Jason Leigh on set for some great scenes as Connie’s extremely insecure friend.

While Benny Safdie’s screen time is limited, he portrays someone truly heartbreaking in Nick. It’s the sort of performance that should get him some acting recognition—on top of his fine directorial work.

Good Time is available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Writer-director James Gray has made a powerful film about Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who disappeared in 1925 while looking for a lost city in the Amazon.

Charlie Hunnam gives an impressive performance in The Lost City of Z as Fawcett, a man so hell-bent on restoring his family’s good name that he leaves his wife and children, for years at a time, to explore the Amazon. After many brushes with death in his travels, he returns to England—only to find himself fighting in World War I.

Eventually, Percy’s son, Jack (Tom Holland … yes, Spider-Man!), joins him for one more quest in the Amazon, and it turns out to be Percy’s last. There are many different accounts regarding the fate of Percy and his son, and Gray comes up with a conclusion that is powerful and beautiful.

Hunnam is great here, as is Robert Pattinson as Henry Costin, a co-explorer. Holland, in just a few scenes, leaves a great mark on the movie, especially in his final moments. Sienna Miller brings grace to the role of Nina, Fawcett’s strong-willed wife.

This is one of the year’s better-looking films, and a great example of a real-life story being as amazing as anything someone could make up. Fawcett was a fearless guy, and this movie displays that.

The Lost City of Z is available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Director Anton Corbijn’s Control, about the final days of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis, was one of the best biopics I’ve ever seen. Now Corbijn has turned his attentions to the great James Dean (Dane DeHaan) in Life, a sometimes-engaging account of the actor’s interactions with Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson), photographer for Life magazine, shortly before Dean’s death.

DeHaan plays a stripped-down, decidedly unglamorous version of the icon, with a performance that is perhaps a little too stifled and mumbling at times. Corbijn and company are shooting for a low-key portrayal here, and they succeed. The idea behind the film is good—a quiet look inside the back-story of James Dean. It’s fun to see some of Stock’s more famous stills of Dean come to life.

The film suffers a bit due to DeHaan’s sometimes-frustrating line deliveries, although he does look like Dean at some angles. Much of the film deals with Stock’s family troubles, and that also drags the film down a bit.

I suppose a rollicking biopic about Dean would not be in order; he was a complicated guy, probably a little tortured, and not necessarily the type to hang from the rafters at Hollywood parties. Still, Corbijn’s film isn’t quite up to the level of Control, although it certainly has its moments, especially when Ben Kingsley’s quietly sinister Jack Warner is occupying the screen. I’m thinking Dean’s life probably wasn’t as lonely and sad as this film depicts, but it probably was a bit moody.

Life is available on demand and via iTunes.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

In a post-economic-collapse Australia, Eric (Guy Pearce) stops for a drink in a dirty bar—and promptly has his car stolen. He gets a truck in exchange for that car, but doesn’t care, and immediately begins a relentless pursuit of his vehicle.

Along the way, he picks up Rey (Robert Pattinson), an injured brother of one of the car thieves. They form a strange alliance that results in many deaths during the pursuit of the automobile.

With The Rover, David Michôd (Animal Kingdom) has made a moody film utilizing an uncomfortable-looking Australian Outback. Pearce delivers some of his finest, fiercest work since the underrated The Proposition, while Pattinson is extremely good as the simple, messed-up Rey. The film also features Scoot McNairy, an actor who is piling up the great performances, in a small but very noticeable role as Rey’s brother.

The film is full of stark imagery, sudden violence and dirt. Everything is covered in dirt. The grime suits the story—a story that proves you don’t need a heavy, complicated plot to make a good movie.

The Rover is now playing at the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 760-770-1615).

Published in Reviews