One of the strongest truths in telling any story is that if you can’t make your lead characters likeable, at least make them interesting. Michael Corleone? Not likeable, but highly intriguing. Walter White? Really unlikeable, but dear God, so complex and endlessly fascinating. Darth Vader? One of my favorite movie characters of all time, but I certainly don’t like him in the least. In Gillian Robespierre’s “Landline,” the follow-up to her 2014 debut “Obvious Child,” there is nary an amiable character amongst the leads of the films, which makes for a difficult movie to watch or to recommend.
“Score: A Film Music Documentary” celebrates the important but almost invisible art of scoring a motion picture. You may think, from various special features on DVDs and Blu-Rays over the years, that you might understand how the process works, but you’ve never really gotten this in depth before, and before this, you probably never knew you wanted to go this in depth before.
Way out west, there was this fella I wanna tell ya about. Goes by the name of Sam Elliott. At least that was the handle his loving parents gave him, but many people, especially women – and not just older women but women of all ages with discerning tastes – would call him “The Sexiest Man Alive.” See, this Elliot, he’d never call himself “The Sexiest Man Alive.” Because boiling down one of the most interesting actors to grace the silver screen down to a worthless tabloid moniker doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Watching Sam Elliott work over the past forty years, on the silver screen and on television, in a wide variety of genres, has been one of the great joys of entertainment, and never has he had a role quite like Lee Hayden, leading a movie quite like “The Hero.”
Walter Hill’s “The Assignment” is a study in contrasts. On one hand, it’s a career high for one of its lead stars, while on the other it’s amongst the career lows for the other. On one hand, it makes a great argument for why we need more female-centered action movies, while on the other it makes a great argument for why we need better female-centered action movies. At times, it shows why we shouldn’t give up on certain stars and filmmakers just because they are “past their prime,” while at other times it shows why those who might not get as many offers for great roles or directing vehicles as they used to might want to not jump at anything that comes their way.
Sometimes, the time between a movie is planned, shot, edited, scored, promoted and released, its intended meaning changes along with the time it finds itself released upon. There’s no way actress/producer Jessica Chastain and director Niki Caro could have known what was in store for our political landscape of 2017 when the film was first set up in 2013 or when it went in to production in the fall of 2015, and perhaps it’s because of where we are today, with women and their rights under siege daily, that the film has extra adde poignancy and relevancy it may not have had if things turned out differently last November.
I think I figured out why first time director Reed Tang’s “A Different Sun” feels so darned disjointed. How else can you describe a drama about a Chinese family who moves to Germany to help their daughter get a better education, which is mostly in English and almost exclusively shot in upstate New York?