By: Henry J. Fromage –
A new year dawns with a slate full of last year’s catch-up material, with both some disappointments and some some pleasant surprises.
1. Mary, Queen of Scots
While this is a finely acted, handsomely designed production as the trailers promise, that’s about all that’s true of what the trailers promise. Instead of a two-hander between two of history’s most interesting female rulers that only one of them can survive, this becomes a tawdry soap opera with Elizabeth largely sidelined until the end. Just know what you’re getting into and you might add a beer back. Four Beers.
I was ready to give the Transformer franchise’s one stab at making an actual good film the benefit of the doubt, but what you have here is the same old emperor in purportedly new clothes. If you’re willing to succumb to nostalgia bait because you grew up with the robot car toys, by all means… but if robot car toys don’t mean dick to you, this movie’s Iron Giant-aping isn’t going to sway you. Four Beers.
Speaking of nostalgia-bait, Jonah Hill engages in a much more potent exercise with his, well, mid 90s period piece that looks, sounds, and just feels for better a little bit worse like those old Larry Clark/Harmony Korine kids breaking bad features from the same time period. Arguably Hill doesn’t achieve much more than thoroughly transportive imitation, but right down to the lighting, it’s inarguably transportive. Two Beers.
4. Christopher Robin
Okay, so nostalgia’s clearly a theme so far. This is perhaps the most overt nostalgia play of them all, with the Christopher Robin’s grown up now and works too much and just needs to learn what’s important in life, be a kid again, etc etc. However, Evan McGregor’s committed performance and some quite droll effects and voicework contain enough of a spark of magic to be worth the pleasantly predictable journey. Three Beers.
5. The Wife
This story of a great, philandering author being awarded the Nobel Prize and the long-suffering wife who may be even more responsible for his success than you’d imagine is a little pat in its characterization and plot (I could absolutely see this being turned into a stageplay with very little modification), but is nonetheless a fitting acting showcase for Jonathan Pryce and the brutally overdue for an Oscar Glenn Close. Let’s just give her a Nobel while we’re at it. Three Beers.
6. The Little Stranger
Speaking in truth in advertising, it’s important going into this one to understand that it’s only very obliquely a horror film. The true terror is more of an existential variety, as a common-born doctor becomes embroiled in the perhaps supernaturally aided but nonetheless quickly declining fortunes of the local landed gentry and their manor that he was envious of as a little boy. Two Beers.
7. The Favourite
Yorgos Lanthimos’s first film with somebody else’s script proves to be a great match, as Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara’s razor-sharp wit and Lanthimos’s idiosyncratic instincts match up beautifully with Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and especially Olivia Colman’s committed performances. Just everyone and everything firing on all cylinders to produce a film quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen. A Toast.