Cinema Clash podcast: Incredibles 2; Tag; A Kid Like Jake; Hearts Beat Loud; The Misandrists

Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Cue up the sequel. I suspect Hollywood will see enough green from Crazy Rich Asians to justify a speedy greenlight for a second (and third) film based on the popular trilogy by Kevin Kwan. I haven’t read the book(s) but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the movie, which is basically a conventional romantic dramedy that happens to feature a majority Asian cast playing a variety of well-drawn characters, several of whom are crazy rich. It’s all very Dynasty-esque, tackling love, romance, pettiness, sabotage, scorn, humor, fashion, palatial digs and a lot of fantastic-looking food. The story revolves around Rachel Chu (Constance Wu, TV’s Fresh Off the Boat), a bright, attractive and very down-to-earth Asian-American Economics Professor who agrees to accompany her bright and charming boyfriend Nick Young (newcomer Henry Golding) to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. En route she discovers that her longtime beau comes from money – lots and lots of money.

Review: Leave No Trace

Eight years ago writer/director Debra Granik introduced us all to Jennifer Lawrence in the amazing Winter’s Bone. She’s finally made another movie after way too long, introducing us to the next young actress we should probably keep an eye on, Thomasin McKenzie, who plays 13-year-old Tom in this gem of a film. Like Winter’s Bone, Leave No Trace is not about people living conventional lives with ordinary choices to make. Tom and her dad Will (Ben Foster, Hell or High Water) have chosen to live out in the woods in an Oregon park, taking care of themselves, and living a fairly isolated but full life together. But when they’re discovered by rangers and social services gets involved, the question of what is home and what is normal is pushed to the fore.

Review: BlackkKlansman

Spike Lee’s latest joint is about as far fetched as you could imagine. Set in the early 70s, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) becomes Colorado Springs, Colorado’s first African-American cop. While still a rookie, he infiltrates the KKK and fools Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) into welcoming him into the fold. But it’s a true story and one that resonates all the more loudly in our current political world with David Duke and his minions then as now proclaiming “America First.” It’s a deadly serious, yet at times hilarious story, and it’s scary how much has not changed in the intervening years.

Review: Custody (Jusqu’à la garde)

Custody begins as a separated couple, Antoine (Denis Ménochet) and Miriam (Léa Drucker), sit before a magistrate who will decide the fate of their children. Their daughter Joséphine (Mathilde Auneveux) is nearly grown, so their 11-year-old son Julien (Thomas Gioria) is really the bone of contention. And he doesn’t want to see his abusive father. But the court grants the father weekend visits anyway. And it is immediately apparent that the court made a huge mistake. What follows is like watching the fuse on a bomb slowing burning down. You’re wait for the explosion, but hoping that someone comes along to defuse it, even though you know that is unlikely. It’s harrowing!

Review: Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

Director Gus Van Sant has brought us some very powerful films in the past — Milk, Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester, to name just a few — and he frequently pushed the envelope in the way he tells a tale — To Die For, My Own Private Idaho — but his latest is a pretty straight forward bio of alcoholic cartoonist John Callahan. Played by chameleon Joaquin Phoenix, the arc of the tale is Callahan’s coming to terms with himself after a life-changing accident while getting sober at the same time. There are some funny moments for sure, and an odd romance, and also some insightful AA bits. And it is a pleasant entertainment, though not terribly memorable.

Review: The Spy Who Dumped Me

The difference between The Spy Who Dumped Me and Mission: Impossible – Fallout is that in a few months I’ll still remember seeing and enjoying MI, whereas Spy will barely register a flicker of recall beyond, “Oh, yeah… that movie with Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon? I saw it. It was okay.” Kunis and McKinnon play Audrey and Morgan, two best friends in L.A. who get caught in the crossfire of a deadly (yet comical) spy game – thanks to Audrey’s ex-boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux). He’s stashed a flash drive with vital information at Audrey’s apartment, and when he goes to retrieve it, he has a slew of assassins on his tail. So it falls to Audrey and Morgan to get the drive to the drop – in Austria. Game on, people!

Review: Sorry to Bother You

One of the best films I’ve seen lately, Sorry to Bother You doesn’t fit neatly into any of the usual genres. It’s an audacious anti-capitalist sci-fi comedy set in an alternate Oakland. The number one TV show has people getting punched in the face for money, and a nefarious mega-corporation called WorryFree has set up a program where people are being willingly enslaved. The central character is Cassius Green (LaKeith Stanfield, Atlanta, Get Out) known to his friends as “Cash” who lands a job as a telemarketer for WorryFree and quickly masters the secret key to success, moving him upstairs to become a power caller, where the pay is unbelievable if you can just get over what you’re doing. Meanwhile his friends, co-workers, and girlfriend downstairs are organizing a strike to force WorryFree to pay them what they’re worth. And Cash has to decide where his loyalties lie.

Review: The Captain (Der Hauptmann)

The Captain is not for the faint of heart. It’s the true story (or some version of it) of a German deserter in World War II, who finds a suitcase containing a Luftwaffe captain’s uniform and assumes the role, building his own band of brothers from deserters he finds along the way, and committing truly horrifying acts in the name of the Führer in the waning days of the war. Pvt. Willi Herold (Max Hubacher) simply by virtue of a uniform becomes a sadistic leader. Inventing a mission straight from Hitler himself, he quickly loses his fear of being caught and tests the limits of his own brutality. And there are no limits.

Review: Love, Cecil

I’d known about Cecil Beaton as a photographer for decades, but had no idea the breadth of his creative talents. Love, Cecil is a beautifully crafted documentary about him that blends his own interviews with those of his many admirers and friends (and a few enemies) with readings from his many diaries by Rupert Everett, and most importantly showcases his prolific output. From photographing the Royal family for decades to art directing My Fair Lady, to changing the way fashion was portrayed in print, he seemed to never stop working. Directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland (Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict), the film wisely lets Beaton’s art take center stage and could more aptly be titled, “I love Cecil!”

Review: Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to check your plausibility meter at the door and enjoy watching Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, 56) run, jump, fly, shoot and crawl his way across the globe in this sixth installment of the popular spy-movie franchise. Berlin! Paris! London! New Zealand! It’s a veritable action-adventure-travelogue. There is a plot – something to do with missing plutonium, bombs, a manifesto, double-crosses galore, and millions of people at risk. But it’s the stunts, breathtaking locales and core character interactions that make for a fast-paced and engaging flick.