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Search resuls for: "Kyle Smith"


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‘Violent Night’ Review: Santa’s Merry Massacre
  + stars: | 2022-12-02 | by ( Kyle Smith | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: +1 min
In the gleefully crass comedy “Violent Night,” Santa is real, but also really naughty. “Violent Night” might as well be called “John McClaus.”Combining “Bad Santa” with “Die Hard”—tra-la-la-la-la meets yippee-ki-yay—is such a knockout idea that it’s a shame “Violent Night” isn’t better. “Bad Santa” (2003) might be the funniest Christmas movie of all time, and “Die Hard” (1988) is one of the few ’80s action flicks that people still talk about. There are many smart comic ideas in “Violent Night,” but they are scattered unevenly throughout, the villains are dull, and most of the imaginative energy goes into devising spectacularly gory murders involving the distressingly off-label use of Christmas paraphernalia. The unabashedly tasteless midnight movies of the ’70s and ’80s that inspired this one understood the value of keeping things tight.
‘Emancipation’ Review: Escaping Slavery, Will Smith Style
  + stars: | 2022-12-02 | by ( Kyle Smith | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: +1 min
Public support for the Civil War in the North was at a nadir in 1863 when the abolitionist magazine Harper’s Weekly published in a special July 4 edition an engraving of a photograph of an escaped slave with a horribly scarred back. The photograph itself was widely circulated, became known as “the scourged back” or “whipped Peter,” and helped renew Northern public support for the war, months after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had failed to do the same. As with much else about enslaved people, though, reliable details about the subject of the photo are hard to come by. Nevertheless, “whipped Peter” has inspired the big-budget movie “Emancipation,” starring Will Smith as the escapee, who was photographed in Baton Rouge, La., after an arduous journey through swampland. A legend that began with the (probably fictional) Harper’s text accompanying the image, and two other images in the magazine that are said to be of the scourged escapee but clearly depict a different and much younger black man, has it that Peter joined the Union Army and fought bravely, though historians such as David Silkenat of the University of Edinburgh have argued that this was simply one of many wartime tall tales used for propaganda purposes.
Still, the nattily attired Blanc is not only a detective dandy, he’s a dandy detective, and “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is breezy holiday entertainment. All of them accept the offer to be guests at the lavish Greek island property of a jovial billionaire, Miles Bron ( Edward Norton ). We learn that he used to hang out with all of them at a tavern called the Glass Onion before he launched the tech business that made his fortune. Now he’s doing well enough to have built himself an enormous mansion topped by a palatial structure shaped like a glass onion. He boasts to his old friends that, unknown to his insurers, he has installed an override button that removes the protective glass housing around the masterpiece.
Rarely does a Disney animated feature arrive in theaters with as little fanfare as “Strange World,” which is limping into the multiplexes like an afterthought to the slate of comic-book movies that have once again ruled the box office this year. “No one is talking about it,” the 14-year-old Disney obsessive in my household tells me. You’d think that at least one of us would have heard some discussion. Lack of enthusiasm turns out to be the correct mood in which to approach “Strange World,” a low-thrills adventure set in Avalonia, a secret civilization hidden in the mountains. The swashbuckling adventurer Jaeger Clade (voiced by Dennis Quaid ) clashes with his gentle, plant-loving son Searcher ( Jake Gyllenhaal ), then storms off during a quarrel and goes missing for 25 years.
One of the year’s most celebrated documentaries is “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” which is essentially two movies in one. It’s both a biopic about the sorrow-strewn life of art photographer Nan Goldin , who as a child suffered the loss of her beloved older sister, Barbara, to suicide and seems to have had difficulty maintaining stability ever since, and a more politically oriented broadside against the Sackler family and its now-bankrupt business Purdue Pharma. The film blames both the clan and the company for the opioid crisis that followed the sales success of the firm’s widely abused prescription drug OxyContin.
‘She Said’ Review: Plodding Through the Weinstein Story
  + stars: | 2022-11-18 | by ( Kyle Smith | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: +1 min
Major movie studios hardly ever delve into newspaper work any more, and the so-so picture “She Said” is an excellent illustration of why. It falls into nearly every trap that awaits a journalism film, even featuring sequences in which characters type or stand around gazing into computer monitors, both of which exert considerable deflationary pull on drama. Since watching people ask questions leaves viewers at one remove from the story, the solution to the possibility of dramatic deficiency is either to make the journalists themselves abundantly colorful (“His Girl Friday,” “The Paper”) or to cast them as detectives who devise enterprising means to solve a complex puzzle (“All the President’s Men,” “Spotlight”). “She Said,” directed by the German actress and filmmaker Maria Schrader , errs by ignoring both paths. Portraying the New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor , who in 2017 broke the story about producer Harvey Weinstein ’s sexual misconduct, Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan are so aggressively ordinary that they leave a personality void at the center of this disappointing film.
‘The Menu’ Review: Umami Comedy
  + stars: | 2022-11-18 | by ( Kyle Smith | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: 1 min
A lot of teasing is aimed at pompous food snobs these days, but not nearly enough. The black comedy “The Menu” is a wicked treat aimed at those who roll their eyes whenever foodies refer to a steak as “the protein,” stop mid-bite to say things like “I’m getting bergamot here” or lasciviously photograph their meals. Like the similarly themed “Triangle of Sadness” earlier this fall, “The Menu” is a darkly misanthropic fable, recalling the lacerating sensibility of mad European art movies of the 1960s and ’70s. Though its black comedy is a bit nonsensical in spots, it’s certainly one of the most memorable cinematic experiences of the year. If parts of the film are as weird as the “breadless bread plate” that vexes its hungry characters, it’s also as fulfilling as the cheeseburger that plays a vital supporting role.
As recalled in the deeply felt and finely etched memoir-movie “The Fabelmans,” Steven Spielberg grew up in a family where one parent was an artist and the other an engineer. A more ideal background can scarcely be imagined for a film director, who must navigate overlapping creative and technical challenges on every project. His parents even provided young Steven with narrative sustenance: an appropriately cinematic family mystery that took him many years to understand and that has given much texture to his work. Like the best memoirs, “The Fabelmans,” which Mr. Spielberg co-wrote with his longtime collaborator Tony Kushner , drills down into experience with admirable specificity and frankness. Through Sammy’s eyes, we understand, as children do, that when something has always been the same way, it barely attracts attention.
‘Spirited’ Review: A Caterwauling ‘Christmas Carol’
  + stars: | 2022-11-11 | by ( Kyle Smith | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: +1 min
Will Ferrell was part of a woeful musical-comedy misadventure in 2005, when he played a supporting role in the big-screen version of Broadway’s “The Producers,” one of those movies that seemed to be forgotten the week after it opened. Now Mr. Ferrell is taking his chances again: At age 55, he fancies himself a Broadway baby. When a big star wants to do a musical, he’ll rarely be dissuaded. Make that two stars: Ryan Reynolds , who like Mr. Ferrell has a singing voice that can charitably be described as thin and dances in a way that suggests great effort, has joined him in woofing and warbling in the umpteenth adaptation of “A Christmas Carol .” “Spirited” is in theaters this week ahead of its streaming release Nov. 18 on Apple TV+, but nothing in the film supports the adjectival promise of the title. Fans of Mr. Ferrell and Mr. Reynolds have likely never seen them in anything this earnest and tacky before, and are liable to feel somewhere between betrayed and stunned.
Four years ago “ Black Panther ” created an appealing new mythology around Wakanda, an imaginary African kingdom defined by superior technology, fierceness in battle, moral rectitude and the world’s only known deposits of an immensely powerful metal called vibranium. The shocking death of the film’s star, Chadwick Boseman , in 2020 at age 43 left a void in a hugely popular new franchise (the movie stands sixth on the list of highest-grossing films in North America, not adjusted for inflation) and created a storytelling conundrum for the Marvel Cinematic Universe: How could it add another Black Panther chapter without its leading man? Fortunately, the first “Black Panther” was rich with secondary figures, the most notable of whom have returned for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” which is being greeted with feverish advance ticket sales. Much of that enthusiasm won’t survive this listless adventure, which at 161 minutes is one of the longest comic-book movies Hollywood has ever produced. After a spate of manic superhero blockbusters that ricocheted from one digital spectacle to another, this one takes its time with character and plot but doesn’t develop either to any satisfying degree.
‘Good Night Oppy’ Review: Robots on Mars
  + stars: | 2022-11-04 | by ( Kyle Smith | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: +1 min
An entire generation has grown up understanding that having access to high-quality images from the surface of Mars is routine. The rousing documentary “Good Night Oppy” seeks to restore a proper measure of wonder to the spectacularly effective deployment of exploration rovers to the surface of a once-unreachable planet. “Good Night Oppy,” which is now in theaters ahead of a Nov. 23 release on Prime Video, is directed in a kid-friendly way by Ryan White , who largely leaves technical and scientific information to the side and concentrates on anthropomorphizing the two ingeniously engineered robotic machines, Spirit and Opportunity, that were flung into space in 2003 to explore the Red Planet. The twin rovers were solar-powered, but because of the inevitable accumulation of dust on their panels were expected to go defunct for lack of power in 90 “sols”—the scientists’ term for Martian days. Instead, Spirit endured more than six years, while her plucky sister Opportunity, or “Oppy,” kept sending the astronomic equivalent of letters home to her parents for nearly 15.
‘Tell a dream, lose a reader,” writing teachers say to their charges. But after you’ve won five Academy Awards, you may feel you’ve earned the right to luxuriate in your fancies. Mr. Iñárritu’s latest, “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths,” signals accurately in its title that it’s a heady dose of magical-realist arthouse cinema intended for serious filmgoers only. Yet it’s a dense, plotless, phantasmagorical swirl of memories, wishes and grudges, and so it demands full concentration in a theater. It is not best experienced from the lounge chair whose occupant may be distracted by the phone or the proximity of the kitchen.
‘Armageddon Time’ Review: A Tale of Two Boys
  + stars: | 2022-10-28 | by ( Kyle Smith | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: 1 min
“Armageddon Time” is a curiously excitable title for a slice-of-life tale about an ordinary boy growing up in 1980 New York, but then again, 12-year-olds are curiously excitable people. Everything is a discovery; adulthood beckons while childhood limits. The internal push-and-pull provides for ample dramatic possibilities. Writer-director James Gray thoughtfully explores some of them in an autobiographically inspired picture in which he barely alters his name in creating a screen counterpart, Paul Graff (Banks Repeta). In the weeks leading to the 1980 presidential election, Paul, a boy from a smart, striving middle-class Jewish family in Queens, N.Y., is something of a misfit in school, where he has a tendency to act up in mischievous but basically harmless ways.
‘Call Jane’ Review: Feminists Underground
  + stars: | 2022-10-28 | by ( Kyle Smith | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: +1 min
The pointed abortion drama “Call Jane” seems unlikely to change any minds when it comes to an always-contentious issue, but this late-’60s period piece successfully channels some of the righteous rage that fueled second-wave feminism, which engineered one triumph after another and completely reconfigured women’s role in American society within a few years. As the film opens, patriarchy rules and is little questioned by such unassuming figures as Joy, a naive, timid Chicago housewife sensitively played by Elizabeth Banks . In an early scene, Joy is puzzled by a 1968 street protest indicating growing political anger that seems alien to her quiet and well-ordered life. Her husband, a litigator named Will ( Chris Messina ), relies heavily on her input when writing briefs, suggesting that she could be a better lawyer than he if they lived in a society that recognized women’s talents. Neither spouse considers that possibility; women are simply second-class citizens.
‘Ticket to Paradise’ Review: They Object
  + stars: | 2022-10-21 | by ( Kyle Smith | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: +1 min
David and Georgia Cotton were married for five years, but they’ve been divorced for 20. As David and Georgia are played by George Clooney and Julia Roberts , are there any guesses about what is going to happen? A rom-com need not be unpredictable to work beautifully, though, and “Ticket to Paradise” has a few lively moments. Though like Mr. Clooney’s and Ms. Robert’s ageless faces director Ol Parker has trouble coming up with new wrinkles. Mr. Parker, whose best film is perhaps “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and who managed to execute some adorable ideas in the surprisingly not-bad “Mamma Mia!
Wounded but funny, quiet but resonant and resistant to anything like a Hollywood formula, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a strangely profound little comedy. The guns of the Irish Civil War can be heard in the distance, creating puzzlement among the residents of Inisherin. A kind of micro-spoof of the war is about to upend his peaceful little life. Pádraic’s best friend, Colm (played with a balance of lightness and foreboding by the gifted character actor Brendan Gleeson ), has decided to spurn him, irrevocably and without warning. “I just don’t like you no more,” Colm says, and demands that Pádraic never speak to him again.
‘Black Adam’ Review: Rock Bottom
  + stars: | 2022-10-21 | by ( Kyle Smith | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: +1 min
There are superhero movies about the War on Terror, the implacability of evil and the unintended consequences that might ensue if gods were among us. Then there are superhero movies about how cool it might look to shoot lightning out your fingertips. Like “Aquaman” and “Shazam!,” “Black Adam” feels like its script was dreamed up during seventh-grade recess. Adrianna is being pursued by the thugs ruling Kahndaq, so Teth Adam helpfully smites her enemies via such digitally colorful actions as roasting attackers with fingertip-fired electricity and smashing helicopters together while flying. Teth Adam, or Black Adam, as he will come to be known in a nod to both his dyspeptic personality and his skin-tight superhero garb, has much the same powers as Superman, but tied to attitude instead of innocence.
‘Till’ Review: Telling the Tragedy of Emmett Till
  + stars: | 2022-10-14 | by ( Kyle Smith | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: 1 min
‘Till” spares us scenes of the lynching of Emmett Till , but the film is difficult to bear anyway: When confronted with the sight of his coffin, his mother keens with such sorrow that it’s piercing and spectral, a wail to reverberate down the ages. Bo Till , as he was known to his family, was an eager 14-year-old from Chicago whose mother, Mamie, allowed him to visit his cousins and great-uncle in Mississippi in the summer of 1955 for a sampling of rural life. But four days after an encounter with a woman who co-owned a store in Money, Miss., Till was dragged out of his relatives’ house at gunpoint, beaten, and shot in the head before his body was dumped in the Tallahatchie River.
‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Review: Trouble in Paradise
  + stars: | 2022-09-23 | by ( Kyle Smith | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: +1 min
Just as a bonsai tree is somewhat overshadowed by a giant sequoia, “Don’t Worry Darling” the film comes to us somewhat overshadowed by “Don’t Worry Darling” the generator of behind-the-scenes gossip. That’s a shame, because a film should be judged on its merits, not its memes. There is considerable visual flair to the movie, which was directed by Olivia Wilde , and at its core it does consider in an imaginative way a troubling cultural trend, which I won’t discuss because it involves a third-act revelation. Not that I’d recommend “Don’t Worry Darling,” though. Written by Katie Silberman from a story by brothers Carey and Shane Van Dyke , it suffers from a major structural problem, which is that in its endlessly padded middle section it coyly refuses to get to the point until it exhausts the audience’s patience, then sprints through a late explanation that deserves more careful consideration.
‘See How They Run’ Review: Death on the West End
  + stars: | 2022-09-19 | by ( Kyle Smith | ) www.wsj.com   time to read: 1 min
After “Murder on the Orient Express” raked in over $352 million at the global box office in 2017 and “Knives Out” brought in about $312 million two years later, the stuffy old parlor-murder-mystery felt like a movie genre reborn. For a moment, screenwriters put down their preferred source material (comic books) and turned their attentions to Agatha Christie novels, sales of which have spiked. Maybe everything that was once in vogue gets another chance, although you probably shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for the return of big-band music or cigarette holders.
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