At long last, this? The latest Marvel offering finds the titan of franchises folding in on itself, looking backwards with a floundering lack of ideas for one of its most popular icons. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, after arriving in Iron Man 2 to become one of the original Avengers, is finally the star of her own standalone film. One that sadly cannot measure up to the wait. Like a reheated Bourne film with its visual identity zapped like nutrients from a meal in a microwave, this entry features some of the most popular cinematic world’s stalest tropes and characterizations. The assembly reeks of half-heartedness, a complacency for what will merely suffice instead of what will enrich and best suit the character. After waiting a decade for Black Widow to have her own movie, we are served one that could basically belong to anyone.Continue reading “In Review: Black Widow”
Noah Baumbach opens his newest film, Marriage Story, with a duet of affectionate observations between married couple Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver). Included in their lists of admirations for one another are details symmetrical and some suggest a fractiousness, but among their mirrored responses is their young son Henry (Azhy Robertson). But as the bottom falls out and their love lists prove to be an early exercise in their just-beginning divorce proceedings, this lyrical sequence proves to not be a first deception but a very pointed preamble. Marriage Story is about a divorce, but it remains a love story.
The laughs die quickly in Jojo Rabbit, writer-director Taika Waititi’s newest whimsical farce. Set in the dying days of Nazi Germany, a preteen would-be soldier named Jojo (played by Roman Griffin Davis) in the youth army struggles to fit in with his Reich peers. No matter, because he has the faith of his imaginary friend, a cartoonish version of Adolf Hitler played by none other than Waititi himself. Its silly and convincing opening act soon falls into one-note flatness as things turn to sentimentalism, giving us Waititi’s weakest film and one that frustrates in its fleeting successes.
Coming like an bourbon-tinged palate cleanser from the Oscar season glut and the Star Wars-led spectacle of the holidays, Hail, Caesar! feels like the true start to the cinematic year after a typically grim January. Playing with old Hollywood tropes and satirizing the former studio system, the film is as much of a delight as it is confounding. What should be tricky for mainstream audiences expecting a star-filled madcap romp to fully embrace will still be met warmly by those ready for something just left of center after the end-of-the-year gloss.
In Caesar!, it feels as if the Coen Brothers are playing with more ambivalence than their famously fatalistic instincts. Things don’t come to a natural conclusion or result from the bad choices of idiots, as the Coens are prone to display, perhaps because there isn’t much happening at all. There isn’t much narrative thrust to make the Coens’ ideas lift off of the ground, even as they’re drawing from their common thematic toolbox of religion, misguided mores, and our impending doom. Luckily, the farce in between is more delicious and uproarious than anything we’ve seen from the duo in ages.