Tag Archives: Robert Pattinson

Save a Prayer

The Devil All the Time

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

“Lord knows where a person who ain’t saved might end up.”

Indeed. The constant fight to overcome the worst in ourselves lies at the heart of The Devil All the Time, director Antonio Campos’s darkly riveting realization of Donald Ray Pollock’s best-selling novel.

Bookended by the close of World War II and the escalation in Vietnam, the film connects the fates of various characters living in the small rural towns of Southern Ohio and West Virginia.

Arvin (Tom Holland), the son of a disturbed WWII vet (Bill Skarsgård), fights to protect his sister (Eliza Scanlen) while he ponders his future. Husband and wife serial killers (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough) look for hitchhikers to degrade, photograph and murder. A new small town preacher (Robert Pattinson) displays a special interest in the young girls of his congregation.

It’s a star studded affair—Mia Wasikowska, Haley Bennett and Sebastian Stan joining as well—but every actor blends into the woodsy atmosphere with a sense of unease that permeates the air. No stars here, all character actors in service of the film’s unsettling calling.

Pollock’s prose created a dizzyingly bleak landscape where Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy might meet to quietly ponder man’s inhumanity to man. Campos unlocks that world courtesy of Pollock himself, who narrates the film’s depravity with a backwoods folksiness that makes it all the more chilling.

As rays of light are constantly snuffed out by darkness, Campos (who also co-wrote the screenplay) uses Pollock’s voice and contrasting soundtrack song choices to create a perverse air of comfort.

Redemption is a slippery aim in and around Knockemstiff, Ohio, and grace is even harder to come by. With a heavier hand, this film would have been a savage beating or a backwoods horror of the most grotesque kind. Campos and his formidable ensemble deliver Pollock’s tale with enough understatement and integrity to cut deeply, unnerving your soul and leaving a well-earned scar.

Time Out Of Mind

Tenet

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

A not-at-all funny thing happened to the movie calendar this year. And now, instead of kicking off the summer blockbuster season with a bang, the stakes for Tenet are a wee bit higher: rescue movie theaters.

As you may have heard, writer/director Christopher Nolan has been adamant that this film be experienced in theaters. He’s not wrong.

Tenet is a sensory battering experience, one not to be paused or downsized. The ideas are big, the visuals are full of wide-eyed wonders, and the persistent mind-bending immediately invites second helpings (maybe more).

An agent known only as The Protagonist (John David Washington) is introduced to technology that has the power to invert time. Time travel? Sorry, that’s Bill & Ted kid stuff. We’re talking the ability to move forward in a space where everything else is moving backward.

Nolan is returning to a familiar playground that manipulates time and reality. From Leonard looping through a constant present tense in Memento to Cobb forever bumping into his own past in his attempts to shift the future in Inception, back to The Prestige, forward to Interstellar and again to the braided timelines of Dunkirk, Nolan is a filmmaker who orchestrates universes by playing with time and consequence.   

In Tenet, the future is talking to the past, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. To put things right, our Protagonist and a mysterious partner named Neil (Robert Pattinson) must gain the trust of a high-end art dealer (Elizabeth Debicki) on the way to taking down her Russian arms dealer husband (Kenneth Branagh) who’s thinking bigger than Thanos.

A dialog heavy first half benefits primarily from the oily charm and sly humor of Pattinson’s character, whose arc is made more fun and more interesting by the way the film loops its realities. As elegant as always, Debicki exists to give the film a truly human character, which is to say, one whose behavior is too often (and too conveniently) impetuous.

The film’s biggest drawbacks are some cliched dialogue and its tendency to present itself as a SciFi James Bond movie with well-dressed characters popping up in gorgeous locales to impressively (and too conveniently) offer well-timed information. (Washington does impress as a potential Bond, though.)

The two and a half hour running time is not a concern, because once we hit the midpoint, Nolan (with a big assist from cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema and stunt coordinator George Cottle) decide we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Past and present collide in some of the most interesting, tense and downright fun action sequences Nolan’s ever put together—and fan or not, that’s a feat to acknowledge.

That’s merely a summary that doesn’t require a physics degree, but as Nolan’s own screenplay admits, “Don’t try to understand it.” We’re back to big screens, baby, let’s make it count!

They Are Us

Waiting for the Barbarians

by George Wolf

In the forty years since J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians was first published, world events have continued to re-frame its thematic relevance.

Now, the novel finally has a big screen adaptation, amid a tumultuous political climate that again makes Coetzee’s tale feel especially prescient.

In a vaguely historical era within an unnamed “Empire,” the Magistrate (Mark Rylance) governs his desert outpost population through moral conviction and a delicate harmony with the land’s indigenous peoples.

Conversely, Colonel Joll (Johnny Depp) – the soft spoken and sadistic head of state security – believes “pain is truth.” Joll arrives at the outpost to carry out random interrogations of the nomadic “barbarians” and learn the truth about an attack that he feels is imminent.

The Magistrate protests this view of the natives and the Empire’s directives, drawing the ire of Joll and later, his more overtly cruel lieutenant, officer Mandel (Robert Pattinson).

Coetzee’s debut screenplay adapts his own novel with delicate grace and an understated foreboding. But as relevant as the theme of creeping fascism remains, its bite is dulled by ambiguity and broadly-drawn metaphors.

The urge to speak more universally via an unspecified name, time and place is understandable, but it hampers the intimacy required to feel this warning in your gut.

The Oscar-winning Rylance (Bridge of Spies) almost makes up for this by himself, with a tremendous performance of quiet soul-searching. The film’s summer-to-the-following-autumn chapter headings paint the Magistrate as an obvious man for all seasons, and Rylance makes the Magistrate’s journey of fortitude and redemption feel almost biblical.

Depp and Pattinson provide worthy adversarial bookends. As Joll, Depp’s only eccentricity is a pair of sunglasses, but again he requires minimal screen time to carve an indelible figure.

Mandel is an even smaller role, but Pattinson makes him the eager realization of the ugliness Joll keeps bottled up. It’s another interesting choice for the gifted Pattinson, and another film that’s better for it.

Director Ciro Guerra utilizes exquisite cinematography from Chris Menges for a wonderful array of visuals, from beautifully expansive landscapes to artfully orchestrated interior stills. Though the film’s first act feels particularly forced, Guerra (Birds of Passage, Embrace of the Serpent) gives the remaining narrative – especially the Magistrate’s attempts at penance with the tortured Girl (Gana Bayarsaikhan) – the room to effectively breathe.

Waiting for the Barbarians is not a film that will leave you guessing. But the decades-old message remains painfully vital, and in its quietest moments of subtlety, the film gives that message sufficient power.

Beyond the Sea

The Lighthouse

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that there are no new ideas in modern film, that everything coming out is a sequel, reboot, adaptation or biopic. And then you spend an hour and 49 minutes with two men and a lighthouse.

What did we just watch?

Director/co-writer Robert Eggers follows The Witch, his incandescent 2015 feature debut, with another painstakingly crafted, moody period piece. The Lighthouse strands you, along with two wickies, on the unforgiving island home of one lonely 1890s New England lighthouse.

Salty sea dog Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) keeps the light, mind ye. He also handles among the most impressive briny soliloquies delivered on screen in a lifetime. Joining him as second is one Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson)—aimless, prone to self-abuse, disinclined to appreciate a man’s cooking.

Eggers’s film is a two-man show, a dizzying, sometimes absurd and often flatulent descent into madness.

The atmosphere is thick and brisk as sea fog, immersing you early with Jarin Blasche’s chilly black and white cinematography and a Damian Volpe sound design echoing of loss and one persistent, ominous foghorn.

For everything Eggers brings to bear, from the Bergmanesque lighting and spiritual undertones to the haunting score to the scrupulous set design to images suitable for framing in a maritime museum – not to mention the script itself – The Lighthouse works because of two breathtaking performances.

Dafoe may be one of the few actors alive who can take this manic-eyed, gimpy-legged version of the Simpson’s sea captain and force us to absorb his every eccentricity. When Winslow finally screams “You’re a parody!” it both wounds and reassures, as by then we’re eager to accept any bit of confirmation that we can trust anything we’re seeing.

As our vessel into this waterlogged nightmare, Pattinson impresses with yet another fiercely committed performance. Winslow comes to “the rock” full of quiet dignity, only to become a soul increasingly tempted by mysterious new demons while running from old ones.

Winslow’s psychological spiral has so many WTF moments, it would crumble without the sympathetic anchor Pattinson provides from the film’s opening moments. Twilight seems like a lifetime ago, and in case you’ve missed any of the impressive indie credits he’s racked up the last few years, we’ll say it again: Pattinson is the real deal.

So is Eggers. His mastery of tone and atmosphere carries a weight that’s damn near palpable. The Lighthouse will leave you feeling cold, wet and woozy, as Eggers trades the literal payoff from The Witch for a series of reveals you’ll be struggling to connect.

This is thrilling cinema. Let it in, and it will consume you to the point of nearly missing the deft gothic storytelling at work. The film is other-worldly, surreal, meticulous and consistently creepy.

And we’ll tell you what The Lighthouse is not. It is not a film ye will soon forget.

Star Child

High Life

by George Wolf

In tackling the final frontier, it’s not surprising that unconventional filmmaker Claire Denis shows little interest in the usual themes that dominate the sci-fi genre. High Life floats very deliberately in its own headspace, touching down somewhere between enlightened consciousness and acid-blooded killing machines.

Monte (Robert Pattinson) appears to be the last survivor of a spacecraft’s crew, but he’s not alone in deep space. He has baby Willow to care for, tending to her needs while he performs his duties and files the regular progress reports that feel increasingly futile.

The infant is one of many general questions director/co-writer Denis casually raises before playing with the film’s timeline to address them, all the while picking at the scabs of deeper insights into the primal desires and self-destructive instincts we cannot escape.

Denis is more than aware of her genre playground (there is a character named Chandra, after all), and while you may be reminded of other sci-fi institutions, High Life lives in the uncomfortable places even the best of these films gloss over. It is bleak and often surreal, draped in the stifling desperation of a crew seemingly controlled by Dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche – a terrific model of subtle menace).

There is sex (Binoche’s solo sequence is damn near unforgettable) but no affection, reproduction reduced to its most clinical nature and an element of body horror that Denis’s close-up camerawork demands you acknowledge. Though the deep space effects may not be big-budget worthy, succinct visual storytelling is always in play.

In the latest of many challenging indie roles he’s been choosing post-Twilight, Pattinson is again impressive. In a succession of unlikable characters, he gives Monte a gradually sympathetic layer, an element that becomes critical to making the film’s third act as effective, and ultimately hopeful, as it is.

To her credit, Denis has always shown little regard for standard convention. While there is much to be gleaned from the opening and closing shots of her latest, it is the ride in between that makes High Life such a different animal.





The Screening Room: Let’s Get Small and Angry

Welcome back to The Screening Room podcast, where we marvel (see what we did there?) at the breezy comedic stylings of Ant-Man and The Wasp, get political along with the latest Purge, celebrate Robert Pattinson’s continued streak with Damsel, discuss why Whitney is such a solid doc, and also run through what’s worth it and what is not in home entertainment.

Listen in HERE.





Heroes in Distress

Damsel

by Hope Madden

A lot of people headed west for a new start. Damsel, the latest quirky comedy from David and Nathan Zellner, doesn’t believe a fresh start is in store for any of us.

“Things are going to be shitty in new and fascinating ways.”

Like Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter —the filmmakers’ high water mark—Damsel is a gorgeous film marked with visual absurdity that emphasizes the uniquely bizarre nature of the human being.

Unlike Kumiko, Damsel is a Western.

A dandy stranger named Samuel (Robert Pattinson) arrives at your traditional, sorry-ass Western town to find the parson (David Zellner). He has a deal set with the parson. But an amazing opening sequence brimming with the beauty, brutality and existential angst of the Wild West means that we know something about the parson that Samuel doesn’t.

Of course, Samuel knows some things he’s not sharing with the parson as well. Soon enough, the two are off, along with the miniature horse Butterscotch, to find and marry Samuel’s beloved Penelope (Mia Wasikowska).

Into the utterly typical Western architecture ride characters entirely lacking that nobility and destiny of the Hollywood classic. The result is not a spoof, it isn’t wacky in the Mel Brooks fashion. It’s thoughtful and humorous, deliberately gorgeous and just a tad melancholy.

Recent years have seen their fair share of revisionist Westerns, but few truly tinker with that romantic nobility associated with every character in quite the way Damsel does.

Pattinson, continuing his streak, is a wonder. He steals every scene and scenes without him suffer from the loss.

Wasikowska is solid as not just the traditional butt-kickin’ Western woman, but a revelation of the status quo. It will be her character that carries us through most of the film, and that is both an intriguing and thematically strong decision. It’s just not as funny.

The film turns on a bullet from silly misadventure to something more profound: a glimpse into the historical constant of toxic masculinity.

As much as the second half of the film scores points for insight, the humor is more depressing and scenes lack the bright, shiny idiocy of Pattinson’s Samuel.

This is not a dooming flaw. The film’s deceptively whimsical comedy offers a biting criticism of traditional, romantically-masculine storytelling.





I Don’t Want to Go Out – Week of November 20

Damn, a lot of movies come out this week. I guess if you have to drown out the yammering of family or just sit still for a long while and digest, you have your pick of movies to help you accomplish your laudable goals. Let us help you pick!

Click the title for the full review.

Good Time

Crown Heights

Lemon

Hex

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets





The Screening Room: Dreaming and Connecting

Click HERE to join us in the Screening Room to break down Leap!, Ingrid Goes West, Good Time, Whose Streets?, Lemon, In This Corner of the World and what’s new in home entertainment!





Brother’s Keeper

Good Time

by Hope Madden

Regardless of the film’s title, Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) does not appear to be having a Good Time.

Connie is trying to keep the system away from his mentally impaired brother Nick (Benny Safdie, who also co-writes and co-directs). He uses what means he has, none of which are legal.

After a botched bank robbery sees the brothers separated and Nick incarcerated, Connie engages in ever riskier behavior in a desperate attempt to save his brother.

Safdie, alongside his real brother and filmmaking partner Josh, once again explores an urban underbelly. The two have proven with films like their 2014 festival favorite Heaven Knows What that they can tell a deeply human story set on the fringe of society.

Good Time is a bit more high energy than Heaven Knows What, but once again the Safdies create a world that’s simultaneously alien and authentic. It’s hard to believe people live like this, and yet every moment of Connie’s increasingly erratic evening rings true. Nuts, but true.

Pattinson delivers his strongest performance yet. His glittering vampire days long behind him, he’s shown versatility in recent projects including Cosmopolis, The Rover and Maps to the Stars. Here he balances a seedy survival instinct with heart-wrenching loyalty and tenderness.

Everything Connie touches, he poisons. In Pattinson’s hands, he’s righteous enough to believe in his own cause, even when it means convincing himself that he’s protecting someone – his brother, a teenage girl, another lowlife looking for a score – who’d be better off without him.

Benny Safdie impresses in front of the camera as well as behind. His understated performance shows no sign of artificiality, and his skill as a filmmaker has never shined more brightly.

His gift for pacing that matches the hustle – the constant shifting, shuffling and scheming needed for survival – keeps Good Time both exhilarating and exhausting.

The film showcases the kind of desperation that fueled many a New York indie of the Seventies, Midnight Cowboy among them. The urgency of a quick con that could lead to freedom but will undoubtedly end in tragedy seems the only kind of choice Connie ever makes.

It’s a grim film full of bruised people, but it never loses hope entirely.

Verdict-4-0-Stars