November 2023


period film

Oppenheimer (2023)

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan

CAST: Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh


Ambitious director Christopher Nolan has called Oppenheimer—-a biopic of the “father of the atom bomb”, American theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, largely working off the book American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin—-his most challenging project to date, but while its ambition and technical accomplishments are admirable, Oppenheimer like Interstellar and Dunkirk before it also falls victim to some of Nolan’s increasingly self-indulgent less admirable qualities. There are any number of flashes of greatness and strong moments and performances in the mix, and moments that are unsettling, poignant, and thought-provoking, but Oppenheimer is not all that it could have been.

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The King’s Man (2021)

The King's Man - IGN

DIRECTOR: Matthew Vaughn

CAST: Ralph Fiennes, Harris Dickinson, Gemma Arterton, Djimon Hounsou, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Daniel Brühl, Charles Dance, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Tom Hollander, Stanley Tucci


While The King’s Man is a bit of a redundant movie, it’s at least redundant in a slightly different way: instead of a dime-a-dozen unnecessary sequel, this one is an unnecessary prequel. 2014’s Kingsman was a fun campy romp, but 2017’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle proved that trying to draw a franchise out of it might have been overkill, and The King’s Man, reaching back to WWI to show the “origins” of the titular secret society of gentlemen spies and modern-day knights, has not changed that opinion. With an episodic structure that veers between a campy action/spy romp to a grim WWI war drama and eventually comes back round again, The King’s Man tries to be two clashing things at once and doesn’t fully succeed in any direction. It’s moderately enjoyable, but doesn’t recapture the entertainment value of the original installment.

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Jungle Cruise (2021)

The Rock rejected: See Dwayne Johnson's failed move on Emily Blunt in  exclusive 'Jungle Cruise' deleted scene

DIRECTOR: Jaume Collet-Serra

CAST: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Edgar Ramirez, Paul Giamatti


Jungle Cruise follows the massively lucrative Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and The Haunted Mansion in Disney’s raiding of its properties to stretch a movie out of a theme park ride. To that end, Jungle Cruise is about what you’d expect, a moderately enjoyable campy adventure romp whose modest charms aren’t quite enough to make up for an overlong runtime and derivative plot that leaves no cliche (or movie it can “borrow” from) unearthed. Mostly ignoring the source material apart from a jumping-off point and marketing hook, it borrows pages liberally from The African Queen, The Mummy (the one starring Brendan Fraser, not Tom Cruise), Romancing the Stone, Indiana Jones, and the aforementioned Pirates of the Caribbean, but most of these aren’t flattering comparisons for Jungle Cruise to invite upon itself.

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Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Wonder Woman 1984 Review: Sequel Floats On One Wing - The Returning Gal  Gadot - 2.5 Stars (Out Of 5)

DIRECTOR: Patty Jenkins

CAST: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig


Unpopular opinion time: while I acknowledged 2017’s Wonder Woman as the most solid movie to come out of the troubled DC Expanded Universe at the time (which was no great accomplishment when held up against the hot messes of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad), I wasn’t onboard the bandwagon showering it with rapturous praise, and felt it was a fairly standard-issue comic book superhero origin story. With Wonder Woman 1984, Patty Jenkins (returning to the director’s chair) has crafted a sequel that is bigger, brighter, and flashier than its predecessor, serving up flashy eighties glitz (as indicated by its title) and cheerfully campy superhero action wedded to a sometimes surprisingly heartfelt and thematically rich plotline that recaptures the earnestness and heroics first ingrained in pop culture by Richard Donner’s Superman (from which it borrows a page or two). Its tonal differences from its predecessor might gain it a mixed reception from the first film’s ardent fans, but it’s a welcome blast of fresh air and unabashedly old-fashioned comic book superhero heroics.

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Mank (2020)

DIRECTOR: David Fincher

CAST: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tuppence Middleton, Joseph Cross, Ferdinand Kingsley, Tom Pelphrey, Sam Troughton, Tom Burke, Toby Leonard Moore, Charles Dance


David Fincher’s period piece, telling the (mostly) true story of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman “Mank” Mankiewicz, filmed in black-and-white and made to emulate the look and feel of an actual movie from the 1940s with meticulous verisimilitude, may be the notoriously perfectionist and visually dynamic director’s most technically challenging (and in some ways technically accomplished) project to date, but his laser-focus on capturing the look, style, and feel of a 1940s Hollywood motion picture results in a lukewarm emotional temperature. For Fincher, this has been a passion project and a labor of love; he’s working off a script credited to his own late journalist/essayist father Jack Fincher (although producer Eric Roth, who previously wrote Fincher’s 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, also had a hand in the screenplay), who wrote what would eventually become Mank in the 1990s. Fincher had originally intended to film his father’s script in 1997 after finishing The Game, envisioning it as starring Kevin Spacey and Jodie Foster, but plans fell through (his father never lived to see it finally completed, passing away in 2003). Alas, while one can respect what Fincher has accomplished here on a technical level, whatever passion may have gone into the making of Mank is not stirred by watching it. Mank is entertaining and engaging, especially for those with an interest in the subject matter or an appreciation for “Classic Hollywood”, but it’s at times emotionally uninvolving and appeals more to appreciators of witty dialogue and technical filmmaking craftsmanship than to the heart.

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Enola Holmes (2020)

Enola Holmes Teaser Unites Millie Bobby Brown & Henry Cavill on Netflix  This September

DIRECTOR: Harry Bradbeer

CAST: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Helena Bonham Carter, Louis Partridge, Burn Gorman, Adeel Akhtar, Fiona Shaw, Susie Wokoma, Frances de la Tour


An adaptation of the first of a series of Sherlock Holmes spin-off novels by Nancy Springer inventing his younger (but equally deductive) sister Enola, Enola Holmes is a thin but breezy YA mystery-adventure that works almost in spite of itself. Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes mysteries might be unimpressed by what amounts to YA spin-off fanfiction, but for those who aren’t too demanding, it’s a slight but charming diversion carried by a delightfully effervescent lead performance by Millie Bobby Brown.

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The Devil All The Time (2020)

Netflix's 'The Devil All the Time' is an overheated mess: Movie review

DIRECTOR: Antonio Campos

CAST: Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Jason Clarke, Riley Keough, Bill Skarsgard, Eliza Scanlen, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, Harry Melling


An adaptation of Donald Ray Pollock’s novel of the same name, The Devil All The Time suffers from a scattershot ensemble narrative—and overly slavish fidelity to Pollock’s sprawling written work—but compensates with a solid cast and a strong sense of atmosphere and slow burn tension to be a morbidly engrossing odyssey into darkness, even if it doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts.

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Mulan (2020)

How to Watch Mulan 2020 on Disney+ - How to Stream the Mulan Live Action


CAST: Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Gong Li, Jet Li, Tzi Ma, Yoson An, Rosalind Chao


After such titles as Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast, Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin, and Jon Favreau’s The Lion King, Niki Caro’s Mulan finally does something a little different. Partly the filmmakers had a little more wiggle room because the 1998 animated musical original is not as iconic as the above titles, and was never considered among Disney top tier, but avoiding a scene-by-scene regurgitation helps Mulan avoid the feeling of an expensive cosplay that befell the previous live-action remakes. Mulan overall feels fresher and stands on its own as an engaging adventure.

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Hamilton (2020)

DIRECTOR: Thomas Kail

CAST: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Christopher Jackson, Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff


Counting Hamilton as a “movie” is using the term loosely, rather a live film recording of the original run of the 2015 Broadway musical featuring its original cast, but while no filmed recording can fully recreate the immersive nature of seeing a show live, Hamilton‘s release on online streaming service Disney + (following Disney outbidding all competition to call dibs on the film rights) gives a chance for those who missed or could not afford the opportunity to buy Broadway tickets, or those who wish to revisit the play’s original run with its original cast, a chance to experience the phenomenon for themselves. A musical adaptation of Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, with Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda composing the songs, writing the lyrics, and starring in the title role, Hamilton deserves its success and popularity. While non-musical fans might not be converted, for those to whom the medium appeals, it’s a lively, lavish, passionate production of the highest quality combining rap, pop, and showtunes to turn a biography into an engaging and energetic modernized history lesson that both educates and entertains.

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Little Women (2019)

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DIRECTOR: Greta Gerwig

CAST: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, James Norton, Bob Odenkirk, Louis Garrel


When it comes to a story that’s been adapted as many times as Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women (most prominently by Gillian Armstrong in 1994), the differences between versions of such an oft-told story are matters of performances and screenwriting choices. Comparing Greta Gerwig’s adaptation to Armstrong’s is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. Armstrong’s was a straightforward telling. Gerwig juggles the time frame and deconstructs some aspects while (as might be expected from her prior cinematic output) honing in on the feminist elements. The result is intriguingly “different” enough to have a valid claim to exist as its own thing, but in some ways is a less satisfying experience.

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