A Fantastic Woman (out 2/2)
Major Hollywood studios release fewer movies worth seeing in the early months of the year, so it’s a good time to discover movies just finding their way to theaters in the United States after adulation abroad. This Chilean drama tells the story of a trans woman whose older boyfriend falls ill and passes away, leaving her to both mourn the loss and deal with his wife and family. And if the setup isn’t enough, the film just received an Academy Award nomination for ‘Best Foreign Language Film.’
The 15:17 To Paris (out 2/9)
Reality isn’t always more compelling than fiction, but when it is, getting it right is key. People portraying themselves in movies and television is nothing new. Remember that thing that happened? That’s the movie. Remember those people from that thing that happened? They’re the stars. It works great in comedy where the effect can enhance the humor in a meta sort of way, as with Jean Claude Van Damme in JCVD, Howard Stern in Private Parts, or Jerry Seinfeld in season 4 of Seinfeld playing himself playing himself in Jerry. Drama is trickier. If Paul Greengrass were directing, perhaps a nuanced examination of people and events like United 93 or Captain Phillips could be expected, but with late-career Eastwood at the helm flag waving hero worship like American Sniper seems more likely. People willing to put themselves in harm’s way to protect others deserve to have their story told well, so hopefully Clint can overcome his own tendencies to favor the sentimentality over complexity.
Black Panther (out 2/16)
The latest installment from Marvel looks poised to expand the circle of superhero representation for people of color just as last year’s Wonder Woman did for women. Director Ryan Coogler proved with Creed that he is adept at bringing welcome new perspective to a story previously focused on mainly white heroes. Here, he repeats the strong casting choices that helped him there, this time with Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker. Studios behind big franchise films don’t always allow creative teams free reign to express themselves for fear of veering off from the established norms of the series and, while Marvel/Disney has certainly been guilty of this in the past, recent efforts like Thor: Ragnarok show a willingness to allow idiosyncrasies that bodes well for Black Panther.
Annihilation (out 2/23)
Alex Garland’s last foray as a director was 2014’s Ex Machina, which is arguably one of the best movies of recent years, science fiction or otherwise. He once again wades into the sci-fi genre with an adaptation of the first book in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy that looks to be part fantasy trip and part terror-inducing thriller. The cast is impressive as well with Natalie Portman starring alongside Tessa Thompson, currently on a well-deserved hot streak after Thor: Ragnarok, Creed and Dear White People, and Oscar Isaac, once (still?) known as The Internet’s Boyfriend.™
Also of Note (for better or worse):
- Fifty Shades Freed
- Peter Rabbit
- The Party
J. McVay also hosts the BreakThru Radio Weekly podcast, which features reviews of new and recently released movies each week. Check out future episodes to hear reviews and discussions of some of these releases.