All right. Here are some of the latest. We review Glass (2019), What Still Remains (2018), Barbara (2012), and Goldstone (2016).
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
I saw this in a theater this weekend. It’s the third installment in director Shyamalan’s “superhero” trilogy in which he examines the origins and interactions of three men who have extraordinary capabilities. If you’ve seen his previous movies “Unbreakable” and “Split” (which you should see), then you don’t need me to explain the premise here any further. In “Glass,” we have David Dunn, Mr. Glass, and the multiple personality Kevin Wendell Crumb all locked together in psychiatric hospital. They are being “treated” by an irritating psychiatrist who repeatedly scolds them for being delusional enough to think that they might have special powers. Mr. Glass is sedated for the first half of the movie, but we know enough about him to know that some scheme is brewing. And what he’s planning is an ultimate showdown between Dunn and Crumb that will prove to the world that they have special powers.
This is not a perfect film. James McAvoy’s different personalities become annoying very quickly, and should have been kept to a minimum. The ending could have been a lot better. But I walked out of the theater feeling satisfied, because I knew what I would be getting, and I could buy into the premise that this was just entertaining storytelling. Not many agreed with me. The movie got only a 36% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes (if that means anything), and critics were quick to attack the movie for its faulty pacing, plot problems, and ending. I think they’re being too hard on “Glass.” This is not an immortal classic, but it still delivers a decent, entertaining tale. Not everything has to have a deep meaning.
What Still Remains (2018)
Director: Josh Mendoza
Yet another post-apocalypse movie. The premise of this one is that the world has been decimated by disease, and people have broken down into small tribes and communities. A young girl named Anna (Lulu Antariksa) loses her family to disease, and tries to make it on her own. This proves impractical, so she accepts the invitation of a charming stranger named Peter to join his community. So they both hike through the woods to a remote compound filled with people who sound like they’re cult members. Religious fanaticism and jealousy hang like a cloud over the whole bunch, and soon everyone is fighting with everyone. Peter turns out to be not exactly what he represented himself as being.
The problem here is that the movie can’t deliver enough of anything to hold our interest. This feels like little more than a made-for-TV movie that provides little in the way of good entertainment. Realism is a big problem here. Anna and Peter look perfectly manicured and coiffed, everyone’s teeth are pearly white, and we never get the feeling that these people are fighting for their survival. Pass on this one.
Director: Christian Petzold
This drama set in East Germany in the 1980s delivers a compelling story and an important message. Barbara is a doctor that has been sent to rural Germany for the crime of trying to leave East Germany. There she continues to plot some sort of escape, but at the same time she is increasingly drawn to the good nature and character of another doctor, her co-worker Andre. Her plans for escape proceed, but at some point she realizes that going to the West may not be exactly what she wants. At some point, a moral choice will have to be made.
This is one of those old-school dramas where you have to listen closely to the dialogue, and watch for the facial expressions of the actors. It’s subtle, intelligent, and highly rewarding. I think that’s one of the things we’ve lost in this social media age: the ability to talk, to really listen, to one another. There is a sense of humanity and decency that the characters in Barbara give off, despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that they are working under an oppressive political system. There are many great people in the world, a fact we often forget because of our inundation of negativity from the news cycle. Things in the world are not black and white, and there is no greater truth than that we are defined by the choices we make. Highly recommended.
Director: Ivan Sen
In the remote Australian town of Goldstone, mining is the critical industry. A shabby missing persons detective rolls into town to hunt for a lost girl. He talks to a lot of people, but everyone gives him the runaround, and drops sly hints that he ought to get out while the getting is good. And, of course, he finds out that corruption lurks behind the facade of things in Goldstone. How it all works is never explained, but apparently it involves human trafficking, municipal corruption, and the passive apathy of the local residents.
Despite a promising beginning, Goldstone never really delivers. There is a lot of potential here: the stark landscape, the vaguely sinister nature of the locals, and the punishing heat could have been used to good effect. Jacki Weaver steals the movie as the malevolent “Mayor” of Goldstone; her Cheshire-cat grin conceals a brutal reality. I haven’t seen an actor manage to convey both charm and malevolence quite the way she does. Yet her talents here are largely wasted. Director Ivan Sen doesn’t bring all this great material together in a way that elevates the story into great drama. Once again, we have a mediocre type of TV movie that leaves us with the feeling that this could have been a great drama. A disappointment.
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