There is a lot of suspense.
DALLAS – Guillermo del Toro is known for his fantastic beasts, but this one will keep you awake at night! In “Antlers,” Keri Russell plays a teacher, Julia, who has returned home to a mining town in Oregon, now best known for its meth labs. She stays with her brother (Jesse Plemons), now the local sheriff.
Julia overcame a drinking problem and her father’s abuse. When she finds out that one of her students is confused and withdrawn, she learns that he too has an abusive father and she forges a bond. Now is a good time to have a friend, because people start to disappear, and when they are found, they have been devoured.
Julia seeks out the knowledge of an indigenous man, who shares the story of a legendary ancestral woodland creature. She investigates as she tries to help her student – and you won’t believe what she finds out.
I’m still intrigued by del Toro’s work, but I didn’t expect the gruesome imagery that comes with this one. (Where’s that cute sea monster from “The Shape of Water?”) There’s a lot of suspense in the capable hands of director Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”, “Hostiles”) waiting to reveal the creature in all its glory bloody. Russell’s excellent work in “The Americans” has served her well. She’s perfect in her role, but the highest praise goes to Jeremy T. Thomas as a student. The way the kids look in this kind of performance amazes me.
(Fox Searchlight. Rated R. Uptime 1 hr 39 mins. In theaters only.)
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO
There is so much to love about this movie, until the end. Two of my favorite young actresses are the stars: Thomasin McKenzie (“JoJo Rabbit”) and Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Queen’s Gambit).
McKenzie plays Eloise, a country girl with a passion for fashion and lover of music from the 60s. Her raw talent got her accepted into a design school in London, but she comes with more baggage than her one suitcase. Her mother’s mental illness drove her to suicide when Eloise was a girl. The dorm life being disappointing, she rents a room in Soho to an elderly woman (the last movie role of the great Diana Rigg).
Eloise begins to have fantastic dreams about a real ’60s London girl, “Sandie”, played by Taylor-Joy. When bad things start happening to Sandie (after meeting “The Crown’s” Matt Smith), Eloise internalizes them. You start to wonder if she is following the same path as her mother. She then sets out to try and solve a Sandie mystery, and it becomes a horror movie in its own right.
Comic book director Edgar Wright (who also did one of my favorites, “Baby Driver”) takes on a different genre. I love stepping in and out of the 60s era. A haunting take on Petula Clark’s classic, “Downtown”, stays with you. The two main performances are fantastic, but I wish Wright had taken the premise and stayed with a psychological thriller instead of turning to horror.
(Focus features. Rated R. Run time 1 hr 57 min. In theaters only.)
Wes Anderson is the darling of the eccentric independent film world, but in his tenth film he might have reached the point of no return. “The French Dispatch” is an ode to the magazines of yesteryear. This one is established in Liberty, Kansas but based in the fictitious French town of Ennui-sur-Blase. (LOL. I guess they’re all bored and indifferent there.)
The great Bill Murray is the editor. His motto: “try to give the impression that you wrote it this way on purpose”. Owen Wilson takes us around the city by bike before the film turns into a three-story anthology. The first, which is also the best, features Benicio del Toro as a tortured artist imprisoned for murder. His prison guard, played by Léa Seydoux (“No time to die), is his role model. An attempt to make him famous in the outside world doesn’t work so well. The second story stars Timothée Chalamet as militant student. He wants to write a manifesto, but his skills leave much to be desired, so established writer Frances McDormand steps in to help. The third story stars Jeffrey Wright as a food writer. He sets out to profile a chef, but The leader gets embroiled in a savage kidnapping plot.This part of the movie even turns into an animated short for a while.
Anderson is known for his ensemble castings which feature the usual suspects. (Bill Murray has been in all but one, and he’s bypassed here.) In fact, this could be the biggest all-time roster of all time. This adds to the ultra frantic tone. Like most of Wes Anderson’s films, this one is memorable, with some sparkling moments, but I may have edited it before printing it.
(Searchlight images. Rated R. Running time 1 hr 48 min.)
Rarely has the pain of family tragedy been portrayed as genuine and raw as in “Mass”. Two groups of parents gather around a table in a church community room to discuss. They are played by Martha Plimpton, Jason Isaacs, Ann Dowd and Reed Birney.
We’re a fly on the wall, unaware of what happened at first, as the awkward conversation unfolds and escalates. We find out that there was a shooting involving their children. It is clear that this conversation is long overdue.
It is the first feature film from director Fran Kranz, writing from his own screenplay. He wisely crafted an intimate story, not biting more than he could chew. In fact, it would make a nice piece. I don’t want to say too much, as it’s clear Franz wants you to find out about the details as he chooses to present them. Just know that he wrote it after a major report that grabbed the nation.
Watching this film requires some concentration. Your mind could easily wander with such limited action, but if you immerse yourself in it you’ll experience some truly excellent acting and a heart-wrenching sharing of feelings about blame, failure, and love. .
(Bleecker Street. Rated PG-13. Duration 1 hour 50 minutes. In theaters only.)