If a Custom-Made Dior Dress Is a Bit Out of Your Price Range, Purchase a Copy of “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” on DVD or Blu-ray Instead
There’s no right or wrong way to make a feel-good movie. But there are certain elements that will make one feel-good film much more successful and enjoyable than another. Feel-good films require precise storytelling techniques and a little extra wow-factor in order to make an impact. In the case of Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, that wow factor is the contagious optimism that’s reflected in every shot. At first glance, the story of Mrs. Ada Harris, an English house cleaner in the 1950s who dreams of owning her own Dior gown, seems like a predictable and unrealistic feel-good tale. But under the direction of Anthony Fabian (Good Hope), and with captivating performances by Lesley Manville (Let Him Go), Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Jason Isaacs (Mass), Lambert Wilson (Benedetta), Alba Baptista (Warrior Nun), Roxane Duran (The Cursed), and Ellen Thomas (Arcane), Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris emerges as a lovely cinematic gem. The movie had a theatrical release earlier this summer and is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
“She Said” Forgoes Explicit Trauma and Emotional Manipulation in Order to Respect Survivors of Abuse
When a story about a crime or scandal breaks, you can bet that there’s a movie producer somewhere who’s already in negotiations over the rights to that story — and I can’t blame them. Humans are naturally curious, and there’s something inherently intriguing about the psychology of serial killers and the complex webs of events behind white-collar crimes. In October of 2017, when journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published a story that exposed the crimes of Harvey Weinstein, producers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner had acquired rights to a movie version of the story within a few months. The hasty move seems, at first glance, exploitative and unethical. Why would anyone be in such a rush to make a movie about such a personal and traumatic topic? Can you make such a movie that doesn’t exploit the painful memories of the survivors? But after watching She Said, it’s clear that Gardner and Kleiner, along with director Maria Schrader and writer Rebecca Lenkiewicz, had one goal in mind: to give voice to the survivors in a truthful and respectful way. Weinstein, who is now behind bars, received more than enough attention both before and after the allegations broke. She Said works to shift the conversation about sexual abuse in Hollywood from the perpetrators to the survivors.
When you settle into your reclining theater seat with your favorite movie snacks to watch the anticipated Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (preferably in an IMAX theater, which is definitely worth the extra dollars), you can expect a strong story brought to life by a dedicated cast. While the movie honors the late Chadwick Boseman and the character he brought to the screen in the first Black Panther movie (2018), Wakanda Forever isn’t stuck in the past. Nor is it a sluggish transitional sequel, as the second installments in film franchises often are. It’s an exciting, emotionally gripping, aurally immersive, and visually impressive Marvel movie that is, on every level, a modern-day epic. It follows the stylistic and aesthetic patterns set by its predecessor, keeping director Ryan Coogler’s vision for Wakanda alive. It also introduces a few new characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía), the ruler of a stunning underwater kingdom. But the glue that holds the colorful costumes, otherworldly sets, and epic fight scenes together is Shuri (Letitia Wright), princess of Wakanda and sister to the late King T’Challa. Her story and development are what make Wakanda Forever, the second longest movie in the MCU, worth every minute.
Content / trigger warning: Blonde contains flashing and strobing effect imagery that may be triggering to those with photosensitivity.
Blonde is rated NC-17 for some sexual content. It contains frightening and intense images involving abuse, assault, and abortion. These topics are briefly discussed in the review below.
Blonde isn’t the feel-good biopic you’re looking for. Nor is it a sentimental tear-jerker. Andrew Dominik’s 2-hour and 46-minute adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel is difficult, depressing, and demanding. It’s the kind of movie that made me tell my parents, “Don’t watch it, you won’t like it” (although the MPAA rating alone would have been enough to turn them away). But as I watched, I also felt that I, as a critic, wasn’t supposed to like it. With so many unconventional stylistic elements at play and so much controversial content, I felt like the only “correct” review I could give would be to call the movie problematic and pretentious. However, that review wouldn’t be genuine. There are certain shots, sequences, scenes, and techniques in Blonde that really don’t work — and yet, I found myself completely engaged with the film, not wanting it to end. It wasn’t until the JFK blowjob scene when a male critic in the audience burst out laughing (to my extreme annoyance, as I was sympathizing with Marilyn’s perspective and admiring what the scene had to say about sexual power dynamics) that I figured out what Blonde was doing right. It was making me aware of myself as a woman, as a critic, as a movie lover, and as a human. Blonde gave me one of the most powerful and visceral experiences I’ve had at the movies in a long time. For that reason, I don’t want to focus on all the little things that didn’t work. Instead, I want to focus on a few big things that it got right. After all, any movie that makes you more aware of yourself has to be doing something right.
One of the scariest things about cults is that they can form right under our noses. Cult leaders need to psychologically isolate their followers in order to maintain control, but they don’t have to keep everyone on a remote island in order to do so. Still, perhaps the best way to illustrate the intense psychological control that cult leaders achieve is to tell a story about a cult that’s geographically isolated from the real world. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate how a deeply disturbed man could earn the trust and respect of a whole community of devout followers is to confine that man and his followers to a remote location that seems to exist in a universe of its own. In Nikias Chryssos’s A Pure Place, a sickeningly imaginative film that he wrote with Lars Henning Jung, the entire population of a remote Greek island is under the spell of a charming and charismatic leader named Fust (Sam Louwyck). This deeply disturbed (but powerful) man is utterly obsessed with cleanliness, and he’s positioned himself as a savior who will lead the people to a pure place that’s free from man’s worst enemy: dirt. In addition to following Fust, the community also worships Hygeia, the Greek goddess of cleanliness. The cult is intense and otherworldly, so separated from the real world that Fust’s twisted desires have become the only law. The one thing connecting this mysterious island to the outside world is the product that Fust’s followers make in his factory: soap.
Part Expressionist Melodrama and Part Campy Horror, “The Attachment Diaries (El Apego)” Sends Mixed Messages About Trauma and Mental Health Issues [Chattanooga Film Festival]
Content/trigger warning: The Attachment Diaries deals with sexual assault, self-harm, mental illness, and abortion. These subjects are also briefly discussed in the review below.
The Attachment Diaries is a difficult movie for two reasons. First, it focuses on a handful of difficult topics (including abortion, which has just become more relevant than ever in the United States), and it presents those topics in a blunt and, at times, irreverent way. Second, it’s difficult because it asks us to think about imperfect people in imperfect situations. The film appeals to very raw and carnal emotions, asking viewers to indulge in the thoughts and feelings that we aren’t supposed to think and feel. It’s a good thing that The Attachment Diaries is so masterfully shot, because it may take several viewings to make sense of it.
If you want to avoid a horror-movie situation, it’s probably best to stay away from isolated cabins in the dead of winter. Stephen King was certainly onto something when he set The Shining and Misery in snowed-in Colorado abodes. The strange, frigid silence of a snowstorm is the perfect backdrop for stories about isolation and hopelessness. That’s why director Damien Power was so drawn to No Exit, a novel by Taylor Adams, which also takes place during a blizzard in Colorado. In Power’s film adaptation of the book, which premieres February 25, 2022, on Hulu, Power makes the most of the snowy, isolated setting. He creates the ideal setup for the heroine, Darby (Havana Rose Liu), to undergo intense physical and psychological distress.
Enjoy a little “Respect” When You Get Home — The Anticipated Aretha Franklin Biopic Starring Jennifer Hudson Is Now Available
Great performers like Aretha Franklin are remembered for much more than their God-given talents. They’re also remembered for their ability to connect with their audience. A good performer will practice and train for years to master their craft, but a great performer will draw on their life experiences to add meaning and depth to their music. Aretha Franklin certainly lived through a full range of human experiences, and she had plenty to share with her audience. So, when Jennifer Hudson took on the challenge of portraying the Queen of Soul in Respect, she did everything she could to capture Aretha’s spirit in a genuine and honoring manner. This fun, flashy, and entertaining musical biopic directed by Liesl Tommy is now available to own on digital, Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ray/ DVD combo pack includes five behind-the-scenes featurettes that give us a brief look at the work that went into making the movie.
“Knocking” Takes Its Time Building Suspense, but Cecilia Milocco’s Steady Performance Will Keep You Hooked
If you’ve spent any time living in an apartment building or a dorm, you’ve probably had a few run-ins with noisy neighbors. It takes guts to knock on a stranger’s door and ask them to keep it down. Depending on what kind of noise you hear, you might even opt to skip the awkward conversation and call the police. But what happens when nobody else can hear what you’re hearing? What do you do when someone is calling out to you for help and the police don’t believe you? Who can you turn to when your neighbors think you’re having a psychotic break? In Frida Kempff’s psychological thriller, Knocking, a woman named Molly (Cecilia Milocco) becomes suspicious of the men in her apartment building when she hears persistent knocking and crying coming from the floor above her at night. No one else can hear it, and no one is interested in helping her solve the mystery. But Molly knows what she heard, and she’ll stop at nothing to help the unknown woman on the other side of her ceiling.
When it comes to fairy tales, setting is key. Fairy tales don’t have to take place in the past or in distant kingdoms, but their settings should invoke a sense of wonder and enchantment. The setting of a fairy tale should work alongside the other thematic elements to draw out and challenge the hero’s best and worst character traits. And if there’s any place where we’ve seen the best and worst of people over the past few years, it’s been right here on the internet. Therefore, it’s no surprise that writer/director Mamoru Hosoda chose to set his 21st-century adaptation of a classic fairytale in a bustling and vibrant virtual world. With a little help from VR technology, the heroine of the story, Belle, can be whoever she wants to be — and her counterpart, “the beast,” can hide his true identity behind a curated “tough guy” internet persona. Belle is a rich, detailed, and ambitious film that’s part fairy tale, part coming-of-age story, and part VR adventure.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."