By Original-Cin Staff
“Now is the winter of our discontent,” as Shakespeare or Dr. Seuss or some rapper precursor put it. It’s grim out there. Not one but two new movies about Nazis, a drama about gay conversion therapy, the return of that holiday bad sport, The Grinch, and that kickass abuse survivor, Lisbeth Salander.
The Grinch, adapted from Dr. Seuss’s children’s classic (Rating: C+) from the animation studio behind the Despicable Me franchise, features Benedict Cumberbatch as the potbellied pea-green misanthrope, who steals all the Christmas toys in Whoville. It should be fun, but our reviewer Liam Lacey found the movie high on sugar-rush anarchy but low on charm. Cumberbatch’s Grinch is more irritable than dastardly and the film no match for the 1966 Chuck Jones classic version.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Rating: B-), which is not based on a novel written by Stieg Larsson, sees computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) turned action heroine. She fights spies, her evil twin, and deals with stolen nuclear codes like James Bond, but in a cat-suit with a Joan of Arc bob. Reviewer Karen Gordon found more style than psychological substance in a movie trying hard to be a cornerstone in another shoot-and-run franchise.
A different kind of Euro-thriller is offered in German director Christian Petzold’s Transit (Rating: B+) which reviewer Liam Lacey describes as “perhaps too ingenious” in its blend of meta-thriller and political commentary. Adapted from the acclaimed 1944 novel by German writer Anna Seghers, the film follows a man in Marseille trying to get a passage out of German-occupied France in what appears to be present-day Europe.
More alternative-history Nazis pop up in Overlord (Rating: C-), the J.J. Abrams-produced history-horror hybrid about a group of American paratroopers who stumble on Nazi medical lab trying to reanimate corpses. Though competently made, writes Liam Lacey, the movie’s serious treatment of Nazi atrocities makes the “Holocaust with zombies” premise more exploitative than if it were presented as grindhouse camp.
For a more everyday story of oppression, we have Boy Erased, this year’s second drama about Christian gay conversion centres (following the Chloë Grace Moretz vehicle, The Miseducation of Cameron Post). Australian actor Joel Edgerton directs, with Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman as the religious parents of college freshman, Lucas Hedges. Karen Gordon says Hedges proves again he’s one of the best young actors out there but the movie’s respectful, underplayed tone robs it of impact. (Maybe there should be a movie about zombie conversion therapy – Ed).
Also, read our interviews with Ed Barreveld, the Canadian producer of Dolphin Man, the documentary about the life of the visionary free-diver, Jacques Mayol, and get a preview of the European Union Film Festival, a festival of free films from each of the 28 EU nations, to brighten wintry spirits… Malta and the Greek islands are looking particularly good.
Have a great weekend.