Archives for posts with tag: John Malkovich

I’ve heard enough from Jessica Chastain to believe she simply wants to be treated like one of the guys. The problem with that is if your only goal is to be like everyone else, you’ll never be better than anyone else. “Ava” (2020) retraces the steps of “Atomic Blonde” by building a mediocre spy thriller around the novelty of a female assassin. Chastain’s subplot (complicated family and substance-abuse baggage) is also somewhat novel, but it’s a slight variation on a role her co-star, Colin Farrell, could have played in 2006, or Burt Reynolds in 1986 or Gene Hackman in 1976.

The minute the tech millionaire lays eyes on the lady in the raincoat at the grocery store, you know it’s a setup. That’s bad for “Shattered” (2022) and bad for us. What’s left is wondering how it will play out, which could have perhaps been interesting with some clever writing and a plot twist or two. Instead, it’s a gory, Internet-era rip-off of “Misery.” Granted, Kathy Bates won an Oscar playing the demented captor of a successful author. Not here. The only Oscar murderous con-woman Lily Krug deserves is Oscar the Grouch, because her performance belongs in a garbage can.

An organized crime story isn’t truly epic unless it’s told in Italian with a New Jersey accent. At least it feels that way sometimes. That’s an observation, not a value judgement. And yet there are so many other geographic and/or ethnic storytelling styles. You’d think someone could deconstruct the mob genre, substitute Martin Scorsese’s sensibilities for, say, James Dickey’s, and produce something totally different but qualitatively familiar. So John Brandon writes a novel, writer/director/actor Clark Duke interprets it, and “Arkansas” (2020) proves me right. It’s the “what,” not the “who,” that matters most. That’s an observation. And a value judgement.