Friday, February 28, 2020

A mixed bag of month-end gooodies: 'Man,' 'Lady,' 'Brothers' and 'Seberg'

Of four movies new to northeast Ohio screens today, only one might be considered a truly mainstream offering. That is "The Invisible Man," a surprisingly gripping thriller with another boffo performance from always watchable Elisabeth Moss, this time as a trapped and terrified architect trying to leave some considerable relationship distress behind.

In fact, the latest from writer/director Leigh Whannell ("Upgrade") opens with the cleverly nerve-wracking sequence of Moss' Cecelia Kass barely negotiating a middle-of-the-night escape from her drugged boyfriend. Things only heat up from there, especially when our shook-up heroine learns that her brilliant ex-beau has committed suicide and left her a nifty $5 million.

Apparently bullied, manipulated and controlled for years by the allegedly dead optics inventor, Cecelia certainly isn't sure if she can believe anything anymore. By then, though, she's staying with a friendly cop (Aldis Hodge from "Brian Banks") and his smart daughter (Storm Reid from "A Wrinkle in Time"), neither of whom will find it easy to fathom some of the things about to happen at their abode.

That means it all has little in common with any "Invisible Man" H.G. Wells introduced two centuries ago or any film incarnations his novel may have instigated, either. (The 1933 original, with Claude Rains playing a scientist who can make himself  disappear, also spawned a popular sequel that many might know best.)

Whannell chooses to make his contribution to the mix a consistently tense companion of the ongoing "Me Too" movement and, for a long while, keeps it humming with an assortment of scary psychological moments and a big, unforgettably shocking one, as well.

If only the screenwriter, who initiated the "Saw" and "Insidious" movies, left us with an equally stunning ending rather than what seems like just another franchise starter. As it is, viewers may may leave the theater more disappointed than energized.
Rated "R": some strong bloody violence, and language; 2:02; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5 

Ironically, the remaining trio of films debuting here today all played last September's Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), where each contributed a bit of buzz. Among their highlights:

Merlant and Haenel in "Lady."
"Portrait of a Lady on Fire" (Rated "R": nudity and sexuality; 1:59; $ $ $ $ out of $5) and its uniquely gorgeous tale of 18th century romance, features a pair of picture-perfect mademoiselles (Noemie Merlant and Adele Haenel), as a young artist and her initially unwilling subject. A nice supporting turn from Valeria Golino, though playing a stern and concerned mother, might take some of us back to the late '80s and early '90s, when the still stunning Italian actress was co-starring in such American films as "Big Top Pee-Wee," "Rain Man," and "Leaving Las Vegas," among others. 

Then there's the opening-nighter that kicked off TIFF44 in a special way, "Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band" (Rated "R": some language and drug references; 1:44; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5). It's a rocking and, occasionally, rollicking documentary, focusing mostly on the Toronto homeboy who became the definitive leader of the major musical group with a simple name. Besides the music -- with, naturally, key inclusions of "Up on Cripple Creek" and a rousing finale of "The Weight" -- celebrity talking heads abound. Greater Clevelanders especially should enjoy comments from our own Sheele Brothers, Bill and John

Finally, "Seberg" (Rated "R": language, sexual content/nudity, and some drug use; 1:44; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5) finds Kristen Stewart in a camera-loving, '60s-era
Stewart becomes "Seberg."
performance as the former All-American girl-turned movie star, Jean Seberg. The married actress' relationship with a black activist (Anthony Mackie) gave notorious J. Edgar Hoover's FBI room to ruin more than a career, perhaps even with a few twists we never heard about. One might be the sympathetic agent (played by Jack O'Connell from "Godless") who likely didn't really exist at all.  

No comments: