Thursday, October 28, 2021

Here come a newsy 'Dispatch,' sad anti-'War Story,' and flashy 'Soho'

Wes Anderson's literate and densely layered latest, "The French Dispatch," will do wonders for fans of the written word, and that might tell you all you need to know about the movie.

Even if one of the stories in this magazine for the big screen pales in comparison to the rest, there constantly remains something to salvage and keep buried in the brain. It might be a quip here, a look there or mostly just a line of dialogue that comes out of nowhere to knock you over for a moment until the next and then another ambles along.

One constant reportorial reminder from "Dispatch" editor Arthur Howitzer (Anderson regular Bill Murray) is to "just try to make it sound like you wrote it that way on purpose." And then off his exceptional staffers go to do their things for various sections of the crowded digest, including cycling (Owen Wilson), art (Tilda Swinton), politics (Frances McDormand) and, ahem, food (Jeffrey Wright). 

Howitzer created his periodical in the wonderfully named French town of Ennui-sur-Blase in order to bring the world to Liberty, Kansas, by way of this Sunday supplement to his hometown paper, "The Evening Sun." Certainly his readers might be blown away by the lengthy feature story about a pyscho killer (Tony Revolori, the memorable bellhop from "The Grand Budapest Hotel"), who grows into a master artist (Benicio Del Toro), with equally masterful help from a prison guard (the fabulous Lea Seydoux, looking distinctly different than the way she does in the latest James Bond film).

The engrossing tale is simply a very tiny taste of all that can be discovered in this currently rich and actor-packed "Dispatch" from director Anderson and his credited co-writers Roman Coppola, Hugo Guinness and Jason Schwarztman. No doubt more stories will appear down the line about screenplay awards and the like. If not, someone surely will present something about the investigation into why.

Rated "R" by MPAA: graphic nudity, some sexual references and language; 1:44; $ $ $ $ out of $5

Fisher plays a small if pertinent role in this 'Story.'
Veterans deal with their military experiences and resulting difficulties in various therapeutic ways. The appropriately called "This Is Not a War Story" offers a unique telling about a group of injured souls, many nursing psychological wounds that cannot be seen, pulling together to help each other heal.

Writer, director, producer, editor and star Talia Lugacy ("Descent") utilizes a supporting cast of real Iraq and Vietnam War vets in what she calls "a hybrid narrative," mixed in with documentary techniques. The group's artwork and craftsmanship, which includes cutting up actual uniforms and turning them into their working canvases, is on display throughout and so is the distinct anti-war sentiment of the title.

One stirring moment, in fact, blatantly disses acclaimed movies such as "American Sniper," "The Hurt Locker," "Zero Dark Thirty," and "especially," a character says, "Saving Private Ryan." Meanwhile, thoughts of suicide more than just hang in the air as a peer counselor (Sam Adegoke) and troubled ex-MP (Lugacy) become lead players, not to mention sad, potent remnants of their time in the military. Danny Ramirez (soon to be seen in "Top Gun: Maverick") and Frances Fisher ("Titanic", "Unforgiven") also star.

("This is Not A War Story," the Audience Award winner at San Francisco's Independent Film Festival, debuts Nov. 4 on HBO Max.) 

Not rated by MPAA: 1:52; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Taylor-Joy turns heads in "Soho." 
Finally and just in time for Halloween there's "Last Night in Soho," an Edgar Wright film with suitable flash, style, great soundtrack and one big problem: it's simply not scary, and I never bought in.

Sure there are ghosts and gore in a gorgeous '60s re-creation of London's hippest neighborhood, but intrigue is lacking because of a nonsense plot: Sweet fashion student (Thomasin McKenzie) of the here and now keeps going back in time to cavort with a sexy floozy (Anna Taylor-Joy).

Even if the climax brings it all together more comfortably than you'd expect, getting there might make eyes roll, heads hurt, and butts shift incessantly. 

Now, about that soaring sixties sound. Peter and Gordon, Dusty Springfield, and The Searchers all warble in the first 10 minutes alone. Lots of grand Cilla Black, too. Bravo!

("Last Night in Soho," like "The French Dispatch," is playing only in theaters everywhere.)

Rated "R" by MPAA: bloody violence, sexual content, brief drug material, and brief graphic nudity; 1:56; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

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