TL;DR This Week In Cinema: Black Stories Matter
Welcome to Beat's weekly rundown on what's hot in the coming seven days of cinematic releases. This is a goddamn glorious week, you guys. Look at this friggin' lineup!
The two most critically acclaimed flicks of the week are African-American stories with majority black casts; Batfleck has freed himself (momentarily) from the Justice League; a long-lost pariah returns with A SHOCKING TWIST; and the longest-running video game adaptation finally fucking ends.
And didn't we need the boost, folks? Watch some bloody movies already.
LIVE BY NIGHT
It must be nice to produce and direct your own career, but for Ben Affleck, it's starting to run out of appeal. Personally, I think it's DC rubbing off on him, but who could say?
Affleck is no hack(fleck) behind the camera, having written Good Will Hunting and directed critical darlings The Town and Argo, but with his latest - a gangster thriller in the vein of so many others - he's juggling too many balls at once. Beautiful shots can't fix a bugged script.
There are so many excellent actors assembed here - Brendan Gleeson, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, classic "that guy" Chris Cooper - not too mention Leonardo DiCaprio attached as a producer.
tl;dr Too many cooks may have spoiled the broth.
In keeping with this week's nocturnal theme, writer/director Barry Jenkins' Moonlight is one of the most anticipated and celebrated releases of the new year, telling the kind of meticulous, subtle and intimate stories we are so rarely privileged to see on the big screen.
Based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, the film follows Chiron through his youth, adolescence and adulthood (played by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes respectively). Around him, the War on Drugs is being fought. Inside him, he battles against his own desires.
Look at this cast: Mahershala Ali (Luke Cage's Cottonmouth), Naomie Harris (28 Days Later, Skyfall) and only flippin' Janelle Monáe! Make this a must-see - spoiler alert, I already have.
tl;dr Kiddo, you gotta lot to live up to.
Shyamalallama's dry spell is over! With the box office success of The Visit, M. Night Shyamalan had finally recovered from the blight of The Last Airbender, the worst of a very bad bunch. He's back to spoop us up with the excellent James McAvoy playing... well, everyone.
Then again, just how much can you scare The Witch's Haley Lu Richardson? Quite a lot, it turns out. All you need is 23 identities in one body, some slick editing, and a less cosy dungeon than the one beneath 10 Cloverfield Lane.
But this is, after all, Shyamalan. So what's the twist? Is one of Kevin's identities Professor X? Are the girls his identities? Are they gonna go full Lucy? Or are they all de- no, he wouldn't dare pull that one twice.
tl;dr WHAT IF KEVIN WAS THE LADY IN THE WATER
RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER
Yep, since 2002, Milla Jovovich has been kicking undead arse Underworld-style under the direction of husband Paul W.S. Anderson, best known for Event Horizon, Mortal Kombat and more recently Pompeii. Stellar record, right? And it's all so conveniently timed on Sony's part!
Finally, we reach the end, as Alice (Jovovich) returns to where it all began: the Hive, a high-tech underground facility beneath the devastated Racoon City that houses the secrets of the evil Umbrella Corporation. And Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts). And Sir Friendzone, Iain Glen.
Could this be the Res Evil flick to top the original's 34% Rotten Tomatoes score. PROBS NOT AY MOAR ZOMBEH SHOOTING.
tl;dr Sorry, teenage me - time to say goodbye to the woman in the red dress.
More Janelle Monáe? More Mahershala Ali? Kevin Costner and Kirsten Dunst, too! Actually makes up for Jim Parsons being here.
Hidden Figures follows three African-American women whose positions at NASA made them crucial to the Apollo program. It's 1961, and the dual issues of race and gender make their work near-untenable.
Given the ongoing division in the States, stories like these are what the world needs. United, we prosper.
tl;dr This is Ground Control to Major Jan.
And now for THE VERDICT - maybe you only get to see one of these flicks on the big screen, and you don't wanna waste that night out. So, drum roll please...
This is an incredible week for cinema, and for diversity in storytelling. I want to give Shyamalan the benefit of the doubt, but I'm siding with my critic colleagues - Moonlight is the film to see.
Until next week!