Steve McQueen is achieving something rare in modern filmmaking: he is a known-name director who does not adhere to auteur theory. With four feature films under his belt, McQueen has ventured into multiple genres, engaging with them using different filmmaking styles.
It is 1927. Imprisoned wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is being transferred from New York to London to be tried for his crimes (in case you forgot Grindelwald was a criminal, see title). Known to be a silver tongue, conning others into doing his bidding Charles Manson-style, we are informed that the Magical Congress of America has removed his tongue (we learn later, inexplicably, that this is untrue). When Grindelwald is set out on flying carriage, it is revealed that he used his seductive trickery to coax a Congress employee into springing him free.
Once free, Grindelwald has two goals: kill Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and create a genocidal cult of wizard supremacists.
Ryan Coogler’s 2015 Creed successfully revitalized the Rocky franchise in almost every way. It satisfied the modern industry requirements for a soft reboot, thereby being the most accessible to mainstream audiences and maximizing financial security. It pivoted Sylvester Stallone’s role from aging fighter to aging mentor, netting him a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nomination as a result. It harnessed the inherent swagger and star power of Michael B. Jordan. It zapped life into the visual display of two men boxing each other to a bloody pulp. It was an undeniable crowd-pleaser.
You can’t watch a Coen brothers film just once. For some reason, in spite of this firm belief, I insist on reviewing their films after one viewing. Knee-jerk responses to films made by two brothers who are meticulous in everything they do. Never a smart idea.
On June 6, 1944, the dawn of D-Day, a plane of American soldiers are crossing over enemy lines with a crucial assignment: take down a German bunker sited under a church tower so the military fly boys can give cover to the boats landing on the beaches. As we learn this mission, sitting in the rattling confines of the flyer where characters’ voices are muffled under the constant thrum of the war around them, the plane is shot out of the air. The few survivors must pick up the pieces of the fractured mission and carry on, knowing that failure to set explosives on the tower could mean the failure of the entire D-Day operation.
Oh, and there are Nazi zombies, as well.
Overlord, the new film from Julius Avery and produced by J.J. Abrams, takes the concept of insidious WWII Mengele-inspired experimentation and broadens it to horror genre extremes. B-movie horror extremes, in particular.
David Mackenzie’s Outlaw King, dictating a semi-historical retelling of the leg of the Scottish War for Independence led by Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine), presents itself as a modern update of Braveheart. Picking up the thread where William Wallace’s uprising ends (we see a limb of Wallace’s quartered body hanging as an instigator for Robert the Bruce’s rebellion), Mackenzie commits to a similar level of visceral bloodshed that Gibson did in his 1995 film.
Damien Chazelle’s follow up to the highly successful and almost Best Picture winner La La Land is a biopic about the first man who walked on the moon, Neil Armstrong (played here by Ryan Gosling). Sounds like a conventional route to go down after directing two films that broke the contemporary Hollywood mold. But leave it to Chazelle to take a unique approach to the conventional.