Screener from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Fri, 10 Jul 2020 21:58:26 -0700 Screener from Creators Syndicate 8212e346ca3262163374c7de2e62d073 'Archive': Sci-fi Heaven for 07/10/2020 Fri, 10 Jul 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>The year is 2038, and strange things are happening at a robotics factory deep in the snowy woods of Japan. Research scientist George Almore (Theo James), who lives here alone on a three-year corporate contract, is working to develop "human equivalent" artificial intelligence, something to be installed in a robot that would obliterate the boundary between human beings and machines. But George is also secretly embarking on a side project of his own: He wants to insert the spirit of his dead wife, Jules (Stacy Martin), whom he lost in a car crash, into one of these next-gen AI entities. </p> <p>George's employers know nothing of this covert undertaking, even though they enabled it. It was the company that gave him an Archive &#8212; a sort of digital post-death waiting room for departing souls &#8212; and installed his late wife's mortal essence in it. But companionship was all they had in mind, something to make George's solitary days more bearable. This setup has enabled him to actually talk to Jules via a link into the Archive (where she's understandably weirded out by her current existential state) while he prepares to transmigrate her to new digs. He'll have to be quick about it, though &#8212; Jules' broadcast signal is growing weak because what is left of her is slowly fading into the past altogether. And George has encountered disturbing new problems himself. <p>Updated: Fri Jul 10, 2020</p> 529bbdcd5437004c7ccddd18283af8db 'The Outpost': Scott Eastwood and Orlando Bloom in a Top-Drawer War Story for 07/03/2020 Fri, 03 Jul 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>"The Outpost" is a ripping combat film that demonstrates one more time how soldiers confronting death in some godforsaken outback can be fatally hobbled by the micromanagement of top brass who are in turn taking orders from bumbling politicians half a world away. Why do some things never change?</p> <p>Based on a true-life book by CNN journalist Jake Tapper, the movie is set at a remote U.S. Army outpost in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan in 2009, the eighth year of the Afghan war. The base has no particular strategic value and is, in fact, situated in a valley ringed by three mountains (a violation of a fundamental law of combat: "Aren't we supposed to be on top of the mountain to win this thing?" one soldier asks). The mountains are crawling with Taliban fighters whose sudden bursts of gunfire crackle through the hours of every day. It's a rocky and inhospitable land, populated by villagers that American officers are naively eager to aid but whom none of the grunts trust. When a group of new soldiers arrives by helicopter, the commanding officer (Orlando Bloom in a nicely modulated performance) greets them saying, "Welcome to the dark side of the moon, gentlemen." (Welcome to Bulgaria, actually, where the movie was shot.) <p>Updated: Fri Jul 03, 2020</p> 5990a60939edee42dcfba29354bbe885 'Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga': Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams in the Popstar Inferno for 06/26/2020 Fri, 26 Jun 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Will Ferrell comedies are hit or miss, but "Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga" is pretty close to a bull's-eye. At first you might wonder: Why try to satirize the annual Eurovision contest &#8212; a riot of madly percolating disco pop from 42 countries, swathed in ridiculous costumes, crowd-strafing lasers and drifting banks of stage fog? This stuff satirizes itself. But the filmmakers &#8212; director David Dobkin and writers Ferrell and Andrew Steele &#8212; take it fondly enough to get the details right. And the music, too: Head music producer Savan Kotecha, who has written hits for Ariana Grande, The Weeknd and Maroon 5, contributes four songs, with ancillary teams (heavy on Swedes) weighing in with the rest. The resulting tunes are annoyingly memorable in the best Eurovision tradition. </p> <p>An important part of why the movie works so well is that it's not entirely a Will Ferrell picture (although he's fine in it, and generously supportive of his fellow actors). Rachel McAdams, playing Ferrell's love interest, carries much of the movie, contributing emotional glow and sharp comic timing. And there's an unexpected bonus: Dan Stevens ("Legion") gives a gloriously hambone performance &#8212; high-booted and bare-chested under a gold-embroidered frock coat &#8212; as Lemtov, a neo-operatic Russian pop bellower with a randy wandering eye. </p> <p>The underdog-makes-good story holds few surprises, of course. Ferrell is Lars Erickssong, an Icelandic man-child still chasing the Eurovision dream that swept him up upon seeing ABBA win the contest in 1974 (with "Waterloo," a song that also gets an enormous production number here). McAdams is Sigrit, the girl who has always loved Lars and is now his partner in a pop band called Fire Saga, which regularly plays the pub in their tiny fishing village (to general derision, especially from Lars' disapproving father, portrayed by Pierce Brosnan). The movie introduces these two in a terrifically kitschy fantasy video for "Volcano Man," with Sigrit in silver leather with rhinestone teardrops dripping down her cheeks and Lars in Norse god-style armor with raccoon stripes painted across his eyes. They're standing on a windy bluff over the ocean, far from any electrical outlet, playing a matched pair of synthesizers. It's perfect. And best of all, brief.<p>Updated: Fri Jun 26, 2020</p> 668aa9147e1f567ea705a56f177383a2 'Babyteeth' and 'You Should Have Left': Eliza Scanlen in a Sharp Australian Romance, and Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried in a Familiar Haunted House for 06/19/2020 Fri, 19 Jun 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>"Babyteeth" is a cancer-kid movie that rises high above its weepy tradition. A 16-year-old girl named Milla (Eliza Scanlen, so good in last year's "Little Women") is worn down by the chemotherapy required to battle her disease. She thinks there ought to be more to her rapidly contracting life than what she has with her doting but distracted parents. (Her psychiatrist father, Henry, played by Ben Mendelsohn, is an occasional philanderer who keeps his wife, Anna, played by Essie Davis, radiating woozy cheer in a happy but hazy state on a steady diet of antidepressants.) When Milla encounters a scuzzy street punk named Moses (Toby Wallace), she sees something good in him that no one else does &#8212; least of all her parents, who are immediately put off by his many tattoos and self-administered mullet (and by what they see as his inappropriate age &#8212; 23).</p> <p>The movie is a first feature by Australian TV veteran Shannon Murphy. She shot it in the leafy environs of Sydney and has given it a sweet, breezy charm. She also devises some wonderful shots &#8212; positioning Milla in a narrow slice of sunlight for a melancholy reverie and having her try to apply some newly acquired lipstick while licking a Popsicle. The script, by Rita Kalnejais, is light on cliche and filled with character detail. Henry isn't a predatory womanizer; he's just weak. And Anna isn't just a blissed-out pillhead; she gave up a career as a concert pianist and now sends Milla to her onetime accompanist and lover Gidon (Eugene Gilfedder) for violin lessons. There's also a pregnant young woman named Toby (Emily Barclay), who brings winning high spirits to the story, if not a lot more.<p>Updated: Fri Jun 19, 2020</p> 0a479b90e75245c1669e1a96ba336b54 'The King of Staten Island': Pete Davidson Steps up in a New Judd Apatow Movie for 06/12/2020 Fri, 12 Jun 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson) is a loser who's always apologizing, even when he's alone. ("I'm sorry," he mumbles after nearly hitting another car on the highway.) Scott has much to feel bad about. He's a high school dropout with ADD; he's on antidepressants; and he smokes pot virtually every waking hour. He's a guy who just can't cope. With anything.</p> <p>In "The King of Staten Island," a sweet, funny and moving new film by Judd Apatow, we quickly gather that Scott is also an emotional cripple. He sleeps with Kelsey (Bel Powley), a girl he's known since grade school, but she's just a comfortable part of his life furniture. ("You deserve somebody better than me," he tells her. "I feel bad you don't think you're great," she says wistfully.) <p>Updated: Fri Jun 12, 2020</p> 45e13ca571056ff79a0be8111f1a54da 'Shirley': Elisabeth Moss in a Low-Energy Art Movie About a Great American Writer for 06/05/2020 Fri, 05 Jun 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>"Shirley" is a movie like few others. I wish I could say that's a recommendation, but despite some nice work in the areas of performance, score and production design, it's not. <span class="column--highlighted-text">The picture isn't without interest, but it's artsy and jumbled, and it feels interminable.</span></p> <p>In recounting the life of the late writer Shirley Jackson, director Josephine Decker has chosen to base her film not on a biography of Jackson but on a 2014 novel by Susan Scarf Merrell. Key elements of biographical detail are thus elided, and much is invented. <p>Updated: Fri Jun 05, 2020</p> 40258d17cde08694b0caddfbe60c6fae 'The Vast of Night': A Retro Sci-Fi Movie We Didn't Know We'd Been Waiting for for 05/29/2020 Fri, 29 May 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>"There's something in the sky," says a character in "The Vast of Night," voicing one of the dustiest observations in cinematic science fiction. It's a line whose essence echoes down to us from such 1950s space-invader films as "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers," "Kronos" and, of course, George Pal and Byron Haskin's epochal "The War of the Worlds." In the 60-some years since those low-budget movies created a new film genre, sci-fi pictures have become swollen with expensive digital effects and corroded with postmodern irony. Such movies can be wonderful in their own ways, but something elemental has been lost.</p> <p>What's mostly missing from contemporary sci-fi films is a sense of simple wonder at the otherness of outer space and the inconceivable beings it might harbor. <span class="column--highlighted-text">"The Vast of Night," an arresting first feature by self-taught Oklahoma director Andrew Patterson, restores the thrill of amazement people once felt at the thought of flying saucers and alien encounters and, in so doing, refreshes one of the most beloved film genres.</span><p>Updated: Fri May 29, 2020</p> 63e5aa8c87e407316aed2dc3a34525c5 'The Trip to Greece': Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on One Last Gourmet Tour for 05/22/2020 Fri, 22 May 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Ten years on, "The Trip" finally comes to an end &#8212; not a moment too soon, and maybe a bit too late.</p> <p>Nothing much has changed in this fourth "Trip" movie, which has once again been edited down to about two hours from a longer BBC TV series. The setup is the same: a tour of fancy Continental restaurants by two showbiz Brits, one a preening writer-actor with a clutch of BAFTA awards to his credit, the other a mere "TV funnyman," who's never allowed by his more successful friend to forget that fact. The stars, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, play trenchantly stylized versions of themselves and improvise their quick, peppery banter. <span class="column--highlighted-text">They're still good company, and still excellent celebrity mimics, too </span>&#8212; their great, if overexposed, dueling impressions of Michael Caine have wisely been retired, but this time out, we get Werner Herzog, Anthony Hopkins and (an inspired bit) Ray Winstone playing Henry VIII. So, no complaints in that department. There are other problems, though. <p>Updated: Fri May 22, 2020</p> d5a2f682ae81ad4e924a644386393fd5 'Capone': Even Tom Hardy Can't Bring This Listless Mob Flick to Life for 05/15/2020 Fri, 15 May 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>One of the interesting things about "Capone" &#8212; the only interesting thing, actually &#8212; is the fact that someone chose to make it. Yes, somebody looked at the script, by director Josh Trank &#8212; who was languishing in director's jail in the wake of his intensely disliked "Fantastic Four" reboot of 2015 &#8212; and said, "Let's shoot this sucker!"</p> <p>Or words to that effect. It's also kind of interesting that Tom Hardy, a great actor, should agree to star in this picture, playing celebrity mobster Al Capone at the end of his days, shuffling around his Florida estate in adult diapers, smoking a carrot (more later) and ventilating the help with a gold-plated Tommy gun. You can see how Hardy might have found this mumbly geezer attractive; here is an actor who volunteered for service as a human hood ornament in "Mad Max: Fury Road" and who scoffed at the concept of simple audibility as the heavily muffled bad guy, Bane, in "The Dark Knight Rises." You want wack? Tom's your man.<p>Updated: Fri May 15, 2020</p> 7adffb0321bcf9a7595a127f29a5685f 'Mrs. America': The Woman Who Tried to Squash Feminism for 05/08/2020 Fri, 08 May 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p></p><p>"Mrs. America," the excellent nine-part series currently midway through its introductory run on FX on Hulu, approaches a still-hot-button political issue in an unusually even-handed way. The subject is the 1970s struggle over the Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA, with lefty feminists pushing to have it installed in the Constitution and right-wing warrior Phyllis Schlafly battling to stop its proponents in their tracks. <p>Updated: Fri May 08, 2020</p> 5e153d6d1f47df25ec372822f3868a69 'Beastie Boys Story': Ad-Rock and Mike D Remember for 04/24/2020 Fri, 24 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>One night back in the '80s &#8212; 1987, maybe, in the Beastie Boys' delirious heyday &#8212; I was at one of those record-industry parties at which people stand around struggling to balance drinks and finger foods while pop stars pass through the crush, accumulating congratulations on their latest album or whatever prompted the corporate gathering. I was watching a woman in a big, fancy fur coat make her way across the room when suddenly the Beastie Boys themselves &#8212; Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz), Mike D (Michael Diamond) and MCA (Adam Yauch) &#8212; swarmed around her in demented fashion and one of them poured a beer over her head. Those were the days ... although maybe not for women in big, fancy fur coats.</p> <p>In "Beastie Boys Story," the new documentary directed by longtime Beasties collaborator Spike Jonze, now airing on Apple TV+, Michael Diamond looks back on that dissolute period with a mixture of fondness and mild regret. "Our big idea was that we should be as rude and as awful onstage as possible," he says. "We'd be memorable &#8212; memorable fuckin' jerks." Jonze's film is a chronicle of how the Beasties' party-monster stage act took over their lives and how they eventually managed to outgrow it.<p>Updated: Fri Apr 24, 2020</p> 2a032631662445ec2cd6f28d23b6d93c 'Sea Fever': Charting a Course Through the Ocean of Pandemic Movie Possibilities for 04/10/2020 Fri, 10 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p></p><p>In a normal, non-awful year, right now the air would be thick with promotional chatter about a number of big new movies. Chief among these would be the new Bond film, "No Time to Die," which was all set to roll out when the novel coronavirus emergency exploded last month. Understandably, MGM was reluctant to endanger its $250 million investment in this latest installment of the money-minting 007 franchise by rerouting it to a lowly video on demand premiere, so its release has been rescheduled for November &#8212; if there is a November.<p>Updated: Fri Apr 10, 2020</p> 913c38b7aa66e1508220abe8f65b54df Plague Movies: Offbeat Options for Waiting out the Apocalypse for 04/03/2020 Fri, 03 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Now that we have all the time in the world on our hands, filling it with movies has become an organized pursuit, and helpful film lists have proliferated online. Some of these seek to cheer us up &#8212; classic comedies, vintage musicals, all from happier times, of course &#8212; or to put our despair in perspective with dystopian exercises like "12 Monkeys," "Mad Max," "The Road" and suchlike.</p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">I want to offer something different: a list of oddball movies that were underloved at the time of their release and have remained underseen ever since</span>. Some of these films, such as the 2009 "Jennifer's Body," have been undergoing critical reevaluation and are now seen as lovable cult movies. The rest have also developed cults, of one size or another, but are still waiting for the full-scale love they deserve.<p>Updated: Fri Apr 03, 2020</p> 6d60166d956f39f8f0648235d28bb05d 'Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness': Welcome to Weird America for 03/27/2020 Fri, 27 Mar 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p><span style="background-color: initial;">'Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness': Welcome to Weird America</span><br></p> <p><p>Updated: Fri Mar 27, 2020</p> a7c94962d5216adf3ea5b3ecf61cf123 'Big Time Adolescence': Pete Davidson in a Sweet and Surprisingly Smart Coming-of-Age Movie for 03/20/2020 Fri, 20 Mar 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p><span style="background-color: initial;">From a distance, "Big Time Adolescence" might look like not much more than a low-budget showcase for lovable "Saturday Night Live" goofball Pete Davidson, which would be fine. But the movie is surprisingly quite a bit more. It's a perceptive coming-of-age tale brought to life &#8212; under the guidance of first-time director Jason Orley &#8212; by an ensemble of terrific young actors. It's funny (Orley also wrote the script), but it's filled with honest emotion, too. <span class="column--highlighted-text">The picture won't change the world, but it could change an otherwise joyless day for the better.</span> (It was intended for a theatrical-only release last weekend; but then, as world news grew dark and the home-viewing audience began to swell, it was launched on Hulu as well.)</span><br></p> <p>Davidson naturally has the showiest role here, playing Zeke, a 20-something slacker who's long past his grow-the-f&#8212;&#8212;up date. With his bagged-out clothing and many tattoos, Davidson's Zeke is pretty much the same giddy clown we know from TV. The comic gives a carefully shaped, dramatic performance, however, effectively demonstrating the shortcomings of his character's "let's party" approach to life. But he's still Pete Davidson, and the movie offers little proof that he'll be able to move beyond that persona.<p>Updated: Fri Mar 20, 2020</p> 4d7b9a4c2695178ac04db5f14368d629 'The Hunt': Don't Believe the Hype Entirely for 03/13/2020 Fri, 13 Mar 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>"The Hunt" is a movie you want to love. It's billed as a hyperviolent, anti-PC satire that takes aim at both factions of our current political mess, the "Elites" and the "Deplorables." (Those are the movie's terms &#8212; progressives and right-wingers, basically.) It's a Blumhouse production, with Damon Lindelof weighing in on the script, so ... well, it sounded pretty good to me.</p> <p>The picture was supposed to have been released last August. But then, that very month, within the space of 11 days, a pair of armed losers shot down and killed a total of 31 people in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. Suddenly, putting out a movie in which snotty liberals hunt down and kill their lower-class inferiors seemed unwise. So Universal pulled it.<p>Updated: Fri Mar 13, 2020</p> b71a5d47e7d3ca75884260be9dd90f0b 'Devs': Nick Offerman and Alison Pill in Alex Garland's Wild Sci-Fi Mystery for 03/06/2020 Fri, 06 Mar 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Being an eight-part series with a total runtime of six and a half hours, "Devs" might not be an instant sci-fi classic &#8212; it's packed with too much mind-trippy exotica to take in on one viewing. Nevertheless, a sci-fi classic it will surely be one day. (It's viewable right now on a new Disney streaming operation called FX on Hulu.) </p> <p>Alex Garland, who wrote and directed every installment of this movie (let's call it that) has deep roots in the sci-fantasy world, having written two memorable Danny Boyle films (including the great "Sunshine"), the mega-dystopian "Never Let Me Go," the comic-book adaptation "Dread" and two films that he also directed, both unforgettable: "Ex Machina" and "Annihilation." <p>Updated: Fri Mar 06, 2020</p> 12fef4e322229fe437a12122ed91a22c 'The Invisible Man': Elisabeth Moss in a Very Scary Horror Update for 02/28/2020 Fri, 28 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>The original, 1933 version of "The Invisible Man" was the fourth of Universal's classic monster movies. (It had been preceded by "Dracula," "Frankenstein" and "The Mummy.") Its star, mostly hidden behind bandages and black sun goggles, was Claude Rains; the director, still hot from helming the wildly successful "Frankenstein," was James Whale. But forget all that. A new Invisible Man now moves among us, and he's much, much scarier. </p> <p>Some years back, the present-day Universal Pictures decided to unite all of its old monsters in a fake franchise called the Dark Universe. This ill-conceived project was strangled in its dark cradle by a disastrous 2017 remake of "The Mummy," starring Tom Cruise. So resounding was this bomb that Uni execs decided to deep-six the Dark Universe concept and just turn its next monster reboot over to people who knew what they were doing. This turned out to be, quite wisely, Blumhouse producer Jason Blum and Australian writer-director Leigh Whannell, the latter of whom had a long involvement with the "Saw" and "Insidious" movies, and, more pertinently, had scripted and directed an excellent 2018 sci-fi film called "Upgrade." <p>Updated: Fri Feb 28, 2020</p> 7f533f735a9b683b10bab83f12fec841 'Emma.': Anya Taylor-Joy in a Lively Renovation of Jane Austen's Classic Novel for 02/21/2020 Fri, 21 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>"Emma." is a movie so deliciously detailed you want to step inside of it and wander around, marveling at its snazzy furnishings &#8212; the bonnets and capes and ankle-length greatcoats; the candlelit banquet tables crowded with roasts and cakes; the vast country manor with its cavernous rooms and sweeping greensward. <span class="column--highlighted-text">The picture is a celebration of costume design and set decoration, swooningly orchestrated by first-time director Autumn de Wilde</span>, who at age 49, after a long career in photography and music videos (The Raconteurs, Beck), has fully emerged as a feature filmmaker.</p> <p>In bringing this latest adaptation of Jane Austen's 1815 novel to the screen (it was also the model for the 1995 film "Clueless"), Wilde, who's American, is greatly assisted by an appropriately English cast. Anya Taylor-Joy ("Thoroughbreds"), with her pillowy lips and faintly extraterrestrial presence, is bitingly funny as Emma Woodhouse, the 21-year-old heiress with an interest in matchmaking. Mia Goth ("High Life") is a perfect foil as the lovably befuddled Harriet Smith, Emma's latest romantic project. Orbiting around these two are the smirky vicar Mr. Elton (Josh O'Connor), whom Emma wants to pair up with Harriet; the attractively tousled George Knightley (Johnny Flynn), who would seem just the man for Emma herself, except that he finds her enormously annoying; the chatty spinster Miss Bates (wonderfully played by Miranda Hart); and Emma's dotty father (Bill Nighy, even better than usual).<p>Updated: Fri Feb 21, 2020</p> 54b90d6dde3f12e2e0af6159120bdcf0 'Buffaloed': Zoey Deutch Goes for the Big Bucks for 02/14/2020 Fri, 14 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>"Buffaloed" is one half of a pretty funny movie. The picture crackles along on the trademark energy of its star, Zoey Deutch (also irresistible in the recent "Zombieland: Double Tap"), and <span class="column--highlighted-text">you keep wanting it to work even after it starts letting you down.</span></p> <p>The hero here &#8212; if that's the word &#8212; is a young woman named Peg Dahl (Deutch), and her story is set in Buffalo, New York ("the epicenter of the Rust Belt," we're told, "a city whose favorite meal is a discarded chicken part"). Peg is sharp and ambitious, and she dreams of escaping the scruffy impoverishment in which she lives with her brother, JJ (Noah Reid, of "Schitt's Creek"), and their widowed mom, Kathy (Judy Greer &#8212; aces, as usual). When college time rolls around, Peg applies to an Ivy League school and gets accepted &#8212; but soon realizes she could never afford the enormous bank loans that would be required to cover tuition. So she decides to self-educate, with a major in dark finance.<p>Updated: Fri Feb 14, 2020</p>