It was a man's world in 1971 when Clint Eastwood starred in The Beguiled, a Southern gothic thriller that's as misogynistic in hindsight as old movies can be.
A half-century later, director Sofia Coppola presents the feminist morality tale at the core of The Beguiled that Eastwood's macho image and society in general wouldn't allow at the time. In 1971, he played a charmer-turned-victim; now the character is a manipulator who'll get what he deserves....
Buckle up for Baby Driver, a movie so full throttle cool that you want to fist bump the screen. Style is the substance of Edgar Wright's inventive heist flick, a fresh, masterful synching of music and getaway mayhem, as if La La Land's traffic jam was moving, armed and dangerous.
Everything moves to the beat, even beatdowns. Car chases become interpretive dances of destruction, drums and bullets pound staccato in tandem. Wright takes music video literalization to breathtaking heights. Baby Driver doesn't operate from its hero's point of view but rather his point of hearing, essentially the same thing. Wright's ingenious approach literally turns the genre on its ear....
BEATRIZ AT DINNER
Miguel Arteta's culture war comedy Beatriz at Dinner (R) gets a lot off its chest in just 80 minutes. "Comedy" is a term loosely used since the laughs stick in your throat, using indelicate topics for sly purpose.
Salma Hayek is a quiet storm as Beatriz, an otherworldy health therapist whose car won't start after a session at a longtime customer's mansion. Cathy (Connie Britton) is a one-percenter with a heart and deep affection for Beatriz. Cathy is hosting a dinner for her pushy husband's law partner and wife (Jay Duplass, Chloe Sevigny) to welcome an enormously wealthy new client....
Lord Megatron help me, Michael Bay has finally pummeled this viewer into submission.
That's the only way to explain the feeling that Transformers: The Last Knight isn't nearly as painful to sit through as Bay's four previous exploding toy boxes. All that destruction, from Soldier Field to Shia LeBeouf's career. Nearly 10 hours of cacophonous action wrapped around insipid dialogue over the past decade has broken me, hands lowered in masochistic surrender. Just take the beating. It'll be over soon, although with Transformers' brand of Bay-hem never soon enough....
June has been a big month for women in movies with Wonder Woman, Megan Leavey and even Cars 3 putting them on equal or better footing than men.
Now comes Rough Night, proving women are just as capable as men of shaping mediocre comedies.
A catnip cast and director Lucia Aniello's Broad City instincts are drowned by gender-flipped formula not shaken up enough. If girls will be boys then show boys how they can do raunchy better. Rough Night wouldn't be fresh or funny no matter what gender it's written about or for....
We'll see if Disney-Pixar's Cars franchise has anything left in its tank this weekend, after a 2011 sequel that skidded off-track. Cars 3 (G) continues the Hollywood fallacy that every successful idea deserves a trilogy.
Owen Wilson, at least his voice, returns as Lightning McQueen, the popular, profitable Dale Jr. of animated racing in the homestretch of his career. A new generation of anthropomorphic race cars is taking over, led by musclehead car Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). Lightning must prove he still has what it takes to win....
Lightning McQueen's racing career comes full oval in Cars 3, returning to his quasi-NASCAR roots after a not-so-Grand Prix detour.
Disney-Pixar's autos franchise isn't truly beloved like toy stories and fish tales before. The 2006 original did have a folksy quality in its desolate Radiator Springs setting that balanced Lightning's Piston Cup commotion. That goodwill was smoked by Cars 2 and Formula One, its Eurocentric nothingness making even Tow Mater less fun....
While The Mummy isn't the big bang preferred to start the Dark Universe of classic monsters, it's a serviceable popcorn flick dangling hints of promising things to come.
That's more than expected from another take on Universal's least scary feature creature, whose most recent movies resembled bad theme park ride ideas on a drawing board. Swapping out Brendan Fraser for Tom Cruise was already a step in the right action hero direction. Or anti-hero, as it turns out....
IT COMES AT NIGHT
Spoiler alert: Nothing comes at night in Trey Edward Shults' It Comes at Night, which is basically a zombie movie without zombies involved. This movie is about cannibalism of the fearful soul, a lofty conceit played as uninterestingly as it sounds.
It Comes at Night is purposely vague about the deadly virus wiping out humans, its grisly effects and hazmat euthanasia echoing countless nights of the living dead. Shults begins with such a mercy killing, a bullet and bonfire for an elderly man. "Goodbye, grandpa," a gas-masked mourner says....
Roger Michell's revival of My Cousin Rachel is a graceful note amid summer's movie din, adapting Daphne du Maurier's black widow mystery with class bordering on defiance.
Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz plays enigmatic Rachel Ashley, returning to the farming estate of her recently deceased husband. Awaiting her is second cousin Philip Ashley (Sam Claflin), who suspects she may have poisoned his friend and mentor....
Comic books aren't the only place Hollywood can find warrior women to make movies about. Megan Leavey is as real and heroic as it gets.
Her story could inspire a more rote movie than director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has in mind. Leavey was a social misfit who found a home in the U.S. Marines, earned a Purple Heart in Iraq then resigned with depression and a purpose. She served as a K9 handler, forging a lifelong bond with her German shepherd partner Rex, also wounded and decorated....
Once again, a woman does the job better than dudes who tried before.
Not only Wonder Woman winning World War I, but director Patty Jenkins righting a DC Universe burdened by Batfleck and other less-than-super men. Jenkins crafts a superhero flick defying the dark DC template, not only with gender but by rousing core comic book values that have nothing to do with gloom. Truth, justice and the American way (a century ago) defended by a pure-of-heart champion isn't hokey; it's about time....
Sight unseen, here's a prediction about Wonder Woman (PG-13) that you can take to the bank:
It's the best superhero movie ever that doesn't need a man.
There's really no competition. Wonder Woman is only the fourth superhero adventure toplined by a woman since Christopher Reeve's Superman carved out the blockbuster template in 1978....
Zombie sharks are jumped by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, our fifth and hopefully final ride through Disney's theme park franchise. You can cut in line ahead of me, if you like.
Dead Men Tell No Tales appears to bring closure to a saga cobbled on the fly after 2003's opener genuinely surprised. Back when Capt. Jack Sparrow was a fresh costume for Halloween and Johnny Depp seemed like Brando's second coming. Were we ever so young?...
New this week:
Pirates of the Caribbean: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES
Johnny Depp's stormy career seeks safe harbor this weekend in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (PG-13), a sequel no one demanded more than its star....