Thanksgiving weekend is a time to relax and be with family. But it was also a wild weekend for me getting back to the theater! Below are some of the movies I caught this weekend. If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
Bones and All (Theaters)
Starring: Taylor Russell, Timothee Chalamet, and Mark Rylance
Synopsis: Based on the novel from Camille DeAngelis, this film explores a coming-of-age story and romance between two lost souls. Maren (Russell) has been abandoned by her father and never really knew her mother. Lee (Chalamet) had an icy relationship with his father and has spent years roaming. Together, they find a kindred spirit—and someone who shares the other’s strange proclivity toward cannibalism. Yes, you read that correctly. Maren’s condition is why her father left, finally unable to do what was needed to protect her violent and strange secret. In addition to Lee, Maren meets others who share her affliction. That includes the older loaner Sully (Rylance), who comes offering to teach her tricks of the trade but seems too unstable to be suitable company. Instead, it’s Maren and Lee against the world. In Luca Guadagnino’s film, we get an exploration of their deep longing and connection. The film is set in the 1980s, and Guadagnino does a nice job of capturing some beautiful scenes and drawing some powerful performances from his actors. This is far from an easy story to watch. It is graphic and violent at times and the subject matter is disturbing. However, it’s also engaging thanks to the rich performances and the depth of the story. Russell is a revelation in the lead role, while Rylance makes a huge impact in just a few scenes. He’s imposing and, at times, quite terrifying in his mild-mannered approach. Despite the subject, Bones and All creates something memorable and meaningful, delivering on the potential of its characters.
Rating: Rated R for strong, bloody and disturbing violent content, language throughout, some sexual content and brief graphic nudity.
The Fabelmans (Theaters)
Starring: Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, and Gabriel LaBelle
Synopsis: Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors in film. He’s delivered many iconic films over a career spanning more than 40 years. But it’s fair to say none of his films has been as personal as The Fabelmans, which is based on Spielberg’s own life and family. While the names and some of the details have changed, this is really the story of a young Spielberg. Here, it’s Sam Fabelman (LaBelle) who has a passion for telling stories. It begins as a child when he’s brought to a theater by his parents, seeing The Greatest Show on Earth and embracing the magic of the movies. Soon, he begins making films of his own with his sisters and his parents (Dano and Williams). Over the years the family transitions from New Jersey to Arizona to California as Sam finds himself and finds a way to embrace his passion. I love film. I always have. If you’ve read my work or followed me on Social Media, you know that I, like Sam, found magic in the cinema at an early age. There’s a lot of that aspect of this film that speaks to me. I loved the film and I loved the way that Spielberg tells this very personal story. Some have remarked this is a love letter to his mother, but after viewing it I think it’s really a love letter to both his parents. Dano and Williams are both incredible. There are a number of powerful scenes in the film and loved the way the story is put together. It’s one of my favorite films of the year and one that everyone should see. It’s full of heart and wonder, making it a great addition to the holidays at the cinema.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for some strong language, thematic elements, brief violence and drug use.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Theaters)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Janelle Monae, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom, Jr., Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, Madeline Cline, and Jessica Henwick
Synopsis: I love Knives Out. I’m a notoriously hard reviewer, and yet that film from Rian Johnson won over my heart. I watched it four times in theaters and have seen it more than a dozen times since. It’s one of my favorite all time films. So, I was both excited and nervous about the idea that the film would become a franchise, one built around detective Benoit Blanc (Craig). This time Blanc is summoned to a private island by a billionaire (Norton) and his band of pals (Hudson, Odom, Bautista and Hahn) for a special weekend. They’re joined by his former partner (Monae), gathered in the midst of COVID lockdown for a little recreation and a murder mystery. When a real murder breaks out, things go off the rails. I love Johnson as a director. I especially love what he’s done with these whodunnits, of which we’re going to get at least one more. I could see it continuing beyond that, especially if they remain at the level of Glass Onion. I didn’t love it quite as much as the first, but I appreciated the writing, the characters and the way it was put together. Craig is wonderful in the role of Blanc, tying these films together, but it takes a lot of hard work from the ensemble. I particularly enjoyed Monae in this installment, though everyone was great in their roles. This is a lot of fun and well worth seeking out when it bows on Netflix later in December.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for strong language, some violence, sexual material and drug content.
The Menu (Theaters)
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, and Janet McTeer
Synopsis: An intimate group gathered for an exclusive dining experience at a secluded restaurant on a private island. That’s the set up for The Menu, a new thriller that released November 18. Taylor-Joy plays Margot, who is invited as the guest of Tyler (Hoult), a foodie who is desperate to be a part of this private seating from Chef Slowik (Fiennes). Margot is less enthusiastic and, as it turns out, shouldn’t be there. That’s something Slowik reenforces to her early in their private dining experience and it soon becomes clear why. This is more than a dinner—it’s a show, and one that has a very unexpected ending. If you’ve seen a trailer, you know what the twist is here. But it’s still worth checking out and worth experiencing this weird and beautifully written ride. Seth Reiss and Will Tracy craft a script that crackles with some great dialogue, mixing some humor into what’s a fairly tense and, at times, intense set up. Director Mark Mylod does a great job of telling the story visually and getting some great performances. Taylor-Joy is our entry point into the world and I appreciated the way her character goes through this journey. But, for me, the essential performance came from Fiennes, who crackles as Slowik, giving an exacting vision and cold precision to the evening. It’s an engaging and unique film, one that draws you in and holds your attention.
Rating: Rated R for strong/disturbing violent content, language throughout and some sexual references.
She Said (Theaters)
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle, and Ashley Judd
Synopsis: From an early age, I was drawn to the world of journalism, largely thanks to films. If you’ve followed my countdown, you know films like The Paper and Spotlight captured my heart and deeply moved me. To that list I now as She Said, a beautiful and powerful portrait of two journalists and many brave women who stepped forward to take down a bully and abuser. Yes, the film is about Harvey Weinstein. But, really, it’s about systemic abuse, the system that protects abusers, and those brave enough to step into the light, share their story and say no more. It follows New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor (Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Mulligan) as they speak to victims and attempt to expose the years of abuse Weinstein inflicted on those in his employ and actresses in Hollywood. Over months they dig to find the truth, finally finding a few brave women willing to go on the record. One of those—Judd—even plays herself in the movie, and it’s nothing short of powerful. The same is true of Ehle, who portrays Laura Madden, in what could well be an award-worthy performance. Director Maria Schrader beautifully tells this story, bringing out the heart-ache, frustration and passion behind the journalists who want to get to the truth, and deftly handling the stories of the many women who were forced to confront their painful past in order to help stem the tide of years of abuse. It’s a deeply engaging and incredibly emotional portrait. Kazan and Mulligan shine in the lead roles in what has fast become my favorite film of the year. It’s a difficult and powerful story, one that demands to be seen. Please make a point to check it out.
Rating: Rated R for language and descriptions of sexual assault.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.