TOP PICK OF THE WEEK
Last Night in Soho
***1/2 Of all the spectral menaces bedeviling Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie), fresh-faced protagonist of the marvelous new paranormal thriller Last Night in Soho, the worst moments of vicarious dread occur early on as the rural scholarship student first braves her couture-draped classmates at a chic central London fashion institute. Soon fleeing an insufferable roommate (Synnove Karlsen), our plucky homespun heroine chances upon a boarding house flat with a stern landlady (the ever-imperious Diana Rigg’s final role) and dusty furnishings. The first evening Ellie lays herself down to sleep while spinning 45s, she’s transported back to swinging ‘60s Soho, where she meets Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy), a striving chanteuse whose perspective Ellie giddily adopts during what become nightly visitations. Even without Matt Smith’s heel turn as Sandy’s abusive manager/paramour, the storyline’s guiding conceit threatens an all-too-Whovian clever-clever irrelevance, but director Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Hot Fuzz) pivots gracefully from rom-com to sumptuous period musical to snark-free Hammer horror, committing fully to each disparate genre. Whatever whiff of glib vacuity lurked beneath the sleekened charms of Wright’s earlier films, Last Night in Soho leans into every stylistic flourish as further illustration of the retro delights binding Ellie to the past while also seamlessly disguising the plot’s inevitable twists. Audiences needn’t be oversold on the dangers that await a damsel falling head over heels for the wrong man or the wrong era. The trick lies in convincing us why she’d keep coming back. R. JAY HORTON. Bagdad, Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, Cinema 21, City Center, Dine-In Progress Ridge, Eastport Plaza, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Hollywood, Lloyd Center, Movies on TV, Pioneer Place, Studio One, Tigard.
The Last Duel
**** The place is France. The time is the Middle Ages. The crime is rape. That’s the premise of The Last Duel, director Ridley Scott’s thunderous cinematic portrait of Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer), a real-life noblewoman who accused Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), a squire and knight, of sexually assaulting her. Each of the film’s three acts is filmed from the perspective of one character—first Marguerite’s husband, Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), then Le Gris, then Marguerite. While the male perspectives were written by Damon and Ben Affleck, the scenes that peer into Marguerite’s soul were scripted by Nicole Holofcener, who emphasizes the tension between monstrous masculine delusions and brutal feminine realities. The Last Duel understands the fluidity of memory—in one scene, Le Gris willfully misinterprets Marguerite’s mocking smile as a flirtation—but it unequivocally states that only Marguerite is telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The trial by combat between Carrouges and Le Gris that decides whether Marguerite will be vindicated or burned alive is exhilaratingly brutish, but the film keeps cutting away from the bloodshed to show us her haunted, hardened features. The greatest war in The Last Duel is the one she wages against the patriarchy, proving that Scott—who also directed Alien and Thelma & Louise—is still a feminist to his core. R. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Cornelius, Dine-In Progress Ridge, Eastport Plaza, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Living Room, Lloyd Center, Movies on TV, Oak Grove, Sherwood, Studio One, Tigard.
No Time to Die
*** The essence of James Bond is iteration, evolving just enough to survive new eras rather than conclude—just like the Cold War, Hollywood machine and patriarchal framework that birthed the character. So it’s an unprecedented position in which No Time to Die finds itself: belting out a nearly three-hour swan song to Daniel Craig’s chiseled, well-meaning, haunted 007. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation) breaks visual ground in the enchanting blues and purples of nocturnal Cuba and Jamaica set pieces, and bursts of eerie emotional tension stamp his trademark on action scenes. Meanwhile, stellar supporting actors like Ralph Fiennes (M), Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter) and Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) savor their chemistry with Craig to the last sip. Of course, No Time to Die was literally and figuratively meant for two years ago (delayed by COVID-19), when its plot line about weaponized contagions wasn’t so gutting, when villain Rami Malek’s dead stare and monotone whispering wasn’t such tired schtick. More impressive than fun, this 25th Bond outing wraps the Craig years with all the heartache (for Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann) and visceral ass-kicking he’s cultivated since Casino Royale. Always in pain, always trying to quit, Craig’s Bond was the only 007 who saw his end from the very beginning. PG-13. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Bagdad, Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, Cinema 21, Dine-In Progress Ridge, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Laurelhurst, Living Room, Lloyd Center, Movies on TV, Pioneer Place, St. Johns Twin Cinemas, Studio One, Tigard.
** Among the quartet of indie horror flicks streaming on Amazon Prime this October for the second annual Welcome to the Blumhouse anthology series, Bingo Hell continues along the gold-plated schlockmeister’s lighthearted, heavyhanded formula. While most Blumhouse productions depend on a steady stream of camera-ready 20-somethings cast as good-looking corpses, this darkly satirical fable focuses on a rather different demographic. Within a working-class New Orleans neighborhood recently overtaken by hipster millennials, Adriana Barraza’s hausfrau heroine Lupita can’t help but notice the sudden exodus of her elderly cohorts following the overnight appearance of a suspiciously luxe gaming emporium run by the seedily sinister Mr. Big (Richard Brake), whose widescreen rictus grin furiously chews every inch of infernal casino scenery. A premise conflating gentrification with selling one’s soul has some teeth, and the picture’s far more engaging first half clearly illustrates the plight of struggling seniors already preyed upon by a rapacious housing market well before the devil came to town. Alas, that measured world-building renders the intercut scenes of close-up carnage especially cartoonish, and however textured the victims’ backstories, their gory fates feel weirdly incidental—collateral damage in service to the larger points expressed by a none-too-clever political skit. Characters so artfully constructed should be allowed to die gracefully. NR. JAY HORTON. Amazon Prime.
The French Dispatch
** A prison guard becomes an inmate’s muse. A reporter beds a budding activist. A police commissioner’s son is abducted by a criminal called The Chauffeur. Those are the stories that define director Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, a perky anthology of tales from a fictional publication called The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. The film was inspired by articles from The New Yorker, but its blend of pastel colors and deadpan wit is pure Anderson. His direction is painfully precise—even a clash between protesters and police looks like a series of still images—and it threatens to squeeze the life out of a cast that includes Bill Murray, Benicio del Toro, Timothée Chalamet and Jeffrey Wright. Yet Anderson’s fussiness isn’t half as troubling as his attitude toward the film’s female journalists, including J.K.L. Berensen (Tilda Swinton) and Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand). Both of them lust after the subjects of their articles, a toxic trope that Anderson deploys without a hint of his trademark irony. Some of his early films—particularly Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums—have aged with good-natured grace, but The French Dispatch proves he has a long way to go if he wants to be the clever and compassionate comedian he once was. R. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Cedar Hills, Cinema 21, Dine-In Progress Ridge, Evergreen Parkway, Hollywood.
* A new menace is loose in the universe. His diabolical plan? To bore moviegoers until they lose consciousness. His name? Director Denis Villeneuve. After the haunting poetry of Arrival and the dreamy romanticism of Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve seemed incapable of creating a bad sci-fi film. Yet he’s done it with his adaptation of Frank Herbert’s hulking 1965 novel Dune, which follows the ponderous adventures of the callow nobleman Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) on the desert planet Arrakis. The film keeps hinting at Paul’s potential to become an interplanetary messiah, but Chalamet is so wan and lifeless it’s difficult to care whether the character lives or dies. Rebecca Ferguson adds some fiery charisma as Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica, but Villeneuve buries her performance beneath a seemingly endless stream of information about the politics, rituals and ecology of Arrakis. He cares more about world-building than storytelling, which is why watching Dune feels like reading an excruciatingly dry textbook instead of experiencing a movie. Some people will see the existence of a big-budget, 155-minute art film as a sign of hope in a cinematic landscape strewn with superhero bombast, but Dune isn’t salvation. It’s a stark reminder that pretentiousness can be just as punishing as commercialism. PG-13. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Cedar Hills, Cinemagic, Dine-In Progress Ridge, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Laurelhurst, Living Room, Lloyd Center, Movies on TV, Pioneer Place, St. Johns Theater & Pub, St. Johns Twin Cinemas, Studio One, Tigard, Wunderland Beaverton.