From the subtle explorations of personal narratives in Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” to the high-energy spectacle of Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” and the vibrant, surreal world of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” this week’s cinematic and television landscape presents an eclectic mix of storytelling. These offerings, alongside the likes of “The Crown,” “Reacher,” “American Fiction,” and “The Family Plan,” showcase the diverse range of themes and styles that modern filmmakers and showrunners are exploring. Each title, whether it delves into the intimate details of a dissolving marriage, captures the electric energy of a global music tour, or reimagines a cultural icon in an existential crisis, brings its unique flavor to the screen. This variety ensures that audiences of all tastes can find something to immerse themselves in. For those who crave a comprehensive look at these stories and more, dive into the rich and varied world of cinema and TV showcased in our past editions of Weekly Shots, available here.
The Zone Of Interest (Jonathan Glazer)
Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone Of Interest” is a profound cinematic exploration set against the backdrop of Auschwitz, offering a chilling depiction of a Nazi household. The film commences in complete darkness, setting a somber tone, compelling the audience to attune themselves to the unsettling score by Mica Levi and the eerie sound design by Johnnie Burn. Glazer masterfully crafts a narrative that oscillates between the banal and the insidious, focusing on the Höss family, who live in deceptive normalcy near the Auschwitz camp. Through Łukasz Ża’s sharp cinematography, the film portrays the family’s life amid lush landscapes and domestic bliss, juxtaposed with the grim reality of the concentration camp’s proximity. Adapted from Martin Amis’ novel, the film delves into the daily life of the Höss household, highlighting the horrifying mundanity and complicity in their comfortable existence alongside such atrocities. Glazer’s storytelling is both direct and nuanced, capturing the essence of Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” through the family’s indifference and routine. “The Zone Of Interest” emerges as a staggering piece of cinema, where each beautifully framed shot is designed to evoke a deep, unsettling remembrance of the Holocaust’s horrors.
In theaters now.
Priscilla (Sofia Coppola)
Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” redefines the cinematic approach to personal narratives, eschewing explosive drama for a subtle, poignant exploration of life’s quieter, more transformative moments. This film, a study of the dissolution of a marriage, excels in its restraint and subtlety. Particularly striking is the portrayal of Elvis’s decline during his Vegas phase, captured masterfully in just a couple of shots. Coppola’s craft shines through in the stark contrast between Elvis’s descent into a neon-drenched, cave-like existence in Vegas and Priscilla’s rejuvenating new life in sunny Los Angeles. This visual dichotomy encapsulates whole chapters of their lives, demonstrating Coppola’s exceptional talent for storytelling through imagery.
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (Sam Wrench)
Taylor Swift’s meteoric rise to global stardom is brilliantly captured in Sam Wrench’s “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.” This concert film is a celebration of Swift’s remarkable year, highlighted by her Person of the Year honor from Time magazine. The tour, a record-breaking success, spanned continents and raked in over a billion dollars. For Swifties who missed the live experience, this hi-def movie offers an unparalleled glimpse into her musical journey, including three exclusive tracks not featured in the theatrical release. It’s a must-watch for fans and a testament to Swift’s enduring appeal and extraordinary talent.
Streaming on VOD
Barbie (Greta Gerwig)
Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” is a vibrant, surreal dive into the world of one of the most iconic figures in pop culture. This film isn’t just a movie; it’s a cultural phenomenon that has redefined the concept of a doll-turned-movie star. Gerwig injects a unique blend of surrealism, humor, and a tinge of menace into Barbie’s (Margot Robbie) seemingly perfect life. When Barbie faces an existential crisis and steps into the real world, the film takes us on a fascinating journey that is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining. Gerwig’s vision turns a potential cliché into a fresh, captivating cinematic experience.
Streaming on Max
The Delinquents (Rodrigo Moreno)
“The Delinquents,” an innovative Argentine film, seamlessly blends genres while exploring themes of identity and freedom. Directed by Rodrigo Moreno, the film cleverly uses split-screen techniques to intertwine the lives of its main characters, Morán, Román, and Norma, whose names are as entwined as their destinies. The story begins with Morán, a bank clerk, executing a modest bank heist, planning to serve a short prison term before enjoying the spoils with his accomplice, Román. However, their plan unravels in unexpected ways, leading to comedic and dramatic turns, from office intrigue to a countryside escape. The film, spanning over three hours, shifts from a heist thriller to a prison drama, and finally to a serene, landscape epic. Cinematographers Alejo Maglio and Inés Duacastella’s wide shots and the Argentine cultural references, including Astor Piazzolla’s music, enrich the narrative. Moreno’s direction ensures that the film remains unpredictable, echoing its characters’ quest for autonomy, while subtly paying homage to French cinema greats. “The Delinquents” ultimately refrains from offering definitive answers, instead celebrating the journey of self-discovery and the elusive nature of freedom.
Streaming on MUBI
The Unknown Country (Morrisa Maltz)
Morrisa Maltz’s “The Unknown Country” is a captivating narrative journey, blending vivid imagery and poignant storytelling. The film follows Tana, an Indigenous woman portrayed by Lily Gladstone, as she traverses the American plains from South Dakota to Texas, grappling with the loss of her grandmother and a yearning for community connection. Maltz masterfully captures the essence of America’s vast landscapes and the intimate moments of human connection in roadside motels and chance encounters. The film is not just a journey through physical space but also an exploration of personal healing and self-discovery. Maltz incorporates real-life stories and encounters into the narrative, creating a unique hybrid of fiction and documentary. These “touchpoints” of human interaction form the heart of the film, contrasting sharply with the divisive rhetoric often heard in media. The cinematography by Andrew Hajek is remarkable, using light and color to create an immersive sensory experience. Gladstone’s performance is understated yet powerful, conveying deep emotions without the need for extensive dialogue. “The Unknown Country” is a reflective and beautifully crafted film that asks profound questions about life, heritage, and connection.
Streaming on MUBI
Wonka (Paul King)
Paul King’s “Wonka” embarks on the origin story of Roald Dahl’s famous chocolatier with Timothée Chalamet in the lead, but struggles to find its unique essence, falling into creative redundancy. Unlike Gene Wilder’s enchanting portrayal in the 1971 classic, Chalamet’s Wonka lacks charismatic mystique, and the film itself, a blend of various cinematic influences, fails to carve out its own identity. Set in a whimsically designed city, the narrative introduces Wonka as an ambitious dreamer amidst confectionery magnates reminiscent of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” villains, but these characters and subplots, including an underdeveloped arc with Olivia Colman’s Mrs. Scrubbit, feel rushed and disjointed. The film starts as a musical but soon abandons this aspect, leaving behind uninspired tunes and underwhelming humor. Chalamet’s performance, though committed, doesn’t align with the film’s tone, and the supporting cast’s performances range from cartoonish to forgettable. “Wonka” loses the enigmatic charm of its protagonist in its attempt to demystify him, resulting in a film that, despite its visual flair, becomes a laborious watch, failing to capture the magic of the original story.
In theaters now.
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (Sam Fell)
“Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget,” directed by Sam Fell, revisits the beloved characters of Ginger, Rocky, and their friends, now settled on a tranquil island. The film, however, struggles to live up to its predecessor’s legacy. Centering on the adventures of Ginger and Rocky’s daughter, Molly, who yearns for excitement beyond their safe haven, the narrative soon becomes a predictable caper with diminishing returns. While it tries to tackle the generational conflict between youthful curiosity and protective authority, the film primarily becomes a plot-driven story, losing the depth and creativity that distinguished the original. Aardman’s renowned claymation style, typically rich in detail and charm, is underplayed here, resulting in a sequel that leans too heavily on nostalgia. The shift in thematic focus from WWII references to a more heist movie-like approach dilutes the original’s intertextual resonance. Despite a chance to showcase Aardman’s unique artisanal skills in an era of digital animation, “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” ends up as a functional but uninspired addition to the franchise.
Streaming on Netflix
The Family Plan (Simon Cellan Jones)
Simon Cellan Jones’s “The Family Plan” is a film that attempts to blend action and comedy but struggles with coherence and direction. While it harbors an underlying sweetness and features a likable cast, these positive aspects are overshadowed by a series of jarring and poorly executed action sequences, coupled with an array of peculiar subplots that fail to contribute meaningfully to the story. The film occasionally offers some humorous moments, but these are too few to significantly elevate the overall experience. Ultimately, “The Family Plan” falls short in distinguishing itself within its genre, lacking the necessary elements to make a memorable impact on its audience.
Streaming on Apple TV Plus.
Reacher (Season Two)
In Season Two of “Reacher,” Alan Ritchson returns as the formidable Jack Reacher, now even more physically imposing. The season adapts Lee Child’s 11th novel, “Bad Luck and Trouble,” and focuses on a mystery surrounding the suspicious death of a comrade from Reacher’s military past. This leads to a ‘getting-the-band-back-together’ narrative as Reacher reunites with his former squad, including the likes of Neagley (Maria Sten), Dixon (Serinda Swan), and O’Donnell (Shaun Sipos). Their dynamic injects a new energy into the show, balancing Reacher’s action-centric approach with lighter, character-driven moments. The plot unfolds with Reacher’s characteristic head-on confrontation style, weaving through a maze of shady tech deals and corrupt officials. Ritchson’s portrayal continues to captivate with a blend of brute force and strategic combat, keeping viewers engaged with the series’ intense action and suspenseful storytelling. The season, while maintaining its core essence, delves into the backstories of Reacher’s team, adding layers to the narrative and character development.
Streaming on Prime Video.
The Crown (Season 6 Part 2)
“The Crown” Season 6 Part 2 marks a narrative shift, focusing significantly on the younger royal generation, particularly Prince William. This season diverges from the series’ traditional focus on Queen Elizabeth, instead exploring the aftermath of Diana’s death and the public’s intense fascination with her eldest son, William. While trying to offer insight into the Queen’s inner world, the writing often appears oversimplified, prioritizing the perspectives and experiences of male characters like Charles and Philip. Despite this, standout performances from Lesley Manville and Dominic West add depth to later episodes. The finale attempts to address the Queen’s legacy and the monarchy’s future but ends up reiterating familiar themes of duty over personal emotion, reflective of the series’ overall narrative style. Although “The Crown” retains its grandeur and attention to detail, it ultimately presents a constrained view of history, leaning more towards the notion of sacrifice than a thorough exploration of Queen Elizabeth’s complex life, leaving a legacy marked by its lavish production but limited in its narrative scope.
Streaming on Netflix.