A note from Adam: There are no notable new disc releases this week so in place of that here are a few reviews of recent films that are either streaming, playing in theaters or both.
Promising Young Woman (2020) (*** ½) Carey Mulligan gives a superb performance in this revenge thriller. Cassie Thomas (Mulligan) is a college drop out living a seemingly aimless life working in a coffee shop and living at home with her parents, with little to no responsibilities. At least that’s what it looks like on the surface for those in Cassie’s universe who are unaware of her nocturnal activities, which revolve around righting wrongs from the past in a most unique way. First time writer-director, Emerald Fennell, does a skillful job updating the female revenge thriller plot found in such films as I Spit on Your Grave in a film that’s loaded with quite a few surprises and/or twists and turns.
Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) (** ½) One of the most anticipated films of the year has also become one of the most polarizing films of the year as well in an interesting twist of fate. Not being a tremendous fan of the first film, I found this sequel to be on a par with the first film in terms of the end result. Here Diana/Wonder Woman (Gal Godot), circa 1984, is reunited with her love from the first film, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), while doing battle with a would be industrialist (Pedro Pascal) and a mousy museum worker (Kristen Wiig) who become empowered after coming into contact with an ancient stone that grants wishes. Like the first film it’s pure escapism in that rote sort of way that most super hero films seem to be assembled. If that’s what you’re after you’ll likely be satisfied.
News of the World (2020) (***) Tom Hanks delivers another in his long list of superb performances as a man traveling the country and delivering the news to towns with no local papers in the years after the Civil War. Along the way he finds himself entrusted with the safe delivery of a ten-year old girl taken by the Kiowa tribe and their journey and bond form the basis of the film. It’s methodically paced but filled with excellent cinematography and a story that’s always involving.
Soul (2020) (**) The latest animated film from Pixar is admittedly a beautiful thing to behold from a visual standpoint. Unfortunately, this tale of a recently deceased musician (voiced by Jamie Foxx) attempting get back his soul is so unfocused and formulaic that no amount of technical excellence can save it. Sadly a disappointment.
Minari (2020) (*** ½) A Korean family immigrates to rural Alabama with dreams of starting a farm in the summer of 1984 in this beautifully made film from director Lee Issac Chung and based on his own childhood experiences. The film wonderfully captures, in small and wondrous ways, the struggle for the American dream that immigrants have had and continue to face. Highly recommended.