Home » Movie reviews: New releases for December 17th

Movie reviews: New releases for December 17th

by Stewart Cole

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  • Apple TV +
  • Mahershala Ali and Awkwafina enter Swan song

Nightmare Alley ***

See feature review. Available on December 17 in cinemas. (R)

The beginner ***
The first feature-length screenwriter / director Lauren Hadaway and a brutal starring role by Isabelle Furhman combine for a creepy study of toxic competitiveness characters just a touch away to complete her protagonist’s journey. Furhman plays Alex Dall, a freshman college student who strives for the school rowing team, and immediately sets out in an effort to become the best. Hadaway generally avoids the obvious markers of what lies behind Alex’s psychology, other than a history of self-destruction and a persistent anecdote about her desire for academic achievement in high school. Indeed, there is a welcome lack of focus on the “why” behind Alex’s intensity, which allows the simple reality of her existence to grab our attention. As Furhman captures the intensity with which Alex approaches every aspect of her life, Hadaway complements it with a rich sound design that features Alex’s self-talk from time to time and an intense visual acuity that starts with from the very first moment. Aerial shot of Alex on a solo boat, his rotation looks like a compass looking north. However, the main relationships – including Alex (Amy Forsyth)’s freshman year and TA (Dilone) physics – are very subtle in comparison, and although this is probably a feature and not a mistake in the story of someone whose main relationship is with the version of herself always imagining that she is better than she is now, this gives great weight to what she ultimately learns from experience. This ambiguity is equally fascinating and frustrating, but most of the foregoing justifies the journey. Available December 17 at Broadway Center theaters and via VOD. (R)

Spider-Man: No Way Home ***
See feature review. Available on December 16 in cinemas. (PG-13)

Swan song ***
If you remember the ethics stories based on technology created by Andrew Niccol — movies like Gattaca and Good KillYou may recall that their cold emphasis on dissertation statements often hindered the humanity they were supposed to defend. Here’s a variation on Niccol’s formula that understands how to put her emotional impact first. In the indefinite near future, commercial artist Cameron Turner (Mahershala Ali) is faced with a difficult choice when he learns he has end-stage cancer: consider engaging in a revolutionary process that would replace him before his death with a healthy clone. , with his wife Poppy. (Naomie Harris) and his young son who never realized the change. In honor of writer / director Benjamin Cleary, he laid a solid foundation for why Cameron would consider this option from the start, providing an amazing framework for all the ups and downs in his relationship with Poppy. This gives Ali a lot to work with, both as the “Cameron Prime” who hesitates about what is best for everyone and as a “Jack” clone who has his own priorities without ever turning into the blatant evil of history. Ethical issues eventually enter the dialogue, and the emphasis that production design places on elegant sterility is somewhat obvious. It is fortunate, then, that the climax here includes scenes that show us the impact of choice with the greatest love, instead of just the characters shouting about it. Available December 17 in Broadway Center theaters and via AppleTV +. (R)

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