⋆⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
No rated: In subtitled Hebrew.
The #MeToo movement has found its film, and it will knock you out.
Israeli writer/director Michal Aviad’s drama couldn’t be more relevant or contemporary, but to characterize it that narrowly is to do this fine film a disservice. It’s an excellent work by any standard, a subtle and insightful character-driven story.
All of this is especially impressive because we know what’s going to happen to protagonist Orna (Liron Ben Shlush) well before she does. Orna has been hired as an assistant to a real estate developer (Menashe Noy). The hours will be long, she tells her family, but opportunities for advancement will be great.
The family is struggling financially, and Orna’s salary is crucial — so much so that when her boss starts making sexual advances, she tolerates them out of fear of losing her job.
Aviad does a marvelous job of detailing how fatally intertwined the good and the destructive parts of Orna’s career become. As her job begins to involve more of her time, needs and even her dreams, Orna finds it easier to rationalize the way things are going. It cuts closer to the bone than you might be expecting.
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: PG for peril and suggestive humor.
It might be surprising, to put it mildly, to mention Pokémon and “Blade Runner” in the same sentence. But in a world where goldfish turn into dragons and baby dinosaurs walk the streets, stranger things have been known to happen.
For the uninitiated, Pokémon are mythical creatures of varying types that have special abilities. (Ask your local 10-year-old to detail them.) The movie puts the mostly cuddly creatures on the streets of a place called Ryme City.
Here’s where “Blade Runner” comes in. Just as that movie created a film-noir vision of the future, director Rob Letterman (“Monsters vs. Aliens”) has combined live action with computer-generated images to render a dizzyingly complex and visually dazzling setting.
The story involves Tim Goodman (Justice Smith). After the death of Tim’s father in a mysterious accident, the yellow, rodent-like Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) convinces him to try to get to the bottom of his father’s death. Although clearly aimed at 10-year-old Pokémon fans, the movie is way better than it should be.
Kristen Page-Kirby, Washington Post
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: PG-13 for war violence.
Facts matter in fictionalized films about famous writers, but only as much as that word “fictionalized” can comfortably allow. Without seeing it, the J.R.R. Tolkien estate denounced this film about the “Lord of the Rings” creator’s early years as something “they did not approve of, authorize or participate in.”
As an origin story, this has lots of potential. Its freewheeling version of how John Ronald Reuel Tolkien found love early, with his fellow orphan Edith Bratt, and endured the horrors of World War I, offers ready-made drama. Where Finnish director Dome Karukoski comes up short is in trying to reformulate it so that it doesn’t feel ready-made.
Nicholas Hoult plays Tolkien, and Lilly Collins is Bratt. We see them having tea and playfully tossing sugar cubes onto the hats of nearby society ladies (a factual detail, for the record). The movie also imagines Tolkien under fire during the war, envisioning massive, swirling dragons in the smoke and carnage. These supposedly are dragons from Tolkien’s literary future, preying on his feverish mind.
Through much of the movie, Tolkien and his friends form a private Neverland where they debate their latest attempts at literary greatness. “We’ll change the world through the power of art,” one predicts. Alas, the same can’t be said about this lumbering biography. Fact or fiction isn’t the issue. Either way, it plays like hokum.
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune