Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Before he became a smug smuggler with a worn, light-speed spaceship and a furry Bigfoot companion, Han Solo wasn't even named Han Solo. And he certainly didn't have a princess as a girlfriend. Where he began his hoodlum ways, how he crossed the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs and the ways that he adapted to a Galactic Empire full of blaster pistols and attractive ladies is told with an impressive level of veracity in "Solo: A Star Wars Story."
MINNEAPOLIS — It’s extraordinary when one of the most talented, original and acclaimed filmmakers of his time moves from the artificial canvas of theater screens to traditional museum exhibits. But who expects the ordinary from Guillermo del Toro? Every Del Toro film is a ravishing one of a kind. In artfully designed, genre-defying fantasies such as “The Devil’s Backbone,” “Hellboy,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Pacific Rim” and “Crimson Peak,” the Mexican-born director/writer/producer transports audiences to brutal and bewitching territory.
In "Fist Fight," a rowdy, vulgar, surprisingly bloody action-comedy, human punching bags Charlie Day and Ice Cube are knocked across the screen by assorted wallops, fire extinguisher blasts, head butts, random billy clubs, hostile jailbirds, office rivals in the chaotic big city high school where they teach, unruly students, nincompoop coworkers and runaway horses.
Having created a stellar body of work, Martin Scorsese has earned the right to put aside mainstream expectations from time to time. Scorsese, a spiritual person who in his youth studied to be a priest, made biblical issues resonate through profane classics such as "Goodfellas," "Raging Bull," "Taxi Driver" and "The Wolf of Wall Street." In "The Last Temptation of Christ" and "Kundun," he followed his fervor as a filmmaker to tell stories about peaceful religious leaders in times of turbulent struggle.
Despite its title, "The Founder" isn't the story of the men who founded McDonald's, but of an aging traveling salesman who would not take no for an answer. It opens with a close-up of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a marginal vendor of milkshake blenders, throwing his salesman patter at us like a major league pitcher. When he tosses it at prospective customers, he doesn't prevail. Retirement is on the horizon, and he's not looking forward to being the poorest guy at his local country club, a swan song his uncomplaining but unhappy wife Ethel (Laura Dern) isn't hoping for, either.
"La La Land" is a lollapalooza, a splashy, old-fashioned Hollywood extravaganza. Writing/directing wunderkind Damien Chazelle fills it brimming with enchanting star magnetism, synchronized choreography, a melodic original score and jewel-colored CinemaScope sparkle (which is actually how it was shot).
On Nov. 22, 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy went from being an elegant celebrity to a figure of national tragedy, a vulnerable woman of strength in an era when strong women were not acknowledged. In "Jackie," Natalie Portman plays the role of America's most famous first lady in the immediate aftermath of John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas. Directed by Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain and produced by Darren Aronofsky (who guided Portman to an Oscar in "Black Swan"), it puts her center stage throughout the days following one of the most shocking events in U.S. history.
There are essentially two Casey Afflecks. There’s the brooding melancholic, fraught with existential insecurity. And there’s the touch-and-go tough guy picking fights with a frenzied smile that can be interpreted as either crazed or eerily calm. Affleck, 41, who has steadily built a heavyweight career over the past two decades, with much acclaim and a few misses, has moved between those contrasting twins like a pendulum.
The haunting human quest to belong, to accept others unconditionally and be accepted in return, is the bedrock foundation of limitless myths in countless forms. It’s the focus of Disney’s “Bambi,” as well as Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” artworks such as Rembrandt’s interpretation of the biblical parable “Return of the Prodigal Son” and ballads such as Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” We’re tribal animals at heart, and finding a place to fit in is a fable we can’t stop creating, viewing and listening to.
Stories about crusty old curmudgeons are a staple subgenre of our film diet. From Pixar's animated fantasy "Up" to Clint Eastwood's character-driven "Gran Torino" and Alexander Payne's relationship dramedy "Nebraska," we're told that even at the 11th hour, there's still the promise of a new start. The Swedish film "A Man Called Ove" infuses the story of a lonely codger with freewheeling comic verve and quirky wisdom. It's a record-breaking hit in Scandinavia, picked to represent Sweden in this year's Foreign Language Film Oscar race, and it's easy to understand why.