The wizarding world of Harry Potter created by J.K. Rowling, and translated beautifully to the screen in a miracle of continuity and creativity over the course of the aughts, is a wondrous achievement. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is not. While a plot that involves a hate group speaking out against “the other,” bureaucratic shakeup, fearmongering, and misinformation may seem especially relevant in November 2016 – there’s even a guy named Newt – Fantastic Beasts can’t find a through-line. Impressive visuals aren’t enough to distract from the messy storytelling.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk covers very little ground. In juxtaposing the experience of the Iraq War with perceptions of it back home and the commodification of heroic soldiers, the film becomes what it’s attempting to call out. It’s an empty, impassive, short-sighted view of the complexities of war and how it affects combatants and their reactions to populist opinion.
In Nocturnal Animals Tom Ford blends the contemporary coldness of Nicolas Winding Refn with a gritty, modern Texas Western. Results are mixed. Actually, “blends” probably isn’t the best way to describe the mashing of aesthetics because each remains too disparate to have a meaningful influence on the other. The second film from the fashion designer, following 2009’s A Single Man, is pretty and polished, but ultimately flavorless.
Vinny Pazienza made one of the greatest comebacks in sports history, overcoming a broken neck to continue a successful boxing career. That comeback included fights with Roberto Duran, the subject of Hands of Stone, another boxing bio from earlier this year. Their “Duel in the Desert” is fodder for one of many timeworn conventions in Bleed for This, a tale of redemption that’s unique because of its protagonist’s struggle, but doesn’t quite shake the feeling of familiarity.
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