Six new reviews on Every Movie Has a Lesson from Don Shanahan to open the month of June



My Cousin Rachel was previously (and less faithfully) adapted for film in 1952 with Richard Burton and OIivia de Havilland in the Philip and Rachel roles.  Roger Michell stiffens his upper lip from his Love, Actually and Notting Hill fare to tackle a costume drama.  Oddly enough, this film can stake a serendipitous claim as the second Michell-directed film about “kissing cousins” after 2012’s Hyde Park on the Hudson.  Unfortunately, more than a little uncomfortable laughter of preposterousness pokes out of this film while trying to portray itself as flowing romantic drama.  That’s not going to sweep anyone.


Ken Loach is more than an esteemed British filmmaker.  He is also an ardent social activist for the middle-class commoner.  His camera is kind to the working class and never afraid to ruffle political feathers.  His latest film, I, Daniel Blake, the winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, champions the cause to combat the bureaucracy of the welfare system, a topic not exclusive whatsoever to the United Kingdom.  Loach’s plain-speaking film is a touchingly realistic parable.


Take the title of the film whatever way you wish, be it literally with the lurking threats of nightfall in this landscape or figuratively with the visions and nightmares one has while alone with their thoughts before sleeping.  It Comes at Night is tightly comprised of excruciating moral challenges that escalate with time.  One might ask how someone can convincingly convey jarring grimness such as this.  Creators often cull from dark personal places as an outlet and answer to their need to express and create the difficult material they convey in projects like It Comes at Night.  That is entirely the case here, and it is a place not everyone is going to be comfortable visiting.


Not to be outdone, here comes the multi-talented Scotsman Brian Cox, granted a choice starring role in Churchill, the fifth feature film from confident Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky (The Railway Man, Burning Man).  Oldman has always afforded a cult pedestal, but Cox is no slouch of an actor himself.  Exuding nobility while choking every ounce of potency and clout through the ever-present smoke of the British Bulldog’s cigars, Cox winningly puts his own stamp on playing the greatest Briton of all-time.


Paraphrasing the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the three-part noun definition of “wonder” can be summarized as “a cause of astonishment, the quality of excited admiration, or rapt attention at something awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience.”  Used as an adjective in a proper name, the word couldn’t be more fitting of Princess Diana of Themyscira, better known as Wonder Woman.  Whether it represents a cog in a larger universe, a historical watershed for women’s leadership, or the answered prayers of long-suffering fans and idolizing dreamers, the film bearing her name is a valiant, momentous, and satisfying first step fitting of the iconic heroine.


Simply put, this is a comedian showing he has more than one voice and the complements do not end there.  As a creative vessel, Dean incorporates several aspects of Demetri Martin’s brand of humor as enhancing energy in a dramedy narrative that couldn’t feel less like an extended comedy sketch born from one of his shows.  The film channels his observational personality and minimalistic sketch art as storytelling layers all their own in an anecdote of a father and son coping in different ways after the death of the family matriarch.


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