Scenes From A Marriage
I admit I was skeptical about an American update of Scenes From A Marriage; as a film critic, I pretty much had to be. Ingmar Bergman’s 1973 original—produced as a miniseries for Swedish television and released in a shorter but no less devastating version overseas—is one of his greatest achievements, a merciless but deeply sympathetic domestic drama about a middle-aged couple on the brink of collapse. It’s very much of its time, and so specifically Swedish; what point would there be in reworking it for the present day? But as a reunion project for A Most Violent Year’s Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, it feels like a new staging of a classic play: respectful of the material (Miyako Bellizzi’s monochromatic costume design) but also willing to refashion it for a new generation. Chastain and Isaac clearly relish the chance to tell a small, intimate story again, and for the most part Levi, who cowrote the new script with executive producer and playwright Amy Herzog, lets them rip into the material—and each other—without getting in the way. A framing device that shows the leads getting into and out of character seems a little precious, but I suppose it’s appropriate to the theatricality of the project. Sundays at 9 pm on HBO Canada, and streaming on Crave.
A Montreal couple (Sydney Sweeney, Justice Smith) find their relationship gets an extra charge when they peep on the very attractive people (Ben Hardy, Natasha Liu Bordizzo) in the loft across the street—until they cross a line, get tangled up in their lives, and everything goes to hell. Writer-director Mohan—whose previous work includes the Alison Brie and Lizzy Caplan comedy Two Weeks With A Love and the Netflix show Everything Sucks!—knows exactly what he’s doing here, leaning on the erotic thrillers of the late '80s and early '90s to craft a patently ridiculous but still compulsively watchable thriller about attractive people who let their, um, basic instincts get the better of them. It’s all very silly—preposterous, even—but watching the cast (which also includes Jean Yoon of Kim’s Convenience) power through the plot as though each new twist makes perfect emotional sense. And it’s nice to see Sweeney—a Euphoria cast member who recently popped as one of the mean girls on The White Lotus—play someone who’s confused instead of composed. 116 min. Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video Canada.
As long as streaming services demand content, actors will be recruited to do the John Wick thing. And why not? The artful-revenge action genre offers a simple, straightforward hook that can be repurposed for almost any location and star, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead—having just proven her action bona fides in last year’s Birds Of Prey—can be pretty formidable when she wants to be. Here, she’s an assassin on a job in Japan who has about 24 hours to track down the people who’ve slipped her a lethal dose of radioactive material, which requires going up against the entire yakuza (of course) and bringing a young girl (Miku Patricia Martineau) along for the ride. If Umair Aleem’s script is never more than functional, at least director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan—who started out in visual-effects—makes the action pop, creating vivid tableaux and leaving room for unexpected stumbles that make the elaborate fight scenes feel just a little more credible. And Winstead—styled to play up her resemblance to the Aliens-era Sigourney Weaver—is never less than watchable. 106 min. Now streaming on Netflix Canada.
The Card Counter
Writer-director Schrader’s latest casts Oscar Isaac as a small-time card sharp who calls himself William Tell and travels from one casino to the next, living a monk-like existence. He’s got some stuff in his past that he wants to leave there, and when a kid (Tye Sheridan) approaches him with a proposal to hunt down a mutual enemy, Tell invites the kid to ride along with him to the World Series Of Poker instead. (Willem Dafoe and Tiffany Haddish are also around in key supporting roles, representing Tell’s past and possible future.) With its minimalist construction and narrow focus, The Card Counter is right in line with Schrader projects like Light Sleeper and First Reformed—and the granddaddy of them all, his script for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. It’s a psychological pressure cooker about a closed-off man struggling with a hard moral choice, and Isaac—looking at least a decade older than he is real age—holds it all together in a small, contained performance that’s both closed off and wide open. First Reformed remains Schrader’s late-life masterwork, but this makes a good companion piece. 109 min. Now playing in theatres.
Available on VOD
Don’t Breathe 2
Stephen Lang, Brendan Sexton III, Madelyn Grace; directed by Rodo Sayagues
Dylan O’Brien, Hannah Gross, Emory Cohen; directed by Christopher MacBride
Taryn Manning, Cory Hardrict, Jasmine Burke; directed by Coke Daniels
Paw Patrol: The Movie
With the voices of Iain Armitage, Marsai Martin and Randall Park; directed by Cal Brunker
Disc of the week
Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection (Paramount, 4K)
This week marks the 55th anniversary of the night Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek first warped onto America’s televisions, and obviously Paramount Home Entertainment—which has been selling Trek back to its fans in endless permutations of remastered TV season sets, themed episode collections and so, so many movie boxed sets—had something special planned. And it is pretty special, with the first four Trek features—1979’s self-important The Motion Picture, 1982’s franchise-saving The Wrath Of Khan, 1984’s entirely serviceable The Search For Spock, and 1986’s time-travel comedy The Voyage Home—arriving in beautiful new 4K transfers that scrub a decade or more of digital neglect off of the celluloid source material; these movies look like movies again, instead of compromised HD television masters.
And revisiting them is a great deal of fun, once you get past the stiffness of The Motion Picture and appreciate the way Khan, Spock, and Voyage comprise an actual trilogy that sees the crew of the Enterprise dealing with age, death, grief, guilt, and sacrifice in reasonably realistic fashion, and coming out the other end by goofing around in late-20th-century San Francisco while saving the future. That said, I can admire The Motion Picture’s attempt at bringing some Classic Trek philosophy to the big screen, though the script never really figures out how to work with it.
Before you ask, the slightly less clunky director’s edition sanctioned by Robert Wise in 2001 isn’t included here; Paramount is working on a 4K upgrade of that version for release next year. But both cuts of The Wrath Of Khan are included on that film’s platter, which is appreciated; the differences are minimal, but it’s nice to have the choice. Supplements from earlier DVD and Blu-ray releases are included on the accompanying Blu-ray discs—which also use the the new 4K masters—though the featurettes produced in 2016 for a 50th anniversary bonus disc are nowhere to be found. Maybe we’ll see them in whatever Paramount rolls out next September.