Rated R for menacing, violence, profanity and graphic nudity
Dark Novel Haunt’s Author’s Ex-Wife In Hitchcock-Style Suspense Thriller
Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) hears from her estranged ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) for the first time in almost 20 years when he mails her an advance copy of his upcoming novel, “Nocturnal Animals.” Not only is she surprised to discover that he’s dedicated the book to her, but that he’d like to get together for dinner the next time he’s in Los Angeles.
Far more unsettling is Edward’s semi-autobiographical manuscript which seems to be making thinly-veiled references to their failed marriage. While Susan had managed to move on with her life, it is suddenly apparent to her that he’d remained stuck in the past and might now be rehashing their relationship as a literary form of therapy.
After all, back when they were dating, Susan had been warned by her imperious, well-heeled mother (Laura Linney) that she’d regret tying the knot with a romantic, aspiring writer from a relatively-humble background. Sure enough, the family matriarch knew best, as the mismatched couple did eventually divorce.
However, while Susan went on to become a celebrated art curator and to remarry a businessman (Armie Hammer) who could afford to keep her living in the lap of luxury, Edward has yet to achieve anything approaching their level of success. Instead, the emotionally-stunted scribe has ostensibly been venting all of his angst in an opus that truly frightens his former wife.
It is abundantly clear that the novel’s unstable protagonist, Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal), is based on Edward, and that the salacious series of events chronicled in the oft-gruesome text are the product of a terribly troubled mind. The only reason Susan might even entertain the idea of a rendezvous with a man she hasn’t even spoken to in a couple of decades, against her better judgment, is the fact that she’s just learned that her second hubby is having an affair.
So unfolds Nocturnal Animals, a cerebral suspense thriller directed and adapted by Tom Ford from the Austin Wright best seller, Tony And Susan. The movie marks the fashion designer’s overdue sophomore foray into cinema following his sterling 2009 debut, A Single Man.
This latest offering revolves around a sublime deconstruction of Susan’s shifting mental state, from her present-day predicament, to flashbacks of her relationship with Edward, to her perspective of disturbing scenes from his unpublished novel. A haunting deconstruction, worthy of Hitchcock, of a vulnerable socialite’s very fragile psyche.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 115 minutes
Power of 3
Rated PG for violence, mature themes and mild epithets.
Cash-Strapped Businessman Touched By Homeless Boy In Heartwarming, Holiday Morality Play
It’s late November in Grundy, Virginia, a tiny town whose economy revolves around Peyton Automotive, a family business inherited by Matthew Peyton (Ryan O’Quinn) from his late grandfather. Because the company has fallen on hard times in recent days, the overwhelmed CEO is considering cancelling the annual Christmas pageant the corporation has sponsored since the ’70s.
In fact, Matthew finds himself being pressured by his financial advisor, Albert Bagley (Kevin Sizemore), either to lay off or lower the salaries of some of his 115 employees. Needless to say, the prospect of cutbacks doesn’t sit well with union rep Bob Alexander (James C. Burns) who proceeds to call for a strike.
Matthew, in turn, testifies before Grundy’s City Council that he can no longer afford to stage the holiday festival because the funds in the trust have been totally exhausted. Trouble is, his grandfather specifically stipulated in his will that Peyton Automotive must continue the tradition.
Nevertheless, Matthew asserts that the business has been losing money for a couple of years and that, given the situation, he has no choice but to shut it down. Meanwhile, he’s warned by the Mayor (Lance E. Nichols), “You keep going in this direction, you will get crucified.”
Soon enough, Matthew finds himself the victim of escalating violence. First his BMW is egged and has a tire slashed, before being torched entirely. Then, he’s beaten to within an inch of his life and left for dead by a gang of union goons.
Coming to his rescue is a most unlikely hero, a precocious homeless kid named CJ Joseph (Isaac Ryan Brown). CJ and his mom Sharon (Danielle Nicolet) nurse Matthew back to health while giving him a priceless lesson about what really matters most in life.
For, despite their dire circumstances, the Josephs both fervently believe that better days are coming. “I wish I had that kind of faith,” Matthew admits. Upon recovering, the grateful heir informs Sharon and son that, “You took care of me, now I’ll take care of you.”
That is the point of departure of Believe, a modern morality play marking the feature film directorial debut of Billy Dickson. Although the picture is ostensibly aimed at the Christian demographic, it has a complicated enough storyline, including a love triangle and intriguing plot twists, to appeal to more than merely Bible-thumping Evangelicals.
A thought-provoking parable as entertaining as it is a message movie.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 118 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening December 2, 2016
Incarnate (PG-13 for terror, profanity, disturbing images, intense violence, sensuality and mature themes) Horror flick about an unconventional exorcist (Aaron Eckhart) who meets his match while attempting to free the mind of an 11-year-old (David Mazouz) possessed by a vicious demon. With Carice Van Houten, Keir O’Donnell and Catalina Sandino Moreno.
Jackie (R for profanity and brief graphic violence) Natalie Portman plays Jackie Bouvier Kennedy in this intimate portrait of the First Lady unfolding during the days following the assassination of JFK (Caspar Phillipson). Co-starring Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy, Gaspard Koenig as Teddy Kennedy, and John Carroll Lynch as LBJ.
Anonymous (R) Fact-based crime thriller revolving around a teenage hacker (Callan McAuliffe) who resorts to online identity theft to help out his cash-strapped parents (Vlada Verevko and Genadijs Dolganovs). With Lorraine Nicholson, Daniel Eric Gold and Clifton Collins, Jr.
Best And Most Beautiful Things (Unrated) Overcoming-the-odds documentary about Michelle Smith, a 20-year-old, blind, autistic woman, still living at home with her mom, who starts exploring her sexuality in a free love community.
Bobby Sands: 66 Days (Unrated) Inspirational biopic based on diary entries written by the late martyr during the hunger strike which drew the world’s attention to the Irish Republican Army’s cause.
Bodyguards: Secret Lives From The Watchtower (Unrated) Security is the theme of this documentary exploring the secret world of those who risk life and limb to protect the politicians and the rich and famous. Featuring appearances by Justin Bieber, Kim Coates and Whoo Kid.
The Eyes Of My Mother (R for disturbing violence and brief nudity) Psychological thriller, shot in black-and-white, about the traumatized daughter (Olivia Bond) of a surgeon (Diana Agostini) who morphs into a monster after her mother is murdered in their secluded farmhouse by a traveling salesman (Will Brill). With Paul Nazak, Flora Diaz, Clara Wong and Joey Curtis-Green. (In English and Portuguese with subtitles)
A Girl Like Grace (Unrated) Ryan Destiny portrays the title character in this coming-of-age drama as a grieving 17-year-old who is taken under the wing of her late BFF’s (Paige Hurd) street-wise big sister (Meagan Good) after the friend commits suicide. Featuring Raven-Symone’, Garcelle Beauvais and Romeo Miller.
Man Down (R for disturbing violence and pervasive profanity) Suspense thriller about a U.S. Marine vet (Shia LaBeouf) who is accompanied by a fellow vet (Jai Courtney) during a desperate search for his wife (Kate Mara) and estranged son (Charlie Shotwell) upon returning to the States after serving in Afghanistan. With Clifton Collins, Jr., Gary Oldman and Tory Kittles.
Run The Tide (PG-13 for profanity, mature themes and a sex scene) Dysfunctional family drama about young man (Taylor Lautner) who kidnaps his young half-brother (Nico Christou) and heads for the California coast to save him from their just-paroled, meth-addicted mother (Constance Zimmer) and her good-for-nothing ex-husband (Kenny Johnson). With Johanna Braddy, K.C. Clyde and David Barrera.
Things To Come (PG-13 for drug use and brief profanity) Midlife crisis drama, set in Paris, about a high school teacher (Isabelle Huppert) forced to reinvent herself after being left by her husband (Andre Marcon) for another woman. Cast includes Roman Kolinka, Edith Scob and Sarah Le Picard. (In English, French and German with subtitles)
Two Trains Runnin’ (Unrated) Delta documentary recounting the search conducted for a couple of legendary bluesmen in Mississippi at the height of the civil rights movement.