The Witch

A24 Films

Rated R for disturbing violence and graphic nudity

Puritan Family Torn Asunder By Demonic Forces In Chilling Historical Thriller

It is Colonial New England in 1630, and William (Ralph Ineson) has just been banished from a Puritan plantation, ostensibly over religious differences with the settlement’s elders. The proud patriarch exhibits a stoic resolve as he prepares to move his family from the safe confines of the fort to an unprotected, undeveloped plot of land located on the edge of the forest.

William naturally expects to face some serious challenges trying to harness the harsh elements, given how he and his homely wife, Katherine (Kate Dickie), had five children to feed. But as devout Christians, they were willing to trust in the Lord to provide. Still, there would be no anticipating the host of supernatural horrors about to unfold which would test their faith while members of the tight-knit clan gradually turn against one another.

Their troubles begin when newborn Samuel vanishes into thin air while being watched by the eldest of his siblings, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy). William is inclined to explain away the disappearance as an abduction by wild animal, even though his teenage daughter has already confessed to a sinful self-indulgence of pangs of sexual arousal. Prescient twins Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) hint at Satanism, while pubescent Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) is too aroused by Thomasin’s cleavage to ascribe any evil to his big sister.

The Pilgrims’ plight proceeds to deteriorate further as crops fail, livestock produce blood instead of milk, and Caleb inexplicably falls ill and slips into a catatonic state. At this juncture, inconsolable Katherine starts yearning to return home to England and even questions whether God exists.

This being Massachusetts in the 17th century, suspicions of sorcery soon swirl around Thomasin, her vehement protestations of innocence notwithstanding. For, this was a time when rumors of witchcraft could land a young woman in a heap of trouble.

Winner of the Best Director Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, The Witch marks the phenomenal directorial and scriptwriting debut of Robert Eggers. Between period costumes and palpable atmospherics, the movie manages to generate an eerie air of authenticity that keeps you squirming in your seat. Another plus is the talented cast that proves to be totally convincing as Puritans.

A survival saga reminiscent of The Revenant, except with demonic forces added to the frontier endurance test.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 92 minutes

 

 

How To Be Single

Warner Brothers Pictures

Rated R for sexuality and pervasive profanity

Newcomer Samples Manhattan Singles Scene In Raunchy Romantic Comedy

When Alice (Dakota Johnson) graduated from college, it would have been very easy for her to settle down with her college sweetheart of four years. After all, Josh (Nicholas Braun) was not only a nice guy with a promising future but very eager to marry and start a family.

However, since she’d never really dated anyone else, Alice wanted to test the waters before making such a big commitment. So, she ended the relationship and moved clear across the country to New York City to live with her elder sister, Meg (Leslie Mann), an obstetrician who hears her biological clock ticking.

Alice lands a job as a paralegal at a big law firm where she makes fast friends with a flamboyant co-worker (Rebel Wilson) eager to show her the ropes both around the office and the Manhattan dating scene. Despite a Rubenesque figure, Robin exudes an enviable confidence that the relatively-modest Alice ostensibly admires.

After hours, the two descend upon a trendy meat market, where Alice catches the eye of a handsome bartender (Anders Holm). Against her better judgment, she impulsively agrees to a one-night stand with the stranger, only to find it not to her liking.

Worse, the disaster has her pining for Josh who has no interest in reconciling. That means Alice must continue to negotiate her way around the gauntlet of a strange new world where she can’t quite get her footing.

Thus unfolds How To Be Single, a raunchy romantic comedy directed by Christian Ditter (Love, Rosie). The movie is very loosely based on Liz Tuccillo’s 2008 best-seller of the same name which revolved around a 38-year-old heroine instead of one in her early twenties.

Dakota Johnson exhibits an endearing mix of sensuality and vulnerability as the naive newcomer looking for love in all the wrong places. And her character’s plight is playfully juxtaposed against that of her sister who is so desperate to get pregnant that she’s willing to visit a fertility clinic.

Alice has to kiss a lot of frogs before finally finding a prince in David (Damon Wayans, Jr.). Too bad the wealthy real estate developer is a still-grieving widower with a young daughter (Zani Jones Mbayise) to raise.

I suspect Millennials might more readily relate to the frenetically-paced hookup culture captured onscreen than us old fogeys. Nevertheless, the irreverent brand of humor has a universal appeal, provided the over-the-top antics of shameless, scene stealer Rebel Wilson suits your taste.

An utterly unfiltered salute to the Age of Indiscretion.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 110 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening February 19, 2016

 

Race (PG-13 for profanity, mature themes and ethnic slurs) Against-the-odds biopic chronicling Jesse Owens’ (Stephan James) overcoming racism at home as well as Nazism in Berlin en route to winning four gold medals in track-and-field events at the 1936 Olympic Games. With Jason Sudeikis, Carice von Houten, Jeremy Irons, William Hurt and Shanice Banton.

 

Risen (PG-13 for violence and disturbing images) Biblical epic revisiting the Resurrection from the perspective of a non-believer (Joseph Fiennes) dispatched from Rome to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Christ’s (Cliff Curtis) body three days after the Crucifixion. Cast includes Tom Felton, Maria Botto, Peter Firth and Luis Callejo.

 

Busco Novio Para Mi Mujer (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity and smoking) Midlife crisis comedy about a henpecked husband (Arath de la Torre) who decides to get out of the marriage by hiring a professional seducer (Jesus Ochoa) to steal the heart of his annoying wife (Sandra Echeverria). With Alejandro Cuetara and Arnulfo Reyes Sanchez. (In Spanish with subtitles)

 

Colliding Dreams (Unrated) Middle East documentary examining the competing interests of the Israelis and Palestinians in the decades-long struggle over the tiny territory they continue to cohabit.

 

Embrace Of The Serpent (Unrated) Amazon adventure, nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language category about a couple of scientists (Jan Bijvoet and Brionne Davis) who join forces with a local shaman (Antonio Bolivar) to search the rainforest for a sacred plant with healing properties. Featuring Yauenku Migue, Nicolas Cancino and Luigi Sciamanna. (In Spanish, Latin, Catalan, German and Portuguese with subtitles)

 

Forsaken (R for violence and profanity) Prodigal Son Western about an ex-gunslinger (Kiefer Sutherland) who returns home to reconcile with his estranged father (Donald Sutherland) only to come out of retirement to fight the outlaws terrorizing the town. With Demi Moore, Brian Cox and Michael Wincott.

 

King Georges (Unrated) Prestige biopic about Georges Perrier, chef and proprietor of Le Bec-Fin, the legendary Philly restaurant which opened in 1970 and closed its doors for good in 2013.

 

Neerja (Unrated) Reverential biopic about Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor), the flight attendant who sacrificed her life in the process of saving over 300 passengers when Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked by radical Islamists on September 5, 1986. Supporting cast includes Yogendra Tikku, Shabana Azmi and Shekhar Ravjiani. (In Hindi with subtitles)

 

Snowtime! (PG for mature themes and rude humor) Animated comedy about some small town kids who stage a huge snowball fight over the Christmas holidays. Voice cast includes Angela Galuppo, Lucinda Davis and Heidi Lynne Weeks.

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