Thursday, March 12, 2020


Hilary Swank     Betty Gilpin     Ike Barinholtz     Wayne Duvall     Amy Madigan     Reed Birney     Emma Roberts

     A perfect allegory for the times.  The Hunt is a 20thcentury take on George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, in which the animals rebel against their masters.  Only in this rendition, it’s the “Elite Liberals” against “The Deplorables.”  Its plot is not a straightforward telling of a story.  It starts out with a group chat on the telephone, then goes backward and forward in time.  (So keep track of the names, even though it will still be confusing because identities are frequently shifting.)
     Before (almost) everything becomes clear, we witness characters being restrained on a plane and later hunted with guns, arrows, and hand grenades in an open field or roadside station.  These are people from different parts of the country who have been kidnapped, anesthetized, and brought to…they don’t know what state they’re in.  They only hear references to “Manorgate” (parallel to Orwell’s “Manor Farm”), and two pigs wearing human clothes appear from time to time—clues for those familiar with Orwell’s work.)
     That’s enough of the plot; it will be more entertaining and engrossing the less you know about it.  
     Writers Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof are to be congratulated for their creativity in adapting a novel published in 1945 about Russia and the Soviet Union and cleverly making it relevant to our country today.  Director Craig Zobel expertly films their script, making it come alive in ways that are simultaneously entertaining and appalling.  I always have a problem with movies shifting back and forth in time, and in this film, it’s especially challenging when characters disappear and reappear, and identities often shift (e.g., it is not always clear whether a character is one of the good guys or the bad guys)—all of which contributes to its formulation as an intriguing intellectual puzzle.  
     Betty Gilpin exquisitely plays a somewhat mysterious figure who seems at first to be a deadpan young woman from Mississippi.  But she is a formidable fighter and always seems two steps ahead of whomever she meets.  Gilpin deserves a nomination for this role.  She easily carries the story as a lead figure.  Hilary Swank is perfectly cast in her role, although she is not present in most scenes.  Supporting cast is likewise a talented group of actors who move the story forward with ease.
     My only criticisms are in too much shifting back and forth in time (a current fad in filmmakers’ trying to make their movie more exciting) and in the length of the final battle (as unbelievable as it is humorous).
     This is one of those films that come along every so often to remind us of the artistic, intellectual talent at filmmakers’ disposal.  When you see a work like this, you wonder again why this talent is not tapped more often, and we are offered remakes and sequels ad nauseam.  Oh, yeah…once again, it’s all about the money.

Prepare to be entertained (likely) while being appalled (almost certainly) in this well-informed allegory reckoning back to George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Grade:  B                                    By Donna R. Copeland

Saturday, March 7, 2020


Chris Pratt     Julia Louis-Dreyfus    Octavia Spencer    Tom Holland    Mel Rodriguez

     This is a fun animated movie that kids are likely to love (and some adults too, based on the guffaws I heard at the screening), with a couple of good messages.  Two brothers live with their solicitous mother, getting along fairly well (except maybe for the older one’s bossiness toward the younger, and his chaotic way of dealing with life).  Ian the younger (Holland) is imminently responsible and sincere, but painfully shy and woefully lacking in self-confidence.  His older brother Barley (Pratt) is just the opposite, never fearing where angels fear to tread, knocking things over and getting into trouble everywhere he turns.  But he is good-hearted, and thinks he is doing a yeoman’s job in helping Ian in the father’s absence.  Their mother Laurel (Louis-Dreyfus) does a heroic job in running interference and trying to bolster Ian’s self-image and tame Barley’s dominating bluster.  Just a typical American family, right?
     On Ian’s 16thbirthday, Laurel presents the boys with a gift from their father he wanted them to have when they’ve both reached age 16.  Come to find out, their father believed in magic, and gave them something that would pass on his love of the craft. Barley is a bit ahead, being familiar with the Quests of Yore fantasy game, so he coaches Ian every step of the way, even through the “Path of Peril”, with many adventures in between. Their quest is to find the Phoenix Gem that will allow their father to visit them for one day.  The quest constitutes the bulk of the movie, which is complicated by Laurel’s need to keep her boys from harm, and in doing so, she enlists the aid of Manticore (Spencer), a good witch.
     There are a number of clever—even funny twists—in the plot, such as a spell that gets interrupted brings only the bottom half of the father back, but still, he is able to impress the boys with his dance steps and witty communication.  Manticore is a hoot in her blustery problem-solving, grand sweeps, and funky dialog.
     Many symbols of magic are sprinkled throughout the story—as in a fantasy game—with the underlying thrust of helping the brothers come of age, Barley in learning the value of wisdom and thoughtfulness and Ian in developing self-confidence. Storytelling is done in such a way that I think kids will get the messages while still being entertained by the animated production.  
     This is typical Pixar, with stunning graphics and a decent story to go with.  It should be popular, but is not likely to make a big splash.

A tale about two brothers and how magic can bring them together and foster their development, overseen by their parents.

Grade:  C+                                    By Donna R. Copeland