What if Godzilla was a projection of your issues? That's the question posed by "Colossal," a new film by Nacho Vigalondo in which an alcoholic screwup named Gloria (Anne Hathaway) unleashes terror on Seoul, South Korea, in the form of a giant monster by getting blackout-drunk.
This sounds like the premise of a "Saturday Night Live" sketch blown up to feature length, but part of the weird charm of "Colossal" is its willingness to be that kind of movie to the Nth degree. It warmly embraces the central idea and explores it in detail, without burdening it with gravity that it can't support. Vigalondo, who has carved out a niche making wry, small-scaled, rather peculiar genre films, doesn't do that. This movie feels as if somebody woke from an intense nightmare, decoded it and realized it was rather unsubtly working through some of their unresolved problems, then brought it to Judd Apatow and said, "Here's your next comedy."
In theory, "Rules Don't Apply" is about a couple of young people--Alden Ehrenreich, a driver for Hughes, and a would-be starlet played by Lily Collins, who moves out to Los Angeles with her mother, who's played by multiple Oscar nominee Annette Bening, Beatty's wife. Collins' character is one of 28 young women being groomed as starlets by Warren Beatty's Howard Hughes, theoretically for a movie that he hopes to direct. There are talent classes; lavish parties and shots of vintage architecture; cars and clothing; a budding romance between the two young leads; and a sharp right turn into an age-inappropriate relationship between the heroine and Hughes, who is defined throughout the film's first third mainly as a disembodied voice on the telephone, like the way "Seinfeld' treated George Steinbrenner on "Seinfeld" and the comic strip "Doonesbury" depicted presidents.
But as Scout Tafoya's latest edition of "The Unloved," and one of my favorites, points out, "Rules Don't Apply" is mainly about the mystery and audacity of its writer, director and co-star, Warren Beatty, a man who's nearly as curious a figure as Howard Hughes. It makes sense that Beatty would have made his long-delayed return to filmmaking and acting with "Rules Don't Apply," playing the reclusive aviation magnate turned film producer.
I don't know exactly what I expected of "Contemporary Color," but I definitely didn't expect what I got. That makes it very much on brand for David Byrne, the former front man of the Talking Heads and primary creative motor behind this curious and fascinating movie. Byrne has always specialized in art that defies easy categorization, and that's what this movie is. You could call it a musical performance documentary and not be wrong, but it's trying to do other things, too—some expertly and others not so well. There's never a point where you quite get a handle on it because it keeps changing in front of your eyes.
In theory, this documentary from New Orleans-based filmmakers Bill and Turner Ross is a recording of a concert at Brooklyn's Barclay Center arena that paired off high school color guards with top pop acts, including Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys, St. Vincent and tUnE-yArDs. This is not a formal collaboration between the musicians and the dancers in the color guard, a phalanx of high school students in leotards who swirl flags and toss rifles and strike poses in time to music. What's happening between the musicians up on the stage and the color guard on the floor seems like a form of interpretive art. The color guard is making a work of art that responds to the music.
I keep forgetting the title of “A Cure for Wellness” and calling it “The Color of Despair.” It’s an accurate mistake.
As directed by Gore Verbinski ("Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," "The Lone Ranger"), this film about a New York financial wiz (Dane DeHaan) getting trapped in a creepy Swiss clinic wants to be sickly-dreamy horror epic. It’s a black-and-white movie done in color. The stark photography by Bojan Bozelli creates pools of blackness and acres of negative space. Jenny Beavan’s retro-gothic costuming and Eve Stewart’s production design favor ash, bone, eggshell, curdled cream, and shades of green ranging from bile to moss. If you could nick a David Fincher film’s throat, hang it upside down, and bleed it for two days, it would look like this movie. As a fetish object, it’s impressive.
There's a scene in "Dark Night" where a young woman sits on a curb with police lights washing over her; a tight closeup of one of her eyeballs makes it seem as if the orb is light from within by red and blue. There's also a very long lateral tracking shot in the film of a surly young man walking past a chain link fence, and the diamond pattern of the chain link strobes and flashes as he walks. There's a tight closeup of the eyes of another young man, this one with close-cropped hair, staring while the soundtrack erupts with the sound of photographers' flashbulbs going off and reporters shouting questions, then the movie cuts to a shot from behind the young man's head as he stands in a backyard staring at a house. "Dark Night" has a shot of a parking lot and an adjacent road that swivels and zooms like a Google Earth map, and long static takes of people looking at things: malls; televisions; their own images in the screens of cell phones.
"Dark Night" is a film about the 2012 Aurora massacre, by the way.
"Gold" is the latest in a subgenre of films that seems to think that the sight of men moving gigantic amounts of money around electronically—and sometimes just stealing it, or having it stolen from them—is innately fascinating. Matthew McConaughey stars as Kenny Wells, who is continuing in the family business carved out by his dad (Craig T. Nelson, glimpsed briefly in flashbacks). The movie repeatedly refers to their ilk as "miners," and they see themselves that way, with pride. But while this film by writer-director Stephen Gaghan ("Syriana") does show Kenny and various allies and rivals traveling to foreign countries and searching treacherous terrain for veins of metal, there's not much pick-axe swinging, bulldozing or blasting to be seen. These self-described miners are more likely to be seen yelling into phones about money, staring anxiously at TV reports about stock prices because they're worried about money, or flying to other states or countries to find out what happened to their money.
The tale is a true one, based on a magazine story, though of course many details have been changed or embellished. Kenny is presented as a down-on-his-luck hustler, practically begging for the money he needs to get back into the precious metals game. He's is the second modern gloss on a Willy Loman/"Death of a Salesman" type to appear in a major film this month—the other is McDonald's mastermind Ray Kroc in "The Founder," a less ambitious but altogether more satisfying drama. Like the McDonald's film, though, "Gold" often can't seem to make up its mind to be disgusted and embarrassed by its hero's naked greed and the seeming moral vacuum at his heart, or get swept up in his adrenaline rush as he scampers from state to state and to South America and back, looking for the big strike that'll make him a big shot.
“The Founder” is mesmerized by its hero, McDonald’s chain founder Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), but horrified by how he built his empire. That kind of ambivalence is great; in fact it’s a hallmark of good drama. But there are too many moments when “The Founder” becomes a business-drama variant of that war film problem identified by Francois Truffaut: it’s hard to make a truly anti-war film because war is inherently cinematic, and when you show it, people get swept up in the action anyway.
The bloodshed in the business drama is (usually) figurative, but the conflict is still thrilling, and so a lot of films about business end up grappling with Truffaut's war movie problem. “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Wall Street,” “Wolf of Wall Street,” “Boiler Room” and the like are filled with the kinds of people you'd cross a room to avoid, yet you hear their lines quoted by businesspeople and b-school students as inspirational texts, probably because it's more fun to identify with the bastard who gets things done than the people who suffer from his actions. Ray Kroc is a local Chamber of Commerce version of Gordon Gekko. Keaton plays him with such laser-beam focus that even when the movie is appalled by Ray's shady maneuvers, it still leans on his every word.
Matt Zoller Seitz
Film critic and filmmaker.