Cumberbatch soars in Dog
Without question, Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog is one of the finest films of the year, a complex, subtle examination of prejudice and repression that proves hard to shake. Taking place on a ranch in Montana during the 1920s, the story focuses on brothers George and Phil Burbank (Jesse Plemons and Benedict Cumberbatch), who've been charged with running the family ranch, each going about it in decidedly different ways. While the former is reserved and employs a quiet sense of authority, the latter is a braggart, who intimidates and bullies anyone he sees as a threat.
Things take a turn when George marries Rose (Kirsten Dunst), a widow with a teenage son, Peter (Kodi Smith-McPhee), their presence on the ranch seen as a threat by Phil, who goes out of his way to drive the mother and son away. What ensues is a fascinating character study in which we come to see the tragic nature of this abusive man, Cumberbatch giving a titanic performance. Once Phil's surface is scratched and we understand the damage he's endured, a surprising sense of poignancy develops that will likely leave you stunned. Streaming on Netflix.
Vibrant Encanto a winner
It's no secret that Disney animated films follow a formula and that there are few surprises in store once the princess du jour embarks on whatever quest awaits her or the requisite animal sidekick starts cracking wise. Still, when this template is executed with a sense of style and energy, there's no question that a bit of magic is created. Such is the case with the latest from The Mouse House, Encanto, a coming-of-age tale set in Colombia that features a rather unique protagonist by Disney standards.
Mirabel (voice by Stephanie Beatriz) is unique in her family in that she's quite normal. While her siblings have, among other things, incredibly acute hearing, impressive strength, the ability to change shapes or talk to animals, she has nothing so obviously special about her. However, it falls to our heroine to discover just why the powers her family members possess are waning. Buoyed by songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the film is a vibrant, joyous production that doesn't overstay its welcome, delivering a rather unusual message for movies of this sort. Seems as though you don't have to have a unique power to be considered special. Who'd a thunk it? In theaters.
Gucci could use some flair
Based on the book by Sara Gay Forden, Ridley Scott's House of Gucci looks at the scandal that led to the downfall of the titular fashion house, one that pits fathers and sons against one another, finds various skeletons ripped from closets and results in jail time for some and the murder of others. All of this is done at the hands of a master manipulator, Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), who gets her hooks into the heir apparent to the company, Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver). Once the wedding bells ring, she makes her move, easily swaying her new uncle (Al Pacino), while confirming her father-in-law's (Jeremy Irons) suspicions.
The film doesn't lack for solid performances, yet in the end, this is Lady Gaga's show and she runs with it. She's a live wire, her coiled energy imbuing her mesmerizing accent and expressive eyes with a sense of barely contained mania that's captivating. Scott's films have always had a highly polished feel and degree of respectability to them. To be sure, Gucci is a fascinating, but it may have benefited from wallowing a bit in the sordid machinations and scandals that drive the story. In theaters.