Macbeth is poignant, cast can't save 355, Resurrections disappoints

click to enlarge Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth
Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth

Bracing Macbeth a staggering achievement

At times resembling a horror film more than a staid retelling of William Shakespeare's oft-told tragedy, Joel Coen's The Tragedy of Macbeth is a staggering take on the classic tale. Powered by solid performances from its veteran cast, the film is a triumph of production design, Coen and his crew having created a closed-off, nightmare world of shadows and fog. This powerfully underscores the notion that not simply the titular character, but all involved are hemmed in by forces beyond their control, that their actions and thoughts are not so much theirs, but playthings bandied about by those with powers much greater than ours.

In the title role, Denzel Washington gives us a Macbeth not full of bluster, but one who gradually begins to fray, a sense of fiery desperation setting in as his wife's plan falls apart. McDormand's trademark sense of strength is put to good use, not simply to bring the queen's steely nature to the fore, but to make her downfall all the more tragic. Seeing this powerful woman fall prey to her own ambition results in a moment of poignancy, a tribute to the actor's skill. The sense of doom, accentuated both dramatically and visually, as well as the portrayal of the evil that dwells in the darkest hearts of humanity, makes this Macbeth hard to shake. Streaming on Apple TV.

Stellar cast can't save 355

On paper, it must have looked good. Cast Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger, Penelope Crux, Lupita Nyong'o and Bingbing Fan as spies from different nations and have them team up to quash an international threat. However, The 355 is a prime example of unrealized expectations, a project that seems like a surefire winner but instead ends up being a rote exercise, a generic action film that bores more than it thrills.

As with any spy movie, there's a MacGuffin and the object everyone's all up in arms over is a device that allows someone to hack into and control anything run by a computer. Airplanes, an electrical grid, your office printer – all are vulnerable to the country or, heaven forbid, terrorist group that possesses it. And while the five spies do their level best to track down this device, nothing they do creates anything resembling excitement. As directed by Simon Kinberg, the movie is nothing more than a pastiche of hackneyed ideas from far better spy films executed with an alarming lack of enthusiasm or flare. In theaters.

click to enlarge Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne-Moss in The Matrix Resurrections
Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne-Moss in The Matrix Resurrections

Resurrections squanders inventive start

Obviously, we didn't need another sequel to The Matrix. Be that as it may, Warner Brothers has thrown one our way and for its first 45 minutes, Resurrections, the fourth entry in the franchise, proves to be an inventive undercutting of the 1999 classic. Seems as though Neo (Keanu Reeves) wasn't really a messiah sent to free humans from their machine overlords, but rather is a game designer suffering from paranoia and depression. All that was witnessed in the first three movies in the series was actually a video game he created to help him deal with his issues.

Or was it? Of course, questions concerning what's real or not and the purpose of existence are floated about, but they're overshadowed by the repetitive action scenes that fail to move the plot forward. At nearly two-and-a-half hours, this bloated movie is at least 45 minutes too long. While it's fun to see Reeves and his co-star Carrie Anne-Moss together once more, that's not enough to sit through this crass, commercial exercise. In theaters and streaming on HBO.

About The Author

Chuck Koplinski

Writing for Illinois Times since 1998, Chuck Koplinski is a member of the Critic's Choice Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association and a contributor to Rotten Tomatoes. He appears on WCIA-TV twice a week to review current releases and, no matter what anyone says, thinks Tom Cruise's version of The Mummy...

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