Stranger Things, season 2
A Halloween of rotting pumpkins has come to Hawkins, Indiana, in 1984—and the competition for season 2 of Netflix’s nostalgic supernatural sci-fi show may as well give up the ghost. Young Will (Noah Schnapp)—who may or may not be gay, it doesn’t matter—has been rescued from the Upside Down but has taken to spitting up slugs, so all is not well in the Byers household. Can Joyce (Winona Ryder) keep it all together? Are Barb and Eleven really dead? What fresh hell will be wrought by the newbies in town (Sadie Sink, Dacre Montgomery). The blend of Goonies, Spielbergianism, and Stephen King is close to perfect.
In this video game-inspired action thriller, Frank Grillo plays a double-crossed getaway driver escaping a bungled bank robbery. And, oh dear, he has all the money in his car and only his adolescent daughter (Caitlin Carmichael) to help him. Don’t expect director Jeremy Rush to waste a single skid or crash as he strives for maximum impact.
In a banner year for Stephen King adaptations, 1922 may take the crown. Thomas Jane plays a Nebraskan farmer fixated on his land, who can’t contemplate splitting it when his wife (Molly Parker) demands a divorce so she can raise their son (Dylan Schmid) in a city. The wife winds up dead and the husband haunted by Dostoyevskian guilt and plagued by ghosts and rats—the supernatural manifestation of his madness. The plot, at least, is reminiscent of The Shining.
From another Stephen King novella, The Mist is about a pleasant New England town suddenly enshrouded by the mysterious dispersion, which releases all manner of murderous monsters: it’s the return of the repressed writ large. The series, which originally aired on Spike, stars Morgan Spector, Alyssa Sutherland, Gus Birney, Danica Curcic, and Frances Conroy. Thomas Jane (see above) starred in the 2007 movie adaptation.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Elizabeth Marvel, Noah Baumbach’s latest scalpel-sharp dissection of a messed-up arty New York family is his best film since The Squid and the Whale. We reviewed it as part of our New York Film Festival round-up.
While We’re Young
Baumbach’s rueful 2014 entry stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as married Manhattanites who think they can turn back the years by befriending and aping boho upstarts Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. Ain’t gonna happen: respect the age you are. Driver is particularly good here as a sly opportunist.
The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino’s caricature-crammed, ultra-violent 2015 Western pivots on one of the director’s most brilliant structural gambits. It was an improvement on Django Unchained, but it feels as if QT is marking time. It remains to be seen if his worrying Manson Murders project injects more social resonance into his oeuvre.
Paul Thomas Anderson brought dysfunctional family values to his 1997 depiction of the late 1970s L.A. porn industry. It stars Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Heather Graham, and, memorably, William H. Macy. How much did it influence The Deuce?
Eyes Wide Shut
Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 swansong looks increasingly like a psychodrama of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise’s marriage. The tone is oddly repressed; the lurch into the gothic is perplexing. Ultimately, it’s an endlessly fascinating mess from a director who prided himself on his control.
Based on John Douglas and Mark Olshaker’s Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, this Netflix original series—executive-produced by David Fincher—follows two FBI agents (played by Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany) who use criminal science to track down some of the nation’s most demented murderers and rapists. If the show prioritizes forensics and criminal psychology over the psychological journey of the protagonists (or their relationship), it may struggle to achieve the success of The X Files or the first True Detective series. Let’s see.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Tim Burton’s 2005 remake of the Gene Wilder classic was a typical showcase for Johnny Depp doing dress-up. The kids steal the show. No one with a sweet tooth will be disappointed.
Never Let Me Go
Director Mark Romanek’s 2010 film of the dystopian Kazuo Ishiguro novel moves from unsettling to chilling. Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield, and Carey Mulligan especially are on top form as the young organ donors fated to die young; look out too for Charlotte Rampling’s impeccably sinister turn.
A solitary man (Martin McCann) struggling to subsist in a post-society world wrangles and barters with the middle-aged woman (Olwen Fouéré) and young woman (Mia Goth) who turn to him for help. Stephen Fingleton’s futuristic low-budget 2015 British indie persuasively depicts the Darwinism likely to emerge when we’re all reduced to being Crusoes.
Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold
Dealing with social upheavals and grief are central to this documentary about the incisive New Journalist and author of Slouching Toward Bethlehem, Play It as It Lays, The White Album, and The Year of Magical Thinking. Another must-see from the 2017 New York Film Festival.