Tipping Point: Our picks and pans
This is one of my favorite movies of the year. It’s witty and caustic at times but warmhearted at its core, with an abiding affection for the world’s underdogs. With Alexander Payne directing a David Hemingson script, Paul Giamatti plays a misanthropic instructor at a New England boarding school in 1970. (The sets, props, costumes and cinematography capture that era with throwback flawlessness.) The teacher ends up having to oversee students who have to stay at the school during the Christmas holidays. He, one of the pupils (Dominic Sessa), and a school cook (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) all have fraught personal histories, and they slowly bond over the course of the film. The tone is just right – never overly sentimental. Newcomer Sessa, who has such a distinctive face, is a find as the student. And Giamatti and Randolph are perfection; expect to see them nominated for Oscars.
– Kristina Dorsey
Don’t be sad because the titular holiday is over! Turkey Day will live on in your heart and mind well into spring if you take the time to enjoy this film. Fusing the finest elements slasher, holiday-themed horror and self-referential genre humor, “Thanksgiving” features a maniac in Plymouth, MA, which has a big historical connection to the holiday, in case you were dozing in high school. Said loon has been spurred to violence by a Black Friday riot in a box store. Several shoppers – all depicted with the snarling greed we associate with people who’d, well, PARTICIPATE in Black Friday idiocy – are maimed or killed in the furor. The catastrophe also goes viral because snide teenagers, without whom movies like this are useless, streamed the carnage in real-time. A year later, in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, folks connected with the Black Friday fracas start dying wonderfully in ways cleverly and thematically associated with pilgrims, turkeys and so forth. Bonus fun if your 11th grade history teacher taught you about John Carver.
– Rick Koster
Next Goal Wins
The most striking thing about this shambling sports comedy is when, in conjunction with the closing credits, we see footage of the real people who inspired the movie. It made me wish I’d watched the documentary “Next Goal Wins” was based on, since the fictional version directed by Taika Waititi is amiable but never compelling. It’s about the famously awful American Samoa soccer team that seemed to live at the bottom of FIFA’s international rankings and infamously lost a 2001 match to Australia by 31-0. Michael Fassbender plays the disgraced coach with an anger problem who’s punished by being sent to coach this team. The athletes are the predicably motley crew. The best aspect is and the warm, relaxed Samoan attitude that Waititi brings out. The scenery is lush and gorgeous, but it was filmed in Honolulu, not American Samoa). The actors acquit themselves well enough, though Fassbender seems out of his depth; he’s an actor who can bring darkness and complexity, but humor? Not so much.
– Kristina Dorsey
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