The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Of all the movie combos I thought I’d never see, Cate Blanchett and Eli Roth could well have been at the top of the list. Two-time Oscar winner Blanchett is considered one of, if not the best actress in Hollywood, a go-to for everything from historical period pieces to modern-day dramas, she not only legitimizes any film she’s in, but she elevates and dignifies it as well. And then there’s Roth, the notorious king of gore, whose movies are so violent, disturbed and bloody that I can’t even watch the trailers. IMDB cites one of the trademarks of his movies as containing “explicit carnage…and female nudity.” Not exactly Blanchett territory.

But every director likes to expand their repertoire, and every actress wants to challenge themselves with something new and different. Where would Cate Blanchett and Eli Roth meet in the middle? Where would someone from the elevated heights of filmmaking meet the purveyor of low-brow horror? Where would they both look and feel a little out of place yet still be able to challenge their artistry? A PG-rated kid’s movie, of course!

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Crazy Rich Asians

photo of Crazy Rich Asians (Warner Bros)
Warner Bros

It’s hard to believe that we have been so incredibly lucky to have had Black Panther AND Crazy Rich Asians in the same year. Whether it’s a reaction to the toxic political climate we are in or just coincidence, the fact that two major Hollywood movies featuring almost exclusively non-white actors, directed by non-white directors and centered around non-European culture were made with big budgets by major Hollywood studios and became legit blockbusters in the same year aren’t even the craziest things about them. The craziest thing is that they even exist in the first place. In the same year of the first mainstream gay romantic comedy (Love, Simon), Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians are firsts in so many ways. Black Panther is the first movie about a black superhero featuring an almost completely black cast and directed by a black director. And Crazy Rich Asians is—if you can believe it—the first Hollywood movie to feature a completely Asian cast in 25 years (Joy Luck Club in 1993) which is also directed by a director of Asian heritage. Hard to believe, but true. And the best thing about Crazy Rich Asians is similarly the best thing about Black Panther: it’s just a good movie. Yes, it breaks all kinds of barriers, but, at the end of the day, what matters is if it’s entertaining. And boy, is it.

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Operation Finale

You’d think, after all the movies I’ve seen about World War II, that I would have seen one about the capture of Adolph Eichmann. Eichmann was the main architect of the Holocaust, and was the highest-ranking Nazi officer to escape Germany after the war. He fled to Argentina, but, in 1960, Israeli Mossad agents tracked him down, captured him, and returned him to face trial in Israel, where he was found guilty of crimes against humanity and hanged. Eichmann’s trial was watched worldwide and sparked a renewed interest in learning about the war and about the atrocities committed at the hands of the Nazis.

While Eichmann’s story itself is a significant one, the story of his capture and eventual trial would seem a gimme to be one laden with dramatic content and seemingly tailor-made for cinematic retelling. And yet, I have never seen a movie about Eichmann. Which is why I was so excited to see Operation Finale, a new movie starring Ben Kingsley as Eichmann and Oscar Isaac as Peter Malkin, the Mossad agent who brings him in. I was expecting/hoping it would be along the lines of the really good Steven Spielberg movie Munich (2005), which was about the Israeli agents who were tasked with hunting down the people behind the Palestinian terrorist attack on the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Munich games. Unfortunately, Operation Finale is never able to achieve a compelling narrative and ends up being a massive disappointment.

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