[Early Review] Armageddon Time (2022)

Twin Cities Film Festival coverage

Director: James Gray
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Banks Repeta, Jaylin Webb, Anthony Hopkins
Screenplay: James Gray
115 mins. Rated R.

I was a big fan of We Own the Night, an early James Gray (The Immigrant) film from about 15 years back, and I was rather disappointed by Ad Astra, his most recent film, so I didn’t know what to expect from Armageddon Time. It’s a even split when director’s make a semi-autobiographical film of their lives, some of them being subtle and nuanced and others being heavy-handed and overly-melodramatic, but the cast of Armageddon Time really brought me in.

Set in the heavily-divided America of the 1980s, Armageddon Time is the story of a young boy, Paul Graff (Banks Repeta, The Black Phone, Uncle Frank) as he tries to traverse a world that is changing before his very eyes. As the school year starts, Paul’s looking for companionship, and he strikes up a friendship with the troublesome Johnny (Jaylin Webb, Till), one of the only black students who has been pre-judged by his teacher to be incapable of teaching. Johnny’s a target, and Paul’s parents don’t want him to be hanging out with one of the black boys. His grandfather Aaron (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs, Thor: Ragnarok) has a different perspective, having lived through many of the atrocities of the World Wars, seeing his Jewish heritage being seen as “other,” and he invites Paul to protect those that society has deemed unworthy. With the push-and-pull of this era at his backdrop, Paul struggles with his place in the world.

There are a lot of elements at play in Armageddon Time, but the one theme that jumped out at me is the idea of otherness that has pervaded many a time period, including the pivotal 1980s. They way that Gray juxtaposes the otherness of Black America with Paul’s family, who have seemingly cast aside the otherness of Jewish America that was still alive at the time (as well as in the past and, sadly, even today), is well-executed. Gray even uses the politics of the day well, showing an interview with Ronald Reagan discussing homosexuality as an apocalyptic problem, extending the range of otherness outside of race to showcase how many Americans were “others” at the time.

It would be easy to get lost in the shuffle with so many characters and a more subtle through-line in place for Armageddon Time, but the performances were what held together and elevated the material to an altogether captivating piece of cinema. I could call out practically any actor as a win here, but I want to focus on the opposing spectrum created by Jeremy Strong (The Big Short, The Trial of the Chicago 7) as Paul’s father Irving and Hopkins as Paul’s grandfather Aaron. While Irving is a stern father who cannot control his son no matter how many beatings he administers, Aaron takes a gentler, more focused parental role. There’s a central scene in the middle of the film (it’s the scene everyone seems to reference, but I’ll do so as well) in which Aaron is helping his grandson launch off a model rocket. Aaron’s soft but deft way of conversing with his grandson echoes the film’s central message of dealing with racists and those who build their lives around hatred: “Fuck ‘em.” It’s the duality of these competing messages that create the compelling back-and-forth for Paul, and it’s the eventuality of Paul’s struggle to do right by those he loves that ultimately make for a fulfilling drama.

Armageddon Time is a movie that weighs on the soul for some time after the final credits run. It’s one that only gains strength as its complex narrative web pulls at the audience. While the narrative occasionally stumbles in finding its footing, it’s one of Gray’s more accessible films, and one of his best.

3.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

  • For my review of James Gray’s Ad Astra, click here.

[Box Office Report] John Wick Takes the Avengers Out

So consider this your box office report.

The weekend numbers are rolling in and it sounds like the Avengers have been taken out of the top spot domestically by John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. The third film in the John Wick franchise earned $57 million dollars. This is a huge increase from the opening numbers for the second film and sure signs that audiences are still turning out huge for Keanu Reeves and his master killer. It’s no surprise that the film is set to do well with critics (see Rotten Tomatoes) and fans (see Cinemascore) praising the film.

I wouldn’t be too concerned for Avengers: Endgame, though, with taking second place this weekend. The film brought in $29 million and has passed Avatar at the domestic box office. I’m officially off the certainty wagon for the film’s chances to pass Avatar at the worldwide take, but either way, this one is going to a close race. Domestically, though, Endgame sits behind The Force Awakens for the #1 domestic of all time, a feat which I also do not believe it has the stamina for. I think the deciding factor will be Endgame’s legs and resurgence once Spider-Man: Far From Home comes out.

In third is Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, bringing in $24 million and now sitting with $93 million domestically. It’s been a hard road for Detective Pikachu opening just two weeks after Endgame snapped out all competition, but Pikachu is chugging right along. Globally, it has $287 million on a $150 million budget, so here’s hoping it can keep those little yellow legs scurrying toward some more take if we are to see franchise potential here.

A Dog’s Journey plopped into fourth with $8 million, making less than half of its predecessor’s opening weekend back in 2017. For someone like me who did not have much interest in the first film, I thought the ideas presented in the sequel were at least interesting and worth checking out, but the audience numbers just weren’t there.

The Hustle took fifth place this weekend with $6 million. The film, starring Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway, has not performed to expectations and was met with scathing reviews upon release. It’s no wonder it has ceased to find an audience. I personally was more than underwhelmed by its marketing campaign.

Finally, The Sun is Also a Star, the last major new release of the weekend, opened to a disappointing eighth place with $2.6 million. These types of films tend to do pretty good on streaming platforms, but as theatrical releases, this is a sub-genre that just struggles to bring asses to the seats.

So there you have it. The box office reporting for last week. I’m glad to see that John Wick, Avengers, and Pokemon are seeing good returns in the top three spots and as May continues to drop heavy-hitters, it will be an interesting box office battle to say the least.

Did you see anything this last weekend? What did you think? Let me know/Drop a comment below.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Interstellar (2014)

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Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine

Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

169 mins. Rated PG-13 some intense perilous action and brief strong language.

 

Just give me one more minute so I can calm down, then we can discuss this movie.

Okay. Okay. I think I’m good now.

Interstellar. Wow. A film that needs to be seen once and then most likely again right after. This movie just took my breath away.

The world is dying. The last of the renewable food sources is almost depleted and engineer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey, TV’s True Detective, Dallas Buyers Club) is on his way through a black hole with a crew of scientists to find a new planet capable of sustaining human life. I don’t want to give away too much here, because this film requires you to be a participant in it.

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The plot here is one that pulls you in and keeps you there the entirety of the film. The screenplay from director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception) and his brother Jonathan is just incredible, presenting ideas that are grounded in real science and also contribute to a grander understanding of the universe.

McConaughey’s Cooper is an incredibly faceted character, one that could only be played by the Academy Award winner. He is a man who is forced to make decisions that cause him and his family pain in order to save the human race, and he is not without his pain. It is as though he is constantly suffering from survivor’s guilt in a way similar to Russell Crowe’s performance in 2014’s Noah.

Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables, Rio 2) gives a tormented performance as Brand, a woman who is emotionally just as weak as Cooper but chooses not to see it as a connection between the two. These two are both willing to give up great happiness in the goal of the mission, and they both pay dearly for the sacrifices.

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, A Most Violent Year) and Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream, Draft Day) add to the strength of this cast, but the real surprise here is TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rachel Getting Married), an artificial intelligence assisting Cooper and Brand in their mission. TARS is a unique robot reminiscent of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. In fact, a lot of this film pays homage to Kubrick’s masterpiece. TARS provides comic relief while being a fascinating creature in this world created by Nolan.

The cinematography is spectacular here, and presents a quiet and lonely universe, one where the only friend you have is the mission. It is a quiet empty space with beautiful visuals that deeply sadden the viewers while maintaining a bit of wonder.

The score is equal parts quiet and enveloping. Completely engrossing and altogether despressing.

Just a note on visual effects. It’s winning the Oscar, just prepare for it.

Interstellar is one of the best films ever made. It is one of the best films out this year and I will be looking for it on the list of Best Picture nominees. Not only does it present a dismal future but also a hopeful future, and it comes down to a beautifully realized and wholly engaging story with incredible performances and some terrific surprise cameos too. Watch this movie.

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Now, I’m off to see it again.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

Have you seen Interstellar? What did you think? Did you find a hit through the black hole or a extinction of film? Let me know!

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