Monsters, drugs, sports and quarantine. All this and more as Cineast previews new movies. This week’s films are Godzilla, Don Peyote, Million Dollar Arm and The Immigrant.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one already. Back in 1954, scientists were doing some blowing up of nuclear bombs in the Pacific Ocean, and they managed to wake up the fire-breathing monster known as Godzilla. Godzilla wreaked havoc across Japan, punishing man for his arrogance in trying to control nature. Well, I hate to break it to you, but he’s back. Godzilla! Now, he’s burning a wide path through Manhattan—mainly so that Americans can be shocked when they see the ruins of the Statue of Liberty. NOT LADY LIBERTY! How dare that fire-breathing beast! What will happen if the nuclear scientist can’t figure out how to save the planet from this scourge? Ah, well. “History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of men. Godzilla!”
Has anyone ever made a film that convincingly portrays what it’s like to be on a drug-induced trip? Probably not, but it seems like there’ll always be somebody trying to nail it down. Modern visual effects have made it easier to actualize the surreal onscreen, but there’s always the risk of overdoing the Wizard of Oz-style candy-landscape look. Don Peyote gives us Dan Fogler, Josh Duhamel, Jay Baruchel and the always freaky Wallace Shawn in a surreal landscape where reality and hallucination mix freely, and it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. This is appropriate, as the story must be modeled somewhat on that of Don Quixote, whose protagonist legendarily had trouble telling the difference between what was real and what was imagined.
Million Dollar Arm
Disney’s Million Dollar Arm is a feel-good family film that follows the story, based on real events, of a sports agent who scouts and signs a baseball star from the pretty unlikely location of India. After all, true to its heritage as a British colony, India’s usual bat-and-ball sport is cricket, and it has thus never been known as a fertile training ground for star baseball pitchers. The film features Jon Hamm, Alan Arkin, Suraj Sharma and Aasif Mandvi.
Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard head up the period drama The Immigrant. Two sisters arrive at Ellis Island in the early 1900s. One of them is deported and quarantined because of suspicion of illness, but the other is admitted, and is determined to secure her sister’s release. In order to do so, she needs money, and she finds work in the fairly disreputable world of the vaudeville theater, working amid the dancers, magicians, and other assorted members of society’s cast-offs. The film has met with great critical praise thus far, and promises to be the highbrow hit of the summer.