by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino
Rob: Welcome back to Reserved Seating. I’m Rob DiCristino.
Adam: And I’m Adam Riske.
My first pick is Jonathan Levine’s Long Shot, the 2019 Charlize Theron/Seth Rogen comedy that I watched on your recommendation (and that of essentially everyone who’s seen it). I thought it was really spectacular for a mainstream comedy. Hell, for any comedy. Theron and Rogen’s chemistry (as US Secretary of State and drug-addled speechwriter, respectively) was genuine, it avoided easy cliches when possible, and it kept the improv disciplined and effective. I love getting about twenty-five minutes into something and realizing, “Oh, wait. This is an actual movie!” Long Shot is a great example of that. My only real issue was the ending, which got a little goofy for a story that had mostly kept at least one foot in tangible reality. But hell, they earned their fun. Long Shot also confirmed that Charlize Theron is near the top of my list of favorite actors. I know this isn’t news to anyone, but her charisma, intensity, range, and enthusiasm make everything better. She’s very rarely cashing a paycheck; she knows how to pick roles that will give her a new shade to explore. She’s an absolute treasure.
My first pick is Crawl. It’s exactly what you think it will be, but that’s not a bad thing when you expected a tense animals-attack movie from Alexandre Aja. The movie caught me by surprise only in the sense that it’s less gory than Aja’s previous films and instead more built around suspense. It’s essentially a two-character piece starring Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper (playing a daughter & father caught in a hurricane while warding off hungry alligators) and they give you just enough backstory to make them sympathetic protagonists. I give the actors a lot of credit. It looks grueling, with most of the runtime consisting of them being wet, dirty and scared. Crawl is perfect summer horror.
Adam: I haven’t seen Deadwood unfortunately, which is surprising because I like Westerns and Powers Boothe.
My next pick is an indie drama from earlier this year called Little Woods, starring Tessa Thompson, Lily James and James Badge Dale, written and directed by Nia DaCosta. It’s about two sisters: one who constantly needs saving (James) and another with a dark past trying to go straight (Thompson). They get into a jam and the Thompson character has to go back to dealing Oxycontin in order to pay for the James character’s unwanted pregnancy. It’s a well-acted, tense drama with compelling characters. I liked Little Woods even more because it reminded me of independent films I used to watch around 2006-2010 (often at the Music Box Theatre) that weren’t going for awards, but were smaller stories without much fanfare.
Adam: I’d like to rewatch Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. I saw it in theaters and was expecting something weird, but not that weird. I wasn’t ready for it. I remember the ending being pretty (darkly) hilarious.
My last pick for the month is Lady Macbeth, a 2016 costume drama starring Florence Pugh. 2019 will be remembered, if for nothing else, as the year you and I became Florence Pugh superfans between Fighting with My Family, Midsommar, and her indie-breakout performance in Lady Macbeth. She’s an incredible actress with great range and carries this film entirely, balancing the tone between immersive historical drama and dark comedy similar to The Favourite before getting real dark. The character, Lady Macbeth, gives zero f**ks and it’s exciting to see a movie that goes for broke like this one does even though the title character is deplorable (I want her to date Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street). There’s so many scenes in Lady Macbeth that work, but the one I’ll remember most is Lady Macbeth (Pugh) openly having an affair and when her dirtbag husband confronts about it, she takes her lover out of the hall and starts to have sex with him in front of her husband while dead-eyed staring at his face. It’s The War of the Roses-level pettiness.
Rob: I also watched Lady Macbeth on your recommendation, and I thought it was a spectacular showcase for Florence Pugh. She’s such a layered and interesting villain in that one. I loved the sense of dread she instills in us. I won’t get into specifics, but the scene in which she reacts to the poisoning of a major character is an all-timer.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which I love and can’t stop watching.
Rob: He’s not joking. By the time this column runs, he’ll probably be on his sixth or seventh viewing. I’m so jealous. Anyway, I also saw and enjoyed Spider-Man: Far From Home, but anyone else find it unsettling to see an actor in a motion capture suit within the reality of the movie, and not just in behind-the-scenes footage? That was trippy. Other honorable mentions include Shazam! (so very close to being very good), a second viewing of Midsommar (liked it even more the second time), and Bat*21, a Peter Markle Vietnam War drama starring Gene Hackman as an officer stuck behind enemy lines and Danny Glover as the pilot tasked with his rescue. It’s basically the middle part of Die Hard for two hours, but it’s not bad.
Next week, we’ll be covering The Art of Racing in the Rain, or as we’ve come to call it: Costner Dog. Until next time…
Adam: These seats are reserved.