As I write this, take a guess at how many daily showings there are of the Black Panther sequel Wakanda Forever at my local cinema. Go on, guess. 19! That means if you arrived late for your desired showing you would only have to wait approximately 11 minutes for the next showing.
It also means the movie I saw there the previous weekend, Armageddon Time, is gone, as is the movie I wanted to see this weekend, Tar, starring Cate Blanchett. The good news is Armageddon Time (R) is not a must-see on the big screen. It’s a small film about a Jewish family in New York City in 1980, based on the life of its writer/director James Gray. If it is true to life, that means Gray was a very annoying 12-year-old. Paul Graff (Banks Repeta) is a sixth-grade troublemaker. He acts out in school and gets in trouble. He ruins family dinners for no reason. He is defiant, angry and hates his life so much he wants to run away. The problem is he’s such a brat that when things don’t go his way and when he gets in serious trouble, you don’t really care. I only felt badly for his parents. I wanted to yell, “Be nicer to your mom. She’s trying her best and she cuts you way too much slack.” Paul’s mom Esther is played by Anne Hathaway who does a lot with an underdeveloped role. Paul’s dad Irving (Jeremy Strong) is less sympathetic since he feels the belt is the answer for Paul’s bad behavior. But this kid is exasperating. Paul finds a fellow troublemaker in Johnny (Jaylin Webb) a Black classmate who is repeating sixth grade. Johnny isn’t doing well in school, has a troubled home life and is a victim of “the system”. When Paul’s parents move him to a private school he’s picked on for being Jewish by his entitled classmates who include members of the Trump family. Jessica Chastain has a quick turn as Mary Trump who delivers a pep talk to the students. It’s all a bit odd and doesn’t really go anywhere. I enjoyed Armageddon Time most when Sir Anthony Hopkins appeared as Paul’s grandfather. This relationship brings out the best in Paul and we see that he has the potential to be a decent kid. It reminded me of a much better movie, 2021’s Belfast. Hopkins elevates every scene he is in, as does Tovah Feldshuh as his wife and Paul’s grandmother. Gray does a very good job of conveying the time so you always feel like it’s 1980. It would have been nice to hear more period music. The dinner table scenes also feel authentic as the best intentions of sharing a meal with family disintegrate into yelling and bad feelings. Ultimately though Armageddon is a bit heavy-handed with its storytelling and worse, gives us a protagonist we just can’t root for. Armageddon Time: 2.5 Stars out of Five
If you enjoyed Knives Out (and who didn’t) you should have fun watching the whodunit See How They Run (PG-13) now on HBO. It’s 1953 and there’s been a murder at the theater where Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap is enjoying a successful run. The victim is an unlikeable American film director (Adrien Brody) with, spoiler alert, a lot of enemies. Enter Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan), assigned to solve the murder. Of course, there are plenty of suspects, but none are as interesting as Stoppard and Stalker. Rockwell is terrific as always, but Ronan, who is better known for her dramatic roles, is an absolute delight as the extremely dedicated and determined Stalker, who takes notes constantly and really enjoys arresting people. The two are gold together. There’s another murder (there always is), and eventually the detectives and all the suspects (including an actor playing the actor Richard Attenborough) end up at Agatha Christie’s house. Like Knives Out and the works of Christie, See How They Run keeps you guessing. First-time director Tom George infuses the movie with upbeat energy and you can see a bit of director Wes Anderson in his style. It’s all good fun and I would not complain if like Knives Out, See How They Run got a sequel, just to see Rockwell and Ronan spar on screen again. See How They Run: 3.5 Stars out of Five