This Week at the Movies: ‘Doctor Strange,’ ‘Loving,’ ‘Hacksaw Ridge’

  • The 800-pound gorilla at the box office this week is Doctor Strange, the latest mega-budget comic book adaptation from the folks at Marvel and Disney. And while it can’t break entirely free of the formula that entails (aaaaand it’s got that whole whitewashing thing happening), it is a legitimately exciting, stylishly executed, and surprisingly odd franchise flick, thanks to some mind-bending visuals that make the 3D surcharge worth it, for once. Read our review for more.
  • But the week’s best movie – albeit only in limited release, of course – is Jeff Nichols’s Loving, a sensitive and modest dramatization of the Loving v Virginia case that ended the prohibition on interracial marriage. Nichols is a low-key filmmaker, even when tackling alien visitors (Midnight Special) or the end of days (Take Shelter), so when he’s telling an intimate story like this, he risks boring impatient moviegoers. But his style and strategy works beautifully here, as he simply hangs out with his subjects, observes their affection, and wonders – as they did – who they were upsetting by being together, and why. Here is our review.
  • Here’s how saturated we are with based-on-a-true-story boxing movies: Ben Younger’s Bleed for This ends with a big bout with Roberto Duran, who was at the center of one of his own boxing movies, Hands of Stone, just a couple of months back. (Even more confusingly, there’s another true boxing story in the wings, the similarly titled Chuck Wepner biopic The Bleeder.) Writer/director Younger (Boiler Room) doesn’t bring much new to the table, but he captures this sleaze-rock late-‘80s Jersey milieu well, and he tells this fascinating comeback story with enough passion and integrity that its familiarity is almost forgivable. More about it in this month’s indie guide.
  • Paul Schrader is one of our most gifted filmmakers (he’s responsible for the scripts to Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Last Temptation of Christ, and he wrote and directed American Gigolo, Blue Collar, and Affliction), but he’s had a bit of a rough go of it lately – see The Canyons (better yet, don’t). But he’s back to something resembling his old self in Dog Eat Dog, a ruthlessly nutso exploitation crime caper flick that somehow manages to house not only his own instability, but the utter insanity of both Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe. More in the indie guide.
  • Adam Irving’s Off the Rails concerns a New York tabloid fave by the name of Darius McCollum, a man diagnosed with Aspergers, who’s spent much of his life in prison for impersonating transit workers and taking their busses and trains out for – their regular routes. He merely enjoys the ritual and routine of the system and wants to be a part of it, though the simplest solutions to this ongoing problem are unexpectedly complicated. Irving bucks the way his story is usually told in the local press by taking an intimate and personal approach, documenting McCollum’s most recent imprisonment and his attempt to reenter society while fighting what is, in many ways, an addiction. Read more in the indie guide.
  • “I could, in front of all of you, call all my children,” Peter Dunning tells the makers of the up-close documentary Peter and the Farm, “and not one of them would answer the phone.” From its beginning, this vérité portrait captures that kind of unguarded truth, but it’s still a bit of a shocker when he casually proposes to the filmmakers, “Why don’t you document my suicide?” They decline to do so directly, but that’s sort of what they end up with anyway – a snapshot of a hard case who has alienated himself from his friends and family, and can find solace only in his work and his bottle. More on that one here.
  • Rainbow Time comes under the banner of Duplass Brothers Productions, and at its best, it gets at the uncomfortable emotional truths and earned laughs of their finest work (with Togetherness leading lady Melanie Lynskey, a valuable-as-ever addition). But writer/director/star Linas Phillips has trouble with the film’s key character (who he also plays); he’s so insufferable, he upsets the delicate balance they seem to be going. In a few scenes, particularly towards the end, you get a sense of what they were going for, and they come awfully close to pulling it off. Awfully close. More here.
  • Oh, and Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge is out this week, but we didn’t see it because fuck that guy.

And if none of these strike your fancy, well, there’s always last week’s stuff. Or watch a movie at home! Who am I to judge?