ARMAGEDDON TIME. James Gray does not live in the popular consciousness the way many of our cinematic luminaries — themselves refugees from an ongoing extinction-level event — do. This is likely as much due to geographical bias within the industry as to Gray's refusal to cater to the whims of that industry, transitory culture or, most pointedly, the audience. It could also be that his filmography — Little Odessa, 1994; The Yards, 2000; We Own the Night (2007); Two Lovers (2008); The Immigrant (2013); The Lost City of Z (2016); Ad Astra (2019) — enumerated here in full to demonstrate the depth and breadth of his career, doesn't cater to casual viewing.
Despite the presence of movie stars in literally all of his movies, most of them remain largely unseen, not pairing particularly well with popcorn and Dots. Like some of his contemporaries, he is an artist removed from his time. Unlike the better known, he doesn't make comedies. Nor does he seem to enjoy fun. This does nothing to undermine the enduring quality of his work. People love Marvel movies, after all, and I find most of those to be no fun at all. Furthermore, Gray has proven himself (I'm thinking particularly of We Own the Night and Ad Astra) a masterful conceiver of action sequences, rendered all the more forceful for their contrast to the contemplative, measured pace of the works within which they are so strategically situated.
As I am obviously a fan, I don't feel any compunction to defend Gray as an artist, or to suggest he should be more popular (often antithetical to true artistic value). Rather, I can see why he exists outside the increasingly homogenous bubble of popular media. His stuff isn't usually joyful or lighthearted, which is one of the great, perhaps misleading surprises of Armageddon Time.
Serious Artists often seem to have no connection to childhood, to the simple pleasures that can exist even amid the direst of circumstances. Their work would often have it that the world is all Raskolnikovs, cold rice and rat meat, which is nonsense and also distancing for a large swath of the potential viewership (myself very much not included). From the opening, though, Armageddon Time flouts this convention, presenting what we can only assume is a quasi-autobiographical tale of middle-class life in 1980s Queens.
Our protagonist, Paul Graff (a remarkable Banks Repeta), is the smart-assed son of a plumber, Irving (Jeremy Strong, great as always but maybe trying too hard) and a long-suffering teacher, Esther (Anne Hathaway, just about note-perfect). Paul harbors artistic ambitions and is particularly close to his maternal grandfather Aaron (Anthony Hopkins, making us all want to cry). He gets pushed around by his older brother, doesn't feel particularly compelled by the drudgery of school, and is drawn to the brightness and warmth of classmate Johnny (Jaylin Webb), who has it tougher than anybody else in school but is almost transcendentally good-natured. Almost.
In the early going, Gray is in such intimate conversation with youth — and presumably, his own younger self — that the movie feels almost like the work of another creator (despite the familiar pace and stately compositions of cinematographer Darius Khondji, a frequent collaborator). Whether Paul is an avatar, a surrogate, or whatever, he is very much real and goofy kid: too smart to do the stupid shit he does, not smart enough to understand that yet. And so, when the inevitable darkness begins to descend, it is all the more troubling for its contrast. R. 114M. STREAMING.
BONES AND ALL. First, the proverbial pachyderm in the room: Armie Hammer co-starred with Timothée Chalamet in Luca Guadagnino's adaptation of Call Me by Your Name (2017) and is, allegedly, cannibal who now sells real estate in the Caribbean. I bring this up in part because The Editor has frequently admonished that, in spite of my wish-spinning, cinema does not exist in a vacuum. Also because it is slightly hilarious and creates a fascinating context for Bones and All, which is a road movie about young cannibals in love and adapted by David Kajganich from Camille DeAngelis' young adult novel.
Now, I have so far not seen Guadagnino's take on Suspiria (2019), but the fact alone that he would make it suggests his interest in the horror genre and in defying expectations, which this movie does, to great effect.
Maren (a revelatory Taylor Russell), plagued by a compulsion she cannot understand, finds herself alone with only a little money, a road atlas and her birth certificate. After an enlightening but deeply troubling interaction with Sully (Mark Rylance), she falls in with Lee (Chalamet) and tries to make sense of her place in the world at large and within the largely invisible culture of fellow "eaters."
Bones and All is exquisitely crafted and Michael Stuhlbarg gives one of the all-time great cameo performances. R. 130M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
John J. Bennett (he/him) is a movie nerd who loves a good car chase.
THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN. Collin Farrel and Brendan Gleeson star as lifelong friends, one trying to cut off the relationship and the other trying to restore it at wild costs. R. 109M. MINOR.
BLACK ADAM. Dwayne Johnson suits up as the DC antihero. PG13. 125M. BROADWAY.
BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER. RIP, Chadwick Boseman. The Marvel comic franchise continues with Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke and Tenoch Huerta Mejía as an amphibian king. PG13. 116M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
DEVOTION. Korean war drama based on the true story of Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), the Navy's first Black aviator. With Glenn Powell. PG13. 138M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
THE MENU. Comedy-horror where a couple (Anna Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult) travel to a remote restaurant where the chef (Ralph Fiennes) takes haute cuisine deadly serious. R. 106M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
SHE SAID. Based on the book by New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor (Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan), who broke the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault story. Rot in prison, Harv! R. 129M. BROADWAY.
STRANGE WORLD. Jake Gyllenhaal, Jaboukie Young-White and Gabrielle Union voice an animated adventure about a family of explorers. PG 102M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
TICKET TO PARADISE. Anti-Parent Trap with Julia Robert and George Clooney as exes trying to stop their kid's marriage. PG. 104M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
VIOLENT NIGHT. David Harbour stars as BAMF Santa, who stumbles onto a Christmas heist and goes Die Hard on John Leguizamo's elite team of bad guys. R. 101M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
For showtimes call: Broadway Cinema (707) 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre (707) 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre (707) 822-3456.