Bob Mondello | WYPR

Bob Mondello

'Molly's Game' Is Aces

Dec 23, 2017

Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) is a fighter.

When a freak accident on the slopes sidelines her bid to become an Olympic skier — an accident from which she insists upon walking away — she moves to Los Angeles and gets a job as a cocktail waitress.

Steven Spielberg's The Post is a story of journalists, government leaks, and a president who hates the press. It's about the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, but there's a reason Spielberg rushed to tell the story now.

And he really did rush: The filmmaker has long talked about making a Pentagon Papers movie, but the 2016 election made him feel it had become urgent. He got the working script just weeks after the Inauguration, rounded up his high-powered cast, and leapt into production as if he were making a little indie flick on the fly.

The three of us — NPR movie critic Bob Mondello, Pop Culture Happy Hour host Linda Holmes and me, a writer for the NPR Arts Desk and Pop Culture Happy Hour panelist — didn't share our lists of favorite 2017 movies with one other beforehand, so it's interesting to see us all agreeing on so many great films (The Big Sick, Call Me By Your Name, The Florida Project and Get Out).

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Pixar's animators seem willing to go anywhere in pursuit of fresh enchantment. They plunged to the ocean's depths in Finding Nemo, took to the sky with helium balloons in Up and entered a child's mind in Inside Out. Now, in the movie Coco, they — and we — are visiting the afterlife.

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You know what today is? It's Thorsday (ph). Marvel's hammer-throwing Norse god is back in movie theaters. NPR critic Bob Mondello says whole worlds are at stake in "Thor: Ragnarok."

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You had to wonder how director Sean Baker would follow up his shot-on-an-iPhone, transgender-prostitute comedy Tangerine if he ever got a hold of enough cash to pay for a star and a Steadicam. His extraordinary, almost-homeless-family dramedy, The Florida Project, provides the exhilarating answer.

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It would be hard to pay homage to Vincent Van Gogh with more fervor or devotion than filmmakers Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman bring to Loving Vincent, in which they've not only created thousands of new oil paintings in his style, but also made him the subject of a murder-mystery.

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There's a film hitting theaters this weekend you may not have heard anything about. It's called Tulip Fever, a period romantic thriller starring Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Judi Dench and Dane DeHaan, with a screenplay by Tom Stoppard.

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When Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's dueling Michael Caine impressions went viral during the first season of their food-tasting TV series, The Trip, it was more or less inevitable that the show's 6.5 hours of eating scallops and celeb impersonations would be edited down into movie form.

Taylor Sheridan's tense, terse police procedural/Western, Wind River, begins with an icy, moonlit, Wyoming landscape. There's no one for miles, except a gasping, Native American teenage girl running in the snow, terrified and barefoot.

She falls. Screams. Gets up. Runs some more.

A close-up of ice melting in brilliant sunshine is the first thing you see in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. It's gorgeous — snow crystals glistening, moisture dripping from them into a pool of water so pure and clear it makes you thirsty.

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The dark, feminist tale, Lady Macbeth doesn't deal with royalty or take place in medieval Scotland. It has no witches, nor much rinsing of blood from hands. It's not even based on Shakespeare. But its leading lady, a teen bride when we meet her, still lives up to that title.

Just a few days after director David Lowery finished shooting Disney's live-action Pete's Dragon, he started a project that could hardly have been more different — the micro-budget, quietly revelatory, poetic, meditative, and aptly titled A Ghost Story.

Lowery shot in secret and very quickly. His setting, an entirely unremarkable suburban rambler that was slated for demolition, which allowed him to destroy it when necessary, and his chief storytelling device a childlike representation of a ghost — a figure draped in a white bedsheet.

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Maudie is the largely true story of a Canadian painter whose work was so exuberant, you'd never guess at the difficult life she lived. In her 30s when we meet her, Maud is tiny, bent of frame, fingers crippled by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

As played by a plucky Sally Hawkins, she has been treated all her life as if she were a child. Which is precisely what her brother does, when he tells her she's going to have to stay with their Aunt Ida, now that he's sold their house out from under her.

"I'd look after it," she tells him.

Fifty years ago, on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court's decision in Loving v. Virginia legalized interracial marriage. Just two weeks earlier, shooting had been completed on a movie about that very subject — Stanley Kramer's soon-to-be-classic, Oscar-winning, box-office smash Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Houghton and Sidney Poitier.

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