Richard Jewell (Clint Eastwood, 2019). Another entry in Clint Eastwood’s late career run of pedantic, politically confused prestige dramas, Richard Jewell follows the title security guard (Paul Walter Hauser) during the grueling stretch after his discovery of a bomb at the 1996 Summer Olympics, held in Atlanta, led to him becoming the prime suspect — the scapegoat, really — in the crime. Scripted by Billy Ray, the film alternates between measured considerations of the media-fueled rush to judgment and cheap embellishments obviously meant to juice the narrative. The film was rightly castigated for its depiction of Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), but the most commonly cited offense (sleeping with an FBI agent, played by Jon Hamm) might actually be the least of the filmmakers’ sins in the dramatization. As played by Wilde, the journalist is such as rampaging fiend that she might as well have snakes for hair. And then her sympathies abruptly flip, solely because it’s time for the film’s third act to get underway. This chunk of the story is a major flaw that completely undermines the film’s valuable points about distortions of truth, perpetrated by law enforcement officially and parroted by an acquiescent media, to suit a clamor for instant tidiness in matters of public justice. But Eastwood’s not a filmmaker suited to the nuance of this sort of moral dilemma. He merely sets pots to boiling and moves on, thoroughly disinterested in any answers posited to the questions he raised.
Men in Black: International (F. Gary Gray, 2019). It’s getting more and more difficult to remember than the original Men in Black, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and released in 1997, was a charming, engaging movie, merging comedy, buddy cop action, and science fiction playfulness in an utterly novel way. Except for one delightfully oddball Michael Stuhlbarg performance, the sequels are largely woeful, and the recent attempt to revive the whole endeavor, with a couple Ragnarok compatriots on board, is yet worse. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are astoundingly charmless as the latest mildly mismatched partners in policing otherworldly expatriates. In their defense, making any sort of positive impression in the midst of this much dim, unimaginative clamor would be a challenge that could fell the most effortlessly charismatic movie stars. F. Gary Gray directs like he’s sorry he got out of bed in the morning.
Terminator: Dark Fate (Tim Miller, 2019). As if constructed to decisively prove that not every successful movie should be stretched into endless installments, Terminator: Dark Fate borrows the rhythms of its most satisfying predecessors — particularly Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which jockeys with The Abyss for the distinction of being the best film directed by James Cameron — and makes them into a fading echo. The plot involves time travelers from the future dispatched to muck around in the present, various implausible robotics, and hefty vehicles and weaponry pushed to their limits. There’s sacrifice and trite wartime melodrama, and it all feels completely hollowed out by the straining machinery of franchise preservation. There are a scattered moments of wit — Arnold Schwarzenegger’s well-worn robot expounding on learned considerations in the field of interior design comes to mind — and Mackenzie Davis remains a real star awaiting the right vehicle, but most of the film is flatly forgettable.