Freeze Frame: “Licorice Pizza” (R), “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (R), “Red Rocket” (R)

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the world’s top filmmakers, specializing in dark, thoughtful dramas like “There Will Be Blood,” “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia.” His latest movie, “Licorice Pizza” is a real departure. It’s a nostalgic coming-of-age comedy and his most audience-friendly work. Newcomers Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim are very appealing as a 15-year-old wannabe actor and a 25-year-old photographer’s assistant who have a complicated romance in 1973 suburban LA. The age difference is only one of the complications they face. Movie buffs will have fun trying to figure out who the fictional celebrities portrayed in the movie are supposed to be. But there’s no question about the overbearing and narcissistic producer Jon Peters, who is portrayed by Bradley Cooper in a hilarious cameo. “Licorice Pizza” is a kooky surprise.


Who says Americans can’t do Shakespeare? Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand are excellent in Joel Coen’s stark adaptation “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” While Shakespeare purists may quibble with some aspects of the movie, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” is smart and accessible. The cinematography and art direction are reminiscent of classic European art films. Something wicked this way comes in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and it all works.


I suspect that the art house comedy “Red Rocket” will be a film that will be loved by some and loathed by others. Count me in the latter category. Former porn star and MTV VJ Simon Rex stars as a contemptible human being, a former porn actor who returns to his small Texas hometown when he finds himself broke and homeless. There, his selfish manipulations have a negative effect on everyone he encounters. Writer-director Sean Baker specializes in gritty tales made on shoestring budgets. While realistic and well-acted, “Red Rocket” wallows in its obsession with a repulsive individual.

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