⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated: Adult themes.
This documentary presents both a modern fairy tale and a cautionary tale. A portrait of English fashion designer Alexander McQueen, dead by suicide in 2010 at age 40, it's here both to bury and to praise him. It gives us the Dickensian account of a plucky young tailor who literally turned rags to riches, rising to the stratosphere of a glamorous world he once only imagined, then being brought down by personal failings.
Even if the fashion industry is the least of your interests, this handsomely photographed rise-and-fall story offers intriguing glances into the toxic lifestyle of a creative genius. Built from archival footage and insightful interviews, the film presents McQueen's story as a series of individual cliffhanger chapters.
What set him apart was his complete indifference to tradition. He created dresses that resembled dazzling moths or left half the body bare, made hats with a plumage of falcon feathers and high heels that could have been giant lobster claws. The runway shows he created were silent stories about evolution and metamorphosis, and the footage on display here showcases a stunning level of visual sophistication and theatrical pomp. You may think of McQueen's styles as absurd, but no one can deny he was a showman.
He reached the top of the aspirational mountain just as his growing use of cocaine and HIV infection surfaced. With his mother nearing death, he prepared what he considered would be his last show. He named the surreal collection Plato's Atlantis in honor of the mythical city drowned by hubris. Its farewell mood was sadly appropriate. Three days after his mother's death he chose to follow her.
Celebrity suicide is becoming a documentary form to help us cope with the desperate loss and confusion of a culture that idolizes fame and fortune. This is a worthwhile contribution to that collection.
The Darkest Minds
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: PG-13 for violence and action sequences.
Sometimes originality is overrated. That's the case with "The Darkest Minds," in which children have superpowers and the government is out to get them. It looks a heck of a lot like other superhero movies and YA adaptations. But, as the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
This story takes place in a near future where a virus has killed 90 percent of the children, leaving the rest with intimidating superpowers, including Ruby Daly (Amandla Stenberg), who can control minds. The government is terrified of these kids, so they round them up into horrifying internment camps. Ruby escapes and teams up with a group of other superpowered kids out to save the world.
The strong cast does everything they can to bring their characters to believable life. But the film plays a bit more like a manifesto than a sci-fi thriller. Still, it's an intriguing manifesto.
William Bibbiani, The Wrap
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: Not rated.
This documentary paints an admiring if shallow portrait of multitalented artist Cecil Beaton. He won three Oscars: one for art design and two for costumes. He also was a regular photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair, and many of his portraits of celebrities are considered iconic.
The film is structured around passages from his voluminous diaries, which are read by Rupert Everett. Beaton appears in archival interviews, offering his own interpretation of a life guided by beauty above all. If that characterization sounds superficial, well, it is.
Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post