FILM NEWS: APR. 25- MAY 1 – Salt Lake City Weekly


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NEW THIS WEEK

Avengers: Endgame
[not yet reviewed]
Aw, Thanos, you done pissed off the wrong superheroes. Opens April 26 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

Family 2 Stars
Twelve-year-old Maddie (Bryn Vale) has it rough. When she makes the cheerleading squad, she’s assigned to the bottom of the pyramid; other kids moo at her as she gets into position. Maddie’s parents don’t understand why other kids don’t like her, but her Aunt Kate (Taylor Schilling) does. Eyeing the cape Maddie has chosen to wear, Kate tells her, “If you want to run around looking like the Burger King, kids are going to make fun of you.” Kate, babysitting Maddie for a few days, is a no-nonsense business-type—single, doesn’t like kids and doesn’t like herself. Naturally, by movie’s end, she undergoes a big personality change. Think of Family as Bad Santa lite: no anal sex jokes, but plenty of ridicule of the weak and feeble, even as the tough and ruthless realize they hate themselves. What makes Family different from most comedies of its ilk—heartless adult becomes less heartless—is the prevalence of Juggalos and a not-unsympathetic view of their philosophy. I can’t tell you why Juggalos are so plot-centric, but it’s a hoot, and the twist makes Family better than it deserves to be. Opens April 26 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—David Riedel

Her Smell 4 Stars
Tales of artists spinning out of control are nothing new, but writer-director Alex Ross Perry creates something as jagged and uncomfortable as it is surprisingly emotional. Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss, who starred in Perry’s Queen of Earth), is the frontwoman for once-successful punk band Something She—with bassist Marielle Hell (Agyness Deyn) and drummer Ali van der Wolff (Gayle Rankin)—that’s barely hanging together thanks to Becky’s erratic behavior. Perry structures the narrative as five vignettes spanning approximately seven years, and that device allows for a perfect focus on pivotal moments in Becky’s descent and attempt at redemption. What’s astonishing about Moss’ performance is that she creates both the manic, unpredictable Becky and her chastened, almost hollowed-out counterpart with a clarity that makes it clear both are the same person. It’s far from a one-woman show—Deyn and Rankin are terrific as they try to navigate Hurricane Becky—but the story’s power comes from watching Becky find an identity that isn’t about hiding behind a persona and finding faith in other people. Opens April 26 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—Scott Renshaw

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Peterloo 1 Star
On Aug. 16, 1819, in Manchester, England, government troops massacred peaceful protestors at a rally against increasing poverty in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars and protectionist Corn Laws, calling for Parliamentary reform and an expansion of voting rights. Unfortunately, there’s more drama in this factual description of the historical background of Peterloo than there is in the film itself. The good intentions of legendary filmmaker and rabble-rouser Mike Leigh do not a compelling narrative make, and this isn’t a story. It’s a series of costume-drama cosplay reenactments, dramatized reconstructions of speeches and informal debates among campaigners and—worst of all—stilted infodumps intended to educate viewers about this Very Important Historical Event. Peterloo‘s clear destiny is for it to be shown in schools as a change of pace from the typical teacher’s lecture. Those kids will find this as dull as dirt, too. Opens April 26 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (PG-13)—MaryAnn Johanson

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Woman at War
At Park City Film Series, April 26-27, 8 p.m.; April 28, 6 p.m. (R)

The River and the Wall
At Main Library, April 30, 7 p.m. (NR)

CURRENT RELEASES

Amazing Grace 4 Stars
It’s too bad this documentary of the recording of Aretha Franklin’s landmark 1972 gospel album wasn’t available on VHS when I was young; I could have watched the Lord’s work and been redeemed. Amazing Grace looks like work: multiple takes of different tracks, sweat mopped from fiery brows, the audience moved to its feet time and time again. In the end, it shows the commitment demanded to reach a state of joy—and the music captured here (and on the record) is pure joy, even as Franklin exudes professionalism and concentration. The haphazard camera work becomes part of the film’s charm (read stories about technical difficulties producer Alan Elliott encountered finishing Sydney Pollack’s movie), and each time the camera lingers on Franklin, you’ll get that much closer to your personal version of the divine. (G)—DR

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The Curse of La Llorona 2.5 Stars
Horror filmmaking can be so sloppy and predictable that it’s tempting to mistake competence for quality. In 1973 Los Angeles, widowed social worker Anna (Linda Cardellini) discovers that a centuries-old homicidal spirit has attached itself to her two children. The screenplay hints at a metaphor for the pressure on single mothers after an emotional trauma, but it’s quickly discarded. Fortunately, first-time feature director Michael Chaves handles his creepy set pieces with a great sense for drawing out audience tension past where you’d typically expect a jump-scare. The third act turns into one extended supernatural siege, with a spiritual healer (Raymond Cruz) trying to protect Anna’s family. Your mileage might vary depending on whether you expect more from horror than a solid dose of booga-booga. (R)—SR

High Life 3 Stars
When Claire Denis decides to do genre fare, she doesn’t mess around. This strange science-fiction odyssey opens with Monte (Robert Pattinson) apparently living alone on a deep-space vessel with his infant daughter, Willow. The narrative eventually flashes back to explore how Monte ended up there, as well as what became of other passengers. Suffice it to say that it’s a story of damaged people in close quarters, with a mix of sometimes-brutal violence and not-entirely-healthy sexuality. There’s something missing in the characterizations during the flashback sequences, making it hard to grasp the human element in these trapped people, though Juliette Binoche certainly tries to pack a whole lot of crazy into relatively little time. Yet there’s still a surprising redemption angle when the focus is on Monte’s interaction with Willow, as a hard man finds something worth living—or at least staying alive—for. (R)—SR

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Penguins 3 Stars
Disneynature movies have a formula; their effectiveness is all about the execution. This one follows Adélie penguins of Antarctica—specifically, a protagonist called Steve—through one year of their life cycle: migration to coastal mating grounds, raising chicks and heading back out to sea in the winter. Ed Helms strikes a nice balance of warmth and low-key humor in his narration of the typically impressive up-close footage (stick around during the credits to see how directors Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson get those shots). While some of the humor is as broad and clunky as the music cues, the storytelling is effectively simplified in a way that gets young viewers invested. It’s cute, educational and only occasionally makes you wish it would talk to you like a grown-up. (G)—SR





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