Movie Reviews: Abominable, Judy, The Sound of Silence | Buzz Blog

Friday, September 27, 2019

Movie Reviews: Abominable, Judy, The Sound of Silence

Aquarela, The Day Shall Come, Jay Myself

Posted By on September 27, 2019, 9:30 AM

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click to enlarge Abominable - DREAMWORKS ANIMATION
  • DreamWorks Animation
  • Abominable
Abominable **1/2
It’s a story about a young person heartbroken by a father’s absence, who finds companionship in the form of a mysterious creature with the magical ability to rejuvenate dying plants, and which is hiding out from research scientists; the young person then undertakes a risky journey to get the creature back home. If that sounds familiar, it’s because you can’t spell “yeti” without “E.T.” Writer/director Jill Culton (Open Season) sets her animated variation in China, where teenager Yi (Chole Bennet) is the young person, and a young yeti she calls Everest is the creature she wants to get back to his Himalayan habitat, even as she grieves for her dad. And it’s perfectly cute, with its round-faced snow “monster” providing a pleasant companion for Yi and her two assisting neighbors (Tenzing Norgay Trainor and Albert Tsai), while Eddie Izzard and Sarah Paulson voice the pursuing antagonists. Yet despite ample chuckles, lively action and the goofy inclusion of whooping snakes, it’s impossible to avoid noticing how safe and familiar the entire narrative arc is. At least they didn’t have to worry about licensing when Yi feeds Everest bao instead of Reese’s Pieces. Opens Sept. 27 at theaters valleywide. (PG)—Scott Renshaw

Aquarela **1/2
Director Victor Kossakovsky attempts an impressionistic, un-narrated documentary in the style of Koyaanisqatsi or 2012’s Leviathan, but doesn’t quite come up with enough variations on his theme to keep things interesting. The through-line, to the extent that there is one, is the power of water, ranging from the precarious frozen surface of Siberia’s Lake Baikal to storm-tossed boat on the ocean to a hurricane pummeling city streets. It’s not as though Kossakovsky doesn’t capture some powerful images, including shots of humans on the lake’s ice kneeling as though in respectful prayer to nature, and a darkened ocean surface resembling volcanic rock. He simply sticks with one thing for too long, in a way that yields quickly diminishing returns. The progression of sequences suggests a causal relationship, with rivers rushing through glacial ice giving way to powerful storms, which is a different way of telling the story of climate change. But ultimately, there are only so many scenes you can watch of a calving glacier, or that tiny boat trying to stay upright, before you start to feel that it’s time to move along. Opens Sept. 27 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (PG)—SR

The Day Shall Come **1/2
click to enlarge IFC FILMS
  • IFC Films

Christopher Morris’ audaciously hilarious 2010 feature Four Lions dared to find jokes in the ineptitude of would-be terrorists; his follow-up seems to be aiming in the same general direction, but can’t quite find its target. In Miami, self-styled prophet Moses al Shabazz (Marchánt Davis) and his handful of followers support a particularly patient, non-violent form of black nationalism. When a local FBI agent (Anna Kendrick) learns about Moses’ activities—while not yet being entirely clear about the threat he doesn’t pose—she proposes a sting operation to catch him buying weapons. Both Morris and co-writer Jesse Armstrong are veterans of Armando Ianucci-led shows like The Thick of It and Veep, and this writing is best when it captures law enforcement bureaucracy—including veteran character actor Dennis O’Hare as Kendrick’s supervisor—at its ass-covering, fiefdom-protecting, double-talking worst. But it’s hard to find Moses an object of comedy when it’s clear that he’s an unmedicated schizophrenic, nor is the skewering of trigger-happy cops as potent when they’re dealing with someone who is clearly disturbed. While some punch lines pack a punch, others flop awkwardly at the edge of satire. Opens Sept. 27 at Megaplex Gateway and Megaplex Jordan Commons. (NR)—SR

Jay Myself **
Why is Stephen Wilkes’ profile of photographer Jay Maisel titled Jay Myself? Sure, it’s intended as an opportunity for the celebrated artist to open up about himself, but only near the closing credits is it clear this is also a reference to mistakes in correspondence Maisel receives. Maybe. And that’s indicative of the odd structural choices Wilkes employs in his movie about his one-time mentor, following Maisel as he prepares in 2015 to move out of his home in New York’s Bowery—a massive six-story building that the then-84-year-old can no longer afford to maintain—after living there for 50 years and accumulating hundreds of thousands of bits of … well, everything. Wilkes spends some time actually showing us Maisel’s amazing work, and the artist’s amazing eye for composition and color. But the filmmaker strains to make the relocation of Maisel’s lifetime of ephemera a metaphor for something, rather than just an interesting example of a creative person who finds the potential for beauty everywhere. And not for nothing, but Maisel seems annoyed at Wilkes being perpetually underfoot and asking obvious questions. His frustration is understandable. Opens Sept. 27 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (NR)—SR

Judy **1/2
See feature review. Opens Sept. 27 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

The Sound of Silence **
Occasionally, a movie just hands you an easy metaphor for why it just doesn’t work for you—and this one is entirely about whether something in your environment is or isn’t hitting the right notes. Peter Sarsgaard plays Peter Lucian, a New York musicologist who has devoted himself single-mindedly to researching the impact of sound on people’s mental and emotional state. That work is thrown out of whack when one of his “house tuning” clients, Ellen (Rashida Jones), doesn’t seem to respond to Peter’s prescription of a new toaster. It all sounds preposterous on paper, but Sarsgaard plays Lucian’s obsessions with utter earnestness, hinting at stuff that co-writers Michael Tyburski (who also directed) and Ben Nabors ultimately don’t trust to remain subtextual; “I think you miss out on connecting yourself” is a sentiment we don’t need to hear Ellen say out loud. But while the plot eventually slides between elements including oddball romance, deadpan comedy and corporate espionage, Tyburski’s tonal choices ultimately remain as frustratingly internalized as his protagonist, even while the director oversees a terrifically complex sound design. It’s a tune waiting for a crescendo that never comes. Opens Sept. 27 at theaters valleywide. (NR)—SR

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