Movie Reviews: Doctor Sleep, Midway, Last Christmas, Pain and Glory, Making Waves | Buzz Blog

Friday, November 8, 2019

Movie Reviews: Doctor Sleep, Midway, Last Christmas, Pain and Glory, Making Waves

Posted By on November 8, 2019, 9:00 AM

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click to enlarge Antonio Banderas and Nora Navas in Pain and Glory - SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
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  • Antonio Banderas and Nora Navas in Pain and Glory
Doctor Sleep ***
See feature review. Opens Nov. 8 at theaters valleywide. (R)

Last Christmas *1/2
Fresh off of proving he couldn’t pull off dark comedy with last year’s A Simple Favor, director Paul Feig shows he can’t do warmhearted holiday fare either with this garish, ghastly sight. Emilia Clarke stars as a mess of a single gal (and diehard George Michael fan, hence the wall-to-wall Wham/Michael soundtrack) who can’t get her shit together after a previous illness seems to have robbed her of self-responsibility. Enter Henry Golding’s dashing ass, as a Perfect Man who gets her to appreciate everything around her. Clarke and Golding do exhibit some cute, charismatic chemistry; if Hollywood ever gets around to that Thin Man remake they keep threatening, you got your Nick and Nora Charles right here. Unfortunately, they are stuck in this embarrassing yuletide yarn (co-written and produced by Emma Thompson, who also shows up with a hammy Yugoslavian accent as Clarke’s immigrant mom), complete with a Big Twist that you should easily figure out just by watching the trailer. Even as light, all-you-need-is-love junk for the holidays—which squeezes in an anti-Brexit message near the end—the only thing this tinsel-covered treacle made me wanna do is smoke angel dust. Opens Nov. 8 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)—Craig D. Lindsey

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound ***1/2
The fact that it’s taken this long to make a documentary dedicated to cinematic sound is evidence of how underappreciated that art is, but director Midge Costin makes up for lost time with a comprehensive, fascinating history. That journey takes us from the earliest talkies through the digital sound revolution of the 1990s, with stops along the way to honor pioneers like King Kong sound designer Murray Spivack and others who recognized that what we hear can change our experience of what we watch. A few key figures get more extensive attention, like Francis Ford Coppola’s longtime collaborator Walter Murch and Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt, allowing for an individual human component in something that might otherwise have felt too wide-ranging. But it’s still wonderful getting a chance to recognize how many different kinds of work a term like “movie sound” can encompass, or to see unedited raw footage to understand what they were like before talented technicians worked their magic. A must for movie-lovers, it’s a great chance to realize that the sound of a character stepping on broken glass might be a pine cone rolling over uncooked pasta. Opens Nov. 8 at Tower Theatre. (NR)—Scott Renshaw

Midway *1/2
Midway, directed by disaster flick auteur extraordinaire Roland Emmerich, reaches into the barrel of WWII battle stories and tries to present an exciting war-strategy movie that combines the gravitas of the subject’s seriousness with many, many explosions and air bomber close calls. Leading man Ed Skrein, doing his best generic East coast accent and Nicholas Hoult impression, heads this cast of big names (including Dennis Quaid and Woody Harrelson) who only have maybe five minutes each of total screen time. Midway wants its audience to watch in awe and horror at the utter destruction of Pearl Harbor and various other battleships over the course of four years within two hours, but without any substance behind it. Emmerich relies on the target audiences being American, and as Americans, you should already have a sincere reverence for anything WWII-related. It’s a shallow attempt to prey on that reverence with outlandish CGI ’splosions and a troupe of white male lookalikes with accents seemingly pulled out of a hat. You’ll learn something about history after about six different rally-the-troops speeches, but all you’ll retain is how to aggressively extinguish lit cigarettes. Opens Nov. 8 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)—Rebecca Frost

Pain and Glory ***1/2
Neither one of Pedro Almodóvar’s lusty candy-colored romps nor one of his edgy psychodramas, this semi-autobiographical tale finds him operating in a more contemplative register that he wears beautifully. Antonio Banderas plays Salvador Mallo, a once-celebrated filmmaker now mostly retired as he deals with chronic pain after a back surgery. A reunion with the leading man from one of Salvador’s beloved films (Asier Etxeandia) after a long estrangement introduces Salvador to the numbing possibilities of heroin, even as he faces other unfinished business from his past. That stuff includes his relationship with his mother (played in flashback by Penélope Cruz), and Almodóvar crafts lovely scenes both of 10-year-old Salvador’s defining moments and the adult addiction that’s underplayed to a surprising and welcome degree. The anchor for it all is Banderas’ career-best performance, full of profound melancholy and a sense of being untethered without his creative outlet. Right up to Almodóvar’s perfectly-chosen final shot, Banderas conveys the need to make peace with the events that have shaped you, for a character where making art is the only way he knows to do that. Opens Nov. 8 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—SR

Playing With Fire
(not reviewed)
A crew of tough-guy firefighters (led by John Cena) care for three rowdy youngsters. Opens Nov. 8 at theaters valleywide. (PG)

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