Movie Reviews: New Releases for July 30 | Buzz Blog

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Movie Reviews: New Releases for July 30

Jungle Cruise, The Green Knight, Stillwater and more

Posted By on July 29, 2021, 8:40 AM

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click to enlarge Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in Jungle Cruise - WALT DISNEY PICTURES
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  • Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in Jungle Cruise
The Green Knight ***
In his adaptation of the Middle English tale of Arthurian legend, writer/director David Lowery noodles around at the edges but ultimately captures the text’s focus on what really constitutes a life of honor. On a Christmas day at Camelot, a mysterious knight (Ralph Ineson) arrives to challenge one of the knights of King Arthur (Sean Harris) to a dangerous game—one that is accepted by Arthur’s young nephew Gawain (Dev Patel), beginning an epic journey. Despite the presence of sorcery, talking animals and giants, don’t go in expecting an epic fantasy; Lowery operates in a different register, preferring long silences to accompany his mist-shrouded imagery. At its core, this the tale of a callow youth learning the difference between a public image of manly heroism—as Gawain’s confrontation with the Green Knight quickly becomes the stuff of stories and puppet shows—and the kind of integrity that isn’t always visible. Lowery bends and shapes his source material to that end, and guides Patel in a tricky performance that conveys the fear of someone in over his imminently-chop-off-able head with no sense for how to get out. The term “toxic masculinity” might have been unknown in 14th-century Europe, but Lowery makes a strangely transfixing case for why this story might have been a critique thereof. Available July 30 in theaters. (NR)

Jungle Cruise **1/2
Is Jungle Cruise a jolly good time at the movies, or a photocopy of what we remember a jolly good time at the movies looking like? Set in 1916, it follows British scientist Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and her dandyish brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) as they search for a legendary tree with healing powers in the Amazon Basin, with boat skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) as their guide. Director Jaume Collet-Serra graduates from the smaller-scale horror and action films previously on his résumé to craft some lively set pieces, and there’s a satisfying sparring dynamic between Blunt and Johnson that never quite reaches the level of great romantic chemistry. The hard part is appreciating the fun on its own terms when it feels like the screenwriting team took the best parts of Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Mummy and Pirates of the Caribbean, threw them in a blender with a few references to the titular Disney parks attraction, and set it to “puree.” And every attempt to do something with a more modern audience’s sensibilities in mind—like making MacGregor openly gay—feels like it’s undercut at some point by ill-advised cheap jokes. The idea of escapism is to make you forget everything except what’s on the screen, not just think about the other, better things like it you’ve previously seen on a screen. Available July 30 in theater and via Disney+ Premiere Access. (PG-13)

Stillwater ***
See feature review. Available July 30 in theaters. (R)

Twist **
It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence when a movie loosely based on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist begins with a character running past copies of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist on a book shelf. Did they somehow think we’d miss the connection? And does the book about these characters exist in this universe? There’s a lot that’s muddled in this modern-day-set story of orphaned graffiti artist Oliver (Raff Law, son of Jude) hooking up with the “family” of thieves run by Fagin (Michael Caine), and eventually participating in the gang’s planned art heist. Director Martin Owen works overtime to make this feel like a hip updating of the Victorian classic, what with Oliver and his romantic interest (Sophie Simnett) parkour-ing their way over the London rooftops, and plenty of chases and quick cuts. But the whole story darts by so quickly that there’s no way for any kind of character development, or for Lena Headey’s presence as a gender-flipped, evil lesbian Sikes to feel like anything but a missed opportunity. What remains is a flashy diversion that’s going to land some poor high-school kid in hot water when they watch it instead of doing the assigned reading. Available July 30 via VOD. (NR)

The Woman Who Ran **1/2
The sturdy thematic bones are clear to see in Hong Sang-soo’s latest minimalist drama; the problem is the mundane skin in which he’s wrapped them. While her husband is away on a business trip, Gam-hee (Kim Min-hee) takes the opportunity to visit with three old friends in various parts of Seoul. And each of those encounters, conveniently, represents different relationships with the men in their lives: Young-soon (Seo Young-hwa) is recently divorced; Su-young (Song Seon-mi) is single and dealing with the anxieties of dating; Woo-jin (Kim Sae-byuk) is married to Gam-hee’s ex-boyfriend. Each encounter is punctuated with a brief scene involving the only men in the film, and it’s a solid choice by Hong to make these moments representations of frustrating male behavior while keeping the men positioned so that their backs are always to the camera. But the central conversations themselves are sooooo tedious, built around chit-chat involving the food they’re eating or their relationship status, held in long master shots that Hong occasionally punctuates with a sudden zoom-in. As clear as it is that we’re watching Gam-hee take perhaps her first opportunity ever to wrestle with whether she’s satisfied in her marriage, the experience of watching her do so offers plenty of time to wonder whether we should be satisfied with how Hong serves it up. Available July 30 via (NR)

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