Movie Reviews: New Releases for Nov. 19 | Buzz Blog

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Movie Reviews: New Releases for Nov. 19

Ghostbusters: Afterlife, King Richard, The Souvenir Part II and more

Posted By on November 18, 2021, 9:00 AM

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click to enlarge Paul Rudd in Ghostbusters: Afterlife - SONY PICTURES
  • Sony Pictures
  • Paul Rudd in Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Ghostbusters: Afterlife **
I wish I could understand the thought process that emerged when somebody said “Let’s make another Ghostbusters movie,” and somebody then said, “Okay … and?” Because the pieces here are baffling assemblage of square pegs and round holes. Jason Reitman picks up the baton from dad Ivan as co-writer and director, following the estranged family of apocalypse-obsessed Egon Spengler—his daughter (Carrie Coon) and two grandchildren (Finn Wolfhard and McKenna Grace)—as they inherit his ramshackle Oklahoma property and discover that he was always on the trail of Gozer. For a while, it feels more like a paean to 1980s kid-venture films like The Goonies than it does a Ghostbusters movie, and it’s kind of enjoyable on that level for a while, particularly as Grace’s clearly-written-as-on-the-spectrum character finds a friend (Logan Kim) and a sense of purpose. Unfortunately, we ultimately must be reminded of the full-on Ghostbusters legacy, which only emphasizes that—aside from Paul Rudd’s role as a nerdy teacher—there’s not nearly enough comedy, and that the attempts to wring pathos out of the estranged-family angle feel woefully out of place (not to mention the kinda grotesque use of a certain questionable technology to that end). Maybe this has a chance to work as a stand-alone, kid-friendly action-adventure yarn. But no matter how many times we’re reminded that this is a Ghostbusters movie, it can’t sidestep how much time it spends not being a Ghostbusters movie. Available Nov. 19 in theaters. (PG-13)

King Richard **1/2
See feature review. Available Nov. 19 in theaters and via HBO Max. (PG-13)

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time ***1/2
It’s a risky move for a filmmaker to turn a documentary into something that’s about the making of the documentary as much as it’s about the ostensible subject, but Robert B. Weide pulls off something that’s both informative and idiosyncratically personal. In collaboration with Don Argott, Weide chronicles his nearly-40-year journey towards completing a documentary about celebrated author Kurt Vonnegut, a span over which the two became friends and Weide even adapted the screenplay for 1996’s Mother Night film. As a profile of Vonnegut himself, Weide and Argott are quite thorough, exploring the life traumas that shaped him—including his experience as a World War II POW and the suicide of his mother—on the long path towards his eventual literary fame. But Weide isn’t shy about inserting his own role as a character in Vonnegut’s life, on the way towards becoming an actual character in the author’s last published novel. Moreover, the interviews and incidents from so many different points over that four-decade span give the film a shape that resembles Slaughterhouse-Five itself, which Vonnegut famously rewrote multiple times because of how close he was to the subject. Weide shows us that struggle in his own difficulty completing a story that he had become close to, while still treating that story honestly and completely. Available Nov. 19 in theaters and via VOD. (NR)

The Souvenir Part II ***
The levels of self-referentiality get murky in the second volume of writer/director Joanna Hogg’s autobiographical story, in ways that are both artistically intriguing and a bit frustrating. Hogg’s stand-in, aspiring filmmaker Julie Harte (Honor Swinton Byrne), is still dealing with the emotional aftershocks of the recent death of her heroin-addict boyfriend, Anthony, even as she’s beginning to turn that experience into the script for her film school graduation project. The latter conceit means that we actually spend a lot of time watching Julie dramatize the events that we’ve already seen dramatized in The Souvenir Part I, and considering how much Julie’s arc involves realizing the perils of being too close to her material, there’s a bit of whiplash involved in figuring out whether the version of The Souvenir that we’re seeing created is supposed to be at all good. And without the inherent drama of Anthony’s junkie journey, the episodic story here depends a lot on the viewer’s interest in the minutiae of making a low-budget film. Still, there are many individual pleasures, from Richard Ayoade’s standout performance as a high-strung director, to the awkward scene where Julie makes her first post-Anthony attempt at hooking up with another man. Mostly there’s the completion of an artistic journey that involves coming to understand how much you still don’t know about the story you’re trying to tell. Available Nov. 19 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)

click to enlarge Andrew Garfield in tick, tick ... BOOM! - NETFLIX
  • Netflix
  • Andrew Garfield in tick, tick ... BOOM!
tick, tick … BOOM! **
Every bit of emotional resonance Jonathan Larson’s pre-Rent musical has comes from the knowledge that he died at the age of 35, before he could see his work become successful; without that knowledge, this is a fairly insufferable story. The semi-autobiographical narrative finds Larson (Andrew Garfield) on the precipice of his 30th birthday in 1990, still working as a waiter while completing a long-gestating musical called Superbia and wondering if it’s worth being a starving would-be artist. Garfield goes full theater-kid with his performance, and his anxious energy gives the story a needed boost when the tunes aren’t there. But director Lin-Manuel Miranda makes the odd structural choice of combining both the stage-monologue format of Larson’s original production and full dramatization, with neither doing the other any favors. Mostly though, there’s the basic problem that what the self-absorbed protagonist learns about sacrificing his personal relationships and being privileged compared to all his gay friends dealing with the AIDS crisis … is to write a musical entirely about himself? A few catchy, affecting songs can’t really overcome the fact that, as tragic as Larson’s passing might have been, he spent some of the little creative time he had available to him on narcissism. Available Nov. 19 via Netflix. (PG-13)

Zeros and Ones *1/2
I don’t think the latest from writer/director Abel Ferrara is specifically about the COVID-19 pandemic—but then again, I have no idea what the hell it actually is about, so, maybe? Ethan Hawke plays a double role in a tale that mostly takes place over one night: as an American soldier who appears to be investigating a threatened terrorist attack in Rome, and that soldier’s twin brother, who exists mostly as a mysterious quest object except when he briefly appears for a three-minute rant quoting the Gettysburg Address and “This Land Is Your Land.” That bit is no more or less comprehensible than the rest of what is going on, as Hawke wanders through empty streets, watches things on video, gathers cryptic information and then is forced at gunpoint to have sex with a Russian agent. Ferrara’s longtime composer collaborator Joe Delia provides an underlying thrum that seems to make everything more significant, and Ferrara gets the most out of grainy digital images from consumer cameras, drones and the like. But unless you can wrestle some significance out of everyone wearing masks, conspicuous inserts of hand-sanitizing, and a coda that abruptly seems to shift to a blissful post-pandemic world, this feels like 80 minutes of nothing straining for significance. Available Nov. 19  at Megaplex Jordan Commons and via VOD. (NR)

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