Movie Reviews: New Releases for April 8 | Buzz Blog

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Movie Reviews: New Releases for April 8

Ambulance, Everything Everywhere All At Once, All the Old Knives and more

Posted By on April 7, 2022, 9:00 AM

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click to enlarge Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal in Ambulance - UNIVERSAL PICTURES
  • Universal Pictures
  • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal in Ambulance
All The Old Knives **1/2
We shouldn’t begrudge an espionage thriller an effort at giving the standard plot mechanics a genuine emotional heft; that doesn’t mean the attempt will be successful. Adapting the book by Olen Steinhauer, director Janus Metz opens in 2011 Austria, where operatives at that city’s CIA station are impacted by a plane hijacking where all the hostages end up dead. Eight years later, one of those operatives, Henry Pelham (Chris Pine), investigates whether a mole in the agency might have contributed to the operation’s failure—with one of the suspects being his ex-lover, Celia (Thandiwe Newton). The narrative slips back and forth between Henry’s dinner “interview” with Celia, one that’s awkwardly structured so that Celia ends up narrating a bunch of exposition Henry already knows. Everything is predicated on the gradual reveal of several mysteries—Why did Celia leave Henry? Who was the mole?—and seems like the relationship between Henry and Celia should end up packing more of a punch than a spy story built exclusively around the plot mechanics what happened, instead of caring much about why. Yet while Pine and Newton are both sexy and restrained in their cat-and-mouse game, the big payoff just doesn’t quite get to where it needs to go, in part because there’s too much detail required to explain the what of what happened. It’s an attempt to present real romantic tragedy that wants to end with a gasp, but can only rustle up a nod of acknowledgement. Available April 8 in theaters and via Amazon Prime. (R)

Ambulance **1/2
If you’re nostalgic for the kind of overwrought, hyperkinetic action spectacles Michael Bay made in the 1990s, you’re not alone; clearly Michael Bay himself is, too. Name-checking his own ’90s oeuvre at least twice, Bay offers the tale of a pair of brothers—Afghanistan Marine veteran Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and career criminal Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal)—whose attempted bank robbery goes sideways, and forces them to hijack an ambulance for their getaway car, including onboard paramedic Cam (Eiza González). Bay has claimed that he hasn’t seen the 2005 Danish thriller of which this is a remake, which might explain why this version is nearly an hour longer, overstuffed with bits of business and back-story that don’t make a damn bit of difference to the story; I’m awaiting the explanation for why we needed the couples therapy session between an FBI agent (Keir O’Donnell) and his husband. There is at least one effectively squirm inducing set piece as Cam and Will perform impromptu surgery while the ambulance is in motion, and Gyllenhaal taps into his A-game mania while Bay sends cars hurtling through the air around him during the seemingly endless chase towards Danny’s escape plan. Still, this is mostly a movie for those who actually liked the director’s swooping, spinning, smash-cutting, how-much-shit-can-we-blow-up-or-shoot-at style when it was in fashion, not so much for those who were exhausted by it. Available April 8 in theaters. (R)

Everything Everywhere All At Once ****
See feature review. Available April 8 in theaters. (R)

Gagarine ***
A surprisingly simple fantastical conceit lies at the heart of Fanny Liatard & Jérémy Trouilh’s drama, which gives an emotional kick to the importance of community. The setting is France’s real-life Cité Gagarine, a housing project created by the country’s Socialist government in the early 1960s, and dedicated to Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Circa 2019, as the government prepares for the possible demolition of Gagarine, teen immigrant Youri (Alseni Bathily) tries to apply his engineering talents to keeping the building viable. For a while, it feels as though the film will serve mostly as a portrait of the lively, mostly-immigrant residents of Gagarine, with energetic montages built around Youri’s efforts at upkeep. Then the narrative shifts as the residents are forced to relocate, with Youri—living almost entirely on his own, as his single mother focuses on her new boyfriend—turns his living quarters into a kind of space station. And there’s some powerful stuff in watching what first feels to Youri like an adventure turn into a realization that there’s only so much he can do alone. A budding romance between Youri and a neighborhood Roma girl (Lyna Khoudri) feels considerably more conventional, and there’s an underdeveloped interaction between Youri and a local drug dealer (Finnegan Oldfield) who is Gagarine’s other remaining holdout. But as the countdown to Gagarine’s destruction looms, there’s a potent subtext about how these “run-down” places provided connections that governments can’t always measure. Available April 8 in theaters. (NR)

Mothering Sunday ***
This adaptation of Graham Swift’s 2016 novel from director Eva Husson and screenwriter Alice Birch feels in some ways too densely packed for its 105 minutes, yet offers enough filmmaking creativity that it still delivers some satisfaction. In 1924 England, on that country’s Mother’s Day, young Jane Fairchild (Odessa Young)—housemaid to the wealthy Nivens (Colin Firth and Olivia Colman)—meets with Paul (Josh O’Connor), her longtime lover and heir to the neighboring estate, for what might be the last time before his wedding to another woman. For a while, it feels as though the story will mostly address lingering wounds of the Great War, which took the Nivens’ two sons as well as Paul’s two older brothers. Then it becomes more of a writer origin story, flashing back and forth in time to show us an older Jane beginning her storytelling career while in a relationship with another man (Sope Dirisu), and then an even older version of Jane (Glenda Jackson). The structure plays with notions of unreliable narrators, while also conveying how Jane builds stories by grabbing key phrases and snippets of memory to be used later. It’s slightly disappointing that Colman’s role is mostly a glorified cameo, while Firth is subtly terrific as the kind of stiff-upper-lip Englishman trying to maintain serenity in the face of unimaginable grief. If those ideas of grief end up subservient to Jane’s arc as an artist, at least it’s staged with elegance and a uniquely complex point of view. Available April 8 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)

Sonic The Hedgehog 2
[not reviewed]
Available April 8 in theaters. (PG)

Waterman ***
Utah-native director Isaac Halasima (The Last Descent) offers the kind of biographical documentary that shines a light on someone who a) deserves to be in that spotlight and b) hasn’t really ever been in this kind of spotlight previously. His subject is Duke Kahanamoku, the Hawai’i native who became an international celebrity in the first half of the 20th century first as an Olympic swimming gold medalist, later as a pioneer of surfing as a sport. Halasima frames much of the film through an episode of the vintage This Is Your Life TV series in 1957, with key figures from the then-66-year-old Kahanamoku’s past sharing recollections, while narrator Jason Momoa provides context for the significance of Kahanamoku as a world-class athlete and early ambassador for Polynesian culture. As the film itself notes, Kahanamoku was a private person who internalized his feelings about complicated matters like the racism of his time and saving several lives, which does leave a bit of a gap in understanding who he really was as a man beyond his impressive achievements. Those achievements are quite enough to sustain a feature, however, with plenty of fascinating details about what it was like for the native islander to visit mainland North America for the first time, and his influence on surf culture from California to Australia. As a movie, it’s a lot like the statues that now stand to honor Kahanamoku in multiple locations, but some people just deserve that kind of recognition. Available April 8 in theaters. (NR)

About The Author

Scott Renshaw

Scott Renshaw

Bio:
Scott Renshaw has been a City Weekly staff member since 1999, including assuming the role of primary film critic in 2001 and Arts & Entertainment Editor in 2003. Scott has covered the Sundance Film Festival for 25 years, and provided coverage of local arts including theater, pop-culture conventions, comedy, literature,... more

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