Film Reviews: New Releases for March 10 | Buzz Blog
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Friday, March 10, 2023

Film Reviews: New Releases for March 10

Scream VI, 65, The Quiet Girl, The Magic Flute and more

Posted By on March 10, 2023, 6:32 AM

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click to enlarge Adam Driver in 65 - SONY PICTURES
  • Sony Pictures
  • Adam Driver in 65
65 **1/2
It’s kind of impressive how a movie this dumb and overly earnest can be this close to also being good. The concept alone is silliness on an epic level: Interstellar pilot Mills (Adam Driver), a native of a distant technologically-advanced planet, crash-lands on our earth in the Cretaceous era, and has to dodge dinosaurs on the way to wreckage that contains an intact escape pod. Complicating matters is that the lone other survivor of the crash is a child (Ariana Greenblatt) whose language he doesn’t speak—a surrogate for the daughter he left behind, in the old “Ripley circa Aliens” tradition—and oh also he inconveniently arrived the exact week that the extinction-event asteroid is about to hit. The writer/director team of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (screenwriters of A Quiet Place) have the good sense to strip the narrative down to bare bones, serving up that 21st-century rarity of a 90-minute action movie full of narrow escapes from sharp-toothed beasties and a few gleeful gross-outs. It would have been nice if there had been more gleeful stuff; Driver plays his sad dad with a seriousness a bit out of proportion to everything going on around him. A few bursts of creativity—and the welcome return of quicksand as a cinematic threat—collide with a self-seriousness unbefitting a movie with the same basic plot impetus as Walt Disney World’s Dinosaur ride. Available March 10 in theaters. (PG-13)

Champions **
Look, I’ll be straight: I have no idea what to do with this movie. It’s built from a familiar “underdog sports movie” template—adapted by screenwriter Mark Rizzo from a 2018 Spanish feature—with Woody Harrelson as Marcus Marakovich, a journeyman pro basketball coach whose DUI conviction lands him community service leading a group of Iowa rec-center players with intellectual disabilities. There’s a friction-filled romantic subplot involving the sister (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Kaitlin Olson) of one of Marcus’s players, and a familiar arc of a cocky, self-absorbed guy learning Very Important Lessons. But everything about the execution of that formula by director Bobby Farrelly feels slightly off: the players are too good too quickly, with no real sense for what Marcus is contributing; his own evolution is nearly as inexplicably rapid; the need to give back-stories to too many characters drags the running time over the two-hour mark. The trickiest matter though, involves the supporting cast of disabled actors, and while it’s not exactly true that their disabilities are used for comic relief, it’s not exactly not true, either. This isn’t the crudely anarchic Farrelly of his 1990s/early 2000s features, and the players are a genuinely varied group of individual humans with their own personalities. If there were almost anything else funny going on besides how those individuals behave in awkward ways, it might not seem like a problem at all. I’m not ascribing ill motives; I only know the whole thing just feels a bit … off. Available March 10 in theaters. (PG-13)

Chang Can Dunk ***
There are movies that I don’t particularly love in the aggregate, yet the things that I do like about them, I like a lot. Writer/director Jingyi Shao’s high-school-set comedy-drama follows a sophomore named Chang (Bloom Li) who’s trying to change his nerdy, unpopular image. When jock classmate Matt (Chase Liefeld) challenges Chang’s basketball skills, the 5’8” Chang bets Matt that he’ll be able to dunk a ball within 11 weeks. Chang enlists an ex-semi-pro player (Dexter Darden) as his coach, and thus begins a story with a lot of familiar elements: training montages aplenty; a romantic interest (Zoe Renee); the overwhelming influence of social media in the teen characters’ lives. Shao has a firm grasp in particular on that latter element, however, recognizing how intoxicating it can be to “go viral,” and how easy it is to find your sense of self-worth connected to views and likes. There’s also some spiky, compelling material in the relationship between Chang and his single mother (Mardy Ma), and a few unconventional filmmaking choices—like a sequence of Chang attempting dunks on a schoolyard basket, the camera never leaving the place where he’s starting from and only listening in on the frustrated failed attempts—that mark Shao as a stylist to watch. Despite the genre components that feel somewhat rote, the stuff that Shao gets right really pops. Available March 10 via Disney+. (PG)

The Magic Flute **1/2
Some concepts sound just too weird to work completely, and if “Roland Emmerich-produced teen romantic drama grafted onto a Mozart opera” sounds like one of them … you would be correct. At the outset, it’s the story of Tim Walker (Jack Wolfe), a young would-be singer who heads off from England to Austria after the death of his father to study at a prestigious music boarding school led by headmaster Dr. Longbow (F. Murray Abraham, not once allowed an Amadeus reference). There Tim finds that a vintage score for Mozart’s The Magic Flute taken by his dad years earlier when he was a student there serves as a kind of key, sending Tim into the world of the opera itself, where he becomes its hero, Tamino. Both halves of this story have bits that work on their own: Tim’s connection to fellow student Sophie (Niamh McCormack) in our world, and the fancifully-staged (if extremely truncated) English-translated version of Mozart’s work in the other. You would, however, be hard-pressed to find a reasonable explanation for how those two components inform or complement one another, and the time spent dealing with the Queen of the Night and various trials of character wind up leaving other subplots—like the struggles of Tim’s gay roommate (Ellie Courtiour)—nearly as abruptly resolved as the opera’s scenes. If this was designed as some way to get young folks to eat their cultural vegetables by smuggling it into a narrative about angsty high-schoolers, I’m not sure the plan succeeds. Available March 10 in theaters. (NR)

The Quiet Girl ***
See feature review. Available March 10 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (PG-13)

Scream VI ***
See feature review. Available March 10 in theaters. (R)

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