Film Reviews: New Releases for June 30 | Buzz Blog

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Film Reviews: New Releases for June 30

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny; Nimona; Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken and more

Posted By on June 29, 2023, 7:32 AM

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click to enlarge Nimona - NEFLIX
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Blue Jean ***
“Not everything is political,” high-school gym teacher Jean Newman (Rosy McEwen) says to her girlfriend Viv (Kerrie Hayes) early in writer/director Georgia Oakley’s feature, but the film’s setting of 1988 England captures a moment—unfortunately being repeated right now—when for gay people simply trying to be allowed to exist, everything was 100 percent political. The story follows Jean as she tries to keep her head down and avoid the possibility that being outed could cost her her job, a prospect that seems more immediate when one of her young students, Lois (Lucy Halliday), shows up at the gay bar Jean frequents. Oakley repeatedly inserts TV and radio news reports about the debates over England’s “Section 28" anti-gay laws, perhaps to an “okay, we get it already” fault, to make clear the climate of that time. But the real focus is on the time that seems possible in the near future, as Jean wrestles with her own fear compared to the relative openness of Viv and Lois, the latter of whom feels like more of a threat than an ally. McEwen’s performance captures this element of self-loathing effectively, even when bumping up against Oakley’s occasional heavy-handedness in symbolism or use of background score. It offers a reminder of how relatively recent it was when the idea of claiming your identity openly as an LGBTQ person felt like a fantasy. Available June 30 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (NR)

Every Body ***
Director Julie Cohen opens her documentary with a montage of increasingly elaborate-bordering-on-ridiculous “gender reveals,” providing an engaging entry point into what happens when a baby doesn’t fit neatly into “blue” or “pink.” Cohen’s subject is the “I” in LGBTQIA, focusing on the experience of intersex people largely through three main characters—Alicia Weigel, Saifa Wall and River Gallo—and how their lives have been affected by being biologically gender nonconforming. Beyond the biographies of the people involved, the movie focuses on the history of how intersex infants have been treated, including medically-unnecessary surgeries to fit into a gender box, as well as the activist movements to end such approaches. That includes an extended middle section in which Cohen has her interview subjects watch an episode of Dateline NBC  (where Cohen was a longtime producer) about a tragic test subject in the socialization theories of pioneering researcher Dr. John Money. It drags the movie down a bit to spend so much time on people watching screens, but Every Body eventually finds its footing in the actions these people take to be accepted on their own terms. In a society currently losing its collective mind trying to insist on gender binaries, here’s a simply effective tale of how it’s never that simple. Available June 30 in theaters. (R)

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny **1/2
See feature review. Available June 30 in theaters. (PG-13)

Nimona ***1/2
The looooooong-gestating adaptation of ND Stevenson’s 2015 graphic novel likely benefitted from being freed from the Disney company’s oversight, since it could lean more into its queer subtext (and text) for something rich, funky and thoughtful. In a technologically-advanced yet vaguely-medieval world, would-be knight Ballister (Riz Ahmed) is framed for the murder of his kingdom’s monarch, and becomes a fugitive. While planning to clear his name, Ballister is approached by a shape-shifter named Nimona (Chloë Grace Moretz), who seems a bit too eager to act as sidekick to the villain Ballister doesn’t actually want to be. Directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane (Spies in Disguise) and their writing team have plenty of fun visually with Nimona’s ever-shifting physicality, and along with Moretz’s terrific voice performance, they capture the character’s nature as a force of chaos. But they also tighten up the episodic nature of Stevenson’s story into a more cohesive narrative, evoking both the tragedy of Ballister’s damaged romantic relationship with fellow knight Ambrosius (Eugene Lee Yang), and a broader allegory about societies that will do everything necessary to preserve an established sense of who belongs, and who doesn’t. It’s more than slightly reminiscent of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in its table-turning on those who would define others as “monsters,” while also being able to say out loud what it is they consider so monstrous. Available June 30 via Netflix. (PG)

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken **
Because it is apparently the unchangeable nature of American feature animation to drive certain thematic subtexts into the ground, the trailing end of those trends is bound to feel redundant—especially if it brings nothing creatively interesting to the table. In the town of Oceanside, the Gillman family—high-school student Ruby (Lana Condor), parents Agatha (Toni Collette) and Arthur (Colman Domingo), and Ruby’s younger brother Sam (Blue Chapman)—are assimilating as immigrants “from Canada,” despite actually being sea creatures. And as Ruby discovers during an awkward transformation, and upon meeting her grandmother (Jane Fonda) for the first time, she is part of a unique supernatural family. Switch a couple of nouns around, and you basically have the plot of Turning Red, and in a broader sense, it joins Encanto and Elemental as recent fanciful kid fare with roots in exploring the complexities of the second-generation immigrant experience. Unfortunately, “complexities” are something in very short supply here, as the creative team manages to avoid anything that could be compelling beyond bright colors and easy gags. The villain is boring, the voice performances are generally unmemorable, and there’s just no pop to the fertile ground of either a teenager’s sense of not being normal, or fraught mother/daughter relationships. It’s just 90 minutes of fast-paced time-filler, which probably wouldn’t have moved the needle even if it had been the first movie of this trend. Available June 30 in theaters. (PG)

Sound of Freedom **1/2
In case it isn’t clear from the movie itself, and from the “special message” by star Jim Caviezel that plays over the closing credits, everyone involved with Sound of Freedom really really really wants it to make a difference in raising awareness about international child-sex trafficking. But it’s actually much better during the moments when it doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard. Caviezel plays Tim Ballard, a real-life Homeland Security cop who becomes determined to track down those who traffic kids from South and Central America, to the point of quitting his job and going deep undercover to ferret them out. Ballard’s contacts include a reformed drug-runner called Vampiro, played by Bill Camp in a performance that serves as a reminder how much any movie is made better by Bill Camp’s presence in it. Director Alejandro Monteverde (Little Boy) stages some effectively tense set pieces, but he also struggles with how to present his tricky subject matter in a way that doesn’t fall back on dramatic choral music and sweaty, leering pedophiles. Mostly, it seems kind of weird that the focus comes to be on Ballard’s obsession with rescuing one particular missing girl; it’s sort of assumed that it’s a righteous cause, while Ballard never acknowledges all the other enslaved kids he’s leaving behind to make sure he gets this one. That kind of narrative clunkiness can come with the territory when appeal to emotion gets more attention than dramaturgy. Available July 4 in theaters. (PG-13)

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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