FILM NEWS: APR. 4-10 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: APR. 4-10 

New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Realeases

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NEW THIS WEEK

The Best of Enemies
[not yet reviewed]
Fact-based story of the friendship between a civil-rights activist (Taraji P. Henson) and a KKK leader (Sam Rockwell) in 1971 North Carolina. Opens April 5 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

Dragged Across Concrete
[not yet reviewed]
Two suspended cops (Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn) turn to other methods to make their living. Opens April 5 at theaters valleywide. (R)

The Hummingbird Project 3 Stars
Vincent (Jesse Eisenberg, playing coiled spring as well as ever) and his cousin Anton (Alexander Skarsgård, playing against type as a bald, paunched quant) plan to build a fiber-optic pipeline from Kansas City to the New York Stock Exchange that will make them and their investors rich beyond the dreams of avarice. The pipeline's purpose: To make trades in 16 milliseconds instead of 17. Standing in the way is their former boss Eva (Salma Hayek, excellent, and simultaneously nurturing and threatening), who's trying to build microwave towers that will move trades at 11 ms. That The Hummingbird Project mostly succeeds in being a thriller about whether a pipeline or a series of microwave towers can be built faster is something of a miracle, and a feather in director Kim Nguyen's already accomplished cap. The Hummingbird Project has some problems that derail the action in its final 30 minutes—namely cancer, the specter of the FBI and the question of whether greed is worth it—but until then it's a hoot, and watching Eisenberg's wheels turn never gets old. Michael Mando is a standout as Mark Vega, Vincent's canny drilling expert. Opens April 5 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—David Riedel

Mapplethorpe
[not yet reviewed]
Biographical drama about controversial fine-art photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (Matt Smith). Opens April 5 at Tower Theatre. (R)

Pet Sematary 1.5 Stars
Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves his family from Boston to the woods outside a small New England town and discovers bad things that are meant to be terrifying. Indeed, signifiers of horror abound—fog, lightning, strange children, pets behaving oddly—but there's little fear or even any genuine ookiness to be found when it turns out that the forest near their new home harbors a preternatural secret. The unexpected deaths that haunt the family, past and present, should be disturbing and moving, but it all falls flat and leaves us feeling nothing beyond occasional accidental amusement at its manipulative cheapness or eye-rolling tedium at the straightforward deployment of genre banalities. (Please do not reveal the secrets of the shocking Googling scene to your friends!) It's as if, perhaps, an attempt to find a middle ground between authentic, profound dramatic tragedy and cheesy schlock gorefest settled on a completely unsatisfying middle ground—as if this were preferable to either other option. (It's not.) More unforgivably, the movie wastes indie queen Amy Seimetz as Louis' wife, giving her little to do but fret. "Elevated horror" this ain't. Opens April 5 at theaters valleywide. (R)—MaryAnn Johanson

The Public 2 Stars
If earnestness were everything, Emilio Estevez would be a world-class filmmaker; he keeps making movies dripping with a sincere desire to move people but just a bit too clumsy about it to work. The writer-director also stars as Stuart Goodson, a librarian at the Cincinnati Public Library who finds himself at the center of controversy when a group of homeless men (led by Michael Kenneth Williams) occupy the building during a deadly cold snap. At the outset, Estevez does a terrific job of understanding the weird milieu of a big-city public library, with montages of oddball reference questions and the challenges of dealing with clients who face a variety of struggles. But once the main occupation plot kicks in, things get progressively more melodramatic, with ridiculous characters like a law-and-order mayoral candidate (Christian Slater) and an ethically bankrupt TV news reporter (Gabrielle Union). Estevez's initial instincts about portraying libraries as a valuable institution—and his own solid performance as a guy with his own troubled past—get overwhelmed by grand statements about an uncaring society. Opens April 5 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)—Scott Renshaw

Storm Boy 2.5 Stars
A lovely adaptation of Colin Thiele's beloved Australian children's book gets bogged down in a framing narrative that tries to make it feel "contemporary." The primary narrative involves a young boy named Michael (Finn Little), living with his widowed dad (Jai Courtney) in coastal Australia in the 1950s, who becomes a surrogate parent to a trio of orphaned pelican chicks. There's conflict involving a dispute between hunters and proto-environmentalists over creating a bird sanctuary, but the focus remains mostly on the connection between Michael and his pelicans, with charming scenes of the birds' devotion to their caretaker. But we also move back and forth to the present day, where Michael (Geoffrey Rush) is now a retired businessman whose granddaughter (Morgana Davies) wants him to step in to stop his former business—now run by the widower of Michael's deceased daughter—from an environmentally questionable deal. While director Shawn Seet crafts some nice moments suggesting the physical intrusion of nostalgia into older Michael's mind, it's a frustrating distraction every time the narrative takes us away from the simpler pleasures of a boy and his birds. Opens April 5 at theaters valleywide. (PG)—SR

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

I Am William
At Main Library, April 9, 7 p.m. (NR)

A Tuba to Cuba
At Park City Film Series, April 5-6, 8 p.m.; April 7, 6 p.m. (NR)

CURRENT RELEASES

Dumbo 2 Stars
Dumbo '41 ain't perfect, but Disney's ongoing self-cannibalization is a problem not because they're trying to remake perfect films; but because they keep creating duplicates that lack a soul. Director Tim Burton and screenwriter Ehren Kruger set their story in 1919, with the big-eared elephant baby born into a traveling circus and soon discovering his ability to fly. That specific shift is one of the smarter decisions, providing some semblance of a narrative through-line. Yet this is also a story so packed with subplots and new characters that it feels like every five minutes, the creative team is trying out something else they hope will stick with an audience. Nobody seems clear that the only reason this story is beloved is because of an adorable, sad, lonely baby elephant. Finding something new in this narrative doesn't necessarily mean finding something true. (PG)—SR

Hotel Mumbai 2.5 Stars
Movies built around real-life tragedy flirt dangerously with exploitation; this one's visceral effectiveness too rarely translates into genuine emotional connection to the victims. On Nov. 26, 2008, Pakistani terrorists launched a multi-venue campaign of violence in India, including at the upscale Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. The narrative here focuses on those who survived the initial assault, as employees like Sikh waiter Arjun (Dev Patel) try to keep guests alive and hidden. Director and co-writer Anthony Maras finds some strong material surrounding Arjun's calm under pressure, yet most of the attempts at generating sympathy for individuals—a married couple (Armie Hammer and Nazanin Boniadi), or Arjun's anxious wife at home—come off feeling superficial. By the end, it's hard to see the narrative conveying much more than "Well, that was terrifying." (R)—SR

Us 2.5 Stars
Jordan Peele can't quite re-create Get Out's improbable alchemy of comedy, deft allegorical writing and effective horror filmmaking. The story follows a family—Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o), Gabe (Winston Duke) and their two children—on a vacation where they find themselves tormented by a quartet that looks exactly like them. Superficial pleasures abound, from Nyong'o's alternately terrifying and terrified dual performance, to set pieces that inspire both laughs and gasps. But there's a frustrating hole where the thematic center should be, particularly after Peele spins off into a climax that undercuts everything he might be trying to say about the chickens of America's ignored underclass coming home to roost. The filmmaker gets so ambitious about building a mythology for his jokes and scares that he appears unable to settle on one idea to pull them all together. (R)—SR

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