FILM NEWS: AUGUST 1-7 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: AUGUST 1-7 

New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Releases

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NEW THIS WEEK
Film release schedules are subject to change. Reviews online at cityweekly.net

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
[not yet reviewed]
Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham team up for an action spin-off. Opens Aug. 2 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
[not yet reviewed]
Documentary profile of the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. Opens Aug. 2 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (PG-13)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD
At SCERA Shell, Orem, Aug. 7, dusk. (PG-13)

GREASE
At Snowbird Center Plaza Deck, Aug. 2, dusk. (PG)

He Named Me Malala
At Park City Library, Aug. 6, 6:30 p.m. (PG)

Hear and Now
At Main Library, Aug. 6, 7 p.m. (NR)

The Incredibles 2
At Gateway Legacy Plaza, Aug. 7, dusk. (PG)

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET
At Ogden Amphitheater, Aug. 5, dusk. (PG)

The Watermelon Woman
At Tower Theater, Aug. 2-3, 11 p.m. & Aug. 4, noon. (R)

CURRENT RELEASES

The Farewell 3 Stars
Lulu Wang's story might be more emotionally satisfying than insightful, but she certainly pours freely from the fountain of emotional satisfaction. Awkwafina plays Billi, a Chinese-American would-be writer caught up in a grand familial lie: Her grandmother Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) has terminal cancer which the family keeps it secret from her, organizing a pseudo-fake family wedding as an excuse to gather family. The star isn't given too many notes to play, as Billi generally wrestles silently with a plan she disagrees with, yet she effectively conveys alienation from the country of her birth as part of Wang's restrained study of cultural divides. Mostly, this is a portrait of people doing their best for those they love, seasoned liberally with engaging punch lines. No manufactured conflict is needed when the simple stuff of being in a family together is enough. (PG)—Scott Renshaw

The Fighting Preacher 2.5 Stars
There's a solid fact-based story at the core here, as ex-boxer Willard Bean (David Shawn McConnell) and his new wife, Rebecca (Cassidy Hubert), are called by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints circa 1915 to take up residence in the Joseph Smith farm in Palmyra, N.Y.—where local antagonism toward Mormons remains high. In theory, the narrative arc involves Willard learning to set aside his pugilistic predilections to learn a catch-more-flies-with-honey approach, but writer-director T.C. Christensen skimps on providing Willard with enough of a clearly-defined personality. There's stronger material surrounding Rebecca—thanks to Hubert's winning performance—and the difficulties of their oldest daughter making friends, providing genuine emotion in their isolation. Christensen mounts a gorgeous production, but would have found a stronger foundation in a story that wrestled more honestly with why communities hate—and then maybe love—the "other." (PG)—SR

The Lion King 2 Stars
What if Disney had never released the hand-drawn The Lion King in 1994, and this story were appearing now for the first time, in photorealistic CGI? Director Jon Favreau's version is an impressive technical achievement, delivering a virtually identical story of exiled lion prince Simba (Donald Glover) and his usurping uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor). But while some vocal performances and comic beats are slight improvements, the so-authentic-you're-afraid-it-might-trample-you elephant in the room is that these characters are designed primarily to look real, not to create characters. There's no idiosyncratic personality in these faces, no way to see the joy in songs like "I Just Can't Wait to Be King." The Lion King is hardly a sacred text, but while this version can make animals look more real, it can't make them more alive. (PG)—SR

Midsommar 3 Stars
In the wake of a family tragedy, Dani (Florence Pugh) accompanies her boyfriend (Jack Reynor) and his friends on a research trip to a Swedish pagan commune, which is preparing to conduct midsummer rituals. Some of those rituals turn deeply disturbing, though writer-director Ari Aster leavens some of them with mordant humor. But while the burn is a bit too slow over nearly 150 minutes, Aster delivers more than a re-hash of The Wicker Man. In part it's a way-too-obvious story of a disintegrating romantic relationship, though Pugh captures something awkwardly honest in Dani's apologetic emotional fragility. It's much better at juxtaposing a belief system based on natural life cycles with anxieties of modernity and the attraction of finding real connection. These characters find themselves in a scary world, but maybe not as scary as the one they call home. (R)—SR

Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood 4 Stars
Quentin Tarantino enters the world of 1969 Hollywood to tell the tale of fading TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), his longtime stunt double/personal assistant Cliff (Brad Pitt), and Rick's new next-door neighbor, rising starlet Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). The looming spectre of the Manson Family murders hangs over the narrative, but not enough to blunt the comedic force of the performances by DiCaprio and a never-better Pitt. But this feels like far more than a nodding recognition that all things must pass, or a simple valentine to the days of celluloid and studio back lots. It's Tarantino's most complicated statement yet on his love of filmed stories. Yeah, people read them in dangerous ways, and yeah, the business can crush you. It's also miraculous when everything comes together, and when you can somehow imagine worlds much better than this one. (R)—SR

Spider-man: Far From Home 3 Stars
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is just a 16-year-old kid, so how do you balance Spider-Man's fate-of-the-world duties with having fun? Director Jon Watts wrestles with that question, as Peter's school trip to Europe turns into a meeting with other-dimensional warrior Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) to stop powerful elementals. Holland remains a winningly awkward presence as a nice guy trying to figure out if he should put getting the girl (Zendaya's MJ) ahead of saving the world. The action sequences ultimately lean into generic spectacle, and it gets even clunkier with topical notions about how to respond to demagoguery. This is, however, pretty satisfying when it leans into human comedy. Peter Parker understands his great power and great responsibility, but we just want to see him have fun. (PG-13)—SR

Sword of Trust 3.5 Stars
Writer-director Lynn Shelton gets masterful work from Marc Maron as Mel, the owner of an Alabama pawn shop where a pair of patrons (Jillian Bell and Michaela Watkins) bring in an inherited sword that is believed by Southern conspiracy theorists to prove that the Confederacy won the Civil War. Shelton and co-writer Mike O'Brien flit around the edges of what happens when online crackpots coalesce into communities, though that material always feels tangential to the character beats. And while the supporting cast all gets to do funny work, Maron continues to evolve into an actor of multiple shades while playing a guy who would like to rewrite some of his own history. There's a lot of hilarious riffing going on, and while the plot might only provide a loose armature, Maron gives it all a soulful center. (R)—SR

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