FILM NEWS: DEC.5-11 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly


New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Releases

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Dark Waters
[not yet reviewed]
Fact-based drama about an attorney (Mark Ruffalo) taking on a corporation for its pollution. Opens Dec. 6 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

Frankie 3 Stars
Maybe it's because I've grown tired of the whole Twitter-fied discourse of whether or not blockbuster superhero movies count as cinema—and I just wanted to watch a movie where grown-ass adults did grown-ass stuff—that I found myself quite entranced by Ira Sachs' lazy, laconic and visually luscious latest. Even though it's been getting lukewarm reviews for its minimal plot and snail's-pace-like rhythm, this picturesque story—about a terminally ill, aging actress (Isabelle Huppert, surprisingly defrosted) gathering family and friends for a vacation in an endlessly idyllic Portuguese resort town—is a soothing, unabashedly mature reminder of how important slowing the fuck down and appreciating everything around you is once you get older. Huppert's screen icon keeps her illness close to the vest, but of course she's not the only one going through personal drama that's being kept on the low. Brendan Gleeson, Marisa Tomei, Greg Kinnear and Jérémie Renier are just a few of the loved ones who are trying to keep a brave face, while they're also trying to get their shit together. Opens Dec. 6 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—Craig D. Lindsey

Honey Boy 3 Stars
Next to Kristen Stewart, there hasn't been an actor with a wackier career trajectory—from smart-ass kid star to rising matinee idol to scandal-attracting bad boy to fascinating indie player—than Shia LaBeouf. He goes semi-autobiographical for his latest project, which he also wrote. Lucas Hedges plays his stand-in, a rage-filled actor who gets sent to rehab and tries to rebel against the therapy that might take him back to his younger years, when he was just a kid (played by Noah Jupe) working in Hollywood, getting pushed too hard by his recovering-addict, ex-clown dad (played by LaBeouf). With help from director Alma Har'el, LaBeouf uses this lyrical, engaging film to virtually purge the demons that made him such an erratic, unpredictable public figure over the years. And while it goes to the surrealism well a bit too often—you could make a lengthy YouTube compilation of all the times Hedges wakes up from a bad dream—you sense that LaBeouf had to make this, so he could finally be at peace, and get back to being the captivating performer he's become. Opens Dec. 6 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—CDL

Playmobil: The movie [zero stars]
We could blame the enormous success of the Lego movies for the existence of this turkey, but it's plain that no one involved bothered to steal even a smidgen of the delightful wit and keen self-awareness of that other franchise. Because here, we get nothing more than an insipid exercise in corporate filmmaking and mercenary marketing that reads more like an '80s Saturday-morning-cartoon attempt to sell toys than an actual movie. Crotch-injury "humor" and deeply terrible songs—yes, this is, horrifically, nominally a musical—accompany the journey of two human siblings (voices of Gabriel Bateman and Anya Taylor-Joy) as they get sucked into the various realms of Playmobil toys ... in plastic bodies with clamshell hands. Here's the ancient Roman stuff, where everyone seems to think they're engaged in Gladiator cosplay; here the Wild West; here be dragons; here's a guy (Jim Gaffigan) who ... drives a food truck? It's all pointlessly random and head-smackingly dumb, even when it sounds on paper like it might be funny (Daniel Radcliffe as an idiot James Bond knockoff called Rex Dasher, anyone?). It's joyless, lifeless and aimless. Opens Dec. 6 at theaters valleywide. (PG)—MaryAnn Johanson


Fantastic Fungi
At Park City Film Series, Dec. 6-7, 8 p.m. & Dec. 8, 6 p.m. (NR)

At Main Library, Dec. 10, 7 p.m. (NR)


Ford v. Ferrari 3 Stars
Somewhere between popcorn cinema and a gourmet meal, this solidly entertaining drama might be more like well-made fried chicken. Circa 1963, car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and volatile driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) collaborate on an attempt to deliver Ford Motor Co. a winning racing team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The relationship between Shelby and Miles is the heart of the story; Bale's performance is the richer of the two, largely because Miles gets more character layers. The narrative evolves into a story about the notion of masculinity in its era, with the macho world of auto racing an ideal setting for a tale built on a lot of dick-swinging. Director James Mangold combines those elements with showy kineticism in the racing scenes, aiming for something as viscerally satisfying as it is thoughtful. (PG-13)—Scott Renshaw

Frozen II 3.5 Stars
Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) return, investigating the history of an enchanted forest when Arendelle is threatened by elemental spirits. The entire creative team returns from the original, so they're smart enough not to mess too much with the musical formula that created a blockbuster five years ago: a funny song for Olaf (Josh Gad), show-stoppers for Elsa, etc. And like the original, you'll find an intriguing subversion of the idea of who you can trust, plus a little political allegory. It's all very operatically entertaining, finding the right mix of impressively fanciful animation and a willingness to ground the story in emotion. There's no reason to expect anything groundbreaking—unless Kristoff's hilarious homage to vintage power ballads counts—but "more of the same" feels like an easily justifiable choice. (PG)—SR

Knives Out 3.5 Stars
Rian Johnson upends the idea of a whodunit with this bracing cocktail of genre entertainment and lacerating social commentary, focused on the suspicious death of millionaire mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) and the possible suspects among his family members and employees. Johnson always has tricks up his sleeve when it comes to approaching genre conventions, and his gifts as a filmmaker are a perfect match for his gifts as a writer. Johnson also has a few serious things on his mind, taking a blowtorch to the notion of anyone "deserving" inherited wealth. Inevitably, we find our way to a resolution in which puzzle pieces fit together, and dumping all that exposition isn't easy, but Johnson expertly sticks the knife into a few deserving targets with Knives Out. How hedunit is something you should discover on your own. (PG-13)—SR

Marriage Story 3 Stars
Writer-director Noah Baumbach's drama—focusing on the pathway to divorce for theater director Charlie (Adam Driver) and actor Nicole (Scarlett Johansson)—doesn't lean into the shouting matches, observing the slow build-up of tensions that turns a would-be amicable separation into warfare. It's an interesting choice for Baumbach not to assign "both sides" the responsibility for the disintegration of the relationship, with Driver's terrific performance capturing Charlie as clearly the one most in the wrong. It's a bit too tidy, however, to make the escalating conflict all about their respective lawyers, though it's undeniably tragic to watch them become passive participants in the legal wrangling. As is true in most Baumbach movies, this one is better when it's funnier or more gently observational, rather than when he builds too much angst into his characters' confrontations. (R)—SR

Waves 1 Star
Trey Edward Shults' feature tells the tale of high-school star wrestler Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and his struggles to overcome an injury that might sideline his athletic career and—perhaps worse—disappoint his strict dad (Sterling K. Brown). These frustrations, and others, culminate in a moment so life-changing that ... well, no spoilers, but this is a cinematically arty apologia for a disgustingly ordinary outburst of male rage and entitlement. And we're meant to see it as a "tragic mistake" because a "good kid" did it, as if that isn't an excuse we hear all the time. Shults places a teenage girl's loss of  dreams, hopes and ambitions below those of a teenage boy, then wants to fool us into thinking differently with a wholly unwarranted narrative coda suddenly focusing on Tyler's young sister (Taylor Russell). We are not fooled. (R)—SR

21 Bridges 1.5 Stars
21 Bridges has the elements of a great thriller—a hardened detective, dirty cops, drugs and beaucoup shootouts—but also makes the mistake of assuming you've never seen a movie about hardened detectives, dirty cops, drugs and beaucoup shootouts. When two Army veterans (Taylor Kitsch and Stephan James) rob a coke dealer and kill eight cops in the process, NYPD detective Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) shuts down Manhattan to smoke out the perps. As cop-thriller plots go, that isn't bad, but 21 Bridges wants you to feel for the cop-killers (difficult, even if the cops in question are corrupt), and requires Boseman to say things like "we'll flood the island with blue" with a straight face. There's some good shootin', and bad guys get what's coming to them, but you'll be two steps ahead of Boseman the whole way. (R)—David Riedel

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood 2.5 Stars
Rather than providing a simple biopic of Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks), director Marielle Heller tells the story of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), the fictionalized stand-in for a real Esquire journalist whose assignment to profile the revered children's show host in 1998 collides with his own unresolved childhood traumas. Heller takes a fanciful approach to her visual storytelling, using scale models for establishing shots and placing Lloyd in the middle of an elaborate dream sequence. But while the intention is clearly to humanize the "living saint" notion of Fred Rogers—and Hanks' performance is grounded in a kind of intense paying attention that, at one point, even turns toward those in the audience—he's still more like a magical guardian angel helping Lloyd deal with daddy issues. As solid as Rhys' performance is, Lloyd's friendship with Mr. Rogers remains too ethereal. (PG)—Scott Renshaw

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