FILM NEWS: FEB. 27-MAR. 4 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: FEB. 27-MAR. 4 

New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Releases

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NEW THIS WEEK

The Invisible Man
[not yet reviewed]
A woman (Elisabeth Moss) begins to suspect that her presumed-dead abusive ex-husband is still lurking around unseen. Opens Feb. 28 at theaters valleywide. (R)

Seberg 2.5 stars
See review p. 37. Opens Feb. 28 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

#FemalePleasure
At Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Feb. 28 7 p.m. (NR)

Les Misérables
At Park City Film Series, Feb. 28-29, 8 p.m. & March 1, 6 p.m. (R)

CURRENT RELEASES

The Assistant 3.5 stars
Yes, it's partly a #MeToo story with a thinly-disguised swipe at Harvey Weinstein—but writer-director Kitty Green has actually tackled something thornier. It's structured as a single working day in the life of Jane (Julia Garner), just five weeks into her job as assistant to a film production company chairman when she begins to suspect he may be a sexual predator. That component of the story takes a while to emerge, leaving deceptively mundane events that establish the environment as one predicated on who has power—on display most horrifyingly when Jane tries to report her suspicions to human resources. Garner delivers a terrific, subtle performance, even though Jane never gets a big showpiece scene as either victim or hero. The Assistant explores the kind of manipulation that makes good people keep their heads down and their mouths shut. (R)—Scott Renshaw

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn 2.5 stars
A movie can have interesting ideas, and still be a sloppy delivery system for those ideas. This sequel-spinoff of Suicide Squad finds Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) broken up with Joker, threatened with death by a crime boss and forced to track down a valuable diamond, all while crossing paths with several dangerous women, including the assassin Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Dinah Lance/Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). Christina Hodson's script explores the notion of women who are taken seriously only when linked to powerful men, and the power of women pulling together rather than pitted against one another. But as much fun as Robbie has with the live-wire Harley, Cathy Yan's direction mostly gives us multiple variations on slow-motion fight sequences. Maybe you can make a zany, violent comic-book movie that's also rich with subtext, but this ain't it. (R)—SR

The Call of the Wild 2.5 stars
Veteran animation director Chris Sanders makes his first live-action feature this adaptation of Jack London's story about Buck, a house dog who's kidnapped from his California home and sold to be a work dog in Alaska during the years of the Klondike Gold Rush. Along the way Buck serves various masters—including emotionally wounded loner Harrison Ford—and there are plenty of alternately charming and PG-rating-appropriate-harrowing adventures along the way. But while Sanders (Lilo & Stitch) understands creating a bond between an isolated protagonist and a non-human friend, it's constantly distracting watching Buck—along with various other dogs, wolves, bears, etc.—directed to behave with computer-generated anthropomorphic specificity. It's not bad, exactly, certainly not when Ford ultimately becomes the central human character. But because Buck never for a moment seems like a real dog, it's just ... weird. (PG)—SR

Downhill 2.5 stars
Nat Faxon and Jim Rash take a different tonal approach when adapting Ruben Östlund's 2014 Swedish drama Force Majeure—one that sucks a lot of what was compelling about the original from its bones. On a family ski vacation, Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) and Pete (Will Ferrell) face a frightening moment—but the primary threat turns out not to be to their lives, but to the family's perception of Pete, as his reaction changes everyone's sense of who he is. Faxon and Rash fashion this story into primarily a dark comedy of manners, leaning into Louis-Dreyfus's mastery of incredulous reaction takes. But this approach blunts the idea of how a single moment can break a relationship. The stakes are lowered to make it easier to swallow; instead of something as caustic as acid, Downhill only offers a tart splash of vinegar. (R)—SR

The Lodge 1.5 stars
Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (Goodnight Mommy) send siblings Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) on a reluctant holiday getaway with their father's fiancée, Grace (Riley Keough), who are then snowed in while dad (Richard Armitage) is away. Some offenses are mundane but avoidable, like including footage of a much better movie about people stuck together in a snowy isolated locale (Carpenter's The Thing). Some are personal, like my disdain for children in peril as a narrative crutch. Some indicate lazy writing, like setting up eventual payoffs in ways that lack sufficient backstory to pack an emotional punch. And others are icky and irresponsible, like using childhood trauma and mental illness as plot points without any real desire to take them seriously. The atmosphere is at times effectively moody but rarely genuinely scary, leaving little more than that ignominious checklist. (R)—SR

The Photograph 3 stars
Since it seems Tyler Perry will never make decent movies for and about black people, let's look to promising talents like Canadian writer-director Stella Meghie, who's been quietly making sophisticated, soulful, black-and-proud films like this romantic drama. Issa Rae plays a career gal learning about the past of her late photographer mother (Chante Adams), with the help of a journalist (hella-dashing Lakeith Stanfield) who's writing a story on her mom—and who also becomes smitten with her. Thanks to Meghie and cinematographer Mark Schwartzbard making sure melanin skin tones stay glowing, Rae and Stanfield are officially the sexiest on-screen pair at the movies right now. Some naysayers may complain that it's too bougie for its own good, but considering how it's so rare for a movie to characterize African-Americans as regular-ass people, I'll take bougie over bullshit any day. (PG-13)—Craig D. Lindsey

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 stars
The Sega video-game character (voiced by Ben Schwartz) here becomes a super-fast alien exiled on earth, trying to hide himself from humans in rural Montana—until both kindly local sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and the sinister Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) become aware of his existence. The plot becomes a buddy-comedy road trip to retrieve Sonic's lost dimension-hopping gold rings, and there's a nice chemistry in what becomes a simple "there's no place like home" narrative. Carrey is in vintage form as the narcissistic villain, having as much fun with his plastic physicality than we've seen in years. Sure, you're gonna get your obligatory fart joke, and the action is a little rote at times. But there's a lot more to like here than we ever could have expected after last year's nightmare-fuel first trailer. (PG)—SR

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