FILM NEWS: FEB. 28- MAR.5 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly


New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Realeases

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Apollo 11 3.5 Stars
Nary a talking head appears in Todd Douglas Miller's documentary about the NASA mission that took man to the moon; the you-are-there intensity he gets from a 50-year-old event is astonishing. The archival material includes never-before-seen official footage, covering preparations for liftoff as the world watches, the voyage to the moon, and the landing and return. Strewn throughout are wonderfully humanizing tidbits, from the crew's quips (Michael Collins tells mission control, when vital-sign indicators stop working, "If I stop breathing, I'll be sure to let you know.") to photo montages reminding us that these pioneers had childhoods, careers and families. And there are reminders of how monumental an undertaking this was, with hundreds of ground technicians sitting behind bank after bank of massive computers. There are moments when rapid-fire technical jargon becomes a lot to process, but it's a terrific achievement to make the countdown to ignition feel as uncertain and fraught with consequence as if you didn't know the outcome. Opens March 1 at theaters valleywide. (G)—Scott Renshaw

See review on p. 35. Opens March 1 at theaters valleywide. (R)

Tyler Perry's A Madea Family Funeral
[not yet reviewed]

Madea. Funeral. What do you need, a road map? Opens March 1 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)


Tumbleweeds Film Festival for Children & Youth
See p. 16. At Library Square, March 1-3, times vary. (NR)

At Park City Film Series, March 1-2, 8 p.m.; March 3, 6 p.m. (R)


Alita: Battle Angel 3 Stars
Director Robert Rodriguez's adaptation of a 1990s manga story offers sci-fi fantasy in a familiar post-apocalyptic landscape, but with a surprising emotional connection. Circa 2563, cybernetics doctor Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) recovers the abandoned core of a young woman he calls Alita (Rosa Salazar)—a cyborg with fierce fighting skills but no memory of her past. Rodriguez and the writers effectively establish this setting's economy of gleaners, criminals and government-sponsored mercenaries, with the wow factor of various electronically-enhanced denizens. Best of all, Salazar invests Alita herself with an infectious humanity that transcends predictable scenarios and bland romance. That's what a would-be blockbuster needs to stand out from the pack in 2019: Like Alita herself, it's less about cutting-edge technology than about the heart that drives it. (PG-13)—SR

Fighting With My Family 2.5 Stars
In Stephen Merchant's unlikely hands, this fact-based account of a working-class Norwich family obsessed with American pro wrestling is sharp and funny, with amiable performances and an interesting look behind the scenes at WWE. Teenagers Zak (Jack Lowden) and Raya (Florence Pugh), raised by one-time amateur wrestlers (Nick Frost and Lena Headey), both jump at the chance to audition for WWE, but only Raya is selected by coach Hutch (Vince Vaughn) to go to Florida and train with other hopefuls. Raya, whose goth persona is at odds with the bubbly blondes she is teamed with, experiences self-doubt and flirts with the idea of changing herself to be more "normal"—familiar believe-in-yourself sports stuff. But if the film's dramatic elements are generic, the humor—especially in the first half—is buoyant enough to make it worthwhile even for non-fans. (PG-13)—Eric D. Snider

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World 2.5 Stars
An animated franchise that had been a glorious exploration of reason over violence and human partnership with the natural world comes to a disappointing conclusion. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), now leader of his Viking village, attempts to save dragonkind from cruel hunter Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) by finding a legendary sanctuary for the beasts. Yet not only is The Hidden World not about this hidden world, it's not about much of anything else, either. Everything Hiccup has been working toward over the previous movies is threatened, yet the stakes feel low. Sure, the world of Hiccup and Toothless still looks touchably gorgeous, and there's nothing offensive here. Indeed, Hiccup remains a great example of non-toxic heroic masculinity. But his final adventure is sadly forgettable. (PG)—MaryAnn Johanson

Never Look Away 2.5 Stars
Oscar nominee Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck offers an in-all-but-name "great artist biopic"—based on the life of Gerhard Richter—and in hindsight, that explains a lot. He follows aspiring artist Kurt Barnert (Tom Schilling) over 26 years, from his childhood in Nazi Germany to his courtship with his eventual wife Ellie (Paula Beer) and his unknown family connection to Ellie's father (Sebastian Koch). An epic 188-minute running time encompasses that journey, as von Donnersmarck touches on Nazi-era eugenics and political pedagogies influencing the creation of art. But ultimately the narrative becomes all about Kurt trying to find his creative voice, and while von Donnersmarck stages many artist-at-work moments effectively, there's still something vaguely off-putting about employing genuine historical cruelty as melodrama to serve a tale about a guy finding his creative Truth. (R)—SR

Isn't It Romantic 3 Stars
Is it a cheat or a neat trick to spoof rom-com tropes while also fully embracing them? Rebel Wilson stars as Natalie, a plus-sized, romantically-cynical New Yorker who wakes up from a knock on the head to find herself living inside a romantic comedy. Erin Cardillo's screenplay generally only takes love taps at the genre, rather the body blows landed by They Came Together, so the jokes rarely feel truly inspired. But Wilson delightfully underplays being in the unfamiliar role of desirable to a hunky, rich guy (Liam Hemsworth) and her nice-guy coworker (Adam Devine). You might see the moral coming from a mile away, but you can chuckle both at the idea of people spontaneously breaking into a production number and at the production number itself. (PG-13)—SR

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part 3 Stars
Five years and four Lego features after 2014's The Lego Movie, its burst of imagination in the great sea of CGI-animated sameness has given way to something simply fun and diverting, as Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and friends try to fight off Duplo invaders. The script aims again for a mix of winking nods at blockbuster filmmaking and a recognition of how real-world kids process their world through play. And while the gags are generally satisfying, it's hard for the whole thing not to feel like a Duplo-cation of the original, including the attempt to create an earwormy theme song. In fact, at times it feels more like it's trying to mimic the Toy Story franchise—a fine model for great animated filmmaking, but not quite as effective as when everything was awesome and completely distinctive. (PG)—SR

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