FILM NEWS: JAN. 23-29 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: JAN. 23-29 

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

The Gentlemen 3 stars
See review on p. 45. Opens Jan. 24 at theaters valleywide. (R)

The Last Full Measure
[not yet reviewed]
Fact-based story of the heroic actions of a U.S. airman (Jeremy Irvine) in Vietnam. Opens Jan. 24 at theaters valleywide. (R)

The Song of Names 2.5 stars
Adapted from a novel by Norman Lebrecht, The Song of Names is structured as a mystery. The detective? Martin (Tim Roth), a music teacher, who has been searching for his friend, Dovidl (Clive Owen), who went missing 30 years prior. Through a series of flashbacks taking us back to the early years of World War II, Dovidl emerges: He was a Jewish-Pole violin prodigy left in the care of Martin's family. Martin and Dovidl grow up together, first as enemies then best friends. On the night of Dovidl's first big concert, however, he disappears, and Martin spends the rest of his life searching for him. Roth plays the adult Martin in a restrained and measured performance. The grief and sense of betrayal he feels bleeds into all aspects of his life, threatening his happiness, stability and marriage. In spite of its unusual structure, moving back and forth in time, The Song of Names remains relatively familiar, and doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the table. Yet, for its musicality and patience, the film remains an interesting inquisition into grief and remembrance. Opens Jan. 24 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (PG-13)—Justine Smith

The Turning
[not yet reviewed]
Modern interpretation of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, with Mackenzie Davis as a governess who finds her new job complicated by a ghost. Opens Jan. 24 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Slamdance Film Festival
See p. 24. At Treasure Mountain Inn, Park City, Jan. 24-30. (NR)

Sundance Film Festival
See p. 15. At locations in Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance Resort, Jan. 23-Feb. 2. (NR)

CURRENT RELEASES

1917 3 stars
If you want viewers immersed in your story, what value is there in repeatedly reminding them, "This shot was really hard to pull off?" Director Sam Mendes approximates a single-take, real-time story sent on the World War I front lines of France in April 1917, as British Army Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) set off on a mission to inform a company of fellow soldiers that they're about to head into a German trap. From the outset, Mendes builds tension into their harrowing journey, and veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins lends his distinctive touch to the increasingly hallucinatory tale anchored by MacKay's intense performance. But then there's that whole gimmick thing, and a story built on the notion of feeling it shouldn't leave you instead simply admiring its technique from a slight remove. (R)—Scott Renshaw

Bad Boys for Life 3 stars
I'm happy to report that the latest, long-awaited installment in the Will Smith-Martin Lawrence action franchise isn't a catastrophe. Unlike the last Michael Bay-directed sequel—a crass carnage-fest nowhere near as fun and hilarious as the original—this one, from Belgian filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, gives us over-the-top action sequences while realizing it's the comic moments between Smith and Lawrence that people come to see. Both stars bring their shit-talking A-game to this one, as the aging cops team up with young, tech-savvy officers (including Vanessa Hudgens and Alexander Ludwig) to take down killer baddies. Although clumsily plotted at points (with a big twist that might remind people of another recent Will Smith movie), this has just the right amount of enjoyable junk to keep it from becoming the straight-up trash we usually expect from Jerry Bruckheimer productions. (R)—Craig D. Lindsey

Cunningham 3.5 stars
Director Alla Kovgan's profile of choreographer Merce Cunningham includes material that could be considered conventional in a biographical documentary, including archival footage and interview snippets with the late Cunningham himself and many of his closest collaborators. But the majority of the running time is devoted to re-creating Cunningham's still-fascinating dances themselves, bringing new vitality to works sometimes criticized for their chilly precision by staging them on a high-rise rooftop, or in the middle of a stand of trees. There's enough context from the interviews to provide a sense of Cunningham the man, like his resistance to "what it is about" simplistic interpretations. But the real interest here, as Cunningham himself would approve of, is experiencing the dance—fitting for a man who says, "I don't describe my work; I do it." (PG)—SR

Dolittle 1 star
This latest interpretation of the talk-to-the-animals doctor (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a mopey recluse, holed up in his estate with his critter friends mourning his lost wife. Along comes a young courtier (Carmel Laniado) with a mission for him to save the ailing Queen Victoria, and also there's an animal loving fellow (Harry Collett) who wants to be Dolittle's apprentice. A quest for some mysterious something-or-other ensues, with familiar voices saying witty things like "that's gotta hurt" when a gorilla knees a tiger in the balls. The crowning catastrophic glory is Downey's performance, which answers the question, "What would it sound like if someone tried to do a Welsh accent for 100 minutes while falling asleep?" We should be angry that so much money is thrown at something this misbegotten, and that we've apparently decided children don't deserve any better. (PG)—SR

Just Mercy 3 stars
Some movies stir your sense of outrage at the injustice of our world, while not necessarily offering a lot more beyond that sense of outrage. Destin Daniel Cretton co-wrote and directed this adaptation of the memoir by Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a Harvard-educated African-American lawyer who moves to Alabama in the 1990s to work for a nonprofit legal service for death-row inmates. There, Stevenson meets Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), convicted for the murder of a young white woman, where all the evidence suggests he was railroaded. If you're guessing that Stevenson faces opposition from the white Alabama establishment—including threats subtle and overt—you would be correct, and Cretton does build into those scenes a genuine tension. But while we righteously fume over the institutional obstacles to freeing a black man who committed no crime, Just Mercy is stronger in its character moments, most notably from Foxx but also from Tim Blake Nelson as the primary witness against McMillian. The formulaic structure still allows for an appreciation of the grueling, frustrating work of getting a rigged system to admit that it was about to kill an innocent man. Opens Jan. 10 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)—SR

Like a Boss 1.5 stars
In this hella-predictable girl-power-fest, Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne are weed-smoking besties who run a cosmetics storefront on the brink of getting shut down. Enter Salma Hayek's cartoonishly ravenous beauty mogul, who tries to snatch up their business by pitting the ladies against each other. Once-promising director Miguel Arteta doesn't even attempt to cover up the fact that most of this film consists of scenes that have either been assembled out-of-order or simply reshot. The cast does give their all in being funny when needed, especially supporting players Jessica St. Clair, Natasha Rothwell and Ari Graynor as Haddish and Byrne's old gal pals, and Billy Porter as Haddish and Byrne's resident gay friend and employee, who gives the most hilarious exit after getting fired I've ever seen. If only the filmmakers gave as much of a damn as they did. (R)—CDL

Underwater 2 stars
You gotta have a perverse respect for filmmakers deciding, "Who actually needs a first act?" In a seven-miles-deep-in-the-Mariana-Trench drilling facility, engineer Norah (Kristen Stewart) and a few other survivors try to find a way to the surface while things collapse around them—and, oh yeah, the drilling has released freaky, murderous heretofore-unknown creatures. The ensuing 90 minutes are pure survival yarn, an attempt at melding Alien and deep-sea monster movies like Leviathan that isn't as expertly crafted as the former, or as unapologetically shlocky as the latter. Because there's no introductory character material, every bit of back-story is grafted on wherever it will fit—or, more often, where it doesn't. There are enough claustrophobic genre thrills to provide some diversion; mostly, it's in such a hurry to get to the action that it forgets to be a story. (PG-13)—SR

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