FILM NEWS: JULY 11-17 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: JULY 11-17 

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

Crawl
[not yet reviewed]
A hurricane traps a woman (Kaya Scodelario) in a house facing rising waters and hungry alligators. Opens July 12 at theaters valleywide. (R)

The Fall of the American Empire 2.5 Stars
This isn't the first time a filmmaker has used a heist thriller as a vehicle for commentary on economic disparity, but Denys Arcand pokes at societal ills in a weird mix of genres overflowing with finger-wagging. The setting here is actually Montreal, where over-educated and under-employed courier Pierre-Paul (Alexandre Landry) winds up in possession of millions in cash after a botched robbery at an organized crime safehouse. A police investigation and a ruthless effort by the crime boss to find his money land this in genre territory, but there's also an almost farcical component as Pierre-Paul turns to a recently-paroled gangster (Rémy Girard) to help him manage his money, plus a romance between Pierre-Paul and a high-priced, heart-of-gold escort (Maripier Morin). Arcand finds some solid material in Pierre-Paul's conflicting desires to help himself and help others, while Girard makes for an appealing tough-guy foil. It just keeps feeling like Arcand is pausing to lecture us about homelessness, about the thin line between "legitimate business" and crime, about the wealthy getting away with anything. It's a morality tale that's pretty darned pleased with its own morality. Opens July 12 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—Scott Renshaw

Stuber 3 Stars
Opens July 12 at theaters valleywide. (R)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Bottle Rocket
At Tower Theater, July 12-13, 11 p.m. & July 14, noon. (R)

Damn These Heels LGBTQ Film Festival
At Rose Wagner Center, July 12-14, times vary (NR)

First Man
At Gateway Legacy Plaza, July 17, dusk. (PG-13)

Wrestling Ghosts
At Main Library, July 16, 7 p.m. (NR)

CURRENT RELEASES

Annabelle Comes Home 2.5 Stars
If you didn't already know the Conjuring series and its Annabelle spin-offs, there's an effective pre-credits sequence in which Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) give an expository recap of scary doll Annabelle's purpose: To steal a human soul for a demon to eat, or something. Ed and Lorraine leave their daughter (Mckenna Grace) in the care of Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), whose friend crashes the goings-on to use an evil artifact from the Warrens' trophy room to contact her dead father. Naturally Annabelle escapes, and a demon hell-raisin' follows. It's intensely creepy for about 45 minutes, until jump scares and blown lights kick in, and it downshifts to mediocre horror. The filmmakers are good at making shadows, smoke and mirrors freaky, but this time they phoned it in (literally, in some places). Annabelle deserves better. (R)—David Riedel

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

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 Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and 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 his moral code allows him to 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

Toy Story 4 3.5 Stars
This is my truth: The first three Toy Story features are one story told in more-or-less real time. Here, despite nine real-world years since Toy Story 3, the toys' new owner Bonnie is still only beginning kindergarten, with Woody (Tom Hanks) leading an attempt to recover her new favorite, googly-eyed spork Forky (Tony Hale). Centering the story on a rescue places this film squarely in the series' comfort zone, and the action is both exciting and silly while effectively integrating new characters. Yet there's also something that's just a touch off as Woody—previously a stand-in for Andy's emotional life—here takes on more of a parental role. While there's nothing inherently wrong with that shift, TS4 is simultaneously delightful, and feels like it's not part of the earlier installments' cohesive perspective. (G)—SR

Yesterday 2 Stars
One night, during a worldwide electrical blackout, struggling singer-songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) awakens from unconsciousness to realize that he's the only person who knows about the Beatles—then proceeds to pass their compositions off as his own and become famous. Would "I Want to Hold Your Hand" really have the same impact, brand-new, in 2019 as it did in 1964? The Beatles' songs exist in a bizarre vacuum here, excised from the environment in which they were born. Perhaps the weirdest thing is that it isn't even an excuse for a revue of Beatles music. It's all mostly a one-note running joke about how no one except Jack knows all those famous tunes, combined with a blah romance. It defangs the music we know and love so well, diminishing the meaning it has for so many of us. (PG-13)—MaryAnn Johanson

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