FILM NEWS: JULY 4-10 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: JULY 4-10 

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

Midsommar 3 Stars
Writer-director Ari Aster follows up Hereditary with another story that places mental health issues in the framework of contemporary horror, with sporadically compelling results. In the wake of a horrible family tragedy, Dani (Florence Pugh) accompanies her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends to the Swedish pagan commune where one of those friends grew up, and which is preparing to conduct several midsummer rituals. Some of those rituals, not surprisingly, turn deeply disturbing—trigger warnings, everyone—though Aster leavens some of them with a mordant sense of humor. But while the slow burn of the scenario leans way too hard into the "slow" part over nearly 150 minutes, Aster does deliver 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 cycles of life with the anxiety of modernity and the attraction of finding real connection. These characters find themselves in a scary world, but maybe not even as scary as the one they call home. Opens July 3 at theaters valleywide. (R)—Scott Renshaw

Spider-man: Far From Home 3 Stars
Opens July 2 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Black Dynamite
At Tower Theater, July 5-6, 11 p.m. & July 7, noon. (R)

CAPTURE THE FLAG
At Park City Library, July 9, 6:30 p.m. (NR)

The Great Hack
At Rose Wagner Center, July 10, 7 p.m. (NR)

Ralph Breaks the Internet
At Gateway Legacy Plaza, July 10, dusk. (PG)

The River and the Wall
At Main Library, July 9, 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

Child's Play 2.5 Stars
There's nothing sacred about the 1988 Chucky origin story, but why call this movie Child's Play? This remake does include a kid named Alex (Gabriel Bateman) who receives a gift from his single mom (Aubrey Plaza) in the form of a large, creepy doll (voiced by Mark Hamill). But instead of being possessed by a serial killer, this Chucky is a malfunctioning "smart toy" that's homicidally attached to Andy. The prologue promises something more savagely satirical about modern consumerism than the movie delivers, as it dabbles in modern technology anxieties. And despite a few creatively bloody death scenes in the scream and chuckle spirit of the original films, it's just weird seeing the demented villain doll we know and love turned into an almost-sympathetic mix of A.I.'s David, 2001's HAL 9000 and an Alexa. (R)—SR

Ophelia 2.5 Stars
A story like something generated by an algorithm specifically intended to infuriate a subreddit of Hamlet-loving men's rights activists, it follows Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) from motherless tomboy to lady in waiting for Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), and her romance with Prince Hamlet (George MacKay). Semi Chellas' script provides a passable imitation of Shakespearean wordplay for 40 minutes, which makes it odd that she then chooses prosaic interpretations of famous lines. But the focus remains firmly on the story's women, altering key plot points to provide a perspective on characters whose societal roles are limited by gender, class and age. It could have played out as to-be-woke-or-not-to-be-woke stuff, but fortunately Ridley and Watts bring earnest performances to director Claire McCarthy's well-crafted production. There's some insight paired with a thumb in the eye to those who resist revisionism. (PG-13)—SR

The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith 2.5 Stars
Writer-director Mitch Davis returns to the memoirs of John Groberg (Christopher Gorham), as he brings his wife Jean (Natalie Medlock) to his old mission ground in Samoa when he's called to be mission president. Moral instruction is the central goal here—it's the kind of movie where someone who is doing bad things is literally punished by a bolt of lightning—but it's still frustrating that Groberg is such a saintly protagonist. Still, while the central drama comes from not one but two life-or-death medical crises, Fire of Faith pivots around the local Samoan Methodist minister (Ben Baker) dealing with his hatred for Mormons converting his people. Plentiful though the melodrama may be, there's a potent humanity to a tale showing that hatred evolving and softening, and which suggests that miracles of love aren't exclusive to any one faith. (PG)—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. So it's disorienting to realize that, 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, a googly-eyed spork called Forky (Tony Hale). Centering the story on a rescue operation 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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