FILM NEWS: JUNE 13-19 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: JUNE 13-19 

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

American Woman 3 Stars
If you can get through the first 30 minutes, you'll find the last 80 rewarding. At the outset, Deb (Sienna Miller) is such an asshole—fighting loudly with her sister (Christina Hendricks), mother (Amy Madigan) and brother-in-law (Will Sasso)—that you hope the movie will end when she gets into a horrific-seeming car crash (she walks away from it). Deb has reasons to be terrible; she picks bad relationship after bad relationship, has a 17-year-old daughter with a 1-year-old son living in her home and a series of dead-end jobs. It's only when her daughter goes missing, ironically, that Deb begins getting her life together. As American Woman progresses, Deb raises her grandson, gets a degree and becomes a leader at a good company. But there's a melancholic undercurrent running through it—this story hinges on a disappeared child, after all—that roots it in something larger than a jerk-gets-her-life-together story. Jake Scott's direction is steady, which helps when the screenplay veers into melodrama and the score is appropriately elegiac. At the center, Miller holds the sloppier moments together in a way that makes it better than it should be. Opens June 14 at Cinemark West Jordan. (R)—David Riedel

The Dead Don't Die 2.5 Stars
Opens June 14 at theaters valleywide. (R)

Late Night 2.5 Stars
It's a bit on-the-nose for a white dude writer to suggest that Mindy Kaling's crowd-pleaser of a script goes too easy on the stacked deck favoring white dude writers, but, well ... yeah. She plays Molly Patel, a would-be comedy writer who lands her first gig as an openly-stated "diversity hire" for a long-lived late-night talk show hosted by Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson). But she arrives in that previously all-white-dude writer's room as the network considers replacing Katherine because her show has grown stale and predictable. The story rides or dies on the Devil Wears Prada-esque relationship between Molly and Katherine, more specifically on Thompson's delightful, all-in performance as a taskmaster boss watching herself become irrelevant. Kaling lands a few body blows when taking on racism, sexism and ageism in the entertainment industry, and doesn't let Katherine off the hook in her disdain for what a 21st-century audience demands. It also feels like she's playing it safe to make sure it remains comfortable for a mainstream audience ready to whoop in agreement in all the right places, provided they're not asked to think too hard about privilege. Opens June 14 at theaters valleywide. (R)—Scott Renshaw

Men In Black: International
[not yet reviewed]
A new pair of partners (Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson) continue to protect earth from alien threats. Opens June 14 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

Shaft
[not yet reviewed]
John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) joins with his father and son to make being a bad mutha a family affair. Opens June 14 at theaters valleywide. (R)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

The Birdcage
At The Sun Trapp, June 16, 8 p.m. (R)

The Crow
At Tower Theater, June 14-16, 11 p.m. (R)

I Want My MTV
At Rose Wagner Center, June 19, 7 p.m. (NR)

The Quiet Force
At Park City Library, June 14, 8 p.m. (NR)

CURRENT RELEASES

Dark Phoenix 2.5 Stars
Simon Kinberg—who co-wrote the previous failed attempt at telling this same story, 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand—tells the tale of telepath/telekinetic Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) absorbing a powerful energy force that begins to overwhelm her. Kinberg dabbles in oppressed-minority subtext that has always driven this franchise, but focuses more on Jean's power as a manifestation of repressed trauma. Turner isn't quite deft enough to give Jean's story actual emotional punch, and only Michael Fassbender's Magneto feel fully realized enough as a character to give the movie depth to match its grim tone. That leaves little more than some solid comic-book spectacle, even as it's clear that Kinberg strives for something more profound than a fun summer blockbuster—and once again, can't pull it off. (PG-13)—SR

Rocketman 3.5 Stars
The story of Elton John (Taron Egerton) doesn't subvert all music biopic tropes, but shows enough creativity to distinguish itself from its shopworn brethren. Unlike Bohemian Rhapsody, for example, this is a full-on musical; people burst into song, specifically Elton John songs, which convey the feeling the film needs in that moment—like the sweet scene where John composes "Your Song" and sings the words, penned by lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), to Taupin, the heterosexual man with whom John is hopelessly in love. Egerton shows range and vulnerability as the conflicted performer, while also meeting the demands of the music. The major points of John's career are addressed, but they aren't the focus. The way director Dexter Fletcher incorporates music and emotion into the story should be instructive to anyone making a rock biopic hereafter. (R)—Eric D. Snider

The Secret Life of Pets 2 2 Stars
Way less charming and inventive than its progenitor, this feels like a lazy straight-to-DVD sequel. Mutt Max (Patton Oswalt) and his doggie brother Duke (Eric Stonestreet) deal with accepting a new human baby into the household. Meanwhile, purse pooch Gidget (Jenny Slate) infiltrates the feline-full flat of a crazy cat lady—a rather ungenerous depiction, considering the first movie's sweetness about humans/companion animal relationships—and "Captain" Snowball (Kevin Hart), a bunny with delusions of caped-crusader-dom, attempts to rescue a tiger cub from a terrible circus. Best bit: Harrison Ford as the voice of gruff, no-nonsense farm dog that Max encounters on a family trip. The rest of it is inoffensive fluff, fine for the kids, but sorely lacking that certain oomph adult animation fans look for. (PG)—MaryAnn Johanson

The Souvenir 3.5 Stars
Joanna Hogg takes a mundane setup—inexperienced artist gets first lessons in life and love—and make it top-to-bottom fascinating, as 20-something British film school student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) begins an affair with Anthony (Tom Burke), who turns out to have some secrets. Julie struggles to find her creative voice distinct from her upper-class upbringing, which easily could have resulted in "now I've had experiences that make for a real artist" clichés. But Byrne brings an open, vulnerable screen presence, which combines with Burke's portrayal of practiced deception to complicate the intimate scenes. Mostly, there's Hogg's sense for using everything from period songs to slow-motion at just the right time. If there's an autobiographical component to Hogg's story, it's clear that whatever Julie needed to learn to give her artistry depth, she found it. (R)—SR 

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