FILM NEWS: JUNE 20-26 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: JUNE 20-26 

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

Anna
[not yet reviewed]
Luc Besson once again gives us a badass female assassin, because of course. Opens June 21 at theaters valleywide. (R)

Child's Play
[not yet reviewed]
Chucky returns, again. Any questions? Opens June 21 at theaters valleywide. (R)

Hampstead 2 Stars
For a movie that's dedicated to the unconventional lifestyle of the man who inspired its male lead, this whimsical romantic comedy sure takes the point of view of its female lead. That would be Emily (Diane Keaton), a widowed American living in London, still struggling with the financial mess left by her husband's death a year earlier. She meets Donald (Brendan Gleeson), who has been squatting on unused land in Hampstead Heath, which becomes a problem when that land is targeted by real-estate developers. It's delightful seeing Gleeson get a rare chance to be a romantic lead, and he plays Donald's dedication to his off-the-grid principles with simple, quiet integrity. Yet behind the farcical elements and the courtroom drama over whether Donald can keep his self-made home, Keaton never quite sells Emily's economic anxiety as more than a minor frustration. The script doesn't know what to do with the conflict between Emily's desire for security and Donald's perspective that such security is a trap. When it comes time to deliver a happy ending, there's no room for any real revolutionary thinking. Opens June 21 at Megaplex Gateway. (PG-13)—Scott Renshaw

The Last Black Man in San Francisco 4 Stars
Director Joe Talbot's first feature focuses on the relationship between Jimmie (Jimmie Fails, with whom Talbot wrote the story) and the house his grandfather built—and which his father lost in the 1990s. Jimmie and his friend Montgomery (Jonathan Majors) diligently show up at the house each weekend to do repairs, to the dismay of the current (white) tenants. When the tenants lose the house because of a family squabble, Jimmie and Montgomery move in as squatters, enjoying the beautiful woodwork, high ceilings and pipe organ in the front hall. The movie's other big relationship, between Jimmie and Montgomery, eventually frays because of the house—but The Last Black Man in San Francisco has bigger ideas than the friends we make and lose, including ruminating on the things that make us us, and what we choose to define us. It's also a love letter to the city of the title, but it's a bittersweet letter, acknowledging San Francisco's history of racism and its current war on the anything-less-than-affluent. Lyrically written, beautifully acted, directed within an inch of its life (in this case, that's a compliment) and with a wonderful woodwind-heavy score by Emile Mosseri, it's a must-see. Opens June 21 at theaters valleywide. (R)—David Riedel

Papi Chulo 2 Stars
Los Angeles TV meteorologist Sean (Matt Bomer) has a breakdown on air, and is ordered to take some time off. But apparently work has been the only thing keeping him together in the wake of a nasty romantic breakup—or so we gather from accumulating clues—because he falls further down a depressive rabbit hole when he hires day laborer Ernesto (Alejandro Patiño) to do handyman work around his house, then ends up appropriating the poor man's time and attention in a sort of pseudo-therapeutic faux friendship. Bomer is effective as a man truly, deeply heartbroken and lost, but there's something disconcerting in writer-director John Butler's seeming obliviousness to the inequities of the relationship he hopes to craft as earnest and honest—it's only an uncomfortably clueless portrait of societal privilege taking advantage of financial desperation. If the film evinced any awareness of the emotional and economic disparities in security between Sean and Ernesto, maybe even tried to compare and contrast them, that might be something. But it wants to see charm in them, rather than discomfort. It fails at this. Opens June 21 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—MaryAnn Johanson

Pavarotti
[not yet reviewed]
Ron Howard directs the documentary portrait of the legendary opera singer. Opens June 21 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

Toy Story 4 3.5 Stars
Opens June 21 at theaters valleywide. (G)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Dune
At Tower Theater, June 21-22, 11 p.m. & June 23, noon. (PG)

The Feeling of Being Watched
At Main Library, June 25, 7 p.m. (NR)

CURRENT RELEASES

Aladdin 1.5 Stars
Disney's live-action remakes of its animated films continue to prove mostly an exercise in pointlessness. This new Aladdin lacks the charm of the animated version, and cannot even decide if it's a musical or not, with characters awkwardly breaking into stilted snippets of song at random intervals. The shoehorned-in new song is an embarrassing sub-par go-girl ballad for Princess Jasmine. The story is lifted intact from the 1992 movie, with street urchin Aladdin (Mena Massoud) wooing Jasmine (Naomi Scott), daughter of the sultan of the city-state of Agrabah, with the help of a Genie (CGI'd Will Smith). The leads have no chemistry, and the villain—Marwan Kenzari's Jafar, vizier to the sultan—lacks bite. It's just watered-down pastiche, on ice, set at Epcot. (PG)—MAJ

The Dead Don't Die 2.5 Stars
Jim Jarmusch has already applied his droll sensibility to samurai assassins and centuries-old vampires, so there was no reason to assume he couldn't make a zombie movie. But The Dead Don't Die feels like a weird miscalculation, as he pits a sleepy small town's police force—consisting of Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Chloë Sevigny—against dead bodies rising to make meals out of the living. The off-beat cast (including Tilda Swinton as a katana-wielding Scottish mortician)carries the movie a long way, yet it's hard to figure out what Jarmusch wants to do with his quirky bits and pieces. This is a movie determined through its meta-references to remind us that we're watching a movie, as the filmmaker spends all his time chuckling at the idea that a zombie movie could be anything but a joke. (R)—SR

Late Night 2.5 Stars
Mindy Kaling's crowd-pleaser of a script goes too easy on the stacked deck favoring white dude writers in this story. Kaling plays Molly Patel, a would-be comedy writer who lands a gig at a late-night talk show hosted by Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), whose tenure might be nearing a weakened-ratings end. 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. 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 appealing to 21st-century audience demands. It also feels like she's playing it safe so a mainstream audience can whoop in agreement in all the right places, provided they're not asked to think too hard about privilege. (R)—SR

Men In Black: International 2.5 Stars
A reboot has the opportunity to re-explore a civilian discovering aliens among us, but despite feinting at that idea, this seems much more interested in chases and guns. Tessa Thompson plays Molly, whose childhood close encounter has made her obsessed with joining the secretive organization, where she becomes a probationary agent with partner Agent H (Chris Hemsworth). Thompson's goofy enthusiasm works through some early scenes, but somehow that character vanishes as the focus shifts to Hemsworth's cocky beefcake hero. The real star is a tiny alien voiced by Kumail Nanjiani, who provides nearly all of the legit laughs as the search for a potential mole within MIB drags a lot of the plot into "who cares" territory. Despite some silly fun, it starts to feel much longer than it is when a distinctive world gives way to generic blockbuster-ness. (PG-13)—SR

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 story of telepath/telekinetic Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) absorbing a powerful energy force that begins to overwhelm her. Kinberg dabbles in the oppressed-minority subtext that has always driven this franchise, but focuses much more on Jean's power as a manifestation of repressed trauma. Turner, however, 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 story depth to match its grim tone. That leaves little more than some solid comic-book action spectacle, even as it's clear that Kinberg is striving for something more profound than a fun summer blockbuster—and once again, he can't quite pull it off. (PG-13)—SR

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 the relationship between humans and companion animals—and "Captain" Snowball (Kevin Hart), a bunny with delusions of caped-crusader-dom, attempts to rescue a tiger cub from a terrible circus (a really dated concept). Best bit: Harrison Ford as the voice of a 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)—MAJ

shaft 1.5 Stars
The new Shaft—starring Jessie T. Usher as anxious FBI data analyst John Shaft—is a sequel to the 2000 Shaft, with Samuel L. Jackson as badass police detective John Shaft, who was the nephew of Richard Roundtree's original John Shaft from 1971. All three Shafts appear in this exceptionally mediocre sequel, which for some reason is a broad, unfunny generation-gap comedy focused on Shafts III and II working together to solve Junior's friend's murder and bring down drug lords. Shaft II is an irascible, un-P.C. Archie Bunker type who complains about Millennials; III hates guns but ultimately has to use them (and is great at it). Meanwhile, original Shaft's only function is to show up at the end so we can see all three together. Altogether a tedious and embarrassing spectacle, bearing no resemblance to the blaxploitation classic. (R)—Eric D. Snider

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