FILM NEWS: JUNE 27-JULY 3 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: JUNE 27-JULY 3 

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

Annabelle Comes Home 2.5 Stars
Here's a sequel to Annabelle (a bad movie), which spawned prequel Annabelle: Creation (a good movie); all the Annabelles spin off from James Wan's The Conjuring series. Got it? No? Fortunately, there's an effective pre-credits sequence in which Conjuring anchors Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) give an expository recap of Annabelle's purpose: To steal a human soul for a demon to eat, or something. Unfortunately, Annabelle Comes Home falls somewhere between its predecessors quality-wise. Ed and Lorraine go away for the weekend, leaving their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) in the care of Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), whose friend Daniella (Katie Sarife) crashes the goings-on to use one of the evil artifacts from the Warrens' trophy room to contact her dead father. Naturally, Annabelle escapes, and a whole heapin' helpin' o' demon hell-raisin' follows. It's intensely creepy for about 45 minutes, until the jump scares and blown lights kick in and it downshifts to mediocre horror. Wan and his cohorts are good at making shadows, smoke and mirrors freaky, but this time they phoned it in (literally, in some places). Annabelle deserves better. Opened June 26 at theaters valleywide. (R)—David Riedel

Echo in the Canyon 3.5 Stars
The fact that I enjoyed this enough to watch it twice in one day says more about my love of jangly Rickenbackers and The Byrds' sweet, sweet harmonies than anything else, but if you're any kind of pop music buff, this will be right up your alley. Featuring interviews by Jakob Dylan with Roger McGuinn, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Michelle Phillips, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and anyone else tangentially connected to the Southern California sound from 1965-67, this documentary has its shares of meanderings, but director and former Capitol Records CEO Andrew Slater nails down what made it all happen: McGuinn and his pals wanted to play folk songs with electric instruments, so that's what they did. That leaves lots of time for music pros yapping about such things as why George Harrison got the second-ever 12-string Rickenbacker (pronounced "Rick-en-BACK-er," Tom Petty helpfully explains). There are also fine live and studio performances led by Dylan, and a group of totally-into-it contemporary singers, including Jade Castrinos, Regina Spektor, Cat Power and Beck, who gives everyone a nice reminder of how good he is when he's not hiding behind bullshit posturing. It's joyous. Opens June 28 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (PG-13)—DR

Ophelia 2.5 Stars
"It's high time I tell you my story, myself," says Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) at the outset of this adaptation of Lisa Klein's novel—and that story feels like something generated by an algorithm specifically intended to infuriate a subreddit of Hamlet-loving men's rights activists. That's not entirely a bad thing, as the narrative follows Ophelia from motherless tomboy to lady in waiting for Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), and her romance with Prince Hamlet (George MacKay). Semi Chellas' script provides passable imitation of Shakespearean wordplay in the 40 minutes that precede events familiar from Shakespeare's Hamlet, which makes it odd that she then chooses prosaic interpretations of famous lines ("to thine own self be true" becomes "be true to yourself"). 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 at least occasional insight paired with a thumb in the eye to those who resist revisionist perspectives. Opens June 28 at Megaplex Gateway. (PG-13)—Scott Renshaw

The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith
[not yet reviewed]
The continuing story of Elder Groberg (Christopher Gorham), now bringing his family to 1960s Tonga. Opens June 28 at theaters valleywide. (PG)

Yesterday 2 Stars
Opens June 28 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

But I'm a Cheerleader
At Beer Bar, June 30, 7 p.m. (R)

Grey Gardens
At Tower Theater, June 28-29, 11 p.m. & June 30, noon. (NR)

Ready Player One
At Gateway Legacy Plaza, July 3, dusk. (PG-13)

CURRENT RELEASES

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

The Last Black Man in San Francisco 4 Stars
Director Joe Talbot's debut feature focuses on the relationship between Jimmie (co-writer Jimmie Fails) and the house his grandfather built, which his father lost in the 1990s, and which he continues to tend, to the dismay of the current (white) tenants. The movie's other big relationship, between Jimmie and his friend Montgomery (Jonathan Majors), eventually frays because of the house—but the movie has bigger ideas than the friends we make and lose, including ruminating on what we choose to define us. It's also a love letter to a city, but a bittersweet one, acknowledging San Francisco's history of racism and current war on the anything-less-than-affluent. It's lyrically written, beautifully acted, directed within an inch of its life (that's a compliment) and with a wonderful score by Emile Mosseri. (R)—DR

Pavarotti 3 Stars
Ron Howard's profile of celebrated operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti takes a cradle-to-grave approach, from his childhood in wartime Italy through his professional career up to his death in 2007. Howard is fairly successful at using archival material to capture the gregarious essence of the man, playful personality bantering with people at an audience Q&A session. Yet while the film doesn't exactly shy away from Pavarotti's flaws—particularly the affair with the woman who ultimately became his second wife—he does remain stubbornly at a slight remove, a figure here held up more for admiration of his talent than for real insight. It's hard to resist the gifts on display when Pavarotti explodes into the climax of Turandot's "Nessun dorma" aria, but a straight concert film could have accomplished the same thing. (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. 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

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