FILM NEWS: JUNE 6-12 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: JUNE 6-12 

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

All Is True 2 Stars
Opens June 7 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)

Dark Phoenix
[not yet reviewed]
Simon Kinberg attempts a non-sucky version of the classic X-Men story previously offered in X-Men: The Last Stand, written by ... Simon Kinberg. Opens June 7 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

Fast Color 3 Stars
"We're not superheroes, Lila," says Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) to her young daughter (Saniyya Sidney); "we're just trying to get by." That makes for the great hook in this stylish adventure from director and co-writer Julia Hart, about a family of African-American women—including Ruth's mother (Lorraine Toussaint)—all with superhuman powers, trying to stay under the radar of government operatives during a time of apocalyptic drought. Ruth's own abilities involve uncontrollable seizures that cause earthquakes, and Hart (writing with her husband Jordan Horowitz) crafts a solid narrative out of prodigal daughter Ruth's return to her family after numbing her uniqueness with substance abuse. There's more than enough metaphorical significance going on in this fantastical story—particularly with "othered" Americans treated as particularly threatening during a time of fear, but also about the tensions dividing families—and a keen sense by Hart both for arresting images and solid characterization. If the low-budget visual approach to superhumans at times feels limiting, this story makes up for it by recognizing that myths are most powerful when they tell us something about the real world. Opens June 7 at Tower Theatre. (PG-13)—Scott Renshaw

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 rather than a theatrical film. Mutt Max (now voiced by Patton Oswalt, replacing Louis CK, because fuck that guy, and also Oswalt is just better in the role) 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; this would not be tolerated in the New York City setting). 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. Opens June 7 at theaters valleywide. (PG)—MaryAnn Johanson

The Souvenir 3.5 Stars
It's testament to Joanna Hogg's skills as a director that she takes a mundane set-up—inexperienced young artist gets first lessons in life and love—and makes it top-to-bottom fascinating. The 1980s-set story follows 20-something British film school student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne, daughter of Tilda) as she begins an affair with Anthony (Tom Burke), who turns out to have some secrets. We see Julie struggling to find her creative voice distinct from her upper-class upbringing, which would have made it easy for the narrative to fall back on "now I've had the experiences that make for a real artist" clichés. But Byrne brings an open, vulnerable screen presence utterly distinct from that of her mother, which combines with Burke's portrayal of practiced deception to complicate the intimacy in scenes like two almost-lovers playfully arguing over who's taking up more of the bed. Mostly, there's Hogg's sense for using everything from period songs to slow-motion at just the right time, leading to a pair of breathtakingly confident final shots. 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. Opens June 7 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—SR 

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

DaveyFest
At various venues, June 6-8. (NR)

Have You Seen My Movie?
At Main Library, June 11, 7 p.m. (NR)

Hook
At The Gateway Olympic Legacy Plaza, June 12, dusk. (PG)

Mandy
At Tower Theater, June 7-8, 11 p.m. (R)

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 all bite. It's just watered-down pastiche, on ice, set at Epcot. (PG)—MAJ

Booksmart 3.5 Stars
Female-centric crude comedies aren't so rare now that we can talk about what makes the good ones good. This teen coming-of-age story follows Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), high-school high-achievers who decide on the day before graduation that they want one real party night. Echoes of Superbad's R-rated episodic misadventures are unmistakeable, but the leads carve out distinctive characters as they throw their nerdy selves into an unfamiliar world. What really kicks it into another gear is that first-time feature director Olivia Wilde actually directs it with inventive visual style, rather than just serving up f-bombs and masturbation gags. It's wonderful to reach a point where we expect more than the shock value of women saying "fuck," and can celebrate women making a comedy that's fucking terrific. (R)—SR

Godzilla: King of the Monsters 1.5 Stars
This follow-up to Gareth Edwards' stylish 2014 Godzilla finds once-married, emotionally-scarred scientists (Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga) on opposite sides of a kaiju-riffic war for the future of the planet, with their daughter (Millie Bobby Brown) caught in the middle. Disaster movie tropes of the separated family abound, as does the now-omnipresent "villain who believes our only salvation is killing a whole bunch of people." But aside from the script full of boring people saying boring things, the real miscalculation here is believing that Godzilla, Rodan et. al. make for a better movie when we understand that they're inflicting real-world trauma on people. Guys in rubber suits crashing into one another is silly, but it's fun. The mega-blockbuster approach to the Toho titans results in something dour, dark and tediously concerned with nothing more than building a franchise universe. (PG-13)—SR

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum BBB.5
The franchise isn't just about brilliantly-choreographed action sequences, but also the rich mythology of its contract-killer subculture. Chapter 3 picks up moments after Chapter 2 ends, as John Wick (Keanu Reeves) finds a $14 million bounty on his head for violating the rules of his one-time superiors. What follows is largely a gleeful series of set pieces involving John assassinating his would-be assassins, including the hilariously violent consequences of a room full of knives. Yet the details of this underworld are still terrifically realized, including an Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) meting out punishments to violators, and the revelation that there are John Wick fanboys among his fellow killers. While our taciturn hero's motivations aren't particularly engaging this time around, it's always a delight to watch him kick ass in this weird world. (R)—SR

Ma B.5
Lonely Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) insinuates herself into the lives of local high-schoolers by buying them booze and letting them use her basement as a party den—then turns on them, for they are the children of the kids who were awful to her in her own high-school days. There's no build-up of tension or escalation of (misplaced) revenge, just a zero-to-60-in-two-seconds villainous turn for the "cool" adult. The torture porn it becomes is horrible, as is the waste of an amazing cast (Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Juliette Lewis and Missi Pyle). But worst of all is making Sue Ann a crazy bitch whose revenge is wildly out of proportion to the crimes committed against her. Instead of honestly confronting how women cope—or don't—with abuse, bullying and trauma, Ma dismisses a woman's justifiable pain as extreme and unreasonable. (R)—MAJ

Rocketman BBB.5
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. Those songs 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—and that's enough. 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

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