FILM NEWS: MAR. 19-25 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: MAR. 19-25 

New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Releases

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NEW THIS WEEK

All film screenings are subject to change due to coronavirus prevention measures. Please check with movie theaters directly before heading out.

Hope Gap
[not yet reviewed]
A couple's visit with their son takes a dramatic turn when the father (Bill Nighy) tells him he plans on leaving his mother (Annette Bening). Opens March 20 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (PG-13)—Scott Renshaw

A Quiet Place Part II
[not yet reviewed]
Emily Blunt returns to continue protecting her family from aliens, and from other threats in their ravaged world. Opens March 20 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Human Nature
At Main Library, March 24, 7 p.m. (NR)

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes
At Park City Film Series, March 20-21, 8 p.m. & March 22, 6 p.m. (NR)

CURRENT RELEASES

The Assistant 3.5 stars
Yes, it's partly a #MeToo story with a thinly-disguised swipe at Harvey Weinstein—but writer-director Kitty Green has actually tackled something thornier. It's structured as a single working day in the life of Jane (Julia Garner), just five weeks into her job as assistant to a film production company chairman when she begins to suspect he might be a sexual predator. That component of the story takes a while to emerge, leaving deceptively mundane events that establish the environment as one predicated on who has power—on display most horrifyingly when Jane tries to report her suspicions to human resources. Garner delivers a terrific, subtle performance, even though Jane never gets a big showpiece scene as either victim or hero. The Assistant explores the kind of manipulation that makes good people keep their heads down and their mouths shut. (R)—Scott Renshaw

Emma. 3.5 stars
Before smartphones and Instagram, there were influencers—and they could be as shallow, overconfident and pejorative as they are today. This new adaptation of Jane Austen's novel brings that sort of modern frisson to the tale of a rich young woman (Anya Taylor-Joy) who amuses herself by interfering in the romantic lives of those around her. Taylor-Joy's Emma is a queen bee with more sting than previous depictions of the character; there's real bite, too, in Johnny Flynn's Mr. Knightley, the family friend who acts (reluctantly) as Emma's conscience. A recurring visual motif by director Autumn de Wilde, of schoolgirls in blood-red cloaks fluttering through Emma's village of Highbury, is a vivid splash of color amid the soft hues of the movie's palette, evoking The Handmaid's Tale in this story's suggestion of women's highest achievements as marriage and baby-making. Yes, there's light entertainment to be had here, including Bill Nighy being Bill Nighy as Emma's widower father. But Austen's wisdom about men, women, life and love takes on a sly, penetrating zing. While comedy of manners might seem like fluff and nonsense, it was—and remains—deadly serious, too. (PG)—MaryAnn Johanson

The Hunt 2 stars
The much-publicized premise is basically true: Wealthy liberals drug and kidnap a bunch of conservatives, and let them loose to chase them down for sport. The back-story is only slightly more complicated, as director Craig Zobel and screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse (The Leftovers) draw virtually every one of their characters as a cartoon of either fuming MAGAs or platitude-spewing snowflakes, vaguely connected by some notion of an unnecessary war instigated by confirmation bias. The one exception—audience surrogate Crystal (Betty Gilpin)—seems intended to represent all the "normal Americans" caught between Both Sides extremists, but even she is left as a type rather than a person. Everything that's kind of gruesomely startling about the kickoff of "the hunt" itself, including familiar faces making surprisingly early exits, is buried in an allegory that's only really fun when it's just-plain-gory. (R)—SR

The Invisible Man 3.5 stars
A horror film might deliver a solid metaphorical exploration of a hot-button issue, but to get an audience to pay attention, it also needs to deliver the genre goods. Writer-director Leigh Whannell follows Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), who is told that her abusive ex-boyfriend, optics technology entrepreneur Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), has committed suicide—but she begins to believe that he's stalking her invisibly. There's potent material here exploring PTSD, gaslighting and victim-blaming, and Moss makes it all resonate with a ferocious performance. But it never feels like a lecture thanks to Whannell's thrilling direction, which makes remarkable use of the empty parts of his framing and ominous off-screen space. If the final act's overt violence proves less engrossing than the slow build-up, it nonetheless asks you to look the horror of such abuse right in its very-visible face. (R)—SR

I Still Believe 2.5 stars
Andrew and Jon Ervin's new faith-based drama I Still Believe is based on the story of real-life Christian singer/songwriter Jeremy Camp (KJ Apa) falling in love at his Bible college with Melissa Lynn-Henning (Britt Robertson), who develops ovarian cancer. Yes, it's Love Story but with God stuff; the Erwin boys are practically shameless in presenting this tale of figurative and literal star-crossed lovers who must keep their love alive before one of them has to meet their maker. Apa and Robertson do make a couple whose creamy, sparkling good looks are much better suited for a wide screen than Hallmark Channel, constantly letting people know they are available to star in future Nicholas Sparks adaptations. In its own maudlin yet comforting way, I Still Believe reminds us that Christians are people too. And a lot of them aren't tools! (PG)—Craig D. Lindsey

Onward 2 stars
A familiar Pixar premise—"What if [fill-in-the-blank] had feelings?"—almost never provides a compelling reason for why this story needed to be told in this setting. Elven brothers Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) begin a quest to complete a spell that will bring their late father back to life for a single day. What follows is vintage mismatched-buddy comedy, and while neither role is a stretch for the respective voice actors, their chemistry carries the story a fairly long way. But it's not easy otherwise to connect to this milieu, as the creative team fails to establish the unique normalcy of fantasy creatures in the modern world. (PG)—SR

Swallow 2 stars
Writer-director Carlo Mirabella-Davis co-opts a slick postwar aesthetic for this slice of housewife horror that would have been radical in the 1950s, but not today. When she isn't vacuuming the modernist glass box she shares with her piece-of-shit husband—in a vintage-y full-swing skirt, no less—lonely Hunter (Haley Bennett) is gulping down marbles, paper clips and other dangerous nonfood objects. The feminist metaphor is overstretched and depressingly stale; Hunter is dealing with real trauma, which only begins with her horrible husband and his toxic parents, but her isolation feels less like an authentic part of spousal abuse and more like a man's spin on a woman's trauma. Bennett's performance is both terrific and terrifyingly dedicated. But instead of becoming scary, Swallow remains shallow. (R)—MAJ

The Traitor 2.5 stars
Marco Bellocchio's epic-length historical drama explores the life of Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), a Sicilian Cosa Nostra operative who, in the mid-1980s, became infamous for cooperating with an Italian government prosecution of mob bosses. The scenes involving the trials themselves are by far the best, capturing a circus of hoots, threats and theatrical confrontations between Tommaso and ex-colleagues. But the rest of the narrative feels wildly episodic, and while it's clear that Tommaso's break from Cosa Nostra is based on his belief that they abandoned their code long before he did, there's a complexity missing from his role in this landmark event, and how he copes with life away from it. You'll learn a lot more about an interesting piece of Italian—and organized crime—history than you will about il traditore himself. (R)—SR

The Way Back 3 stars
Ben Affleck is at his most defeated in this blue-collar sports drama as Jack Cunningham, a former high-school basketball star trying to drink himself blind to forget about the death of his son. His chance to get out of his funk/stupor comes when his old school offers him a job coaching the basketball team, which of course is filled with sorry-ass kids who just need to get pumped full of motivation. While this may sound like standard sports schmaltz, director Gavin O'Connor also directed Miracle, that thoroughly entertaining film about the 1980 U.S. Olympic men's ice hockey team; dude knows how to keep a sports movie exciting and emotional. But the movie is really about Affleck getting back on that horse (and that wagon) and showing everyone—and that includes the audience—that he's through being a boozing fuck-up. (R)—CDL

Wendy 2 stars
Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) once again follows lower-class kids on a magical journey, this time in a retelling of Peter Pan where the titular character (Devin France) and her twin brothers follow a dreadlocked Peter to an island full of kids of color, who follow a big-ass, luminescent fish they call "Mother" and apparently never age. Unfortunately, the movie spirals out-of-control in the second half, as Wendy and her brothers confront their own mortality, something the timeless Peter prefers not to deal with. Zeitlin may be a filmmaker who wants to remind people how much wonder and optimism they had in their arsenal back when they were young, but this well-intentioned but woefully miscalculated effort ends up getting away from him. This movie is—dare I say it—Zeitlin's Hook. (PG-13)—CDL

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