FILM NEWS: MAY 16-22 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: MAY 16-22 

New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Realeases

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NEW THIS WEEK

Film release schedules are subject to change. Reviews online at cityweekly.net

A Dog's Journey 2 Stars
It's doesthedogdie.com: The Movie. Yes, the dog dies. Over and over again, in fact. That's no spoiler and kind of the whole point of this sappy "tail," a sequel to 2017's A Dog's Purpose, about a boy, Ethan, who grew into Dennis Quaid and was cute-stalked through his entire life by a dog called Bailey (the voice of Josh Gad). Every time the dog died and was reborn into a different doggy body, he (or occasionally, she) tried to get back to Ethan. Here, Ethan commands the latest reincarnation of Bailey—Ethan has sorta caught on to what's happening—to watch over his step-granddaughter, CJ (Kathryn Prescott). Movies don't get more inoffensive than this, in which there isn't anything that a canine friend cannot put right, from grief and trauma to potentially fatal illness—such as cancer, as CJ's bestie Trent (adorable Henry Lau) endures. People might suffer the biggest, most profound of problems, and yet all is put right as long as a dog is by one's side. Is that even inaccurate, though? I'm not crying, you're crying. Opens May 17 at theaters valleywide. (PG)—MaryAnn Johanson

John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum
[not yet reviewed]
Lots of people want ex-assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) dead; expect him to avoid death, and cause it, in creative ways. Opens May 17 at theaters valleywide. (R)

The Sun Is Also a Star
[not yet reviewed]
Adaptation of the Nicola Yoon novel about two students (Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton) who begin a romantic relationship. Opens May 17 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

Sauvage / Wild 3 Stars
Léo (Félix Maritaud) appears to be at a doctor's appointment at the outset of Camille Vidal-Naquet's gritty character study—but it's a roleplay, part of 22-year-old Léo's life as a gay sex worker in Strasbourg, France. The narrative that follows is mostly episodic, following the illiterate, for-all-practical-purposes homeless Léo through his days and nights picking up tricks and his unrequited infatuation with fellow prostitute Ahd (Eric Bernard). Vidal-Naquet creates a compassionate portrait of the community of mutual support among these sex workers, who warn each other about potentially violent clients and roust the Serbian immigrants trying to undercut their prices. Yet mostly it offers a bleak vision of Léo's life facing health problems, hunger and the prospect of dangerous encounters, while it's obvious that all he wants is some kind of human connection. Maritaud's performance evokes that mix of streetwise kid and eager puppy, and even as some of the individual episodes begin to feel repetitive, it's hard not to feel compassion for someone who needs someone to hold him, but might not believe he deserves to be held. Opens May 17 at theaters valleywide. (NR)—Scott Renshaw

Trial By Fire
[not yet reviewed]
Fact-based drama about a man facing the death penalty in spite of possible exonerating evidence. Opens May 17 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)

Wild Nights with Emily 3 Stars
There are two things I know about Emily Dickinson: She was a reclusive spinster, and many of her poems can be sung to the tune of "Yellow Rose of Texas." The second thing, which is definitely true, is addressed in Madeleine Olnek's deadpan biopic that details, tongue-in-cheek, how the first thing probably isn't. Turns out Emily (Molly Shannon, played with apt nervous spaciness) had a romantic relationship with her brother's wife, Susan (Susan Ziegler), while her brother was cheating with Mabel Todd (Amy Seimetz), who would posthumously publish Emily's work after erasing all of the poet's references to "Sue." Olnek wants to set the record straight (as it were) about Emily's life and personality, but does so in the style of Drunk History: historical facts mixed with comedy. A potential publisher of Emily's poems (Brett Gelman) is a fatuous, "woke" feminist; Emily and Susan (and the film itself) mock the shallow verses of Helen Hunt Jackson, then called "America's greatest lady poet," with modern causticity, albeit expressed in the formal, contraction-less language of the 1880s. It's altogether more charming and sweet than you might expect an Emily Dickinson biography to be. Opens May 17 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (NR)—Eric D. Snider

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Amazing Grace
At Park City Film Series, May 17-18, 8 p.m.; May 19, 6 p.m. (G)

Rafiki 3 Stars
See review on p. 19. At Main Library, May 21, 7 p.m. (NR)

CURRENT RELEASES

Avengers: Endgame 3 Stars
Joe and Anthony Russo get to deliver what no other Marvel film has been able to offer: an actual ending. In the aftermath of Thanos' (Josh Brolin) big snap that erased half of all creation, the surviving Avengers—including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans)—are left to pick up the pieces and maybe even try to set things right. The first act shows an impressive willingness to let an elegiac tone settle in before it's time for the big action stuff. It's an awfully busy center section, bouncing between characters and locations in a way that isn't always graceful. Yes, there's a climactic battle, but it's really about what happens after that battle. Those satisfying epilogues are for viewers who have stuck with the franchise for 11 years. (PG-13)—SR

Hail Satan? 3 Stars
Penny Lane's documentary about the contemporary Satanic Temple and its challenges to Christian symbolism in public spaces conveys the principles underlying what amounts to masterful trolling. Lane provides useful historical context—including the "satanic panic" of the 1980s—while providing an enigmatic character study of the Satanic Temple's puckish leader, Lucien Greaves. There's also material involving some internal dissent within the organization, which serves to make them more normal than their provocative name would suggest and bumps up against their stunts like performing a "conversion to gay" ritual at the gravesite of notoriously homophobic pastor Fred Phelps' mother. Mostly, it's an entertaining and engaging look at whether the principles underlying an organization—in this case, tenets upholding reason, compassion and individual liberty—are more important than whatever button-pushing name that organization might choose for itself. (R)—SR

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu 3.5 Stars
Rarely has a clear cashing-in movie turned out so downright adorable. This kiddie noir posits a lovely world where Pokémon and humans live in companionable harmony in Ryme City. But intrigue has struck! Human Tim's (Justice Smith) cop dad has gone missing, so he teams up with Dad's Pokémon partner, a fuzzy yellow Pikachu (the voice of Ryan Reynolds, reining in his usual smarm), to find him. Their task is made somewhat easier by the strange fact that Tim and the Pikachu can understand each other, which isn't usually the case with humans and Pokémon. The ensuing mystery is gentle enough for little'uns, but packs enough satirical bite for imaginative grownups. And it all works even if you don't know the first thing about Pokémon. As Detective Pikachu himself might say, you will feel it in your jellies. (PG)—MAJ

Poms 1.5 Stars
Almost nothing anybody in this movie does is built on a character foundation sturdier than, "Maybe this will be cute." Martha (Diane Keaton) appears to be a grouchy introvert when she moves into a retirement community, yet she abruptly decides to recruit fellow septuagenarians (including Jacki Weaver, Rhea Perlman and Pam Grier) to form a cheerleading squad. The 180-degree-turn in Martha's character is as jarring as the shift from "lol olds" montages to making this is all about older women proving they're still women, by God. There's simply no attempt to give most of these women actual characters to play; aside from Weaver's Sheryl, who has some libidinous oomph, I'm not entirely sure several of them have names. The "underdog performance" arc is a foregone conclusion, but what happens along the way isn't funny, or thoughtful, or baseline logical. (PG-13)—SR

Tolkien 2 Satrs
On one level, it's a fairly standard-issue artist biopic—and on another, it's constructed to point every moment in J.R.R. Tolkien's life toward the creation of Middle-earth. The story flashes back and forth between Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) in the trenches of France during World War I and his life back in England with his school chums and a fellow orphan named Edith (Lily Collins) with whom he falls in love. The narrative remains mostly chronological, and there are moments of authenticity in the character interactions. But those bonds, like nearly everything else here, feel mostly like a signpost on the way to the Shire and Mordor. By the time Tolkien reaches a scene where he explains with a dramatic pause that his fantasy saga will be about "... fellowship," it's hard not to want a break from the relentless literary foreshadowing. (PG-13)—SR

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