FILM NEWS: NOV. 1-6 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: NOV. 1-6 

New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Releases

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NEW THIS WEEK

Arctic Dogs
[not yet reviewed]
Animated adventure about a fox (Jeremy Renner) trying to stop a plan for world domination Opens Nov. 1 at theaters valleywide. (PG)

First Love 3.5 Stars
Prolific Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike rarely heads in the most predictable direction, so get ready for a wild journey when he combines meet-cute romance with crazy-violent crime thriller. On-the-rise boxer Leo (Masataka Kubota) learns that he has a likely-fatal brain tumor, on the same day that he gets caught up in a heist of a drug shipment by a yakuza underling (Shôto Sometani) and a crooked cop (Nao Ohmori) where troubled prostitute Monica (Sakurako Konishi) has been set up to take the fall. A whole lot of wild chases ensue, including hallucinatory visions of Monica's abusive father, a one-armed Chinese assassin and a near-feral woman on a quest for vengeance. And it's all crazily entertaining, capitalizing on the chaos inherent in botched-crime narratives while making that narrative utterly distinct. It's a little much to ask for us to care about Leo and Monica as a potential couple, especially when Miike has to move back and forth between so many different subplots. But when the hilariously violent action can turn on a dime into animation that looks like it popped off a comic-book splash page, it's best just to go along for the ride. Opens Nov. 1 at Tower Theatre. (NR)—Scott Renshaw

Harriet 3.5 Stars
About time! One of the great true heroes of American history finally gets the big-screen treatment she has always deserved. Harriet Tubman was badass by any measure: rescuing herself from slavery with a treacherous journey north, risking her liberty and her life sneaking back into the South to bring others to freedom, working as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. It's criminal that her undeniable, irrefutable heroics in the physical and existential battle for autonomy, agency and basic humanity of African-Americans have been all but ignored by pop culture, but now director and cowriter Kasi Lemmons has found a deeply satisfying balance among the contradictory currents of her story. This is an entertaining movie-movie experience that doesn't deny the horrific facts of slavery, one that acknowledges Tubman as a vulnerable, flawed human while also embracing her legend and the profound power of what she symbolizes. As Tubman, Cynthia Erivo is an immense presence, deeply engaging and incredibly empathetic. My one complaint: not enough spy stuff! Maybe we—movie lovers and proud Americans alike—will be lucky enough to get a sequel. Opens Nov. 1 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)—MaryAnn Johanson

Motherless Brooklyn 3 Stars
Edward Norton, whose first directorial effort (Keeping the Faith) was 19 years ago, chose an odd story to adapt and direct for his follow-up: the 1999 novel by Jonathan Lethem about a Tourette's-afflicted P.I. (Norton) trying to solve the murder of his boss (Bruce Willis). Set in Norton's adaptation in the 1950s and infused with noir tropes like an non-mourning widow (Leslie Mann), smoky jazz clubs and clues hidden in plain sight, it's a satisfyingly twisty Chinatown-esque story—corrupt city officials and the like—that goes out of its way to seem contemporary. (A racist New York land developer played by Alec Baldwin uses the phrase "I moved on her" to describe assaulting a woman, and adds "You can do anything you want when you have power"—subtle things like that.) Perhaps for that reason, the look of the film is anachronistically bright and digital, but the attitudes about race, gender and disability are very much of the period. For his part, Norton portrays Tourette's respectfully, though its significance to the story remains murky. Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones and other recognizables add support. Opens Nov. 1 at theaters valleywide. (R)—Eric D. Snider

Terminator: Dark Fate
[not yet reviewed]
Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) returns once again to save the future of humanity. Opens Nov. 1 at theaters valleywide. (R)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Honeyland
At Park City Film Series, Nov. 1-2, 8 p.m. & Nov. 3, 6 p.m. (NR)

SK Gaming: The Journey
At Main Library, Nov. 5, 7 p.m. (NR)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
At Tower Theatre, Oct. 31, 8 p.m. & midnight; Oct. 2, 6:30 p.m.. (R)

CURRENT RELEASES

Black and Blue 2 Stars
Alicia West (Naomie Harris), a rookie African-American police officer in New Orleans, captures a crooked narcotics officer (Frank Grillo) on her body-cam in the act of murdering someone, then has to run for her life from her own colleagues to preserve the evidence. Peter A. Dowling's screenplay sets up the promising notion of West as an outsider now in the rough neighborhood where she grew up. But despite Harris' intense performance, the movie ends up almost as relentless in its determination to make every cop a sadist as it is in its use of platitudes like "murder's murder, no matter who you are." Despite a few slick pacing choices by director Deon Taylor, even the final siege between police and drug dealers falls flat, because this is a movie that's ultimately less interested in delivering action than in watching people deliver monologues. (R)—SR

Countdown 2 Stars
In this mildly stupid teen horror flick about a phone app that tells you how long you have to live, it's not the app that kills you; it's just conveying information. But if your remaining time is too short for your liking and you try to cheat death, you still die as scheduled, only now you get harassed by a demon beforehand. It's like Final Destination without the cleverness, or The Ring without the scariness. The heroine, a young nurse (Elizabeth Lail), is duly spunky, and there's an excitable priest (P.J. Byrne) and a needlessly snarky tech guy (Tom Segura) who add a little humor. The basic problem with the premise—just don't download the app, dummy—is not addressed. It's while wasting 90 minutes on mediocrities like this that you start to appreciate how short life really is. (PG-13)—EDS

The Lighthouse 3 Stars
If you've got an appetite for weirdness, there's a lot of it on writer-director Robert Eggers' menu. In the late 19th century, lighthouse keeper Thomas (Willem Dafoe) and his new assistant, Ephraim (Robert Pattinson), take a scheduled four-week shift on a remote island, developing a contentious relationship that grows more strained when a storm threatens to extend their stay. Every component of the physical production builds the simmering menace and claustrophobia, from the boxy Academy ratio to the sound design featuring foghorn blasts that sound like a kaiju's roar. The counterpoint to that atmosphere of dread comes from two central performances where tensions are frequently defused in bizarre, even silly ways. Plenty of other unexpected stuff goes on, so if you're a movie-goer who needs "what happened" to be obvious once the credits roll, you might be in the wrong place. (R)—SR

Joker 2 Stars
Co-writer/director Todd Phillips' determinedly grim portrait of burgeoning psychosis is neither as lunkheadedly reactionary as early reports suggested, nor as richly layered as it's trying to be. Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a professional party clown with mental health issues who's just a nudge away from full-fledged homicidal crazy. It's deeply awkward whenever Joker waves its hand to remind you that it's part of the DC Comics universe, while still posing at being very Serious-Minded. Then, when Joker does try to serve up some subtext, it bounces all over the place in search of a real idea. At least there's Phoenix's magnetic performance, as we see him doing homework to approximate "normal" behavior. You don't have to work hard as a viewer to accept that you're watching a kind of madness in Joker. The question is, what kind of madness. (R)—SR

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil 2.5 Stars
Like 2014's Maleficent, this sequel makes a similar semblance of effort toward subtext, as the impending wedding of Aurora (Elle Fanning) and Prince Philip leads to Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) being framed for a heinous act by Philip's mother (Michelle Pfeiffer). Thus begins a tale about a nation's leader manipulating fear of The Other, promoting ethnocentrism that gives the thumbs up to genocide. The script isn't exactly subtle about its underlying ideas, but they do provide a spark of interest. Unfortunately, they don't make up for Maleficent herself being relegated to the background for long stretches, building to a grand battle that lasts nearly the entire final hour of the movie. That certainly helps Mistress of Evil deliver on the promise of being fantasy spectacle, while all but abandoning the ideas that made it seem more intriguing at the outset. (PG)—SR

Where's My Roy Cohn? 2.5 Stars
The shadow of Donald Trump hangs heavily over director Matt Tyrnauer's profile of the notorious attorney, not entirely in ways that the filmmaker might have expected. Tyrnauer explores Cohn's controversial public life as Joseph McCarthy aide and attorney to mob figures, and how his ruthlessness and manipulation of the media influenced American politics, up to and including our current POTUS as his de facto protégé. It's a thorough, often fascinating collection of details, though Tyrnauer's visual style leans into overly dramatic bits. But while the filmmaker underlines how "power in the hands of someone who is that reckless and that arrogant is a very dangerous thing" (nudge, nudge), he also faces the challenge of profiling a narcissistic sociopath: At a certain point, you're merely cataloguing sins, with a gaping hole where any insight could be. (PG-13)—SR

Zombieland: Double Tap 2 Stars
It's a hit-or-miss follow-up to the perfectly good 2009 comedy that brings back the original cast of post-zombie-apocalypse survivors—Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin—and has them cross paths with others on their way to a rumored safe haven. Too much of the bantering and bickering has a sitcom vibe to it, Harrelson's tantrums about having to drive a minivan being the worst; I had Tim Allen flashbacks, which is not good. But Zoey Deutch is a hilarious scene-stealer as an airhead they find hiding in a mall who complicates Eisenberg and Stone's relationship—a great and necessary addition, because so much of the movie otherwise is just a rehash of jokes and themes from the first one. Like with zombies, two shots of this should be more than enough to kill it for good. (R)—EDS

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