FILM NEWS: OCT. 10-16 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: OCT. 10-16 

New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Releases

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NEW THIS WEEK

The Addams Family
[not yet reviewed]
The celebrated kooky, spooky, ooky clan gets an animated feature treatment. Opens Oct. 11 at theaters valleywide. (PG)

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
[not reviewed]
Jesse Pinkman returns! Opens Oct. 11 at Tower Theatre. (NR)

Gemini Man [zero stars]
It's 50-something badass military sniper Will Smith versus cloned younger Will Smith! That is the high concept Gemini Man has been selling in every trailer and advertisement. And yet director Ang Lee treads water with tedious, tension-free spy action for more than half of his runtime before he even "reveals" what we knew going in. We never learn why young Will Smith has been sicced on older Will Smith by black-ops honcho Clive Owen. We never get any clone-related sci-fi speculation, with a nature/nurture dichotomy that remains an unfired gun on the mantlepiece: Older Will Smith has a fear of drowing, acquired through childhood experience, that his young clone cannot have, which seems ripe for exploiting in a big action sequence, but never happens. The supporting cast (including the excellent Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is wasted, with nary a single plausible human relationship developed. All that's left is Lee's goofing around with a super-high-def format that delivers (in some cinematic presentations) an empty story in a visually razor-sharp IMAX that is pointlessly ultra-realistic. It's like looking through a window beyond which there is nothing worth seeing. Opens Oct. 11 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)—MaryAnn Johanson

Jexi
[not yet reviewed]
A man (Adam Devine) with a smartphone addiction finds its new A.I. upgrade taking a bit too much control of his life. Opens Oct. 11 at theaters valleywide. (R)

Lucy in the Sky 2 Stars
I'm not sure you can call what Noah Hawley does here "directing," so much as an act of sheer relentless demand for attention. He tells the loosely-fact-based story of Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman), a NASA astronaut who returns from her first mission to space utterly transformed, to the point that everything else—including her life with her husband (Dan Stevens)—becomes secondary to the goal of getting back above the earth. For a while, Portman does a fine job with Lucy's sense of disorientation, and her reckless choices including beginning an affair with a fellow astronaut (Jon Hamm). But from early on, Hawley—making his debut feature after creating the nutso TV series Legion—tips his hand with ever-shifting aspect ratios and lenses that blur the edges of the frame, underlining every possible emotional beat so that Lucy gets lost in her own narrative. There's a great story somewhere in here, about a paradigm shift so profound that it's hard to connect to your previous world, but by the time we get to Lucy going fully out of control, the director has long since beaten her to the punch. Opens Oct. 11 at theaters valleywide. (R)—Scott Renshaw

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

A Better Man
At Main Library, Oct. 15, 7 p.m. (NR)

The Farewell
At Park City Film Series, Oct. 11-12, 8 p.m. & Oct. 13, 6 p.m. (NR)

CURRENT RELEASES

Abominable 2.5 Stars
It's a story about a young person with an absent father, who finds companionship in the form of a mysterious, magical creature, leading to a risky journey to get the creature back home; you can't spell "yeti" without "E.T." Writer-director Jill Culton sets her animated variation in China, where teenager Yi (Chloe Bennet) and a young yeti she calls Everest venture to the Himalayas, even as she grieves for her dad. With its round-face, this snow "monster" is cute enough, providing a pleasant companion for Yi and her friends, while Eddie Izzard and Sarah Paulson voice the pursuing antagonists. Yet despite ample chuckles, lively action and the goofy inclusion of whooping snakes, it's impossible to ignore how safe and familiar the narrative arc is. At least they didn't have to worry about licensing when Yi feeds Everest bao instead of Reese's Pieces. (PG)—SR

Ad Astra 3 Stars
Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is recruited into a classified mission to end dangerous energy "surges" coming from a space research station where his father (Tommy Lee Jones) was presumed lost years earlier. There's a definite Heart of Darkness vibe, complete with voice-over internal monologue, and Pitt's restrained performance captures a man cut off from his feelings. Yet director/co-writer James Gray also peppers his meditations on isolation with showy set pieces involving attacks by moon pirates and ... other unexpected things. As Roy draws closer to a possible family reunion, Gray hones in on the notion that the ideas and philosophies people dedicate themselves to can ultimately distance them from other human beings. Yet Ad Astra struggles to give that thesis the emotional punch Gray clearly wants to deliver. It's gorgeous, ethereal, occasionally wise, sometimes overly literal, sometimes flat-out silly. (PG-13)—SR

Downton Abbey 2.5 Stars
The TV phenomenon comes to the big screen, unlikely to please anyone who isn't already enamored of the fictional English country manor. The estate, ruled over by the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), is a hotbed of ... niceness. The dowager countess (Maggie Smith) deploys an entertainingly wicked tongue, but the happy servants Know Their Place, positively reveling in servitude. This is fantasy, sure, but do devotees imagine themselves as the clever, resourceful maid (Joanne Froggatt) or dedicated butler (Jim Carter)? No, the fantasy here is reactionary, a hankering for a world where wealth and privilege are deserved and proper. The plot revolves around a visit from the King (Simon Jones) and Queen (Geraldine James), and the ensuing mild uproar in the household. Even minor bits of intrigue resolve themselves in ways that could not be more contentedly uncomplaining. (PG)—MAJ

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

Judy 2.5 Stars
Considering how good America is at producing icons worthy of biopic treatment, it's ironic how bad we are at making biopics. Renée Zellweger stars as Judy Garland during the last year of her life, and the disparity between the quality of her performance and the quality of the movie is particularly stark. The story deals with Judy at a time when she's still a legend, but a broke one, addicted to pills and alcohol. Nothing in the screenplay is bad per se; there's just no oomph to it. The plot follows Judy's ups and downs, victories and setbacks, but the recounting of them is rote. Apart from Zellweger's work, nothing about the film is noteworthy. As is so often the case, we're left with a terrific, endearing, pitch-perfect performance trapped in a movie that isn't nearly worthy of it. (PG-13)—Eric D. Snider

Monos 2.5 Stars
In an unnamed Latin American country, 18 teen soldiers keep watch over an American hostage (Julianne Nicholson); when Bigfoot (Moises Arias) becomes group leader of the "Monos," he begins running things with wanton ruthlessness. Here, Monos takes a turn into Lord of the Flies territory and becomes more tedious. We've seen the young, hopeless and impressionable fall into darkness before, and we've been asked whether killers are born or made; it would be more satisfying if co-writer/director Alejandro Landes had sharper points to make. Two assets make the movie better than it deserves to be: cinematographer Jasper Wolf, and composer Mica Levi's score of atonal dirges and jungle-like whistles. But in the end, when the Monos splinter into sub-factions, Monos feels like it deserves a big shrug, with a lot of déjà vu in the script's well-tread meditations. (R)—David Riedel

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