FILM NEWS: OCT. 17-23 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: OCT. 17-23 

New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Releases

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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
[not yet reviewed]
The villainous queen (Angelina Jolie) and Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) return. Opens Oct. 18 at theaters valleywide. (PG)

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool 3 Stars
"Great artist" documentaries are generally thorough and respectful, rising above the din strictly by how much "well, I never knew that" they deliver. Director Stanley Nelson goes cradle-to-grave on the legendary jazz musician, chronicling his precocious talents from East St. Louis to Juilliard, and laying out a career full of innovations and re-inventions. In fact, the film's subtitle seems a bit misleading, in that Nelson underplays Davis' "cool" in favor of his uniquely instinctual approach to creating music and re-creating himself. Along the way, we get all of the key life mileposts, with no attempt to hide Davis' well-documented history of substance abuse and domestic violence. Cal Lumbly narrates Davis' own words from his autobiography with a perfect impersonation of the musician's sassy rasp, adding additional character to the talking-head commentary by friends and collaborators. You still get stuff like the rapid-fire "highlights of the year" montages that accompany shifts in time period, and the inevitable challenge of having people explain why a groundbreaking artist was so unique. There's great music, some interesting insights and a filmmaker who mostly gets out of the way of his subject. Opens Oct. 18 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (NR)—Scott Renshaw

Zombieland: Double Tap
[not yet reviewed]
Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin continue their comedic journeys through a post-zombie-apocalypse America. Opens Oct. 18 at theaters valleywide. (R)


Bow Wow Film Festival
At Westminster College Gore Auditorium, Oct. 18, 7 p.m. (NR)

Filipino Americans: Discovering Their Past for the Future
At Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Oct. 19, noon. (NR)

The Peanut Butter Falcon
At Park City Film Series, Oct. 18-19, 8 p.m. & Oct. 20, 6 p.m. (PG-13)

White Right: Meeting the Enemy
At Main Library, Oct. 22, 7 p.m. (NR)


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

The Addams Family 2.5 Stars
The animated reboot, set in the present day, has everyone's favorite spooky Goth family in conflict with a nearby new neighborhood called Assimilation, in which sameness is celebrated over individuality. Margaux Needler (Allison Janney), perky host of popular TV home-makeover show Design Intervention (which is a pretty great title), is worried the ghastly Addams mansion will make it hard to sell the houses—which are already occupied. The gang's all here—Gomez (Oscar Isaac), Morticia (Charlize Theron), Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz), Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard), Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll)—and there are a few chuckles along the way. As usual, Wednesday is the funniest character, attending public school for the first time and experimenting with normal tween girl behavior, much to Morticia's chagrin. But the main story, while harmless enough, is bland, warmed-over "be yourself" pabulum you've seen a thousand times. (PG)—Eric D. Snider

Downton Abbey
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)—MaryAnn Johanson

Gemini Man [zero stars]
It's the high concept this movie has been selling in all its trailers and advertising—50-something badass military sniper Will Smith versus cloned younger Will Smith!—yet director Ang Lee treads water with tedious, tension-free spy action for more than half of his runtime before he "reveals" what we knew going in. We never get any clone-related sci-fi speculation, with a nature/nurture dichotomy that remains an unfired gun on the mantlepiece. 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. (PG-13)—MAJ

Lucy in the Sky 2 Stars
Noah Hawley (Legion) co-writes and directs 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 that everything else—including her life with her husband—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. But from early on, Hawley tips his hand with ever-shifting aspect ratios and lenses that blur the edges of the frame, underlining every emotional beat so that Lucy gets lost in her own narrative. There's a great story somewhere in here, about profound personal paradigm shifts, but by the time we get to Lucy going fully out of control, the director has long since beaten her to the punch. (R)—SR

Jexi 2 Stars
Smartphone addiction might be a ripe satirical target, but not necessarily for a de facto remake of Electric Dreams from the guys who wrote The Hangover. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore bring us the tale of Phil Thompson (Adam Devine), whose entire sad life revolves around his phone—until the latest AI upgrade, called Jexi (voiced by Rose Byrne), demonstrates a consciousness, and takes over that life. Given the creative team, you can expect that many of the gags are over-the-top crude, a few even kind of funny. But the infinitely talented Byrne can't find infinite ways to keep monotone readings of "you stupid motherfucker" interesting, and Lucas and Moore's arbitrary use of snap-zooms adds little to the proceedings. By the time Jexi has gone full HAL 9000, it's become just another What Really Matters story tarted up with dick-pics. (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

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)—EDS

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