FILM NEWS: SEPT. 26 - OCT. 2 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: SEPT. 26 - OCT. 2 

New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Releases

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NEW THIS WEEK

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

Abominable 2.5 Stars
It's a story about a young person heartbroken by a father's absence, who finds companionship in the form of a mysterious creature with the magical ability to rejuvenate dying plants, and which is hiding out from research scientists; the young person then undertakes a risky journey to get the creature back home. If that all sounds familiar, it's because you can't spell "yeti" without "E.T." Writer-director Jill Culton (Open Season) sets her animated variation in China, where teenager Yi (Chole Bennet) is the young person, and a young yeti she calls Everest is the creature she wants to return to his Himalayan habitat, even as she grieves for her dad. And it's perfectly cute, with its round-faced snow "monster" providing a pleasant companion for Yi and the two neighbors (Tenzing Norgay Trainor and Albert Tsai), 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 avoid noticing how safe and familiar the entire narrative arc is. At least they didn't have to worry about licensing when Yi feeds Everest bao instead of Reese's Pieces. Opens Sept. 27 at theaters valleywide. (PG)—Scott Renshaw

Aquarela 2.5 Stars
Director Victor Kossakovsky attempts an impressionistic, un-narrated documentary in the style of Koyaanisqatsi or 2012's Leviathan, but doesn't quite come up with enough variations on his theme to keep things interesting. The through-line, to the extent that there is one, is the power of water, ranging from the precarious frozen surface of Siberia's Lake Baikal to a storm-tossed boat on the ocean to a hurricane pummeling city streets. It's not as though Kossakovsky doesn't capture some powerful images, including shots of humans on the lake's ice kneeling as though in respectful prayer to nature, and a darkened ocean surface resembling volcanic rock. He simply sticks with one thing for too long, in a way that yields quickly diminishing returns. The progression of sequences suggests a causal relationship, with rivers rushing through glacial ice, giving way to powerful storms, which is a different way of telling the story of climate change. But ultimately, there are only so many scenes you can watch of a calving glacier, or that tiny boat trying to stay upright, before you start to feel that it's time to move along. Opens Sept. 27 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (PG)—SR

Judy 2.5 Stars
Opens Sept. 27 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (PG-13)

A Name Without a Place
[not yet reviewed]
A young man sets off on a journey after the death of his twin brother. Opens Sept. 27 at Tower Theatre. (NR)

The Sound of Silence 2 Stars
Occasionally, a movie just hands you an easy metaphor for why it just doesn't work for you—and this one is entirely about whether something in your environment is or isn't hitting the right notes. Peter Sarsgaard plays Peter Lucian, a New York musicologist who has devoted himself single-mindedly to researching the impact of sound on people's mental and emotional state. That work is thrown out of whack when one of his "house tuning" clients, Ellen (Rashida Jones), doesn't seem to respond to Peter's prescription of a new toaster. It all sounds preposterous on paper, but Sarsgaard plays Lucian's obsessions with utter earnestness, hinting at stuff that co-writers Michael Tyburski (who also directed) and Ben Nabors ultimately don't trust to remain subtextual; "I think you miss out on connecting yourself" is a sentiment we don't need to hear Ellen say aloud. But while the plot eventually slides between elements including oddball romance, deadpan comedy and corporate espionage, Tyburski's tonal choices ultimately remain as frustratingly internalized as his protagonist, even while the director oversees a terrifically complex sound design. It's a tune waiting for a crescendo that never comes. Opens Sept. 27 at theaters valleywide. (NR)—SR

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Maiden
At Park City Film Series, Sept. 27-28, 8 p.m. & Sept. 29, 6 p.m. (PG)

Unsettled
At Main Library, Oct. 1, 7 p.m. (NR)

CURRENT RELEASES

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 his 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

Brittany Runs a Marathon3 Stars
Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell), an under-employed, hard-partying New Yorker, gets a warning from her doctor to address her weight and overall health. So Brittany decides to start running—one reluctant block at first, then gradually becoming determined to run in the New York Marathon. Paul Downs Colaizzo assembles a winning cast of supporting charters—led by Michaela Watkins and Utkarsh Ambudkar—but most of what works here revolves around Bell's performance as a woman convinced she needs to be the "funny fat girl," and look a different way in order to deserve love. Thesis-point speeches are kept to a minimum, allowing focus to remain on self-loathing thwarting Brittany's chances at happiness. Attempts to weave family history into Brittany's psychology fall short, and the climactic run drags a bit, but the payoff emphasizes her triumph as believing she's worth cheering for. (R)—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)—MaryAnn Johanson

Hustlers 4 Stars
This based-on-fact drama—about New York City strippers who conned their clients out of lots of dough—is full of the seductiveness of easy money and the giddiness of getting away with a perfect crime. Screenwriter-director Lorene Scafaria effortlessly wraps us up in charmed complicity with the felonious wrongdoing of veteran stripper Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) and her protégé, Destiny (Constance Wu)—until arrogance, rashness and greed eventually lead to the inevitable downfall. Scafaria weaves sympathy, sensitivity and big-hearted humor into a story that, in the hands of a male filmmaker could have quickly descended into crass exploitation. But Hustlers is never salacious, never sensational. It never reduces these women to nothing more than their bodies, and it knows that what they do is work. It's the best-ever corrective to the embarrassing cliché about sex workers with hearts of gold. (R)—MAJ

It: Chapter 2 2 Stars
At 169 minutes, It Chapter Two is too long and too short. It's repetitive; the scares are so similar to Chapter One's that they devolve into blah territory. But Chapter Two also drops seemingly important characters and plot threads without explanation. Why is that charming hotel always empty? What happens to Pennywise the Clown's (Bill Skarsgård) victims this go-around? If you're going to explain the clown's origins, screenwriter Gary Dauberman and director Andy Muschietti could have probed a few other things, too—or made a third movie. The casting is spot-on with the exception of Isaiah Mustafa as adult Mike, who's so stiff it's like he wandered in from a different movie. But Mike has the unfortunate task of being the movie's explainer, so maybe the problem is Dauberman's screenplay. Sorry, losers; It Chapter Two just doesn't work. (R)—David Riedel

Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins 3 Stars
Janice Engel profiles Molly Ivins, the often-controversial syndicated columnist who combined her unabashed progressivism with a refusal to turn her back on her Texas roots. The cradle-to-grave narrative follows Ivins from her Texas childhood through the various stops on her journalistic career before her death from breast cancer in 2007 at the age of 62. But Engel hits all of the key points crisply, whether it's her short-lived, contentious tenure at The New York Times or her life-long struggles with alcoholism. Most significantly, she finds dozens of great clips of Ivins herself spinning yarns for people in a way that gives the writer's singularly tart-tongued sensibility a rich showcase. While sometimes it's challenging to make an audience understand what made a writer's style unique, here there's never a question about how funny, smart and iconoclastic Ivins was. (NR)—SR

Rambo: Last Blood [zero stars]
What is true of the nation as a whole is also true of the Rambo series: The age of Trump didn't invent its ugly, violent and retrograde impulses, but it might have perfected them. John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone)'s orphaned 18-year-old niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) visits Mexico to find the father who abandoned her—where she's abducted by Mexican human traffickers, sending Uncle John on the righteous warpath. The absurdist bloody excesses of Rambo '08 are less ubiquitous here, up until the finale, which is like Home Alone by way of Mortal Kombat. But when it's not being incompetent as a simple narrative, Last Blood is plain old reprehensible, with women existing as victims to be avenged, and every brown-skinned man a Bad Hombre who gets what's coming to him. Please let that subtitle not be a false promise. (R)—SR

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