FILM NEWS: SEPT. 4-11 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: SEPT. 4-11 

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

The Cat Rescuers 3 Stars
There are half a million abandoned and feral cats in New York City; this charming documentary introduces us to four volunteers who spend their own time and money trying to fix this inhumane situation in their own little corners of Brooklyn. Kickstarter-backed, this movie is, in many ways, the very epitome of the notion that we have to be the change we want to see in the world, in its depiction of a small-scale example of how the human relationship with nature damaged it, and the little things that can be done to make it all right again. Small acts go a very long way, but even the most devoted of cat lovers have limited financial and emotional resources, and so the movie gently advocates for the government support that could solve the problem for good. It's all a tiny, delicate metaphor for the reshaping of attitudes we humans will need to make on a planetary scale, and the effort we'll need to expend to clean up our enormous messes. It is a task, we might glean from The Cat Rescuers, that is not impossible, and not unrewarding. Opens Sept. 6 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (NR)—MaryAnn Johanson

Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles 2.5 Stars
Joseph Stein, Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock managed to take a bunch of individual stories—Sholem Aleichem's 19th-century "Tevye the Dairyman" tales—and turn them into a beautifully cohesive narrative in Fiddler on the Roof. Director Max Lewkowicz isn't quite as successful in his documentary about the beloved musical. Gathering interviews with the surviving creative team, as well as actors who have worked on productions over the years, Lewkowicz tracks Fiddler from its origins through its 1964 Broadway premiere, exploring the legacy that, as a postscript notes, has had a production up somewhere in the world every day since its debut. The resulting film is rich with anecdotes—about director/choreographer Jerome Robbins, songs cut from previews, etc.—but it bounces around so much that it rarely pulls together into something more than that. While there's interesting material to be found in everything from Fiddler as early feminist statement to the different political world into which the 1971 film version emerged to the ongoing relevance of its refugee story, that's not the same as having several provocative chapters feel like they belong in the same book. Opens Sept. 6 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (NR)—Scott Renshaw

It: Chapter 2
[not yet reviewed]
Now adults, the "Losers Club" gathers once again to face the evil presence in Derry, Maine. Opens Sept. 6 at theaters valleywide. (R)

VITA & VIRGINIA 2.5 Stars
Sometimes there's no winning when it comes to a period-piece biopic. Play it straight, and it can come off stuffy and stagebound; go for something stylized, and it can feel forced and distracted. Director Chanya Button is more in the latter camp in adapting Eileen Atkins' play, based on the correspondence between writers Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki) and Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton) chronicling their romantic affair in the 1920s. The narrative emphasizes the differences between the two women—Woolf the troubled, almost ethereal member of a bohemian artistic set, Sackville-West a scion of privilege who had multiple lovers—in a way that gives Debicki's haunted performance more room to flourish than Arterton's portrayal of a flighty libertine. Yet while there's some rich material in the risk Woolf takes in opening herself up, Button's direction seems more concerned with visual flourishes—hallucinations by Woolf during her breakdowns; turning the women's letters into monologues directly to the camera—and the modernist touch of an electronic score than with plumbing psychological depths. It might not be a rote chronology of events, but that doesn't make it engrossing. Opens Sept. 6 at Megaplex Theaters Jordan Commons. (R)—SR

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Best of Fear No Film 2019
At Main Library, Sept. 10, 7 p.m. (NR)

The Biggest Little Farm
At Park City Film Series, Sept. 6-7, 8 p.m. & Sept. 8, 6 p.m. (PG)

SLC Punk!: 20th Anniversary w/ director James Merendino
At Rose Wagner Center, Sept. 11, 7 p.m. (R)

CURRENT RELEASES

After the Wedding 2.5 Stars
In Bart Freundlich's gender-swapped English-language remake of Susanne Bier's 2006 drama, Michelle Williams stars as Isabelle, manager of an orphanage in India whose trip to New York for a donation from media tycoon Theresa (Julianne Moore) winds up uncovering secrets involving Theresa's husband (Billy Crudup) and their newlywed daughter Grace (Abby Quinn). A lot of the angst behind those secrets is more distracting than enriching, and it's disappointing to see some sloppy handling of mental health issues. But Williams' performance is beautifully tangled in knots of uncertainty; she does as much with a cluck of the tongue as Moore does with Capital-A Acting involving drunken rants and ugly-crying. Like Bier, Freundlich stumbles when trying to make the premise's inherent melodrama feel deathly serious; it's still worth watching Williams, who simply doesn't know how to take an on-screen moment for granted. (R)—SR

Angel Has Fallen 2.5 Stars
The ... Has Fallen movies have been so resolute in their throwback patriotic machismo that it's disorienting to get a whiff of the red meat-less meal this installment serves up as Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is implicated in an assassination attempt on the president (Morgan Freeman), and goes into hiding to clear his name. There are more than a few whiffs of The Fugitive, and the action is simple and straightforward while serving up a fairly obvious conspiracy. The story also leans into the physical and psychological costs of becoming a human weapon, emphasized by Nick Nolte's solid role as Banning's survivalist/Vietnam vet dad. Plenty of things—and people—get blown up or shot up real good, but instead of making Banning's antagonist some non-American extremist, here the threat is America's own history of endless warfare. (R)—SR

Don't Let Go 2 Stars
David Oyelowo deserves mainstream success if he wants it, but while Don't Let Go starts with a perfectly good premise, it soon turns into a formulaic police procedural with the most obvious, easily-guessed resolution. LAPD detective Jack Radcliff (Oyelowo) is surprised to get a phone call from his recently-murdered niece, Ashley (Storm Reid), calling from three days before she and her parents were killed. Uncle Jack eventually takes advantage of the time warp to try to prevent the murders, but not before spending a combined seven or eight minutes (or so it feels) staring agape at the caller ID. Writer-director Jacob Estes (Mean Creek, The Details) quickly loses interest in his sci-fi/fantasy conceit and defaults to disappointingly mundane dirty-cop, this-conspiracy-goes-all-the-way-to-the-top detective tropes that don't do anyone any favors. Oyelowo is magnetic, though, even when stumbling around panicked and dumbfounded. (PG-13)—Eric D. Snider

Good Boys 3 Stars
A decade-plus on from the distasteful celebration of toxic male teenhood that was Superbad, here's a supergood, unexpectedly sweet celebration of modern ascendant malehood. Three sixth-grade boys (Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon) spend a day ditching school to vie against older teen girls (Midori Francis and Molly Gordon) in a complicated plot involving drones, the mildest sort of party drugs and trying to reach a grade-school "kissing party." Mostly it's about worrying that, at the tender age of 11, one might become a "social piranha," about securing consent to engage in any physical contact with another kid, and about ensuring that nothing one is doing constitutes bullying. These kids today, with their physical and psychological boundaries! "We're not kids, we're tweens!" they declare, staking a claim on a developmental stage that we adults never even realized existed. (R)—MAJ

Ready or Not 3 Stars
Samara Weaving plays Grace, a young woman who has married the heir (Mark O'Brien) of a board- and parlor-game empire, only to learn that she's expected to play a wedding-night "initiation" game—one that if you lose, you die. Co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have stylish fun with their spooky house setting and Weaving's appropriately freaked-out heroine, and display an effectively dark sense of humor. But at its core, this is an unapologetic smack in the face of one-percenters, painting their gains as earned entirely from their willingness to destroy others; even platitudes about "family" and "tradition" become hollow excuses for self-preservation. Some opportunities for tension-building are sacrificed for expository chatter, and tension sags in the final half-hour. But what Ready or Not lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in a gleefully grotesque middle finger at homicidal rapacity. (R)—SR

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