Movie Reviews: Ready or Not, Angel Has Fallen, Luce | Buzz Blog
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Movie Reviews: Ready or Not, Angel Has Fallen, Luce

One Child Nation, David Crosby: Remember My Name


  • Fox Searchlight
  • Ready or Not
Angel Has Fallen **1/2
See feature review. Opens Aug. 23 at theaters valleywide. (R)

David Crosby: Remember My Name ***
There’s a lot of history—both the personal history of the film’s subject, and the history of an entire era in American popular music history—swirling through director A.J. Eaton’s documentary, but it truly comes into focus when it lets that subject speak in the present tense. Producer Cameron Crowe serves as the behind-the-camera interviewer asking David Crosby to reflect on his life and career, from his days as founding member of The Byrds to his long-time association with Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young. We get a chance to see the then-72-year-old Crosby on tour, his voice still strong and resonant despite battles with drug abuse and health scares that should have had him in the ground years ago. Yet the real resonance here comes when Crosby gets brutally honest in his self-reflection, contemplating how many people his behavior over the years has alienated. As interesting as it is to reflect on the half-century in the public eye that led up to this film, it’s kind of heartbreaking watch a compulsive screw-up face the twilight of his life with such a profound sense of regret. Opens Aug. 23 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—Scott Renshaw

Luce ****
Ten years ago, a wealthy white American couple (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) adopted a former child soldier from an African war zone. Today, Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is a high-school star athlete and soon-to-be valedictorian. But is one of his teachers (Octavia Spencer) trying to scupper the life of promise and opportunity he and his adoptive parents have worked so hard to build—and if so, why? Before you realize it, family drama has morphed into psychological suspense as we struggle to determine where the truth lies among secondhand accounts of disturbing adolescent wrongdoing and warring notions of racial and cultural identity, acceptance and assimilation, among Luce and his friends, as well as the adults around them. Director Julius Onah, working from J.C. Lee’s play, announces himself as a major new talent with this, his third feature, as he surreptitiously elides the biases, preconceptions and delusions of his characters with our own. This challenging film is as much about us as we digest it as it is about where the story goes. It’s a provocative litmus test that lets no one off the hook. Opens Aug. 23 at theaters valleywide. (R)—MaryAnn Johanson

One Child Nation ***1/2
Inspired by her own role as a new mother, Chinese-American director Nanfu Wang explores the era of her childhood in China—the time in the 1980s and 1990s when the government enforced a strict “one child per family” population-control policy. What she finds is deeply disturbing—tales of forced abortions and sterilizations—and she isn’t reluctant to use unsettling images to drive the terrible events home. But that’s practically just the prologue, as Wang finds herself down a rabbit hole of how Chinese state orphanages turned mandatory family-size austerity into a for-profit enterprise, selling babies—mostly girls—to oversees adoptions. There are fascinating moments of cultural observation, from the unsurprising results when every family wants their one child to be a boy to the kinds of propaganda employed by the Chinese government to drive its policy home. But One Child Nation finds its emotional hook in the consequences of a government controlling reproductive freedom, including separating twins and punishing uncooperative parents. While one Utah family works at creating a database that might potentially reunite children with birth families, there’s still the disturbing reality of what divided them in the first place. Opens Aug. 23 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—SR

[not yet reviewed]
Faith-based drama about a high-school coach facing personal and professional upheaval. Opens Aug. 23 at theaters valleywide. (PG)

Ready or Not ***
Conservatives are going to feel really sheepish that they spent their culture-war ammo on The Hunt after getting a load of this effectively nasty swipe at inherited wealth. 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 leavening the gory set-pieces. But at its core this is a pretty unapologetic smack in the face of one-percenters, painting their gains as ill-gotten and earned entirely on the basis of 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 the final half-hour lacks the tension of the middle section. But what Ready or Not lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in a gleefully grotesque middle finger at homicidal rapacity. Opens Aug. 21 at theaters valleywide. (R)—SR