Big Time Adolescence ***
Betty Gilpin in The Hunt
Hypothetically speaking, if this movie consisted solely of 90 minutes of Pete Davidson smiling goofily and describing everything as “sick,” it might still be hella-fun. It turns out to be more than that, following the friendship between 16-year-old Mo (Griffin Glick) and his unlikely best friend: 23-year-old Zeke (Davidson), the pot-smoking, layabout ex-boyfriend of Mo’s sister. Mo’s esteem for Zeke frustrates Mo’s dad (Jon Cryer), and it’s interesting to see paternal concern played as something akin to jealousy. The real pleasures, though, are in the relationship between Zeke and Mo, where get something they desperately need—for Mo, the attention of someone he thinks is cool, and for Zeke, that feeling of someone thinking he’s cool. Writer/director Jason Orley breezes past the loneliness at the heart of Zeke’s character, though we get a glimpse of the future awaiting him when Zeke’s own mentor shows up. Mostly, Davidson gives a hilarious performance as a guy who wants the benefits of being admired without any of the responsibilities, accentuated by Orley’s sharp editing rhythms. He understands how adults who refuse to grow up are hilarious—until they’re more than a little sad. Opens March 13 at Tower Theatre.
It seems Vin Diesel ran out of steam with the other franchises he does (xXx
) when he’s not driving and fighting in the never-ending Fast & Furious
saga. So, here he comes headlining his own superhero movie, hella loosely based on the Bloodshot comic books. He’s Marine Ray Garrison, killed along with his wife and brought back to life by a scientist (Guy Pearce) who makes him an unkillable super-soldier. Garrison immediately sets off after the dude who killed him and his girl—or so he thinks. It turns out he always gets reprogrammed by the scientist, and is simply wiping out Pearce’s enemies. So, this is basically Diesel’s Memento
(with an oh-so-clever touch casting Leonard Shelby himself as the guy sending Diesel on his wild goose chases). It’s mostly a vapid origin story punctuated by insanely-orchestrated action set pieces from director David S.F. Wilson, like Diesel taking out a throng of machine gun-toting mercenaries—in a tunnel covered in powder! But if you’re a fan of Diesel kicking ass when he’s not being a smart ass, it’s not a bad way to waste a couple hours. Opens March 13 at theaters valleywide.
(PG-13)—Craig D. Lindsey
The Hunt **
There’s something particularly irritating about something that might have been a perfectly good exploitation yarn if it hadn’t been wrapped up in a lot of smug posturing about Our Current Political Moment. The much-publicized premise is basically true: A group of wealthy liberals drug and kidnap a dozen conservatives, and let them loose to chase them down for sport. The back-story is only slightly more complicated than that, as director Craig Zobel and screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse (all veterans of The Leftovers
) are content to draw virtually every one of their characters as a cartoon of either fuming MAGAs or platitude-spewing snowflakes, vaguely connected by some notion of an unnecessary war instigated by confirmation bias. The one exception—audience surrogate Crystal (Betty Gilpin)—seems intended to represent all the “normal Americans” caught between Both Sides extremists, but even she’s left as a type rather than a person. Everything that’s kind of gruesomely startling about the kickoff of “the hunt” itself, including some familiar faces making surprisingly early exits, is buried in an allegory that’s only really fun when it’s just-plain-gory. Opens March 13 at theaters valleywide.
I Still Believe **1/2
See feature review
. Opens March 13 at theaters valleywide.
If Swallow had been made in the 1950s, it would have been radical; today, it’s banal. Which is perhaps why writer-director Carlo Mirabella-Davis chose to co-opt a slick postwar aesthetic for this slice of housewife horror. When she isn’t vacuuming the modernist glass box perched atop the Hudson she shares with her piece-of-shit husband (Austin Stowell)— in a vintage-y full-swing skirt, no less—lonely Hunter (Haley Bennett) is gulping down marbles, paper clips and other dangerous nonfood objects. Pica, this eating disorder is called, and it’s a real thing, but here the feminist metaphor is overstretched and depressingly stale. Hunter is dealing with real trauma, which only begins with her horrible husband and his toxic parents (Elizabeth Marvel and David Rasche). But her isolation feels less like an authentic part of spousal abuse and more like a flawed component of a man’s spin on a woman’s trauma. There are nice touches: Hunter eating the pages of a self-help book is sharp, and Bennett’s performance is both terrific and terrifyingly dedicated. But instead of becoming scary, Swallow remains shallow. Opens March 13 at Tower Theatre.
The Times of Bill Cunningham **1/2
The obvious place to start is, “Why, after 2011’s Bill Cunningham New York
, did we need another documentary about Bill Cunningham?” And the honest answer is, “We didn’t need it, but that doesn’t mean there’s not some good stuff.” Director Mark Bozek organizes his film around an interview he conducted with Cunningham in 1994, and as a result the focus is squarely on the earlier years of Cunningham’s life in the fashion scene before transitioning into his “Street Life” photography for the New York Times
. Bozek leans heavily on illustrating his subject’s stories with Cunningham’s own photographs, so we get plenty of celebrity shots, and stories that involve plenty of casual name-dropping. Fortunately, Cunningham is a lively enough raconteur—and infectious in his enthusiasm for the professional life he’s had the privilege to live—to engage even audience members who are already thoroughly familiar with Cunningham’s story from the previous documentary. The narration by Sarah Jessica Parker proves mostly to be a distraction, like a Carrie Bradshaw-filtered version of Cunningham’s New York; Cunningham’s own undiluted emotion about the beauty and tragedy he’s seen is all we really need. Opens March 13 at Broadway Centre Cinemas.
The Traitor **1/2
For an epic-length historical drama, Marco Bellocchio’s film sure feels like it skimps on developing its title character. He’s Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), a Sicilian Cosa Nostra operative who, in the mid-1980s, became infamous for cooperating with an Italian government prosecution of mob bosses. The scenes involving the trials themselves are far and away the strongest material, capturing a circus of hoots and threats from the accused in courtroom cages, and confrontations between Tommaso and his ex-colleagues that play out more like theater than legal proceedings. But the rest of the narrative feels wildly episodic, with Tommaso either in jail or in witness protection before the next time he has to take the stand. And while it’s clear that Tommaso’s break from Cosa Nostra is based on his belief that they abandoned their code long before he did, there’s a complexity missing from his role in this landmark event, and how he copes with life away from it. You’ll learn a lot more about an interesting piece of Italian—and organized crime—history than you will about il traditore
himself. Opens March 13 at Broadway Centre Cinemas.
The latest movie from Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild
) once again has him following lower-class kids on a magical journey. This retelling of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan saga has the titular character (Devin France) and her twin brothers (Gage and Gavin Naquin) following a dreadlocked Peter (Yashua Mack) to an island full of kids of color, who follow a big-ass, luminescent fish they call “Mother” and apparently never age. Unfortunately, the movie spirals out-of-control in the second half, as Wendy and her brothers get into danger which has them confronting their own mortality, something the timeless Peter prefers not to deal with. This movie may also make some parents mad, as it virtually makes the case that kids who go missing end up in a distant land where they don’t grow old, and play the whole damn time. Zeitlin may be a filmmaker who wants to remind people how much wonder and optimism they had in their arsenal back when they were young, but this well-intentioned but woefully miscalculated effort ends up getting away from him. This movie is—dare I say it—Zeitlin’s Hook
. Opens March 13 at theaters valleywide.