Movie Reviews: New Releases for Oct. 22 | Buzz Blog
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Movie Reviews: New Releases for Oct. 22

Dune, Ron's Gone Wrong, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain and more

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Ron's Gone Wrong - 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS
  • 20th Century Studios
  • Ron's Gone Wrong
13 Fanboy *
I guess one way to pay homage to the low-budget slasher horror of the 1980s is to make a movie so sloppy that those other movies look brilliant by comparison. It’s the tale of a copycat killer stalking cast members from Friday the 13th movies—including co-writer/director Debora Voorhees (her actual name) in the film’s 13-years-ago prologue—focusing on “scream queen” Dee Wallace (playing herself) and Voorhees’ granddaughter (Hayley Greenbauer) trying to stay alive. The premise presents an excuse for several cameos by slasher alumni, with incongruous moments like frequent Jason-portrayer Kane Hodder getting a full-on monologue. But unlike the Scream films at their best, 13 Fanboy is terrible on its own merits as a serial-killer thriller, with atrocious editing that blunts every potentially interesting kill and a mix of murder motivations that don’t work at all in combination. Plus you’ve got Corey Feldman as a sleazy producer allowed to over-act to a risible degree. The Friday the 13th “trivia for your life” game to which one victim is subjected briefly suggests the poke at toxic fan cultures this could have been, instead of another cheap and pointlessly violent piece of genre hackery. Available Oct. 22 via SLFSatHome.org and in theaters. (NR)

Becoming Cousteau ***
When the subject of a documentary lived out so much of his life on camera, it’s actually a bit more of a challenge to get at what he was all about off camera. Director Liz Garbus profiles the celebrated oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, tracking his life-long fascination with the sea including his service in the French Navy, and his role in developing technologies like the demand regulator “aqualung” that allowed for untethered deep-diving. He also played a role in developing offshore oil drilling—petroleum dollars financed the Calypso in its early years—and Garbus does find a compelling arc in Cousteau’s growing environmental consciousness and his repudiation of his own contribution to harming the world’s oceans. Much of the rest of the film, however, dabbles around the edges of stuff that would have made for a more well-rounded portrait of the man, including his sometimes-distant relationship with his oldest sons and the extent to which he thought of himself as a filmmaker, and specifically not a maker of “documentaries.” We do get plenty of footage of Cousteau in his trademark red beanie on the deck of the Calypso, and the underwater footage captured by his crew, as Becoming Cousteau helps convey what an influential figure its subject was, and how much more influential he wishes he could have been. Available Oct. 22 in theaters. (PG-13)

Dune ***
See feature review. Available Oct. 22 in theaters and via HBO Max. (PG-13)

Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy in The Electrical Life of Louis Wain - AMAZON STUDIOS
  • Amazon Studios
  • Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy in The Electrical Life of Louis Wain
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain **1/2
I’ve spent so much time complaining about the ways biopics trudge through their Wikipedia entries that I feel I should be more grateful for what director/co-writer Will Sharpe is trying to do here. His subject is Louis Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch), born into the gentry of Victorian England but whose life took odd turns: marrying his sisters’ governess, Emily (Claire Foy); dealing with mental illness; and finding fame as an artist through his whimsical drawings of anthropomorphized cats. Sharpe’s approach gives a kick to some of the more conventional rhythms of the “troubled artist” profile, with iris-shot flashbacks, kaleidoscopic images and the judicious use of omniscient narration (by Foy’s fellow The Crown Queen Elizabeth, Olivia Colman). Unfortunately, once the focus shifts from the relationship between Louis and Emily, the narrative drifts through too many disconnected-feeling episodes, which may represent Louis’ increasingly fragmented state of mind, but still makes for rough viewing. And Sharpe can’t always find the right tone between fanciful imagery and taking Louis’ mental-health issues more seriously. The result is a noble effort, admirably devoted to avoiding cliches—like the ubiquitous “pictures of the real person at the end”—while not finding quite enough to replace them. Available Oct. 22 in theaters and via Amazon Prime. (PG-13)

Ron’s Gone Wrong **1/2
A well-meaning probe into the complexities of digital-age adolescence, this animated feature from directors Sarah Smith (Arthur Christmas) and Jean-Philippe Vine (a fellow Aardman veteran) doesn’t quite crack the code for finding a real emotional hook. Barney Pudowski (voice of Jack Dylan Grazer) is a lonely middle-schooler whose single dad (Ed Helms) can’t afford the personal “best friend” robots that have become all the rage—until dad finds one that literally fell off the back of a truck, and the damaged ’bot called Ron (Zach Galifianakis) starts complicating Barney’s life. There’s a zippy energy to the story, and the voice performances are uniformly strong—particularly Grazer, who adds to his Luca work to make for a great one-two punch this year. But even as the narrative convincingly evokes what it’s like to desperately need connection as a youth, there’s no way a kid-friendly effort like this could be willing to dig into the potentially darker corners of teens and tweens devastated by becoming social-media pariahs, or being on the receiving end of bullying. The result is something too concerned with being genial to share a worthwhile lesson, like if someone tried to make a PG-rated animated version of Eighth Grade. Available Oct. 22 in theaters. (PG)