Film News: Feb. 20-27 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Culture » Cinema Clips

Film News: Feb. 20-27

New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Realeases

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NEW THIS WEEK
Film release schedules are subject to change.

Arctic 4 Stars
Small-plane crash survivor Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) is stuck in the Arctic. Each day he checks his fishing lines, sends out a hand-cranked distress signal, then zips himself into a sleeping bag inside the ruins of his plane. His luck finally seems to change when a helicopter finds his camp, but horrific weather downs it and kills the pilot, leaving an injured young woman (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir) in Overgård's care, giving him something to live for instead of marking the hours until his death. Mikkelsen is almost entirely the show here, and he makes the most of it, using what little the audience can see of his face and eyes—usually half-covered by a knit hat and a parka hood—and giving perhaps the best performance in his storied career. Director/co-writer Joe Penna wrings maximum suspense from the simple situation, and at a brisk 97 minutes, Arctic never outstays its welcome. Good thing, too—Arctic is so intense that when the end credits rolled, I let out gasps of relief. Opens Feb. 22 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—David Riedel

Fighting With My Family 2.5 Stars
This would be nothing more than a routine underdog sports story if it hadn't been written and directed by Stephen Merchant, the Englishman responsible for most of the funny things Ricky Gervais has ever said on TV. Merchant's fact-based account of a working-class Norwich family obsessed with American pro wrestling is sharp and funny, with amiable performances and an interesting look behind the scenes at WWE. Teens Zak (Jack Lowden) and Raya (Florence Pugh), raised by one-time amateur wrestlers (Nick Frost and Lena Headey), both jump at the chance to audition for WWE, but only Raya is selected by coach Hutch (Vince Vaughn) to train with other hopefuls in Florida. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who encouraged Raya in real life, appears as himself. Raya, whose goth persona is at odds with the bubbly blondes she's teamed with, flirts with changing to be more "normal"—familiar believe-in-yourself sports stuff. But if the dramatic elements are generic, the humor—especially early on—is buoyant enough to make it worthwhile even for non-fans. Opens Feb. 22 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)—Eric D. Snider

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World 2.5 Stars
An animated franchise that so far had been a glorious exploration of reason over violence, human partnership with the natural world and dragons comes to a flat, disappointing conclusion. Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel), now leader of his Viking village, embarks on a quest to save dragonkind from cruel hunter Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) by finding a legendary sanctuary where the beasts can conceal themselves. Yet not only is The Hidden World not about this hidden world—it barely appears—it's not about much of anything else, either. Everything  Hiccup has been working toward over the previous movies is threatened, yet the stakes feel low. Sure, the world of Hiccup and Toothless still looks touchably gorgeous—see this in IMAX if you see it at all—and there's certainly nothing offensive here. Indeed, Hiccup remains a great example of heroic yet non-toxic masculinity. But his final adventure is, sadly, instantly forgettable. Opens Feb. 22 at theaters valleywide. (PG)—MaryAnn Johanson

Never Look Away 2.5 Stars
Only after the movie was over did I realize that this Foreign Language Oscar nominee from Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (2007 Oscar-winner The Lives of Others) was an in-all-but-name "great artist biopic"—based on the life of Gerhard Richter—but in hindsight, that explains a lot. The narrative follows the life of aspiring artist Kurt Barnert (Tom Schilling) over the course of 26 years, from his childhood in Nazi Germany dealing with the tragic loss of his beloved aunt (Saskia Rosendahl), to his courtship with his eventual wife Ellie (Paula Beer) and his unknown connection to Ellie's father, Professor Seeband (Sebastian Koch). An epic 188-minute running time encompasses that journey, as von Donnersmarck touches on Nazi-era eugenics and the way political pedagogies restrict the creation of art. But ultimately the narrative becomes all about Kurt seeking his creative voice, and while von Donnersmarck stages many artist-at-work moments effectively, there's still something vaguely off-putting about employing melodramatic narrative developments—and genuine historical cruelty—to serve a tale about a guy feeling good because he's painting the Truth. Opens Feb. 22 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—Scott Renshaw

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Clash of the Wolves
At Edison Street Events Silent Films, Feb. 21-22, 7:30 p.m. (NR)

Meow Wolf: Origin Story
At Main Library, Feb. 26, 7 p.m. (NR)

Oscar-Nominated Short Films
At Park City Film Series, Feb. 22-23, 8 p.m.; Feb. 24, 6 p.m. (NR)

CURRENT RELEASES

Alita: Battle Angel 3Stars
Director Robert Rodriguez's adaptation of a 1990s manga story offers sci-fi fantasy in a familiar post-apocalyptic landscape, but with a surprising emotional connection. In the year 2563, cybernetics doctor Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) recovers the abandoned core of a young woman he calls Alita (Rosa Salazar)—a cyborg with astonishing fighting skills but no memory of her past. Rodriguez and the writers do a reasonably effective job of establishing this setting's economy of gleaners, criminals and government-sponsored mercenaries, with the wow factor of its various electronically-enhanced denizens. Best of all, Salazar invests Alita herself with an infectious humanity that transcends predictable scenarios and a bland romance. That's what a would-be blockbuster needs in order to stand out from the pack in 2019: Like Alita herself, it's less about all the cutting-edge technology than about the heart that drives it. (PG-13)—SR

Capernaum 2Stars
Director Nadine Labaki's poverty porn rests on a morally indefensible premise: 12-year-old Syrian boy Zain (Zain Al Rafeea), convicted of an adult crime, files a lawsuit against his parents for having him. The bulk of the story flashes back to Zain's rough childhood, running away from home and eventually serving as live-in babysitter for an Ethiopian immigrant. While the non-professional Al Rafeea provides a prickly energy to the unpleasant developments in Zain's life, it's really gilding the lily to mix up the impoverished native underclass with the plight of migrants and the evils of those who prey on their vulnerability. The heartstring-tugging works at times, but when it feels like we're ultimately coming down on the side of "the best way to prevent a lot of suffering is to sterilize the poor," that's, like, a problem. (R)—SR

Isn't It Romantic 3Stars
Is it a cheat or a neat trick to spoof rom-com tropes while also fully embracing them? Rebel Wilson stars as Natalie, a plus-sized, romantically-cynical New Yorker who wakes up from a knock on the head to find herself living inside a romantic comedy. Erin Cardillo's screenplay generally only takes love taps at the genre, rather the body blows landed by They Came Together, so the jokes rarely feel truly inspired. But Wilson delightfully underplays being in the unfamiliar role of desirable to a hunky, rich guy (Liam Hemsworth) and her nice-guy coworker (Adam Devine). You might see the moral coming from a mile away, but you can chuckle both at the idea of people spontaneously breaking into a production number and at the production number itself. (PG-13)—SR

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part 3Stars
Five years and four Lego features after 2014's The Lego Movie, its burst of imagination in the great sea of CGI-animated sameness has given way to something simply fun and diverting, as Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and friends try to fight off Duplo invaders. The script aims again for a mix of winking nods at blockbuster filmmaking and a recognition of how real-world kids process their world through play. And while the gags are generally satisfying, it's hard for the whole thing not to feel like a Duplo-cation of the original, including the attempt to create an earwormy theme song. In fact, at times it feels more like it's trying to mimic the Toy Story franchise—a fine model for great animated filmmaking, but not quite as effective as when everything was awesome and completely distinctive. (PG)—SR

The Prodigy 2.5 Stars
You know how sometimes your gifted 8-year-old son starts lashing out violently and mutters in a foreign language in his sleep? So you take him to the psychologist, and she's like, "Oh, he's probably a reincarnated Hungarian psychopath"? Friend, The Prodigy gets you. This modestly-thrilling, not-too-gory horror entry stars Taylor Schilling as the mother and Jackson Robert Scott as young Miles, a bright lad who hit a classmate with a wrench. Dad's in the picture, too, but the movie has no use for him—which is unfortunate, because Jeff Buhler's screenplay could have used alternate explanations for Miles' behavior. Instead, it reveals early what's going on, then follows straight through to one of a small handful of possible endings. But Schilling's alert, protective mom is strong, and young Scott's ability to switch casually from innocent to creepy is effectively eerie. (R)—EDS