FILM NEWS: FEB. 6-12 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Culture » Cinema Clips

FILM NEWS: FEB. 6-12

New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Releases

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NEW THIS WEEK

Birds of Prey
[not yet reviewed]
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) are among the DC Comics characters taking on a crime boss (Ewan McGregor). Opens Feb. 7 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

Invisible Life 3.5 Stars
Billed as a "tropical melodrama," this period-piece tearjerker (and Brazil's official entry for this year's Best International Film Oscar) is certainly a sun-bleached version of the kind of kitchen-sinkers Douglas Sirk used to do in his sleep back in the day. This movie follows two sisters, a budding piano prodigy (Carol Duarte) and her free-spirited big sis (Julia Stockler), in 1950s Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, they spend most of their lives kept away from one another after their father (Antônio Fonseca) disowns the older sister for running off and getting pregnant. Any person who's had to deal with their own fare of deceitful, family bullshit will no doubt connect with this story, based on a Martha Batalha novel. Writer-director Karim Ainouz gives audiences a moving portrait of two women trying to hold on to each other as their dreams and aspirations fade away, thanks mostly to a patriarchal society filled with oppressive men who think they know better. Think of this film as a less-palefaced companion to Greta Gerwig's Little Women. Opens Feb. 7 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—Craig D. Lindsey

Oscar Shorts - Documentary
[not yet reviewed]
Showcase of the Academy Award nominees for Documentary Short Subject. Opens Feb. at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (NR)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

After Parkland
At Main Library, Feb. 12, 7 p.m. (NR)

Afterward
At Main Library, Feb. 11, 7 p.m. (NR)

Oscar Shorts
At Park City Film Series, Feb. 7-8, 8 p.m. & Feb. 9, 6 p.m. (NR)

CURRENT RELEASES

1917 3 Stars
If you want viewers immersed in your story, what value is there in repeatedly reminding them, "This shot was really hard to pull off?" Director Sam Mendes approximates a single-take, real-time story set on the World War I front lines of France in April 1917, as British Army Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) set off on a mission to inform a company of fellow soldiers that they're about to head into a German trap. From the outset, Mendes builds tension into their harrowing journey, and veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins lends his distinctive touch to the increasingly hallucinatory tale anchored by MacKay's intense performance. But then there's that whole gimmick thing, and a story built on the notion of feeling it shouldn't leave you instead simply admiring its technique from a slight remove. (R)—Scott Renshaw

Dolittle 1 Star
This latest interpretation of the talk-to-the-animals doctor (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a mopey recluse, holed up in his estate with his critter friends and mourning his lost wife. Along comes a young courtier (Carmel Laniado) with a mission for him to save the ailing Queen Victoria, and also there's an animal loving fellow (Harry Collett) who wants to be Dolittle's apprentice. A quest for some mysterious something-or-other ensues, with familiar voices saying witty things like "that's gotta hurt" when a gorilla knees a tiger in the balls. The crowning catastrophic glory is Downey's performance, which answers the question, "What would it sound like if someone tried to do a Welsh accent for 100 minutes while falling asleep?" We should be angry that so much money is thrown at something this misbegotten, and that we've apparently decided children don't deserve any better. (PG)—SR

The Gentlemen 3 Stars
Director Guy Ritchie returns to telling blackly comedic stories about modern-day London criminals, in this tale of journalist Fletcher (Hugh Grant, continuing his quest to ensure that the entire planet knows he no longer has the tiniest fuck to give) attempting to extort a boatload of cash from drug dealer/American expat Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) after digging up plenty of dirt on him. The narrative consists largely of Fletcher relating this dirt, which means we never know which bits we should accept as accurate; is it all just fodder for the morons listening (or watching)? But the real meta stuff here involves an unapologetic metaphor for Brexit, as Mickey takes advantage of British aristocratic delusion to further his business. It's all just silly cinematic fun! With nothing that makes you laugh about the real world lest you cry! Of course. (R)—MaryAnn Johanson

Little Women 3.5 Stars
Writer-director Greta Gerwig takes Louisa May Alcott's 150-year-old text and finds a way of telling it that feels new and vital. She radically re-imagines the structure, opening with Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) already in New York trying to build a career as a writer; the narrative flashes back from there seven years to Jo and her sisters—Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen)—living with their mother (Laura Dern). That fragmented chronology turns it into a tale juxtaposing the lives the young protagonists imagine for themselves with the choices they ultimately have available. Yet it's also gloriously entertaining, thanks to the top-notch casting. It's wonderful to see this source material as a call to recognize the unfairness the world might throw at you, stare it down, and decide you're going to make your own happiness. (PG)—SR

Oscar Shorts—Animated 3.5 Stars
The joys and sadness of familial bonds inform four of the nominees. Hair Love brings layers of satisfying storytelling to a Black father helping his daughter style her challenging hair. Bruno Collet's Mémorable offers a surrealist take on an artist and his wife struggling with his progressive memory loss, while Daria Kashcheeva's Dcera (Daughter) brings an almost verité-style camera work to a woman at her father's deathbed, and Siqi Song's Sister makes China's one-child policy deeply personal. Only the Pixar entry, Rosanna Sullivan's Kitbull, isn't expressly about family, but the beautiful connection between a stray kitten and a mistreated pit bull terrier might as well be. Add a few other shorts to fill out the program and you've got a fantastic representation of how much powerful storytelling can be delivered in a small package. (NR)—SR

Oscar Shorts—Live Action 3 Stars
NEFTA Football Club has fun with a teenager finding a literal drug mule, leading up to a satisfying punch line. Meryan Joobeur's Brotherhood is a much more somber affair, dealing with a family's oldest son returning home after going to Syria to fight with ISIS, and finding his father slow to forgive his actions. There's more seriousness to be found in Delphine Girard's A Sister (Une Soeur), with a Belgian woman who has been abducted trying to convey her plight to an emergency-services operator, and in Saria, Bryan Buckley's sluggish-but-socially-conscious (and therefore probably the favorite) narrative about a real-life tragedy at a Guatemalan orphanage. My favorite? Marshall Curry's The Neighbors' Window, which takes a grass-is-always-greener story about a harried married-with-kids New York couple and finds some grace notes about how appealing your own life can look to others. (NR)—SR

The Rhythm Section 1.5 Stars
Not a single human interaction in this disaster of a spy thriller rings true—not even the exploitive, baldly transactional ones. Poor Blake Lively does her best as Stephanie Patrick, a former top-of-her-class Oxford University student turned (checks notes) crack-smoking prostitute turned (checks notes) freelance intelligence operative-assassin. But the hamfisted script—by Mark Burnell, from his novel—elides all motivation essential for understanding and empathizing with everyone onscreen. What the heck drives Raza Jaffrey's journalist to approach Stephanie about the story he's investigating, that the plane crash that killed her whole family was, in fact, an act of terrorism covered up at the highest levels? What the hell drives Jude Law's ex-MI6 agent when he decides to turn Patrick into a kickass secret agent who can hunt down the perpetrators of that terror incident? Who can say? Not this movie. (R)—MAJ

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker 2 Stars
J.J. Abrams attempts to wrap up 40 years of Star Wars' Skywalker saga with the possible return of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), as all of our main characters—Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)—try to figure out what it all means. The set pieces, while energetically staged, involve a lot of racing around trying to find a Very Important Object, or even trying to find the Very Important Object that will help them find another Very Important Object. We also get new characters, making the movie even more densely packed with stuff. But the Elephant-in-the-Throne-Room problem is that this feels like a cover-band version of Return of the Jedi, puts characters through the motions of arcs we've seen before, and offers a comforting pat on the head without any surprises. (PG-13)—SR

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