FILM NEWS: JAN. 30 - FEB. 5 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Culture » Cinema Clips


New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Releases




Gretel & Hansel
[not yet reviewed]
A brother and sister find evil in the woods. Opens Jan. 31 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

Oscar Shorts—Animated 3.5 stars
There's a rich thread of emotional connections running through the five films nominated for the Animated Short Film Academy Award, giving them all a real punch even beyond their technical skill. Hair Love, from Matthew A. Cherry, Everett Downing Jr. and Bruce W. Smith, brings layers of satisfying storytelling to a Black father helping his daughter style her challenging hair. And the joys and sadness of familial bonds inform three international stop-motion entries as well. 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—only one of which, Hors Piste, is more focused on silliness than seriousness—and you've got a fantastic representation of how much powerful storytelling can be delivered in a small package. Opens Jan. 31 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (NR)—Scott Renshaw

Oscar Shorts—Live Action 3 stars
There's often such an earnestness to Oscar-nominated short films that it's refreshing when one is just light-hearted. NEFTA Football Club, a Tunisia-set film from director Yves Piat, has fun with a teenager finding a literal drug mule, set on his way by two particularly inept traffickers, and it leads up to a satisfying punch line. The other Tunisian offering—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. Opens Jan. 31 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (NR)—SR

The Rhythm Section
[not yet reviewed]
A woman (Blake Lively) plots her revenge against those responsible for the death of her family. Opens Jan. 31 at theaters valleywide. (R)


Artist Foundry Short Films Showcase
At Main Library, Feb. 4, 7 p.m. (NR)

Sundance Film Festival
At locations in Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance Resort, through Feb. 2. (NR)


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 sent 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)—SR

Bad Boys for Life 3 stars
I'm happy to report that the latest, long-awaited installment in the Will Smith-Martin Lawrence action franchise isn't a catastrophe. Unlike the last Michael Bay-directed sequel—a crass carnage-fest nowhere near as fun and hilarious as the original—this one, from Belgian filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, gives us over-the-top action sequences while realizing it's the comic moments between Smith and Lawrence that people come to see. Both stars bring their shit-talking A-game to this one, as the aging cops team up with young, tech-savvy officers (including Vanessa Hudgens and Alexander Ludwig) to take down killer baddies. Although clumsily plotted at points (with a big twist that might remind people of another recent Will Smith movie), this has just the right amount of enjoyable junk to keep it from becoming the straight-up trash we usually expect from Jerry Bruckheimer productions. (R)—Craig D. Lindsey

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 and 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 delusions 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

Just Mercy 3 stars
Some movies stir your sense of outrage at the injustice of our world, while not necessarily offering a lot more beyond that sense of outrage. Destin Daniel Cretton co-wrote and directed this adaptation of the memoir by Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a Harvard-educated African-American lawyer who moves to Alabama in the 1990s to work for a nonprofit legal service for death-row inmates. There, Stevenson meets Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), convicted for the murder of a young white woman, where all the evidence suggests he was railroaded. If you're guessing that Stevenson faces opposition from the white Alabama establishment—including threats subtle and overt—you would be correct, and Cretton does build into those scenes a genuine tension. But while we righteously fume over the institutional obstacles to freeing a Black man who committed no crime, Just Mercy is stronger in its character moments, most notably from Foxx, but also from Tim Blake Nelson as the primary witness against McMillian. The formulaic structure still allows for an appreciation of the grueling, frustrating work of getting a rigged system to admit that it was about to kill an innocent man. (PG-13)—SR

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

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