FILM NEWS: MAR. 7-13 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

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FILM NEWS: MAR. 7-13

New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Realeases

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NEW THIS WEEK

Birds of Passage 2.5 Stars
As they did in their Oscar-nominated 2015 collaboration Embrace of the Serpent, Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego take on the corruption of indigenous peoples resulting from contact with the outside world—including, apparently, too much influence by that world's cinematic genres. The filmmakers follow the story of Rapayet (José Acosta), a Wayúu Indian of Colombia, who finances the dowry for his wife Zaida (Natalia Reyes) by beginning a marijuana distribution operation. It's not exactly a spoiler to note that getting involved in the drug trade has consequences; the story attempts to focus on how greed and impetuousness lead these Wayúu to violate their most cherished traditions. But while the narrative rarely lingers on mere cultural anthropology, it winds up too immersed in gangland drama clichés instead of giving Rapayet a distinctive personality, with escalating vendettas leading to widespread bloodshed. Guerra and Gallego do offer some vivid imagery—notably the isolated compound Rapayet builds for his family in the middle of the desert—which at least provides a specificity of place the story can't always manage. Opens March 8 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (NR)—Scott Renshaw

Captain Marvel
[not yet reviewed]
The origin story of a former Air Force pilot (Brie Larson) who becomes a powerful intergalactic warrior. Opens March 7 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

Climax 2.5 Stars
"It's a nightmare," screams one character—which, frankly, is a line that could be fittingly spoken in every Gaspar Noé film. Ostensibly basing his story on a real 1996 incident, the provocateur director dives into what happens when the members of a dance company, enjoying a post-rehearsal party, discover that the communal bowl of sangria has been spiked with LSD. It takes nearly half the running time before the drugs kick in, including an intro showing the dancers' audition interviews on a TV set, while visible VHS copies of Salo, Un Chien Andalou and Suspiria provide subtle hints as to what is to come. And Noé doesn't skimp on the uncomfortable material, from forced miscarriage to child abuse to incest to suicide. There's no real point to any of it, aside from a possible metaphor for French society disintegrating into suspicion and violence, but at least there's Noé's always-impressive ability to deliver a full-scale sensory assault: a dizzyingly layered sound design, scenes filtered through pulsing red light and a world turned literally upside-down by the end. If the goal was to cinematically simulate an acid freak-out: Mission accomplished. Opens March 8 at Tower Theatre. (R)—SR

Everybody Knows 2 Stars
See review on p. 35. Opens March 8 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)

The Kid 3 Stars
Rio Cutler (Jake Schur) and his sister Sara (Leila George) kill their psycho father and hit the prairie with their evil uncle (a surprisingly dark Chris Pratt) in hot pursuit; because this is the movies, they naturally cross paths with Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) while he's on the run from Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke). Killing ensues. For all The Kid's faults—and there are many, including its self-serious tone, too much focus on Billy the Kid's psychology when we're already familiar with it, 21st century dialogue coming from 19th century mouths and not enough focus on Rio and Sara after they kick off the story—there's plenty of good. The performances are top notch (particularly DeHaan, whose appeal I've never understood until now, with Hawke and Pratt matching him), there's excellent camera work, and a dark, brooding score keeps the tension high. Director and co-writer Vincent D'Onofrio, who has a small part as a sheriff, knows how to stage a gunfight, and he stages plenty of them. The Kid is a solid western. History buffs in particular will appreciate DeHaan's first appearance on screen. Opens March 8 at Megaplex Jordan Commons. (R)—David Riedel

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-blaché
At Rose Wagner Center, March 13, 7 p.m. (NR)

Capernaum
At Park City Film Series, March 8-9, 8 p.m.; March 10, 6 p.m. (R)

The Covered Wagon
At Edison Street Events, March 7-8, 7:30 p.m. (NR)

I Am Not a Witch
At Main Library, March 12, 7 p.m. (NR)

CURRENT RELEASES

Apollo 11 3.5 Stars
Every frame of Todd Douglas Miller's documentary about the NASA mission that took man to the moon is archival—and the you-are-there intensity he gets from a 50-year-old event is astonishing. Strewn throughout are wonderfully humanizing tidbits, from the crew's quips (Michael Collins tells mission control, when his vital-sign indicators stop working, "If I stop breathing, I'll be sure to let you know") to photo montages reminding us that these three pioneers had childhoods, careers and families. And there are reminders of how monumental an undertaking this was, as we watch ground technicians sitting behind bank after bank of massive computers. There are certainly moments when the rapid-fire technical jargon becomes a lot to process. But it's a terrific achievement to make the countdown to ignition feel as uncertain and fraught with consequence as if you didn't know the outcome. (G)—SR

Greta 2 Stars
A throwback to mid-1990s "from hell" thrillers, this reminds us what was necessary for those genre entries to work on a rudimentary level. Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) finds a lost purse on a subway and returns it to widowed Greta (Isabelle Huppert), beginning a friendship that curdles when Greta becomes obsessed with Frances. Rather than providing a slow burn of Greta's breakdown, Greta has her go off the rails too soon, and too obviously, for anyone to doubt there's something bad going down. That early turn does allow Huppert to go impressively bonkers, yet director Neil Jordan doesn't take full advantage of that whacked-out performance. The script winds up too obvious and lacking in detail, making it easy to see Greta transform into a monster—a surrogate mom from hell, even—while the movie around her is barely from heck. (R)—SR

Tyler Perry's A Madea Family Funeral 2 Stars
The Madea franchise remains excruciating and baffling, offering viewers occasional flecks of bemusement at how misguided it is. Sassy grandma Madea, her straight-man nephew Brian and her raunchy brothers Joe and Heathrow—all played by Perry—are irrelevant observers to the main action, a family gathering at which infidelities are revealed. Most of the plot elements, which would be traumatic if played seriously, are treated as farce, but not the funny kind of farce (though Perry clearly believes he is hilarious). The dialogue sounds like it's being made up by actors who didn't know they'd be asked to improvise. I kept wanting to take a red pen to the screenplay and cross out lines—or entire scenes—that didn't need to be there. The result would still have been bad, but at least it would have been shorter. (PG-13)—Eric D. Snider

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