Silver Screen: The Score Card, March 24, 2016 Edition
> opening this week in Carbondale.
< leaving Carbondale this Friday.
Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.
< The Bronze (R): The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch cowrites and stars in this comedy about an ill-tempered third-place gymnast who agrees to mentor a young hopeful. Featuring Gary Cole and Thomas Middleditch.
Deadpool (R, ***1/2): If Spider-Man was created when a radioactive spider bit an ordinary teenage boy, then Deadpool must have been bitten by a radioactive teenage boy. This gleefully profane, ultraviolent superhero romp is unabashedly adolescent, even by the standards of a genre based on young male power fantasies. While it’s sometimes grating, especially in its total inability to bypass a stupid or obvious joke, that sophomoric attitude distinguishes the movie from its blander, less-entertaining counterparts. Ryan Reynolds stars as a snarky hitman bestowed with superhuman healing abilities by a secret science experiment. It’s straightforward Marvel Comics formula, but the zany execution conjures the artful insanity of animators Chuck Jones and Tex Avery. Reynolds has the timing of a decent standup comic, which he uses to deliver a barrage of gags so fast that the good ones distract you from the really bad ones. It works, mostly, more as an unhinged comedy than a truly thrilling action flick. Featuring Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, and Ed Skrein.
< The Hateful Eight (R, ****): Quentin Tarantino’s prankster spirit is alive and well. The writer/director is irascible as ever in this indulgent, provocative Western, which courts divisiveness with its dark racial comedy, gleeful misogyny, ambling pace, and inevitable but still stunning descent into brutal violence. The eight characters of the title converge in a snowy Wyoming outpost for a grim night of revelation. The only woman, Daisy Domergue (a never better Jennifer Jason Leigh) is to be hanged in nearby Red Rock, thanks in large part to white-hatted bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell). But the chance encounter with another bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson), a would-be sheriff (Walton Goggins), a silent cowboy (Michael Madsen), a Confederate military officer (Bruce Dern), and a pair of cagey immigrants (Tim Roth and Demián Bichir) leaves Ruth to suspect a conspiracy to kill him and free his prisoner. Tarantino reverts back to too-familiar tricks in the end, but the leadup to the inevitably bloody conclusion is chock full of crackerjack dialogue, gorgeous snowscapes, and grim slapstick. Jackson dominates the screen while Goggins sneakily steals the show. It’s a story about the power of storytelling, and even its digressions and faults are fascinating.
Ten Cloverfield Lane (R, **1/2): This claustrophobic thriller would have been a little better if it had been called anything other than Ten Cloverfield Lane. A young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes after a car crash to find herself sealed in a bunker with a paranoid survivalist (John Goodman) and his inadvertent tagalong (John Gallagher Jr.) following what the survivalist insists was a catastrophic attack aboveground. She must decide whether or not she’s safer taking her chances below with her captor or risking escape into the possibly changed world above. It’s a fun premise that allows director Dan Trachtenberg to create some effective moments of tension, but the balance is all off in the storytelling. Even if the title didn’t signal to even the semi-savvy moviegoer that there’s likely to be a big twist, possibly relating to the 2008 kinda classic Godzilla riff Cloverfield, the climax is not especially surprising and far too abrupt. The last ten minutes of the movie make the first hour and a half seem like a first act dragged out to interminable lengths, like a Twilight Zone episode when it expanded from a half-hour to a full hour and somehow lost the magic.
< Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (R, ****): Tina Fey stars in this adaptation of journalist Kim Baker’s account about her experiences as an unlikely war correspondent in the early days of the War on Terror. The film’s lack of a significant throughline or specific goal is a function of the war’s uncertainty, and a kind of critique of the war itself. The genre-bending movie is a fascinating, funny, sometimes harrowing mosaic that explores the culture clash of Western journalists and the Afghan people, the chaos of war, and the small moments of clarity and humanity that emerge. Codirectors Glen Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris and Crazy, Stupid, Love) do nice work juggling the disparate tones and emotions, and screenwriter Robert Carlock helps his star put her considerable wit to use. There are several terrific performances in the movie from the likes of Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Margot Robbie, and Christopher Abbot, but Fey binds the whole fascinating mess together. She’s a rocketship full of talent and, perhaps pushed beyond her comfort zone into sometimes straightforward drama, she acquits herself nicely.
Zootopia (PG): Disney’s latest computer-animated comedy proves to be their first project in a long time that achieves the high mark set by its subsidiary studio Pixar— not a movie suitable for kids and tolerable to adults, but a truly all-ages film. The writer/director/animation whiz team of Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush blends a half-dozen or so subgenres of crime movie— including noir, buddy-cop, mafia, and a touch of Serpico— then sets the story in a world full of adorable talking animals. It’s not exactly high-concept, but the fusion of cutesy kiddie tropes and snuggle-softcore crime flick is surprisingly seamless. The cleverest innovation is a bustling city filled with diverse species all living in biome-appropriate neighborhoods, this the product of an old truce between predators and prey. When Judy Hops (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) becomes the first bunny on the police force, she has to join forces with a conniving con-artist fox (Jason Bateman) to help crack a case that threatens the balance of the city itself. The movie drops references to Chinatown, The Godfather, and Breaking Bad, but moreover, it incorporates their sprit and aesthetic to become something (a little) greater than pastiche, all while packing in scores of clever animal gags. The movie’s obligatory message is a bit muddled— you can do anything you want to, except maybe you can’t, but you should definitely try!— but the jokes, the textured world, and the surprisingly kinda-compelling story more than make up for it.
Also in or Coming to Local Theaters
> Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice (PG-13): The title says it all. Except for the part about how Warner Brothers is using this movie as the launchpad for its own universe of interrelated comic-book characters, several of whom will be introduced during the two-and-a-half hour running time of this heavyweight fight between Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill. Featuring Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, and Scoot McNairy.
> The Divergent Series: Allegiant (PG-13): The increasingly god-awful Hunger Games knockoff franchise lumbers on into a third sequel as Tris (Shailene Woodley) must venture beyond the barriers of post-apocalyptic Chicago to find... well, not too much, because the story was split in two, promising yet a fourth film regardless. Ugh.
London Has Fallen (R): In this sequel to the successful and pretty grim Olympus Has Fallen, a former Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler) once again must team up with the President (Aaron Eckhart) to save lives after terrorists destroy a landmark. Instead of the White House, they knock down most of London in an effort to kill all world leaders. Big fun. With Morgan Freeman and Radha Mitchell but not original director Antoine Fuqua.
> Miracles from Heaven (PG): When a young woman with an incurable digestive disorder survives a head injury, she believes that she visits heaven, then returns and finds herself suddenly starting to recover her ability to eat. (Wissmann)
> My Big Fat Greek Wedding II (PG-13): A scant fourteen years after Nia Vardalos’s charming, edgeless ethnic rom-com became an indie smash, she and onscreen hubby John Corbett plan to renew their vows for the benefit of their daughter and Greek comedic character actors everywhere.
< The Young Messiah (PG-13): Retelling of the early life of Jesus based on a book by Anne Rice, starring Game of Thrones’ Sean Bean.