Silver Screen: The Score Card, March 31, 2016 Edition
> opening this week in Carbondale.
< leaving Carbondale this Friday.
Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.
Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice (PG-13, *): The title tells you exactly what you’re in for, but that doesn’t make this befuddling, somber superhero flick all that much easier— or more desirable— to follow. It’s like having a black bag thrown over your head by ISIS and being driven toward your own execution— you know exactly where you’re going, but you won’t have any clue how you got there. Incensed over the collateral damage seen in Man of Steel, Gothamite billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) decides to employ his alter-ego Batman to stop Superman (Henry Cavill) before he can cause more harm. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) talks him into it. They duke it out before finding common ground and uniting to match up against a greater threat. It’s standard-issue superhero plotting, but director Zack Snyder nearly transforms the movie into an art project with his lack of transitions from scene to scene, its abandonment of traditional narrative cohesion, the frequently unsignaled descents into lengthy dream sequences, and dialogue so ponderous it verges on abstraction. It’s distinctive, admittedly, but it’s also a joyless mess without structure, momentum, or a single likable character. At over two and a half hours, it’s so long you could actually go see a regular-length movie starting at the same time, then theater-hop over just in time to catch the promised title bout. In fact, that’s probably the only smart way to see this fundamentally misguided clunker. Biggest upside: Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) shows up, and she’s pretty neat.
< 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.
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.
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
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.
> Eye in the Sky (R): Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Aaron Paul star in this exploration of the problems with the use of drones as tools of war. (Wissmann)
> God’s Not Dead II (PG): Wouldn’t a more logical title have been God’s Still Not Dead? Either way, spoiler alert. This time around a high-school teacher gets in hot holy water for talkin’ Jesus during school hours. Featuring Melissa Joan Hart, Robin Givens, Pat Boone, and the late Sen. Fred Thompson.
> I Saw the Light (R): Marc Abraham directs this biopic about Hank Williams Sr., the man who didn’t invent country music so much as transform it into something that would never be the same after his wild life and early death, to say nothing of his great songs, which rival some of the best literature in the history of the English language. That’s a lot for a movie to live up to. Starring Tom Hiddleston as Hank and Elizabeth Olsen as his wife, Audrey. (Wissmann)
< 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.