Silver Screen: The Score Card, April 7, 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.
< I Saw the Light (R, *): Nearly everything is wrong with this joyless, dreadful biopic of the great country singer Hank Williams. Writer and director Marc Abraham doesn’t evince much fondness for his subject, whose music and inspiration fall to the wayside in favor of an endless series of scenes of Hank (Tom Hiddleston) drinking and being mean to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen). All that may be true, but plenty of men throughout history have been mean married drunks. Williams is an icon for reasons the movie doesn’t even begin to attempt to explain or explore. Hiddleston is a fine actor, but he’s miscast, and his vocal recreations of Williams’s songs almost totally fail to capture that signature twang and moan. It’s a pretty movie, thanks to masterful Italian cinematographer Dante Spinotti, but it’s also aimless, dull, and utterly lacking any kind of thesis or focus. Odd that a film about one of the greatest American songwriters of all time is better watched with the sound off.
< 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 Boss (R): Southern Illinois’s own Ben Falcone directs this comedy that he cowrote with his wife, star Melissa McCarthy, who brings an old favorite character from her improv days to the screen. McCarthy plays a crooked businesswoman looking to remake her personality after a stint in jail. Featuring Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage, and Kathy Bates.
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.
> Hardcore Henry (R): This frenzied flick about a man brought back to life to enact revenge puts the audience in the action by mimicking the look of a first-person shooter. The easily motion-sick beware. Featuring Tim Roth and Sharlto Copley.
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.