Silver Screen: The Score Card, May 12, 2016 Edition
> opening this week in Carbondale.
< leaving Carbondale this Friday.
by Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.
The Boss (R, ***): Tammy, Melissa McCarthy’s last collaboration with her director and cowriter (and husband, and son of Southern Illinois) Ben Falcone, failed to make use of her incredible versatility and likability. Their second go-round is a bit uneven but a delightful showcase for her exceptional talents. She plays Michelle Darnell, an unapologetic— and sometimes oblivious— business tycoon who plots her return to success after a stint in jail for tax fraud. She teams up with her former put-upon assistant (Kristen Bell) to help form a more empowering— and profitable— version of the Girl Scouts called Darnell’s Darlings. What the movie lacks in plot and conflict it makes up for with its rich characterization and strong punchlines. In between an overly broad opening and a baffling mess of an ending is an hour and fifteen minutes or so of bombastic, empathetic comedy that gives McCarthy access to her full powers. Michelle is awful at times, but also sympathetic, often both at the same time. Some nice supporting performances, including a brief, funny turn from the director himself, help McCarthy along, but the whole enterprise revolves around its mesmerizing star. When the movie isn’t setting up plot or reluctantly trying to wrap it up, and just letting Michelle be Michelle, it sings.
Captain America: Civil War (PG-13, ****): This overstuffed superhero smackdown is both burdened and blessed by its abundance of characters. A cadre of producers and writers, fronted here by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and led by adept directors Joe and Anthony Russo, spend a lot of time— like two-and-a-half hours of it— juggling a bloated roster, trying to unite some plotlines and launch others. Though nominally a sequel to 2014’s Winter Soldier, this is actually the biggest installment yet in Marvel Studios’ ongoing serial. When the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), an old war buddy of Captain America (Chris Evans), is framed for an assassination, Cap takes a group of fellow superheroes (including Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, and Jeremy Renner) off the grid to find the real killers. That draws the ire of their pals, led by Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), who agrees with the government that the superheroes need some kind of regulatory oversight. The eventual result is a big, beautifully destructive setpiece in which a dozen or so characters (including Chadwick Boseman’s debut as Black Panther and new Spider-Man Tom Holland) face off for an effects extravaganza of a royal rumble. All the while the movie maintains the breezy sense of humor that so nicely suits the Marvel movies, and is such a sharp contrast to the grim obligation of that other superhero showdown from earlier in the year.
Criminal (R, **1/2): This genre-bender from director Ariel Vromen and The Rock screenwriters Douglas Cook and David Weisberg isn’t especially good with any of those individual genres— action flick, sci-fi headtrip, espionage drama, serial-killer thriller— but it throws everything together in such an endearingly loopy way as to remain consistently interesting even in its inconsistency. It helps that the B-movie premise is gussied up with an A-list cast. Kevin Costner stars as Jericho Stewart, a feral beast of an inmate whose damaged brain happens to be the only one perfectly suited to a revolutionary new technique pioneered by Doctor Franks (Tommy Lee Jones). Franks will implant the memories of a slain Central Intelligence Agency agent (Ryan Reynolds) into Stewart in hopes of finding a lost secret that will lead authorities to a computer hacker (Michael Pitt) who can save the world from an anarchist tycoon (Jordi Mollà). Gary Oldman, Alice Eve, and Wonder Woman Gal Gadot shoehorn their way into the movie, too, for some strange reason. To say this all works would be a stretch. But it’s easy to imagine an alternate universe where Criminal is beefed up to be a Michael Bay blockbuster— or another one where it’s a runty orphan of a movie born into the harsh world of video-on-demand and Hulu back-catalogue dross. That it exists as it does is some shoddy little miracle, like a two-headed cow or a potato shaped like Jesus.
Keanu (R, ***1/2): Sketch comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele make their debut as feature film stars with this pretty damned funny movie about an uptight suburbanite (Key) and his softhearted stoner pal (Peele) who must pose as gangsters to rescue the latter’s beloved pet kitten. (The kitten is the title character, voiced briefly in a drug hallucination sequence by the man himself.) Key and Peele’s eponymous Comedy Central sketch show set a high standard, one their first movie (cowritten by Peele and directed by sketch-series collaborator Peter Atencio) can’t always match. The guys’ smart take on silliness and occasional forays into surrealism are on display here. Despite a couple of dissonant scenes, the movie mostly avoids the frequent curse of feeling like a series of interrelated sketches stretched out too long. The duo even sneaks in some interesting ideas about the notion of “real blackness” versus “fake blackness,” dismissing the concept even as they play around with stereotypes. And whenever the movie starts to lag, they throw in some squee-worthy slow-motion footage of an adorable kitten running around, making it the frontrunner for World’s Most Elaborate Cat Video.
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
Barbershop: The Next Cut (PG-13): Revamp/third installment of the comedy series about the customers and coworkers at a Chicago barbershop starring Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Regina Hall, Eve, Common, Nicki Minaj, and Anthony Anderson.
> The Darkness (PG-13): A better-than-average cast including Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell, Paul Reiser, and Ming-Na Wen turns out for this small-scale horror flick about a family menaced by an evil spirit that follows them back from their desert vacation.
> Green Room (R): Jeremy Saulnier, director of the acclaimed thriller Blue Ruin, returns with a film about punk rockers who face the wrath of skinheads after they witness a killing. Starring Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development, and, appropriately, The Runaways), Imogen Poots, and Anton Yelchin. (Wissmann)
The Huntsman: Winter’s War (PG-13): This sequel to the pretty, and pretty godawful, Snow White reinterpretation throws Kristen Stewart over entirely to focus on a fantastical feud between the evil white queen (Charlize Theron) and her sister (Emily Blunt), as well as the Marvel-approved hunk (Chris Hemsworth) from the first movie. Featuring Jessica Chastain and Nick Frost.
The Jungle Book (PG): Disney’s live-action, unmusical remake of its own riff on the Rudyard Kipling classic tale about an orphan raised by exotic animals. Directed by Jon Favreau and featuring the voices of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, the late Garry Shandling, and others.
> Money Monster (R): A TV investment guru (George Clooney) and his producer (Julia Roberts) must think fast when a failed investor takes the studio hostage. Directed by Jodie Foster, who may or may not have seen 1997’s terrible, similar Mad City.
Mother’s Day (PG-13): In yet another of director Garry Marshall’s sentimental holiday anthologies (Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve), three generations of interrelated characters played by big stars in quickie roles reveal the different facets of Mother’s Day, the kind of holiday where you have to go with your mother to a movie like this. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, and Jason Sudeikis.
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.
Ratchet and Clank (PG): In this animated adaptation of a popular videogame series, a mechanic/anthropomorphic cat teams up with his robot buddy to join a band of galaxy-saving heroes. The original videogame voice talent is joined by celebs including John Goodman, Rosario Dawson, Paul Giamatti, and Sly Stallone.