Silver Screen: The Score Card, May 26, 2016 Edition
> opening this week in Carbondale.
< leaving Carbondale this Friday.
< 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.
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.
Money Monster (R, *1/2): Money Monster means to be a social critique in the guise of a thriller, but what it turns out to be is an artless finger wag of a movie that scolds and disrespects its audience while simultaneously failing to deliver on its most basic duties, much less deliver any significant insight. When a gunman (Jack O’Connell) takes control of a live TV taping of financial guru Lee Gates’s (George Clooney) gimmicky investment program, the show’s resourceful producer (Julia Roberts) must keep control of the situation— and keep the cameras running. The gunman plot gives way to a larger, theoretically more salient but far less interesting mystery about a company run by a mysterious mogul (Dominic West), who uses the rigged system to bilk shareholders out of $600 million. Director Jodie Foster puts her characters through the most perfunctory paces of a thriller, generating a little suspense thanks mostly to the action playing out in real time. The real trouble comes when the movie shifts into a financial whodunit of epically stupid proportions that seems to hold its audience in at least as much contempt as it does the corporate crooks who scam the system.
The Nice Guys (R, ****): The latest from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang writer/director Shane Black combines the paranoid 1970s noir of Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye with the mismatched-detective combo Black perfected decades ago in his script for Lethal Weapon. But the simple premise of an alcoholic private investigator (Ryan Gosling) teaming up with a slightly reformed bully for hire (Russell Crowe) is enlivened by Black’s sharp execution, not to mention terrific comedic chemistry between the two stars. A hilariously brooding Crowe plays straight man to Gosling’s bumbling goofball, a hardboiled American Clousseau described by his own precocious daughter (Angourie Rice) as the worst detective of all time. The oddball pair, with help from the kid, must track down a missing porn movie believed to connect a string of murders. This is fast-paced, smart, tremendously funny stuff, all but guaranteed to wind up one of the best movies of 2016.
Also in or Coming to Local Theaters
Alice Through the Looking Glass (PG): Tim Burton-produced this followup to his take on Alice in Wonderland featuring Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, and Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. Hey, at least it’s based on actual sequel source material.
The Angry Birds Movie (G): The P.O.ed birds and their nemeses the pigs go from the smallest of screens— your stupid cellphone— to the big one. Think of it as an app you can only look at once and have to go to a theater to use. But does Sean Penn lend his voice? Yes, he does.
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.
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.
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.
Neighbors II: Sorority Rising (R): Young parents Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne must team up with former fratboy nemesis Zac Efron to win their battle against a sorority next door led by mean sister Chloë Grace Moretz.
Sing Street (PG-13): Once and Begin Again writer/director helms another music-themed film, this one a lighter comedy about an Irish teenager (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) in the 1980s who pretends to have a band—then starts one—to impress an older girl (Lucy Boynton). Featuring Aidan Gillen.
X-Men: Apocalypse (PG-13): Bryan Singer returns to direct this sequel to the X-Men prequel (?) that pits young mutants (Jennifer Lawrence, Sophie Turner, Evan Peters, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Nicholas Hoult) and their leader (James McAvoy) against an ancient world-ending being (Oscar Isaac). Michael Fassbender also returns.