Silver Screen: The Score Card, September 29, 2016 Edition
> opening this week in Carbondale.
< leaving Carbondale this Friday.
Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.
Blair Witch (R, *1/2): Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, the talented director/writer duo behind nifty horror flicks You’re Next and The Guest, take a stab at updating the influential 1999 found-footage horror classic The Blair Witch Project. They ignore the events of the misbegotten sequel Book of Shadows, yet they don’t do a significantly better job. The 2016 version is a sequel teetering on a remake, with a search for missing original filmmaker Heather Donahue. Her brother (played by James Allen McCune) thinks he spots her in a video clip fifteen years after her disappearance, and his girlfriend (Callie Hernandez) decides to turn the search into her own documentary. Blair Witchery ensues. It’s a surprisingly limp riff on the original, with almost no attempt made to recreate the slow-building dread that made the original so frightening. Wingard and Barrett up the ante in the climax, but by then it’s too late, and the half-glimpses we get of the title monster are little compensation for the charmless slog that preceded it.
Don’t Breathe (R, ***1/2): Fede Alvarez writes and directs this nifty, claustrophobic horror movie about a trio of inept robbers (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto) who break into the home of a blind military veteran (Stephen Lang) in search of a promised stash of cash and find much more than they bargained for. Alvarez’s attempts to make the characters sympathetic mostly fail, but once he begins putting them through an hour’s worth of funhouse horrors it’s an awful lot of awful fun. Lang’s nameless blind man isn’t supernatural yet seems supernaturally capable of everything, transforming into a boogeyman somewhere between Saw’s Jigsaw killer and Jason Voorhees. He’s terrifically terrifying. Like Alvarez’s blood-drowned Evil Dead remake, this meaner, modern-day riff on Wait Until Dark even pushes the bounds of bad taste, but then that’s what movies like this are for.
< Hell or High Water (R, ****1/2): This soulful crime drama from director David McKenzie and Sicario writer Taylor Sheridan is the rare film that’s both meditative and incredibly suspenseful. Chris Pine and Ben Foster costar as down-and-out Texas brothers who hatch a bank-robbery scheme to save their family farm. Meanwhile, a soon-to-retire lawman (Jeff Bridges) and his beloved but put-upon partner (Gil Birmingham) slowly but relentlessly pursue the pair. The sharp script takes time to linger in the moments of male bonding, be it impromptu wrestling matches between the brothers or the Texas Rangers sharing a smirk at a waitress meaner than both of them put together. But these good-humored and well-earned slice-of-life moments are suffused with the quiet tension of the inevitable moment when the four men’s paths will cross. The whole cast is exceptional, especially thespian Buddha Bridges, for whom deep pathos and quick humor are always immediately within reach, and the underrated Ben Foster, who bends every movie into his own gravitational pull.
Snowden (R, ***1/2): Brash stylist Oliver Stone tones down the aesthetic intensity and twitchy paranoia in this dramatization of the classified-document dump by national-security whistleblower Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Stone’s relative calm transforms into commanding restraint that ultimately helps him sell the very valid paranoia over the government overreaches that slowly turned Snowden from dutiful patriot to a man chased across the globe by his own country. Stone’s handsome, crisply paced biopic restores the humanity to what has become a larger, more abstract national debate, reminding us of the personal toll and intimate consequences of American policy. He traces Snowden’s path through the military and ultimately private contracting, where along the way he’s influenced by an ominous father figure (Rhys Ifans), a disgruntled technophile (Nicolas Cage), and his plucky liberal girlfriend (Shailene Woodley). It’s not as luridly thrilling as Stone at his most sublimely kooky— for sheer fun, go back and watch his recent drug-running shoot-‘em-up Savages— but it’s a compelling case deftly made, one that doesn’t drag along like cinematic homework.
< Suicide Squad (PG-13, *1/2): DC Comics’ latest movie is a handsome mess, a mismatched heap of stylish footage stuffed uncomfortably into a standard-issue blockbuster plot. The cool premise: Government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) hires a team of captured supervillains to carry out covert missions to earn their freedom. The bummer: Only a couple of the characters are remotely interesting, specifically Margot Robbie as the psychiatrist-turned-warped-girlfriend of the Joker (Jared Leto), an archaeologist possessed by an ancient witch called Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), and... well, that’s it. Among the other characters, there’s an assassin guy (Will Smith), a literally fiery-tempered Latino (Jay Hernandez), and a duped soldier (Joel Kinnaman) duped into leading them into battle. Against what? Turns out, they are their own villain, which means if the team had never existed, nothing would change. Poor fodder for a potentially fun, dark-humored special-effects extravaganza that is instead an inert, tonally inconsistent bore that sparingly doles out doses of Joker and Batman (Ben Affleck in a bit part) to cajole the audience into swallowing a lot of dreck.
Sully (PG-13, ****): Clint Eastwood directs this solid, sometimes harrowing dramatization of the Miracle on the Hudson, when pilot Chesley Sullenberger became an overnight hero for his astonishing water landing of a failing passenger jet. Sully saved the lives of 155 people, turning him into America’s surrogate grandpa. Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki overcome the structural challenges of fashioning a movie around a single 209-second event by showing the crash-landing twice, once from multiple perspectives and then again at the end from the cockpit view of the movie’s publicity-averse hero (played nicely by Tom Hanks, perfectly cast). In between, Eastwood moves through time to show how Sully copes with the sudden fame and scrutiny from an improbably villainous Federal Aviation Administration review board. Though it never does much with supporting characters like Sully’s wife (Laura Linney) or his trusty copilot (Aaron Eckhart), the movie nicely captures what makes Sully the ideal American hero: a humble citizen who’s great at his job, and who knows all the rules but uses a dash of maverick ingenuity to transcend the boundaries of what we perceive as possible. The film is a fine, fitting tribute.
Also in or Coming to Local Theaters
Bad Moms (R): Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, and Kathryn Hahn costar as a trio of overworked mothers whose attempt to let off a little steam goes haywire in this comedy also featuring Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Wendell Pierce.
Bridget Jones’s Baby (R): The third installment of the once wildly popular British rom-com series finds our heroine (Renée Zellweger) unexpectedly pregnant and torn between Darcy (Colin Firth) and a new bloke (Patrick Dempsey).
> Deepwater Horizon (PG-13): A somber, Funky Bunch-less Marky Mark stars in Peter Berg’s dramatization of the explosion aboard the titular oil rig, which led to the catastrophic oil spill that poisoned the Gulf Coast. Featuring Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Dylan O’Brien, and Kate Hudson.
< The Hollars (PG-13): John Krasinski (The Office) directs and stars in this movie about a man who returns to his small hometown— and dysfunctional family— when his mother develops brain cancer. (Wissmann)
> To Joey, With Love (NR): Faith-based documentary about Joey and Rory Feek, a husband-and-wife musical duo who put their careers on hold to care for their handicapped baby daughter.
The Magnificent Seven (PG-13): Denzel Washington leads six other gunslingers in Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the American remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Washington partners up with Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke among others to stop evil businessman Peter Sarsgaard from terrorizing a small town.
> Masterminds (PG-13): Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess helms this comedy about a bumbling guard (Zach Galifianakis) of an armored car who decides to pull an inside job to steal a load of cash. Featuring Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Owen Wilson, and Kate McKinnon.
> Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (PG-13): Tim Burton directs this adaptation of Ransom Riggs’s popular young-adult novel about a haven for mysteriously powerful children and their place in a larger, mind-bending conflict. Like spooky twee X-Men. Starring Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, Terence Stamp, and Allison Janney.
The Secret Life of Pets (PG): In this computer-animated comedy, housepets only reveal their sophisticated emotions and intellects when their owners are away. Louis C.K. voices Max, top dog in his household until his owner brings in an annoying new pup (Eric Stonestreet). Featuring the voices of Albert Brooks, Kevin Hart, Lake Bell, Ellie Kemper, Jenny Slate, Dana Carvey, and Steve Coogan.
Storks (PG): Now consigned to delivering packages instead of people, a group of storks are confounded when tasked with bringing an actual baby home in this computer-animated family comedy featuring the voices of Andy Samberg, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Kelsey Grammer, Key and Peele, and more. From Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s Nick Stoller.
When the Bough Breaks (PG-13): Thriller about a surrogate (Jaz Sinclair) who becomes fixated on the husband (Morris Chestnut) whose baby she’s carrying. Featuring Regina Hall, Romany Malco, Michael Kenneth Williams, and presumably a dog-eared script of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.
< The Wild Life (Robinson Crusoe) (PG): Animated retelling of the story of Robinson Crusoe as told from the perspective of a parrot.