Silver Screen: The Score Card, October 27, 2016 Edition
> opening this week in Carbondale.
< leaving Carbondale this Friday.
Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.
The Accountant (R, ***): Director Gavin O’Connor juggles an enormous number of characters and storylines in bringing to the screen Bill Dubuque’s overheated script, but he does it with enough confidence that it always seems like it’s going somewhere even when it’s going everywhere. Ben Affleck stars as an on-the-spectrum accountant who dabbles in the occasional assassination or murder. When he’s hired by bigwigs (Jean Smart, John Lithgow) at a medical-tech company to find out if an employee is stealing millions, he’s swept up into a deadly financial conspiracy. Meanwhile, a top treasury agent (J.K. Simmons) conducts an investigation to find the mystery accountant’s real identity. The crazily interwoven plotlines don’t make a ton of sense in retrospect, and screenwriter Dubuque adds too many sensational elements— including what’s essentially a superhero origin story— to story that was improbable enough to begin with. Affleck is compelling but not quite up to the difficult task of simultaneously masking and conveying emotion. But despite some major flaws, the movie is loopy fun, dumber than any smart thriller but smarter than most dumb action movies. The ace supporting cast, led by Simmons but also including Jon Bernthal and Anna Kendrick, helps keep it credible-seeming, at least in the moment before you actually stop to think about it.
Deepwater Horizon (PG-13, ***1/2): Peter Berg directs this dramatization of the disaster aboard the now-infamous drilling rig that led to the catastrophic, months-long British Petroleum oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico. Rather than ghoulishly transform a real-life disaster into a thriller, though, Berg goes deep into the mechanics of deepwater drilling and the particulars of life aboard a massive, floating rig that can house more than one-hundred workers. That attention to detail is not only oddly compelling itself, but it makes the series of shortcuts and calamities that lead to Deepwater’s destruction clear and cogent. The narrative is confined to the day of the disaster, with ship captain “Mister Jimmy” (Kurt Russell) leading a group of rig workers (including Mark Wahlberg, Gina Rodriguez, and Dylan O’Brien) in an effort to save their friends— and then themselves. It’s harrowing stuff that doesn’t feel exploitative, even if Berg is prone to a bit of Michael Bay-esque military fetishism and disaster porn. The film not only points toward the subsequent environmental ruin but points fingers at sleazy BP execs, like the one played by John Malkovich. It’s a fairly rare movie that’s simultaneously informative, thrilling, and humane.
The Girl on the Train (R, ***): Tate Taylor’s benignly handsome adaptation of Paula Hawkins’s novel (a Gone Girl-esque thriller, we’ll say charitably) retains most of book’s pulpy charm, but the lack of an interior voice to make the characters sympathetic leaves them inscrutable and unlikable for too long. By the time you find out that everything you know is wrong, you might not care. Emily Blunt is certainly fantastic as Rachel, an alcoholic rendered aimless in the wake of her divorce. When she’s not drunk-dialing her ex (Justin Theroux) or harassing his new wife (Rebecca Ferguson), she’s obsessing over their new neighbors, whose house she can see from her daily commuter train. When the woman (Haley Bennett) she’s voyeuristically fixated on disappears, Rachel begins to worry that information lost in her own drunken blackouts may hold the answers to the mystery. It’s lurid fun, the kind of tawdry drama for adults that rarely seems to get made anymore. The plot leans a little too heavy on coincidence, but the final half-hour yields several satisfying surprises.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (PG-13, *1/2): In the second adaptation of Lee Child’s delightful thriller series, Tom Cruise returns, intriguingly miscast, as a hulking brute of a former soldier with a wandering ascetic’s soul. Alas, director Christopher McQuarrie does not, replaced by the blander-than-bland Edward Zwick, and the results are crushingly benign. Reacher ventures to Washington, D.C. to meet in person with a sexy lady soldier (Cobie Smulders) who took over his old job. When he finds she’s been locked up in a military prison, he breaks a few dozen laws to spring her out, and they go on the lam to uncover a conspiracy within the army that led to her arrest. All the while, they’re forced to look out for a teen girl (Danika Yarosh) who is possibly Reacher’s estranged daughter. The makeshift nuclear family of flinty soldiers and a resourceful semihomeless girl lacks the appeal Zwick seems to think it might have, especially in a film so bereft of significant character detail. What it lacks in writing, it doesn’t make up for in staging, plodding along with a series of obligatory car chases and shootouts, none of which even begins to get the blood pumping.
< The Magnificent Seven (PG-13, *1/2): This historical revisionist remake reimagines the classic Western story (adapted from Akira Kurosawa’s classic Eastern story) as a multiethnic shoot ‘em up. Denzel Washington leads a crew of six other killer cowboys (including Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Ethan Hawke, Byung-hun Lee, and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) to help save a town from a nefarious mine owner (Peter Sarsgaard). The only novelty to this otherwise handsome but tiresome conventional Western is director Antoine Fuqua’s intentional misremembering of history, where racial conflicts were mild enough that a black guy could lead a Korean, a Mexican, a Native American, and a trio of kooky white guys without anyone much noticing. Fuqua seems intent on repurposing iconography long denied non-whites both because of historical verisimilitude and Hollywood prejudice. It turns the film’s overall blandness into a kind of statement unto itself— but it’s still pretty bland. The question remains: Does Fuqua’s intentional warping of history yield worthy enough results to justify the perils of wishful misremembering?
Ouija: Origin of Evil (PG-13, ***1/2): Maybe the only thing rarer than actually contacting a real ghost through a Ouija board is a good horror sequel following up a bad movie. Eerily enough, apparently the impossible is indeed possible, because this followup to the imminently forgettable 2014 movie about a haunted Parker Brothers board game is full of dark delights. Director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) brings some vision (har har) to this story about a struggling psychic (Elizabeth Reaser) who harmlessly scams the bereaved in return for spiritual comfort. When her youngest daughter (Lulu Wilson), seems to connect with an actual spirit while using the board, the widow and her older daughter (Annalise Basso) hope to use it to contact their lost patriarch. They find something else instead. Flanagan delivers big frights of all varieties: funhouse jump-scares, shadow and suggestion, psychological terror, and a handful of freaky special effects. (Actor Doug Jones, creature extraordinaire and a modern-day Karloff, helps out on that score.) Even better, he tricks us into leaning into them with a surprisingly emotional story and characters more complex and sympathetic than your average horror movie fodder. Spooky fun stuff.
Also in or Coming to Local Theaters
> Inferno (PG-13): Director Ron Howard and star Tom Hanks return for the second sequel to The DaVinci Code. This time around the symbologist must solve another history-based conspiracy after waking up in Italy with amnesia.
Keeping up with the Joneses (PG-13): An affable middle-class couple (Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher) are swept up in a spy plot thanks to their secret-agent neighbors (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot).
Kevin Hart: What Now? (R): The incredibly popular standup brings his comedy act to a sold-out football stadium, where it was captured for the big screen.
< Max Steel (PG-13): A teenager (Ben Winchell) must bond with an alien suit in order to control the powerful energy he can harness in this off-brand superhero movie featuring Maria Bello and Andy Garcia.
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.
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.
Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween (PG-13): Tyler Perry writes, directs, stars, and Tyler Perrys as his geriatric drag persona battles ghosts and annoying relatives in a haunted house.