Silver Screen: The Score Card, November 3, 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.
Inferno (PG-13, 1/2*): The ill-advised third installment in Ron Howard’s adaptation of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series is the worst by far. Starting with The Da Vinci Code, the bright lights on the big screen have always revealed the gaudiest flaws in Brown’s daffy bestsellers, even in the capable hands of craftsman Howard. This is the nadir, when not even the zany art-history puzzles gruff academic Langdon (Tom Hanks) solves have any zip; at one point, the villain just handwrites a quote directly onto a painting, and nobody notices it for awhile. Here Langdon is solving an implausibly complex series of riddles based around the life and work of the poet Dante, all to stop a dead billionaire (Ben Foster) from posthumously releasing a deadly plague to even out the Earth’s overpopulation problem. Felicity Jones is the latest dainty, disposable foreign-born brunette to run alongside Langdon while he solves mysteries. She’s given more to do than predecessors Audrey Tautou and Ayelet Zurer, but that doesn’t turn out to be a good thing. Only Irrfan Khan’s brief turn as morally dubious man also on the hunt for the virus is worth watching.
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.
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
> Doctor Strange (PG-13): Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Marvel Comics’ master of the surreal, a former surgeon brought back from the verge of death with a new understanding of the mystical realms just beyond our reality. He duels with otherworldy baddies (including Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mads Mikkelsen) with the help of his ancient mentor (Tilda Swinton), his gal (Rachel McAdams), and his right-hand man (Benedict Wong).
> Hacksaw Ridge (R): Mel Gibson directs this true war tale about Army Medic Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II. Featuring Vince Vaughn, Teresa Palmer, and Hugo Weaving.
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.
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.
> Trolls (PG): This computer-animated kiddie comedy based on the wild-haired dolls that topped a lot of pencils circa 1994 features the voices of Anna Kendrick, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Timberlake, Gwen Stefani, and Jeffrey Tambor.
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.