Silver Screen: The Score Card, March 5, 2017 Edition
> opening this week in Carbondale.
< leaving Carbondale this Friday.
Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.
< The Belko Experiment (R, ***1/2): Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn returns to his roots in Troma Studios and exploitation cinema with this mean little gem about a group of office workers locked in a building together and implored by a mysterious voice over the intercom to turn on one another. The Gunn-produced and -written script doesn’t have much time for the potential satirical value of tie-clad office workers stalking each other through a honeycomb of cubicles in a dark parody of corporate culture. This is more Lord of the Flies at a nine-to-five office (Lord of the Files?). A whole busload of terrific character actors populate this enthusiastically unhinged splatterfest, which leans heavily on gore tinged with black humor during the course of ninety vicious minutes. Victims and killers include John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley, Adria Arjona, Melonie Diaz, Michael Rooker, and Sean Gunn.
Get Out (R, *****): Sketch comedian par excellence Jordan Peele takes a seeming left turn into the horror genre, and the result is a brilliant detour. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) goes on a weekend trip with his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) to visit her wealthy parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener). What starts as the cringe comedy of uncomfortable race relations— Whitford calling Chris “my man,” the implication dripping from his comments about Obama— gradually reveals itself to be something far more sinister. Writer/director Peele demonstrates an exceptional ability to shift tones as the movie veers into outright terror. The increasingly outlandish plot is allegorically rich and fully grounded by the movie’s heavy themes. This is uncompromising satire that doesn’t just exploit horror-movie tropes, it lives within them. The result is both a thrilling and upsetting movie. The tension is punctuated by some big laughs—often thanks to ace comic relief by Lil Rel Howery— but it’s the profound unease that lingers after the lights come up.
Kong: Skull Island (PG-13, ***1/2): An overqualified cast of actors plays a few helicopters full of disposable characters who venture to the mysterious Skull Island, where they meet the movie’s one true star. His Royal Apeness is bigger than ever. This isn’t the pathos-filled Kong who fell in love with Fay Wray but a benevolent brawler who protects the friendlier element of his homeland from other giant-monster threats. Set during the Vietnam era, this reboot sends a group of soldiers and scientists on an ill-fated fact-finding mission where they meet a downed World War II pilot (John C. Reilly) living on the island since his plane went down. Reilly provides not just the comic relief, but the emotional center as well, which helps lend stakes to a movie that otherwise exists to thrill. And thrill it does with some eye-popping sequences and a Kong that inspires plenty of awe. Even if it’s just an elaborate ruse to set up a film-franchise fight between Kong and Godzilla, it’s still plenty of fun.
Logan (R, ****): Hugh Jackman’s ninth and presumably final outing as Wolverine finds the fan-favorite X-Man in distinctly dire straits. It’s the year 2029, and the combination of a catastrophe and a cure has nearly rid the world of mutants. A haggard Logan drives a limo in a Texas-Mexico bordertown so he can buy meds for the elderly Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whose superpowered mind has been transformed into an unstable weapon of mass destruction by dementia. When old man Logan and his older mentor run across the first new mutant (Dafne Keen), they take her on a cross-country roadtrip to safety while pursued by a paramilitary force. The movie’s R rating finally lets Wolverine use those claws to maximum bloody effect, but more importantly it lets director James Mangold step outside the increasingly familiar superhero-movie mold to create something far more distinctive. The result is frequently thrilling but also surprisingly emotional, dominated by a sense of regret that feels fully earned.
Also in or Coming to Local Theaters
Beauty and the Beast (PG): Emma Watson and Dan Stevens star in this live-action recreation of Disney’s animated modern-classic musical. Featuring Kevin Kline, Emma Thompson, Josh Gad, Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, and more.
> The Boss Baby (PG): Animated family comedy about a toddler tycoon (voiced by Alec Baldwin) who teams up with his brother to save puppies from an evil CEO. Featuring the voices of Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, and Lisa Kudrow.
CHiPs (R): Dax Shepard directed, wrote, and stars alongside Michael Peña in this tongue-in-cheek remake of the 1970s biker-cop TV classic. Featuring Kristen Bell, Maya Rudolph, Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Brody, and Ryan Hansen.
> Ghost in the Shell (PG-13): Scarlett Johansson stars as a dead woman whose consciousness is fused with technology to create an unwilling crimefighter in this whitened-up adaptation of the classic Japanese anime also featuring Beat Takeshi, Michael Pitt, and Juliette Binoche.
Life (R): A crew of astronauts returning to Earth fear they may have brought the imminent destruction of the planet with them in this sci-fi horror flick starring Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rebecca Ferguson.
Power Rangers (PG-13): This remake of the cheeseball Japanese import kiddie superhero show from the 1990s plays the concept straight, as the mighty morphin’ crew is empowered by an artifact to transform into ninjas who must fight Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks.
< The Shack (PG-13): Sam Worthington stars as a grieving father in this faith-based fantasy where he must reconnect with God in the mystical, titular shack. Featuring Octavia Spencer, Radha Mitchell, and Tim McGraw.