Silver Screen: The Score Card, April 20, 2017 Edition
> opening this week in Carbondale.
< leaving Carbondale this Friday.
Bryan Miller unless otherwise credited.
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.
Ghost in the Shell (PG-13, ***): Rupert Sanders’s live-action adaptation of the 1995 Japanese anime classic is an uncommonly beautiful blockbuster. Sanders, like Zack Snyder, is primarily concerned with stringing together a series of eye-popping images and stylistic boasts. But Sanders at least has a basic understanding of pacing and a passing interest in the story, which makes this visual extravaganza not too painful to watch with the sound on. Scarlett Johansson stars as Major, an entirely robotic being powered by the implanted brain of a dead refugee. It’s still her soul, her “ghost,” in the body. But when a murder case she’s working as a detective in a luridly futuristic Japan leads back to the robotics firm that made her, she’ll learn the secrets not only of her shell, but of her ghost. As sci-fi comic-book shoot ‘em ups go, it’s ambitious. If only these inventive minds could imagine themselves outside the constraints of gunplay and fistfights. Featuring Beat Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, and Michael Pitt.
< 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.
> Born in China (G): Documentary about a panda and her cub, narrated by John Krasinski of The Office. (Wissmann)
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.
The Case for Christ (PG): Adaptation of Lee Strobel’s persistent conversion tract about his own atheism giving way to Christian enlightenment. Starring Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, Faye Dunaway, and Robert Forster.
Fate of the Furious (PG-13): What is this, the fortieth installment in this series? The challenge: Can star Vin Diesel and director F. Gary Gray come up with any new ways to chase or crash cars? (Wissmann)
> Free Fire (R): A star-studded gang of Boston crooks get into a protracted warehouse shootout in this crime comedy featuring Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, and Armie Hammer.
> Gifted (PG-13): An uncle (Chris Evans) raising his brilliant niece must fight for custody with his mother. Directed by the hit (Five-hundred Days of Summer) or miss (The Amazing Spider-Man) Marc Webb. (Wissmann)
Going in Style (PG-13): Three old buddies— literally— decide to rob a bank that stole their savings and leave the money to their loved ones in this caper comedy co-starring Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine. Also featuring Ann-Margret, Christopher Lloyd, and Matt Dillon
> Phoenix Forgotten (PG-13): Yet another found-footage horror movie, this one with extraterrestrial implications. (Wissmann)
< 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 Promise (PG-13): Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac, and Shohreh Aghdashloo are the three points in a love triangle set during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. From Hotel Rwanda director Terry George.
The Smurfs: The Lost Village (G): This fully animated feature— not to be confused with the computer-animation/live-action hybrid series— finds the Smurfs wandering around a cartoon forest instead of a real cityscape set to greenscreen, so that’s something. Featuring the voices of Julia Roberts, Demi Lovato, Ariel Winter, Michelle Rodriguez, Ellie Kemper, Mandy Patinkin, and more.
> Unforgettable (R): Longtime producer Denise Di Novi makes her directorial debut in this very forgettably titled thriller about a vindictive ex-wife (Rosario Dawson) making life miserable— and perhaps deadly— for her ex-husband’s new wife (Kathrine Heigl).