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Baby Boomer Juke Box Continues at the Movies

George Wolf George Wolf Baby Boomer Juke Box Continues at the Movies
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And the classic hits just keep coming! But, if you are tired of old time rock and roll but you are not tired of living dolls, can we interest you a different kind of toy story? A handful of decent options in theaters this week.

Yesterday

by George Wolf

Hey, baby boomers (yes, my hand is up), thanks for still buying CDs!

Now please enjoy the latest installment in your Musical Movie Memories Tour, Yesterday.

We’ve already jammed to Queen and Elton, Bruce is set for August, so how about remembering how much we love the Fab Four by envisioning a world where they never existed?

It’s a conceit so instantly charming director Danny Boyle (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire) passed on the project, thinking it had already been done. He was convinced otherwise and jumped on board, bringing the script from Richard Curtis (Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually) to life with a breezy, unabashed fandom.

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel, easy to root for) is a struggling musician in Suffolk who’s ready to give up on the dream. His longtime friend and manager Ellie (Lily James) protests, but Jack rides his bicycle off into the English night unsure of his future.

Fate intervenes with a brief worldwide blackout, which brings an accident, a hospital stay, and Jack waking up in a world without his two front teeth.

Or the Beatles.

That second one is pretty advantageous for Jack’s career, though the film is at its most likable early on, when Jack is trying to remember lyrics, getting nowhere on Google and chastising anyone who doesn’t instantly realize how life-changing “his” new songs are.

Of course, his protests only resonate because we’re still in the old world with him. It’s a credit to the simple genius of this premise that Yesterday can tell without showing and still pull us in. And surprise, it’s also a wonderfully organic way to strip down these songs we’ve heard for decades and remind us how truly great they are.

Jack’s star rises with a move to L.A, getting tutelage from Ed Sheehan (nicely self-deprecating as himself) and an apologetically shameless record label rep (perfectly slimy Kate McKinnon). It’s in America where Yesterday starts to drag a bit, wanting from the absence of spunky James and will-they-or-won’t-they rom that balances this com.

How that turns out, you can probably guess.

As for the musical fantasy, credit Curtis and Boyle for avoiding the easy cop out. Buy in and you’ll be rewarded with an entertaining take on life choices that’s fun to sing along with, occasionally slight but often downright fab.

Grade: B+

Annabelle Comes Home

by Hope Madden

The first conflict, first specter of the Conjuring universe was a hideous, braid-wearing doll haunting hip Seventies roommates. Ever wonder what happened after Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, respectively) removed the cursed doll Annabelle from the girls’ apartment?

It was a hell of a ride home, I will tell you that.

Truth is, the Annabelle franchise within the larger Conjuring property hasn’t really impressed. John R. Leonetti’s lackluster 2014 “save the baby” horror that gave the doll its own series fell flat. Three years later, David F. Sandberg’s Annabelle: Creation offered an origin story that knew absolutely nothing at all about its own religious setting, yet offered considerably stronger action, scares and gore than its predecessor.

Writer Gary Dauberman, who’s penned every installment (as well as It, which seriously amplifies his credibility), takes on directing duties for the first time with the third film, Annabelle Comes Home.

Again, this one is a little better than the last one.

Dauberman gives us a spooky fun glimpse into the reasons the Warrens kept the doll locked away back in their room of cursed objects. From that first road trip home — which is a blast straight out of Hammer or Michael Jackson’s Thriller — the film is a spooky fun ode to old fashioned horror.

Back at home — the very home where the Warrens illogically keep demonic objects — their daughter Judy (McKenna Grace, really good in this role) is going through some troubles with schoolmates who think her parents are creepy.

Duh.

So, creepy Ed and Lorraine leave town, likely to cast a demon into a Combat Carl they’ll be adding to the back room toybox, leaving little Judy with a cherubic babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) and her snoopy bestie, Daniela (Katie Sarife).

What does Daniela touch in the off-limits, demon-filled back room?

“Everything.”

All hell breaks loose, naturally.

Dauberman shows some fun instincts when it comes to isolating characters to make the most of his thrill ride setting. The logic comes and goes with ease, however—once the catalyst kicks in, each scene exists simply to trigger a scare, not to make any narrative sense.

But it is fun, with generous writing that does not ask us to root against any of the kids, and performances that are far superior to the content. Plus a couple of real laughs, mostly thanks to a randomly hilarious pizza delivery guy.

Annabelle Comes Home is no masterpiece and it is definitely a tonal shift from the previous installments, but it’s a mindless PG-13 blast of haunted house summer fun.

Grade: B-

Ophelia

by Cat McAlpine

You’ve probably seen the painting “Ophelia” by Sir John Everett Millais (1852). It’s one of the most iconic images born from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and one of the most well-known paintings of the 19th century. In it, fair Ophelia floats on her back in a river, surrounded by her red hair, elaborate gown, and a fistful of flowers.

This painting seems to be the sole aesthetic for director Claire McCarthy’s Ophelia-centric Hamlet adaptation, as evidenced by a horrible red wig, and the film’s open on a recreation of the painting. Also Ophelia’s quirk is she likes to leave the castle in the middle of the day and just walk into the river?

This iconic imagery is immediately interrupted with a “You may think you know my story…” voice over that immediately dashed all my hopes for Ophelia. The following film was a bizarre infantilizing of a classic heroine, already disadvantaged by her source material. Writers Semi Chellas (adaptation) and Lisa Klein (novel) navigate a series of bizarre Shakespearian fan-service plot twists that only make the story seem less grounded.

You see, Hamlet (a very good George MacKay) fell for Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) because she was quirky. The other girls didn’t like her because she didn’t have money for jewels and didn’t care to learn to dance properly.

This characterization of Ophelia is so cheap that the chemistry between MacKay and Ridley fizzles, further highlighting Hamlet’s unhinged impulses while Ophelia remains a canvas for him to project onto. Ridley surprisingly has more chemistry with charming Devon Terrel (Horatio).

Because this re-telling gets the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead treatment, flourishes to the tale only happen in the margins when Ophelia would be off stage, and the story is still bound to all the events penned by Shakespeare. This means many key plot points seem to fly in from nowhere, even for those familiar with the original play. Out of nowhere Ophelia is awoken and told “Your father is dead. Hamlet accidentally killed him.” And while we’re experiencing events through Ophelia’s lens, we’re still left asking “Wait…what happened?”

Time that could’ve been spent developing Ophelia’s character or deepening her connection to her family (familial relationships being the focus of Hamlet) is instead spent on weird through lines about witchcraft and a secret twin. And while Ophelia ends up somewhere we don’t expect with a final resilient message about valuing yourself, the ending feels almost tacky instead of triumphant.

McCarthy’s film isn’t without merit. There’s some clever weaving of Shakespeare’s text into the dialogue. The costuming is beautifully done and the play-with-a-play performance makes for powerful imagery done in silhouette. The fight choreography is beautiful, fierce, and performed with a great fluidity. In all times, when the film is following the original plot, the fevered intensity of Hamlet shines through.

I hope one day sweet Ophelia gets a good story, a method for her madness, and a resolution for her watery demise. But this isn’t it.

Grade: B-

Also opening in Columbus:

Brochevarevarura (NR)
Echo in the Canyon (PG-13)
Framing John DeLorean (NR)
Kalki (NR)
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (R)
The Most Dangerous Year (NR)
Pavarotti (PG-13)
Sindhubaadh (NR)

Read more from George and crew at MADDWOLF and listen to their weekly movie review podcast, THE SCREENING ROOM.

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