Our City Online

Entertainment

Loads of Movies This Weekend

George Wolf George Wolf Loads of Movies This WeekendPhoto still from "Crawl," via IMDb.
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

This represents that deep breath week between Spider-Man: Far from Home and Lion King. That means there are a blue million movies, most of them smaller, none of them hoping to do MCU or Disney numbers, opening this week. Some of them are terrible. Some are not. Here is the skinny.

Stuber

by Hope Madden

Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani actually have more in common than you might think. Both are charming, funny, likable oddballs and both are outstanding on Twitter.

That last bit is less meaningful as they team up in the bromance romp Stuber.

Bautista plays Vic, a weirdly muscular LA cop. Nanjiani’s Stu is an Uber driver. Vic has eye surgery the same day he gets a tip on a big drug deal going down. Unable to drive, he presses his Uber driver into involuntary service.

Hijinks…oh the hijinks.

The main problem with this movie is that it’s idiotic.

A handful of other actors, including Natalie Morales and Mira Sorvino, sleepwalk through the most rote buddy cop movie you’ve ever seen basically to create a backdrop for Nanjiani to make being the voice of reason sound so funny.

He’s basically playing Kumail Nanjiani, which is, of course, the role he was born to play.

Bautista has a tougher row to hoe. He can’t sell the physical comedy, which is the point of his giant, bumbling, near-blind-and-yet-still-driving-and-shooting-weapons character.

Think Mr. Magoo meets Dirty Harry meets a bunch of steroids.

Dude, that should be comedy gold, especially in the hands of director Michael Dowse, whose classic hockey comedy Goon understood the charm of the blundering, violent dumbass.

Writer Tripper Clancy (that’s a name!) doesn’t help, as the only interesting ideas he has — the one he’s hung his entire screenplay on — he stole outright from Deadpool.

Hey! You know what was funny? Deadpool.

It’s too bad because both Nanjiani and Bautista deserve a lot better than this low-aiming and forgettable mess.

Grade: C-

Crawl

by George Wolf

Just when you thought it was safe to explore your Florida crawlspaces during a Category 5, here comes Crawl to remind us that while Sharknadoes put tongues in cheeks, Gatorcanes are looking to remove the whole head.

Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) is a University of Florida swimmer (a Gator!), which comes in pretty handy when she ignores evacuation orders to look for the father that always challenged her to do better in the pool.

Dave Keller (Barry Pepper) is lying injured in a soggy basement, and even before Haley finds him, she finds that they are not alone.

Director Alexandre Aja (High Tension, Piranha 3D, The Hills Have Eyes remake) utilizes the confines of the flooding house to fine effect. Walls, pipes and tight corners create natural barriers between gator and bait, but as the water level keeps rising, Aja finds plenty of room for simmering tension and effective jump scares.

Plus plenty of bloodletting. Oh, yes, people do get eaten.

This survival tale doesn’t worry too much about suspending disbelief. It just keeps the water rising, the obstacles mounting (Haley’s “You gotta be fucking kidding me” speaks for all of us) and the visual effects nimble and nifty.

Writers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen get a bit too enamored with the father/daughter estrangements and swim team parlance (“You’re faster than they are! Swim!”), but Scodelario provides a capable anchor, giving Haley authentic layers of toughness and grit.

Aja and the effects team do the rest, enough to make Crawl an often entertaining creature and bloody fun summer feature.

Grade: B-

Wild Rose

by Matt Weiner

“Three chords and the truth” is the driving spirit that runs throughout Wild Rose. It’s the reason aspiring country singer Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) doesn’t just love the genre, she lives it. She has it tattooed on her arm, and her dream of Nashville superstardom buoys her otherwise dreary working-class life in Glasgow.

It’s also an apt quote to hang the movie on. From the opening setup, you already know the notes and you know the progression. But darned if Buckley doesn’t still have something to say, and in a voice that can’t be ignored.

Buckley (Taboo, Beast) animates every frame as Rose-Lynn, fresh from a year in jail for drug charges and defiant at anyone and anything that comes between her and the country fantasy world she has built her life around.

This includes her long-suffering mother and two young children. Far more supportive is her new employer, the posh Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), who hears Rose-Lynn singing while cleaning her house and encourages her to send a recording to the BBC.

Of course Susannah’s support comes at the expense of Rose-Lynn hiding pertinent background details, and it’s this central tension between following your dreams and making a life of what you already have that concerns most of the drama.

But even if Rose-Lynn’s path is a familiar one, the movie (written by Nicole Taylor and directed by Tom Harper) still imbues her arc with touching consideration and naturalistic ups and downs. Thanks in large part to Buckley, who brings a gut-wrenching humanity to each inevitable screw-up, it’s a journey that is compelling and well-earned — no small feat for the kind of story where at least some cathartic triumph is the payoff we expect for all those bumps along the road.

Wild Rose raises some truly thorny questions about the pursuit of art and the expectations surrounding that. While Rose-Lynn’s story arrives at an answer a bit too neatly, it’s no less catchy of a refrain. There’s a reason that Nashville sound churned out so many hits.

Grade: B-

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

by Hope Madden

Before Toni Morrison was old enough to understand the F-word her mother had her washing off the sidewalk, she understood the confrontational nature and the power of words.

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’s documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am benefits from the Octogenarian Nobel and Pulitzer prize winner’s characteristically mesmerizing ruminations on her life. As she sits and recounts memories, moments and, most fascinating, glimpses of her writing inspirations, the documentary blossoms.

Compared to the composed and thoughtful interview footage with the likes of Dick Cavett and others from across her career, Morrison’s interaction for Greenfield-Sanders’s camera has a playful quality.

She charms when recounting her personal history: “When I got to Howard, I was loose,” she recalls happily. “I probably overdid it. I don’t regret it.”

Her confidence when considering her life in publishing is awesome. “Navigating a white male world was not threatening. It wasn’t even interesting.”

And when she speaks about her writing — just, wow: “My sovereignty and my authority as a racialized person had to be struck immediately with the very first book. The white world was peripheral if it existed at all.”

It comes as no surprise that someone with such breathtaking mastery of the language would be as beguiling when speaking as she is in writing, and the veteran documentarian knows when to just turn the camera toward his subject and let it roll.

Sure, some context has to be provided. We get biographical information. We see snippets of news shows, hear from famous fans (Oprah, Angela Davis, Sonia Sanchez, Walter Moseley — Toni Morrison has impressive fans). But honestly, this is when Greenfield-Sanders’s documentary gets away from him.

Allowing the audience some background they may not have concerning Morrison’s struggle to be appreciated in her own time, or the bold and culturally imperative choices she made as an editor, or the global reaction to her novels feels necessary. It also feels superficial.

Worse still, it feels like a cheat, like these were moments that could have been spent listening to Toni Morrison tell us something. Anything. This is particularly stinging when we’re finally allowed a sentence or two about how Beloved was inspired. Morrison tells of a vision that suggests there is something genuinely magical, something otherworldly, about her process.

It’s a hint, but it’s impossible not to want more, not to feel as though we could have chucked all that gushing from fans, all those archival interviews, all those photos from Howard and just listen to Toni Morrison tell us a story.

Grade: B+

Darlin’

by Hope Madden

In  2011, filmmaker Lucky McKee unleashed the subversive, feminist horror jewel The Woman to a lot of boos at Sundance. It’s tough viewing, no doubt — the screener we were sent to review prior to its release arrived wrapped in a vomit bag — but it amounted to an envelope-pushing miracle of modern horror.

The film itself was a sequel to the underwhelming 2009 cannibal horror penned by Jack Ketchum, Offspring. The point of both films was that only a doomed moron underestimates Pollyanna McIntosh.

McIntosh (The Walking Dead) returns to the feral, nameless role that’s caused such a ruckus over the years, this time taking charge of the woman’s trajectory by writing and directing the latest installment, Darlin’.

Darlin’ picks up some years after the end of The Woman. McIntosh’s alpha and Darlin’ (Lauryn Canny), the adolescent whose grown in her care since the events of McKee’s flick, approach a hospital. Filthy, communicating with grunts and probably smelling pretty foul, the two split up as the girl enters the hospital.

To the dismay of the unrealizing Woman, the system’s not about to let her back out.

What follows is a sloppy, superficial finger-wagging at Catholicism, which is unfortunate. Not because the church deserves more respect than that — it doesn’t, really — but because there may be no lazier strawman in horror right now than the Roman Catholic Church, and McIntosh doesn’t even bother to get a single dogmatic or ritualistic point accurate.

Let me pause. Pollyanna McIntosh is a sort of hero of mine and The Woman is an all-time favorite. You have no idea how much I wanted to like this film or how much slack I was likely to give. The raw truth is that very little about the film merits praise.

McIntosh still cuts a mighty impressive figure as that nameless beast running the show. Canny, however, struggles with her Tarzan-style dialog.

The always capable Nora-Jane Noone, playing the church’s one good nun, serves mainly as a painful reminder. Those of us who saw her breakout film The Magdalene Sisters remember how cinematically powerful the horrors of Catholicism really can be.

There’s an underfed side plot about a loving nurse and an ill-fitting storyline about a group of homeless women, all of which coalesce with the evil priest core story in a bat-shit climax that almost makes the ride worthwhile.

It’s unfortunate, because there are three or four moments in this film of unique, subversive horror. They flash across the screen and then are gone, drown out by lazily written, listlessly directed cliché.

Grade: C-

Pasolini

by Brandon Thomas

Abel Ferrera, the filmmaker behind Ms. 45, The Driller Killer, and Bad Lieutenant, was maybe too perfect of a choice to depict the final 24 hours in the life of Italian artist Pier Pasolini. While this love letter to Pasolini never quite succumbs to standard biopic syndrome, it also doesn’t fully rise above being anything more than hero worship.

After Pier Pasolini (Willem Dafoe) puts the finishing touches on his masterpiece, Salò, the provocative writer, critic, activist and filmmaker returns to Rome to visit with his family. During the course of this relatively normal day, Pasolini takes part in an interview, meets with fellow artists, and cruises the evening looking for a lover. While the day’s events seem mundane and boring for someone typically known as a notorious hellraiser, all of this leads to a tragic outcome on a beach outside of Ostia, Italy.

It’s evident early on that this movie is in awe of Pasolini. The film doesn’t depict Pasolini’s last day as much as it observes it. Ferrera treats the banal dealings of this 24-hour period with reverence. Pasolini’s life and work is church. The man himself is Jesus. 

Where the spirit of Pasolini is sincerely felt is when Ferrera brings the artist’s works to life. A segment from a novel he’s currently working on is realized with graphic depiction as Pasolini’s character, based on the author himself, has an intense sexual encounter with a young man. Another segment finds two men looking for the famed Feast of Fertility Festival where gay men and women come together for one night to procreate. Neither segment adds to Pasolini’s plot (or what exists of one), but they are so categorically Pasolini in tone, spirit and theme that the stillness of the movie is finally shaken alive.

While the lack of narrative momentum causes the film to stumble, Dafoe stuns as the titular character. He doesn’t play Pasolini as much as he channels the spirit of the late artist. Pasolini’s cool and equal indifference flows through Dafoe’s body language and speech like second nature. His Pasolini is a man equally at home with who he his, but also incredibly bored with the person he has become.

Ferrera’s biggest mistake with Pasolini is that he cares too much about the man himself. While Dafoe’s equal admiration leads to a strong anchoring performance, Ferrara’s unwillingness to push the narrative leaves the film largely lifeless and inert. 

Grade: C

Also opening in Columbus:
Armstrong (NR)
Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache
Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable (PG)
Dorasani (NR)
Fall of the American Empire (R)
Super 30 (NR)
Trespassers (NR)
White Storm 2: The Drug Lords (NR)

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags:

entertainment categories