Unless you’re in the ocean and one is heading directly toward you, dorsal fins, thanks to Jaws, are inherently funny/scary. So is director Jaume Collet-Serra’s The Shallows, in which Blake Lively finds herself tormented by a shark for close to an hour and a half. I’ll offer further plot synopsis, but that’s pretty much it. It’s Blake Lively, and a shark, and about 90 minutes – and happily, the star, the fish, and the film’s length are all just what you want and need them to be.
Independence Day: Resurgence boasts white heroes, black heroes, and Chinese heroes and is still, by a considerable margin, the most colorless movie of the year. It doesn’t even resemble a typical 21st Century blockbuster sequel so much as those sad, 20th Century sitcom reunions – The Brady Girls Get Married, say, or The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island – that existed only to remind you how old beloved figures had gotten, and just how stale “timeless” material can become. Roland Emmerich’s 1996 original was an easy film to laugh both at and with, but despite the derisive chuckles it inspires, the most proper response to the director’s wildly unnecessary follow-up would be a two-hour yawn.
Taken on its own, Pixar’s Finding Dory is a delightful time: smart, clever, entertaining, gorgeously animated, and, Pixar being Pixar, all but guaranteed to get you weepy on at least three occasions. But I also can’t help feeling just a little bit pissed at it, if only because of how irrevocably it might change the experience of its predecessor.
At nearly any given moment in its two-hour running length, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster has the power to make you laugh or cry. If you choose to laugh out of derision or cry with frustration, that’s your business, and it’d be hard not to empathize with either reaction. If, however, you find yourself on Lanthimos’ and his movie’s shared, absurdist-deadpan wavelength, you might find the Greek writer/director’s latest tragicomedy – and first English-language one – both extraordinarily funny and almost embarrassingly moving. Never before has the mere sight of a Shetland pony made me chuckle, or well up once I registered exactly what it was I was chuckling at.
Friday, June 3, 10 a.m.-ish: Maybe it’s because I go the full eight-hours-plus without eating, but by the end of my latest quadruple feature, I can’t help but think of the day’s collective screenings as a cinematic four-course meal. In retrospect, I should’ve skipped dessert.
Everyone knows that when the world is imperiled in a comic-book movie, the world is never truly in peril; it’s not like costumed characters, after the Earth’s destruction, are gonna take their in-fighting to Mars for the inevitable sequel. But despite its foreboding title, the stakes in director Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse are particularly low, given that the action takes place in 1983, a full 17 years before the events of Singer’s 2000 X-Men. Clearly, as evidenced by the franchise forebears, Michael Fassbender’s Magneto and James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier will survive the climactic devastation, considering they still need to turn into Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Cyclops and Storm and Jean Grey are all on safe ground, as are Mystique and Beast and Nightcrawler. The winged bad guy Angel can probably go, unless he finds a way to remain a teenager for two-decades-plus and turn into 2006’s good-guy Angel. But are the filmmakers really going to kill off recent recruit Quicksilver when, as personified by Evan Peters, he’s been the best reason for the series’ last two films to exist?
Like many adults, I tend to bemoan the prevalence of easy fart, poop, pee-pee, and mucus jokes in animated kids’ movies – conveniently forgetting, of course, that when you’re a kid, those jokes tend to be hysterical. Well, this past weekend brought with it The Angry Birds Movie, and I guess I don’t have to tell you that it, too, boasts a fair share of gross gags for the pre-teen set. But I should perhaps mention that when a giant eagle voiced by Peter Dinklage took a full minute to urinate, visibly and loudly, and a trio of birds stared at the repellent sight with unblinking, slack-jawed disgust, I would’ve better registered the audience’s delight if I myself weren’t laughing too hard to hear them.
In Money Monster’s opening sequence, you can sense director Jodie Foster and her cast going for the slick, workplace-comedy pizzazz of Aaron Sorkin’s walk-and-talks in The West Wing and Steve Jobs and not quite getting there. George Clooney, as the braying host of a Mad Money-esque financial-advice program, alternately smooth-talks and ignores technicians and guests minutes before air time, and Julia Roberts, as the show’s director, trails him with exasperated good humor. Yet something feels off. You recognize the jokes as jokes, but because they’re delivered with such over-calculated disregard and nobody appears emotionally connected to their dialogue, they’re not very funny. However, right after the live broadcast begins, a young man with a gun and bomb-lined jacket interrupts the proceedings, and threatens to kill the host unless his demands are met. And then the oddest thing happens: Money Monster starts to become really funny.
It’s no secret that Marvel Studios routinely tosses a bonus scene or two into the end credits of its comic-book movies as a means of jacking up anticipation for adventures, and Avengers, yet to come. I rarely stay for these things, as I’m usually more than ready to leave the auditorium by the time “Directed by ...” flashes on-screen, and I didn’t stick around for the credit cookies in Captain America: Civil War, either. (From what I understand, one of them is designed to build interest in Ryan Coogler’s forthcoming Black Panther. Personally, I was on-board with the project the instant I saw Coogler’s name attached.) But about halfway through the good Captain’s new solo outing – one that’s really an Avengers sequel in everything but title – I suddenly found myself nearly giddy with excitement for an upcoming Marvel flick without having to wait for the inevitable teasers. Halfway through, you see, is when Spider-Man arrives.