Movie Reviews 5/13

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The Company You Keep
Sony Pictures Classics
In Theaters: 04.05

The King of Sundance, Robert Redford, returns to the director’s chair and stars in this mild-mannered thriller that concentrates its theme on confronting the demons of our past. As a former member of the Weather Underground, a radical anti-war group formed in the 1960s, Jim Grant (Redford) has been hiding for decades under a fake identity after being charged for murder during a bank robbery. When a former collaborator (Susan Sarandon) is found and arrested, an Albany Sun Times reporter’s (Shia LaBeouf) attraction for potential headlines forces Grant out into the open with his determination to uncover the truth. Redford takes audiences on a predictable cat and mouse chase, as the tactics he uses to evade the pursuing F.B.I. are effective yet tired. Along the way to the credits, we’re introduced to an all-star deck of veteran character actors that include Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Richard Jenkins, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Elliott and Stephen Root, who offer just enough amusement to keep the train from derailing. The greatest element to the film is Sarandon’s performance as she explains her radical actions and whether or not her crimes were justified. It’s chilling. In the end, the film comes off a geriatric version of The Fugitive. Sure, it’s entertaining, but, like most Medicare recipients, we’ll forget all about it before supper. ­­–Jimmy Martin

Evil Dead
TriStar Pictures
In Theaters: 04.05

When the trailer of a horror film goes viral on the Internet with videos of viewers reacting to the horrific images on the screen, you know you’ve got something special on your hands. Newcomer director Fede Alvarez leads this addition to the franchise Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell made into a cult classic more than three decades ago. In this version, Mia (Jane Levy) is brought to a secluded cabin in the woods by her family and friends in order to kick her heroin addiction. When a human skin-bound book containing mysterious language is found and carelessly read, a demonic presence is unleashed with the group in its sights. Even with the release of The Cabin in the Woods last April, a film that playfully and intelligently poked fun at the genre, Alvarez proves there’s still plenty of genuine fear to be created and delivered with this style of filmmaking. The film’s over-the-top blood and gore induces not only fear, but the acceptably uncomfortable, laughable moments as well, and the degree of absurdity only increases with the running time. It’s abundantly clear Alvarez has a fondness for the classics. There are only a handful of films that must be seen in a theater setting where the shrieks and snickers of your fellow moviegoers enhance the experience, and this is certainly one of them. I strongly suggest seeing this at Salt Lake City’s Brewvies Cinema Pub, because you’ll need a stiff drink before, during and after. Bottoms up! –Jimmy Martin

Oblivion
Universal
In Theaters: 04.19

Numerous films have depicted the extraterrestrial invasion scenario with national monuments being destroyed and the hero inevitably saving the human race, but what happens after the victory party? Director Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy) brings this question to the forefront in his second feature undertaking that takes place in the 2077 after an alien race destroyed our moon and attacked our planet. While we won the war, the planet has become uninhabitable, and the human race has been evacuated to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. Back on the Earth’s surface, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is part of a two-person cleanup crew whose job it is to maintain security drones. Life is simple and, for the most part, quiet, but when Jack encounters an unknown presence, he begins to question the truth behind his assignment. As with his 2010 project, Kosinski delivers a sleek sci-fi adventure that truly showcases modern-day technology and special effects. At times, it’s more interesting to look at the striking images than listen to the dialogue. Cruise continues his reign on the action/sci-fi field, yet adds an element of sentimentality this time around. The film does borrow ideas, themes and imagery from many of the genre’s predecessors, but to have a film emulate classics rather than offer a full-on remake is almost a rarity these days … a rarity that’s welcomed. –Jimmy Martin

The Sapphires
The Weinstein Company
In Theaters: 03.22

As with many underdog tales of the past, Wayne Blair’s The Sapphires hits the same clichéd heartstring chords to produce an immediate emotional response, but what distinguishes this undertaking from the others is the rustic setting and its magnetic ensemble cast. Based on a true story and set in 1968 racially-tense Australia, a female family foursome of Aboriginal singers is determined to make their voices known across the globe. Their paths collide with a wise-cracking boozehound manager (Chris O’Dowd), who agrees to take the girl group to Vietnam to perform for the American troops. At moments, the girls find themselves in the spotlight, bringing joy to those around them, and, at other times, learning what it means to become an adult in a war-torn country. The soulful soundtrack, mixed with O’Dowd’s gift in comedic line delivery, is enough to make anyone smile. While O’Dowd’s gifts have been seen in earlier films (Bridesmaids, This is 40), it’s refreshing to have a new batch of talent able to jump directly into the deep end with him without losing any momentum, especially with Deborah Mailman as the eldest/protective sibling. The playful romantic interactions between O’Dowd and Mailman are as enchanting as they are charismatic. ­–Jimmy Martin

Starbuck
Entertainment One
In Theaters: 03.22

It’s amazing what some people will do for cash when they’re young and poor. Some give blood, others sell plasma and some donate sperm. David Wozniak (Patrick Huard) falls into that latter category. Though the years, life has not been kind to David financially, and he has had to make some desperate decisions on more than one occasion. However, nothing could have prepared him for the news that ALL of his sperm donations had been utilized and, as a result, he has fathered 533 children. In an attempt to uncover David’s identity, 142 of the children are suing the clinic. With a baby on the way with his on-and-off girlfriend and a substantial debt owed to relentless thugs, David secretly seeks out his other children to determine his next step in life. Leave it to Canada to be the next location for Hollywood to suck dry (Vince Vaughn’s remake is wrapping up as you read this) with this charismatic tale of responsibility and redemption that refrains from entering the lowbrow territory too often. Huard, no matter how much of a bumbling, self-absorbed idiot he is, is as appealing and amusing as they come as he takes full responsibility in the lives of the children he had nothing to do with. Director Ken Scott succeeds at generating a familiar feel-good movie that may feel common, but the authentic joy the film emits is too comforting to ignore. –Jimmy Martin

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