This week holds a wide range of potential releases. Disney and the once beloved, once creative Tim Burton offer up a live-action Dumbo with Michael Keaton, Danny Devito and Colin Farrell; Harmony Korine directs Matthew McConaughey in the “comedy” The Beach Bum; and anti-abortion activists get a controversially R-rated screed titled Unplanned.
If none of those movies tickles your film fancy, the Athens Jewish Film Festival concludes on Mar. 27 at Ciné with the politically charged courtroom drama Act of Defiance, which recounts the trial of 10 South African political activists, including Nelson Mandela. Also at Ciné, the Science on Screen film series continues Mar. 28 with Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, but the 2017 documentary is just the main course. Get there early for the appetizers, a community expo and chef’s tasting reception featuring The National’s Peter Dale, home.made’s Homero Elizalde and The Foundry’s Joseph Houston, then stick around for dessert, a lecture from Let Us Compost’s Kristen Baskin and UGA Campus Kitchen's Brad Turner. New at Ciné on Mar. 29 is the extraordinary documentary Apollo 11, recounting the seminal event without traditional nonfiction filmmaking techniques like narration or interviews.
On Mar. 29, Southern Brewing Company’s Movies on Tap pairs the Will Ferrell basketball comedy Semi-Pro with their tasty craft brews. I recall the 2008 comedy fondly—I went so far as to compare it to Slap Shot and Major League in my original Flagpole review. The Georgia Museum of Art concludes its España en Corto: Spanish Short Film Festival, the seventh annual celebration of up-and-coming Spanish filmmakers, on Mar. 27. That same evening, you can get some cinema culture at Flicker Theatre and Bar with Billy Wilder’s classic Sunset Boulevard—that is, if you are ready for your close-up.
The Morton Theatre screens the student documentary Below Baldwin, which chronicles the discovery of slave remains during construction at UGA’s Baldwin Hall, on Mar. 31. If you missed two of last year’s hits, the better-than-expected Tag and Creed 2—a swell sequel to both Rocky IV and Creed—Movies at Tate has you covered from Mar. 29–31. You can even catch the 1978 classic Grease in the big outdoors—i.e., the Intramural Fields parking lot—through Tate’s Drive-In Movie imprint.
Now, on to the most recent new releases:
US (R) The critical and commercial success of Jordan Peele’s searing debut, Get Out, means sky-high expectations for his follow-up, Us. Incredibly well advertised with a terrifying trailer that makes chilling use of Luniz’s 1995 hit, “I Got 5 on It,” Us lacks its predecessor’s clarity of focus.
The horror-comedy hybrid opens with its strongest sequence. While at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, a young girl goes missing for a few moments. The repercussions of this event play out in the present as the young girl, now a mother of two, returns to the same beach. Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o stars as Adelaide Wilson, whose childhood misadventure leads to doubles of her family appearing one night at the Wilsons’ vacation home.
Unlike most home invasion movies, which generate increasing amounts of tension from the claustrophobia of a seemingly shrinking geography, Us’ terror mostly ends after this initial encounter, as Peele abandons the home invasion plot—rightly, as it had little marginal utility left. Yet problematically, Peele winds cramming too many other ideas into the rest of Us’ two hours. Like many a sophomore filmmaker, fresh off a hit and loaded with four times the budget, Peele attempts to do too many things simply because he can.
Though Us looks to be another allegorical satire à la Get Out, Peele smartly eschews such categorizations, lest he become the M. Night Shyamalan of the scary race satire. And though the film’s major reveal causes the message to transition from focused to fuzzy, it is a ballsy, narrative game-changer. Us is strikingly composed, powerfully performed—especially by Nyong’o—wickedly humorous and a promise from Peele of the bigger, better films to come. I just wish it were scarier.
GLORIA BELL (R) A Fantastic Woman’s Sebastian Lelio remakes his own 2013 sad romance with one huge boon: Julianne Moore, still one of Hollywood’s bravest actors. Gloria (Moore) has been divorced for over a decade, her grown children have little need for her, and her job does not qualify as life-affirming. One night, she meets former Marine Arnold (John Turturro) at one of the dance clubs she frequents, and engages in a whirlwind romance.
Besides the incomparable Moore, Gloria Bell’s noteworthiness lies in its chronicling the romantic dreams of a single, fiftysomething woman. Unfortunately, Turturro, as immensely likable as he is, has a difficult time selling Arnold’s marital backstory. Otherwise, Gloria Bell should be comfort food for audiences jonesing for their Meryl Streep fix.