April 3, 2019

Heroes, Remakes, Dramas and Docs

Movie Dope

Make sure my booty is sparkling!

This week’s wide releases are so hot, it feels like summer. The other Captain Marvel, DC’s Shazam, flies into theaters this week. Both my 3-going-on-4-year-old and I loved it, but more on that next week. The trailers are promising for the resurrection of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary by Starry Eyes’ Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer. Finally, race relations are the topic of discussion between Taraji P. Henson’s civil rights activist and Sam Rockwell’s Exalted Cyclops of the KKK in the historical drama The Best of Enemies.

Around town, you can catch The Look of Silence at the Lamar Dodd School of Art on Apr. 3. The Oscar-nominated documentary, a companion piece to director Joshua Oppenheimer’s harrowing The Act of Killing, is screening in conjunction with ATHICA’s exhibition of Indonesian artist Made Bayak. The latest film in the Science on Screen series, The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young, screens on Apr. 4 at Ciné. The documentary about a race intended to poke fun at James Earl Ray’s infamous escape attempt is paired with a reception (food from Marti’s at Midday) and ends with a lecture.

Movies at Tate offers How to Train Your Dragon—the first one—and the disappointing Potterverse follow-up Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald from Apr. 5–7. On Apr. 8, Showdown at the Equator kicks off the Flicker Film Society’s April, Bloody April party with 1977’s The Bionic Boy. The Rob Lowe-starring 1986 romantic hockey drama Youngblood follows at 10 p.m. Patrick Swayze gets third billing, and look for Keanu Reeves in his second screen appearance. The night’s real gem is the midnight movie, Bloody Birthday, in which three children born during an eclipse turn 10 and murderous. This underrated flick from the 1981 horror boom doubles as both a slasher movie and killer kids flick. Look for Julie Brown, of MTV and Earth Girls Are Easy fame, as the evil girl’s older sister.

On Apr. 9 at the Miller Learning Center, The U Turn will be introduced by filmmaker Luis Argueta, who will take part in a post-screening Q&A. His documentary recounts the largest immigration raid in U.S. history, which occurred at a Postville, IA meatpacking plant in 2008. Now, on to last week’s releases:

DUMBO (PG) Tim Burton continues his downhill creative slide with this live-action remake of Disney’s fourth animated feature. Transitioning Dumbo from an animated world to a real one required Ehren Kruger, already a fairly unpopular screenwriter, to make wholesale changes to the beloved classic. (Other alterations were necessary to cut the racist bits, like that jive-talking murder of crows.) The main character is no longer Dumbo the flying elephant; now, it is the circus’ former star attraction, a one-armed WWI vet (Colin Farrell), and his kids (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins).

Most of the movie is family-friendly pablum that will not excite or enthrall even younger moviegoers enough to warrant subsequent viewings. Its humorous highlights pretty much all involve Danny Devito and a monkey or Alan Arkin. The CGI Dumbo fails to establish much of a relationship with anyone, until the late appearance by Eva Green as a French trapeze artist working for the movie’s central villain, V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton). Even Keaton struggles—ultimately, he cannot make his character anything besides slimy.

As expected, Burton adds some visual flourishes—especially once he unveils Vandevere’s Dreamland theme park—but his movie will be forgotten well before its inspiration.  

HOTEL MUMBAI (R) Calling Hotel Mumbai, which recounts the four-day terrorist attacks that threatened an entire city in 2008, intense feels like an understatement. In his feature debut, director Anthony Maras has crafted a horror movie out of the real-life event. The workers and guests held hostage within the halls and rooms of Mumbai’s luxurious Taj Mahal Palace Hotel experience no less fear at the hands of 10 members of the Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba than the groups of teens hounded by Freddy, Jason and Michael. Moviegoers can convince themselves the film belongs to a different genre if it makes them feel better, but Hotel Mumbai is way more terrifying than Us. The filmmakers even endanger a baby, in case the violent attacks were not already rough enough to watch.

Naturally, the main characters—wealthy newlyweds with a newborn (Armie Hammer and Nazanin Boniadi), a Russian oligarch (Jason Isaacs) and a brave hotel employee (Dev Patel) whose wife is expecting their second child—are fictionalized amalgamations of the real survivors (and victims); hotel chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher) was really there. Like Paul Greengrass’ United 93, Hotel Mumbai is tremendously successful in depicting, not exploiting, hundreds of deaths. It is hard to watch as a result, and I, for one, was glad when its two-hour siege ended.