- Orion Pictures, Searchlight Pictures and IFC Films
The wait is finally over for X-Men fans. Originally scheduled for release in theaters in April, The New Mutants is now at a big screen near you. We, however, don’t have a review for you since Twentieth Century Studios decided not to screen it for critics. Nevertheless, we have a lot of other stuff to fill this week’s column, including five reviews of new movies opening this week and one we missed from last week. Take a look-see…
Bill & Ted Face the Music
Actors Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are back to reprise their roles as William “Bill” S. Preston, Esq. and Theodore “Ted” Logan in Bill & Ted Face the Music, the third installment of the time-traveling franchise that started in 1989. While viewers who grew up watching the sci-fi adventure on VHS might be entertained, the latest movie won’t likely create any more aspiring Wyld Stallyns rock stars. Face the Music comes nearly 30 years since we last saw the title characters in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, an over-the-top but amusing sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure two years prior. In the new film, Bill and Ted, now middle-aged fathers, are sent back in time by Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of Rufus (the late George Carlin) from the first two films, to write a song that will unite the world. Reeves and Winter seem to be all on board, but playing happy-go-lucky burnouts again, this time in their mid-50s, just isn’t as charming. Aside from actor William Sadler’s reprise of his role as the lonely and hapless Grim Reaper and a slightly funny impression of Reeves by actor Brigette Lundy-Paine, who plays Ted’s daughter, Face the Music relies too much on its nostalgia factor and good-hearted, surfer-dude messaging to make an impression. “Be excellent to each other. And party on, dudes,” is a great motto to print on a T-shirt, especially in the world today, but the air guitar sounds a bit more out of tune for a third phone-booth ride. If you glean anything from Face the Music, it’s that we now really need to round out the Wayne’s World trilogy. Read our interview with Sadler’s Grim Reaper. Bill and Ted Face the Music is currently playing at local theaters and available on VOD platforms August 28. 2.5 out of 5 stars (not recommended)
Setting a film in one single location is a tough task to undertake as a filmmaker. When things go right, the outcome can be as tense and compelling as 1957’s 12 Angry Men, 2010’s 127 Hours and 2013’s Locke. When things get tiresome in such a small, confined space, you, unfortunately, end up with a movie like Centigrade. The entire film, which is said to be based on a true story, takes place inside a car buried under snow. Matt (Vincent Piazza) and his pregnant wife Naomi (Genesis Rodriguez) are driving in Norway when a snowstorm forces them to pull to the side of the road. When they wake up the following morning, they are trapped under the heavy snow with little food and water. Tempers flare, finger pointing begins and some less than sanitary things happen inside the car, but none of it is very noteworthy. First-time director/co-writer Brendan Walsh keeps the drama intense enough for the first half of the film, but then the storytelling loses momentum and feels as stuck as Matt and Naomi in their icy grave. Knowing the stakes are high with a baby in Naomi’s belly is an interesting angle, but Walsh and co-writer Daley Nixon are not able to develop their main characters into anything more than a pair of very unlucky people. Centigrade hits VOD platforms August 28. 2.5 out of 5 stars (not recommended)
Get Duked!, originally titled Boyz in the Wood during its film festival run, is a dark comedy reminiscent of the 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. The film follows a group of troublemaking teens (Samuel Bottomley, Viraj Juneja, Lewis Gribben and Rian Gordon) who are sent for a hike in the highlands of Scotland only to find out they are being hunted down by a wealthy duke and duchess (Eddie Izzard and Kate Dickie). Shot by Scottish music video director and first-time feature filmmaker Ninian Doff, the humor hits some nice strides when its nods to classics like Monty Python and the Holy Grail are evident. Fans of 2011’s U.K. comedy Attack the Block will probably enjoy Get Duked! just as much. Both films won a Midnight Feature Audience Award at SXSW. The dialogue feels fresh, but the film hits on many of the same tropes that recent “humans hunting humans” movies like The Purge and You’re Next have explored. The chemistry between the actors is riotous at times, but the cleverest parts of the script fall prey to some of the lazier, overplayed gags. A portion of this article originally ran online at Texas Public Radio. Get Duked debuts on Amazon Prime August 28. 3 out of 5 stars (recommended)
The Personal History of David Copperfield
While The Personal History of David Copperfield doesn’t come close to the best content that writer/director Armando Iannucci (The Death of Stalin) has already given lovers of his biting cinematic satire, the eccentric, Victorian-era characters, including those played by Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton) and Hugh Laurie (TV’s House), deliver enough spirit and wit to fill a library full of Charles Dickens novels. Oscar nominee Dev Patel (Lion) stars as the title character during his adult years. The film follows him from childhood working in a bottling factory in London to adulthood where he finds sanctuary with his weird aunt (Swinton) after the death of his mother. If you’re not familiar with Dickens’ original classic, Iannucci’s version probably isn’t the best place to start if you fancy yourself a purist. But there’s a surprisingly good amount of fun to be had here, especially if you can respect someone like Iannucci who is brave enough to take the subtler parts of a story and amplify them to exaggerated levels. It doesn’t always work, but with characters named Uriah Heep, Mr. Dick and Mealy Potatoes, how could he not at least try? The Personal History of David Copperfield is currently playing at local theaters. 3 out of 5 stars (recommended)
#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump
While some might consider it unethical to psychoanalyze a patient without ever having sat in front of them to give them a formal diagnosis (Google “The Goldwater Rule”), the documentary #Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump makes a persuasive argument about the interpretation of that unofficial rule. When it comes to someone as powerful as the President of the United States, that long held belief from inside the medical field should be chucked away faster than you can say covfefe hamberders. Sure, a film like #Unfit, which assembles opinions on the mental stability of Trump from various specialists, will be brushed off by supporters of the POTUS. They’ll likely consider a doc like this just as useless as liberals view the badly produced propaganda created by conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza (Hillary’s America), especially since it’s an election year. Still, first-time director Dan Partland paints a pretty profound picture of the five years since Trump first announced his candidacy and explores some interesting reasons about why the Goldwater Rule should be dismissed. “Trump is a sociopath, a sadist, a con artist, a racist, a misogynist [and] a sexist in general,” says psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Justin Frank, M.D., during the film’s first eight minutes. That’s a lot of ground to cover in an 83-minute doc, but Partland, who serves as a very evenhanded documentarian, is more than up for the challenge. Conservatives and liberals will decide if Trump’s first four years have been a success or a sham in two months. Until then, #Unfit is a provocative and chilling overview of Trump’s time in the Oval Office, which could possibly influence undecided voters come November 3. #Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump hits Virtual Cinemas August 28 and VOD platforms September 1. 3 out of 5 stars (recommended)
Words on Bathroom Walls
Adam (Charlie Plummer) is a high school student, an aspiring chef and an all-around nice guy. He’s also a kid who is battling mental illness and trying not to let it define who he is. The setup for director Thor Freudenthal’s (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) drama might sound like something you’ve seen countless times before in movies like The Perks of Being a Wallflower or Girl, Interrupted, but there is a distinctive approach that Words on Bathroom Walls takes that is more realistic and uplifting than most teenage love stories. Adapted from the book of the same name by Julia Walton, Words tells the story of Adam, a young man living with schizophrenia. Adam hears voices and sees things that are not there, including three separate characters he imagines daily – an intimidating bodyguard (Lobo Sebastian), a hormonal teen (Devon Bostick) and a peaceful hippie (AnnaSophia Robb). He also has real people in his life like his loving and supportive mother Beth (Molly Parker) and her detached boyfriend Paul (Walter Goggins), who Adam thinks wants to send him to a mental institution. After a violent outburst at school, Adam is transferred to a private Catholic high school where he falls for Maya (Taylor Russell), the edgy valedictorian who he hides his illness from. Oscar nominee Andy Garcia (The Godfather: Part III) also has an incredibly effective turn as a priest who Adam confides in despite not believing in God. The pieces come together in fascinating form as we watch our young protagonist begin taking a new medication to suppress his psychosis. Together, Plummer and Russell are heartbreaking as they maneuver their way through a friendship and potential romance with a secret hiding beneath the surface. Overall, Words is the one of the most gratifying young-adult-novels-turned-films since 2014’s The Fault in Our Stars. Words on Bathroom Walls is currently playing at local theaters. 3.5 out of 5 stars (recommended)
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