In a new twist on The Loft Cinema Open Air series, they will be screening some new films in the out of doors, starting with the movie featured below.
This week's movie roundup features Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Chloe Grace Moretz kicking unholy ass...
ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI
Now playing at The Loft Cinema as part of the Outdoor Series, and at Harkin’s Tucson
One week only before streaming on Amazon Prime
Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) get together for a night in Miami for some ice cream and beer. What’s supposed to be a night of pals partying turns into a series of heated debates about the plight of the black man in the ’60s in Regina King’s strong adaptation of the Kemp Powers fictional, yet very authentic feeling, play.
The film itself, like the recent Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, has the restraint of limited locations (in this case, a hotel room) that an adapted play usually offers. King uses flashbacks and some outdoor scenes to keep the film moving along at a strong pace that allows it to feel a little freer in the spectrum of film than Black Bottom. This one feels more like a “movie.” Big kudos to King for that. I didn’t research the movie before watching it, and only slightly suspected it had originated as a play while taking it in.
All of the lead performances are exemplary. Leslie Odom Jr., who had a nice 2020 with this and the film adaptation of Hamilton, is my pick for the movie’s MVP. His Cooke squaring off with Ben-Adir’s Malcolm X against strong suggestions that he is a sellout is potent stuff. He also gets to put his amazing singing voice to the test in flashbacks where Cooke is performing. He passes in a big way.
Ben-Adir does a solid job of showing the power of Malcolm X, while realistically depicting some of the natural fears a man of his stature was facing with all of the death threats he endured. (He would be assassinated soon after this play’s setting.) Goree makes for a fine Clay (soon to be Ali), giving a performance that is far from caricature. Brown, perhaps the most laid back of this crowd, exhibits a quiet power thanks to Hodge’s work.
It’s definitely a supergroup movie, featuring super actors and directed by a promising actress-turned-director in King.
SHADOW IN THE CLOUDS
Now playing at Roadhouse Cinemas and Harkins Tucson
Chloe Grace Moretz takes a nice, successful run at being an action hero in this hysterical genre mashup that sees her WWII character battling sexism, Japanese fighter pilots and, oh yeah, a big-assed gremlin.
Moretz is Maude, a mysterious, last-minute passenger on a fighter plane flying what’s supposed to be a non-combat mission. She has a parcel that is not allowed to be opened, a gun nobody knows about, and a really bad English accent. The all-male crew of pigheaded trash talkers stick her in the gun turret beneath the plane and start jawing about all the gross things they’d like to do to her.
Not long into the flight, Twilight Zone style, Maude sees something crawling on the plane, while also seeing a possible enemy fighter beneath the plane. Director Roseanne Liang, with the help of some snap editing, terrific special effects, and pulsing soundtrack, cranks up the crazed action in a way that will have you cackling with glee.
The film is a blast. It goes way off the rails of plausibility, but you won’t care. Maude faces all of her enemies with fierce success, thanks to some of Moretz’s best screen work to date. She has a film career kicking ass ahead of her if she wants one.
In addition to the Twilight Zone, the film pays fun homage to that great Warner Bros. cartoon where Bugs Bunny battled a gremlin on his plane (most notably with a propaganda-like animated preview). It’s a fun film, and it gets 2021 off to an entertaining start.
on Tue, Jan 5, 2021 at 11:45 AM
REVIEW: The Midnight Sky
Still showing at Harkins Tucson while streaming on Netflix
George Clooney’s latest directorial effort, The Midnight Sky, has been taking a bit of a drubbing from the critics. Well, actually, it’s pulling about a 52% on the Rottentomatoes meter, so that’s right down the middle.
I’m going to come down on the positive side on this one. Clooney has always been a decent director, although he’s made a clunker or two. I loved his debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and liked Good Night and Good Luck and The Ides of March. Not a huge fan of Leatherheads and Suburbicon. I felt he was riffing on his buddies the Coen Brothers a little too obviously.
The Midnight Sky is quite nice visually, well-acted by Clooney himself and, while a bit of a mishmash of films that have come before it, a generally absorbing apocalyptic science fiction thriller. Albeit, a slow-moving sci-fi thriller, much like the remake of Solaris he starred in (a vastly underrated film) with hints of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Hey, if you are going to borrow some elements, borrow from the good shit.
Clooney plays Augustine, a scientist left behind (on purpose) in an arctic atoll after an unexplained (but hinted nuclear) planet killing event. As one of few survivors on the planet, he starts scanning the stars for any interplanetary missions that might be unaware of the conditions of Earth. He finds one, a mission to a Jupiter moon headed by a crew consisting of Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo and Kyle Chandler. They are heading back to Earth and have no idea what has happened.
Augustine tries desperately to communicate with the mission while tending to a child (Caoilinn Springall) accidentally left behind at the facility. Their scenes together are cute, and their journey through the Arctic tundra to a working satellite dish has some tense moments (including a wolf attack and some breaking ice).
on Sat, Dec 26, 2020 at 12:12 PM
This week at the movies, it finally happens: a blockbuster superhero movie goes straight to streaming and not because it is totally shitty. It's actually pretty good, with a few shitty elements.
You can also see it at area theaters (more details below). Along with Wonder Woman, you can see other great female performances from Aubrey Plaza and Carey Mulligan in career best work.
Your movie roundup:
REVIEW: Wonder Woman 1984 Now playing at Roadhouse Cinemas and Harkins Tucson while also streaming on HBO Max
This year, for Christmas, you didn’t have to leave the house to give your family a blockbuster opening-day treat. I mean, you could’ve, because Wonder Woman 1984 has been released simultaneously streaming on HBO Max and in theaters.
The movie is definitely a big screen spectacle, so reducing it to home theater size, while not totally a detriment, hurts the film. It screams for a big screen or IMAX, even when the CGI takes a tragic downturn into pitiful.
Fortunately, the character portrayals and moral struggles work fine on either screen size so WW84 winds up being a superhero sequel that falls somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to cinematic goodness.
The good: Gal Gadot continues to be all kinds of wonder as Wonder Woman, Amazonian goddess forced to go through history without her true love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) who died in the first movie. It’s 1984, and while hair is big and pants are parachuting, she’s timeless. And the script, cowritten by director Patty Jenkins, gives Gadot a chance to go deeper with the character, and she straight-up shines.
As Barbara Minerva and, eventually, Cheetah, Kristen Wiig makes for a great villain: sensitive, funny and, when appropriate, totally depraved. Pedro Pascal is good as Maxwell Lord, a sort of combo of Donald Trump and Tony Roberts who gets ahold of a wishing stone that, while granting a single wish, also makes you pay for said wish.
Steve Trevor coming back ties into the wishing stone, as does Barbara becoming Cheetah and Max gaining world power. The stone is a good enough premise, but there are a lot of moral ambiguities when it comes to Steve. Bah…no matter. It’s good to have Pine back in the saddle.
The film is set in the ’80s, which plays great for the opening shopping mall sequence, but then sort of drops into the background and doesn’t play for much of the movie. The finale involves some ’80s nuclear war paranoia, but it also involves a terrible looking, fully formed CGI Cheetah that almost derails all the good that happened before she appears. Almost.
on Thu, Dec 24, 2020 at 10:00 AM
In this week leading up to Christmas, some of the bigger Netflix films will be showing up on your home screen, as will Wonder Woman 84 on Christmas Day (a simultaneous theatrical and streaming release).
Theater offerings include Hilary Swank going batshit crazy, and Milla Jovovich fighting some impressive looking monsters. Here's this week's movie roundup, including both theatrical releases at Harkins and Roadhouse, and streaming releases via The Loft Cinema.
FATALE—Now Playing at Harkins Tucson and Roadhouse Cinemas
Okay, I’ll say it in the first sentence: this movie is a crap fest. But it’s a crap fest that allows a good actress like Hilary Swank to go into psycho mode and, as things turn out, she makes for an okay psycho.
Swank plays Valerie Quinlan, the crazy character in this Fatal Attraction rip-off in which a lot of humans die but all bunnies are spared. Valerie meets Derrick (Michael Ealy), the story’s main character and victim of the psycho’s craziness, during a one-night stand in Vegas. She meets him again as the result of a major leap in scriptwriting logic, and that’s when the movie goes off the rails.
The film is one crazy coincidence and plot hole after another as cast members fall like dominoes with Ealy looking really sad and Swank going into crazy smile-crazy eyes mode. Liken this project to some of the low-grade stuff we see the likes of Nicolas Cage and Bruce Willis inhabiting now. Like Cage, Swank has the ability to shine in the occasional trash flick, wherein Willis just looks bored.
on Sat, Dec 12, 2020 at 7:27 PM
Films continue to screen indoors, outdoors and on home screens here in the Tucson area as the holiday season rolls on. Plenty of chances to fuel your brains with wholesome, nutritional, mind-enhancing flicks.
This week at local theaters:
BREAKING SURFACE—streaming at The Loft Cinema
A few days after Christmas, half-sisters Ida and Tuva set out on a winter dive in a remote part of the Norwegian coastline. Towards the end of the dive, a rockslide traps Tuva under water. As Ida surfaces to call for help, she discovers that the rockslide has struck above water as well, burying their equipment, phones and car keys–they are completely cut off from any chance of outside rescue. As the frantic race for survival unfolds, Ida is put to the ultimate test of character and forcefulness. During Ida’s fight to save Tuva, a fractured sisterhood is exposed, and when all seems lost, the stakes rise beyond simple survival.
THE MIDNIGHT SKY—screening exclusively at Harkins Tucson before its Netflix engagement
Directed by and starring George Clooney
WILD MOUNTAIN THYME: Now screening at Roadhouse Cinemas and Harkins
So, the big movie news this week is the Warner Bros. announcement that all films on their 2021 slate—all of them, no matter how much they cost to make—will follow the model they have put in place for the Christmas Day release of Wonder Woman 1984.
Matrix 4, Dune, Suicide Squad and many others will be released in theaters and on HBO Max streaming the same day. You'll be able to watch these films on HBO Max one month, and then the release will go theater only.
In short, you will be able to see these big Warner Bros. releases at home or, if you should choose, at theaters like our local Harkins and Roadhouse Cinemas. Happily, you won't have to wait longer for the releases due to the pandemic. The big fun movies are coming, and it won't be surprising if other studios follow suit for 2021. It's all very interesting, and very, very weird.
As for Tucson cinema this week, here's a sampling of what you can stream or see on the big screen:
NOW STREAMING AT THE LOFT
A screwball stoner rom-com set in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The film follows Ching Yazzie, a longboard craftsman, and Dawn Wilson, an aspiring performance artist set on moving to northern California for a “mime residency."
on Mon, Nov 30, 2020 at 10:45 AM
While we didn't have a whole lot of new theatrical movie offerings this weekend (although a new Croods movie opened nationwide), there is a most notable streaming offering now playing via The Loft's streaming series, and other streaming platforms such as Apple TV and Amazon.
Here's a review of the new documentary, Zappa:
Zappa isn’t the first posthumous documentary on one of the 20th century’s greatest composers (and personalities), but it’s most certainly the best one yet.
Crowdfunded and years in the making, it’s bolstered by access to Zappa’s immense vault full of unheard audio and unseen video. Directed by Alex Winter (Bill from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and the man who helmed the great cult flick Freaked), it’s a deeply felt, even heartbreaking look at the man who left us way to soon at the age of 52.
The doc begins with footage of Zappa playing his guitar, for what turned out to be the last time in public, in a celebration of the Soviets withdrawing their troops from Czechoslovakia (Zappa died in ’93). The film then goes back to the very beginning of Frank’s artistic life. Winter spends some good time on the early years, including Zappa’s home movies with his family, his obsession with composer Edgar Varese, and time spent at Studio Z, his first recording studio.
After the movie announces the formation of Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention in ’65, it starts leaning on former band members like saxophonist Bunk Gardner, guitarists Ray White, Steve Vai and Mike Keneally, percussionist Ruth Underwood and bassist Scott Thunes to handle much of the narration. For fans, it’s just a great thing to hear all of the Zappa archival interviews interweaving with current takes from his past bands.
Nice touches include Vai recounting the complexities of “The Black Page,” followed by new footage of Underwood playing it stunningly on the piano accompanied by drummer Joe Travers. Keneally tells the story of illustrator Cal Schenkel’s album covers and, most wonderfully, the original handwritten note from daughter Moon Unit Zappa that birthed the hit single “Valley Girl.”
Early on, Winter often relies upon old monster movie footage to accompany interview audio. At first it’s a bit annoying, but as Frank reveals later in the film, he adored monster movies, so perhaps that was a creative choice Zappa himself would’ve made in telling his story. The same could be said of the often haphazard, zippy editing, which resembles the animated works Zappa directed with Claymation artist, Bruce Bickford, who we get to see making an all-new figure of Frank.
The film’s most heartwarming moment? Home video footage of Baby Moon Unit yawning, followed by Frank yawning while playing with her, all accompanied by the Firebird Suite on the soundtrack. Frank’s wife Gail (who passed away in 2015) gets some good screen time through an archival interview, while his children (Ahmet, Dweezil, Moon Unit and Diva) all appear in older footage.
on Fri, Nov 20, 2020 at 12:30 PM
The biggest cinema news this week was regarding Wonder Woman 1984 and its new status as the latest blockbuster to go streaming. While the film will still open in theaters on Christmas Day this year, Warner Bros. has decided to release it the same day on HBO Max, free of charge to subscribers.
Christmas is just over a month away (really...it is), and there's plenty for Tucsonans to do cinema wise before Diana Prince goes up agains the Leopard Lady or whoever hell the villain is this time out.
Here's this week's Cinema Roundup
The Last Vermeer
Dan Friedkin’s directorial debut, based on the true story of Han Van Meegeren (Guy Pearce), an art dealer accused of collaborating with Nazis during WWII, certainly has its moments.
The story is fascinating and, since I knew close to nothing about the subject going in, I don’t want to ruin it for you. What I will tell you is that Pearce plays Meegeren in a memorable way, including some pretty crazy eyebrows.
Dragging on the story a bit would be Claes Bang playing Captain Joseph Piller, who winds up defending Van Meegeren in court after originally arresting him. Bang is miscast in this movie, bringing zero charisma to the role of a crusading man fighting for justice after the war. He’s so boring, you couldn’t imagine him fighting for a bar stool a Monday Night Football party, let alone standing up for justice in a Dutch court.
Pearce is good here, and Friedkin has made a good movie about a person so bizarre it’s hard to believe he existed. The story told, although embellished, is mostly true, and it’s bonkers stuff. Learning a bit about this strange history is the second reason-beyond Pearce-to watch this movie.
While the next Arizona International Film Festival is still a few months off, film fans can enjoy a select cut in the meantime. The film Wheels won the award for Best Indie Film at the 2019 Arizona International Film Festival, which is held annually in Tucson.
Wheels, described as a coming of age story, follows a Brooklyn teen struggling to balance personal relationships, urban strife and a dream of becoming a DJ.
Directed by Paul Starkman, who has worked on programs like Project Runway and Top Chef, the film also won awards at the 2019 San Francisco Black Film Festival and 2019 Harlem International Film Festival.
After success on the film festival circuit, Wheels is available on online via Amazon Prime, Vimeo, iTunes and more.
on Sat, Nov 14, 2020 at 11:22 AM
This week's Tucson Film Roundup includes a review of the latest Mel Gibson effort, the arrival of a Vince Vaughn comedy, and an insane looking, new streaming film at The Loft.
Opening this week...
Mel Gibson plays the title character in Fatman, that particular fatman being none other than Santa Claus. If your schmaltz alarm just went off, don't worry, this isn't one of those happy time, Tim Allen vehicles where Santa is a comic figure who falls down a lot.
Nope, this is Christmas grizzly Gibson style. Writer-directors Eshom and Ian Nelms come up with a fun premise: a young nasty kid (Chance Hurstfield) hires a hitman (Walton Goggins) to take out Santa aka Chris. Sounds like the makings of a solid dark comedy, right?
Well, not so fast. The Eshom brothers employ a grainy look on a low budget and very dry humor that feels awkward. The tone dial is way off in this movie, and a good performance by Gibson, along with a great premise, get squandered.
Gibson tries his best to have the whole thing make sense, but any attempt at a gag falls woefully flat, and Goggins seems like he's in the wrong movie. The action sequences are okay, but not good enough to balance out the shortfalls. This movie should be completely nuts, but it winds up being totally dull.
The end result is better than those Tim Allen Santa movies, but not much better.
Fatman Now Playing at Roadhouse Cinemas and Harkins
ALSO OPENING AT ROADHOUSE CINEMAS and HARKINS:
FREAKY (This film was sitting at a very positive 86% on Rottentomatoes at press time)
NOW STREAMING AT LOFT CINEMA:
ACTION U.S.A. (Watch out...uncensored trailer...don't play at work. This movie looks crazy).