- This week’s big, big release is Logan, in which director James Mangold and stars Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart reimagine X-Men’s Wolverine as a foul-mouthed, blood-shedding hard case. It’s pretty good! It’s probably not as good as you’ve heard! There’s a wee bit of a wishful thinking element to some of the reviews thus far, which value the idea of a superhero movie changing up the lock-step formula (which is commendable) and overlook the film’s flaws, which aren’t inconsiderable. But it’s still worth your time, and the best comic-related movie we’ve seen in quite a while. Here’s our review.
- The only thing more depressing than a bad movie is a bad movie full of great people, and that’s what we’ve got in Jeffrey Blitz’s Table 19, which assembles a cast of Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, June Squibb, Stephen Merchant, Andy Daly, Wyatt Russell, Amanda Crew, and many more, and gives them next to nothing to do for 90 minutes. There’s a lot in it to like – Kendrick (whose breakthrough role came in Blitz’s far superior Rocket Science, and whose presence here can only be explained as the returning of a favor) is credible and charming as ever; Robinson and Kudrow make a convincing long-time married couple (you see how they used to drive each other crazy in a good way, and now in a bad one); Merchant’s weirdness is a comic gift than keeps on giving, and Becky Ann Baker gets a chance to drunkenly yell-sing “At Last.” But it’s insubstantial at best and lazy at worst; it’s so modest, it evaporates into nothing right in front of you, and the big speeches and Hallmark card wisdom (accompanied by our old pal, the generic strummy acoustic guitar) of the second half are particularly insufferable.
- Also out this week: Ry Russo-Young’s adaptation of the YA novel Before I Fall, which is kind of a cross between Groundhog Day and Mean Girls, but with all the wit, insight, and intelligence drained out. It’s genuinely terrible, in spite of the efforts of a really good cast (including Everybody Wants Some’s four-star ingénue, Zoey Deutch). Here’s what we wrote about it at Sundance.
- Back in 2015, David Byrne assembled ten top color guard teams, paired them with ten musical artists, and had them each collaborate on an original work that he then presented at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center. And just as color guard is something of a mash-up (of dance, twirling, and cheerleading), Bill and Turner Ross’s Contemporary Color is a combination of performance film, backstage documentary, and movie musical, bursting with the joy and spirit of all of the above. Read more in this month’s indie guide.
- In many ways, Donald Cried is your typical cringe comedy – yet what makes it special is where it goes with those ideas, and how it turns our conception of protagonist and antagonist on its head. It is, in many ways, hard to watch, but the ultimate discomfort comes in asking ourselves how we’d handle the same situations. More in the indie guide.
- BBC satirist and documentarian Louis Theroux tackles the Church of Scientology in his new comic doc My Scientology Movie, with a twist: rather than chase down the reclusive church muckety-mucks and interview the same departed members, he produces a dramatization, with actors playing key figures like David Miscavige and celebrity spokesman Tom Cruise. It’s a funhouse arrangement of mirrors and cameras, yet between the oddball set pieces and documentary muckraking, Theroux is slyly exploring the psychopathy at the heart of this organization – and one that may still lurk in those who’ve left it. Read more in the indie guide.
- More and more of the conversation about contemporary humor and satire has concerned limits – what’s outside of them, and who has the right to challenge those norms. The Last Laugh approaches the topic from a point of specificity, examining how comedians from the 1940s forward have approached that most taboo of topics: the Holocaust. The result is thoughtful, funny, and compelling, and Mel Brooks’s comments on Life Is Beautiful are worth the price of admission alone. More in the indie guide.
- And finally, we should note that The Shack is out this week, which we weren’t invited to review, and probably would have skipped anyway. But its trailer is the funniest thing you’ll see today. Maybe this week. Maybe longer:
And hey, if none of those float your boat, it’s a pretty great week for home viewing too. Enjoy!