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MOVIE REVIEWS

MOVIE REVIEWS, Oct. 28: 'Antlers,' 'Last Night in Soho,’ 'Dune,' ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’

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Matt Smith and Anya Taylor-Joy in the film "Last Night in Soho."  

'Antlers'

Our heroine in “Antlers” is Julia (Keri Russell), who has returned home to Oregon to live with her brother, Paul (Jesse Plemons), the local sheriff, after the death of their abusive father (a subplot that’s provocatively presented and then abruptly dropped). As a teacher at the local elementary school, she takes a special interest in one of her students, Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas), a bullied boy who is seemingly suffering from neglect. Lucas writes terrifying fairy tales with accompanying illustrations, depicting the harrowing lives of Big Wolf, Middle Wolf and Little Wolf.

Worried about his welfare, and especially interested in saving a kid from an abusive situation, Julia follows Lucas around town and visits his home looking for his father, Frank (Scott Haze), and younger brother. In poking around trying to save a vulnerable kid, she unwittingly unleashes an ancient evil, which had only been precariously kept at bay by young Lucas’ efforts.

“Antlers” is an adaptation of an indigenous First Nations myth, the tale of the wendigo, which is described by the former sheriff Warren Stokes (played by Canadian First Nations actor Graham Greene). This mythical creature offers the opportunity for shockingly gory body horror, and in “Antlers,” it’s also used as a metaphor for the social ills that plague this town.

The monster, noted for its insatiable hunger, represents the opioid epidemic that has this rural area in its grip, including Frank, who we first meet scrapping metal from a local mine for drug money. But the symbol of this insatiable creature is also used in employ of commentary on the local coal mining industry, which has been fired back up under lax Trump-era environmental regulations. Or perhaps the metaphor is about intergenerational trauma passed from parent to child through abuse. In “Antlers,” it’s all of the above.

The horror craft on display is shockingly gory, the dark and dim cinematography by Florian Hoffmeister almost punishingly creepy. Thomas, as Lucas, is astonishing in a role that makes you worry for his own well-being, and while Russell and Plemons are fantastically embodied actors, they remain in the same dour register for the entire film. But “Antlers” is such a slow burn that at times it grinds to a halt. This dark and dreary monster movie is indeed horrific, but it’s also undoubtedly a downer, for more reasons than it was likely intended.

(R, 2 of 4 stars, 1 hr. 39 min.)

Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service

'Last Night in Soho’

The menace in Edgar Wright's "Last Night in Soho" starts early and slowly. You begin to worry for Eloise (a wistful, sweetly rabbity Thomasin McKenzie), a young woman from Cornwall, the minute she arrives in London to attend fashion school. Her cabdriver at first seems kind and helpful — and then he starts talking about her appearance, making jokes about stalking, getting personal in a way that makes Eloise run from the cab before her destination. London, it seems, has danger around every corner; it's both thrilling and very scary indeed.

And that's a reasonable description of Wright's film, an inventive, intricate and occasionally very bloody tale of two women. One is Eloise, a talented designer obsessed with the music and fashion of the 1960s who's still so young and unformed she's not sure if she wants to be called Eloise or Ellie or Elle. The other is Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy of "The Queen's Gambit"), a glamorous if indistinct party girl who dreams of stardom as a singer or actor or something, and floats into Soho nightclubs like she's barely touching the floor.

Part of what's riveting in "Last Night in Soho" is watching the two women connect and seeing them eerily mirroring and overlapping each other. As Eloise gets pulled more into Sandie's life, things get progressively darker, and the film becomes a cautionary tale about the dangers of idealizing a time and place, and about female rage.

"Last Night in Soho" is full of dark pleasures (the fashions alone, not to mention Terence Stamp's brief and devastatingly creepy smile, will haunt your dreams). And it features a melancholy gift: the final screen appearance of Diana Rigg, who died a year ago.

(R, 3.5 of 4 stars, 1 hr. 56 min.)

Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times

'Dune'

"Dune" has the vast scope, large-scale effects and spectacular visuals of an installation that takes up a couple floors of a museum. It also has about as much narrative momentum.

Director Denis Villeneuve, whose last epic was the similarly story-challenged and humorless "Blade Runner 2049," knows how to suck us into cinematic worlds where every detail convinces us we're in a new dimension. (Although I suspect this will not work as well if you choose to watch "Dune" at home instead of on the huge screens for which it was created.)

Timothee Chalamet is at the center of the action as Paul, who may be "The One" to save his people from destroying one another in an already ravaged world. The scion of the house of Atreides (there's a whiff of Greek tragedy here), Paul is learning to harness a power called "the way." Yep, it's kinda like "the force." It could help him broker peace between warring houses, especially since Paul's mysteriously gifted mother (Rebecca Ferguson) believes he possesses "a mind powerful enough to bridge space and time, past and future."

There's a lot happening in "Dune," which also finds a little room for Javier Bardem as a menacing possible ally for Paul and Zendaya as a warrior who's too gorgeous not to be a Paul love interest if future "Dune" movies get made.

The result is a movie that seems to move both too quickly (Wait. What are the ramifications of that last conflict?) and too slowly (When are we going to get to the why of all of this?). With so much at stake and so many potentially intriguing diversions, "Dune" probably would have worked better as a big, expensive miniseries like "Game of Thrones," where we'd have time to know the enormous cast and explore many worlds.

(PG-13, 2 of 4 stars, 2 hr. 35 min.)

Chris Hewitt, Star Tribune

‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’

“Ron’s Gone Wrong” dots its primer on friendship with chase scenes and warnings about Big Tech, with only mixed success.

Friendless young Barney (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer) sort of appreciates how hard his dad works but feels his life would be so much better if he had his own awesome robot companion, as all his classmates do. The iPhone/Jordans/Pet Rock/whatever of this generation is the Bubble Bot, or B*Bot, programmed to be your “best friend out of the box.” When struggling Dad gets Barney a damaged B*Bot named Ron (voiced by Zach Galifianakis), the robot forges an actual friendship with the boy rather than follow the product’s algorithm to simulate friendship. But free will is a bad thing, according to the corporate bad guys, so chases ensue.

There’s a bit of table-thumping about how these Big Tech companies might not have your best interests at heart when taking all your data and putting cameras and microphones in your hands and home (huge surprise on that one); in the Steve Wozniak-Steve Jobs dynamic of Bubble Corp., the Jobs figure is all evil, all the time. But that’s a side thing when the film’s real aim is a lesson on how “friendship is a two-way street” and imperfection is part of the deal. And that’s all well and good, but it’s not a great bet young kids will come away with that new feather in their thinking caps.

“Ron” gets a few things right. The textures are beautifully rendered, as one expects of studio animation these days. The individual B*Bots are imaginatively designed. As the Bulgarian grandmother, Olivia Colman delivers the movie’s most charming performance. Younger kids may enjoy the chases and one repeated poop joke.

But arguably the film’s greatest comic asset — Galifianakis — is squandered by a one-note delivery that’s level-less by design.

(PG, 2 of 4 stars, 1 hr. 46 min.)

Michael Ordoña, Los Angeles Times

 

 

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