New Releases for the Week of July 19, 2019


THE LION KING

(Disney) Starring the voices of Donald Glover, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyoncé Knowles, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Alfre Woodward. Directed by Jon Favreau

The latest Disney live-action remake of an animated classic and the second by Favreau who helmed the latest version of The Jungle Book, this one follows the adventures of Simba, the young son of the Lion King Mufasa who must take back the crown from the treacherous Uncle who murdered his father and stole his kingdom.

See the trailer, clips, video featurettes and a promo here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Family
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements)

The Art of Self-Defense

(Bleecker Street) Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, Imogen Poots, Steve Terada. A timid man decides to learn martial arts after being attacked in the streets. However, as he starts developing some much-needed self-confidence, he discovers a darker testosterone-soaked side to his sensei.

See the trailer, clips and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Barnstorm Theater, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal Oviedo Marketplace, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG (for thematic elements)

Carmine Street Guitars

(Abramorama) Rick Kelly, Cindy Hulej, Dorothy Kelly, Lenny Kaye. A small, unassuming guitar shop deep in the heart of Greenwich Village is a mecca for great guitarists not only in New York but all over the country. Owner Rick Kelly is one of the last true guitar craftsmen living, fashioning his guitars out of reclaimed wood from buildings 75 years old and more. Cinema365 has already reviewed this, the latest installment in the acclaimed Enzian Music Mondays monthly series; you can read it at the link under Scheduled for Review.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian Theater (Monday only)
Rating: NR

Maiden

(Sony Classics) Tracy Edwards, Jo Gooding, Bruno Dubois, Barry Pickthall. The incredible true story of the first all-female crew to take on the grueling Round the World sailing race through some of the roughest waters on Earth. Likewise, Cinema365 has also reviewed this previously and you can read the review at the link in Scheduled for Review.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG (for ] language, thematic elements, some suggestive content and brief smoking images)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Above the Shadows
Armstrong
Bottom of the 9th
Ruta Madre
Smile Please
Summer Night

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

Ismart Shankar
Kadaram Kondan</em
Ophelia
Rojo

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

Bottom of the 9th
Iron Sky: The Coming Race
Ismart Shankar
Pathinettam Padi
Smile Please

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Ismart Shankar
The Raft

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

The Art of Self-Defense
Carmine Street Guitars
The Lion King
Maiden

Burning Sands


Here’s a different kind of human centipede

(2017) Drama (Netflix) Trevor Jackson, Alfre Woodward, DeRon Horton, Octavius J. Johnson, Trevante Rhodes, Malik Bazille, Mitchell Edwards, Racquel Bianca John, Steve Harris, Adriyan Rae, Quentin Plair, Christian Robinson, Nafessa Williams, Davyon St. Usaire, Rotimi, Serayah, Daimion Johnson, Tosin Cole, Imami Hakim, Segun Akande, Sidney Freeman. Directed by Gerard McMurray

 

Fraternities and sororities have a time-honored place in the environment of higher education. They are brotherhoods (and sisterhoods) that develop outstanding young men and women, developing them for leadership positions in the future. Unsurprisingly, it takes a great deal of self-discipline and inner fortitude to gain admittance to these institutions.

Zurich (Jackson) is trying to do just that. Pledging the prestigious Lambda Phi fraternity at historically black Frederick Douglass University which claims Dean Richardson (Harris) as an alumnus, he and his four fellow pledges including Square (Horton) and Frank (Cole) undergo ferocious beatings and ritual humiliations that push their endurance beyond their limits. All of them endure these things with near-animal grimaces, telling one another that the rewards will be worth it. Dean Richardson tells Zurich that he is one in a long line of fine gentlemen to survive these rituals and that they serve to toughen them and give them the resilience he needs to be successful in life.

Zurich is not so sure. He suffers a broken rib during one of the beatings and is having increasing trouble with his breathing. His steady girlfriend Rochon (Hakim) is having problems with the amount of time he is devoting to his pledge brothers and is suspicious that he is cheating on her, although Zurich has not been. Keeping up his studies has also been difficult during Hell Week, a fact not unnoticed by his English professor (Woodward).

Each of the pledges has their reasons why becoming accepted by the fraternity is important to them. Zurich just wants to make it through Hell Night, which will end their pledge status and make them full-fledged Lambda Phi brothers but the Hell Night ritual is the most dangerous of all and the five young men will end up risking much more than their dignity to make it through.

While hazing has been outlawed by most colleges and universities, it still exists and there have been instances where students have died as a direct result of hazing rituals. These types of films are an opportunity to examine the mob mentality of human beings and how the desire to fit in sometimes overrules even the most basic of common sense. Sadly, Burning Sands doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity as much as it might.

That isn’t to say that the movie is a failure – far from it, in fact. There are some really outstanding performances here, particularly from Jackson and Horton who not uncoincidentally have the most well-written characters. The movie is mostly Zurich’s point of view as a matter of fact and this is his story much more than it is the other young men. Woodward, one of the best actresses of her generation doesn’t get a lot of screen time but utilizes every moment to weave a most satisfactory appearance in the film.

The women here are essentially ornaments which has been a disturbing trend lately; their characters are given little to do but kvetch at their boyfriends or screw whoever happens to be handy; harridans or whores is what they boil down to here and neither characteristic is particularly flattering. The not-so-subtle sexism dilutes the message somewhat.

Despite these glaring issues I still recommend the movie highly. There is an emotional payoff that ends up being earned – more than that I will not say so as to allow the movie to have maximum impact upon its viewer. While it’s not exactly rocket science to figure out well ahead of time that the pledges of Lambda Phi are headed down a road that leads to nothing good, how that plays out grips the viewer tightly even though it isn’t especially groundbreaking in terms of plot.

Sometimes a movie is greater than the sum of its parts and this is one of those occasions. The movie is flawed, certainly but strong performances can overcome a lot of sins. McMurray, one of the producers on Ryan Coogler’s brilliant Fruitvale Station, doesn’t reinvent the wheel here but tells the story well and show’s not a little potential in the process. While some of the violence may make those sensitive to such things a little faint, the rest of us will be left to wonder why such promising young men are willing to endure so much. There is a fine line between sadism and character-building and established ritual doesn’t excuse crossing that line. This isn’t always easy to watch but it is worth watching all the same.

REASONS TO GO: Jackson, Woodward and Horton all deliver fine performances. The movie takes on a very real issue of fraternity hazing.
REASONS TO STAY: Some of the things the pledges go through are sadistic and disgusting; the sensitive viewer may have trouble watching these.
FAMILY VALUES: There are all sorts of violence, sexuality and profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival; among the producers are rapper Common and comedian Reginald Hudlin.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Netflix
CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/23/17: Rotten Tomatoes: 85% positive reviews. Metacritic: 63/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Goat
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT: Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan