New Releases for the Week of July 30, 2021


JUNGLE CRUISE

(Disney) Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemmons, Paul Giamatti. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Based on a beloved Disney parks ride (which were themselves loosely inspired by The African Queen), a plucky young researcher hires a wise-cracking riverboat captain to help her find a mystical tree deep in the heart of the jungle that may change the face of medicine forever. This will be simultaneously available on Disney Plus premium – subscribers will pay an additional cost of $29.99.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Adventure
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: PG-13 (for adventure violence)

Broken Diamonds

(FilmRise) Lynda Boyd, Yvette Nicole Brown, Ben Platt, Lola Kirke. A writer’s dream of moving to Paris is temporarily put on hold when, following his father’s unexpected death, he is given the task of caring for his wildly predictable mentally ill sister.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: PG-13 (for a crude gesture and thematic elements)

Charlatan

(Strand) Ivan Trojan, Josef Trojan, Juraj Loj, Jaroslava Pokorná. The story of Jan Mikolásek, a Czech herbal healer whose seeming miracle cures hid a dark side that came to life during the repressive totalitarian Fifties behind the Iron Curtain.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Historical Drama
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

The Green Knight

(A24) Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Santa Choudhury. Sir Gawain, a Knight of the Round Table, is tasked with facing the Green Knight, an emerald-skinned giant. His quest will have him face all manner of challenges and supernatural creatures as he struggles to prove his worth to his family, his King and ultimately, himself.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Fantasy
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: R (for graphic nudity, violence and some sexuality)

Masquerade

(Shout!) Bella Throne, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Mircea Monroe, Skyler Samuels. An eleven-year-old girl faces off against a group of thieves who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the priceless collection of artwork that hangs in her home.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Thriller
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk
Rating: NR

Stillwater

(Focus) Matt Damon, Camille Cottin, Abigail Breslin, Lilou Siauvaud. A blue-collar man from Oklahoma travels to France to try and prove his estranged daughter did not commit the murder she has been imprisoned for.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: R (for language)

Twist

(Saban) Michael Caine, Lena Headey, Franz Drameh, Jade Alleyne. A modern take on the Dickens classic Oliver Twist.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Action
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: R (for some violence and language)

COMING TO VIRTUAL CINEMA/VOD:

A Savage Nature (Tuesday)
Enemies of the State
The Exchange
Fireboys
(Tuesday)
Fully Realized Humans
Hum
(Tuesday)
The Last Mercenary
Lorelei
Mondo Hollywoodland
(Tuesday)
On the Trail of UFOs: Dark Sky
(Tuesday)
Pooling to Paradise
(Tuesday)
Ride the Eagle
Tailgate

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Enemies of the State
Fireboys
The Green Knight
Jungle Cruise
The Last Mercenary
Masquerade
Pooling to Paradise
Stillwater

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms


Nearly every little girl dreams of being a princess.

(2018) Fantasy (DisneyMackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren Morgan Freeman, Tom Sweet, Ellie Bamber, Jayden Forowa-Knight, Richard E. Grant, Matthew Macfadyen, Miranda Hart, Meera Syal, Omid Djalili, Eugenio Derbez, Jack Whitehall, Nick Mohammed, Charles Streeter, Gustavo Dudamel, Misty Copeland, Sergei Polunin, Anna Madeley. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom and Joe Johnston

 

A perennial Christmas family favorite is the Tchaikovsky ballet The Nutcracker. Loosely based on the E.T.A. Hoffman story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, the timeless music is like an old friend and this one ballet accounts for nearly half the revenue of all ballet companies in the United States. That can be read as depressing or impressive. In either case, it speaks volumes about how Americans feel about this venerable ballet.

Strangely, there has never been a film adaptation that has captured the magic of the ballet; most of those that have tried have literally been filmed versions of the ballet and have looked terribly stage-y. The wizards over at Disney have thought to create a live-action narrative film that features the ballet but is a story unto its own. Chock full of CGI and boasting an impressive cast, Disney was hoping to create a classic holiday favorite and maybe even a franchise. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

Clara (Foy) is still mourning the death of her mother (Madeley) as she and her father (Macfadyen) and brother (Sweet) try to cope with the first Christmas since the tragedy. Before she died, Clara’s mother had gotten presents for her and her brother; Clara’s was a locked Faberge egg with a note “All you need is inside.” There was no key, however.

Clara’s godfather, the kindly toymaker Drosselmeyer (Freeman) is throwing his annual Christmas Eve soiree. Clara, who has a keen intellect and an engineer’s touch with mechanical things, feels a particular bond with the eccentric toymaker. He has attached dozens of strings in the courtyard with the names of his guests on them; each string leads to the Christmas present of the named guest. Clara’s leads to…somewhere else.

It is a different dimension, one with four realms that her mother created. The four realms and their regents; the Sugar Plum Fairy (Knightley) of the Realm of Sweets, Shiver (Grant) of the Realm of Snowflakes, Mother Ginger (Mirren) of the Realm of Amusements and Hawthorne (Derbez) of the Realm of Flowers. One of them has turned evil and seeks to conquer all the realms, or destroy them if they cannot be conquered. It’s not the one you think. Aiding Clara in her quest to set things to rights is Hoffmann (Forowa-Knight), a soldier who looks like a nutcracker.

Visually, this is a rich, sumptuous work. The sets, inspired by the ballet, are gorgeous as is the costuming. The CGI is is absolutely marvelous as well although some of it might be squirm-inducing; the Mouse King, for example, is made up of thousands of regular-sized mice who are combined into a single giant-sized mouse. Me, I would have rather seen a CGI Mickey here. At least it would have been more family-appropriate.

I found myself drawn to the ballet sequences which is impressive, when you consider that I’m not all that interested in dance. They are beautifully staged and nicely realized by a troupe of world-class dancers led by the incomparable Misty Copeland.

Despite the great cast, the performances are oddly unfulfilling. Foy has proven to be a talented actress but she’s given a British accent here and it is, quite frankly, awful. It sounds like an American amateur with no ear for accents trying to do an imitation. I also found it strange that while the film is set in London, most of the names are German. They should have just bitten the bullet and set the story in Germany; it would have made more sense.

While this is beautiful to look at with a feeling of a mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter night, the movie remains sadly unsatisfying. The plot is convoluted and seems to be an attempt to reimagine a classic story as a young adult adventure story. Disney is usually fairly adept at translating classic stories to the big screen but they made a major misstep here.

REASONS TO SEE: The ballet sequences are wonderful. The set design is eye-popping.
REASONS TO AVOID: A tremendous cast is wasted. Foy’s English accent is atrocious.
FAMILY VALUES: There Is some mild peril.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Hallstrom completed principal filming but was unavailable for the extensive reshoots, which Johnston took charge of for 32 days. Hallstrom returned to oversee post-production and insisted that Johnston receive co-director credit.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Disney+, Fandango Now, Google Play, Microsoft, Movies Anywhere, Netflix, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/19/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 33% positive reviews, Metacritic: 39/100
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Alice in Wonderland
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
Maserati: 100 Years Against All Odds