Thursday, June 27, 2019

'Yesterday' arrives with charm; 'Annabelle' delivers a few decent scares

"Yesterday" starts here tomorrow, not today, and it's a real treat in the hands of Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, romance-inclined screenwriter Richard Curtis and their mostly sparkling cast.

Patel and James get along swimmingly as "Yesterday" besties. 
The latter group is headed by Himesh Patel (from BBC's "East Enders"), as a nowhere-man performer, whose struggles are engagingly documented early on until fate lends a major, albeit almost catastrophic hand. Simply put, Patel's likable Jack Malik is knocked unconscious, then wakes up in a world where nobody has heard of a little band called The Beatles.

That's right, we're talking John, Paul, George and Ringo! So, please please me by taking a brief moment to imagine that, and it won't be long before you'll likely guess how it all might come together.

Jack's ever-supportive manager and best friend Ellie (Lily James, playing as delightful here as she was in "Baby Driver") certainly gets a surprise when her boy starts warbling the title tune and oh, so many more other familiar refrains. Fellow Brit and superstar recording artist Ed Sheeran (easily poking fun at himself throughout) even hears enough to take Jack under his wing. And, only "SNL" comic Kate McKinnon, as a Hollywood agent more interested in money than Jack's talent, occasionally takes the movie out of its sweet spot with her always less-than-subtle ways.

Of course, Hamel/Jack's toe-tapping music absolutely will slay you, too -- and why wouldn't it? Still, the cherry on the top of summer's most charming movie becomes a graceful appearance toward the end, which will arrive with a nostalgic sigh or two. Expect it to remind every Fab Four fan of one certain event in their lives, first with a smile then, maybe, a tear or two as well.

Rated "R": some intense disaster-related peril and disturbing images, and brief strong language; 1:54; $ $ $ $ out of $5

This week's other studio opener comes with the few fine jolts provided by "Annabelle Comes Home," a somewhat tame little horror film from "The Conjuring" stable that generally knows how to scare the hell out of me.

This one, perhaps a final go-round in what's already an "Annabelle" trilogy after the devilish doll enjoyed only a memorable cameo in the 2013 stunner that started it all, comes courtesy of first-time director Gary Dauberman, also a screenwriter of note in this genre.

Without giving away too much, the scariest episode comes before the opening credits, when spirit investigators supreme Ed and Larraine Warren (the fab Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) bring home said doll (who looks like a much younger version of  "Laughing Sal" from Euclid Beach Park fame) and lock it in their chamber-like basement with other relics of their work.

Next thing you know, the Warrens are leaving their pre-teen daughter Judy (McKenna Grace from 2017's "Gifted") with a competent babysitter (Madison Iseman) and her very nosey for a reason friend (Katie Sarife).

All three young ladies get involved in what goes bump in the night from there, but Dauberman obviously believes in both the dark and the deliberate, since many of his most frightening moments take a while to deliver and never really get lit well enough to embrace. There is some humor (mostly from Michael Cimino as a well-meaning boyfriend), and talents galore from both Grace and the character she plays to keep conjuring up franchise remnants for years to come.

Rated "R": horror violence and terror; 1:46; $ $ $ out of $5