Thursday, July 8, 2021

Girl talk rules typical Marvel 'Widow' and shrewdly atypical Korean 'Woman'

If you simply can't wait any longer for a big-screen Marvel Universe fix, then you must know that a coronavirus-delayed appointment with "Black Widow" is coming Friday to a theater near you. The rest of us likely can wait, since it's not exactly event filmmaking, anyway.

Dinner hour goes awry for Weisz, Johansson and Pugh. 
I mean, even before the real-life pandemic hit us all, the fate of Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) already had been determined in the really big "Avengers: Endgame." That being said, more than just northeast Ohioans might enjoy the start of "Widow" taking place a full 25 years ago with a Russian sleeper cell finally discovered in, of all places, the Cleveland suburb of North Olmsted. (Watch carefully or you'll miss the actual location.)

As a sad result, the blue-haired, adolescent Natasha (an impressive Ever Anderson) and joyous little sister Yelena (cute Violet McGraw) get corralled by operative parents (David Harbour and Rachel Weisz, each with CGI making them somehow look more odd than young) for a quick, exciting escape to Cuba. 

The episode sets up a few compelling family-dynamic moments more than two decades later when Yelena (now played by the truly special Florence Pugh) not only regularly gives famous Big Sis what for, but calls out Mom and Dad for all things fabricated as well. (Don't worry, there's still lots of typical action moments, too, such as various rough and tumble characters continuously falling out of the sky with nary a scratch.)

Otherwise, the best scene in the movie, obviously designed to peek into Marvel's cinematic future, comes at the very end of the ever-lengthy, final-credits process. Surely diehard Avengers fanatics likely already know everything about it. That doesn't mean, though, you shouldn't stick around for some swell surprises, even if the segment might include a standard Hollywood insult to midwestern viewers.

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA; intense sequences of violence/action, some language and thematic material; 2:15; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

More real ladies, as delivered by Korean master Hong Sangsoo, show up readily in "The Woman Who Ran," though it's a few flummoxed men who might be fleeing after dealing with them.

Certainly this distaff-rigged story uses an assortment of the acclaimed writer/director's thematic tricks -- from animals (including a "mean" rooster and a funny episode about "robber" cats) to food (mostly meat and apples) -- in offering wry, occasionally melancholy commentary on daily dramas big and small.

Carrying much of it is the filmmaker's ex-girlfriend, Kim Min-hee, as the inquisitive visitor who drops in on old friends while apart from her husband for the first time in five years of marriage. So, is she really the "Woman" of the title? Better run to find out.

(The Cinematheque at the Cleveland Institute of Art is showing "The Woman Who Ran" this weekend and virtually online beginning July 16. Also, read here about the special 35th anniversary celebration.)

Not rated by MPAA: But with only one word that possibly might offend; 1:17; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

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