Thursday, July 29, 2021

July ends with good 'Knight,' so-so 'Stillwater,' and zany 'Jungle Cruise'

A Knight and a Lady, Patel and Vikander. 
Three brief paragraphs about three long films now playing in theaters:

"The Green Knight" does not look, feel or play like a summer movie because it enthralls more than entertains in the visually ambitious hands of director/screenwriter David Lowery. Based on the anonymous old poem, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," and leaning heavily on Dev Patel's second straight star-making performance (hardly anyone saw him in 'The Personal History of David Copperfield" last year), this epic journey mostly gives us a dark if richly imaginative Camelot to fathom -- from bits and pieces that definitely will astound, to a few intrusive verses/scenes that can't fly by quickly enough until the next fabulous image appears on the big screen. (And, uh, that's definitely where it needs to be seen.) Naturally, Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander shines while turning double duty as Gawain's earthy lover and a wealthy temptress. So does ever-strange and splendid Barry Keoghan, here playing a brigand that's probably a bit off. Of course, Lowery's talented team of artists remains spot on, especially as led by Director of Photography Andrew Droz Palermo and Production Designer Jade Healy.

Rated "R" by MPAA: violence, some sexuality and graphic nudity; 2:10; $ $ $ $ out of $5

Damon, Cottin and Siauvaud. 
"Stillwater" is the kind of nicely intriguing film you might stay with if your remote happens to land on a premium cable network while surfing for something to float your boat. In your local theater, though, this lengthy redemption melodrama from usually competent director Tom McCarthy ("Spotlight") might instigate some notable shifting in seats as it approaches the two-hour mark and there's still another 30 minutes to go. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean this Amanda Knox-like tale is boring, just eminently trimmable as it meanders through a romance, tries to make a few political statements along the way, AND keeps revisiting the primary plot of an Oklahoma oil worker in Marseilles to prove that his estranged offspring did not commit the murder that has put her behind bars. Matt Damon, laying on his thickest drawl and wearing a ball cap with the best of them, and Amanda Breslin, dropping F-bombs like a trooper, are fine as dad and daughter. Then there's French star Camille Cottin and newcomer Lilou Siauvaud, as actress mom and sweet little girl, respectively, beautifully charming Damon's quiet, backward Bill into submission. If you don't believe it, you will buy in when he dances with both of them to the lovely "Help Me Make It Through the Night" (by Sammi Smith). 

Rated "R" by MPAA: for language; 2:20; $ $ $ out of $5

That leaves "Jungle Cruise," another Disney flick based on an amusement park ride, so no surprise if waves of material seem reminiscent of "Pirates of the Caribbean" rolling down the Amazon River. Actually, the real "Cruise" gets a courtesy salute early on when a punny -- not to be confused with funny -- Dwayne Johnson is introduced as skipper Frank Wolff taking tourists visiting Brazil on a memorably zany boat ride. By then, we've already met co-star Emily Blunt, sounding terrific as English botanist and Ph.D. Lily Houghton, but appearing a wee bit unsteady performing the derring-do that comes from stealing -- yes, the lady is a thief! -- and other acrobatic necessities in "escapist" movies such as this. In Blunt's defense, the mumbo-jumbo intrigue about a magic healing tree, the jungle protecting "Tears of the Moon," and conquistadors turning to stone couldn't possibly become more confusing -- or less interesting -- if you threw in a mind-boggling, ancient twist with about an hour left in the proceedings. But they do! So, I'll add a line about Jesse Plemons portraying the least threatening and, maybe, silliest villain in Disney movie history. And how 'bout just one more word to describe the endless CGI, especially when dealing with dolphins, assorted snakes, swarming bees and Skipper Frank's pet "cats"? Nondescript.  

("Jungle Cruise" also starts chugging Friday on Disney+ with "Premier Access.")

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA: sequences of adventurous violence; 2:08; $ $ out of $5


Betcentre said...
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Nandan said...

Top 15 best upcoming movies and web series August 2021

HAMPER said...

Agreed. I really like Dwayne as an actor but the plot made no sense in Jungle Cruise.