Film reviews: new for April 8

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  • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal in Ambulance

All Old Knives **1/2

We shouldn’t blame a spy thriller for an effort to give the standard plot mechanics any real emotional weight; it does not mean that the attempt will be successful. Adapting the book by Olen Steinhauer, director Janus Metz opens in 2011 Austria, where the agents of the CIA station of this city are affected by a plane hijacking where all the hostages end up dying. Eight years later, one of those agents, Henry Pelham (Chris Pine), investigates whether an agency mole could have contributed to the failure of the operation, one of the suspects being his ex- lover, Celia (Thandiwe Newton). The narrative goes back and forth between Henry’s dinner “interview” with Celia, one that’s awkwardly structured so that Celia ends up telling a bunch of exhibits Henry already knows. Everything rests on the progressive revelation of several mysteries – Why did Celia leave Henry? Who was the mole? – and it looks like Henry and Celia’s relationship should end up packing more punch than a spy story built exclusively around plot mechanics, what happened, instead of caring much about the why. Yet while Pine and Newton are both sexy and restrained in their cat-and-mouse game, the big payout just doesn’t get where it needs to go, in part because there’s too much detail. necessary to explain the what of what happened. It’s an attempt to present a true romantic tragedy that wants to end with a gasp, but can only elicit a nod of recognition. Available April 8 in theaters and via Amazon Prime. (R)

Ambulance **1/2
If you’re nostalgic for the kind of overworked, hyperkinetic action glasses that Michael Bay made in the 1990s, you’re not alone; it is clear that Michael Bay himself is too. Checking the name of his own ’90s work at least twice, Bay tells the story of two brothers – Afghan Navy veteran Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and career criminal Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) – whose bank robbery attempt goes awry, and forces them to hijack an ambulance for their getaway car, including onboard paramedic Cam (Eiza González). Bay claimed he hadn’t seen the 2005 Danish thriller it’s a remake of, which might explain why this version is nearly an hour longer, jam-packed with stuff and stories. who don’t do much. difference with history; I’m waiting for the explanation of why we needed the couples therapy session between an FBI agent (Keir O’Donnell) and her husband. There’s at least one effective squirm-inducing set piece as Cam and Will perform impromptu surgery while the ambulance is in motion, and Gyllenhaal taps into his A-game mania as Bay sends cars rushing into the air around him during the seemingly endless chase towards Danny’s escape plan. Still, it’s mostly a movie for those who really liked the director’s style of swooping, spinning, cutting, how much shit can we blast or shoot when it was all the rage, not so much for those who were exhausted. Available April 8 in theaters. (R)

Everything everywhere all at once ****
See feature review. Available April 8 in theaters. (R)

Gagarin ***
A startlingly simple fantasy conceit is at the heart of Fanny Liatard & Jérémy Trouilh’s drama, which kicks the importance of community into an emotional kick. The setting is the real Cité Gagarin in France, a real estate project created by the country’s socialist government in the early 1960s and dedicated to Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Circa 2019, as the government prepares for Gagarin’s possible demolition, teenage immigrant Yuri (Alseni Bathily) tries to apply his engineering talents to keep the building viable. For a while, it feels like the film will primarily serve as a portrait of Gagarin’s lively, mostly immigrant denizens, with energetic edits built around Yuri’s maintenance efforts. Then the narrative changes as the residents are forced to relocate, Yuri — living almost entirely alone, as his single mother focuses on her new boyfriend — transforms his living quarters into something of a space station. And there’s some powerful stuff in watching what Yuri first feels like an adventure turn into a realization that he can’t do much on his own. A budding romance between Yuri and a neighborhood Roma girl (Lyna Khoudri) feels far more conventional, and there’s an underdeveloped interaction between Yuri and a local drug dealer (Finnegan Oldfield) who is Gagarin’s other holdout. But as the countdown to Gagarin’s destruction draws near, there’s a powerful subtext to how these “dilapidated” places have provided connections that governments can’t always measure. Available April 8 in theaters. (NR)

Mothers Day ***
This adaptation of Graham Swift’s 2016 novel by director Eva Husson and screenwriter Alice Birch feels in some ways too dense for its 105 minutes, but offers enough cinematic creativity that it still offers some satisfaction. In 1924 in England, on that country’s Mother’s Day, young Jane Fairchild (Odessa Young) – maid to the wealthy Nivens (Colin Firth and Olivia Colman) – meets Paul (Josh O’Connor), her longtime lover and heir to the neighboring estate. , for what could be the last time before he marries another woman. For a while, it feels like the story will mostly deal with the lingering wounds of the Great War, which took away the Nivens’ two sons as well as Paul’s two older brothers. Then it becomes more of a writer’s origin story, going back and forth in time to show us an older Jane starting her storytelling career while in a relationship with another man (Sope Dirisu) , then an even older version of Jane (Glenda Jackson). The structure plays with notions of unreliable narrators, while explaining how Jane constructs stories by capturing key phrases and memory snippets for later use. It’s slightly disappointing that Colman’s role is mostly a glorified cameo, while Firth is subtly formidable as the kind of stiff-upper-lip Englishman trying to maintain composure in the face of unimaginable heartbreak. If these ideas of grief end up being subordinated to Jane’s arc as an artist, at least they’re brought to life with elegance and a uniquely complex point of view. Available April 8 at Broadway Center Cinemas. (R)

sonic the hedgehog 2
[not reviewed]
Available April 8 in theaters. (PG)

Waterman ***
Isaac Halasima, director from Utah (The last descent) offers the kind of biographical documentary that spotlights someone who a) deserves to be in the spotlight and b) has never really been in the spotlight before. Its subject is Duke Kahanamoku, the native of Hawaii who rose to international stardom in the first half of the 20th century, first as an Olympic gold medalist in swimming, later as a surfing pioneer in as a sport. Halasima frames much of the film through an episode of the vintage It’s your life TV series set in 1957, with key characters from the then 66-year-old Kahanamoku’s past sharing memories, while narrator Jason Momoa provides context for Kahanamoku’s importance as a world-class athlete and premier ambassador of Polynesian culture. As the film itself notes, Kahanamoku was a private person who internalized his feelings about complicated topics like the racism of his time and saving multiple lives, which leaves some difficulty in understanding who he really was as man beyond his impressive accomplishments. . These accomplishments, however, are enough to sustain a feature film, with many fascinating details about what it was like for the native islander to visit mainland North America for the first time, and his influence on the surf culture of the California to Australia. As a movie, it looks a lot like the statues that now honor Kahanamoku in several places, but some people just deserve that kind of recognition. Available April 8 in theaters. (NR)

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