Hard to believe we are almost through the dreaded "dead zone" of movie releases (Jan through March), and that we're only a few weeks away from the next Avengers movie. Yes, Spring has sprung, and with it a whole slew of new movies, led by everybody's favorite flying elephant.
Here are reviews of films opening on Friday, March 29, 2019:
Disney purists can breathe a sigh of relief. "Dumbo," the latest Disney animated classic to get the live-action treatment, honors the original 1941 film while giving it a much-needed remix for modern times.
Director Tim Burton is no stranger to the circus...it seems that every one of his movies is a carnival of colors and impressive visuals. "Dumbo" is no different, and is right in his wheelhouse. From a character perspective even, Dumbo is a lot like Edward Scissorhands and the many other misunderstood misfits that have populated Burton's films. This movie even utilizes some of his favorite actors, like Danny DeVito as the circus grandmaster, and Michael Keaton as the rich villain looking to cash in on Dumbo's uniqueness (you may recall that DeVito played "The Penguin" to Keaton's Batman in Burton's "Batman Returns," and he's worked with Keaton not only on the Batman movies but also on the classic comedy "Beetlejuice").
A common theme within Burton's recent string of films, however, is that they are a bit hollow...all flash and wonder with little heart to go with it. In "Dumbo," the audience's nostalgia for the character gives the film the amount of heart it requires, even when a father/children story (with Colin Farrell as the lead) doesn't quite affect us in the way that it should.
In fact, there is a lot that doesn't work in the new "Dumbo," but there is just enough balance to keep this high-wire act from falling flat. And at over two hours (the original "Dumbo" was just over 1 hour), there is way too much filler stuffed under the big top. But wait for it..."Dumbo" still manages to fly high.
Genre: Family, Fantasy. Run Time: 1 hour 52 minutes.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Ava Green, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins, Roshan Seth.
Directed by Tim Burton ("Alice in Wonderland," "Sleepy Hollow," "Ed Wood," "Batman Returns," "Batman," "Edward Scissorhands," "Beetlejuice").
Some might call this the "less interesting" side of the Bonnie and Clyde story, but with two veteran actors leading the charge, "The Highwaymen" becomes intriguing all on its own.
Kevin Costner plays Frank Hamer and Woody Harrelson is Maney Gault, two Texas Rangers that come out of retirement to take down the notorious criminal duo, Bonnie and Clyde. Governor Ma Ferguson (Kathy Bates, who breathes life into the bit role) is being pressured on all sides after Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree seemingly is ramping up. Traditional methods of taking them down have failed, and while murdering and robbing their way around the South, the criminals have gained an unprecedented amount of popularity among the American people...call them the Kardashians of the 1930s.
Hamer and Gault's methods were meticulous and carefully plotted, and so is this film. Those coming in looking for gun-fights and another movie that glorifies criminality may be disappointed to find that most of the movie is just Costner and Harrelson interacting with one another. But the dialogue and their effortless performances makes everything worth it. Bonnie and Clyde, in fact, hardly appear on-screen at all. This is a movie that celebrates justice, and the men that bring it.
"The Highwaymen" is on Netflix now, and it's worth seeking out.
Genre: Crime, Drama, History. Run Time: 2 hours 12 minutes.
Starring: Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, Kim Dickens, Kathy Bates, John Carroll Lynch.
Directed by John Lee Hancock ("The Founder," "Saving Mr. Banks," "The Blind Side," "The Rookie").
Brutal, intense and often times hard to watch, "Hotel Mumbai" puts you inside what it must feel like to be in an active terrorist situation. To call it unsettling is an understatement, and although effective, the hopelessness of this mindless onslaught borders on gratuitousness.
Dev Patel stars, along with Armie Hammer, Jason Isaacs and Nazanin Boniadi, as residents and staff at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in India, the site of the real-life 2008 massacre that left more than 170 dead. 10 Pakistani terrorists pulled off a coordinated attack all across Mumbai, in what still is one of the worst terror attacks in recent history.
First-time filmmaker Anthony Maras possesses a real ability to show what others might only hint at. But in the confusion, in the middle of this horror, the over-arching point might also have been lost. Is there a point in showing violence in this way? Perhaps in a world where terror and mass-shootings are becoming commonplace, it is important not to gloss over the fact that events like these are much more than a news flash. They deserve to be humanized. Some might argue that "Hotel Mumbai" goes too far, and it wouldn't be out of line to agree.
Still, "Hotel Mumbai" is impactful and haunting, a movie that you can't unsee no matter how hard you try.
Genre: Drama, History, Thriller. Run Time: 2 hours 3 minutes.
Starring: Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Jason Isaacs, Nazanin Boniadi.
Directed by Anthony Maras (feature-film debut).
Quiet but compelling, "The Mustang" is a character-study that gallops confidently on a journey through the human spirit of a broken man.
Giving an exceptional performance, Matthias Schoenaerts ("The Danish Girl," "Rust and Bone") plays convicted criminal Roman Coleman, a man who is enlisted in a unique rehabilitation exercise while in prison. Based on a real program, inmates help tame wild horses so that they can be sold at auction. Led by a gruff, no-nonsense trainer (Bruce Dern), Roman becomes attached to a particularly rough mustang, one that, much like Roman, seems to be unreachable.
The somewhat cheesy metaphor of a misunderstood convict bonding with a misunderstood horse is not lost on me, but the lean run time (96 minutes) and the unflinching focus on the man at the story's center won me over. Visually, this movie is breath-taking in a way that is anything but flashy, and the emotion and turmoil shown in every close-up on Schoenaerts' face makes this film brazenly powerful.
"The Mustang" is a movie about connection, those that are possible and just out of reach, and the universal human desire in us all that urges us to find it.
Genre: Drama. Run Time: 1 hour 36 minutes.
Starring: Matthias Schoenaerts, Jason Mitchell, Bruce Dern.
Directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (feature-film debut).
"The Hummingbird Project"
This film was not reviewed but opens in limited-release this weekend.
Genre: Thriller. Run Time: 1 hour 51 minutes.
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgard, Salma Hayek.
Written and Directed by Kim Nguyen ("Eye on Juliet," "War Witch").
All of these movies open Friday, March 29, 2019. Check here for show times.
Movies opening next weekend include: "Shazam!" and "The Best of Enemies."