Why do we go to the movies? Strike that: Why do we use that locution, “to the movies”? Movie theaters are the physical locations to which we are going, after all. The phrasing itself is a bit anachronistic in the age of Netflix and Hulu and Prime and the Criterion Channel and Shudder and Vudu: the movies seem to come to us as much as we go to them.
Sure, it’s a comic book origin story, hot on the heels of one comic book origin story released four weekends ago and just ahead of another comic book origin story coming next weekend. But Shazam! is fun and funny, anchored by a charismatic actor who brings some childlike joy to a genre that seems unlikely to wear out its welcome anytime soon.
The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is a small movie. I don’t mean this derogatorily, just descriptively: it’s short, at 88 minutes; it has a modestly sized cast at just seven guys (give or take a few extras), and it’s rare that more than three of them are in the same room at any given time; it takes place almost entirely in a couple of rooms in a lumber warehouse, starkly light with overhead fluorescents and on-the-ground portable work lights; and odds are you’ll see it on the small screen at home, given that it’s streaming now.
So, sure, it’s small. But it’s also riveting, with a compelling cast and an intriguing story and a thriller’s sensibility. For roughly one-hundredth the cost of a major blockbuster, writer/director Henry Dunham keeps you on the edge of your seat for the hour and a half you’re with him and his militiamen.
Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is considered a bit of a joke—the CGI is weightless and cartoony; the character design is a bit silly at times; don’t even get me started on the Mad Hatter’s dance-off at the end—but there’s still something interesting about it. It feels very much like a Tim Burton movie, alternately whimsical and horrifying, with crooked towers and doleful eccentrics lending a vitality to the proceedings.
Captain Marvel is a big bowl of mediocrity, a soup comprised of an underwhelming, lightweight lead saddled with poorly edited action scenes that’s set to a disastrously-on-the-nose soundtrack in service of a script that offers little in the way of deviation from the comic book movie mold, with a few winning bit performances that keep the thing from being a total waste of your time.
Apollo 11 is a fully immersive experience. The movie showcases some of the large-format footage of the mission that was shot by top cinematographers but which, for 50 years, was only shown in cropped formats, when any of it was shown at all. More than 60 high-definition, unfaded reels sat forgotten for nearly five decades until the National Archives and Records Administration’s Dan Rooney went through them doing research for the movie. In the hands of director Todd Douglas Miller and his team, those reels provided the material for what is no less than the definitive motion-picture account of the mission that sent the first men to the moon.
Greta is a film about a stranger who tries to comfort a lonely individual. This effort at human connection is repaid with terroristic stalking—endless efforts to reengage, escalating from cell phone notifications to in-person contact. When the authorities are confronted with information about the stalker’s misbehavior, the victim is told that there’s nothing to be done. The process of getting this cancer removed from her life could take months. She should just ignore it. The whole thing worsens until the victim rightfully fears for her life, worried she’ll wind up in a box.
The cinematic qualities of Fighting With My Family, a biopic about WWE Diva Paige’s rise to the top of the professional wrestling world, aren’t really what interests me about the picture: It’s funny and sweet and pretty basic, a standard underdog-triumphs-in-sports (entertainment) story along the lines of Rudy. Director Stephen Merchant, perhaps best known as Ricky Gervais’s better half …