*** Nearly 30 years after the original film adaptation of Stephen King's seminal horror novel of the same name hit theaters, we're getting an updated version of Pet Sematary that dumps the campiness for bone-chilling scares. Whereas Mary Lambert's 1989 movie (with a screenplay by King himself) only touched upon the utterly macabre, death-obsessed premise of the source material, this remake relishes in its darkness. Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer have boldly altered some key points of the narrative that have King purists up in arms, but those changes absolutely work onscreen. Jason Clark and Amy Seimetz are good as the Creed parents who've moved their family to rural Maine, where they discover a mysterious burial ground near their new house. But it's newcomer Jeté Laurence as Ellie Creed who carries the film into truly frightening territory with her performance. King's books have been notoriously inconsistent when turned into movies, but Pet Sematary follows the recent It reboot as deserving cinematic tributes to horror's most popular writer, perhaps ushering in a golden age for adaptations of King's work. Pet Sematary isn't perfect, but its flaws are minimal enough to make it a fun and hair-raising escape from the actual horrors of the world, which is exactly what one wants from anything tied to Stephen King. R. DONOVAN FARLEY. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Division, Eastport, Laurelhurst, Lloyd, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Studio One, Tigard, Vancouver.
** Shazam! is a superhero movie that would have been better without superheroics. Set in Philadelphia and based on DC Comics' revival of the original Captain Marvel in the 1970s, the film reveals the sensationalized yet dull adventures of Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a 14-year-old who is granted the power to transform into Shazam (Zachary Levi), an adult superhero with a crimson bodysuit and an obnoxious personality. He spends a lot of time facing the maniacal, though oddly joyless, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) in unimaginative battles that are responsible for the movie's excessive 132-minute running time. Yet when Shazam! lingers on the foster home where Billy lives, it is genuinely charming and moving. The home—run by a couple, Victor and Rosa Vasquez (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans), and populated by promising young actors—is a place where hard-working misfits unite to build a beautiful family, overcoming differences of age, gender and race. That's the truest heroism in the film and the reason Shazam!'s theatrics are meaningless next to the defiant words that adorn a bumper sticker that belongs to Rosa: "I'm a foster mom: What's your superpower?" PG-13. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Bagdad, Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Living Room, Lloyd, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Roseway, Scappoose, St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub, Studio One, Tigard, Vancouver.
** As it so often goes with Keira Knightley period pieces that aren't Atonement or Pride & Prejudice, it's safe to assume you'll feel the same way about this one as you do all the others. Obligated to move to Hamburg with her British colonel husband (Jason Clarke) as he deals with the aftermath of World War II, Rachael (Knightley) is dismayed to learn they must share an estate with its previous owners: a handsome German widower named Stephen (Alexander Skarsgård) and his troubled teenage daughter. At first, Rachael distrusts her new neighbor, suspecting him of Nazism. But of course, as her husband grows more emotionally distant, a love triangle emerges. It's a clear inversion of Europeans hiding Jewish refugees in their attics, but the question is…why? "Rachael" is a Hebrew name, but her religious faith is, astonishingly, never explored. The Aftermath is at its best when focusing on Rachael's struggle to balance the weight of the war's trauma and the guilt of her steamy affair with a man she perceives to be the enemy. But what could've been a moving character study of a woman's grief morphs into a routine war drama that doesn't offer much in the way of novelty—aside from a few impeccably well-done sex scenes. R. MIA VICINO. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, Fox Tower, Oak Grove.
*** Like a goth dad who's traded his eyeliner for a job in a bank, Tim Burton has gone square. Yet Dumbo—his live-action remake of the 1941 Disney animated film about an airborne elephant—has traces of the macabre magic of Edward Scissorhands. Like the protagonist of that film, Dumbo is both lauded and loathed. He elevates a subpar circus by flapping his oversized ears so vigorously that he takes flight, but is also tormented by the villainous impresario V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), much to the consternation of a horseman (Colin Farrell) and a trapeze artist (Eva Green) who team up to set the kindly elephant free. Too many of the film's scenes have a bright, hazy look that makes you thirst for the crisp darkness of moodier Burton endeavors, and the CGI Dumbo has nothing on the eerily alive menagerie of the last three Planet of the Apes movies. Yet Dumbo gets an electric jolt of nastiness from Keaton—whose malicious grin is a character in its own right—and Green, whose regal spunkiness confirms she's the 21st-century equivalent of Grace Kelly. Burton's career may be going downhill, but his casting choices suggest he hasn't fully sold out. PG. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Bagdad, Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Lloyd, Milwaukie, Moreland, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Scappoose, St. Johns Pub and Theater, Studio One, Tigard, Vancouver.