Ari Aster's sophomore film shares much with its predecessor, the 2018 indie breakout Hereditary: unthinkable loss, gaslighting, wounded drama giving way to grotesque horror. The key difference? Against all odds, Midsommar is hilarious. By the time four young Americans (Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper) realize their summer getaway has led them to a Swedish death cult, you start to question less how they might perish and focus more on how they'll inevitably embarrass themselves along the way. Highlights include mushroom tea, coerced studding, a dance contest and brazenly declaring, "I'm gonna do my thesis on this!" after witnessing horrible violence. It's not a comedy by any means—no, Midsommar is firmly a cruel, graphic, psychedelic mess of a horror gauntlet—but the inevitability that sets in while watching solstice feasts, sermons and sacrifices for two hours and 20 minutes really takes the sting out of little ol' death. Granted, there's such a morass of potential meaning in all the wonderfully shot hysteria of rural Sweden's endless daylight that plot holes spring up like poppies. Plenty of times Midsommar barges past metaphor into a glaringly incomplete storyline. But as a cathartic effigy to bad boyfriends, so-called sanity and the American way, Midsommar earns its flower crown. R. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Hollywood, Laurelhurst, Living Room, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Fox Tower, Lloyd, Sherwood, Tigard.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Before any villains emerge, Tom Holland's second solo performance as Spider-Man must fight a double hangover. For one, it's the first Marvel movie to follow the epoch-concluding Avengers: Endgame an absurdly short two months ago. It's also the first standalone Spidey outing since December's Into the Spider-Verse, which redefined the rules for visuals and humor shaping mainstream comic-book films. This counter effort from director Jon Watts is half-successful. The teen comedy initiated in 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming remains adorable, as it crosses the Atlantic on Peter Parker's European field trip. As Parker, Holland's doe eyes still express that bashful good humor, Zendaya's Aubrey Plaza impression continues to inject Mary Jane with new life, and even Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) is a laugh. By contrast, the action—not to mention the post-Endgame push to the next phase—is a chore. While Spidey squares off against drones and lava monsters, the debut of Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) only serves to reveal why this movie's caping is so dull up to a certain point. The irony here is that Far From Home blatantly declares the need for a vacation. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) reeling Peter back in doesn't feel like the call of duty so much as the corporate office demanding he come in on a weekend. PG-13. CHANCE SOLEM-PFIEFER. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Bagdad, Beaverton, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Laurelhurst, Milwaukie, Mission, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd, Pioneer Place, Sherwood, Tigard, Vancouver Plaza, Scappoose, St. Johns Pub and Theater, St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub, Studio One.
Whether or not you'll enjoy Yesterday, Danny Boyle's new film in which a struggling musician awakens after an accident to a world where no one has heard the music of the Beatles, largely depends on whether you're the kind of person who prefers Please Please Me or the White Album. Some will see the characters I found two-dimensional as easy to like. Some will find the moments that hit me as eye-rollingly saccharine to be utterly charming. If you think the world needs more Beatles' covers, then friendo, step right up. Nothing about the rise to stardom of Jack (Himesh Patel) using the Fab Four's songs, nor the larger questions of ownership, race, morality or evolving taste, is ever delved into. Instead, the character is rushed into the stratosphere alongside Ed Sheeran at lightning speed, and that Sheeran is even in the picture should tell you a lot. The overdose of cuteness is repelling enough, but what 21st-century audience would believe a rock singer would amass a huge following with a lead single that begins with the lyrics "Well, she was just 17/ And you know what I mean." No, Fake Paul, I do not. That sort of disdain for logic (and plot) is a constant throughout Yesterday, a film that wastes the talent involved by concentrating solely on its core conceit: "OMG, it's Beatles songs!" PG-13. DONOVAN FARLEY. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Living Room, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Fox Tower, Lloyd, Sherwood, Tigard, Studio One.
Toy Story 4
If you think there's nothing left to say about Woody, Buzz and all the other synthetic yet soulful heroes of Pixar's first franchise, think again. Pulsing with nimble action and emotion-rich storytelling, Toy Story 4 is no tacked-on sequel—it is the natural, touching and uproarious evolution of lives that moviegoers have been following for over 20 years. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), the forever-earnest toy cowboy, is now owned by Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), who spends her first day of kindergarten creating Forky (Tony Hale), a spork with a pipe cleaner for arms and googly eyes. When Forky is abducted by a serenely creepy doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), Woody and friends team up with an assortment of delightful new characters—including the Canadian stunt man action figure Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves)—for a rescue operation rife with slapstick and suspense. While all the madcap adventuring is a treat, the film's true power lies in the inner lives of the characters. From Forky's identity crisis to Woody's meditation on what it would mean to be a toy without an owner, the tale is cathartic and moving, especially during an impressively mature climax that reminds us we didn't just grow up with the Toy Story series. It grew up with us. G. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Cinemagic, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Laurelhurst, Milwaukie, Moreland, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd, Pioneer Place, Sherwood, Tigard, Vancouver Plaza, Roseway, Scappoose, St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub, Studio One.