The Current War: Director's Cut
The main problem with The Current War is one shared with a principal character in the film, Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch). There's simply too much genius to explore. The narrative focuses on the highly competitive—and, at times, acrimonious—race to lead America into the electrical age among a prickly yet brilliant Edison, a virtuous George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon), and oddball Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult). Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon makes some confounding choices in the overly busy first act, and he struggles to develop the three iconoclasts at the center of the story. As a result, the movie feels hollow. Uneven and downright odd cinematography plague The Current War as well, a fact made all the more unsatisfying by a brilliantly conceived segment near the conclusion that snapped me out of a stupor and made me wish Gomez-Rejon had imbued the rest of the work with such artfulness. A curious picture, The Current War somehow manages to skip over any of the very real drama at the story's center—a drama that quite literally changed the planet—reducing what was a fierce battle between world-altering titans to a petty squabble between obscenely rich industrialists. PG-13. DONOVAN FARLEY. Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport, Bridgeport, Cascade, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower.
In 2019, no movie about the Nazis can be about just the Nationalsozialisten. Even a whimsical comedy in which an imaginary Hitler dines on a unicorn is bound to be scrutinized through the far right-distorted lens of the current political climate. To be fair, the latest from Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do in the Shadows) invites the scrutiny, terming itself an "anti-hate satire" and snapshotting the many conflicts among a 10-year-old Hitler Youth (Roman Griffin Davis), his mysterious mother (Scarlett Johansson), his make-believe Führer (Waititi) and the Jewish girl hiding in the attic (Thomasin McKenzie). But Jojo Rabbit proves satirical only in sight gag-driven intervals. In most other respects, it's your standard Hollywood anti-racism exercise in hipper packaging: A racist meets one of the people he hates and becomes less racist. While the cinematic idealism here dates back to The Great Dictator (1940) and its knowing naughtiness in subject matter to The Producers (1967), the sheer innocence of Jojo largely forbids it from saying something deeper or scarier about the boyish bitterness so often reborn with each new wave of fascism. Thus, every strong point of Jojo Rabbit—it's playful, pleasant, easy to watch—creates equal and opposite distraction. Huh. Maybe it is the perfect film for 2019. PG-13. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Bagdad, Cedar Hills, Bridgeport, Division, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower.
Zombieland: Double Tap
When Zombieland was released in 2009, the film made a name for itself with its less than serious but still pitch-black take on the zombie genre—surpassing 2004's Dawn of the Dead as the top-grossing zombie movie in the U.S. This sequel reunites the core cast of Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin with original director Ruben Fleischer, and they deliver a cavalcade of jokes written by the Deadpool team. Double Tap's success hinges on the audience's enjoyment of this nonstop humor, and most of the quips are delightful enough to help the movie stand out when compared to more serious zombie fare. There are some intense frights, though, too, and showing more of these moments instead of the overwhelming zaniness that permeates the movie would've strengthened it overall. Double Tap won't bring many viewers new to the franchise to theaters, nor will it elicit many reactions other than "that was fine," but given today's political climate, two hours of things being "fine" is a welcome distraction, even if it means spending time with the undead. R. DONOVAN FARLEY. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Cinemagic, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Laurelhurst, Living Room, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen Parkway, Lloyd, Pioneer Place, Sherwood, Tigard, Vancouver Plaza, Scappoose, St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub, Studio One.