Imagine Sharknado took itself seriously. Now picture the sharks being swapped out for alligators and what you would get is Crawl. Who knew this ridiculous premise could be so beautifully crafted, immaculately paced and genuinely shocking? The situation is simple to describe but hard to escape in Alexandre Aja's ferocious crowd pleaser: A father (Barry Pepper) and daughter (Kaya Scodelario) are trapped in a flooding house during a Category 5 hurricane that's walloping Florida while the giant reptiles loom nearby, licking their chops as the water rises. Thanks to Maxime Alexandre's slow-panning camera shots, my fellow moviegoers were literally gasping in anticipation, and not that you'd ever want to visit Florida—especially during a hurricane—but the howling winds and driving rain really put you in that setting. The flick is definitely a fright fest, but also a family drama. The father and daughter are the only two people keeping their broken family together, and the thought of them not making it out together is truly gut-wrenching, but so is the prospect of being stalked by a pack of angry gators. R. ASHER LUBERTO. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Fox Tower, Lloyd, Sherwood, Tigard, Vancouver Plaza, Scappoose.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
Just as Toni Morrison's Nobel Prize in Literature was a long time coming, and long deserved, so too was this film, which goes beyond the ordinary bounds of a documentary by exploring the extraordinary life of this acclaimed, and often scrutinized, author. Director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders creates a personal and conversational exposé, which touches on Morrison's writing and, perhaps most importantly, the history that informed it. As the documentary begins, scraps of photos form a collage and become the changing face of Morrison over the years, foreshadowing how the film will piece together who she is and where she came from. An interview with the now 88-year-old Morrison delightfully frames the majority of the narrative, punctuated by photos and illustrations of the black experience in America as well as personal praise from her contemporaries ranging from fellow authors to Oprah Winfrey. Of her work, the film focuses primarily on Sula, The Bluest Eye and Beloved, yet maintains enough distance from her profession so as not to pigeonhole Morrison as a literary genius and neglect other strengths—the documentary highlights her roles as a professor, an editor and a single mother. The Pieces I Am is an homage to the woman who has uniquely brought to life the brutality of this nation's history through the personal, fictitious and yet oh-so-real narratives of her characters, along with the eloquence of her own voice. PG-13. KAIA HUBBARD. Living Room.
Stuber, the comedy-action flick starring Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani, aims for 48 Hrs. '80s buddy movie heights but falls well short of its goals. The film finds Stu (Nanjiani) the Uber driver (Stu plus Uber equals Stuber) suddenly tasked with chauffeuring Vic (Bautista), a hardscrabble cop temporarily blinded by LASIK surgery. With haphazard cinematography, Stuber ends up playing out like a cross between Michael Mann's Collateral—though without Mann's skillful touch—and a long-ass Uber ad. Iko Uwais, the Indonesian actor who rose to fame on the strength of 2011's The Raid, is squandered here via editing so slapdash it could have been any stuntman battling Bautista on screen instead of one of the most talented martial artists on earth. The immensely gifted Nanjiani manages to wring a few laughs out of the contrived script—Stu risks his life time and again so Vic will give him a good rating, which apparently is dearer to him than his continued existence. He also has good chemistry with Bautista, but much like Uwais, Nanjiani is largely wasted in this buddy movie that never manages to achieve Lyftoff (yes, that's a terrible pun inspired by this dopey film). R. DONOVAN FARLEY. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd, Pioneer Place, Sherwood, Tigard, Studio One.
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, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Fox Tower, Lloyd, Sherwood, Tigard, Scappoose.