Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
**** Good Luck to You, Leo Grande deconstructs expectations with fascinating storytelling that speaks to our fluid modern age. Director Sophie Hyde and writer Katy Brand begin by gender-swapping the traditional May-December romance, focusing on Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson), a widow who hires Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) for an evening of intimacy she hopes can make up for a lifetime of sexual neglect. Nancy and Leo’s story is told through a series of three encounters that gradually expose their true selves. There are fully nude sex scenes, but the movie shines during quiet, chemistry-building conversations that take us to unexpected (and sometimes uncomfortable) places. Despite offering few glimpses beyond the hotel room where most of the story unfolds, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande presents a compelling contrast to the scores of coming-of-age movies. Because it’s not about misguided youth blossoming into self-actualization. It’s about self-actualization being reached after a life of regret. R. RAY GILL JR. Hulu.
*** From Star Wars to Jurassic Park to RoboCop, visual effects master Phil Tippett’s creatures and contraptions have captured millions of imaginations. Now a 70-year-old director, he’s back to turn all your clay dreams into cataclysmic nightmares. For three decades, he labored over Mad God, a barely narrative steampunk fantasia of a stop-motion world laid waste by a wrathful Levitical deity. We follow a masked soldier in the post-apocalypse descending into a realm of beasts, golems and reapers so textured they’d make Dante Alighieri and James Blake envious—the film is epic and scummy, like Ray Harryhausen taken to a psychedelic extreme. There are also traces of Metropolis’ socio-industrial brutality and Eraserhead’s gawky viscera, but while Tippett impressively sweeps the camera across his practically animated 3D worlds, anyone who argues Mad God is just corpses and critters being intermittently squished would be mostly right. Yet behind the mayhem lies Tippett’s conviction that true creation is an act of unrelenting authority, solipsism and propagation. Why else would one work for 30 years to render an exquisitely hopeless night terror? Mad God believes that hell is worth not only seeing, but assembling—entrail by entrail. NR. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Cinemagic.
** Four months ago, Disney punted Turning Red, Pixar’s panda-as-puberty allegory, to streaming. It was an audacious movie that should have been seen on a massive screen—unlike Lightyear, a helping of middle-tier Pixar with only a touch of the acclaimed animation studio’s signature emotional gravity. Buzz Lightyear, formerly a plaything voiced by Tim Allen in the Toy Story tetralogy, is now a very alive astronaut voiced by Chris Evans. Marooned on a backwater alien world, he dreams of leading his crew home, but pays a poignant price for meddling with space and time. Like most animated films for children, Lightyear packages lessons about teamwork as snuggly as the contents of Lunchables. “You don’t need to save us! You need to join us!” one character tells Buzz, perfectly summing up the film’s rote wholesomeness. For messier and more entrancing ideas, look to the question that loosens Buzz’s impossibly firm jaw: What is home? As Buzz struggles to make peace with life in the unknown, Lightyear invokes Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s 2014 film about a father and a daughter separated by a swirling wormhole. Lightyear may be lightweight for Pixar, but in its most transcendent moments, it merges the human and the cosmic into a movingly seamless whole. PG. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Eastport, Evergreen, Lloyd Center, Mill Plain 8, Pioneer Place, Tigard, Vancouver Plaza, Wunderland Milwaukie.
Jurassic World Dominion
* In a sensible universe, this disastrous franchise compendium from director Colin Trevorrow would’ve become two wholly separate projects. The first would have been the popcorn-churning blockbuster finale of the current Jurassic trilogy, featuring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and DeWanda Wise on a nonsensical mission to rescue the cloned granddaughter of Jurassic Park’s founding patriarch. The second would have been a bittersweet affair about Sam Neill and Laura Dern rekindling smoldering tensions—and Campbell Scott (as the super-locust-spawning lord of a Monsanto-style corporate empire) and Jeff Goldblum debating environmental collapse amid a furious duel of mannered tics and daft cadences. Yet Dominion splices its two storylines together, resulting in awkward, perfunctory introductions that make even the irrepressible Goldblum seem desiccated. Worse, in order to keep visual track of all the famous faces, the sweeping vistas that defined the first Jurassic Park film have been chopped up into ‘80s TV-styled midrange shots, leaving a gazillion-dollar production looking cheap. Even directors far more talented than Trevorrow (who made The Book of Henry, one of the most infamous films of the past decade) would find the sheer mathematics of the project untenable. But isn’t that the ultimate message of these films? Like life, sequels—however ruinous—find a way. PG-13. JAY HORTON. Academy, Bagdad, Cedar Hills, City Center, Eastport, Empirical, Fox Tower, Laurelhurst, Living Room, Lloyd Center, Pioneer Place, St. Johns, St. Johns Twin, Studio One.