Your Weekly Roundup of Movies: “Champions” Knows a Thing or Two About Basketball and Booze

What to see and what to skip.

Champions (IMDB)


*** Fans of Ari Aster and Robert Eggers tend to view the Scream movies as the Marvel films of the horror genre. They lack subversive messages, recycle storylines and characters and, often, mirror their box office success. Scream VI, however, just might be able to change those opinions. Speeding through a switchback road of finger pointing, red herrings and deception, the film will surprise and confuse even the most ardent Wes Craven fans until the final seconds. Writing duo James Vanderbilt (White House Down, The Amazing Spider-Man, Zodiac) and Guy Busick (Ready or Not, Castle Rock, Urge) reunite to flaunt their obvious passion for the horror genre and Craven’s satire-soaked franchise, proving that their new installments have the chops to stand the test of time. Laura Crane (Samara Weaving), a cinema professor at fictional Blackmore University, opens the film discussing her love for 20th century slashers and how the genre serves as a crystalline representation of broader social fears of the time. It’s overwhelmingly clear how that sentiment relates to Scream VI and its use of cellphone surveillance, fake news, and social media conspiracy theories as a driving force behind the plot throughout the film. The film’s relevance also manifests in Vanderbilt and Busick’s devious portrayal of the modern horror cinephile, satirizing the indie and elevated horror fans that will likely steer clear of this movie due to its capitalistic appeal. But there’s a fine line between tongue in cheek and a bitten tongue. Collectively, we’re witnessing horror films with Gen Z actors as leads for the first time, and the worlds they live (or die) in need to change with them. Still, dialogue about healthy coping mechanisms and trauma-informed care in the setting of a slasher film can’t help but stick out like a sore thumb. Scream VI will likely receive similar criticism to Halina Reijn’s Bodies Bodies Bodies, given that cringe zoomer internet culture is quite possibly the most fear-inducing motif. R. ALEX BARR. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Eastport, Evergreen Parkway, Hilltop, Laurelhurst, Lloyd Center, Movies On TV, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Progress Ridge, Studio One, Wilsonville.


*** On the heels of 80 for Brady, Jane Fonda embarks on another, far darker quest in Moving On. At an old friend’s out-of-town funeral, Claire (Fonda) bluntly informs the widower (Malcolm McDowell) that she’s going to kill him…and he knows why. Alternating between conspirator and voice of reason, Fonda’s favorite screen partner, Lily Tomlin (9 to 5, Grace and Frankie), shines as Claire’s best friend in droll co-pilot fashion. And if the stars of Klute and A Clockwork Orange weren’t enough 1970s iconography, Richard Roundtree lends all the tender, still-got-it gravitas you’d want from octogenarian Shaft to his role as Claire’s ex-husband. Overall, Moving On’s mission is as precarious as Claire’s. It foregrounds a heightened, ostensibly comedic premise but mostly seeks characters’ wistful realities within the exaggerated. And while major script contrivances link the murder threat’s ridiculousness to the unspoken insecurities of a failed marriage, Moving On does the splits more ambitiously than most American indies of this dramedy ilk. The lead cast’s combined 240 years of on-screen confidence smooth the tone shifts, and writer-director Paul Weitz (About a Boy, American Pie) smartly pins Claire’s revenge plot to inequities in memory and absolution that haunt our cultural conversations—essentially, who gets to “move on.” R. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Bridgeport, Cascade, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Living Room.


** There’s a fatal flaw linking films like The Mighty Ducks, Hardball and The Way Back: They center on hard-drinking, hypercompetitive womanizers sentenced to reclaim their souls by nudging a ragtag bunch of disadvantaged kids toward victory, but show little understanding of sports, alcohol or poor fortune. Yet for all the flaws of Champions, Bobby Farrelly’s new contribution to the subgenre, the tale of a jobless coach (Woody Harrelson) forced on a squad of intellectually disabled teens displays a solid familiarity with booze and basketball—as well as simplified narratives. Even the Dumberest Farrelly brothers comedies evoke a disarming sense of life as actually lived, given their fascination with people and places rarely seen on screen, absolute overcommitment to prepubescent gags, and a sloppily haphazard filmic style echoing cinéma vérité. While the same holds true for Champions, Bobby’s solo directorial debut, what’s the point of applying this patina of the real to the flimsiest imaginable adaptation of a supposed true story when every plot complication is papered over by hackneyed sitcom high jinks? And, for that matter, isn’t grounding a film in Iowa City’s bleak midwinter antithetical to a feel-good movie? Too foulmouthed for family viewing, too saccharine for the Farrellys’ usual fan base, and too shallow to let the measured relationship between Harrelson and team chauffeur Kaitlin Olson (deepening her weathered party girl protagonist from The Mick) take center stage, the film may well have been someone’s community service. Watching it, alas, feels much the same. PG-13. JAY HORTON. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Eastport, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Laurelhurst, Living Room, Lloyd Center, Mill Plain, Oak Grove, Progress Ridge, Studio One.


** This year’s Best International Feature category at the Oscars brimmed with gutting little parables of innocent creatures finding and losing love. If EO the donkey and the boys of Close didn’t drain your waterworks, The Quiet Girl is eager to try. The black sheep of a literally and emotionally bankrupt home, 9-year-old Cáit (Catherine Clinch) is shipped to her cousins’ idyllic dairy farm in Southern Ireland for the summer. There, the practically mute child finds her new guardians will welcome and explore her reticence in ways no sibling, teacher or parent ever has. Cáit’s cousin Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) is practically angelic, though it takes Eibhlín’s husband, Seán (Andrew Bennett), longer to warm up, as Cáit fills their lives’ child-sized void. The adults of The Quiet Girl are either so kind or so dismissive toward children that one almost expects Matilda-style magical realism from the entirely polarized treatment, while Cáit herself is more vessel than character. The result is a soft summer fable that all but attacks our tear ducts. Starving a vulnerable audience proxy of love and then dosing them at exactly the prescribed times takes unflinching focus—and it’s hard not to feel, even if the tenderness is an act of force. PG-13. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Bridgeport, Living Room.

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