For a review of “Smurfs: The Lost Village,”
In the first fewminutes of the animated film “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” I couldn’t help but wonder if this was going to be a terribly long version of the 1980s TV cartoon series.
Fortunately, “Lost Village” found its own path and became a sweet story about Girl Power.
If you’re not familiar with the characters, the tiny blue Smurfs live in a remote village that’s hidden from their nemesis, the evil Gargamel ( RainnWilson). Led by Papa Smurf ( Mandy Patinkin), the blue boys are aptly named by their characteristics, a la “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” So, there is a Clumsy Smurf ( Jack McBrayer), a Hefty Smurf ( Joe Manganiello) and a Brainy Smurf ( Danny Pudi). This is annoyingly spelled out in the beginning of the film, in case you don’t get the point that Nosey Smurf ( director Kelly Asbury) is the creepy one.
One Smurf is different from the rest — the lone female of the bunch named Smurfette ( Demi Lovato). Her backstory is that she was actually created by Gargamel from blue clay to infiltrate the Smurfs and lead him to their secret home. But Gargamel’s dastardly plot was upended by Papa Smurf, who turned Smurfette into a “real Smurf.” ( This was spelled out in the TV series, so there are no spoilers here for true fans.)
“The Lost Village” deals with Smurfette’s journey to find out what kind of Smurf she really is. It should be called “Smurfette’s Search for the Lost Village.” When Smurfette and her closest pals Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty find a map to a “Lost Village” in the Forbidden Forest, it leads to the discovery of one of the biggest secrets in Smurfdom. Meanwhile, Garagmel tries to snatch them at every move.
The first two “Smurf ” films in this franchise, in 2011 and 2013, tried to meld the human and Smurf worlds using live- action and computer- generated animation with some success. This new film stays closer to the original comic book series created by Belgian cartoonist Peyo in the late 1950s. The film is dedicated to Peyo’s wife, Nine, who is attributed with choosing the hue of blue for the Smurfs.
It’s fitting, then, that the film takes the simple premise of finding one’s inner beauty and turns it into a loving tribute to female empowerment
“Smurfs: The Lost Village,” a Sony Pictures release, is rated PG for mild action and rude humor. Running time: 91 minutes. ½
“Going in Style”
The elderly bank heist film “Going in Style” could be considered a sort of geriatric “Hell or HighWater.” Instead of volatile young men, the bankrobbers are slow- moving retirees, but they’re just as angry at American banking institutions, which have swindled them out of their slice of the American dream in the form of shady mortgages. Almost a decade after the housing crisis of 2008, and the bitterness remains. This isn’t just a heist; it’s retribution.
While “Going in Style” shares themes with last year’s surprise indie hit, its premise is far older ( ahem). The film, starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin, is a remake of a 1979 film of the same name, starring George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. “Hidden Figures” writer/ director Theodore Melfi has updated the screenplay for the 2017 era, while “Scrubs” star and “Garden State” filmmaker Zach Braff takes on the role of director.
But “Going in Style” shares far more with “Hell or High Water” than the original in terms of social commentary and ultimate morals. It’s powered by an engine of blue collar economic anxiety, drawing on the very real fears about the loss of American manufacturing jobs, Social Security and pensions. For our three main characters, the financial stability that was promised to them for their golden years is ripped away by untrustworthy global corporations and exploitative banks.
All these three pals want is their own piece of the pie— so they set out to getting themselves some pie. Caine, as Joe, is the ringleader, who finds inspiration during a bank robbery, where the criminal tells Joe that our culture has a duty to take care of its elders, which surely isn’t the case in the presentdayU. S. of A.
This biting cultural critique is the stuff that really draws blood in “Going in Style,” not so the stale generationgap jokes that make up its comedy. It seems the movie’s going to be all riffs about coffee prices and changing technology and the wonders of medical marijuana these days, but thankfully that fades to the background while the trio set their plan in motion.
You can’t watch Michael Caine take on a role like this and not think of the classic gangster and heist roles that made him a star in the 1960s and ’ 70s, in films like “Get Carter” and “The Italian Job.” There are shades of that here, but he’s been defanged for this more familyfriendly crime film. He’s breaking the law for friendship and family, and “Going in Style” eggs him on every step of theway.
For a director who made a statement with 2004’ s “Garden State” ( although the years haven’t been kind to that film), and even with the whimsical “Wish I Was Here,” it’s odd that “Going In Style” is directed so anonymously by Braff. It’s just a serviceable guiding of the story along its track, with a few stylistic flourishes here and there. Overall, it doesn’t bear any stamp that it’s Braff’s work ( which could be a good thing for him).
“Going in Style” expresses a kind of anti- capitalist, working- class rhetoric that serves as a momentary balm for existential economic worries, but it’s the kind of fantasy that only exists in the movies. Fun to watch, but ultimately just a facade.
“Going In Style,” aWarner Bros. Pictures release, is rated PG- 13 for drug content, language and some suggestive material. Running time: 96 minutes. ½
The deadly dance of soldiers and land mines has an inherent drama that can make for gripping storytelling. Since the start of the century, we’ve seen this with films from Denmark ( the Oscar- nominated “Land of Mine”), England ( the searing “Kilo Two Bravo”) and Bosnia (“No Man’s Land”).
Now, there’s the more metaphysical and philosophical “Mine” though it’s the weakest — and arguably least realistic— of the group. But a committed performance by Armie Hammer, who’s on screen fromstart to finish as an American soldier who has stepped on a mine and can’tmove, keeps it from being a complete dud.
Hammer is Mike, a sniper on amission in an unnamed North African country with his fellow soldier and best friend, Tommy ( Tom Cullen). ButMike dawdles pulling the trigger on a suspected terrorist — he’s not convinced they’ve got the right guy — allowing their position to be discovered. They’re chased across the desert and into a mine field.
Tommy doesn’t make it and Mike could be next if he lifts his foot. Through it all, he has to deal with armed tribesmen, wild animals, a sandstorm, the heat, the cold, an enigmatic Berber, and the enigmatic Berber’s daughter as well as hallucinogenic, taunting visions from his troubled past — all without taking a step.
As directed by the Italian team of Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro, the Canary Islands- filmed “Mine” shimmers with a dusty authenticity and the first half- hour is shot through with suspense. But as more of Mike’s cliched back story becomes clear over the course of a long 106 minutes, the film becomes almost as much of an endurance test for the audience as it is forMike.
“Mine,” a Well Go USA Entertainment release, is unrated with violence, strong language. Running time: 106 minutes. ½
The Warner Bros. Pictures release “Going in Style” stars, from left, Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine.