Baltimore Sun


Reviews of movies showing in theaters or streaming online


‘ELVIS’: Why hasn’t there been a great Elvis biopic yet? Well, Austin Butler wasn’t around to star as the King of Rock ’n’ Roll. At the center of Baz Luhrmann’s sprawling pop epic “Elvis,” a film as opulent and outsize as the King’s talent and taste, Butler delivers a fully transforme­d, fully committed and star-making turn as Elvis Presley. Swirling around Butler’s bravura performanc­e is a manic, maximalist, chopped-and-screwed music biopic, in which Luhrmann locates Elvis as the earth-shaking inflection point between the ancient and the modern, the carnival and the TV screen, a figure of pure spectacle who threatened to obliterate the status quo — and did. Luhrmann takes Elvis Presley’s legacy, relegated to a Las Vegas gag, and reminds us just how dangerous, sexy and downright revolution­ary he once was. He makes Elvis relevant again. 2:39. 3 ½ stars.

— Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service


I could not possibly begin to explain just how these hot dog-shaped, banana-hued, gibberish-speaking overlords came to infiltrate our culture at every level. The grasp these inexplicab­le animated creatures hold on cinema is insidious, and they continue their reign of terror in their latest cinematic dispatch, “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” They’ve overthrown their masters in the “Despicable Me” franchise, wrestling top billing away for themselves. “The Rise of Gru” is just another “Despicable Me” movie, a supervilla­in origin story for beaky-nosed, scarf-wearing, evil aspirant Gru (Steve Carell). 1:27. 1 star. — Katie Walsh

‘MY DONKEY, MY LOVER & I’: Laure Calamy shines at the center of Caroline Vignal’s charming French comedy “My Donkey, My Lover & I,” in a performanc­e that earned her a Cesar Award for best actress in 2021. The original French title of the film is “Antoinette dans les Cevennes,” or “Antoinette in the Cevennes,” a reference to the film’s inspiratio­n, the 1879 book by Robert Louis Stevenson, “Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes.” In 1878, seeking distance from an affair with a married American woman, Stevenson set out on a 12-day hiking trip in south central France with a donkey named Modestine to carry his belongings. His published travelogue is one of the first works to feature hiking and camping as a recreation­al activity, and his journey has since inspired many copycats to take up the Stevenson trail and retrace his steps, as our heroine, Antoinette (Calamy) does. However, it’s not distance from a lover, but proximity, that Antoinette seeks when she books a last minute six-day hike with a donkey on the Stevenson trail. A fifth grade teacher, she has been having an affair with Vladimir (Benjamin Lavernhe), the father of one of her students. When she finds out their lovers’ retreat has been jettisoned so that Vladimir can hike in the Cevennes with his wife and daughter, Antoinette impulsivel­y follows suit, with vague intentions of spontaneou­sly running into him. In French with English subtitles. 1:37. 3 ½ stars. — Katie Walsh

‘NOPE’: In “Nope,” writer/ director Jordan Peele presents us with a big, shiny summer blockbuste­r — a cowboys and aliens riff built from the DNA of sci-fi spectacles of yore — and then proceeds to vivisect the very notion of a summer blockbuste­r before our eyes. He wants us to question the nature of image-making, and he starts at the beginning of film history, with photograph­er Eadweard Muybridge. In 1878, Muybridge crafted the first known example of the “moving pictures”: a two-second clip called “The Horse in Motion,” made up of sequential photograph­s of a jockey riding a race horse. That the jockey on the horse — the first person featured in the movies — is Black, and unknown, is the starting point for Peele’s exploratio­n of seeing and the seen in “Nope,” which interrogat­es the power of images, who gets to create them, and who gets the credit. These are complex questions, but Peele has wrapped them up in an incredibly original, and entertaini­ng, piece of sci-fi filmmaking that is both unlike, and like, anything you’ve ever seen before. 2:10. 3 ½ stars. — Katie Walsh


This is co-writer and director Taika Waititi’s aggressive­ly nutty follow-up to “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017). That film zazzed up Thor’s corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe enough to justify more of the same. “Love and Thunder” establishe­s in the prologue the latest threat to intergalac­tic extinction: an ordinary soul on a planet far, far away, played by Christian Bale, wandering with his daughter in the desert. He suffers a grievous loss and then transforms into Gorr, the God Butcher, hellbent on wiping out those privileged paragons who, in this outing, forsake mere mortals left, right and center. Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is learning, uneasily, to be a more progressiv­e and empathic specimen of godly hunk, a team player instead of a solo act. The storyline concerns, among other things, the children of New Asgard, swept up and kidnapped by Gorr. Their rescue leads the A-team straight to the enemy.

2:05. 2 ½ stars. — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune


It couldn’t outmaneuve­r the pandemic enemy that delayed its release for two years, but “Top Gun: Maverick” can’t lose, really. It’s a pretty good time, and often a pretty good movie for the nervous blur we’re in right now. It’s cozy. And it’ll be catnip for those eager to watch Tom Cruise flash That Look. What is That Look? It’s the half-smile of insubordin­ation when a superior officer (Ed Harris or Jon Hamm this time) busts test pilot and congenital speed-needer Capt.

Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s chops, ineffectiv­ely.

It’s The Look that goes with an eternally boyish voice and demeanor. Capt. Mitchell, who lives alone in the desert with his beloved Kawasaki motorcycle, is called to a new and time-sensitive duty by his old cohort Iceman (Val Kilmer), now a U.S. Pacific Fleet commander. Maverick has three weeks to train a group of new

Top Gun aces to destroy a uranium enrichment plant in an unspecifie­d but assuredly Slavic location. One of the trainees is Bradley “Rooster”

Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the grudge-laden son of Maverick’s late radar intercept officer, Goose, played by Anthony Edwards back when. It’s silly-rousing enough to satisfy younger and older audiences alike. It may help to have hated the original, but I liked this one, even though it’s not so very different from the first. Thirty-six years from now, we’ll probably be watching Cruise teaching a new cadre of flying aces. Only the planet will have changed. 2:17. 3 stars. — Michael Phillips


In 2018, retired zoologist Delia Owens, the author of the bestsellin­g 1984 memoir “Cry of the Kalahari,” published her first novel at age 69. “Where the Crawdads Sing” is set on the North Carolina coast in the 1950s and 60s, threading romance and murder mystery through the life story of a young, isolated woman, Kya, who

grows up abandoned in the marsh. The story is a bit far-fetched, the characteri­zations broad, but there’s a beauty in Owens’ descriptio­n of Kya’s relationsh­ip to the natural world. Her derisive nickname, “the marsh girl,” ultimately becomes her strength. The film is easily slotted into the Southern Gothic courtroom drama subgenre — it’s like “A Time to Kill” with a feminine touch. While the nature of adaptation requires compressio­n and elision, the film dutifully tells the story that fans of the book will turn out to see brought to life on the big screen. But in checking off all the plot points, the movie version loses what makes the book work, which is the time we spend with our heroine, Kya. 2:05. 2 stars. — Katie Walsh

RATINGS: The movies listed are rated according to the following key: 4 stars, excellent; 3 stars, good; 2 stars, fair; 1 star, poor.

 ?? UNIVERSAL PICTURES ?? Daniel Kaluuya, from left, Keke Palmer and Brandon Perea in “Nope.”
UNIVERSAL PICTURES Daniel Kaluuya, from left, Keke Palmer and Brandon Perea in “Nope.”

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