For a re­view of “Tomb Raider,”

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Angelina Jolie left her in­deli­ble mark on Lara Croft back in the early 2000s, but this video game char­ac­ter con­stantly re­gen­er­ates with im­punity, whether we want her to or not. She’s resur­faced again, with a whole new look and level of sass, thanks to Os­car- win­ning star Ali­cia Vikan­der, Nor­we­gian film direc­tor Roar Uthaug and writ­ers Geneva Roberts-on-Dworet, Alas­tair Sid­dons and Evan Daugh­erty. In this ori­gin story, they’ve reimag­ined Lara as an or­phaned en­fant ter­ri­ble, an MMA fight­ing, rad­i­cal bike courier re­belling against her priv­i­leged past.

But when she’s forced to con­front it, she dis­cov­ers her long- lost fa­ther Richard Croft’s ( Do­minic West) pas­sion for dan­ger­ous trea­sure hunt­ing, and fol­lows in his foot­steps. In this case, it’s to the treach­er­ous is­land Ya­matai, where he’s gone raidin’ the tomb of Himiko, an an­cient Ja­panese queen sor­cer­ess. Lara fol­lows suit to Ya­matai, where she shows her old man just how to raid a tomb, while bat­tling ca­reer raider Vo­gel ( Wal­ton Gog­gins), em­ployed by amys­te­ri­ous com­pany to re­trieve the dan­ger­ous con­tents of said tomb.

Truth­fully, there isn’t very much plot here at all. The film skips over large swaths of ex­po­si­tion, like why Vo­gel sticks around in this dead­end job for close to a decade, howthe Dread Pi­rate McNulty, aka Papa Croft, evaded him, or re­ally any­thing hav­ing to do with why any­one is on this is­land. Good hench­man ben­e­fits, prob­a­bly.

But this movie isn’t about plot or story, and that’s OK for its form, which mim­ics a video game. This is very much a film about puz­zles and tasks, which Lara has to com­plete to move on to the next level. It’s Lara vs. the bike mes­sen­gers, Lara vs. the Hong Kong mug­gers, Lara vs. the tricky trap door floor, Lara vs. the spiky poles.

This is why Uthaug is such an ideal choice of direc­tor. His pre­vi­ous film, “The Wave,” was bril­liant in its sim­plic­ity of de­pict­ing a tsunami dev­as­tat­ing a small vil­lage, fo­cus­ing on the me­chan­ics of the evac­u­a­tion and the tick­ing clock. Here, he again fo­cuses on me­chan­ics, in a way that harkens back to early silent cin­ema, just like “The Per­ils of Pauline.” In the per­ils of Lara Croft, she’d never be tied to a train track, in­stead dan­gling from a rusted plane over a wa­ter­fall, hands bound. Like an­other silent star, Buster Keaton, she’s pos­sess­ing of an in­cred­i­ble phys­i­cal acu­men she ap­plies to get­ting out of sticky sit­u­a­tions.

This also ties into an­other im­por­tant evo­lu­tion of the char­ac­ter. Lara Croft has al­ways been tough and strong, but she was known far­more for her sexy, cos­metic as­sets. This Lara is worth look­ing at not for her sex ap­peal but for her strength and skill— for what she can do. Her phys­i­cal­ity func­tions to run, fight and sur­vive, and Vikan­der is as­ton­ish­ingly ripped in this film. The only dou­ble Ds here are her del­toids.

She’s awe- in­spir­ing even when aided by far too much janky CGI, and that’s the thing— the story is es­sen­tially nonex­is­tent and very silly, and a lot of the digital ac­tion is very sketchy. But Vikan­der at­tacks this role at a head­long pace, with a raspy pri­mal yelp, and she’s so much fun to watch. This fresh, mod­ern and grounded ap­proach to Lara Croft has you in its choke­hold be­fore you can re­sist. Might as well go along for the rest of the ride.

“Tomb Raider,” a Warner Bros. Pic­tures re­lease, is rated PG- 13 for se­quences of vi­o­lence and ac­tion, and for some lan­guage. Running time: 118 min­utes. ★★ ½

“Love, Si­mon”

Does 2018 need an earnest com­ing out story about an up­per- mid­dle class cis­gen­der white boy? At face value, the tale of “Love, Si­mon” could pos­si­bly seem a bit dated. But the teen com­edy — di­rected by Greg Ber­lanti, writ­ten by El­iz­a­beth Berger and Isaac Ap­taker, based on the book “Si­mon vs. The Homo Sapi­ens Agenda” by Becky Al­ber­talli— is im­pos­si­bly in­fec­tious, and so much more than just a com­ing out story.

The na­ture of the film it­self is po­lit­i­cal: It’s a ne­c­es­sary and hu­mane rep­re­sen­ta­tion that fore­grounds a queer char­ac­ter’s jour­ney and gives them a swoon­ingly ro­man­tic love story to boot. But set­ting all that aside, “Love, Si­mon” is sim­ply a fan­tas­tic high school com­edy that’s grounded, funny and heart­warm­ing.

Nick Robin­son stars as Si­mon, a se­nior in high school who’s been priv­i­leged with a charmed life— lov­ing par­ents ( Josh Duhamel and Jen­nifer Garner), a sweet sis­ter ( Talitha Eliana Bate­man), gor­geous home, in­ex­pli­ca­bly hip mu­si­cal taste ( The Bleach­ers front­man Jack Antonoff is the music su­per­vi­sor), and a clique of awe­some friends: Leah ( Kather­ine Lang­ford), Nick ( Jorge Len­de­borg Jr.) and new girl Abby ( Alexan­dra Shipp).

The only thing that sets Si­mon apart is his deep, dark se­cret— he’s lust­ing after the hunky gar­dener next door. That’s right, he’s gay. But how, now, with le­gal gay mar­riage, a sup­port­ive, lib­eral fam­ily and a multi- culti group of cool friends, could that be an is­sue?

Robin­son and the film­mak­ers make his strug­gle vis­ceral in a way that might make any viewer check their be­hav­ior. Si­mon winces at ev­ery small, jok­ing in­stance of ho­mo­pho­bia, the re­marks from his well- mean­ing, but un­aware for­mer jock dad, the jokes about porn and girl­friends, and friends talk­ing about crushes and hot girls, while Si­mon flails, try­ing con­vey him­self as “nor­mal,” i. e. “like ev­ery­one else.”

Ton­ally, “Love, Si­mon” ex­ists on a spec­trum be­tween “Lady Bird” and “Mean Girls.” It has the warm win­some­ness of “Lady Bird,” and the crack­ling hu­mor of “Mean Girls,” play­ing with the high school archetypes that film cap­tured sow­ell. All three are about the pro­tag­o­nists at the cen­ter learn­ing to be them­selves fully and freely in the world, strug­gling against the prison that is the opin­ion of oth­ers. As Si­mon hems and haws about com­ing out, he plain­tively notes that he’s not ready to lead a dif­fer­ent life, or be a dif­fer­ent per­son.

The larger message of “Love, Si­mon,” aside from tol­er­ance, ac­cep­tance and love, is that be­ing your­self and liv­ing your truth out loud is good for you, and it’s good for the peo­ple around you too. Be­ing clos­eted means Si­mon hurts the peo­ple clos­est to him, as he ma­nip­u­lates his friends to keep his se­cret un­der wraps. It can be dif­fi­cult for a viewer to ac­cept that his friends don’t ac­knowl­edge just how hard it is for Si­mon to come out. He’s black­mailed and bul­lied, but that doesn’t change their ex­pec­ta­tions of him as a friend. Per­haps that’s the right choice for the film, un­der­scor­ing that sex­u­al­ity doesn’t de­fine our mo­ral­ity, but you can’t help but wish they cut sweet Si­mon a bit of slack.

That’s be­cause Robin­son, Ber­lanti and the writ­ers make Si­mon such an em­pa­thetic and de­tailed char­ac­ter to whom we can all re­late. Ul­ti­mately, more than any­thing else, Si­mon just wants to be loved. He’s a hope­less ro­man­tic risk­ing not only his heart, but his identity, and that’s what makes him a hero worth root­ing for.

“Love, Si­mon,” a Twentieth Cen­tury Fox re­lease, is rated PG- 13 for the­matic el­e­ments, sex­ual ref­er­ences, lan­guage and teen par­ty­ing. Running time: 109 min­utes. ★★★★  


Nick Robin­son, left, and Kather­ine Lang­ford star in the Twentieth Cen­tury Fox re­lease “Love, Si­mon.”

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