For a review of “Tomb Raider,”
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
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.”