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Cinematic Spillover: Short Reviews of The Invisible Man, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Ordinary Love and More

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NEON // UNIVERSAL PICTURES // BLEECKER STREET MEDIA
  • Neon // Universal Pictures // Bleecker Street Media

Here are short reviews of all the new films opening at San Antonio theaters February 28 and one we missed from last week.

Emma.
For those readers who took naps in high school English class, Emma. — the period is not a typo — tells the story of Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy), a “handsome, clever and rich” socialite in her early 20s living in the fictional village of Highbury, who takes it upon herself to meddle in the lives of everyone around her. After all, she fancies herself a matchmaker. Where Emma. separates itself from past interpretations is with the vision of debut filmmaker Autumn de Wilde. His aesthetic as a music video director for artists including Beck, Rilo Kiley and Florence and the Machine lends itself well to Austen’s witty dramedy in a way that doesn’t smother it in British stuffiness. From the production design and cinematography to the lavish and, at times, purposefully overdone costume design by Oscar winner Alexandra Byrne (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Emma. prevails with its beautiful, all-inclusive pageantry. Read the full review here. Emma opens exclusively at the Santikos Bijou Cinema Bistro February 28 and expands to more theaters March 6. 3 out of 5 stars (recommended)

The Invisible Man
It might deserve some credit for injecting a few doses of effective horror elements into the form of psychological manipulation known as gaslighting, but the reboot of The Invisible Man by writer/director Leigh Whannell (Upgrade) falls apart at the seams in the thriller’s hokey and illogical second half. Inspired by English author H.G. Wells’ book of the same name from the late 19th century, the classic story has been adapted countless times before in the last 70 years. In this modernized version, Whannell amps up the timely theme of the #metoo Movement when he introduces audiences to his main character Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss), an emotionally, physically and mentally abused woman who finds the strength to escape from the boyfriend hurting her, so she can start a new life. Her past, however, is far from behind her when she learns that her ex has killed himself and left $5 million to her in his will. Soon, she finds out that the price for the money is her sanity when she suspects that her ex, who worked as some sort of scientist, isn’t really dead. Instead, she thinks he has found a way to make himself invisible and is now stalking her and trying to drive her mad. Although the first hour of the film is a great example of a slow-burn setup that lays everything on the line for Cecilia and includes some tense moments, the script loses its momentum once the ominous title character is revealed to be someone who could’ve easily been plucked out of the Marvel Universe. Whannell also loses his sense of direction inside his script and seems to be just fine with the splattering of plot holes he leaves behind. Perhaps he thought we wouldn’t see them. The Invisible Man opens nationwide. 2.5 out of 5 stars (not recommended)

Impractical Jokers: The Movie
Let’s hope the “reality-TV-show-turned-movie” genre doesn’t find a launching pad after the debacle that is Impractical Jokers: The Movie. Johnny Knoxville and his crew from Jackass got their own trilogy, but reality pranksters Brian Quinn, Joe Gatto, James Murray and Sal Volcano should probably stick to the small screen for the foreseeable future. For diehard fans of the popular TruTV program, which is usually quite hilarious, a feature-length version will definitely give them a fix, especially if they need more to live on than reruns of the first eight seasons, but the guys just don’t push their creative limits enough to warrant an entire film dedicated to their innocuous antics. What’s worst is that they, alongside co-writer and first-time feature film director Chris Henchy, drop the flimsiest of road-trip movie scripts into the middle of this project like it was an afterthought. If the pranks are all they really care about, then just do the pranks and release it as bonus footage when the upcoming Season 9 hits DVD. Of the pranks, there are a couple of sequences that would make actress Danica McKellar proud (one includes Murr getting an uncomfortable lap dance), but the majority should’ve been left on the cutting room floor—along with the entire screenplay. Impractical Jokers: The Movie opens in San Antonio theaters February 28. 2 out of 5 stars (not recommended)

The Lodge
There’s usually a substantial gap between film critics and mainstream moviegoers when it comes to horror movies like The Lodge – an atmospheric picture that takes its time to tell an unconventional and ambiguous narrative that is far from one-dimensional. Recent examples of this include films like Hereditary, Midsommar, It Comes at Night, Hagazussa and The Witch. If deep themes and measured storytelling isn’t your style when it comes to horror, The Lodge probably isn’t for you. For everyone else, it might not be as unnerving as some of the aforementioned movies, but it’ll definitely stop your breath on more than one occasion. The film stars Riley Keough (American Honey) as Grace, a new fiancée who is trying her best to connect with the young children of her future husband Richard (Richard Armitage). On the heels of an unspeakable tragedy, Richard wants his kids Aiden (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) to spend some time with him and Grace in the family’s winter lodge. When Richard is called back to work, he leaves the kids with Grace, a young woman who comes with her own serious emotional baggage. As a snow storm barrels into the area, bizarre things begin to happen inside the house that are unexplainable. Has Grace’s dark past come back to haunt her or is something even more sinister taking place? Austrian co-directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (Goodnight Mommy) know how to paint a bleak existence for their characters. It’s an impressive English-language debut for them, even if they offer the final answers to their disturbing cinematic parable a bit too soon. The Lodge is currently playing at the Regal Alamo Quarry, Regal Huebner Oaks and Alamo Drafthouse Park North. 3.5 out of 5 stars (recommended)

Ordinary Love
In recent years, films about people with cancer have gone one of two ways: sweet-natured dramedies like 50/50 and Funny People that try to soften the severity of the disease with jokes but do their best to keep the emotional impact intact; and oversentimental dramas with either a good (The Fault in Our Stars) or bad (My Sister’s Keeper) script, but nonetheless include a Hollywood sheen that makes it feel less authentic. Ordinary Love is a welcomed change to the usual blueprint, although welcomed might not be the right word to describe a film like this. Ordinary Love is a no-frills, mature narrative about a middle-aged couple’s fight against breast cancer. The film features Oscar nominees Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List) and Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread) as Tom and Joan, a husband and wife living in Northern Ireland who are caught off guard when Joan is told she has breast cancer and will need to undergo chemotherapy and surgery at once. From there, audiences are guided by a compassionate script by Irish playwright and first-time screenwriter Owen McCafferty that portrays an honest marriage tested by fear, frustration and unspoken pain. With outstanding performances by Neeson and Manville, Ordinary Love is something to be cherished. Ordinary Love opens exclusively at the Santikos Bijou Cinema Bistro February 28. 3 out of 5 stars (recommended)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Set on a remote island off the coast of Brittany near France in the late 18th century, Portrait of a Lady on Fire tells the story of two women: Marianne (Noémie Merlant), an artist, who is commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of an aristocrat named Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), who has just left the convent and has no desire to be painted or married. Unwilling to sit for the portrait, Marianne is brought onto the estate under the guise of being Héloïse’s new companion – someone she can walk along the beach with and talk to. During her time with Héloïse in the day, Marianne must remember every physical characteristic, so once they separate to their individual quarters at night, she can work on the portrait from memory. Of course, spending every waking moment with one another begins to ignite something inside both women that they weren’t anticipating. Written and directed by Céleine Sciamma (Tomboy), Portrait of a Lady on Fire was one of the best films of 2019. It was also easily one of the best international films last year, although France, for whatever reason, decided to submit the inferior political drama Les Misérables as its choice to represent the country for possible Oscar nominations. Nevertheless, Sciamma’s work is an elegant, emotionally-resonant and provocative drama that will mesmerize viewers with its brilliant visuals and deep-seated passion. Portrait of a Lady on Fire opens exclusively at the Santikos Bijou Cinema Bistro February 28. 4 out of 5 stars (recommended)

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