from Indy Week

Tomb Raider
★★★ ½

In 2013, the venerable Tomb Raider video game franchise unveiled its tenth installment in the series, a complete reboot/origin story with a new emphasis on gritty realism and emotional stakes. The new game was clearly designed to retire the persona of the old Lara Croft—a stone-cold fox with cartoonish female proportions—and introduce the new Lara as a likable and vulnerable rookie archaeologist.

It worked. Tomb Raider was one of the best games of 2013, with a storytelling strategy that encouraged players to empathize and identify with young Lara. The back story was solid and the cinematic cut scenes were visceral and gritty. When Lara is forced to kill her first mercenary goon, she actually throws up.

The new Tomb Raider movie, based on that 2013 game, includes a similar scene, and it’s a perfect indicator of the film’s determination to reinvent the Lara Croft character for the silver screen. As played by the formidable Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Lara is no longer the sexy, icy killer of the Angelina Jolie movies. She’s young and inexperienced; tough and resourceful. She’s funny, too, and the filmmakers have a good time playing with the de rigueur video game tropes that longtime franchise fans will appreciate—watch out for those exploding red barrels!

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from Indy Week 

A few months after V-E Day, outside a small Hungarian village, two strangers disembark from a train that pours sinister black smoke into the sweltering summer sky. Dressed in somber black suits, the men hire a cart to transport two steamer trunks into the village. Their arrival and the rumored contents of their cart trigger a panic in the village. In conspiratorial whispers, the news spreads: “The Jews have returned.”

Director Ferenc Török’s 1945, based on the short story “Homecoming” by Gábor T. Szántó, is a grim parable about guilt and the wages of sin. Filmed in dramatic, high-contrast black-and-white, it borrows tropes from classic Hollywood Westerns to tell a story that moves through darker territories.

A quick bit of history helps: during and after World War II, many rural villagers in occupied Europe profited from the deportation of their Jewish neighbors. Ownership of all those homes and storefronts had to eventually change hands. Self-appointed local officials had a vested interest in this system. But sometimes, the Jews returned.

The film unfolds over one afternoon, and the story has the dark, elegant efficiency of a fable—the old and scary type. The villagers clearly share a terrible secret, and each reacts differently to the arrival of the strangers. The mayor scrambles to destroy incriminating paperwork. His wife numbs her guilt with morphine. Only the town drunk seems prepared to face the truth.

Török’s furtive camera peers through curtains and around fence posts. Small objects take on terrible significance: a property deed, a child’s shoe. Spare, haunting music adds tension and complexity to carefully arranged visual compositions. When the purpose of the strangers’ visit is finally revealed, it’s devastating. This is cinematic storytelling at its finest, and 1945 is one of the best films of the year.


From the film review staff at Indy Week, an informal Best Of for 2017…


Raw, rambunctious, and funny, Good Time redeems American cinema from the doldrums of pre-packaged comic-book franchises and inert middle-class dramas. Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) traverses New York’s five boroughs, stealing and jumping fences, to rescue his mentally ill brother from a state-run facility. Dramatizing Connie’s odyssey with desperate dark humor, Ben and Josh Safdie emerge as unique filmmakers capable of toeing the line between exploitation and gritty social realism with actual heart. —Laura Jaramillo


Writer-director Jordan Peele pulls off an impossibly difficult maneuver with the fabulous, timely Get Out, delivering a real American horror story about race and violence that also works as grim satire. Peele understands that timing is key to both comedy and horror, and his beautifully crafted script unwinds with clockwork precision. It’s the movie we didn’t know we needed until we saw it. —Glenn McDonald

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Theodicy is a theological term that refers to the problem of evil as an active force in the world.  More specifically, it’s an attempt to resolve the dilemma in many Western religions of how evil can exist in a universe supposedly created and governed by an all-powerful and benevolent God. It’s a puzzler, all right.

In the very excellent, very scary horror film It—based on Stephen King’s famous novel—there’s no ambiguity about the existence of evil. In the hard-luck town of Derry, Maine, the power of darkness manifests as a terrifying clown named Pennywise, a shapeshifting demonic force that wakes up every twenty-seven years to hunt and kill children.

The evil clown thing has been done to death, of course, but Pennywise is practically the originator, and surely one of the freakiest fictional entities ever dreamed up. In the new It, director Andy Muschietti sprints right past the tired scary-clown tropes and delivers a story so disturbing that you may find yourself thinking of arcane terms like theodicy.

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from Indy Week 

In the realm of pop sociology, the term “ghosting” has developed several connotations. As an update of expressions like French Exit or Irish Goodbye, it means slipping out of a party without saying your farewells. It has an even newer application in the dating world, where it means breaking up by abruptly dropping communication.

In the indie drama Wakefield, starring Bryan Cranston, Manhattan lawyer Howard Wakefield ghosts on his entire life, impulsively abandoning his family after a hard day at the office. Rather than taking the traditional route, emptying the bank account and driving to the Florida Keys, Howard sneaks into the storage space above the garage and perches behind a dusty window, where he can observe the family’s tony suburban compound.

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Alien: Covenant

Now playing

It’s generally acknowledged that the creature in the Alien franchise is the scariest monster in all of science-fiction cinema. Based on original designs by Swiss artist H.R. Giger, it’s a triumph of sinister design—a Freudian nightmare of biomechanical sex and death.

Alien: Covenant, the latest installation by veteran sci-fi director Ridley Scott, burrows into the psychosexual roots of the monster to present a bloody, baroque, deeply weird story. A sequel to 2012’s inscrutable misfire, Prometheus, the new film concerns yet another spaceship crew encountering yet another alien infestation. All the franchise elements are present: derelict ruins, extreme body trauma, a strong female lead, and lots of dripping water, not to mention other fluids.

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In the would-be franchise starter King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, director Guy Ritchie gets medieval on our collective asses by twisting Arthurian legend into a British caper film. Hunky Charlie Hunnam is our hero, Jude Law is the baddie, and the future Knights of the Round Table are portrayed as a gang of streetwise fixers from the mean streets of Londinium circa 573.

Critics are slamming the movie as a ridiculous attempt to transpose august mythology onto a laddish action picture. They’re not wrong, but they’re mad for the wrong reasons. The ridiculousness is the fun part. Legend of the Sword is chock-full of signature Guy Ritchie maneuvers—frantic montages, switchback time signatures, tough-guy dialogue—and it’s a kick to see Arthurian legend so gleefully abused. The effect is similar to watching radically updated Shakespeare. What’s the problem? Besides, as a visual stylist, Ritchie is genetically incapable of being boring. The film’s opening sequence will flip ya for real, as black-magic siege engines and colossal war elephants stomp Camelot. The mystical elements are creative and convincing, and the script provides some intriguing speculation about how that sword got stuck in that stone.

Spanish actress Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey is just this side of hypnotic as a persecuted sorceress, and Arthur’s motley crew functions as the medieval equivalent of a heist gang, complete with nicknames like Flatnose Mike and Goosefat Bill. The key is to embrace Ritchie’s goofball riffing and try to ignore the more egregious flourishes, like Jude Law’s designer jackets. Tune in to the film’s anachronistic wavelength and Legend of the Sword works just fine.