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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arthur

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.

Land of Mine
★★★★
Now playing

In the final months of World War II, German forces buried more than 1.5 million landmines on the western beaches of Denmark. Germany believed that the Danish shore was one of the probable landing spots for an Allied invasion.

After Germany’s surrender, Danish officials commandeered four thousand German POWs to remove the landmines. By then, most of the original occupying forces were dead or gone. The final wave of German soldiers sent to Denmark were mostly teenagers—children, essentially—conscripted by Hitler in a cruel last gasp.

This largely forgotten episode of World War II history is dramatized in the Danish film Under Sandet (Under the Sand), nominated for an Academy Award and generally acknowledged as among the finest Danish films of the last several years. For some goddamn reason, the film has been retitled Land of Mine for its limited U.S. theatrical release. What were they thinking? This film does not need a pun in its title.

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gifted

GIFTED
1/2
Now playing

So this happens sometimes at the movies: a film comes along and does things you’ve seen a hundred times before. You know you’re being worked over emotionally, with cinematic tricks and techniques that have been around forever. But the story soars anyway, and you walk out genuinely moved and entirely satisfied.

Such is the case with Gifted, the story of Mary, a seven-year-old math prodigy caught in a custody battle that will determine the trajectory of her life. Chris “Captain America” Evans plays Mary’s uncle and guardian, Frank, a former philosophy professor turned boat mechanic. Mary’s mother (Frank’s sister), a math prodigy herself, committed suicide just after Mary was born. The trauma sent Frank spiraling out of academia and into the bars and harbors of coastal Florida. (He’s the “damaged hot guy,” as one tavern admirer says.) Frank and Mary live in a trailer park, where Frank tries to provide his niece with a poor-but-normal, nongenius life.

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Table 19
★ ½
Now playing

Science has yet to identify the precise biomechanical workings of the cringe. A function of the sympathetic nervous system, it’s an involuntary muscular reaction that occurs when we see or hear something embarrassing or unpleasant.

Watching Table 19, the new ensemble comedy starring Anna Kendrick, I’m pretty sure I strained several important cringe muscles. It’s a surprisingly bad movie, the kind that usually get detoured into foreign markets or a DVD/digital release well before any U.S. theatrical distribution is negotiated. It’s a genuine curiosity to see a specimen like this on the big screen.

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get_out_universal_pictures
from Indy Week

The go-to synopsis for Get Out, the brilliant new horror film from writer-director Jordan Peele (Key & Peele), is that it’s Look Who’s Coming to Dinner crossed with a racially charged update of The Stepford Wives. That’s about right, but Peele’s game-changing film is more than that, and it’s the best thing to happen to the horror genre in 20 years.

The set-up: Brooklyn photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is about to meet the parents of his new girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), on a weekend getaway upstate. That’s stressful enough as it is, but Chris has deeper anxieties. He’s black, she’s white, and the Armitage family lives in the kind of tony suburban enclave where people of color feel conspicuous and vulnerable just walking down the street.

This last observation is confirmed in the film’s (seemingly) unrelated opening scene, where another young black man finds himself lost in those same suburbs. Bad Things Happen, and the sequence establishes the film’s nervy tone: This is a story that’s as aware of Treyvon Martin and Oscar Grant as it is of Halloween and Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Back in Brooklyn, Rose assures Chris that her parents are not racists, and indeed Chris is warmly welcomed by neurosurgeon dad (Bradley Whitford) and psychotherapist mom (Katherine Keener). The ‘rents seem harmless and square, making clumsy attempts to connect with Chris by conspicuously name dropping President Obama and Jesse Owens. “We’re huggers!” dad says, embracing Chris on the front porch of the house.

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