‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2’
(PG-13; 94 minutes; Gold Circle): Fourteen years after “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” became a box office smash, we’re being served another helping of ethnic comedy. The characters have aged, but the jokes remain the same.
Everything about the movie is familiar, down to the introductory voice-over by Toula (Nia Vardalos), who is now, she’s seeing her suffocating reality through the eyes of her daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris). Meanwhile, the relationship between Toula and her husband, Ian (John Corbett), has lost its spark, partly because Toula is so distracted by her efforts to fix her family’s problems.
The various narratives don’t so much unfold as flail. Which brings us to the rehashed comedy. Her father Gus is still explaining how every word has Greek origins, and he’s still carrying around Windex, touting it as a cure-all. And Toula’s Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) is still oversharing details about her unsavory anatomical quirks.
At least Vardalos still has an easy screen presence. But she has given herself a lot less to do this time around. Mostly, she just stands around, reacting to the zany supporting characters that flit in and out.
With so many warmed-over jokes, you’d think that the delivery would at least be on point. But everything, including the timing, feels off. In the end, the movie feels one laugh-track away from a bad sitcom.
Contains some suggestive material. Washington Post
(PG-13; 111 minutes; Warner Bros.): “Midnight Special” is an enthralling, suspenseful chase thriller set in sparse Texas towns and dusty back roads. It is not just a white-knuckled melodrama, but a jigsaw puzzle – a solid mystery, intellectually tight and artistically coherent while being largely unpredictable. It is also a soulful, high-concept sci-fi film.
As the film opens, tough-looking getaway men, Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton), are quickly identified as kidnapping suspects; their young passenger, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), has gone missing. What is the bond between the men and the calm, assured boy? Are we seeing an abduction or a rescue?
Shannon, a collaborator in all four of director Jeff Nichols’ features, always radiates rawboned honesty, whether he plays a rough guy or a troubled, gentle man. Here we work to understand him and fathom his motives. Why is he carrying Alton away from the Ranch, a religious cult campground, where the boy is regarded as a savior? Edgerton and Kirsten Dunst, as Roy’s ex-wife, the boy’s mother, bring unexpected, emotionally driven heroism to the story.
Nichols’ film requires us to interpret eerie episodes, some disturbingly dark, several terrifying, others stunning and hopeful as utopia. With theological omens and religious iconography, Nichols creates a trimly scripted story about the troubling challenges of fatherhood, the insecurities of being a child and the threatening forces pulling them apart. He has created an audacious, arresting meditation on fate, society and the space-time continuum, but family above all. This is one of those precious films that pulls your mind on-screen. It’s magic.
Contains some violence and action.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
‘Embrace of the Serpent’
(Unrated; 123 minutes; Buffalo Films): Beautiful, strange, disturbing, “Embrace of the Serpent,” set in Colombia’s Amazonian jungle and a foreign language Oscar finalist, is simultaneously a lament, a warning and a celebration of the lost and destroyed tribes of that region, “all the people we will never know.”
Those words come from director and co-writer (with Jacques Toulemonde) Ciro Guerra, who, along with cinematographer David Gallego, has crafted a strikingly photographed black-and-white epic that intertwines a passionate attack on the depredations of invasive capitalism with a potent adventure story about not one but two trips down that river into a Conradian heart of darkness.
Separated by 40 years, each trip features a different Western scientist, one German and one American, each accompanied by the same native shaman. Both men are looking for the same thing, the sacred psychedelic Yakruna plant, but “Embrace of the Serpent” is not a film about destinations but one that involves us in journeys in the most intimate way.
Described in the media notes as both the first Colombia film to feature an indigenous protagonist and the first to be shot in that country’s Amazon in more than 30 years, “Embrace” is a deep dive into another place and time as well as a different, non-Western way of experiencing reality.
Los Angeles Times
Also out June 21
- “Brothers Grimsby”
- “Knight of Cups”
- “How to Get Away with Murder: Season 2”
- “Workaholics: Season 6”
- “Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses: Complete Series”