'Underwater': Great lead performance, but recycled ideas

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Jessica Henwick and Kristen Stewart star in “Underwater.” Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

We review “Underwater,” a drama with Kristen Stewart battling mysterious creatures in the deep sea; “Like a Boss,” a comedy starring Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek; and “Les Miserables,” a feature inspired by the 2005 Paris riots.

We speak with Alonso Duralde, film critic for The Wrap and co-host of the podcast Linoleum Knife; and Katie Walsh, film reviewer for the Tribune News Service and the Los Angeles Times.

“Underwater”: B movie

About: An energy company drills at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. An apparent earthquake happens, but it’s actually something more sinister.

Duralde: “It basically becomes a monster movie. There's a lot of aliens in this movie. There's a lot of abyss in this movie. It's mostly, if not entirely, recycled ideas. 

...A lean and mean, under 90 minutes B movie genre piece with a really fun Kristen Stewart performance -- it’s at least got that going for it.”

Walsh: “I think it's elevated by Kristen Stewart. I think it's shot really well and sort of edited in a cool way. So it's like cool style, great lead performance. But it's totally a B movie.”

“Like a Boss”: incomprehensible

About: Two lifelong best friends create a small business. Then a woman comes in as a corporate takeover, and she has friendship troubles in the past. She expects the two friends to break up too.

Katie Walsh: “It is incomprehensible from scene to scene … There's something that is missing. What also is incomprehensible to me is that Miguel Arteta, who is a great director, directed this.

...Salma Hayek, she's got these crazy fake teeth on, a crazy wig, crazy contacts. She is in this like menacing camp mode that I was like, ‘Whatever you're doing, I'm into it, there needs to be more of it.’ She’s sort of like a Tilda Swinton character in like Bong Joon-ho movie.” 

Alonso Duralde: “It is weird that a movie that is so much about female friendships and about powerful women who use feminist rhetoric to hide a vicious agenda is being written and directed by men. 

…I laughed a lot along the way, but I could tell it wasn't a good movie. Like there's no structure to it. The plot doesn't go anywhere. There's all this character stuff that is revealed in dialogue at the end that we haven't seen manifest along the way. And so like there are plenty of chuckles, but it's a hot mess.”

“Les Miserables”: wild and emotional

About: This feature is France’s Oscar submission, directed by Mali native Ladj Ly. A new police officer is joining two others and learning the neighborhood, which is filled with Muslim immigrants. One cop is white, another is African, and another is Hispanic. 

Walsh: “It's a wild film. And there's like one moment, sort of two-thirds of the way through where we take a breath. And that was the moment where everything sort of landed for me -- like the emotional trauma that the cops have been through, that the kids have been through, that the neighborhood guys have been through. … This is just little escalations that lead into this explosion. It's a really remarkable film. The ending gets wild and crazy.

… The film is sort of inspired by Victor Hugo [author of the book “Les Miserables”] and the idea that it's about the circumstances and the places around you that make people do what they do -- not that people are bad.”

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Alex Tryggvadottir

Credits

Guests:
Alonso Duralde - film critic for The Wrap and author of “Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas” - @ADuralde, Katie Walsh - reviews films for the Tribune News Service and the Los Angeles Times - @katiewalshstx

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Alexandra Sif Tryggvadottir, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski