This weekend’s latest film releases are “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” “Inside,” “La Civil,” and “Wildflower.” KCRW gets reviews from William Bibbiani, film critic for the Wrap and co-host of the Critically Acclaimed Network, and Carlos Aguilar, film reviewer for the LA Times and AV Club.
“Shazam! Fury of the Gods”
In this sequel, Shazam and his superhero allies face off against three ancient gods who are searching the Earth for magic they say was stolen from them long ago.
Bibbiani: “They're really struggling to find a new place to go with [this sequel]. The villains aren't very well thought out or put together. A lot of the action is just a bunch of CGI noise. There's a bunch of theoretically really cool monsters in it. Most of them don't even look that good.
Whenever they're just being kids reacting to all this wild superhero stuff, the way that teenagers and little kids would, then it's really, really fun and really, really sweet. And there's actually some good emotional moments that come out of that. But for the most part, it feels like this movie is trying so hard to now be a blockbuster rather than a character-driven superhero movie.”
Aguilar: “What irked me the most about this movie, and in general about all these movies, is that the stakes are always superseded by this desire to never confront the audience with any actual pain or anything terrible happening in these movies. You know that if someone dies, something terrible happens, there'll be some sort of magic, some sort of power that will bring them back to life that will rescue them.”
Willem Defoe plays a high-end art thief whose heist goes awry, leaving him trapped in a New York penthouse and searching for a way out.
Bibbiani: “This could have been a short film and probably been very taut and exciting and still have all of the same messaging that Carlos talked about, and would not have overstayed its welcome. It also wouldn't have called attention to all of the really gigantic logical flaws in the movie. He's an art thief. He sets off … this high-tech security system. And then he gets trapped in the apartment for weeks, maybe even months. And that security system didn't alert anybody? No one at all? I'm willing to suspend my disbelief. I'm not willing to bury it in a ditch.”
Aguilar: “He's trying to … find food and find water and try to stay warm or fend off the heat later in the movie. With little dialog, it really feels almost like [Robert] Zemeckis’ ‘Castaway.’ [It] really reminds you of that, even though it's indoors. And really, the actor has to be that engaging to command your attention for that long without any other embellishments. But I think Willem Defoe is undeniable, always. He’s such an incredible performer.”
In Mexico, a mom searches for her kidnapped teen daughter as authorities give no help. Directed by Romanian filmmaker Teodora Mihai, this film won the Prize of Courage at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.
Bibbiani: “This movie is incredible. It's based on real families of kidnapping victims. And it has that air of absolute believability to a lot of it. But it also … feels like an arthouse deconstruction of all of the thriller movies we've seen about older people being dragged into horrible situations. It's almost like what if ‘Taken’ didn't care about thrills and only cared about what parents actually felt while they were going through all of this, even while they were doing things that might have seemed unthinkable to them at the start of the story. Excellently acted, genuinely riveting.”
Aguilar: “What makes this one particularly unique is the transformation that the woman goes on. … She goes from a civilian to a militant fighter against these forces that had taken her daughter away. … No matter what the outcome is, she will never be the same person because she's experienced the worst of humanity.”
Starring Kiernan Shipka, Alexandra Daddario, and Jean Smart, this film follows a girl from birth who cares for her parents with learning disabilities. It’s inspired by a documentary of the same name, which is based on director Matt Smukler’s niece.
Bibbiani: “I think in a movie like this, the bland normalcy is the point in an ironic way. Because the movie is trying to make a point that there was absolutely nothing truly wrong with this family. It has its difficulties like any other family, and by showing just how generic and middle of the road this movie can be. They're trying to normalize the characters.”
Aguilar: “We experience her life as she's in a coma [through] this inner monologue, telling us how she feels, the guilt that she feels over leaving, but also how she's become accustomed to being the parent of her parents. I think there are some interesting ideas here, some beautiful moments between some of the characters. But in general, it just feels kind of formulaic and familiar.”