Thursday, February 22, 2018
Things To Do

5 indie flicks go up against X-Men

There's a thin line between bravery and stupidity when it comes to releasing modest, independently produced movies. Especially on holiday weekends when blockbusters hoard moviegoers' attention. • A single noble cinematic effort opening in theaters is troublesome enough. Two at once is cutthroat counterprogramming, and any more than that is box office mass suicide. • This Memorial Day weekend five — count 'em — five such movies debut around Tampa Bay, throwing themselves on hand grenades, a.k.a. new movies starring X-Men and Adam Sandler. • These movies' comparably small audience isn't likely to squeeze in more than one or two screenings. Their hopes hinge on the possibility that popcorn-chomping moviegoers confuse them with the kinds of movies they aren't.

'Only Lovers Left Alive'

Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive (R) has the best chance of fooling moviegoers since it's about vampires, although not the shallow Twilight type. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play Adam and Eve, sophisticated post-punk blood sippers growing bored with immortality. Humans have polluted their blood supply and crippled creativity, leaving them nostalgic for sharing bon mots with Lord Byron and jonesing for "the good stuff" supplied on the black market.

Jarmusch mines unexpected humor from Adam and Eve's ennui, thanks to two perfectly measured lead performances and fun support from John Hurt and Mia Wasikowska. Only Lovers Left Alive is dreamily conceived and wickedly executed, Jarmusch's most accessible movie in years. A- (Sundial 20 in St. Petersburg, Woodlands 20 in Oldsmar)

'Locke'

Tom Hardy's name toplining Locke (R) may attract fans of The Dark Knight Rises and Inception but this enigmatic movie isn't them. Hardy is the lone actor on screen throughout, driving to London while juggling personal and professional destinies in Bluetooth conversations with disembodied voices. No physical action but Hardy's performance is a knockout.

The plot is as minimal as writer-director Steven Knight's technique, so practically any details about those conversations might be spoilers. And playing close to the vest in that regard shouldn't suggest the plot is especially deep. Let's just say that two lessons learned from Locke are that blood is thicker than concrete, and Hardy is developing into the most exciting actor of his generation. (Tampa Theatre) B+

'Chef'

Fanboys know Jon Favreau as a director and co-star of Iron Man movies, so Chef (R) could be a Marvel superhero with culinary powers, right? No, but he mightily strains to return to his Swingers roots, a pleasantly flawed palate cleanser, after selling out hard.

Favreau plays Carl Casper, a former kitchen wonder now dishing out surf and turf standards, stifling his creativity. A scalding review by a food critic (Oliver Platt) causes a meltdown ruining Carl's career, leading to his culinary revival as a food truck king. The entire movie, even the predictably happy ending, depends upon falsehoods about how reputable food critics operate; dining anonymously and unannounced, not making personal attacks in reviews.

Then again, this is a movie making Favreau irresistible to both Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Vergara, two high-powered pals (along with Robert Downey Jr. and Dustin Hoffman) briefly showing up for scale-wage support. Chef includes some nice moments of father-son bonding, a kicking Cuban-flavored soundtrack and fewer mouth-watering dishes than usual in such movies. (Woodlands 20 in Oldsmar, Veterans 24 and Westshore 14 in Tampa) B-

'Belle'

A star-making performance by Gugu Mbatha-Raw is almost reason enough to see Belle (PG), an otherwise uneven blend of corset-and-crumpet romance and historical relevance. Mbatha-Raw plays the title character (although mostly called Dido), a mixed-race orphan left in the custody of a wealthy uncle (Tom Wilkinson), who's a chief justice ruling on a case involving insurance claims on possibly murdered slaves.

Dido and her cousin Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) spend their portions of the movie in Jane Austen mode, awaiting gentlemen of proper upbringing to sweep them away in marriage. Dido's blackness, of course, makes her either exotic or scandalous, in a changing landscape of racial tolerance. The judicial side of Belle is more interesting, with Wilkinson again proving he's watchable in anything, even powdered wigs. (Various theaters) C+

'The Love Punch'

Finally, there is The Love Punch (PG-13) an unpreviewed comedy starring Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson as a divorced couple reuniting to steal a diamond from the corporate jerk who ruined their retirement fund. This one has an unofficial AARP seal of approval written all over it. But it feels like a movie that could actually make Adam Sandler appear funny by comparison. (Various theaters)

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.

     
Comments

Friday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosMonster Energy Cup: Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 qualifying5 p.m.FS1NHRA: Arizona Nationals qualifying7 p.m.FS1Baseball, spring trainingCardinals at Marlins1 p.m.FSFCubs at Brewers 4 p.m.MLBBasketballWorld Cup Americas qualifier: Cuba vs. U...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Would you stay overnight at the Friday the 13th camp?

Would you stay overnight at the Friday the 13th camp?

The New Jersey summer camp that served as the location for the 1980 horror film Friday the 13th is about to start offering fans the chance to spend the night. Who wants a reservation to stay at Camp Crystal Lake?Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco is the real name of ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
St. Pete bar hosting rock, paper, scissors competition

St. Pete bar hosting rock, paper, scissors competition

ST. PETERSBURG — Paper covers rock. Scissors cut paper. Rock crushes scissors.If you remembered that as a kid, and somehow mastered it as an adult, you could earn some quick cash.The childhood favorite gets an adult twist on Thursday night when SubCe...
Updated: 11 hours ago
‘Annihilation’ is strange, beautiful biological mystery

‘Annihilation’ is strange, beautiful biological mystery

Alex Garland’s Annihilation is a bracing blend of cerebral sci-fi and grindhouse terror, a genre movie that’s more, maybe too much for some viewers.Based on Tallahassee author Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, Annihilation on the surface is a dead-ducks missi...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Events: Imbolo Mbue to discuss, sign Oprah pick ‘Behold the Dreamers’ at Largo library

Book TalkBlake High School student and author Sarah Frank (One Chance) will appear at a book launch for her novel for young readers at 4 p.m. Feb. 25 at Inkwood Books, 1809 N Tampa St., Tampa.Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker (Beyond the Sunshin...
Published: 02/22/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Feb. 23

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Feb. 23

Blast Friday: The Romantics: The family-friendly food and craft vendor festival featuring a free live concert and a beer garden. 5:30 p.m., 400 Block of Cleveland Street, Osceola Avenue and Cleveland Street, Clearwater. Free. (727) 464-7200. Pasco Co...
Published: 02/22/18
Gucci models walk the runway carrying replicas of their own heads

Gucci models walk the runway carrying replicas of their own heads

A short list of things typically seen at Milan Fashion Week: celebrities, glamorous outfits and impeccably coifed models.So the replica severed heads were a surprise.During Gucci’s unveiling of its fall and winter collection on Wednesday, at le...
Published: 02/22/18
‘The Walking Dead’ looks to the future in heartbreaking mid-Season 8 premiere

‘The Walking Dead’ looks to the future in heartbreaking mid-Season 8 premiere

For the past eight seasons, fans have looked to Carl Grimes for glimpses of The Walking Dead's future.Carl (Chandler Riggs) was the adorable little boy who added another layer of sympathy to the post-apocalyptic drama starting in Season 1 of the AMC ...
Published: 02/22/18
Tampa Bay’s Ries Brothers playing Parkland shooting benefit concert with Austin Mahone, Saigon Kick, more

Tampa Bay’s Ries Brothers playing Parkland shooting benefit concert with Austin Mahone, Saigon Kick, more

The Ries Brothers were driving to a gig in Corpus Christi, Texas, when they heard about the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland."We played Fort Lauderdale like two days before it happened, so it was really bizarre," said...
Published: 02/22/18
Review: Mary J. Blige, fresh off Oscar nominations, unleashes soulful fury on Amalie Arena in Tampa

Review: Mary J. Blige, fresh off Oscar nominations, unleashes soulful fury on Amalie Arena in Tampa

It took 10 songs and a solid half hour of furious funk for Mary J. Blige to stop strutting and dancing to sit and sermonize on matters of faith and fidelity."I'm going to say it for you, because I'm a little crazy," she told nearly 6,500 fans Wednesd...
Published: 02/22/18