INDIE FLICKS: ALMODÓVAR'S JULIETA
Only a filmmaker who truly loves women would put them through such exquisite wringers as Pedro Almodóvar. Mothers are the Spanish master's specialty and Julieta (R) presents two shades of the same woman, in different shades of darkness.
Three short stories by Canadian author Alice Munro inspire Almodóvar to shape a maternal mystery of guilt, madness and, of course, passion. After the garish debauchery of 2013's I'm So Excited!, Almodóvar effortlessly returns to femme-cinema, a soap opera with style.
We first meet Julieta in middle age (Emma Suárez), packing her Madrid apartment then declining to join her lover Lorenzo (Darío Grandinetti) in Portugal. He's perplexed, as Almodóvar keeps viewers on several issues until moments when other shoes drop. Julieta is unnerved by a chance meeting with an old friend of her daughter Antía, whom she hasn't seen in years.
Reasons for that estrangement become clear only after we witness the unraveling, relayed to Antía in a letter Julieta doesn't know where to send. We flashback to younger Julieta (Adriana Ugarte) meeting strangers on a train, one leaving her guilt-ridden, the other named Xoan (Daniel Grao) who'll be Antía's father.
They make a happy family for 12 years, assisted by an insinuating housekeeper (Rossy de Palma) and Ava (Inma Cuesta), a longtime friend of Xoan's. As usual, Almodóvar enjoys toying with dynamics of feminine relationships, friends and foes alike. Deceptions aren't dead ends but doorways to other emotional twists.
A tragedy midway through Julieta sends her into the depression we first met, illustrated by Almodóvar in a clever edit under a bath towel. From there, his movie spins into confessions and recriminations, wild coincidences and tamed anger. Working for the first time with French cinematographer Jean-Claude Larrieu, the director retains his signature framing and crimson flourishes. Julieta opens Friday at Veterans 24 in Tampa. B+
Ah, the good old days in 2002 when The Ring showed we only had to worry about a haunted VHS tape killing us.
Now there's streaming video, pay-per-view, maybe even a possessed Redbox out there somewhere. Plenty of video format avenues to terror for Rings (PG-13) to explore.
Rings brings the curse of Samara — you remember: quiet girl, bad hair — to present day and teenager Julia (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz). Julia got her curse through an email attachment, along with a virus and offer to help an African prince. She has seven days to live unless Vincent D'Onofrio's blind psychic can save her.
Rings wasn't shown to critics in advance. Maybe it'll be as much fun as Samara's prank at Best Buy that recently went viral.
THE SPACE BETWEEN US
We wondered what else Matt Damon was doing on Mars all those years. Maybe he's the father of Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield, above right), the first child born on the red planet in The Space Between Us (PG-13).
Mom didn't say who Dad is before she died on Mars while setting up the first colony. At age 16, Gardner moves to Earth, fumbles socially, falls for a classmate (Britt Robertson, above left) and learns his internal organs can't handle the atmosphere. What is a doomed space child in love to do?
The Space Between Us wasn't screened in time for Weekend.
Read a review at tampabay.com and on Etc, Page 2B.
If you need a Fast & Furious fix before Episode 8 in April there's Collide (PG-13). Cars don't get much faster than the Autobahn, or scenery-chewers more furious than Ben Kingsley and Anthony Hopkins playing gangsters with a beef.
Stuck between the slumming Oscar winners are Nicholas Hoult, above right, as an American in Germany whose girlfriend (Felicity Jones, above left) needs a kidney transplant. He'll hijack a drug shipment to save her life, perhaps losing his. (Who are we kidding? This is a movie.)
Collide wasn't screened for critics.
Anyone who's suffered through Robert De Niro's Saturday Night Live monologues knows he's comedy-challenged. Great actor; can't tell or sell a joke to save his life.
De Niro, above, is terribly cast in The Comedian (R) as Jackie Burke, an aging standup comic whose assault of a heckler goes viral. He's given community service at a soup kitchen where he meets Harmony (Leslie Mann) and hilarity doesn't ensue. The Comedian is packed with comedy cameos serving only to make Taylor Hackford's movie appear phonier. It does reunite De Niro with former co-stars Harvey Keitel and Charles Grodin, plus Billy Crystal for one scene.
A review (grade D) will be published at tampabay.com/movies.
in theaters: our Top 5
Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:
1 Patriots Day: White-knuckle re-enactment of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack and manhunt.
2 Hidden Figures: True story of African-American women making NASA go 'round. Three Oscar nominations.
3 Fences: The role that deservedly won Oscar nominations for Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.
4 Split: M. Night Shyamalan returns from the dead with a wicked thriller.
5 Julieta: Pedro Almodóvar observes another woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
(Dates subject to change)
Feb. 10: The Lego Batman Movie; John Wick: Chapter 2; Fifty Shades Darker
Feb. 17: The Great Wall; Fist Fight; A Cure for Wellness
Feb. 24: Get Out; Rock Dog
Mar. 3: Logan; The Shack; T2 Trainspotting; Before I Fall; Table 19