Monday, December 18, 2017
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Movie planner: Michael Moore's 'Where to Invade Next' is soft, 'Zoolander 2' and 'How to Be Single' open

INDIE FLICKS: Where to Invade Next

Michael Moore is going soft, judging by his latest docu-gripe, Where to Invade Next (R). Moore retreats from ax-grinding insolence to butter-knife sarcasm, not angry but politely perturbed that the United States of America isn't doing all it can for citizens. Which means not doing things like other nations he cherry-picked.

The Oscar-winning documentarian imagines a scenario in which the Pentagon is tired of losing wars, dispatching Moore to locate countries with social ideas to appropriate: France's school lunch program, Finland's education reforms, Norway's prisons, Slovenia's free college tuition, Iceland's finances, among others. At each stop Moore ceremoniously plants an American flag to inform amused "enemies" they've been invaded and their ideas stolen.

Some visits raise questions Moore can't be bothered to address, possibly since answers would contradict his purpose. For example, Italian laws providing a month's paid vacation in addition to holidays, plus generous marriage and maternity leave, sound pretty good. No mention is made of how that system may contribute to Italy's recent economic crisis, rattling world markets.

Other countries offer suggestions to seriously consider. In Germany, Moore finds a nation willing to confront the worst aspects of its history, with Holocaust memorials and candid textbooks in schools. Moore figures our country, built upon genocide and slavery, could use such introspection. Portugal's decriminalization of drug use is contrasted with the U.S. war on drugs largely aimed at low-income, nonwhite offenders. Finland's prohibition of private schools keeps richer parents invested in the schools' success, Moore surmises.

Where to Invade Next is arguable at every turn, which can be said of all of Moore's movies, but this one doesn't seem worth the effort. Moore has his social priorities, locates somewhere like-minded and points a camera for a few minutes. No rebuttals or "gotcha" moments, no blood-boiling didactics, nothing that made Moore's best work so entertaining and provocative. The world isn't any better off since Roger & Me; that's just Moore getting lazier. C (Opens Thursday at Tampa Theatre)

ALSO OPENING: How to Be Single

Poor Dakota Johnson, at least her movie romance side. First she gets tied up with a kink-o in Fifty Shades of Grey, now Johnson must learn How to Be Single (R) in Manhattan, from none other than Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann and Alison Brie.

Johnson plays Alice, who has no idea how to obtain free drinks from men in nightclubs, how many drinks she needs for a hookup, and that Pedialyte is a good hangover cure. Wilson is just the loose cannon to fill her in. As the production notes put it: "Sleeping around in the city that never sleeps was never so much fun." We'll take your word for that.

Zoolander 2

How desperate is Ben Stiller to get his movie career back on track? Desperate enough to create a Zoolander sequel 15 years after the original made only $60 million at box offices.

Zoolander 2 (PG-13) is banking on the fickle nature of "cult classic" status, the consolation prize of underachieving films, meaning people like it when spending time and money traveling to theaters isn't necessary. Why Stiller believes the situation is different this time isn't clear, or perhaps he's letting his character do all the thinking.

That would be a mistake since Derek Zoolander is the world's dumbest fashion model, reviving his career alongside former rival Hansel McDonald (Owen Wilson). Someone is murdering the world's most beautiful celebrities, including Justin Bieber and Kanye West, leaving their faces twisted into Derek's famous "blue steel" camera expression. Meanwhile, their nemesis from the original, Mugatu (Will Ferrell), is out of prison, seeking revenge on Derek and Hansel.

Reviews of How to Be Single and Zoolander 2 are available at tampabay.com/movies.

in theaters: our Top 5

Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:

1 The Revenant: Twelve Academy Award nominations, including best picture, actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and supporting actor (Tom Hardy).

2 Anomalisa: Stop-motion animated ennui from the creator of Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In other words, a strange and beautiful film.

3 Deadpool: The gleefully graphic adventures of Marvel's superantihero.

4 Kung Fu Panda 3: The anti-Anomalisa. Not as strange, but funnier and differently beautiful.

5 Academy Awards short films: Tampa Theatre presents animated and live-action Oscar nominees in separate showcases.

UPCOMING RELEASES

(dates subject to change)

Feb. 19: Risen; Race; Viral; Son of Saul; The Lady in the Van; Rolling Papers

Feb. 26: Eddie the Eagle; Gods of Egypt; The Witch; Triple 9

Mar. 4: Zootopia, London Has Fallen, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

   
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