Two types of movies we've seen too many times merge to imaginative effect in Colossal (R). One is monster-stompers like Godzilla, the other any indie dramedy featuring a washout returning home. Writer-director Nacho Vigalondo shows they have more in common than you think.
Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, an irresponsible alcoholic sent packing by a fed-up boyfriend (Dan Stevens). Gloria has nowhere to go but the hometown she gladly left behind years ago. She runs into Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), a cheerful classmate running a bar. He offers her a job and a typical indie romance starts forming.
But what does this have to do with the film's prologue, an attack on Seoul, South Korea, 25 years ago by a scaly behemoth? Vigalondo devises a connection that gradually becomes an allegory for self-destruction and gender empowerment. You don't know where Colossal is going until it gets there and you realize the long, strange trip is worth it.
Gloria awakens from a binge to learn that the monster has returned to Seoul, terrorizing the world. Watching terror unfold on cable news, Gloria notices something odd. Through some cosmic puppetry, the monster mimics her gestures, making goofy dancing fun until Gloria realizes how many lives she's trampling.
Vigalondo doesn't hammer this parallel — "Seoul" is a subtle homonym for what's being ruined — and neither does he stop there. Halfway through Colossal . . . well, things happen. Stranger, spoilable things. At times it's frustrating, watching scenes play like non-sequiturs before dovetailing into a haunting finale.
Hathaway excels at playing hollowed-out characters like Gloria, while Sudeikis' amiable presence is smartly utilized. Colossal is darkly comical when it isn't being flippantly serious, flawed yet unlike anything you've seen before. B+ (Tampa Theatre)
Add a few more "Z's" to the title of James Gray's movie to capture its likely effect on viewers. Gray proves truth can also be duller than fiction, dramatizing an early 20th century expedition that, like his movie, winds up nowhere.
Charlie Hunnamplays British Col. Percy Fawcett, an unremarkable chap without a single medal on his chest, poor boy. He's perfectly disposable for a map-making journey into the Amazon jungle that'll probably kill him. Yet Percy lives long enough to return again and again, impregnating his wife (Sienna Miller) on breaks.
Percy seeks the Amazon River's mouth where a legendary ancient tribe may still exist. Percy calls this place Zed, which wouldn't sound as cool in the title and might confuse Pulp Fiction fans. Percy is joined by cartographer Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson under a bushy beard and skin rash makeup) and native guides of various courage and loyalty.
Aside from a couple of arrow-and-spear ambushes and a brush with piranhas, the Amazon river trip is fairly uneventful. A detour to World War I isn't necessary except to goose Gray's glacial pacing and set up a third act. The Lost City of Z is beautifully shot by Woody Allen's frequent collaborator Darius Khondji yet lacks a dramatic arc matching its length. C-
Brie Larson wasn't an Academy Award winner yet when she filmed Free Fire (R), a chip off the old Tarantino block from director Ben Wheatley (High-Rise). Otherwise she wouldn't be such a small piece of this bloody puzzle. In 1978 Boston a gun-running deal goes very bad with gunfire drowning out improbable wit under the circumstances. Armie Hammer co-stars, putting his action-ready name to good use. Read a review (C+) at tampabay.com/movies.
Disney's annual Earth Day documentary showcases China and a cuddly creature. Not a panda bear but everyone's boyfriend John Krasinski, who narrates the nature show. Yes, there will also be pandas and golden monkeys and snow leopards (oh, my!). A donation will be made to the World Wildlife Fund — "in your honor" according to ads — for each ticket sold during opening week.
Here's another kind of charity case: Katherine Heigl's movie career getting one more chance with a femme fatale role in Unforgettable (R). Heigl, right, plays a woman fatally attracted to her ex-husband (Geoff Stults) and taking it out on his new wife (Rosario Dawson). Hide the bunnies and boiling pots.
Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, bottom right, go the Doctor Zhivago route in The Promise (PG-13), playing two-thirds of a love triangle set against a historical backdrop. Turkey's Ottoman Empire and Armenian genocide are difficult subjects to wrap around a romance but director/co-writer Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) gives it a try. Bale plays an American journalist covering the atrocities in 1914; Isaac is an Armenian under the empire's thumb. They're both distracted by a dance instructor (Charlotte Le Bon) while the death toll rises.
Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:
1 The Fate of the Furious: It's raining cars, hallelujah, in another lap around the blockbuster track.
2 Colossal: Anne Hathaway is a monster, sort of, in a weirdly lovable movie.
3 Get Out: Jordan Peele makes race relations scarier than ever with bold horror satire.
4 Gifted: Math prodigy (Mckenna Grace) tries being a kid. Written by St. Petersburg's Tom Flynn.
5 Going in Style: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin make a lame script sing.
(Dates subject to change)
April 28: The Circle; How to Be a Latin Lover
May 5: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2; The Dinner
May 12: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword; Snatched; The Wall; Lowriders
May 19: Alien: Covenant; Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul