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Movie Capsules

Grandma
Grandma

Grandma

Elle (Lily Tomlin), a misanthropic poet and recent widow, drives around town with her teenage granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) as the unlikely pair attempt to scare up $630 for Sage’s abortion. This might be the least epic road movie of all time, but the results of the journey are nonetheless profound — hilarious, startling and moving. Paul Weitz’s direction is gentle and intimate, focusing in close on the women’s burgeoning relationship. Grandma feels like a really good short story — it unwinds itself in emotional shorthand, never wasting a moment on undue particulars. And Tomlin is at the top of her game here. As Grandma Elle, she is all piss and vinegar, an eccentric old lady given to smart, nasty outbursts, but her granddaughter’s crisis brings her out of herself. (Bijou Art Cinemas)

The Visit

M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit unveils a classic societal fear — batshit crazy people. When siblings visit their grandparents, whom they’ve never met, they notice concerning behavior. The film archetypally utilizes every tactic in the modern horror textbook: documentary-style filming, hidden camera footage and, of course, an off-limits basement. The notorious Shyamalan plot twist won’t disappoint, but falls short of his potential. (Regal Cinemas & Cinemark 17)

 

Diary of a Teenage Girl

As Minnie, the boldly curious and sexually precocious 15-year-old girl who inaugurates an affair with her mother’s roustabout boyfriend in Diary of a Teenage Girl, Bel Powley is a revelation. Powley registers all the outsized emotions of a teen exploring the sticky chaos of adulthood. It’s the performance of the year so far. When Minnie’s boho mother (a wonderfully understated Kristen Wiig) suggests with a carefree flourish that her boyfriend, Monroe (a perfectly cast Alexander Skarsgård), take Minnie out to a bar, the stage is set: Once alone, Minnie, with a gleam in her eyes that is equal parts fear, innocence and devious courage, asks Monroe to fuck her. Despite outward appearances, Diary is no Lolita-like tale of age-inappropriate perversion and objectification — quite the opposite, actually. Director Marielle Heller keeps an intimate focus on Minnie’s progress, neither demonizing nor romanticizing her situation, which is that of a young woman coming of age. By avoiding the bunk politics of resentment and blame, Diary proves to be, ironically, a feminist statement of the highest order, and a great piece of filmmaking. (Bijou Metro)

 

Tangerine

Set in the less traditionally photogenic streets of L.A., Sean Baker’s sun-drenched, scrappy, vibrant Tangerine follows the day-long quest of the flat-broke Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), who is hell-bent on finding the cisgender white girl that her boyfriend-slash-pimp Chester (James Ransone) has been sleeping with. Her best friend, Alexandra (Mya Taylor), is only willing to come along if there will be no drama — a promise Sin-Dee can’t keep. Tangerine was shot entirely on iPhones, and the resulting intimacy suits the movie to a T. But technical cleverness aside, Tangerine practically vibrates with sympathy for its characters. What starts out as a broad, bitchy, brightly colored odyssey gradually draws closer and deeper, until night has pulled shadows over the City of Angels, and it’s very clear that Baker himself is very good at doing two things at once: making a movie that acknowledges the difficulties facing transgender sex workers while simultaneously making a movie about the complex friendship between two women. (David Minor Theater)

 

End of the Tour

The late, great David Foster Wallace was one of the last iconic authors. Wallace is the subject of director James Ponsoldt’s wonderfully observed new film, The End of the Tour. Based on David Lipsky’s memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, the movie is little more than a chamber piece for two: Lispky (Jesse Eisenberg) is sent by Rolling Stone during the winter of 1996 to join Wallace (Jason Segel) at the tail end of a book tour for his epic novel and critical hit Infinite Jest. Tour is the unlikeliest of cinematic endeavors: A film about a pair of very interesting guys sitting around talking about art, fame, the wages of creativity, the pitfalls of success and the delights of Die Hard, junk food and Alanis Morrisette. And it’s riveting. Wallace killed himself in 2008 at the age of 46. The End of the Tour captures the bittersweet sadness of this loss, but the movie never mucks about in the easy tragedy of yet another suicided artist. (Bijou Metro)

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

It’s unclear when Fury Road takes place in the Mad Max timeline, but it doesn’t matter. The world is in ruins, and Max (Tom Hardy) is (still) just trying to survive in what’s left of it. Captured by a gang of strange pale men, Max finds himself imprisoned in the Citadel, a towering keep from which Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) rules a broken society. He keeps breeders, fertile young women forced into a life of sexual servitude, and raises warboys, shirtless white specters riddled with tumors. And to war these men go when Joe’s prize driver, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), veers off course on a gas run. Her war rig is dotted with hidden weapons — and carrying more than it seems: Joe’s five precious wives, who are done with captivity. For two hours, Fury Road shrieks along, a song of exploding metal and flying skulls, occasionally nodding to the movies that came before. It puts different kinds of power in the hands of women and depicts, in gloriously ugly detail, a broken society of men living on nothing but destruction and rage. (David Minor Theater)