“On the Count of Three” is a “suicidal comedy”

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On the County of Three

*** The premise of stand-up and sitcom star Jerrod Carmichael’s directorial debut is a tough sell. Two lifelong best friends – Val (Carmichael) and Kevin (Christopher Abbott) – make a suicide pact and pledge to spend their final hours on a joke-driven revenge tour. Playing like a weird mix of Promising young woman (2020) and Fall (1993), On the count of three terribly plays with the idea that impending death could force the meaning of the eleventh hour across two lifetimes. Plus, it’s a bold experiment in tone: a minute-long asphalt black comedy (even though it’s the last day of their lives, Val refuses to support Kevin’s fixation on Papa Roach), followed by the relentless selfishness of bullies and abusers that inspired Val and Kevin to pack it. Carmichael’s austere acting never quite attests to Val’s deeper despondency, but Abbott’s remarkable performance swallows and synthesizes all of the film’s contradictions. the Possessor star makes Kevin’s maniacal behavior likeable, captivating and even ironically funny. On the count of threeThe visual realism of is arguably too disturbing given its blatantly insane and politically incorrect setup, but it never transpires that “suicidal comedy” oxymoron. Instead, he willingly follows his characters through the mire of brotherly love, misery, impulse, and idiocy. R CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Cinema 21.

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Marvelous and the Black Hole

*** We’ve seen cinematic juvenile delinquents become writers, math geniuses, and karate kids under the wings of kind older mentors. So why not magicians? It is the premise of Marvelous and the Black Hole, the feature debut of writer-director Kate Tsang. Angry, vandalizing and self-harming over the untimely death of his mother, 13-year-old Sammy (Miya Cech) is a smoking, daydreaming child protagonist. She finds a guide in Margot (Rhea Perlman), a little magician who advises her new protege to channel “that rage into something less shattering”. Perlman fully understands the mission, showing how Margot meets Sammy on his level with anger and wit – and, as Sammy’s father, Leonardo Nam captures a widower’s burden with a surprisingly realistic stiff upper lip. In the end, the whole enterprise is well-acted and distinct enough that when it culminates in a mandatory magic show, it’s not an irritating panacea. Is the cute Sundance flick about a teenage girl breaking family rules to chart her own path through performance? Sure. But didn’t one of them just win the prize for best film? NR. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. PAM COUPE, 14 May.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

** Last year, the Marvel Cinematic Universe gave birth to the animated battles of Shang Chithe cosmic splendor of Eternalsand the sweet melodrama of Spider-Man: No Coming Home. It was one hell of a hot streak – and it was too hot to last. Every MCU movie is a collection of computerized showdowns and sequel bait cameos, but the best films in the series fulfill and transcend the formula. Although directed by the brilliant Sam Raimi (the original Spider Man trilogy), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness does the opposite – it’s basically a feature-length commercial for the Wanda Vision streaming series and countless other properties. The story features Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) defending the American universe Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) against demonic forces, but their apocalyptic adventures are depressing. Gomez is full of spunk, but Cumberbatch walks through the multiverse listlessly, like he’s killing time until his next power of the dog-role of caliber. He looks especially pallid next to Elizabeth Olsen, who tears up the screen as Scarlet Witch, a reality-warping warrior whose power is matched only by her motherly ferocity. Why wasn’t the whole movie about her? Stephen Strange’s name may be in the title, but a goatee-adorned action figure is no match for a living, breathing, unleashed woman. The wizard didn’t stand a chance. PG-13. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Academy, Baghdad, Cedar Hills, Cinemagic, City Center, Eastport, Fox Tower, Laurelhurst, Living Room, Lloyd Center, Pioneer Place, Roseway, St. Johns, St. Johns Twin, Studio One.

strawberry mansion

** A future high-concept and lo-fi journey, strawberry mansion largely takes place in dreams. These are, after all, the professional skill of James Preble (Kentucker Audley), an auditor from the year 2035 who dresses like Willy Loman and works for a government agency that taxes dreams. When James is called into the titular pink house of an old woman who essentially dreams of being a pirate, he is drawn into the liberating nonconformity of his daydreams, auditing dream after dream. There’s a lot to admire in a small independent film yearning for the dystopian fantasies of Gondry or Gilliam, and strawberry mansion strives to make the most of its slightly surreal funhouse aesthetic: animal masks on human bodies, stop-motion animation, and a dream sequence featuring a figure completely engulfed in foam. But Audley, who also co-directed the film with Albert Birney, is as annoying as a cog in the system that becomes sentient (a la Jonathan Pryce in Brazil). Despite the implication that dreams are cathartic and ungovernable expressions, strawberry mansion never musters the intensity necessary to make them feel worthy of a fight. NR. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. PAM COUPE, 13 May.


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