Zoë Kravitz confronts the evils of technology in “Kimi”

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Kimi

*** The latest film from director Steven Soderbergh, Hollywood’s most prolific shape-shifter, opens with a look at relevance. Locked away in her Seattle apartment with crippling pandemic anxiety, tech Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz) discovers a Kimi (think Siri or Alexa) recording of a possible violent crime. Reporting it, she’s thrown into a spiral of tech mischief: shady IPOs, hackers, and surveillance. But once the film’s thriller elements ramp up, David Koepp’s screenplay resorts to tired tropes, unabashedly borrowing from Rear Window, Blow Out, La Firme and even that of Koepp panic room scenario. No points for originality, but Soderbergh’s undying wit and curiosity elevates the material. It portrays Kimi (voiced by Betsy Brantley) as both latent and central—a paradoxically powerful MacGuffin—while visually and thematically capturing Angela’s domestic existence. She’s curated a sleek, spacious, and gentrified apartment (complete with untouched vinyl, guitars, and gathering spaces), but for all her elegant taste, the animating force in her world is Kimi, a pink gimmick identical to millions of others. Lucid technical observations suit Soderbergh, who is traded oceans romps and Oscars for smart, inexpensive streaming efforts (No sudden movement, let ’em all talk) which fall without fanfare every eight months or so. Yes KimiThe best times to carefully probe the behavior of those confined to the house, it’s no wonder. In 2022, this is where Soderbergh finds us all. R CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. HBOMax.

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drive my car

**** After seeing drive my car, you’ll never look at snow, suspension bridges or scenes the same way again. When you see the world through the scrutinizing eyes of director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, there is no mere setting. There is only the living fabric of places and objects that envelop Yûsuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima) and Misaki (Tôko Miura), whose compassion and complexity are a world in their own right. Most of the film takes place in Hiroshima, where Yūsuke directs a production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Misaki is assigned to be his driver, but their relationship transcends the separation between front seat and back seat. Over surreal yet oddly believable journeys, conversations, and adventures, their reserve gradually erodes as they reveal their losses and inner lives to each other, reaching a cathartic climax that leaves you both broken. and hovering. The film, based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, isn’t afraid to face the agony of grief and loneliness, but Hamaguchi’s evident love for his characters imbues the entire journey with an invigorating warmth. A tender, hopeful coda set during the pandemic might have been cringe-worthy, but like every moment of the film, it’s worth believing because Hamaguchi’s sincerity is unquestionable. “We must go on living,” Yūsuke told Misaki. With these words, he is not only addressing her but us. NR. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Cinema 21, Hollywood.

A hero

**** Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi looks set to become a household name among moviegoers around the world following the release of this latest project. It has already nabbed two Oscars and recently won Best Director at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in November 2021, and A hero is now a top contender for the Oscars in the Best International Feature Film category. It begins simply with the main character, Rahim, portrayed with quiet grace by renowned Iranian theater and film actor Amir Jadidi, breaking out of prison and into the Iranian cityscape. Over the course of two days we learn that Rahim was incarcerated because he couldn’t repay a debt and upon his release he tries to start over and even does a good deed. Of course, as the saying goes, such righteous actions never go unpunished. Farhadi never insults his audience with obvious exposition. The viewer must find out who Rahim is, the motivations of the various characters, and who the villains and heroes of the stories are. All of the film’s atmosphere and emotional vibrancy are delivered with naturalistic fidelity by the actors, and ambient street noise replaces an artificial score to underscore that tone. The story unfolds exactly as it is introduced by the main character. With quiet grace. PG-13. RAY GILL JR. Amazon Premier.

I want you to come back

*** I want you to come backdirected by Jason Orley (The great adolescence), contains so many lazy rom-com tropes that it feels like a parody, but it still has enough genuine laughs to be interesting for fans of the genre. The story follows the high jinks of Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate), who randomly meet as they struggle to deal with recent breakups. Drunk with courage, the two decide to sabotage their exes’ new relationships in a convoluted plan to win them back. It’s a squeaky premise, but Slate’s ability to find comedic moments in scenes that have nothing to do with being funny makes Emma easy to root for, although you probably shouldn’t. Day, on the other hand, can’t elevate the film’s generic writing. His character is a morally incoherent jerk, despite the movie constantly telling us he’s a “nice guy”. It’s solely because of Slate’s performance that the film avoids being a boring cliche and becomes something surprisingly fun and heartfelt. R RAY GILL JR. Amazon Premier.

Marry me

*** In the most exciting scene of the romantic comedy of 2002 Made in Manhattan, Marisa Ventura (Jennifer Lopez) says to her mother: “I will try my luck without any fear. Without your voice in my head telling me I can’t. From the genre, you might guess she was talking about marriage, but you’d be wrong. She was talking about her dream of being a hotel manager, but Lopez spoke those words with the level of passion that many actors reserve for romantic love, proving she possessed the power to make a romantic comedy more than a frictionless fantasy. At least part of that spirit lives in Marry me, which stars Lopez as a pop goddess who falls in love with an unscrupulous math teacher (Owen Wilson). It’s a smooth, shiny film – the emotional roughness of Maid is a distant memory, but Lopez’s performance invests him with more passion and pathos than it deserves, and Wilson is perfectly cast as a guy freaked out by the intensity of his desire to bask in his brilliance. Best of all, Lopez sings several original songs, including the swoon “After Love.” She and Wilson have chemistry, but her singing is a chemical reaction in itself. PG-13. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Lloyd Center, Peacock, Pioneer Place, Studio One.

Sleep

*** Director Michel Franco’s new film starts out as a study in selfishness. On vacation in Acapulco with his sister and children, Neal (Tim Roth) extends his stay in paradise indefinitely, but with no apparent end. Alone on the beach, he drinks a Dos Equis, switches to a bucket of Dos Equis, then begins to look like a beer bucket himself, practically melting into the sand and inviting onlookers to check if there’s any left. Best known for his contractions in the Tarantino movies, Roth comes across as masterful and defiant here, even when seemingly doing nothing. Although Sleep eventually forcing a plot over her understated performance, Neal only seems mildly sorry that the family and locals have to deal with her masturbatory beach. But what good is true character study when the back half of the narrative functions as a keystone? Franco’s effort to make Neal’s destructive behavior more realistic almost inevitably backfires. Ultimately, Sleep flirts brilliantly when he scrutinizes the most universal of all holiday fantasies – “what if I never go back? R CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. The living room.

Break the bread

** When Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel says there is “no place for politics in the kitchen,” she sets the stage for a harmonious food festival and this one-note documentary about it. Celebrated as the first Muslim Arab to win Israel’s MasterChef competition, she leads the A-Sham Arabic Food Festival, which sees Jewish and Muslim chefs swap traditions and revitalize a forgotten culinary unit. While viewers hoping for a Food Network experience at the theater might be fed (there’s a lot of slow-motion hummus), the film overlooks the specter of relentless conflict. Forget the religious debates; the chefs don’t even haggle over the seasoning. In their world of seemingly secularized bourgeois liberalism, all parties are fine. Insofar as we see the locals dine, they dig the food, but in the doc’s moments of decline, Atamna-Ismaeel insists, without proof, that hearts and minds have been changed by the festival. While the messages of peace bear repeating, Break the bread basically spends 80 minutes claiming that “food is the universal language”. Ironically, it lacks a diversity of flavors. NR. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. The living room.


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