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The Bubble and Lost City



THE BUBBLE. It was almost — only? — two years ago that The King of Staten Island, Judd Apatow's last feature, was released. It felt noteworthy because Apatow's comedies are events (albeit minor ones for most) in and of themselves and because it was a starring role for Pete Davidson, the anointed one. But it was also momentous for being released straight to streaming while the world, the economy of cinema and our culture wrestled with the realities of life in plague-time. While other major studio releases were pushed back or thrust defiantly into theaters, the small-screen roll-out of The King of Staten Island felt like an acknowledgment not only of a compromised present, but of a future unlikely to resemble even the immediate past. It seemed forward-thinking, which I think is one of the trademarks of Apatow's sensibility, but also one prong of the dichotomy that defines it.

In a number of ways, he is of a generation before his own. Although he is a peer of Adam Sandler and Janeane Garofolo (themselves becoming Ancient Ones by TikTok math), he dedicated himself to the study of the comedy that came before: washing dishes in stand-up clubs as a child, interviewing legends-to-be in his teen years, creating a sort-of dumb-wise-beyond-his-years persona for himself.

Transitioning into moviemaking, as a writer-director-producer-talent scout and impresario, he developed a visual style that, in showcasing his casts and their improvisations, was formalistic and old-fashioned. Largely out of necessity, Apatow's camera is mostly static, his framing wide and his takes extended to enable inventions on set to be cut together into something coherent. Technically speaking, he hasn't done much to advance the cinematic form. But by leaning into traditional technique, Apatow created a forum within which he could change and evolve movie comedy. Jokes can happen organically, emerging from the interplay of quick-minded performers, clever screenplays and sets with enough air in them for the creation of the unexpected.

To date, Apatow movies have also relied on a near-biographical narrative intimacy, focusing on the vagaries of the inner lives of a main character or two, with casts of supporting characters who, despite feeling real and being allowed their funny moments, were not necessarily burdened with bearing the load of story.

The Bubble, (co-written with Pam Brady) is the story of the troubled, COVID-restricted production (in rural England) of a major studio's monster movie. (Apparently it was inspired by the most recent Jurassic Park sequel). The director (Fred Armisen) is an inexperienced buffoon, high on his probably undeserved Sundance win. The producer (Peter Serafinowicz), a level-headed deceiver and dilettante at the mercy of a ferocious studio head (Kate McKinnon), must attempt to wrangle a cast of erratic, self-involved, pandemic-crazy stars (Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, David Duchovny, Keagan-Michael Key, Karen Gillan, Pedro Pascal, Guz Khan), keep them away from the staff of their hotel and somehow cobble together the sixth installment of a mega-budget flying dinosaur franchise.

In someone else's hands, this might be a dismal failure (which apparently some feel it is) and it is not without its flaws. Where most Apatow productions are rambling but narratively concise, this thing is all over the shop, trying to tell everybody's story at once, peppered with dance numbers, introducing nefarious security forces late in the second act. It is undeniably unfocused and farther-reaching than it needs to be. But at the same time, it is absolutely endearing and, for its hilarious moments, well worth the time. R. 126M. NETFLIX.

THE LOST CITY. I'm not sure that date movies exist anymore, at least the way I think of them. But then we have something like The Lost City, a star-borne adventure about an unlikely couple seeking ancient treasure, so maybe everything old is new again. Of course, I was the only one in an early evening show, so ... .

Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock), an erstwhile archaeologist turned wildly successful romance novelist, has turned into something of a recluse since the death of her husband. Still, her agent Beth (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) convinces her to tour her latest book with her longtime cover model Alan (Channing Tatum). Before the tour can really get underway, though, the resentful scion of a media empire (Daniel Radcliffe) intercedes and we're off on a crusade into the wilds of a volcanic South Atlantic island.

The Lost City calls back overtly to the Indiana Jones movies, Romancing the Stone and a handful of other rollicking adventures of a bygone era. While it doesn't have quite the precision or sarcasm that defined some of the greats, it succeeds on the strength of its cast and the goofy-sweet romantic dynamic of the leads. PG13. 112M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

John J. Bennett (he/him) is a movie nerd who loves a good car chase.


AMBULANCE. A Michael Bay heist movie with an ambulance as an improvised getaway vehicle. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Eliza González, Kayli Tran and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. R. 136M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

THE BATMAN. No bright green suit filled with purple question marks for this villain. A darker, more sinister version of the Riddler heads to the big screen in this new adaptation of the Dark Knight. Starring Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz and Paul Dano. PG13. 176M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR. 

FATHER STU. Marky Mark gets religion with racist pos Mel Gibson, who I guess will keep making movies until the Rapture. R. 124M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

JUJUTSU KAISEN 0. Anime action adventure set in a Tokyo high school with cursed spirits and sorcerers. PG13. 105M. BROADWAY.

MORBIUS. A scientist turns bloodsucker after a slip in the lab. PG13. 110M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2. Animated video game sequel about a very fast hedgehog. PG. 122M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. See what happens when you take your mask off? Starring Tom Holland and Zendaya. PG13. 148M. BROADWAY.

UNCHARTED. Treasure-hunting adventure with Tom Holland, Sophia Ali and Marky Mark, whom I only acknowledge in his Funky Bunch form. PG13. 116M. FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

For showtimes call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456.

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