47 METERS DOWN. I may have let out an audible groan when the title screen appeared: Johannes Roberts' 47 Meters Down. If you've heard of Johannes Roberts, then you probably have a subscription to Fangoria, and I'm the asshole. While the director has more than a dozen credits to his name, there wasn't a title I recognized among them.
Despite this red flag, 47 Meters Down is a tight, uncomplicated genre piece that hits more than it misses, rounding out a decently fun claustrophobic thriller.
Lisa (Mandy Moore, who deserves to be in more and better films) and Kate (Claire Holt) are vacationing on the coast of Mexico. Lisa has lured her younger, more adventurous sister there under the guise of bonding but it turns out she's been dumped by her boyfriend, who apparently "got bored." Kate (somewhat maliciously) uses her sister's feelings of inadequacy to convince her to go on a shark dive with a couple of locals they just met.
The next day, they're motoring out to open water with a salty Matthew Modine, his dismissive mate and their two friends, who assure them everything will be fine, despite the fact that every other line in the script is a premonition ("I'm going to want to be down there forever," Kate says).
To Roberts' credit, the easily forgettable setup probably takes less than 10 minutes. No one's here for familial drama, after all. Claire and Kate suit up, hop in a heavy, rickety steel cage, and are lowered into the freshly chummed waters.
After a short dip, and a brief view of a 20-foot great white, the sisters get spooked and call to be taken back up. Of course, the winch boom snaps and the cage plummets 47 meters to the sea floor.
The rest of the film is a refreshingly simple survival tale. The sisters are trapped — not only in the cage but by swarming sharks above and the spectre of the bends — meaning they can't rise to the surface too fast.
It's a scenario that hits a panoply of terror beats: claustrophobia, suffocation, darkness, monsters, abandonment and a ticking clock. The perspective wisely stays with the sisters, plunging the audience into the murkiness and confusion of the sea floor. To the director's credit, given the setting, the on-screen action is never confusing. I don't know how the science of the script holds up, from the bends to the sharks, but the movie doesn't portray the sharks as cunning or malevolent, just a reality of the dire situation.
The performances are effective, in spite of (or maybe due to) nearly every line being delivered through a radio and from behind an emotion-obscuring scuba mask. Mind you, 47 Meters Down is not a great film — its tacky false ending reeks of a writer unable to decide on a finish. But if you're looking to suspend your belief and hold your breath for 90 minutes, you could do worse. PG13. 89m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
ROUGH NIGHT starts with a quick, disappointing fall out of the party weekend cliché tree, hitting every dick-shaped branch on the way down. An opening flashback to a frat party beer pong tournament establishes that Jess (Scarlett Johansson) and Alice (Jillian Bell) share a common bond through mutual raunchiness, I suppose.
Flash forward: Jess is juggling wedding planning and a run for state senate, and Alice has planned an ambitious Miami bachelorette weekend to reunite them and college friends Blair (Zoë Kravitz) and Frankie (Ilana Glazer).
The characters are introduced as broad stereotypes — Blair is some kind of uptight professional with marital issues, Frankie's an insultingly self-indulgent activist type, Alice is the overbearing, jealous best friend. It's noticeably redundant, and it takes a good while for any of the jokes to land. Things pick up in Miami, where Jess' Australian friend Pippa (Kate McKinnon) joins the party, to Alice's consternation.
They proceed to score cocaine, get drunk, perform an uncomfortable choreographed dance in a club and head back to the beachside mansion they've rented for the weekend. When the inevitable stripper arrives, he's quickly dispatched in a mishap and the bachelorette scrum is left to decide what to do.
At the suggestion of Blair's attorney uncle, the women decide to dispose of the body, and what follows is a series of misadventures as they attempt to cover up their accident. The story, being a mishmash of bachelorette and cover-up tropes, is broadcast widely. The sketches hit and miss, relying mostly on the good timing and talent of the cast.
Kate McKinnon, in particular, shines, her approachable zaniness and brilliant facial expressions garnering the biggest laughs. Ty Burrell and Demi Moore have a good turn as lecherous neighbors, but I couldn't help but be bothered by the denouement of that side story, which unfolded with Blair. It didn't seem worth unpacking the numerous problems with the storytelling.
Much has been made of the film's reliance on raunch, as though women talking about sex is novel enough to carry a film. But Rough Night didn't feel to me like it was resting on its vulgar laurels. There's an immense amount of talent and a handful of clever and hilarious moments, but, like the overbearing Alice, Rough Night spends too much time plotting the course, not enough enjoying the moments within. R. 101m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
— Grant Scott-Goforth
For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
THE BEGUILED. Kirsten Dunst (hey, girl), Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning star as Southern women who take in a wounded Union soldier (Colin Farrell) in this Sophia Coppola film where, once again, shit goes sideways in a house full of blondes. R. 94m. MINOR.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981). Vintage Nazi punching for the whole family. Starring baby-faced Harrison Ford and role-model material Karen Allen. PG. 110m. BROADWAY.
TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT. I don't know, man. Maybe we should just let the robots take over and see how that goes. Give it a chance or whatever. PG13. 150m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
ALL EYEZ ON ME. Demetrius Shipp Jr. stars as iconic rap artist Tupac Shakur in this biopic directed by Benny Boom. With Danai Gurira and Kat Graham. R. 140m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
BORN IN CHINA. Docu-Disney feature following panda, golden monkey and snow leopard families in the wild. Squee at will. G. 79m. MINOR.
CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE. Kevin Hart, Ed Helms and Thomas Middleditch voice the animated kids' movie about a pair of troublemakers who hypnotize their school principal into thinking he's a superhero. PG. BROADWAY.
CARS 3. Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) goes up against younger, faster cars in the race for the Piston Cup in this Pixar sequel. With Larry the Cable Guy and Cristela Alonzo. G. 109m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
CITIZEN JANE. Documentary about Jane Jacobs, a writer and activist who fought for New York historical landmarks is the face of the 1960s wave of development. NR. 92m. MINIPLEX.
DAVID LYNCH: THE ART OF LIFE. Just in time for your Twin Peaks binge: a documentary about the life and aesthetics of the director. NR. 88m. MINIPLEX.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2. This buoyant, funny follow-up to Marvel's trip to space with a motley crew of outlaws and misfits is surprisingly heartfelt — like a love-letter from writer-director James Gunn to the material and its fans. PG13. 136m. BROADWAY.
I, DANIEL BLAKE. An out-of-work carpenter recovering from a heart attack meets a struggling young mother who's also falling through the cracks and decides to fight the system. R. 100m. MINOR.
THE LOVERS. Debra Winger and Tracy Letts star as a cheating, disconnected married couple who fall back in love and throw their respective affairs into chaos. R. 97m. MINIPLEX.
THE MUMMY. This action-horror Tom Cruise vehicle brings back some classic movie style and much-needed humor, but suffers from over-slickness, under-writing and not enough for the mummy (Sofia Boutella) to do. With Jake Johnson and Russell Crowe. PG13. 110m. BROADWAY.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. Johnny Depp returns to the waterlogged franchise with an excellent Javier Bardem as Captain Salazar, the cursed captain of the month and the only saving grace of the movie. PG13. 129m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
WONDER WOMAN. Director Patty Jenkins and company handle the serious of justice and love overcoming prejudice and hate without turning pompous, and still entertain with outsized battle sequences in this fine DC adaptation. Starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. PG13. 141m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill