SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO. It might make sense to preface this, if only to lend some additional context. Sicario (2015) is for me a deeply soothing, satisfying experience, a cinematic comfort that lives on a short list of movies I can put on anytime — usually late at night, usually after a few (too many) drinks — and sink into, at peace in its dark and beautiful current the way others curl up with Ben & Jerry's and The Princess Bride (1987). I know, I know. I'm seeing somebody about it.
The ease with which I can return to the first in writer Taylor Sheridan's (Hell or High Water, 2016; Wind River, 2017) planned trilogy (!) is partly down to the elegance and dread created by director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins. Sheridan's screenplay proved a perfect vehicle for Villeneuve's particular visual style and pacing, and, with Deakins' lighting and shooting the thing like a series of oil-on-canvas masterpieces, there isn't a frame that doesn't add to the movie's cumulative effect. (For the record, my editor has made clear that my mixed reaction to their collaboration on Blade Runner 2049 says more about my stunted sensibilities than it does about Blade Runner.) Sicario also boasts a perfect, if unexpected cast, Emily Blunt among them. Absent the topline talent and visionaries behind the camera, Day of the Soldado may not achieve the same enveloping aesthetic perfection and sustained breathlessness, but it successfully advances and expands the story in its own way. It's a good and worthwhile sequel, in other words.
After suicide bombers turn a Kansas City department store into a nightmare, the powers that be determine that at least one of the perpetrators entered the country by way of the Mexican border, aided by one of the cartels. They enlist Matt Graver (Josh Brolin, reprising his role), spookiest of spooks, to foment a war between the rival cartels. He, in turn, brings aboard the lethal, long-suffering Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro, also returning) as his primary agent of chaos. Unhindered by the rule of law, everybody gets bloody very quickly and before long the mayhem becomes all-encompassing.
Director Stefano Sollima, who has worked almost exclusively in Italy and primarily in television to this point, smartly avoids copying any of Villeneuve's moves, opting instead for a less embellished but still tightly controlled aesthetic. Where the first movie sustained its tension as dread, Soldado thrives on the impending explosion, the sense that something is always about to happen. It's a different feeling altogether but almost equally effective. It underscores that this is a different part of the same imagined world, not merely a continuation. Sollima's retention of late composer Jóhann Jóhannsson's gorgeous, ominous music, Sheridan's thoughtful, brutal, ultimately compassionate writing and Brolin and Del Toro's formidable performances all help to tie this movie to the previous one, of course, but it creates its own space and can be appreciated for its own merits as much as its legacy. R. 122m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? The old and oft-repeated joke has a number of iterations but is essentially: Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood is for kids who can't keep up with Sesame Street. It's not a very nice way to frame things but I have to admit that, as a young child, Fred's show seemed awfully slow and simple. I wasn't wrong but I was missing a whole lot. The Neighborhood, while rudimentary compared to the constantly accelerating competing media of the day, was actually an exceptionally nuanced and daring program, in that it made space to speak directly to children, to open up common ground and acknowledge their feelings, to meet them on their own terms.
Director Morgan Neville's (20 Feet from Stardom, 2013) documentary enters that sacred space and seeks to better understand the man who created it. Through a series of insightful and astoundingly personal interviews, cut together with a wealth of archival footage, Neville builds a portrait of Rogers as a man who lived off-camera much as he did on it. An ordained minister, quietly troubled by self-doubt, he approached the world with seemingly unending kindness and compassion, with a rare and priceless patience for children. He was an oddball but he was transparent in his intentions.
Especially now, in a moment when kindness seems at risk of being turned into an underground movement, it is a deeply heartening, nourishing thing to see that someone, even if it was just a square from Pittsburgh, never gave up the good fight. If this one doesn't at least bring you to the verge of tears, you've got some work to do. PG13. 94m. BROADWAY, MINOR.
— John J. Bennett
See 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.
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly get small (and big) again, battling new enemies and old skeletons. With Michael Douglas. PG13. 125M BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
THE FIRST PURGE. Horror franchise prequel in case you need to be reminded what happens when we elect leadership to "shake things up." R. 97M BROADWAY, Fortuna, MILL CREEK.
HEARTS BEAT LOUD. Nick Offerman stars as a dad dragging his reluctant daughter (Kiersy Clemons) into forming a band with him. PG13. 97m. MINIPLEX.
HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1978). Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in a football-after-death comedy. PG. 101m. BROADWAY.
DEADPOOL 2. Ryan Reynolds in his destined role with a better story, action and jokes. It's almost fun, kind and rough enough to make you forget it's spawn of the Marvel juggernaut. R. 113m. BROADWAY.
THE INCREDIBLES 2. This fun, clever and funny sequel is worth the wait, with the returning cast and the right villains for our times. Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter. PG. 118m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR, FORTUNA.
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM. Nodding to its predecessors and balancing humor, horror and heart, this dino sequel is more than a big, dumb blockbuster. PG13. 128m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
OCEAN'S 8. Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett lead an all-star team of cool lady crooks on a heist at the Met Gala in this slower but still fun spin-off. PG13. 110m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY. A fun if trivial prequel with solid action sequences, winking callbacks, Han and Chewbacca (Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotama) bonding and a cheekier Lando (Donald Glover). PG13. 135m. MILL CREEK.
TAG. School chums go hard on an annual game of tag. Starring Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis, Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner. R. 93m. BROADWAY.
UNCLE DREW. A desperate team captain (Lil Rel Howery) enlists a legendary old timer (Kyrie Irving) and his geriatric crew for a street-ball tournament. PG13. 104m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill