LONG SHOT. My wife has harbored a celebrity crush on Seth Rogen since long before he started showing up in good suits; this confounds and troubles me. But to each her own. We can at least agree that Rogen is a writer and performer of substantial comedic gifts. For my part, well, I have been embroiled in a complex and, in the world of actual reality, nonexistent relationship with Charlize Theron for longer than I care to admit, and have been especially gratified by her recent career moves, whereby she more often than not garners a producer's credit and appears as a goofball, a Valkyrie or some otherwise impossible combination thereof.
And so a pairing of the two would of course become an occasion for a movie date. And this one, it should be emphasized, will be gratifying to even those among us who are not superfan weirdos.
Fred Flarsky (Rogen), a semi-gonzo investigative journalist with a Brooklyn-based independent newspaper, resigns in protest when said paper is subsumed by the media empire of pustulant schemer Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis). (This after executing a near-perfect pratfall escaping a Nazi rally where he has been undercover.) Fred is sad and without prospects. Fortunately, he has well-heeled best friend Lance (O'Shea Jackson Jr.) and a pact whereby each must make a dedicated effort to cheer the other, should some existential misfortune befall him. Lance clears his schedule, gives his staff the day off and focuses on taking Fred's mind off his worries. His plan entails, as it should, cans of LeCroix refilled with Johnnie Walker Blue and CBD oil, a day at the park and attendance of a World Wildlife Fund gala featuring a performance by Boyz II Men.
While at the concert, Fred crosses paths with Charlotte Field (Theron), his once-upon-a-time babysitter, hero and crush, now Secretary of State under bumbling President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk). After watching Fred unload on Parker Wembley, who has been odiously pursuing her (while not busy dismantling independent news media), and fall spectacularly down the stairs, Charlotte can't stop thinking about him. In need of a punch-up speech-writer to defray her perceived humorlessness, she hires Fred to join her and her aides-de-camp Maggie (June Diane Raphael) and Tom (Ravi Patel) on a world tour to drum up support for her new environmental initiative and a run for the White House. They forge an unlikely bond on the campaign trail, alternately squabbling over the vagaries of international politics and reminiscing about their shared past. Before it even gets on its feet, the relationship is contentious: Maggie finds Fred an inappropriate, unformed companion for a woman of Charlotte's prominence and stature; the Secretary's global climate protection plan is winnowed down by the prevailing winds of backroom exigency; Fred is aghast that Charlotte would allow her vision to be compromised. Naiveté and human relationships are cast against the cruelties of big business and politics. Usually there's a clear winner in that particular match-up but Long Shot, for all its canny satire and outright takedowns of chauvinism, has some hope in it, too.
Directed by Jonathan Levine, who has made a few real gems before this (50/50 in 2011, The Night Before in 2015, both starring Rogen), Long Shot accomplishes that ever-rarer of feats: managing to be hilarious, heartfelt and yet still significant and topical. Because it starts with comedy and with emotional authenticity — which I credit largely to a screenplay co-written by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah, whose script for The Post (2017) was a knockout and, like this one, an awesome feminist broadside — the movie is warm and inviting before it starts drilling down into the real stuff of an unlikely relationship in the public eye, much less the constant warfare of being a woman in a position of power. The whole thing is remarkably nuanced, funny, sexy, heartwarming and thoughtful in a way that romantic comedies just aren't — maybe haven't ever been. Theron and Rogen have real chemistry, and both go into some vulnerable, admirable places with their performances (perhaps more surprising on the part of Rogen than Theron). Long Shot is an unexpectedly accomplished and also deeply entertaining example of how a classic formula — even as a big mainstream movie — can, with some care and intelligence, transcend its supposed limitations. R. 125M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE. Academy Award-winning documentarian Joe Berlinger directs an adaptation of Elizabeth Kendall's memoir about her years in a relationship with Ted Bundy, during which he was arrested and tried for the murders of a great many young women. Zac Efron plays Bundy in an immersive, almost uncomfortably comfortable performance. Lily Collins, as Kendall, becomes an almost diaphanous inhabitant of a vodka bottle as the events move along.
I don't share the morbid fixation some have on American serial killers but I get it. Extremely subverts that fascination in an interesting way, presenting the events from inside the relationship, casting Bundy primarily as Kendall perceived him. It's an interesting perspective and the movie is executed well enough to be troubling (forgoing horror-violence, except in some crime scene photographs), but somehow left me wanting something more terrifying. R. 110M. NETFLIX.
— John J. Bennett
See showtimes 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.
BOYZ N THE HOOD (1991). RIP, John Singleton, who made this classic at 24. R. 112M. MINOR.
HAIL SATAN? Documentary on the Satanic Temple, religious freedom, the separation of church and state, and serving looks in black leather. R. 95M. MINIPLEX.
THE HUSTLE. Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson star as small and bigtime con artists in a remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with better outfits. PG13. 94M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU. Ryan Reynolds voices the cuddly CGI creature, thus precluding a Deadpool crossover. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
POMS. Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver and Pam Grier star as retirement home residents who form a cheerleading squad. PG13. 90M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
TOLKEIN. Biopic focusing on the fantasy author's (Nicholas Hoult) early days at school, wartime service and inspirations. With Lily Collins. PG13. 94M. BROADWAY.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965). This thing is nearly as long as Endgame? Starring Julie Andrews and anti-Nazi zaddy Christopher Plummer. G. 172M. BROADWAY.
AMAZING GRACE. A documentary with footage of Aretha Franklin singing with a choir in Watts in 1972. G. 89M. MINOR.
AVENGERS: ENDGAME. Joe and Anthony Russo's vast, multi-faceted, three-hour finale is a project management master-class with a nuanced screenplay combining tragedy and triumph with leavening comedy. Performances are compelling and committed, but the seriousness, requisite epic climactic battle and antiseptic aesthetic are distancing rather than involving. PG13. 181M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
CAPTAIN MARVEL. Brie Larson's superheroine is literally down-to-earth in a refreshing '90s-era origin story that thankfully takes a break from Marvel's massive scale and delivers more focused action and story. With baby-faced Samuel L. Jackson. PG13. 124M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
THE INTRUDER. A couple (Michael Ealy, Meagan Good) buy a house from a man (Dennis Quaid) who turns stalker when he can't let go of it. Zombies are over — it's 2019 and horror is all about real estate now. PG13. 102M. BROADWAY.
UGLYDOLLS. The flat, freaky stuffed dolls get an animated musical vehicle with Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas and Janelle Monáe, who will hopefully teach the children about intersectional feminism. PG. 87M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill