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Journeys with Boots Riley and ABBA

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SORRY TO BOTHER YOU. I woke up thinking about this movie, which proves hard to forget. It leaves tracers behind the eyes, like staring at a too-bright neon light in a too-dark, too-late barroom, vestiges of its vibrant, driving, pointed, flawed, ugly, beautiful, street-style visual poetry.

It's appropriate for the directorial debut of Boots Riley, activist offspring of activists, founder and vocalist of hip hop's legendary The Coup. Riley, who also wrote the screenplay, has been making radical funk rap music for the masses for 25 years now, channeling the frustration of the disenfranchised into a catalog of deceptively head-noddable tracks pulsating with anger, uplift and slapping bass loops. So while it may surprise some that he's had a movie percolating for some/much of that time, anybody passingly familiar with his work should expect said movie would be imbued with a similar energy, passion and aesthetic. (Also Sorry to Bother You is largely a product of Riley's participation in the Sundance Institute's vaunted screenwriters' and directors' labs, which launched the careers of Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino, among others. Riley was accepted after multiple rejections of earlier drafts of this same script. So, you know, don't give up.)

In a parallel present-day Oakland, Cassius "Cash" Green (Lakeith Stanfield) needs a job. He's four months behind on the rent for the garage he rents from his uncle Sergio (Terry Crews), himself at risk of defaulting on his mortgage. Cash gets a job at a telemarketing company and, after some initial difficulty and sage advice from call-center OG Langston (Danny Glover), literally finds his voice and rises meteorically through the ranks. He brings his artist/activist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) on board, and listens uncomfortably to the entreaties of labor organizer Squeeze (Steven Yeun). Torn between loyalty to friends and the dangling financial carrot of becoming a Power Caller, Cash is soon drawn into a nightmare of hideous corporate malfeasance and co-opted personhood.

With its hyper-saturated color palette and precious language, Sorry to Bother You channels the student-film feel of the '90s, when some would-be auteurs turned out not to be. But in its flaws we also find some brilliance. Maybe scenes don't transition as smoothly as we expect, maybe the climax feels rushed, maybe some characters come to life more because of the performance than writing. But surging up through the vintage semi-DIY feel of the thing is the energy of a street demonstration, the passionate chaos contained that we associate with the American youth movement of the 1960s, but also with the concurrent European cinematic revolution. Sorry to Bother You is far from perfect, technically speaking, but it may be the perfect expression of its themes, of the unification of style and intent; an indelible, electric work of art unmistakable for any other. R. 105M. BROADWAY, MINOR.

— John J. Bennett

MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN. Obviously, this is not a movie for people who don't like ABBA, musicals or movies that don't make you think. But it is a movie for people who need to be someplace air-conditioned and uncomplicated for close to two hours that go by mercifully fast. You don't need to have seen the original Mamma Mia to appreciate the sequel, which is split between flashbacks of Donna (Lily James) canoodling her way through Europe circa 1979 and the present-day efforts of her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) to fulfill her mother's dream of opening an upscale hotel on a Greek island. This movie is a lot. It crams in 16 performances of ABBA songs, three Academy Award winners (Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Cher), a love pyramid, an interrupted wedding, the reuniting of octogenarian soulmates, two unplanned pregnancies, lip service to the Greek economic recession and the baffling choice to let Pierce Brosnan pretend he can sing again. (Brosnan won a Razzie for his role in the original 2008 film.)

I know what you're thinking: "That all sounds great." But, of course, there are some genuine issues. The Greek townspeople get some nods at being fully-realized characters, but they're mostly foils for the invading American/British/Swedish tourists. (Maria Vacratis, playing the owner of the local taverna, gets the only chortle-out-loud line of the movie.) Cher's face, sadly, no longer has the ability to emote anything. And what is up with the timeline? And did they have to start a damned trip in Paris just to jam "Waterloo" into the score? Let's not overthink it. This is a fun, fast movie full of catchy tunes, great choreography and stunning, candy-colored sets. Between all that are some heartfelt, relatable musings by 20-something women about whether or not they can trust their hearts. The cynics among us might look at their ruffled denim bell bottoms and say, "No," but we dreamers who remember youthful adventures on foreign beaches, are more likely to say, "Take a chance." PG13. 114M. BROADWAY. MILL CREEK.

— Linda Stansberry

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.

Previews

DON'T WORRY, HE WON'T GET FAR ON FOOT. Joaquin Pheonix and Jonah Hill star in a Gus Van Sant drama about a disabled recovering alcoholic who finds himself in drawing cartoons. R. 115M. MINOR.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT. Tom Cruise gets the band back together for more stunts and (fingers crossed) rubber masks. PG13. 147M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES. DC's animated superhero B-team battles a villain for their own Hollywood feature. PG. 93M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982). Khaaaaaaaannn! PG. 113M. BROADWAY.

Continuing

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP. Tiny Paul Rudd tackles big problems with his new, flying partner (Evangeline Lilly). A less portentous Marvel movie than we've seen of late. PG-13. 125M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

EQUALIZER 2. Denzel Washington kicks some ass in what appears to be a #MeToo inspired subplot spoiled by the trailer. We'll take it. R. 121M. BROADWAY. FORTUNA. MILL CREEK.

THE FIRST PURGE. Horror franchise prequel in case you need to be reminded what happens when we elect leadership to "shake things up." R. 112m. BROADWAY.

HEARTS BEAT LOUD. How about some Nick Offerman being an adorable widower and trying to start a band with his fictional (and also adorable) daughter, played by Kiersey Clemons, before she leaves for college? PG-13. 97m. MINIPLEX.

HOTEL TRANSLYVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION. Dracula and his posse try to unwind with a cruise. What's the worst that could happen? PG. 97m. BROADWAY. FORTUNA. MILL CREEK.

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.

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM. Nodding to its predecessors and balancing humor, horror and heart, this dino sequel is more than a big, dumb blockbuster. PG-13. 128m. BROADWAY.

LEAVE NO TRACE. Debra Granik, writer and director of Winter's Bone, delivers another quality indie, this one about a father and his daughter whose life living rough in the Pacific Northwest is interrupted by the mixed blessing of social services. PG. 119M. MINOR.

MOUNTAIN. Dizzying shots of some of the world's highest peaks and the people who climb them, narrated by Willem Dafoe and scored by the Australian Chamber Orchestra. By Sherpa director Jennifer Peedom. PG. 74m. MINIPLEX.

SKYSCRAPER. Die Hard déjà vu with Dwayne Johnson as a disabled vet scaling a burning building amid exciting visual effects but nothing new for the action genre. PG13. 102M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

YELLOW SUBMARINE: 50TH ANNIVERSARY RESTORATION. Beatles completists will want to check out this remastered version of the 1968 feature-length cartoon with music by the Fab Four. G. 90M. MINOR. •

— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill and Linda Stansberry

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