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How are 'Invisible Man' and 'Trolls World Tour'?

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“Invisible Man”

“I see you.” This simple statement of fact might be the most powerful and the most dangerous thing an abuse victim can say to their abuser. Because abusers operate in the dark, away from prying eyes, twisting their own warped reality into the truth. Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) shouts “I see you” to a seemingly empty room. The declaration is the first step on her road to redemption in Leigh Whannell’s inventive and utterly riveting twist on “The Invisible Man,” says Tribune News Service film critic Katie Walsh.

Walsh writes that Whannell has flipped the notion of invisibility. In this take, invisibility is no superpower, and no affliction, but rather, it’s a threat. In his script, Whannell centers a woman, Cecilia, as the target of the invisible man, who is her abusive, vindictive tech mogul partner, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen).

Working with a cool, gray palette allows Whannell and cinematographer Stefan Duscio’s camerawork to remain at the forefront of their visual storytelling, Walsh says. At the center of the film is Moss, who gives a virtuosic leading performance as the twitchy, terrified and tentative Cecilia.

“Trolls World Tour”

Its theatrical release an early victim of the coronavirus pandemic, Universal offered “Trolls World Tour” as a digital rental in April, which the studio said broke records as its biggest debut for an original digital release. The colorful animated family flick reunites the main characters from the 2016’s “Trolls,” as Queen Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) once again set off to save the kingdom. 

This time the threat comes from the Queen of the Hard Rock Trolls (Rachel Bloom), who aims to take over all the Troll kingdoms, each of which represent a different musical genre: Pop, Funk, Classical, Techno, Country and Rock. As Poppy and the gang witness the ravaged Symphonyville and later become imprisoned in Lonesome Flats (turns out a bunch of sad country-singing trolls aren’t wooed by the “rad medley” Poppy et al sing to cheer them up), Cooper (Ron Funches) embarks on a quest to find trolls that look like him, and is found to be royalty in the Funk kingdom (unsurprisingly the most fun, out-of-this-world Troll kingdom).

Eventually the threat becomes an existential one. What happens when one tribe wants total domination, destroying all other types of music? Is it better to have separate tribes in separate kingdoms, or does the Troll universe achieve harmony in coexistence?

It’s a nice, especially timely message for kids and parents, though a clunky one at times via the script, written by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky and Elizabeth Tippet. We encounter subgenres like K-pop, reggaeton, smooth jazz and yodeling via rogue characters, not quite knowing where they fit in (one character points out that Poppy’s kingdom map, which contains disco, is “outdated”). The Queen of the Hard Rock Trolls eventually reckons with the fact that forcing the homogeneity of hard rock on all the kingdoms makes it impossible to be unique. Branch’s seemingly unrequited love plotline takes a backseat to the tunes. But in the end, the music of the six strings makes the music of the spheres, and that’s something worth singing about.

“The Etruscan Smile”

After a dispute with his longtime rival, Scotsman Rory MacNeil (Brian Cox) collapses and is urged to stay with family and seek medical help elsewhere. Begrudgingly, he heads to San Francisco to stay with his estranged son, Ian (JJ Feild), Ian’s wife, Emily (Thora Birch), and their baby. Tensions boil as Rory takes his grandson on an afternoon sausage-eating jaunt without alerting the family, among other culture clashes, while chef Ian receives an unexpected gift from Emily’s rich but controlling father that becomes a burden. As Rory acclimates to the hilly city, his rival, his health and his relationships make predictable turns and hit all the beats of a good old-fashioned family drama.

But a 74-year-old Scottish man with a centuries-long feud isn’t the thing that makes the film feel dated. In a nostalgic turn, the sometimes quirky, always lush orchestral score by Haim Frank Ilfman gives a late-’90s movie feel to moments like Rory discovering the great American traditions of helicopter parenting, molecular gastronomy and Segway tours. More uncomfortably dated are the one-dimensional roles written for the two women characters, type-A wife/mom Emily (Thora Birch) and the initially prickly love interest Claudia (Rosanna Arquette), by screenwriters Michael McGowan, Michal Lali Kagan and Sarah Bellwood, based on the 1985 novel “The Etruscan Smile” by Jose Luis Sampedro. The cast does impressive work with the material, but something doesn’t add up with Claudia’s repulsion to Rory’s toxic masculinity quickly disappearing into being charmed by it for no discernable reason, let alone Rory’s sudden transformation to Good Dad/Grandpa without a convincing catalyst for change.

The Etruscan smile, as Claudia explains while she and Rory marvel at an ancient Italian sculpture, is one of happiness in death. It’s a shame that the film leaves more of a puzzled frown.

 

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