Jeff York reviews “Tomb Raider,” “The Death of Stalin,” and “Thoroughbreds” on The Establishing Shot

TOMB RAIDER

Is this excavation necessary?

That’s the question regarding the new reboot of TOMB RAIDER starring Alicia Vikander. Previous leady lady Angelina Jolie’s two outings as the archeologist/adventurer Lara Croft in LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER from 2001 and LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE in 2003 were reasonable successes, but never quite the blockbusters they strived to be. That was due in part to the fact that the franchise already felt so old hat by the time it premiered. Based on the 1996 video game, it was mostly a female version of Indiana Jones. And that character from the classic 1981 RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK had already spawned dozens of imitators in the movies, television, video games, and comic books.

THE DEATH OF STALIN

How absurd is our current political climate these days? So ridiculous that a porn star pay-off feels like just another day at the Oval Office? Increasingly crazy, enough so that the HBO comedy series VEEP now plays like a documentary? Risible to the point that watching cable news is almost sadomasochistic? Well, if so…boy, have I got a movie for you! It’s called THE DEATH OF STALIN, and indeed, it concerns the death of the most murderous dictator in the 20th Century. It’s not played as drama, however, but as a farce. And its resemblance to the insanity in our own nation’s capital these days is intentional and renders the material all the more provocative. Just watch and tell me this doesn’t suggest a cautionary tale.

THOROUGHBREDS

Disney’s A WRINKLE IN TIME got all the big-time attention this week, but the film to see this weekend is Cory Finley’s THOROUGHBREDS. This new thriller that the first-time filmmaker wrote and directed is sly, sleek, and dark, delicious fun. It also gives two of the best young actresses working today – Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy –  a chance to shine in a two-hander that conjures up the spirit of classics like STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and HEAVENLY CREATURES.

 

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