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Movie Reviews
Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes
(Freya Allen, Owen Teague, Kevin Durand, Sara Wiseman, Lydia Peckham, et al. | PG-13 | 2 hr 25 min | 20th Century Studios)

Overview: Director Wes Ball breathes new life into the global, epic franchise set several generations in the future following Caesar’s reign, in which apes are the dominant species living harmoniously and humans have been reduced to living in the shadows.

As a new tyrannical ape leader builds his empire, one young ape undertakes a harrowing journey that will cause him to question all that he has known about the past and to make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike.

Verdict: Noa (Owen Teague) is a young, male ape who lives in a gentle clan with his parents and two best friends. We first see them preparing for a coming-of-age ritual. Each of them must find an eagle’s egg (but always leaving one in the nest), and bring it back safely. The clan is centered around their trained eagles, and Noa’s stern father is their leader.

Noa struggles to get his father’s approval. We see that they have some signs of what we think of as human civilization, in addition to the rituals. They have built some simple structures as homes, they ride horses, they obey the rules of the clan, and they have adornments and some tools and simple weapons, like slingshots. Also, as mentioned above, that most human of attributes, daddy issues.

A marauding group of apes arrive, with more powerful weapons, including spears with taser-like points. They destroy the compound, kill Noa’s father, and capture everyone else, except for Noa, who manages to escape, vowing to find his clan and get revenge. He meets up with Raca (the deep, kind voice of Peter Macon), a follower of the lessons of Cesar. And they meet up with a human woman they call Nova (Freya Allan) — cue the jokes about how humans are slow-witted and smell bad.

They try to drop Nova off with a group of humans (note: none wearing pants and a shirt), but the same marauding apes arrive to capture the humans like cowboys capture mustangs or, in “The Time Machine,” the Morlocks capture the Eloi. It turns out Nova has some secrets.

She and Noa are themselves captured by the apes, they find themselves in the kingdom of Proximus (Kevin Durand), a tyrant who, like the male humans of our time, is obsessed with Ancient Rome. They live on what was once a human stronghold, and Proximus is determined to break into the vault, to get access to whatever it was the humans were so intent on protecting.

I suspect we may hear some people claim that this film is intended as a metaphor to illuminate some of the most divisive topics of our era — colonialism, immigration, xenophobia, the way we tell our history. That gives this film too much credit, but the way both Raca and Proximus claim to be the true heirs of Cesar’s authority, with very different interpretations of his message, should resonate with viewers.

We are mostly there for the special effects and action scenes, though, and those are vivid and effective. The settings are stunning and the motion capture and CGI are next-level, giving the ape characters real weight and their expressions, well, expressive.

As one of the most enduring series in history moves, potentially, toward the time of the very first film, the questions remain: whether humans and apes can find a way to co-exist, whether technology can advance without causing great harm and existential threats, and whether humans or apes can ever find a way to overcome fear and greed to work together for the common good.

Parents should know that this movie includes extended peril and violence. Characters are injured and killed and there are some graphic and disturbing images. Characters use brief strong language (a human teaches it to the apes, of course). [N.M.]

The Fall Guy
(Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Winston Duke, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Hannah Waddingham, Stephanie Hsu, et al. | PG-13 | 2 hr 5 min | Universal Pictures)

Overview: He’s a stuntman, and like everyone in the stunt community, he gets blown up, shot, crashed, thrown through windows and dropped from the highest of heights, all for our entertainment. And now, fresh off an almost career-ending accident, this working-class hero has to track down a missing movie star, solve a conspiracy and try to win back the love of his life while still doing his day job. What could possibly go right?

Verdict: We are on the set of a brand new, $200 million feature film called Metalstorm, which appears to be some sort of gold lamé-clad mash-up of Independence Day, Cowboys and Aliens and a whole bunch of out-takes from David Lynch’s Wild At Heart. None of which is a bad thing.

At the monitor, making her directing debut, is a young woman named Jody, who only a year before was a humble camera operator on a movie set in L.A on which a stuntman was badly hurt, when a harness was incorrectly rigged.

Jody was in love with Colt the stuntguy. But since Colt decided to vanish after his fall, change his number and take a job as a car valet at a classy Mexican joint just off Santa Monica, Jody has had to move on with her life. And directing this unwieldy behemoth of a picture, with action sequences that are threatening to wipe Sydney’s State Opera House off the map, is going to be enough to keep her occupied.

But, wouldn’t you just know it. From out of the smoke and dust of a staged car crash, a familiar pair of stubbled cheekbones appears. It is Colt, summoned back to set by Jody’s producer and apparently the only person who can save Jody’s film from collapse, since her actual action-hero has vanished.

Look, none of us are here for the plot. Which is probably just as well, since the trailer pretty much tells you the whole story anyway. But The Fall Guy, once you step back and get the smoke and glitter out of your eyes, makes absolutely no sense at all, even by the standards of the ropey 1980s TV show it is named for.

And worse, The Fall Guy also teases us with the idea that Hollywood would entrust a massive sci-fi blockbuster to a woman, when there are so many male directors who have failed in this genre, and apparently still deserve one-more-chance. But the script then turns that kick-ass woman into a distracted rom-com lightweight the moment her ex-squeeze shows up. Yes, that bugged me. And it should bug you too.

But, with Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling churning out the star-wattage in the leads, and actual ex-stunt performer David Leitch (Bullet Train) in the director’s chair, there is still a lot here to like, and I’ll always have something kind to say about a film that actually lives up to the promises its own marketing and trailer are making.

The Fall Guy, viewed through a generous lens, is a love letter and a salute to the film industry and everyone who loves it. There’s movie references by the yard, in-jokes and meta-humour in every scene and damn near every line, and an absolute bunch of genuine, old-school, deathlessly impressive stunt work of the highest order. One set-up needed a car to cannon-roll – to be flipped by a concealed hydraulic ram, while traveling at high-speed. Stunt driver Logan Holladay set a new world record with eight-and-a-half rolls completed. Kids, don’t try this in the streets around your home!

With Hannah Waddingham, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Winston Duke (Black Panther) all chewing up the scenery in support and a load of Australia’s most scenic city-streets and deserted beaches getting smashed to bits in the background, The Fall Guy is a film that knows how to put on a show and leave any audience who actually want to pay to see it, feeling like they’ve had their money’s worth. If it had a story that made just a tiny bit more sense, and was smart enough to generate any tension or intrigue at all, I might even have liked the damn thing a bit more myself.

As it is, The Fall Guy is a numbingly stupid film that is clearly made by a lot of very clever and talented people.

Just make sure you stay for the credits, which play over a montage of genuinely great behind-the-scenes footage of the actual stunt performers doing their work. For those five or so minutes, The Fall Guy really does come alive and put a smile on my face. [G.T.]

Civil War
(Kirsten Dunst, Cailee Spaeny, Jesse Plemons, Wagner Moura, Nick Offerman, et al. | PG-13 | 1 hr 49 min | A24)

Overview: From filmmaker Alex Garland comes a journey across a dystopian future America, following a team of military-embedded journalists as they race against time to reach DC before rebel factions descend upon the White House.

Verdict: Back in 2002, Alex Garland and his filmmaking mates Danny Boyle and Andrew MacDonald shut down the streets of London to shoot scenes for their zombie apocalypse movie 28 Days Later. It must have been logistically tricky but the scenes of a dazed Cillian Murphy crossing a deserted Westminster Bridge, his character awoken from a coma to find his city, and the world, had gone to hell are gobsmacking.

But it turns out that all of that was just a dress rehearsal for Alex Garland for the day when he, 22 years later, would be staging scenes of an America experiencing its own apocalypse in Civil War, his raw and astounding new film.

Kirsten Dunst plays a jaded and famed photojournalist Lee Smith who is teamed up on assignment with her Reuters colleague Joel (Wagner Moura). They’re planning to leave the war-torn streets of New York and head south to Washington, DC. hoping to score an interview with the now three-term president (Nick Offerman).

We never really learn how the president has managed to lead the United States of America into a divided and broken nation, with Texas and California having seceded and taken their financial resources with them and the remainder of the country in a civil strife the government is losing.

But reporter Joel wants to score that interview, and joining him on the ride from the assorted press pool holding up in a New York hotel are veteran journalist Sammy (Stephen McKinley) and a very green wannabe photographer Jessie (Cailee Spaeny).

The plan is to call past the war’s current front line in the Carolinas, file some stories and leave Sammy and Jessie somewhere safe before Lee and Joel head into the dangerous remnants of the American capital.

But it is a long and dangerous ride through an America where it is impossible to tell which side is good and who might be on that side, and where a wrong turn in the road might introduce them to the end of somebody’s gun.

Garland’s achievement with Civil War is impressive in execution, taking the seed planted in the mind of every viewer of that January 6th Capitol riot footage to its most frightening future scenario.

One hopes its American consumers take this film as the cautionary tale Garland clearly intends.

He constructs the film, probably for affordability, on the mostly small scale, as a road movie where four journalists move from safe stops to capturing stories breaking around them.

This gives Garland the canvas to paint a number of smaller pictures amongst the grander war-torn tableau. It is a film about journalism, with these four professionals in there among raw, bloody fighting. It is also a film about photography and the responsibility the photojournalist has to immortalize these naked and honest moments. It is this idea that really grabs you.

Dunst is so exhausted and broken as the older photojournalist drained long ago of her empathy, and yet taking the time to mentor Spaeny’s barely post-teen Jessie.

Through their eyes, we’re right there at ground level, along with Garland’s camera, for Pol Pot-like killing fields in green Carolina farm fields, or among hand-to-hand combat on city streets. The camerawork can be nauseating at times - that’s intentional - the sound design deafening and engineered to make you jump a few times, the production design epic.

The film culminates in a final epic battle on the inner streets of Washington, DC. that are Saving Private Ryan level of immersive. It’s all very impressive, Garland knows exactly what he’s doing, and he has a stellar cast who are all so strong. [C.K.]

(Chris Pine, DeWanda Wise, Annette Bening, Dannuy DeVito, Jennifer Jason Leigh, et al. | R | 1 hr 40 min | Catchlight Studios)

Overview: In Chris Pine’s feature directorial debut, Poolman tells the story of Darren Barrenman (Pine), a native Angeleno who spends his days looking after the pool of the Tahitian Tiki apartment block and fighting to make his hometown a better place to live.

When he is tasked by a femme fatale to uncover the truth behind a shady business deal, Darren enlists the help of friends to take on a corrupt politician and a greedy land developer. His investigation reveals a hidden truth about his beloved city and himself.

The film also stars Annette Bening, Danny DeVito, Jennifer Jason Leigh, DeWanda Wise, Stephen Tobolowsky, John Ortiz and Ray Wise.

Verdict: Chris Pine might love Los Angeles more than anyone else does. He also loves movies about Los Angeles, talking about movies about Los Angeles, going to the movies in Los Angeles and making movies about making movies in Los Angeles, which is all laid out in his affable directorial debut, “Poolman,” a love letter and homage to (and satire of) stoner L.A. noirs. Pine co-wrote the script with Ian Gotler and stars in the title role as goofy Darren Barrenman, a.k.a. DB, a slacker pool cleaner with eyes the same cerulean shade as the chlorinated body of water he tends to with an almost religious ecstasy.

This Ken’s job is “pool,” and in “Poolman,” a riff on “Chinatown” that keeps announcing itself as such, DB has to follow the water. Our unlikely hero is the Dude from “The Big Lebowski” as a manic pixie dream boy, an effervescently charming and inexplicably quirky chap. With his willingness to be vulnerable, childlike enthusiasm and unique wardrobe, DB also calls to mind another memorable L.A. character: Pee-wee Herman.

DB lives in an RV in the courtyard of a downtrodden apartment complex, rattling off typewritten letters to Erin Brockovich and hanging with his motley crew of pals, including his therapist Diane (Annette Bening), documentary film collaborator Jack (Danny DeVito), girlfriend Susan (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and his buddy and associate Wayne (John Ortiz). Together they ruminate about the good old days of L.A. when they’re not storming city council meetings with dramatic filibusters about bus schedules.

But this isn’t just another shaggy-dog hangout movie, showcasing Pine’s appreciation for classic movies, beloved actors, old-school L.A. restaurants, short shorts and silly hats. Enter the femme fatale at the edge of the pool. In a sculptural 1940s-inspired frock and hat, she is June Del Ray (DeWanda Wise), the assistant to the city council member (Stephen Tobolowsky) with whom DB is locked in a brutal yet banal battle. She tells DB she has dirt on her boss, who she says is collaborating in a shady real estate deal with a developer named Teddy Hollandaise (Clancy Brown). With a bat of her eyelashes, the poolman becomes a P.I. “Poolman” is Pine’s guileless take on the movies that he name-checks throughout, like the frequently referenced “Chinatown” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” But it unfolds like more recent films such as “Inherent Vice” and “Under the Silver Lake” — self-conscious takes on L.A. noir that come with extra layers of existentialism and winking commentary. Pine seems less motivated to comment on the genre, just happy to be playing in the sandbox, flinging around the iconography, archetypes and extremely niche references.

The Achilles’ heel of “Poolman” is its tendency toward hyperspecific geographical jokes; it’s a bit too “inside baseball” to appeal to anyone outside of L.A. and sometimes feels like a feature-length version of the “Saturday Night Live” sketch “The Californians” (Pine’s long blond locks add to that sensation). The central mystery is flabby and uncompelling and it feels obligatory at best, a real-estate scandal offering a loose background in front of which these actors play.

Thankfully, the best part of the movie is the cast. If Pine has great taste in anything, it’s actors. He’s assembled an ensemble that includes a superstar (Bening, having a ball), a comedic heavy-hitter (DeVito, spouting an almost nonstop monologue about parking and pie) and a group of character actors who always make you feel like you’re in safe, capable hands. Add to that a compelling ingenue (Wise) and at least one delightful weirdo (Ray Wise) and the film would be entertaining even if they just read the phone book.

Eventually, the plot twists spiral out of control and it never quite feels like Pine and Gotler have control over this vehicle careening over the surface streets of our city. But there’s such a woo-woo warmth to the endeavor that it’s never an entirely unpleasant experience. Pine’s “Poolman” is sort of the physical, emotional and spiritual embodiment of Los Angeles itself: earnest, silly and a little (or a lot) ridiculous, but insistently charming if you decide to surrender to the experience. [K.W.]

(Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan, Kunal Nayyer, Paul Dano, et al. | R | 1 hr 48 min | Netflix)

Overview: Six months into a solitary research mission to the edge of the solar system, an astronaut, Jakub (Adam Sandler), realizes that the marriage he left behind might not be waiting for him when he returns to Earth. Desperate to fix things with his wife, Lenka (Carey Mulligan), he is helped by a mysterious creature from the beginning of time he finds hiding in the bowels of his ship. Hanuš (voiced by Paul Dano) works with Jakub to make sense of what went wrong before it is too late.

Verdict: There are relatively few actors who are able to seamlessly go back and forth between comedy and drama, but Adam Sandler is one of them. Best known for his successful brand of inane comedies, he’s also starred in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love, the Safdie Brothers’ Uncut Gems, and the Netflix basketball drama Hustle, so he’s got bona fides on both sides.

His latest film, Spaceman, might be his biggest stretch yet, though. He plays Jakub Prochazka, a Czech astronaut (sans accent) who’s been sent on a solo mission to Jupiter to collect particles of something called the Chopra Cloud. Naturally, the trip has kept him away from home for a long time, and his wife, Lenka (Carey Mulligan) has grown disenchanted in his absence despite being pregnant with his baby.

It’s established early on that he’s supremely lonely, and his haggard look indicates that he’s sleep-deprived. This could be the reason that he starts imagining a gigantic talking spider that he calls Hanus (voiced by Paul Dano), which says it’s been studying Jakub’s loneliness. As he becomes enthralled with what Hanus is telling him about his present and his past, Jakub becomes increasingly distant from the people trying to guide him on his mission.

Directed by Johan Renck and written by Colby Day, the film is a perplexing choice by Sandler, and anyone else involved with it. Unlike most of his other movies, this one is as artsy as they get, featuring all mood and no action. In fact, it contains a number of enigmatic scenes that seem more designed to frustrate the viewer than to actually tell an interesting story.

There is lots of talk about the romance that Jakub and Lenka used to have, but the flashback scenes that show their life together are impossible to decode. It doesn’t help that those scenes are shown through a weird, blurry filter that almost makes it look like we’re viewing it through water. Clearly Renck wants to indicate the types of scenes being shown, but the execution leaves something to be desired.

The film also fails to answer a lot of storytelling questions. Why would you use only one man for a mission to Jupiter? The movie is based on a book by Czech author Jaroslav Kalfar, but what compelled the filmmakers to keep the characters as Czech when they’re being portrayed by an American and a Brit, both using their normal accents? And what the hell is going on with the spider, whose presence seems to go back to Jakub’s childhood?

As mentioned, Sandler has proven before that he knows how to carry a drama, but that is not the case here. Mostly confined to the spaceship, he never gets a chance to spread his wings, and the subdued nature of the role doesn’t do him any favors. Mulligan is a great actor, but there is no emotional connection to her part, and her performance also suffers. Dano, Isabella Rossellini, and Lena Olin are present, but fail to make an impact.

Anyone logging on to Netflix and hoping to find another wacky Adam Sandler comedy will be in for a rude awakening with Spaceman. Even those who are fans of his dramatic work will wonder why he decided to make this particular movie, or why anyone involved thought it would turn out well at all. [A.B.]

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire
(Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Kumail Nanjiani, et al. | PG-13 | 1 hr 55 min | Netflix)

Overview: In Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, the Spengler family returns to where it all started -- the iconic New York City firehouse -- to team up with the original Ghostbusters, who’ve developed a top-secret research lab to take busting ghosts to the next level. But when the discovery of an ancient artifact unleashes an evil force, Ghostbusters new and old must join forces to protect their home and save the world from a second Ice Age.

Verdict: Fire up the Ecto-1’s siren, because here we go again. Despite a chilly reception from some critics, Ghostbusters: Afterlife has spawned a sequel: Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire. Ignoring the Paul Feig venture with Melissa McCarthy, this string of horror-comedies ties to 1984’s Ghostbusters and its 1989 sequel, Ghostbusters II, but has doubled down on lore, following the family of the late Egon Spengler.

This makes for a new chapter that is overcrowded with characters, CGI ghouls, and science yelling. While at points, there’s jokes that actually land (thanks to the likes of Kumail Nanjiani and Patton Oswalt), overall, this sequel is a confounding mix of fan service and inexplicable choices meant to cater to a broad audience. Actually, parents might welcome a warning.

Transplanted to New York City, the descendants of Egon have taken over the iconic Lower Manhattan firehouse and taken up the call to bust ghosts. Egon’s daughter Callie (Carrie Coon in cruise control) has lightened up and is shacking up with her ghost dog buddy Gary Grooberson (an unflappably jaunty Paul Rudd), who timidly steps into his role as stepdad to her kids.

Trevor (a whiny Finn Wolfhard) is 18 now, a fact he repeats over and over instead of showing any actual character growth. Phoebe (an earnest McKenna Grace) is now 15 and the solid center of this sequel, grappling with a complicated crush, child labor laws, and an icy Armageddon.

The script — from Afterlife director Jason Reitman and Frozen Empire helmer Gil Kenan — lays down an exhaustive amount of lore to set up a simple premise: Big, angry, icy deity wants to take over the world. Ghostbusters new and old must team up to stop it.

Combining the old and new crew of Ghostbusters makes for a messy movie, one that fails because of its urge to appeal to grown ups who grew up with the original two movies and their kids who might be snared by merch ploys and product placement. (Just buy Cheetos in advance. They get more screen time than several supporting characters).

This slapdash sequel brings back Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts — this time in more than cameo mode. (Thankfully, the GCI ghost of the late Harold Ramis is left to rest in peace.) Frozen Empire also loops in familiar settings like the Ghostbusters’ firehouse and the exterior of the Bryant Park library with its signature lion statues, allowing for callback scares from memorable past apparitions — including Slimer. There’s also a montage of classic clips from the past movies, TV commercials for toys and the Ghostbusters cereal, as well as the Ray Parker Jr. music video.

These allusions might make lovers of the original movies perk up in joyful recognition. But none of the old relics are given new polish. Even the original cast’s performances ranges from politely game to clearly over it. (Well, aside from Aykroyd — he is clearly elated to be back in this supernatural saddle, though his enthusiasm is not contagious). So the throwback content for grown ups is achingly faded. But the kid-focused stuff is at times shockingly miscalculated.

In the end, Ghostbusters, Frozen Empire is not a good movie or a good kids movie. However, it is still better than Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a movie that was described as a ghoulish re-animated corpse, stuffed with half-baked new characters and lazy fan service! Indeed, the best I can say about Ghostbusters, Frozen Empire is, it’s not the worst. That would be Ghostbusters: Afterlife. [K.P.]

(Millie Bobbie Brown, Nick Robinson, Robin Wright, Angela Bassett, Ray Winstone, et al. | PG-13 | 1 hr 55 min | Netflix)

Overview: A dutiful damsel agrees to marry a handsome prince, only to find the royal family has recruited her as a sacrifice to repay an ancient debt. Thrown into a cave with a fire-breathing dragon, she must rely on her wits and will to survive.

Verdict: Taking age-old expectations of how a fairy tale is supposed to play out and giving them a brisk shuffle is by no means as fresh as some film-makers often like to think, upending cliches with a tired wink and a smug smirk. But Netflix’s Damsel, itself loosely similar to Hulu’s 2022 offering The Princess, doesn’t require our astonishment at its wheel reinvention to pass the bar and is far too sprightly to get overly bogged down in the self-satisfaction of such an endeavor.

There are, in fact, very few surprises in store here – perhaps Fast X writer Mazeau’s script could have benefited from a few – but there’s a simple, mechanical satisfaction to watching an underdog fight her way back from the depths, driven by a familiar current of revenge. For Elodie (Netflix’s in-house leading lady Millie Bobby Brown), her journey starts in a different kind of strife. Her family, led by father (Ray Winstone) and stepmother (Angela Bassett) are struggling and so are her people, in need of a miracle to save them.

It magically arrives as an offer of marriage, a handsome prince from a far away kingdom (Nick Robinson) wants to make her his wife, steered by a strong-willed queen (Robin Wright). But her happy ending is in fact an unhappy beginning, the wedding part of an ancient ritual that sees her hurled into a cave, sacrificed to a dragon. Romance curdles into horror as Elodie must scramble back to safety.

It’s a tweenage riff on a classic left-for-dead revenge tale and in a subgenre that has been done to exhaustion, watching a young woman endure this same physically grueling rise-to-action-hero status does feel at least superficially fresher (in comparison to another bride-finds-out-wedding-is-sacrifice thriller, it’s far more effective than 2019’s Ready or Not, a film far too pleased with itself to care if we’re as entertained).

In the hands of Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, a Spanish genre director who has been absent from Hollywood for a good while (the reaction to his 2011 Clive Owen horror Intruders was bad enough to keep him away), Damsel is an involving adventure of low-level pleasures as we watch Elodie discover the importance of her own resourcefulness and an independent drive over the love of a prince.

It’s a gently feminist spin with the queen also leading the kingdom, Elodie’s stepmother taking control of the family and even a female dragon ruling the cave. It allows for three older female actors to take time and space in a film of this scale, gifting us with an effectively icy to-type yet underused Wright (in need of some more ferocious one-liners) and wonderfully sinister voice work from Oscar nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo.

Like many child actors, Brown can be a little over-emphatic in her line delivery and emotional reactions, something that just about worked in the Enola Holmes movies, but something that can feel a little too self-aware and artificial at times, the sort of precociousness that’s impressive in the younger years yet less so with age.

A film like Damsel doesn’t exactly require a performance that’s grounded or gritty, but it’s only when the role relies on her to flip from words to action that she comes into her own.

While some of the wider landscapes can feel a little AI-bolstered, Damsel avoids a lot, if not all, of the visual tells that can remind us we’re watching a Netflix mockbuster rather than a real blockbuster. The world is immersive if a little untapped, the dragon moves with more flair and ease than CGI monsters in these films often do, and while the dankness of the cave setting can get a little monotonous, along with some of the story beats near the end, it’s mercifully well-lit.

In conclusion, if Damsel doesn’t exactly rewrite the storybook, it makes for a competent rework of it – a rousing revenge saga that provides a thin yet encouraging message for its younger female audience and a balm for those older viewers who grew up being spoon-fed the same old gendered cliches. This time, there’s some salt to go with that sugar. [B.L.]