OUTtakes: April 18, 2014

Welcome back to OUTtakes, David Atlanta‘s new weekly look at films opening in Atlanta. Each week, we provide you with trailers, film descriptions, and in some cases our thoughts on new films hitting theater screens. This week’s roundup includes a mix of films hitting theaters on Friday, April 18. We have a couple of very different sci-fi films opening in Atlanta. First, there’s the big-budget Transcendence, which stars Johnny Depp in Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister’s directorial debut. There’s also the indie flick Under the Skin with Scarlett Johansson. Beyond that, there’s a healthy mix of formats this week – something for (nearly) everyone.

Transcendence

When Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is nearly killed by anti-technology extremists, he becomes a participant in his own transcendence. But as his thirst for knowledge is increasingly quenched, it starts to turn into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power.

My Thoughts: Ooh. This is a mess. It reminds me of two films in particular, which I’ll address individually, and the comparisons don’t make Transcendence look good. The story reminds me of Her, if Her took a more negative view of the influence of technology and limits of humans. And by more negative, I mean downright dismal. Aesthetically, it reminds me a lot of Inception; this makes sense, since director Wally Pfister has been Christopher Nolan’s go-to cinematographer for years, including on Inception. Even though Pfister doesn’t handle cinematography here, his style is still felt, but it feels like a knockoff of Nolan’s films.

A few other dings against the film: (SPOILER) The majority of the film is technically a flashback, so unfortunately, what little surprise there could be about the film’s ultimate outcome is ripped off in the first five minutes. And while Johnny Depp may be on computer screens for most of the film, but he feels no more or less alive when he’s actually supposed to be alive. Talk about phoning it in.

Dom Hemingway

After playing during the Atlanta Film Festival, this dramedy about a safecracker with a loose fuse (played by Jude Law) opens for theatrical release at Landmark Midtown.

My Thoughts: When Jude Law was at his peak in terms of popularity, he coasted by more on his good looks and charisma than on truly engaging performances. Since his heyday a decade ago, though, he’s turned in some remarkable performances in supporting roles. In Dom Hemingway, he gets his teeth on a juicy lead role and chews everything shy of the digital projector. It’s quite marvelous. As Dom Hemingway, Law is able to convey a wide range of emotions, many of them flipping between each other in the middle of a scene. The character isn’t one that should endear himself to audiences – he’s frequently violent, and at turns can be racist, sexist and homophobic – but Law’s performance is so electric, it’s impossible not to watch.

Tennessee Queer

Out and proud Jason Potts returns to his hometown in Tennessee, only to find things have not changed for LGBT teens. To give them some hope, Jason launches a plan to help them while he’s home, but he quickly finds himself the target of some in his conservative hometown. This film is playing exclusively at Plaza Theatre.

My Thoughts: Tennessee Queer is a bit of an odd film. It was filmed back in 2012, and even then, it would’ve been largely dated. Take it back a decade or two, though, and it would be on the higher end of LGBT cinema output.

I’ll start with my major complaint. Even though the film deals with some potentially weighty films, Tennessee Queer is primarily comedic. It’s an awkward mix to begin with, and it’s only made more dated by a heavy focus on stereotypes to flesh out many of the characters. Gay characters mostly get to avoid the stereotypes, unless they’re dealing with non-gay characters. As for straight characters…well, if they’re on screen for more than a scene or two, they’re either loud, buffoonish homophobes or overly accepting but awkward allies.

That being said, the film is not without its charms. Stereotypes aside, there’s some gentle humor found within the film. The film’s gay characters tend to be painted in more subtle strokes at times, which only makes their enemies look increasingly foolish. The film also provides a level of acceptance at the end that’s actually more indicative of the present than what precedes it.

 

Also in Theaters

Bears

No, this is not a feature on a part of the gay community. Instead, it’s the newest documentary from the Disneynature line, focusing on two cubs as they journey with their family in Alaska.

The Railway Man

Based on a true story, The Railway Man tells the story of a British Army officer who is tormented as a P.O.W. in Japan during World War II. Decades later, he learns that the Japanese interpreter responsible for his treatment is still alive, and he sets out to confront the man.

Under the Skin

An alien in human form (played by Scarlett Johansson) goes on a journey through Scotland. This film is playing exclusively at Landmark Midtown.

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