Baywatch

Prepare to wade into shallow waters! I mean, c’mon, it’s Baywatch– the movie. Do you remember the television series? It’s not meant to be deep. It’s meant to be stupidly entertaining. And it is. Barely. For the most part, the film pokes fun at its soapy self, delivering what might have been a particularly raunchy, yet heartfelt “special episode” of the show, wherein the lifeguards get wind of a drug dealer in their midst and decide to bring down the bad guys (and gals) themselves instead of, you know, calling the cops.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Argh. The fifth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is, like many of the characters featured in the flimsy plot, simply dead on arrival. It’s a boring retread that fails to engage or entertain – even in IMAX 3D. Some folks around me actually nodded off behind those 3D glasses, only to be jarred awake by the occasional boom of a cannon or the loud, sword-swinging, ship-to-shore combat involving pirates both dead and alive, including the drunken, buffoonish, eye-liner-wearing Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Depp’s portrayal of the quirky Captain Sparrow used to be fun to watch, even when the films’ plots made very little sense. But now, the shtick is stale. He’s become a caricature of his caricature of a character. Fourteen years after Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl turned a Disney theme-park ride into a cinematic juggernaut, it’s time for Depp to retire the Captain and get back to the types of roles that showcase his versatility.

Cinema Clash podcast: Snatched; The Lovers; King Arthur; The Wall; Obit

I missed my chance to see the Amy Schumer/Goldie Hawn Mother’s-Day-weekend comedy Snatched and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword before they opened, but that didn’t stop me from chatting about them with someone who did. So tune in to the Cinema Clash with Charlie and Hannah for lively debate about those two flicks, in addition to the dysfunctional marital drama The Lovers, the psychological war drama The Wall, and the surprisingly entertaining deadline-oriented documentary Obit.

Risk

Good timing. Just as the U.S. Justice Department is said to be considering, again, whether to charge WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for his role in the disclosure of hundreds of thousands of classified documents, a new documentary seeks to shed new light on the man himself. Risk is basically a companion piece or prologue to Laura Poitras’ Oscar-winning documentary CitizenFour about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The Snowden saga began to unfold as Poitras was doing her deep dive into Assange. Serendipitous, for sure, because CitizenFour tells a stronger story and is, by far, the better film.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does what a good sequel is supposed to do. It preserves the elements that made the first one a big success (intergalactic action and adventure, quirky characters, heaps of sarcasm, and an awesome soundtrack), while building on the backstory and expanding the ever-expanding Marvel universe. If you liked the first GOTG (2014), you’re sure to like the second at least as much, if not more – from the opening sequence featuring a baby Groot rocking out to classic tunes, all the way through the FIVE bonus scenes peppered throughout the closing credits.

The Wedding Plan

In this fun little chick flick from Israel, Michal (Noa Kooler) is finally getting married. She has the fiancé, the wedding hall, and has invitations ready to go out for the big day. But just when it seems she’s destined to become a married woman, her groom decides he doesn’t really love her. Devastated, she heads to a matchmaker and starts dating a series of men, thinking that one of them must be her intended. And she doesn’t cancel her plans to get married on the eighth night of Hanukkah, so she has a month to find Mr. Right. Being an Orthodox Jew, she puts it in God’s hands to find her a husband by the day of the wedding. Of course, everyone thinks she is totally nuts!

Gifted

Gifted is admittedly schmaltzy and formulaic, but it fits a current void in our cinematic options for chick flick dramas. It plays a bit like a Nicholas Sparks movie – but with a smartass kid, a scene-stealing one-eyed cat, and the hunky Chris Evans (Captain America) as what one character describes as “the quiet damaged hot guy” at the bar. Evans plays Frank Adler, a single man raising his spirited young niece Mary (McKenna Grace) in a quiet coastal town in Florida. He’s been home-schooling the girl, but wants her to socialize more with other kids. So he sends her to public school, where her teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) soon discovers that Mary is a math prodigy. That discovery sets in motion a debate over Mary’s education, and a custody battle between Frank and his domineering mother Evelyn (Scottish actress Lindsay Duncan).

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City

If you love lower Manhattan, especially Soho, Little Italy, and the Village, you have one person to thank — Jane Jacobs. In this inspiring documentary from Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor) the audience is given a front row seat to a David vs Goliath battle that saved New York from being permanently transformed into an unlivable city. Jacobs was no ordinary citizen. She was a journalist who had long written about her observations on what makes cities vibrant. She was up against Robert Moses who had been given unlimited power in remaking the city. He was responsible for an immense urban renewal plan that depended in large part on knocking down what he deemed “slums” and moving people into projects. And he had no idea who he was up against.

The Lost City of Z

The Lost City of Z (pronounced zed in the British fashion) tells the “true” story of the intrepid Lieutenant Colonel Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy) who was sent to Bolivia in 1906 to map the country’s borders for the Royal Geographic Society (RGS) and stumbled upon clues to a lost civilization deep within the Amazon. He made numerous trips back and forth between England, where his wife (Sienna Miller) and children lived, and the Amazon. And he eventually disappeared into the jungle. The film is a beautifully shot tale of obsession in the last age of the great world explorers. Slightly too long, it is nonetheless entirely worth your time.

Cézanne et Moi

Cézanne et Moi offers a view of a friendship that spanned nearly a lifetime. It’s the story of the bond formed in an Aix-en-Provence childhood between two great artists of the late 19th century, painter Paul Cézanne and writer Émile Zola. Surprisingly devoid of paintings and writing, it’s mostly about the men’s relationship. There are warm moments you recognize as signs of a deep friendship but also painful scenes of betrayal. Not terribly deep, it’s an entertaining trip through the Paris art world as the world is leaving behind the Impressionists, as seen by one of the great post-Impressionists whose work was not yet recognized for its greatness and a writer on the rise.