ARTS + ENTERTAINMENT

KSL Movie Show: “The Color Purple” and other holiday-week releases

Dec 27, 2023, 7:29 PM | Updated: Feb 2, 2024, 9:54 am

Caricature image of KSL movie reviewer Steve Salles, who write that the new "The Color Purple" is a...

"The Color Purple" is among KSL movie reviewer Steve Salles' top five films for 2023. (Movie poster courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

(Movie poster courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

SALT LAKE CITY — “The Color Purple” and so many movies opened right before or during Christmas! Here are short reviews of all of them. 

“The Color Purple”

When I first heard that someone was going to remake Steven Spielberg’s 1985 “The Color Purple,” I thought they must be off their rocker. But then I saw it. They were not.

Partly based on a novel, a recent Broadway musical, and Spielberg’s movie, director Blitz Bazawule brought the best parts of “The Color Purple” together to make this epic drama. I loved the 1985 version and was shocked when it won none of its eleven Oscar nominations. Yet I feel like this one is even better for the following reasons.

It’s bigger, brighter, more fleshed out, and more powerful in nearly every facet. In the earlier version of “The Color Purple,” Celie’s accomplishments after she got away from Mister were glossed over. In this version, Celie (Fantasia Barrino) not only opens a successful clothing business but goes into a lot more detail and even offers a redemptive moment for Mister (Colman Domingo) who was exceptional.

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There are so many other standout performances that they’re hard to name, but hats off to Taraji, Danielle, Corey, Phylicia, Halle, Ciara, H.E.R., and David. Some have bristled at the modernized dance numbers throughout the production, but I thought they added a welcomed respite between heavily emotional scenes.

That’s why this “The Color Purple” has ended up in my top five films of 2023.

Grade: A. Running time: 140 minutes. “The Color Purple” is rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual content, violence and language. 

“Poor Things”

After I listed the reasons this movie is rated R, I wouldn’t blame you for passing on it. And that’s only the half of it. It’s also completely bonkers, shocking and disturbing. So how on God’s green earth did this insane movie make it into my top ten? I’ll try to explain.

Emma Stone plays Bella – a dead woman who was fished out of the water by a brilliant scientist (Willem Dafoe) and resurrected by replacing her inert brain with that of her unborn child’s.

Told you it was nuts.

So, now Bella physically is in a grown woman’s body but has an undeveloped brain. How does Emma make that work? Brilliantly! Slowly, she begins to understand things more clearly, but lacks the social mores that a normal family would teach her since the good doctor doesn’t believe in such restrictions.

That’s where her joy of intimate pleasure is discovered and she wants all the joy she can handle. But she’s just so matter-of-fact about it, that it’s more comical than sensual. Eventually, she’s whisked away by this narcissistic dandy lawyer Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo) to travel the world with him, but she eventually becomes a reluctant companion that makes Duncan want her even more, the sick puppy.

Betwixt all this craziness, are otherworldly set designs that are both delightfully uncomfortable and awkwardly gorgeous. All of this still haunts me, even though I saw it in early November. Add to that a fearless Emma Stone, a most gifted supporting cast, and brilliant direction from Yorgos Lanthimos and here we are.

Grade: A- Running time: 141 minutes. “Poor Things” is rated (R) for strong and pervasive sexual content, graphic nudity, disturbing material, gore, and language.

“The Boys in the Boat”

Come on, who doesn’t love a well-told, inspirational, underdog, sports movie? Set in the 1930s at the University of Washington, every college rowing team in the country was hoping to win the coveted Poughkeepsie race for a chance to compete in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

Always in the shadow of the UC Berkeley rowers, the Huskies had a formidable senior team. But this particular year, Coach Al Ulbrickson (Joel Edgerton) had a bunch of new hungry recruits that had the right chemistry and determination to eclipse the upperclassmen.

It was this team he took to compete, against the outcry of the administration and supporters, who demanded he stay with tradition. Keep in mind, this was in the middle of the Great Depression. Some of these kids tried out for the team, not because they were dedicated rowers, but because they had no food or work and making this team promised both.

I’d rather not say much more, so you can experience either the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, but just know, that I thought filming a bunch of guys rowing boats was going to be a bore.

It was not.

Grade: B+ Running time: 124 minutes. “The Boys in the Boat” is rated PG-13 for language and smoking. 

“Migration”

A duck family is stuck in the same old pond because the father duck Mack, voiced by Kumail Nanjiani, is convinced no good can come from migrating South for the winter. Hmmm. I didn’t even know that was an option.

But after another family of cool quackers do a pitstop in the same pond, headed to Jamaica, mama duck, voiced by Elizabeth Banks, along with the teenage ducklings and crazy Uncle Dan duck (voiced by Danny DeVito) convince pops to take a chance and make the trip.

Unfortunately, since they are new at this, they head off in various directions including to the Big City and to a wacky home for Herons where adventures ensue. This is cute and family-friendly and suggests that taking chances in life can have its rewards.

Grade B. Running time: 83 minutes. “Migration” is rated PG for action/peril and mild rude humor. 

Ferrari

Set in the summer of 1957 in Italy, supercar company Ferrari was in financial trouble. Enzo (Adam Driver) and his business partner and wife, Laura (Penélope Cruz) were spending large amounts of money on the prestigious racing team to the detriment of the manufacturing arm of the company that was selling very few cars.

Enzo knew that if Ferrari didn’t have a great showing in the next Mille Miglia, a thousand-mile race across Italy, the company could face bankruptcy. At the same time, it comes to his wife Laura’s attention that Enzo has an entirely separate family across town with girlfriend Lina Lardi (Sharlene Woodley), and an illegitimate son, Piero.

This revelation is even more painful to Laura considering the loss of her and Enzo’s beloved son Dino to muscular dystrophy a year earlier. Despite this family drama, Enzo puts all of his efforts into the racing team, suggesting even if his drivers died in the pursuit of winning, it would be a noble cause.

I will warn you, there is one horrific crash in the film where drivers and pedestrians are wiped out in a moment’s glance. If that’s triggering, you should probably skip this film.

On the other hand, the beautiful roar of those engines and the sleek design of those elegant Ferrari race cars are sublime. For me, the best part of this movie is Penélope Cruz’s performance as the jilted wife who still has the business sense to protect the company she and Enzo built together.

Grade: B. Running time: 124 minutes. “Ferrari” is rated R for some violent content/graphic images, sexual content, and language.

“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom”

The weight of the DC Extended Universe lies in the jaws of this final installment before the new kids James Gunn and Peter Safran premiere their new DC Universe. And for some, this last effort goes out with a whimper. I did not feel the same.

Yes, it’s not “Gone With the Fin,” but it is a simple, fun adventure that captures the essence of what these superhero movies should be. So I cut it some slack.

Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) hates his new job as King of Atlantis. He never wanted to be in charge, but since he sent King Orm (Patrick Wilson) to a desert prison to cool his heels, Arthur has no choice. The situation becomes more intense as Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) gains new powers in his quest to avenge his father’s death.

So Arthur is going to need Orm’s help, whether he likes it or not. Amber Heard is in this film a lot more than I thought. Especially since she has provided an heir for Aquaman. And no one is safe as Black Manta comes a-callin’.

Putting Arthur and Orm begrudgingly together is the heart of the story and it works. So you should go see it, despite all the negativity that surrounds it.

Grade B-. running time: 124 minutes. “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some language. 

“The Iron Claw”

Set in 1980s Texas, the Von Erich family is made up of professional wrestling brothers. They are pushed by a tough love-abusive father/coach who once dreamed of being a world champion himself.

Kevin (Zac Efron) is the oldest and most likely to follow in his father’s footsteps but lacks that out-of-the-ring bravado. So pops turns to Kerry (Jeremy Allen White) and fast-talking David (Harris Dickinson) to elevate the Von Erich Brothers team to prominence.

Only, with fame comes tragedy as one by one, the brothers meet horrible fates, except for steady, overlooked Kevin. I wanted to like this movie more, but it is such a tragic downer, that it exhausted me. Plus, Zac is so jacked that he looks uncomfortable.

Grade B-. Running time: 132 minutes. “The Iron Claw” is rated R for language, suicide, some sexuality, and drug use.

“Anyone But You”

Rom-comers rejoice! Two beautiful people sniff each other’s hair and take us to sweet locales! They make us believe they hate each other – now that’s acting!

A misunderstanding ruins Bea (Sydney Sweeney) and Ben’s (Glen Powell) first attraction. It could have resolved with a quick chat or text. But then there would be no movie, so live with it.

Time passes. But massive coincidences save the day, as Bea’s sister is marrying his best friend’s sister. All are going to Australia for a destination wedding, complete with ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, and manipulating parents.

Wow.

So to get everyone off their backs, they “pretend” to like each other. But their “intense hatred” for each other betrays them, even though deep down they have romantic feelings.

Were you able to follow that?

If yes, then you are about to have a good time. Also note, that Glen Powell breaks Matthew McConaughey’s record for shirtlessness in a rom-com, so there’s that.

Grade: B- Running time: 103 minutes. “Anyone But You” is rated R for language throughout, sexual content, and brief graphic nudity. 

Steve Salles is the co-host of the KSL Movie Show. Follow the show on Facebook. Join the KSL Movie Show Club for exclusive perks by texting MOVIE to 57500. 

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KSL Movie Show: “The Color Purple” and other holiday-week releases