Friday January 12 – Thursday January 18

Featured Film:

Phantom Thread at the Egyptian

The final piece of the awards season puzzle finally opens in Seattle this week, exclusively at the Egyptian. Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is a departure from his recent sprawling epics of American history and psychosis (There Will be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice) and a return to the oddball romance of Punch-Drunk Love, albeit in disguise as a tasteful costume drama. Literally, in this case, as Daniel Day-Lewis plays a mid-century British fashion designer with a fastidiously controlled life (monitored by his watchful sister (Lesley Manville) who falls for a young waitress (Vicky Krieps) and whisks her away to his life of luxury. Recalling both the Rebecca-style romances of the 1940s and moodier films like Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy, it also, for reasons I can’t quite articulate, reminded me of Erich von Stroheim. It’s resolutely pro-breakfast food message is I believe something we can all get behind in these troubled times.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Hostiles (Scott Cooper) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Wolf Guy (Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, 1975) Thurs Only

Central Cinema:

Dr. Strangelove… (Stanley Kubrick, 1964) Fri-Mon
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978) Fri-Mon

SIFF Egyptian:

Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Century Federal Way:

1987: When the Day Comes (Jang Joonhwan) Fri-Thurs
Agnyaathavaasi – Prince in Exile (Trivikram Srinivas) Fri-Thurs
Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds (Kim Yong-hwa) Fri-Thurs
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948) Sun & Tues Only

Grand Cinema:

The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987) Sat & Weds Only
Bombshell – The Hedy Lamarr Story (Alexandra Dean) Tues Only Our Review

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Square (Ruben Östlund) Sat-Mon, Weds
Saturday Secret Matinee: Alien Invasion! Sat Only 16mm
Thelma (Joachim Trier) Fri-Sun, Tues & Thurs
Shortbus (John Cameron Mitchell, 2006) Thurs Only 35mm

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Hostiles (Scott Cooper) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Agnyaathavaasi – Prince in Exile (Trivikram Srinivas) Fri-Thurs
Mukkabaaz (Anurag Kashyap) Fri-Thurs
Sketch (Vijay Chandar) Fri-Thurs
Thaanaa Serndha Koottam (Vignesh Shivan) Fri-Thurs
Rangula Ratnam (B. N. Reddy) Sat-Thurs
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948) Sun & Tues Only

Regal Meridian:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Hostiles (Scott Cooper) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Northwest Film Forum:

Aida’s Secrets (Alan Schwarz & Saul Schwarz) Fri-Sun
D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage (Lech Kowalski, 1980) Fri-Sun
The Future Perfect (Nele Wohlatz) Sat & Sun Only
Bombshell – The Hedy Lamarr Story (Alexandra Dean) Weds-Sun Our Review
Tom of Finland (Dome Karukoski) Starts Weds
2017 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour Thurs & Sat Only

AMC Pacific Place:

Namiya (Han Jie) Fri-Thurs
Ex Files 3 (Tian Yusheng) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Agnyaathavaasi – Prince in Exile (Trivikram Srinivas) Fri-Thurs
Parchi (Azfar Jafri) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman, 1955) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Nordic Lights Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program
Being 17 (André Téchiné) Tues Only

AMC Southcenter:

Condorito: La película (Eduardo Schuldt & Alex Orrelle) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948) Sun & Tues Only
Mary and the Witch’s Flower (Hiromasa Yonebayashi) Thurs Only

Varsity Theatre:

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948) Tues Only

In Wide Release:

The Commuter (Jaume Collet-Serra) Our Review
The Post (Steven Spielberg) Our Review
The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson) Our Review Our Podcast
Downsizing (Alexander Payne) Our Review
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
Pitch Perfect 3 (Trish Sie) Our Review
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
The Disaster Artist (James Franco) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review

 

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Goldbuster (Sandra Ng, 2017)

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In her directorial debut, veteran comic actress Sandra Ng gives us a goofy farce, a compendium of horror movie tropes and references, and a sappy tribute to the underdog spirit of Hong Kong’s working class in the days of hyper-capitalisim and real estate speculation. She plays a ghostbuster hired by a handful of families to protect themselves from the evil spirits haunting their dilapidated apartment building. The ghosts are a scam, a scheme by a developer to get the last remaining tenants of a property to sell so he can tear the building down and make something new (the pull-away shot revealing the location is striking: a lone run-down concrete block surrounding by a massive ditch separating it from the city itself all CGI skyscrapers and hazy lights, an island of the real in the middle of an urban fantasy). Ng, no stranger to con games herself, quickly deduces the scam and helps the residents out-scare their ghosts, a game of horror movie one-upsmanship that turns into a full-scale zombie invasion.

Ng has been one of Hong Kong’s brightest comics for over two decades now, equally at home in slapstick, grotesquerie and wordplay, and while her film doesn’t have the classical misanthropy of Michael Hui or the blinding verbal games of Stephen Chow, it does recall her own Golden Chicken films in the way it explores how the feeling and ideology of a place can be expressed through the stories it tells itself. In Golden Chicken and its sequel (from 2002 and 2003), she plays a gregarious prostitute who recalls her life story in parallel to the history of Hong Kong, political and pop cultural, from the late 70s through the immediate post-Handover era. Goldbuster isn’t as expansive, but rather explores how stories of the supernatural can paralyze us and how fear is manipulated by ruling elites to bend us to their whim, Scooby-Doo as Marxist allegory.

While, pointedly, Goldbuster‘s location is never specified, it could technically take place in any Chinese city, that seems more a concession of vagueness for the Mainland market than any real conviction. In tone and purpose this is a resolutely Hong Kong film, where stories about housing complexes and tenants’ wars with their landlords have a long tradition, a byproduct of the housing shortages which followed the influx of massive numbers of refugees in the post-World War II and Civil War years. Chor Yuen’s House of 72 Tenants almost single-handedly saved the Cantonese language film from extinction in the early 70s, and in recent years as speculation and real estate bubbles have made affordable housing increasingly hard to find, the subject has become ubiquitous. Comedies like Temporary Family, which played here at SIFF in 2015, and last year’s Sinking City: Capsule Odyssey address it head-on, while Goldbuster folds the crisis into the fabric of its gonzo vision of a city driven to apocalypse by decades of unease and overdevelopment.

Each of its characters, generic types all of course, are refugees in some way from the past twenty years of economics and pop culture: scientists scammed out of their patents; a webcam girl; over-the-hill Triads, one of whom (the great Francis Ng (no releation) thinks he’s a cop); a doctor who failed to save his wife from some illness. The latter is the most melodramatic character, afflicted as he is by an adorable son and a penchant for whininess, obsessed with finding his wife’s ghost and somehow atoning for her death. This is the paralytic state the tenants find themselves in: trapped by fear and overcome with superstition, surrounded on all sides by rapacious capital. Only with the wit and heart of a scoundrel like Sandra Ng can they hope to defeat the forces waged against them. Another victory for the indigenous scrappiness of Hong Kongers against the powers of vague superstition and vampiric elites.

Friday January 5 – Thursday January 11

Featured Film:

The Post at the Pacific Place

The weirdest movie month of the year, the time when studios both expand their biggest award-hopefuls and dump their trashiest genre fare, begins this week with the latest from Steven Spielberg, playing exclusively at the Pacific Place. It’s the story of the second newspaper to publish excerpts from Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers, the classified history of US involvement in Vietnam, and of the internal conflicts between the Washington Post’s publisher, Meryl Streep’s Katharine Graham and its editor, Tom Hanks. This is the kind of sturdy liberal procedural Spielberg has excelled at in recent years, and while it doesn’t hit the heights of Lincoln and is vastly more self-important than Bridge of Spies, it does work as a stealth reunion of Mr. Show. I reviewed it back in December.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Hostiles (Scott Cooper) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds (Kim Yong-hwa) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review

Central Cinema:

Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986) Fri-Mon Sing-along Monday
Deadpool (Tim Miller, 2016) Fri-Sun

Century Federal Way:

Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds (Kim Yong-hwa) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

Thelma (Joachim Trier) Sat Only
God’s Own Country (Francis Lee) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Square (Ruben Östlund) Fri-Thurs
Saturday Secret Matinee: Alien Invasion! Sat Only 16mm

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
I, Tonya (Craig Gillespie) Fri-Thurs
Hostiles (Scott Cooper) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Velaikkaran (Mohan Raja) Fri-Thurs
Okka Kshanam (VI Anand) Fri-Thurs
Tiger Zinda Hai (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

Regal Meridian:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Goldbuster (Sandra Ng) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Hanson and the Beast (Yang Xiao) Fri-Thurs
Hostiles (Scott Cooper) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Northwest Film Forum:

Bugs (Andreas Johnsen) Fri-Sun
Félicité (Alain Gomis) Fri-Sun
Aida’s Secrets (Alan Schwarz & Saul Schwarz) Weds-Sun

AMC Pacific Place:

The Post (Steven Spielberg) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Youth (Feng Xiaogang) Fri-Thurs
Ex Files 3 (Tian Yusheng) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Tiger Zinda Hai (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
I, Tonya (Craig Gillespie) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Summer with Monika (Ingmar Bergman, 1953) Thurs Only

SIFF Uptown:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
I, Tonya (Craig Gillespie) Fri-Thurs
Borg vs. McEnroe (Janus Metz) Thurs Only

In Wide Release:

The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson) Our Review Our Podcast
Downsizing (Alexander Payne) Our Review
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
Pitch Perfect 3 (Trish Sie) Our Review
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
The Disaster Artist (James Franco) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review

Hostiles (Scott Cooper, 2017)

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Scott Cooper’s Hostiles is sure to be in the running for the Most Acting of 2017 award. Ostensibly a Western, set in 1892 it’s the story of a aged cavalry officer tasked with escorting a cancer-ridden Cheyenne chief and his family from a reservation in New Mexico to their ancestral lands in Montana, but it’s more properly considered a historical fantasy, a translation of the therapeutic culture of the late 20th century onto events somewhat similar to those which transpired in our nation’s past. Notably not the 21st century though, as one would think the greater awareness of the politics of identity would have cautioned a filmmaker against creating a narrative of absolution for America that, while peopled with an impressive array of cultural representatives, is told entirely through the perspective of its white heroes.

The story is split in half, giving each side of the Indian Wars the chance to exorcise their violent past by killing a psychopathic member of their own group. Both killings take place off-camera, but pointedly the film opens with the brutal and tragic crimes committed by a crazed band of Comanches, and much of the film will be seen through the eyes of the lone survivor of that attack (an anguished Rosamund Pike). The white killer’s crime, though, happens before we ever meet him, and he becomes a fully-fleshed out character, complete with backstory and long dialogues with our hero (these mostly consist of the killer, Ben Foster, telling the hero, Christian Bale, how much they are the same while Bale looks thoughtfully into the distance through his impressive moustache). And much emoting. So much emoting. An early scene of Bale howling in the wilderness, plays like a parody of Terrence Malick. It’s exhausting.

Every generation, I suppose, feels the need to translate history into its own idiom, and ours is a time when every tragedy is not only deeply felt but every feeling is openly expressed. The pragmatic stoicism (and/or repression) of the pioneers and soldiers who settled The West doesn’t jive with our modern notions of acting in the cinema, but honestly reckoning with the sheer brutal terror of life during the Indian Wars requires more curiosity about how the people who lived through it actually behaved. Of course, this only applies to the white characters, who cry and scream and are astoundingly insubordinate when they aren’t mere contrivances, as in the appearance of Rapacious Capital and his men near the end of the film. The Cheyenne are given almost nothing to do but look alternately sad and noble. Hostiles boasts the greatest collection of Native American acting talent in a Hollywood film in years, with Wes Studi, Adam Beach and Q’orianka Kilcher, yet it can’t think of more than a few words for any of them to say. Their role is to humanize the white people, and to forgive them. And then they are no longer required: their future belongs to the establishment of the white family unit.

Friday December 29 – Thursday January 4

Featured Film:

The Road Warrior at the Grand Cinema

If it felt to you like 2017 was some kind of apocalypse, then have I got the chilling vision of things to come in 2018 for you. George Miller’s second movie about Mad Max comes after the end, with Mel Gibson at his most Australian, a lone driver how helps a community escape from the gasoline bandits that have them circling their big rigs. Leaner, more brutish than Miller’s celebrated Fury Road, you can catch it Saturday night only in Tacoma. Just be careful if you’re driving there and back again.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds (Kim Yong-hwa) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997) Fri & Sat Only Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings

Century Federal Way:

Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds (Kim Yong-hwa) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

The Road Warrior (George Miller, 1981) Sat Only
Song of Granite (Pat Collins) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Permanent (Colette Burson) Fri-Thurs
Wayfinding: Films by Pam Minty Tues Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Velaikkaran (Mohan Raja) Fri-Thurs
Okka Kshanam (VI Anand) Fri-Thurs
Hello (Vikram Kumar) Fri-Thurs
Middle Class Abbayi (Venu Sree Raam) Fri-Thurs
Tiger Zinda Hai (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

Regal Meridian:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
The Liquidator (Xu Jizhou) Fri-Thurs
Tiger Zinda Hai (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Bugs (Andreas Johnsen) Weds-Sun
Félicité (Alain Gomis) Thurs-Sun

AMC Pacific Place:

Youth (Feng Xiaogang) Fri-Thurs
Ex Files 3 (Tian Yusheng) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Tiger Zinda Hai (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

The Other Side of Hope (Aki Kaurismäki) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Uptown:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) Sun Only

In Wide Release:

The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson) Our Review Our Podcast
Downsizing (Alexander Payne) Our Review
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
Pitch Perfect 3 (Trish Sie) Our Review
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
The Disaster Artist (James Franco) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review

The Frances Farmer Show #16: The Last Jedi

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We tracked him down and thawed Mike out of his carbonite prison for this special episode all about Star Wars and The Last Jedi. Topics include but are not limited to: Porgs, Galactic capitalism and the flaws inherent in the Republic, Ron Howard, wipes, and Mike’s dog.

You can listen to the show by downloading it directly, or by subscribing on iTunes or the podcast player of your choice.

Downsizing (Alexander Payne, 2017)

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Downsizing begins as a premise: what if the technology existed to shrink people down to five inches tall, while retaining everything else about them? Scarcity would not exactly cease to be a problem, but resources would instantly become vastly more available, as it would require far less in terms of material to feed, clothe, or house a human being. The result is a vast increase in wealth for the shrunken: the middle class instantly transformed into the idle rich. The first third of Alexander Payne’s film follows just such a middle class couple, Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, as they decide to undergo the downsizing process. There are informational meetings with sales reps, goodbye parties with friends and loved ones, and the clinical downsizing process itself, right down to where the shrunken people are gently scooped out of their now-oversized hospital beds with spatulas. Damon’s dream of post-capital luxury however, is crudely broken when he learns that he wife has backed out of the procedure. The resulting divorce leaves him not happily retired in a palatial mansion, but doomed to work as telephone support for Land’s End.

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Friday December 22 – Thursday December 28

Featured Film:

Youth at the Regal Meridian

It’s a Wonderful Life continues this week on 35mm at the Grand Illusion, and one of the year’s finest films, Call Me By Your Name opens this week in limited release, but if, like me, you’re burnt out on end-of-the-year awards contenders and you’ve already seen all the half-dozen Christmas movies that have been rotating from theatre to theatre around town for the past month, then you should check out Feng Xiaogang’s Youth, now playing in its second week exclusively at the Meridian. It’s set in a military arts troupe at the tail end of the Cultural Revolution, centering on a pair of performers: a young dancer from unfortunate circumstances who gets bullied by the other women in the group and a generous young man who goes on to active military service. More of a traditional melodrama than other Cultural Revolution stories like Jia Zhangke’s Platform or Jiang Wen’s In the Heat of the Sun, it’s got some impressive performance sequences (stirring patriotic marches and ballet dancers slinging AK-47s) that at its best recalls Amy Sherman-Palladino’s great and much-missed TV series Bunheads.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds (Kim Yong-hwa) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003) Fri & Sat Only
Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997) Tues & Weds Only Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings

Century Federal Way:

Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds (Kim Yong-hwa) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

Die Hard (John McTeirnan, 1988) Sat Only
Oddball and the Penguins (Stuart McDonald) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) Fri-Thurs 35mm

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Hello (Vikram Kumar) Fri-Thurs
Middle Class Abbayi (Venu Sree Raam) Fri-Thurs
Tiger Zinda Hai (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

Regal Meridian:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Tiger Zinda Hai (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs
Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984) Sat Only
It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) Sun Only

AMC Pacific Place:

Youth (Feng Xiaogang) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Tiger Zinda Hai (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs
Unexpectedly Yours (Cathy Garcia-Molina) Fri-Thurs
It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) Sun Only

AMC Seattle:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Bleeding Steel (Leo Zhang) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Rare Exports (Jalmari Helander, 2010) Fri-Sun
White Christmas (Michael Curtiz, 1954) Fri-Sun Sing-Along

Regal Thornton Place:

Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984) Sat Only
It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) Sun Only

SIFF Uptown:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Fiddler on the Roof (Norman Jewison, 1971) Mon Only

In Wide Release:

The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson) Our Review
Downsizing (Alexander Payne) Our Review
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
Pitch Perfect 3 (Trish Sie) Our Review
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
The Disaster Artist (James Franco) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review
Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

Pitch Perfect 3 (Trish Sie, 2017)

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The latest installment in the Pitch Perfect franchise, about an all-female competitive a cappella group, is as delightfully unpretentious a comedy as one is likely to find these days coming out of Hollywood. Gone are the obnoxious and dull men who cluttered up the fun of the first two films with bland romantic subplots. Missing as well is the undercurrent of loneliness and failure that made the first film (about the unnatural drive to fit in with a group) and the second (about the power of female friendship) surprisingly emotionally resonant. Instead, this time around the young women (college students no longer) find themselves whisked away from their dull entry-level jobs and into a globe-trotting USO show, which offers a chance at international intrigue that, weirdly enough, turns a goofy comedy about singing into the best Fast and the Furious movie of 2017.

Much funnier than the previous two films, the comedy in Pitch Perfect 3 is almost entirely verbal, disregarding the gross-out jokes of prior films. Much of it is in the form of call-backs, but not simply references to earlier, funnier jokes (as in Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons), but in knowing, muttered asides building on our knowledge of the various characters and the films’ structures. (Missing as well is the questionable characterization of the group’s lone Hispanic member, an immigrant from Guatemala. The film’s one reference to her home country is merely a setup for one of the year’s finest puns). The Bellas classic riff-off game is turned in on itself when they challenge their fellow musicians on the tour, the bizarre rituals of competitive a cappella increasingly absurd in a real world where people can make music with things that aren’t their mouths. Anna Kendrick again leads the way, deadpanning her way through what amounts to the film’s emotional crisis: whether to take an opportunity at solo stardom or remain with the group. While Rebel Wilson finds herself in the middle of an action movie plot, with her estranged father, John Lithgow (the anti-music dad from Footloose) as antagonist. Her series of fights at the climax successfully, I kid you not, calls back to some of Michael Hui’s finest work. The music is much the same as always, though the Bellas are at least this time blissfully free of internal or musical conflict: they function as a team and through years of experience are not lacking in confidence, merely opportunity. No performance has yet matched Kendrick’s chilling “When I’m Gone” from the first film, but the finales have gotten better with every movie, and this one’s choice of song couldn’t be more, well, perfect.