Skate Kitchen

⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Rated: R for profanity, sexuality and drug use

Theater: Lagoon

 

Although this drama set amid the skateboarding culture is described as fictional, it’s more of a doc-narrative hybrid. The story is told through Camille, who is played by actress Rachelle Vinberg, but almost all the members of Camille’s crew are part of a real New York City skating collective that lends the movie its title.

The realistic approach is not surprising. This is the work of Crystal Moselle, whose documentary “The Wolfpack” made a big splash with indie aficionados in 2015. The movie is a depiction of a particular kind of teenage freedom that’s at its most beautiful when it’s nearly languid, as characters sit on tar-beach rooftops taking in the city at twilight or navigate street corners on their boards in relaxed arcing motions.

It’s not a movie that’s interested in building up a lot of narrative momentum. About to turn 18, Camille leaves her home, finds a job and seeks romance (at first tentatively, and later with more force) with a guy from a crew of male knuckleheads who like to make trouble for the girls. She then has to deal with blowback from a perceived act of disloyalty.

But none of these story elements are given more weight than the characters and their environment, both of which Moselle’s camera practically luxuriates in. The film is unfailingly compassionate to, and genuinely appreciative of, the people it chronicles.

Glenn Kenny, New York Times

 

Alpha

⋆⋆ out of four stars

Rated: PG-13 for some intense peril

 

This film is very simple, kind of strange and guaranteed to melt any dog-lover’s heart. It’s the story of a young boy living in Europe’s last ice age, his fight for survival and the special relationship with a wolf that keeps him alive.

Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as Keda, the son of a tribal chief embarking on his first big hunt. Everything goes haywire, and Keda is thrown off a cliff by an angry bison. When a pack of wolves goes after Keda, he injures the alpha wolf, then nurses it back to health. Soon Alpha is by his side, through blizzards and predator attacks, as Keda struggles through the arduous journey toward home.

The story falls victim to vague aphorisms about killing things as a sign of strength and worthiness that’s essentially toxic masculinity and bootstrap individualism dressed up as naturalistic wisdom. But when it comes to sheer spectacle, director Albert Hughes — going solo here after teaming with his brother Allen on such action hits as “Menace II Society” and “Dead Presidents” — and Austrian cinematographer Martin Gschlacht deliver. They re-create the untouched vistas of pre-civilization Europe, shooting on location in Canada while enhancing with visual effects. If you have the chance, check it out in 3-D Imax.

Katie walsh, Tribune News Service

 

Crazy Rich Asians

⋆⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Rated: PG-13 for some suggestive content and language. In English and subtitled Cantonese.

Theaters: Opened Wednesday

 

Here’s a love story with genuine stakes, grown-up characters and a great sense of fun. It should leave rom-com fans feeling as delighted as children on Christmas Day. It gives us a smooth, polished take on Cinderella in a context looking at cultural clashes that reach beyond ethnic similarities.

Adapted from Kevin Kwan’s 2013 bestseller, the film is a fantasy tour of Singaporean high society. New Yorker Rachel (Constance Wu) takes her first trip to Asia as she accompanies her boyfriend back to his home, where he’ll serve as best man at a friend’s wedding. She has never detected that modest, adorable Nick (Henry Golding) has been concealing the fact that his family is 12 times richer than God.

The film has won a good deal of attention as the first U.S. studio feature with an entirely Asian ensemble since “The Joy Luck Club” was released a quarter century ago. But the film’s strongest selling point isn’t that or its dressed-to-kill costuming, use of chic locations and appetite-exciting food porn. Its allure comes from creating a deft, intelligent charmer as irresistibly fizzy as the champagne its characters quaff round-the-clock.

Colin Covert