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New movies: Disney’s ‘One and Only Ivan,’ Netflix’s ‘Project Power’

by TYLER WILSON/Coeur Voice contributor
| August 29, 2020 12:00 AM

At first glance, Disney’s live-action adaptation of the popular children’s novel “The One and Only Ivan” by K.A. Applegate seems out of step with what we know about the quality of life for animals in captivity.

Ivan, a silverback gorilla, is the star of a circus-like show in a shopping mall. Voiced by Sam Rockwell, Ivan seems to enjoy his show business life, despite living in a small enclosure with no access to the outdoors.

Fans of the novel, which was inspired by a true story about a gorilla who spent 27 years in an enclosure at a Tacoma mall, know it’s a more complicated situation. For a movie about talking CGI animals, “Ivan” manages to dramatize a complex moral dilemma. Just because the animals seem happy doesn’t mean their lives can’t be much better.

Some might criticize the film for being too soft on Ivan’s longtime owner, played by Bryan Cranston. He’s not a particularly bad guy, but he’s also failing to provide the animals with a proper and healthy lifestyle. Rather than making him a pure villain, the screenplay by Mike White opts to make him relatable, even as he fails to understand how his selfish decisions impact the animals.

Directed by Thea Sharrock (“Me Before You”), “The One and Only Ivan” minimizes the antics of the CGI animal sidekicks, instead focusing on building more nuanced characterizations for Ivan, as well as young elephant (voiced by “The Florida Project” breakout Brooklynn Prince). Angelina Jolie, a producer on the film, voices the older elephant Stella, and the rest of the voice cast includes Danny DeVito, Helen Mirren and Phillipa Soo. The CGI isn’t bad either, with Ivan especially taking on some of Rockwell’s more memorable physical tics.

Originally intended for theatrical release this month, “The One and Only Ivan” is streaming exclusively on Disney+. Unlike the upcoming release of “Mulan,” it does not cost an additional rental fee beyond the monthly subscription.

Superhero nonsense from Netflix’s ‘Project Power’

The pandemic delayed most of 2020’s mainstream superhero slate, so Netflix is hoping their pseudo-superhero actioner “Project Power” fills the void.

The movie, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (the flashy thriller “Nerve” from 2016, plus the original “Catfish” documentary back in 2010), exists in a world where an illegal drug provides users five minutes of a superhuman power. The hitch: Users don’t have control of what their designated power will be.

For New Orleans police officer Joseph Gordon-Levitt, it’s bulletproof skin. That’s handy. Others, however, have far less helpful powers, including one that causes instant death in the form of spontaneous combustion.

The plot involves the disappearance of a young girl, the daughter of Jamie Foxx’s mysterious character. The pill gives Foxx’s character a particularly potent superpower, but he’s opted to work clean and stop the spread of the drugs on the streets while on the hunt for his daughter. Eventually, Gordon-Levitt’s cop joins the mission, as does a young dealer (Dominique Fishback in a breakout role).

“Project Power” boasts several slick gunfights and action sequences, though nothing that stands out beyond a foot chase with a sorta-Invisible Man. The story undercooks the premise a bit, opting for generic villains and muddled thematic arcs for the three leads. There is a lot of running around, but without the occasional appearance of a “fire guy” or “super strong man,” “Project Power” plays like a fairly generic cops vs. drug dealers movie.

First run movies return to the area

In an effort to further navigate the unsteady waters of the pandemic, the Hayden Discount Cinema has opted to offer first run movies in addition to its slate of classic films and drive-in offerings. New releases will cost $8 in the evenings and $6 for matinees. Classics cost $2. Drive-in price is $10 per carload.

Go to HDCMovies.com for more information. The Regal Riverstone is also open - just Google “Regal Riverstone” for their current slate. Be safe out there - social distancing and masks!

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Tyler Wilson can be reached at twilson@cdapress.com.