Review: ‘Mad God,’ Jennifer Lopez, a new ‘Father of the Bride’ and more movies for the weekend
The word “visionary” gets tossed around too much, but there’s really no better way to describe the spectacularly bleak animated science-fiction film “Mad God” or its creator, Phil Tippett. Best known for his effects work on franchises like “Star Wars,” “RoboCop” and “Jurassic Park,” Tippett started making “Mad God” in the 1990s, before setting it aside and returning to it a decade ago. The film is an elaborately detailed depiction of a depraved, irredeemable universe. It’s also a showcase for Tippett’s mastery of the stop-motion animation techniques he had to abandon in his day job once CGI became the Hollywood standard.
“Mad God” has a simple plot, ostensibly repeated twice. In both of the movie’s halves, a masked figure known as “the Assassin” embarks on a carefully mapped-out mission to destroy a hellish world filled with monstrous creatures and unimaginable cruelty. Tippett weeds out the squeamish in the film’s first part, which drips with bodily fluids and is spiked with scenes of extreme torture. Part two of “Mad God” is more colorful and whimsical, although ultimately the entire picture feels like a nightmare, rooted in a deeply pessimistic take on reality.
Tippett eschews dialogue, letting his astonishing designs and intricate animation tell the story. It’s an impressive feat — if perhaps not dazzling enough to sway viewers who can’t abide rampant grotesquerie. For animation and sci-fi fans with strong stomachs and adventurous tastes, though, “Mad God” is a must. There’s never been a movie quite like it: an unflinching tour through the darkest recesses of a brilliant artist’s mind.
‘Mad God.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 23 minutes. Available on Shudder
The title of the Jennifer Lopez documentary “Halftime” primarily refers to the Super Bowl LIV halftime show in Miami that Lopez co-headlined with Shakira back in 2020. Directed by Amanda Micheli, the film is partly a comprehensive biography of the actor-singer-dancer-entrepreneur and partly a fly-on-the-wall doc about the heady months leading up to that Super Bowl performance, which came at the same time Lopez was drawing Oscar buzz for the movie “Hustlers.”
“Halftime” also refers to Lopez hitting the milestone of her 50th birthday, while still strong, fit and popular. Because she’s been on TV and in the movies since her early 20s — and a superstar since the late 1990s — it’s easy to forget that Lopez’s time in the spotlight has been shadowed by rumors, jokes and jabs, as everything from her talent to her curves to her personal life has been scrutinized. Micheli covers all of that while documenting the hard work and deep feeling that goes into Lopez’s day-to-day life as a beloved entertainer and mom of adolescent twins.
“Halftime” is no warts-and-all exposé. It’s an unapologetically pro-Lopez project, revealing only what the star wants her fans and skeptics to know about how she’s dealt with her many career disappointments. But Lopez has been such a powerful cultural presence that she’s earned this kind of tribute. And ending the movie with her big Super Bowl moment — laced with subtle political commentary about President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric — proves cathartic, as Lopez shows once again how she can work within a mainstream showbiz context to express something deeper about herself.
‘Halftime.’ TV-MA for language. 1 hour, 36 minutes. Available on Netflix
‘Father of the Bride’
Edward Streeter’s 1949 comic novel “Father of the Bride” has inspired multiple movies, each of which in its own way follows the book’s lead and comments on the expensive and exhausting rituals of modern American weddings. The 2022 “Father of the Bride” — directed by Gaz Alazraki from a Matt Lopez screenplay — moves the action to Miami, where the fussy Cuban American architect Billy Herrera (Andy Garcia) is annoyed by his engaged daughter’s nontraditional life plans and her Mexican American fiancé’s free-spending family.
Alazraki and Lopez add a bit more melodrama to the mix, with Billy’s wife, Ingrid (Gloria Estefan), pushing for a divorce and their youngest daughter, Cora (Isabela Merced), resenting how much money they’re willing to devote to the bride, Sofia (Adria Arjona), when they won’t support her own dream to be a fashion designer. There’s way more plot to this “Father of the Bride” than necessary. But the unique cultural details add fresh flavor; and the big emotional buttons at the movie’s end are as effective as ever. Like a wedding itself, all the stress and irritation pays off in a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.
‘Father of the Bride.’ PG-13 for brief suggestive material. 1 hour, 57 minutes. Available on HBO Max
‘The Wrath of God’
Adapted from a Guillermo Martínez novel, the Argentine drama “The Wrath of God” stars Macarena Achaga as Luciana, who has a complicated relationship with her former boss, a troubled genius and bestselling author named Kloster (Diego Peretti). Jumping back and forth between past and present, the narrative is anchored by an investigative journalist named Esteban (Juan Minujín), whom Luciana asks to look into her suspicions that Kloster is responsible for the deaths of people close to her — but who soon learns that the writer could make similar claims about his ex-employee. Directed by Sebastián Schindel (who also co-wrote the script with Pablo Del Teso), “The Wrath of God” is often too clever about teasing out its mysteries. But it has a strong and challenging theme, asking whether its characters’ misfortunes are their own fault, or just a case of the Almighty playing capricious games with humanity.
‘The Wrath of God.’ In Spanish with English subtitles (also available dubbed). TV-MA for suicide, sexual violence, and smoking. 1 hour, 38 minutes. Available on Netflix
A lollapalooza of a twist ending elevates “Isolated,” a suspense film that for much of its first 75 minutes is just another well-acted, slickly produced variation on a too-common horror subgenre. KateLynn E. Newberry plays Nell, who at the start of the movie wakes up in a mostly unadorned cell, with no idea how she got there or how to leave. Through conversations with an unseen neighbor and after a series of inscrutable tests, Nell gradually concocts an escape plan. The sequences in the prison are engaging, though rarely as tense or disturbing as the likes of “Saw” or “Escape Room.” It’s when Nell finally gets out that “Isolated” really gets interesting — for reasons best left unspoiled. Viewers who hold on through the more routine parts of this picture will be rewarded.
‘Isolated.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 39 minutes. Available on VOD
“Spiderhead” is a wry, dystopian science-fiction film, based on a George Saunders story about a behavioral theorist (played by Chris Hemsworth) who uses drugs to control prison inmates’ desires. Miles Teller and Jurnee Smollett play two of the test subjects in this cautionary tale, directed by the talented “Top Gun: Maverick” helmer Joseph Kosinski. Available on Netflix
“Jerry and Marge Go Large” stars Bryan Cranston as a retired factory worker and amateur mathematician who discovers a glitch in the Massachusetts state lottery and lets his struggling small-town Michigan neighbors share in the secret. Based on a true story, this likably upbeat dramedy features a cast of familiar actors, including Annette Bening as the hero’s wife, who uses their multistate lottery road trips to rekindle their romance. Available on Paramount+
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” returns in a new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray SteelBook edition, which offers what may be the best home video presentation yet for one of the most beloved movies of all time: a rollickingly entertaining globe-hopping adventure from director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas, starring Harrison Ford as archaeologist Indiana Jones, battling Nazis with his whip and his wits. Paramount
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