Friday, August 17, 2018

Weekend Movie Guide

Vanessa Hudgens stars in Dog Days

RBG - 4 Stars. Inspiring life story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She's quirky, smart and determined.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? - 4 Stars. Touching biography of seminary student/turned television pioneer Fred Rogers.

Three Identical Strangers - 4 Stars. Identical triplets, separated at birth, discover each other, later learning why they were separated and how they were used as "lab rats." A chilling documentary.

BlacKkKlansman - 3½ Stars. Spike Lee combines the true story of a 1970s KKK sting with a history of American racism from the Civil War to present day.

Sorry to Bother You - 3½ Stars. Outrageous science fiction comedy satire, that starts in a telemarketing pit and goes from there.

Blindspotting - 3½ Stars. Brilliant mix of comedy, drama and hip-hop. Daveed Diggs must stay out of trouble, in order to complete probation, but his friends don't help.

Christopher Robin - 3½ Stars. Ewan McGregor as grown-up Christopher returns to the Hundred Acre Wood to learn a few life lessons from his childhood pals. Beautifully produced mix of live-action, animatronics, and animation.

Crazy Rich Asians - 3 Stars. Constance Wu meets the man of her dreams, not knowing he's Asia's catch of the century.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again - 3 Stars. Irresistible sequel to the Meryl Streep/ABBA musical with an all-star cast.

Ocean's 8 - 3 Stars. Sandra Bullock masterminds a multi-million dollar heist with a gang of women you'd better not cross.

Eighth Grade - 3 Stars. A young girl struggles in the age of technology.

Puzzle - 3 Stars. Kelly Macdonald emerges from her drab life, when she discovers puzzles and enters a competition. A quiet awakening results.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout - 2½ Stars. Tom Cruise barrels through another adventure, doing his own stunts and saving the world with one second to spare.

Dog Days - 2½ Stars. Romantic comedy about people and their dogs. Not great, but easy fun. 

The Equalizer 2 - 2 Stars.  Run-of-the-mill spy thriller gets a lift from Denzel Washington, as an off-the-grid ex-CIA operative.

Ant-Man and the Wasp - 2 Stars. Uninspired sequel to the much better original.

Solo: A Star Wars Story - 2 Stars. Uninspired prequel to the 1977 original.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - 1 Star. Same old monster mash, only longer.

The Spy Who Dumped Me - 1 Star. Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon try to breathe life into another trite plot about clueless girlfriends pulled into international intrigue.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians Review - 3 Stars

Class, beauty and comedy combine for easy fun in "Crazy Rich Asians." Economics professor Constance Wu begins the story crazy in love with history teacher Henry Golding. One magic night, he invites her to come home with him to Singapore for his best friend's wedding. He's got marriage on his mind. She doesn't know he comes from mega money. Their trip turns into a cross between "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" and "She's not our kind, dear." Wu faces formidable Michelle Yeoh, the family matriarch who struggled with acceptance in her marriage, and in turn struggles accepting this unknown young woman. "Crazy Rich Asians" rises above the usual, thanks to a beautiful cast, plus a comic star turn by rapper Awkwafina. The movie stays light, throws in some nice plot twists, and looks grand. Anyone who has ever dealt with a difficult family or comes from one knows the lovebirds have a rocky road ahead. "Crazy Rich Asians" lets you brush those thoughts aside. "Crazy Rich Asians," rated PG-13, 3 stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Easy-to-watch comedy. Is it entertaining? Funny with a beautiful cast. Is it worth the price of admission? Just the thing for a summer laugh.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

BlacKkKlansman Review - 3½ Stars

"BlacKkKlansman" feels like the movie Spike Lee always wanted to make. On the surface, he tells the story of Colorado Springs policeman Ron Stallworth, the first black detective on that force in the 1970s. Assigned to investigations, he answers an ad for the Ku Klux Klan. Using his "white voice," Stallworth convinces the local chapter of his desire to join. In a plot right out of "Cyrano de Bergerac," he recruits a white officer to take the meeting. Together the two investigate, infiltrate, and even meet Klan head David Duke. John David Washington plays Stallworth like a cross between "Shaft" and "Superfly." The son of Denzel Washington, John David has natural talent and charisma. Adam Driver plays his partner with a buddy cop vibe. Spike Lee bookends this true story with a primer on racism since the Civil War. His final montage uses footage from the demonstrations in 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia. "BlacKkKlansman" stays with you - a rare combination of comedy, outrage, history, and current events. BlacKkKlansman," rated "R," 3½ stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Thought-provoking spotlight on racism. Is it entertaining? Well done. Is it worth the price of admission? One of Spike Lee's best.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Dog Days Review - 2½ Stars

Love, romance and dogs combine for easy fun in the late summer comedy "Dog Days." Unlike most dog movies, these pups don't talk, but bark, whimper and wag their tails. The stories - of which there are many - include a new mother, who farms her dog out to her freewheeling brother, a family who adopts a little girl and finds a lost dog, an old man and a young friend looking for said lost dog, and... you get the idea. Plus there's a local TV hostess and her new cohost, whose dogs pave the way for romance, and the coffee shop barista with an interest in a handsome veterinarian, while missing the attraction of a dog rescue charity worker. "Dog Days" includes a dozen or so lesser known actors and actresses. I especially liked Nina Dobrev and Ron Cephas Jones. Vanessa Hudgens, Eva Longoria and Rob Corddry admirably fill their story lines. "Dog Days," rated PG, 2½ stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Dog-centric lite fare. Is it entertaining?  Easy to watch. Is it worth the price of admission? A dog lovers delight.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Christopher Robin Review - 3½ Stars

Christopher Robin tells his stuffed animal friends goodbye, and leaves the 100-acre woods for boarding school in the poignant opening scene of "Christopher Robin." Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends understand that children grow older and move on. Or do they? In "Christopher Robin," we meet the boy as a man needing a few life lessons from his little friends. The inner child idea isn't new, but it gets a fresh look in this mix of animation, puppetry, and live action. Ewan McGregor has just the right touch as grown-up Christopher. Great voice work for the animals includes Jim Cummings' incarnation of Winnie-the-Pooh and Brad Garrett as the always pessimistic Eeyore. "Christopher Robin" avoids sentiment, but makes its point that growing up isn't all that great. I laughed, and misted up, and felt a few pings from my own childhood. "Christopher Robin," rated "PG," 3½ stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Funny and touching story of rediscovering one's childhood. Is it entertaining? Funny and charming. Is it worth the price of admission? Family entertainment.

Puzzle Review - 3 Stars

Kelly Macdonald begins "Puzzle" fading into the woodwork, as she hosts a birthday party for herself. The setting looks like the 1940s, but her birthday present of an iPhone clues us to the present. Her other birthday present is a 1000 piece puzzle, which she fits together in record time. She has a gift for working complicated puzzles, and puts that gift to use, training for a puzzle competition with Irrfan Khan as her partner. Her regular trips to his Manhattan brownstone bring an awakening, followed by a mid-life coming-of-age. Macdonald gives this role quiet dignity: She has us from the first frame. "Puzzle," rated "R," 3 stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Quiet adult story. Is it entertaining? Well-acted. Is it worth the price of admission? A grown-up affair.