Friday, September 21, 2018

Weekend Movie Guide

Blake Lively stars in A Simple Favor

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.

Juliet, Naked - 3½ Stars. Romantic comedy delight with Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O'Dowd. Byrne connects with washed-up rocker Hawke, whom O'Dowd idolizes.

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.

The Wife - 3 Stars. Glenn Close contends for this year's Best Actress award as long-suffering partner to a renowned writer.

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.

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

The House with a Clock in its Walls - 2 1/2 Stars - Jack Black and Cate Blanchett fight evil with magic. 

A Simple Favor - 2½ Stars. Single mom Anna Kendrick wants to know why her glamorous fellow mom (Blake Lively) disappears.

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

Searching - 2½ Stars. John Cho searches for his missing 16-year-old daughter with the help of her laptop and police detective Debra Messing. This innovative thriller almost overcomes a lot of cliches and some hammy acting.

Fahrenheit 11/9 - 2 1/2 Stars.  Michael Moore on politics in 2018.  Sometimes funny but often strident and repetitive.

Life Itself - 2 Stars.  Ensemble drama of three generations of love, death, joy and sorrow.  Sometimes enjoyable, sometimes manipulative. 

White Boy Rick - 2 Stars. Depressing, true story of a 15-year-old kid recruited as an FBI undercover drug dealer in 1980s Detroit.

Operation Finale - 2 Stars. Recreates capture and trial of Nazi Adolph Eichmann but lacks tension, despite star turns by Ben Kingsley and Oscar Issac.

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.

Mile 22 - Zero stars. Over-the-top thriller with Mark Wahlberg leading of an off-the-grid spy team.

Life Itself - 2 stars - Opens September 21, 2018

Director Dan Fogelman struck gold as writer/creator of the NBC drama "This is Us." His new film "Life Itself" surveys the connections between a newly wed couple, their child, a family on their first visit to America, and the generations surrounding them.  Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde lead an ensemble cast as the young couple central to the story.  "Life Itself" wants us to appreciate the random nature of life.  The plot sometimes resonates, other times feels manipulative.  The coincidences and connections range from recognizable to outlandish.  Sometimes "Life Itself" connects to your emotions.  Other times, it feels like soap opera.  "Life itself"  2 Stars Rated "R"  Does it deliver what it promises?  Emotional often sad stories tied together.  Is it entertaining?  Some threads work better than others.  Is it worth the price of admission?  For "This is Us" hard core fans.

Fahrenheit 11/9 - 2 1/2 Stars - Opens September 21, 2018

Michael Moore has an entertaining knack for posing the question "How did we get here?" again and again.  His latest "Fahrenheit 11/9" reminds us he said "I told you so" regarding the surprise Presidential election of Donald Trump.  According to Moore, Trump happened because the electorate went limp after being steam rolled on numerous issues including unsafe water in Moore's home town of Flint, Michigan.  Moore knows how to tell a story, and his activist documentaries have successfully riled opponents for decades.  This latest one gets a little repetitive, and raises more questions then its answers.  "Fahrenheit 11/9" continues to preach to the choir.  2 Stars Rated "R" Does it deliver what it promises?  More Michael Moore.  Is it entertaining?  Often funny even when unfair.  Is it worth the price of admission?  Sort yourselves out.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A Simple Favor Review - 2½ Stars

"A Simple Favor" combines comedy, mystery and a story that feels a lot like "Gone Girl" done for laughs. Anna Kendrick plays a single mom dazzled by fellow mom Blake Lively. Kendrick video blogs recipes and household hints. Lively does PR for a Manhattan fashion company, and drives a Porsche. Kendrick suffers guilt over her husband's death. Lively has an active sex life with hot-looking husband Henry Golding. The new friends drink martinis, gossip, and bond in sisterhood.  Suddenly, Lively disappears, and Kendrick determines to find out why. The solution gets complicated, including a romance between Kendrick and Golding. The plot runs out of gas, and the finale lands flat. "A Simple Favor" is often fun to watch, thanks to hilarious dialog and great chemistry between the actresses. Blake Lively dazzled me: I can't wait to see what she does next. "A Simple Favor," rated "R," 2½ stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Funny mystery. Is it entertaining? Often. Is it worth the price of admission? Watchable.

White Boy Rick Review - 2 Stars

"White Boy Rick" tells the true story of a 15-year-old kid drawn into Detroit's underworld in the 1980s. Newcomer Richie Merritt plays Ricky Wershe Jr., who in real life was recruited by the FBI to inform on the drug culture of his friends. Wershe gets the right amount of innocence across for a story you know won't go anyplace good. Matthew McConaughey channels another "Dallas Buyer's Club" kind of character as Ricky's father. The FBI leverages its knowledge of the father's illegal gun business to lure the son into their scheme. The movie captures the grime and grit of a city in decline. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rory Cochrane add realism as  the agents who ultimately cut Ricky loose. It's fun to see Bruce Dern as Ricky's grandfather. Once out of FBI supervision, the kid becomes an actual drug dealer, and as the previews indicate, winds up in jail for life. "White Boy Rick" tells a cautionary tale of revenge, murder and betrayal. It ends with a depressing, predictable thud. "White Boy Rick," rated "R," 2 stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Crime story. Is it entertaining? Depressing. Is it worth the price of admission? A downer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Searching Review - 2½ Stars

I like the actor John Cho: He makes interesting movies, and never does the expected. In "Searching," he plays the widowed father of a 15-year-old girl. One night he misses her calls. The next morning she appears to have left for school. Hours pass and he realizes she has gone missing. A detective, played by an almost unrecognizable Debra Messing, volunteers for the case. The search leads him to his daughter's laptop. "Searching" aims for a high tech mystery. Cho's computer searches fill the movie screen with multiple windows. The mystery goes down several blind alleys, the better to keep us interested. I usually cringe when movies rely on computer screens and keyboards, but "Searching" keeps those elements creative. The movie can't quite overcome a few too many cliches and some less-than-brilliant acting. "Searching," rated "PG-13," 2½ stars. Does it deliver what it promises? High tech thriller. Is it entertaining? Keeps your attention. Is it worth the price of admission? Creative and experimental.