Friday, October 5, 2018

Weekend Movie Guide

Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga (r) star in A Star Is Born

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 Sisters Brothers - 3½ Stars. John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix delight in an irony-filled western.

Colette - 3½ Stars. Keira Knightly as the 20th century French writer.

A Star Is Born - 3 Stars. The third remake's a charm, thanks to Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga.

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 - 2½ 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 - 2½ Stars. Michael Moore on politics in 2018. Sometimes funny, but often strident and repetitive.

Life Itself - 2 Stars. Ensemble drama of three generations of death, joy, love 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.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Star Is Born Review - 3 Stars

Bradley Cooper displays directing talent in his remake of "A Star Is Born." He gives the material a classic, old school touch. As a director, he composes his scenes beautifully, shooting concert footage from the artist's perspective and giving Lady Gaga Hollywood golden age-style closeups. "A Star Is Born" receives its third remake (or four, if you count the 1932 original drama "What Price Hollywood?") This version features Cooper as a country singer, who discovers Lady Gaga in a bar, and helps her get into the music business. Cooper's career slides downhill as a result of drugs, alcoholism and a hearing problem. Gaga's career climbs high, while Cooper's falls. Lady Gaga doesn't have Bradley Cooper's acting chops, but when she sings, she commands the movie. I'm not a fan of remakes, but this one avoids the usual pitfalls, thanks to great singing and wonderful production. "A Star Is Born," 3 stars, rated R. Does it deliver what it promises? Star-studded old school musical drama. Is it entertaining? Marvelous singing. Is it worth the price of admission? One of this year's most important films.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Sisters Brothers Review - 3½ Stars

John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix take us on an 1850s western adventure as "The Sisters Brothers." The ironic title sets up a couple hours of movie serendipity. The boys work as bounty hunting assassins/robbers in the 1850s. Their boss, the mysterious Commodore, sends them on a mission to find a scientist with a formula for finding gold in the streams of rural California. We follow their journey from Oregon to gold rush territory. They seek Riz Ahmed, who has teamed up with the man originally sent to capture him (played by Jake Gyllenhaal.) "The Sisters Brothers" assembles a collection of delightful twists and turns. This is not your father's western. "The Sisters Brothers," 3½ stars, rated "R." Does it deliver what it promises? Wacky western. Is it entertaining? It never lost my interest. Is it worth the price of admission? Great fun and wonderful acting.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Colette Review - 3½ Stars

Keira Knightley excels in roles from the 18th and 19th century. As "Colette," she plays the free-spirited French writer in a story tracing her gradual move to a free-spirited existence. Dominic West plays her ham-handed husband, Henry Gauthier-Villars. He seduces, marries, and transports Colette to Paris, where they create literature under the brand name "Willy." Ultimately, Colette demands and claims credit for her work. Her awakening includes affairs and ultimately a same-sex soulmate. "Colette" holds your interest with witty storytelling and beautiful production. 3½ stars, rated "R." Does it deliver what it promises? Masterpiece Theater-style entertainment. Is it entertaining? Saucy. Is it worth the price of admission? Lovely.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The House with a Clock in Its Walls Review - 2½ Stars

With a wink wink and a nudge nudge, Jack Black and Cate Blanchett vamp their way through "The House with a Clock in Its Walls," a kid-friendly, semi-scary comedy about magic and the power of good over evil. Young Owen Vaccaro comes to live in Jack Black's creaking Victorian house, where the chairs come to life and the stained glass window changes shape, and a clock embedded deep within might stop the world. The kid discovers his uncle is a warlock, and the neighbor lady is a witch, and as long as he doesn't invoke any spells from the book hidden in the big cabinet, everything will be fine. Of course, the kid invokes, and of course, everything goes haywire. "The House with a Clock in Its Walls" has more laughs than scares. Call it Harry Potter-lite. 2½ stars, rated PG. Does it deliver what it promises? Kid-friendly magic tale. Is it entertaining? Jack Black is a delight. Is it worth the price of admission? Just for a wink and a nudge.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Life Itself Review - 2 Stars

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 newlywed 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, but 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 a 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 hardcore fans of "This Is Us."