Friday, May 25, 2018

First Reformed - 4 Stars - Opens May 25, 2018

"First Reformed" tackles questions of faith and future.  Ethan Hawke plays a divorced minister of a dying church.  A young pregnant woman (Amanda Seyfried) asks Hawke to talk with her husband, an environmentalist convinced no child should come into our polluted world.  Hawke wrestles with the man's position, and wrestles with his faith.  Talks with the town's mega church pastor (Cedric the Entertainer) and meetings with a wealthy donor underwriting a planned celebration make things worse.  "First Reformed" unfolds in a series of static shots, broken by a weird dream sequence, ending in a riddle.  "First Reformed" 4 Stars Rated "R".  Does it deliver what it promises?  Extraordinary story.  Is it entertaining?  Tension filled and compelling.  Is it worth the price of admission?  One of the year's best.

Solo: A Star Wars Story - 2 Stars - Opens May 25, 2018

"Solo:  A Star Wars Story" fills us in on the story of Han Solo before we met him in the original "Star Wars."  We discover Han's difficult childhood, his desire to fly, and the poker game in which he wins the Millennium Falcon.  We meet the girl (played by a sultry Emilia  Clarke) who breaks his heart.  "Solo: A Star Wars Story" follows almost the exact structure of the 1977 movie.  It feels familiar but doesn't feel new or creative.  Alden Ehrenreich seems fine as a younger Harrison Ford, just not as exciting.    Donald Glover adds some spark as a rogue adventurer.  Woody Harrelson, Paul Bettany, and Thandie Newton don't get much in this script.  "Solo:  A Star Wars Story" 2 Stars Rated PG-13.  Does it deliver what it promises?  Uninspired Star Wars knock off.  Is it entertaining?  Occasionally catches fire.  Is it worth the price of admission?  For fans.

Weekend Movie Guide

Alden Ehrenreich & Joonas Suotamo (r) star in Solo: A Star Wars Story

First Reformed - 4 Stars. Grieving minister Ethan Hawke tries to counsel an environmental activist on the value of bringing children into our world. Tension-filled and thought-provoking.

Black Panther - 3½ Stars. Chadwick Boseman breathes life into a new and exciting super hero. As king of a little known African nation, he can bring peace and power to the world; but first, he must settle a family score.

The Death of Stalin - 3½ Stars. Funny but painful history lesson of the dance for power to replace the Soviet dictator, with outstanding performances by Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, and Simon Russell Beale.

A Quiet Place - 3½ Stars. Wildly creative horror story. A family must stay quiet, lest they get eaten by blind, sound-sensitive space monsters.

Tully - 3½ Stars. Charlize Theron stars as the stressed-out mother of a newborn, who finds peace with the help of an unusual night nanny. A comedy/mystery/thriller with a delicious twist.

Deadpool 2 - 3 Stars. More of the wisecracking, anti-hero superhero played by Ryan Reynolds.

Avengers: Infinity War - 3 Stars. All of the characters in the Marvel Universe fight Thanos, who plans to depopulate the world. A Grand Opera approach to comic books, fans will love.

The Rider - 3 Stars. Quiet contemplation of a young cowboy whose head injury changes his life.

Book Club - 2½ Stars. Four mature women begin reading "50 Shades of Grey" and things change.  Great cast includes Jane Fonda, Candace Bergen, Diane Keaton, and Mary Steenburgen.

Blockers - 2½ Stars. Parents vow to prevent their daughters from losing their virginity on prom night. Wickedly funny.

Disobedience - 2½ Stars. Rachael Weitz returns to her conservative Orthodox community after the death of her father.

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

Life of the Party - 2 Stars. Melissa McCarthy as a newly divorced mom going back to the same college as her daughter.

I Feel Pretty - 1 Star. A good idea, poorly executed. Amy Schumer hits her head and suddenly believes she is extraordinarily beautiful.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Deadpool 2 Review - 3 Stars

"Deadpool 2" presents a superhero movie for people who don't like superhero movies. The new installment continues the saga of Ryan Reynolds in a rubber mask (thanks to an experiment gone wrong) wise cracking his way through a series of adventures. Reynolds must face off with Josh Brolin, also the villain in the epic "Avengers: Infinity Wars." Brolin's character is named Cable, but Deadpool refers to him as Thanos (from the Avengers) or John Connor (from The Terminator.) Deadpool must stop a kid named Russell from going rogue, thus undoing the tragic fate of Cable's world. The jokes fly fast and furious. A segment in which Deadpool recruits a group of hapless mutants qualifies as one of the season's funniest and bloodiest. "Deadpool 2," 3 stars, rated "R." Does it deliver what it promises? Hilarious anti-superhero movie. Is it entertaining? If you can keep up. Is it worth the price of admission? A delight.

Book Club Review - 2½ Stars

Four mature women begin reading "50 Shades of Grey" and things start happening in "Book Club."  The four are played by Jane Fonda (who has never married) Candace Bergen (who has divorced) Diane Keaton (who is widowed) and Mary Steenburgen (whose marriage has lost its spark.) The men include Don Johnson, Andy Garcia, Richard Dreyfuss, and Craig T. Nelson. "Book Club" doesn't care about creativity or diversity. It's "Sex and the City" for senior citizens. When Steenburgen slips a Viagra pill into her husband's beer, and he unexpectedly bumps into the kitchen door, the crowd roars. "Book Club," rated PG-13, 2½ stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Comedy for mature women. Is it entertaining? Easy to watch, and often funny. Is it worth the price of admission? Perfect for its target audience.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Life of the Party Review - 2 Stars

Melissa McCarthy gets dumped by her husband in "Life of the Party." Her reaction? Go back to college. Because this is a comedy, she returns to the school where her daughter (Molly Gordon) is finishing her senior year. McCarthy manages, as usual, to rise above this not very creative material. I suspect she ad libs most of the funniest moments. A few casting touches help, such as SNL's Heidi Gardner as Melissa's mole-like roommate, and an obviously older actress who explains her presence with a story about an eight-year coma. Maya Rudolph appears as Melissa's best friend, providing a little more of the chemistry she had with McCarthy in "Bridesmaids." I laughed, but I'm looking forward to a time McCarthy manages to break out of what looks like a creative  rut. "Life of the Party," rated "PG-13," 2 stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Melissa McCarthy softball. Is it entertaining? I laughed. Is it worth the price of admission? Late night cable fodder.