Thursday, April 11, 2019

Weekend Movie Guide

Jason Clarke & John Lithgow (r) star in Pet Sematary

They Shall Not Grow Old - 4 Stars. Peter Jackson combines World War I survivor interviews with brilliantly restored footage. A powerful meld of technology and art.

Us - 3½ Stars. Jordan Peele's follow-up to "Get Out" spins a great jump-out-of-your-seat story with a message about those who are left behind.

Apollo 11 - 3½ Stars. New footage of the 1969 Moon voyage, assembled in eye-popping, jaw-dropping style.

The Highwaymen - 3 Stars. Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson play the Texas Rangers who hunt down Bonnie and Clyde. A fascinating twist on the 1967 classic.

Gloria Bell - 3 Stars.  Julianne Moore copes with divorce, middle age, and the chance to connect.  A marvelous performance.

Transit - 3 Stars. Fantasy about society closing borders. Those who leave, must obtain letters of transit. Oddly compelling.

Pet Sematary - 2½ Stars. Stephen King remake does the job. The family cat comes back to life with unintended consequences.

Diane - 2 /2 Stars.  Mary Kay Place works hard helping friends and community while dealing with a problem son and a past regret.  A sad, sometimes depressing, musing on life.  

Shazaam! - 2 Stars. DC Comic origin story bogs down, and gets in the way of the humor of a 14-year-old kid turned superhero.

The Upside - 2 Stars. Wealthy quadriplegic Bryan Cranston hires ex-con Kevin Hart as his aide. Cute, sometimes funny life lessons ensue.

Dumbo - 2 Stars. Live-action remake of the Disney classic runs long, thanks to too much plot and atmosphere.

The Aftermath - 1 Star. Clich├ęd romance in post-World War II Germany. Nice cast (including Keira Knightley) can't save this.

Glass - 1 Star. Three characters from two movies face off for a superhero showdown. Yawn.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Diane - 2 1/2 Stars/Gloria Bell - 3 Stars

Mary Kay Place plays "Diane," (2 1/2 Stars) a helper to her friends and community.  She starts each day with a list, and never fails her circle of friends.  But her son has drug problems, and her conscience still regrets what she considers a sin from her past.  Most of us recognize the character.  Her story unfolds seamlessly as the years roll by.  "Diane" tells a story of women who help, of community, and the inevitable loss that comes in the years beyond middle age.  "Diane" often gets depressing but ends on a thought provoking note.  "Diane" 2 1/2 Stars not rated.  Does it deliver what it promises?  A woman's story.  Is it entertaining?  Realistically depressing.  Is it worth the price of admission?  For the acting and honesty. 
"Gloria Bell" (3 Stars) avoids depression thanks to Julianne Moore's exuberant performance.  She's divorced, middle aged, and hoping to connect. "Gloria" works by day in an insurance office, but goes dancing by night in various L.A. clubs.  She catches John Turturro's attention and romance blooms in all its painful ups and downs.  "Gloria Bell: 3 Stars Rated "R"  Does it deliver what it promises?  Wonderful performance by Julianne Moore.  Is it entertaining?  Often.  Is it worth the price of admission?  Another honest attempt to tell a woman's story this time with more hope. 

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Pet Sematary - 2½ Stars

Jason Clarke moves his family to rural Maine, to get away from the big city. Their new house comes with acres of woods. That's the good news. The bad news is the woods creak and groan. When the family cat gets run over and killed, helpful neighbor John Lithgow takes Jason to a special spot where all you have to do is dig a grave, pile some rocks on top and Poof! No more dead cat. Except the cat that returns is sticky, vicious, and kinda disgusting. More tragedy. More returns from the dead. More of what you expect from this kind of movie. "Pet Sematary" isn't on the level of "Get Out" or even "Us," but as a fun horror flick, it gets the job done. "Pet Sematary," 2½ stars, rated "R." Does it deliver what it promises? State-of-the-art horror film. Is it entertaining? Makes you jump. Is it worth the price of admission? It is what it is.

Shazam! Review - 2 Stars

An ancient wizard searches for a young person with a pure heart to inherit his magic and save the world. Many try, but only one prevails... Billy Batson, (Asher Angel) a 14-year-old runaway living in a group home. Once anointed, he merely shouts "Shazam!" and turns into an adult superhero played by the pumped-up Zachary Levi. "Shazam!" has fun, as the new hero discovers his powers. He needs them to defeat Mark Strong, a now-grown, once-bullied youngster who failed the wizard's test and yearns to get even. "Shazam!" works best, when it plays light. Unfortunately, the origin story matching hero and villain takes forever and feels heavy. "Shazam!" highlights the difference between Marvel and DC Comics. Marvel always has great special effects. DC Comics, not so much: In fact, "Shazam!" often looks cheap. There's a fun story trying to escape this overlong, overproduced movie. Chop an hour off the running time, and I might get interested. "Shazam!," 2 stars, rated "PG-13." Does it deliver what it promises? Superhero story. Is it entertaining? Follows the usual formula. Is it worth the price of admission? Aimed at 14-year-olds.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Dumbo Review - 2 Stars

Disney has high hopes for Tim Burton's live-action remake of the 1941 animated "Dumbo." The story of a baby elephant, who looks goofy because of his giant ears has a contemporary ring. He's different, and deserves respect. "Dumbo" gets that respect when he discovers his big ears give him the ability to fly. Director Tim Burton has made a lot of dark films ("Beetlejuice," "Edward Scissorhands," "The Nightmare Before Christmas.") Dumbo's no exception. Early in the story, baby Dumbo's mother is sold... baby and mother separated. Two children, whose mother died in the 1918 flu epidemic, befriend him. Dumbo is born into a post-WWI raggedy circus run by impish Danny DeVito. The circus setting gives Burton visually interesting and often spooky settings. Once Dumbo's ability to fly emerges, Michael Keaton arrives with a fist full of cash. He brings Dumbo and his friends to the big city, where bad guys use the elephant for profit. When things go wrong, lives are at risk. Burton spends so much energy creating his odd backgrounds, that the story often drags. The result will probably make many kids restless, as well as the adults bringing them. "Dumbo," rated PG, 2 stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Live-action, flying baby elephant fantasy. Is it entertaining? Interesting, but drags. Is it worth the price of admission? Not quite for everyone.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Us Review - 3½ Stars

"Us" deserves attention, as writer/director Jordan Peele's follow-up to the extraordinary horror comedy "Get Out." "Us" begins with a flashback to a childhood trauma in an amusement park. We jump to modern day, to the family vacation of Lupita Nyong'o and her husband Winston Duke and their two children. One night at their Santa Cruz beach house, Lupita looks outside to find an identical family of four staring at them. I don't want to tell you much more beyond that. I will tell you, that Jordan Peele has a great sense of storytelling. The introduction of the menacing family takes us to a second, unexpected level and a conclusion with a heart pounding twist. "Us" works as a better-than-usual horror flick. It echoes "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Night of the Living Dead" and a little bit of "Vertigo." Whatever, things aren't as they seem in this smashing, entertaining thriller. Those who wish, can find a deeper, troubling message for our unequal society. "Us," 3½ stars, rated "R." Does it deliver what it promises? Heart-pounding horror film with a deeper message. Is it entertaining? If you like to jump. Is it worth the price of admission? One of the year's most important and entertaining movies.