New releases include ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,’ ‘Bombshell’ and ‘Cats’
Anchored by an outstanding trio of performances (Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie), “Bombshell” manages to be a fascinating depiction of the complexities of workplace sexual harassment and the legal ramifications that are necessary to contend with in the post-#MeToo era. R for sexual material and language throughout. 108 minutes. Regal 15, Cinemark 17.
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“Cats” the movie features prestigious performers from stage, screen, music and dance — including Jennifer Hudson, Sir Ian McKellan, Dame Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Rebel Wilson, James Corden and ballerina Francesca Hayward — all tricked out in digitally generated fur that is simultaneously so lifelike and so creepily hallucinatory that the cast looks like a colony of feral felines who have taken up permanent residence in the uncanny valley. PG for peril, some mature thematic elements and rude humor. 109 minutes. Regal 15, Cinemark 17.
Read the review here.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Not much has caused a disturbance in the “Star Wars” galaxy quite like Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi,” an erratic but electric movie that, regardless of how you felt about it, was something worth arguing about. The same can’t be said for J. J. Abrams’ “Rise of Skywalker,” a scattershot, impatiently paced, fan-servicing finale that repurposes so much of what came before that it feels as though someone searching for the hyperspace button accidentally pressed the spin cycle instead. A laundry list of plot points cluster like an asteroid field in “Rise of Skywalker.” It’s a spirited, hectic and ultimately forgettable conclusion of the Skywalker saga begun 42 years ago by George Lucas. PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action. 142 minutes. Regal 15 (IMAX 3-D, 3-D and IMAX 2-D), Cinemark 17 (3-D), City Lights Cinemas.
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“The Aeronauts” details an interesting corner of scientific and expedition history in the Victorian era, but the story is laden with too much reverse-engineered treacly fiction. Although Fecility Jones is a joy to watch (as always), honestly, the real-life stories of the brave ballooning women are so much more compelling, and they didn’t deserve to be mashed into a such a generic character. PG-13 for some peril and thematic elements. 100 minutes. Bijou Art Cinemas.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Where is the narrative tension in a character so universally cherished? How can you make a Mr. Rogers movie that isn’t a mere nostalgia trip or heaping dollop of cloying sentiment? Perhaps most daunting: Why even try when there’s a documentary — last year’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” — that told Fred Rogers’s story so splendidly? “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” answers all those questions with style and smarts, proving that, with the right cast, script and astute direction, even the most familiar story can feel new — and, given the tenor of these times, urgently needed. PG for some strong thematic material, a brief fight and some mildly coarse language. 108 minutes. Regal 15, Cinemark 17, City Lights Cinemas, Broadway Metro.
A group of female students are stalked by a stranger during their Christmas break. That is until the young sorority pledges discover that the killer is part of an underground college conspiracy. PG-13 for violence, terror, thematic content involving sexual assault, language, sexual material and drinking. 92 minutes. Regal 15, Cinemark 17.
Outrage mixes with despair in “Dark Waters,” an unsettling, slow-drip thriller about big business and the people who become its collateral damage. It’s a fictional take on a true, ghastly story about a synthetic polymer that was discovered by a chemist at DuPont, which branded it Teflon. PG-13 for thematic content, some disturbing images and strong language. 126 minutes. Cinemark 17.
The film, a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” opens with a series of short curtain raisers, including a flashback to the Colorado setting of that 1980 horror classic. Inspired as much by Kubrick’s revisionist film as by either of Stephen King’s books, this new story by horror wunderkind Mike Flanagan returns to the Overlook Hotel in ways both literal and figurative. It is also very much a Mike Flanagan film, for better and for worse. Part homage to Kubrick’s moody atmospherics, and part hyper-literal superhero story, “Doctor Sleep” is stylish, engrossing, at times frustratingly illogical and, ultimately less than profoundly unsettling. Which is, in a word, a disappointment. R for disturbing, violent and bloody images, strong language, nudity and drug use. 152 minutes. David Minor.
Eventfulness and machination have always been the hallmark of “Downton Abbey,” not acting. With the exception of Dame Maggie, whose acerbic character spends much of her time — probably a little too much of her time — dropping caustic zingers, there isn’t much in the way of thespianism here. Everyone looks and sounds and dresses marvelously. “Downton Abbey” is eye and ear candy of the highest order: rich and delicious, but not especially nutritious. PG for mature thematic material, some suggestive elements and strong language. 122 minutes. David Minor.
“Fantastic Fungi” is a time-lapse journey from 2019 Maui Film Festival Visionary Award honoree and director Louie Schwartzberg about the mysterious world of fungi. No Motion Picture Association of America rating. 81 minutes. Broadway Metro.
Ford v Ferrari
This infectious and engrossing story of the 1966 showdown on a French racetrack between car giants Ford and Ferrari is a high-octane ride that will make you instinctively stomp on a ghostly gas pedal from your movie seat. But you don’t need to be a motorhead to enjoy Matt Damon and Christian Bale as a pair of rebels risking it all for purity and glory. PG-13 for some language and peril. 152 minutes. Regal 15, Cinemark 17.
“Frozen II” doesn’t represent some giant leap forward for the “Frozen” universe, it merely keeps the franchise on track. For many, that’ll be fine: more adventures of Elsa (Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell), Olaf (Josh Gad) and Kristoff (Jonathan Groff). But the movie has all the staying power of a snowflake: It evaporates almost on contact. PG for action/peril and some thematic elements. 103 minutes. Regal 15, Cinemark 17.
Hollywood doesn’t make tons of movies about female heroes or black heroes, let alone black female heroes. One can only imagine the pressure the creative team must have felt to get it just right. And that’s exactly what comes across in the final product. “Harriet” is built on such good intentions and such a fierce desire to get it right that it seems risk-averse creatively, a fairly formulaic biopic created more for a history classroom than the multiplex. PG-13 for thematic content throughout, violent material and language including racial epithets. 125 minutes. David Minor.
In the broadest sense, it’s a portrait of a boy whose father doesn’t, or can’t, love him the way he needs. But broad isn’t the point. The salacious tabloid sell is that Shia LaBeouf wrote this script about his life while in rehab. It was therapy, but besides the location, it’s not terribly unique that a storyteller might get some personal catharsis. What separates “Honey Boy” from the standard confessional is the heart, precision and artfulness that LaBoeuf and director Alma Har’el employ to tell this story. R for pervasive language, some sexual material and drug use. 93 minutes. Broadway Metro.
Now comes the boldly, unabashedly quirky “Jojo Rabbit” by New Zealand director Taika Waititi, who attempts this fiendishly difficult balancing act at a time when Nazi jokes seem even more potent and dangerous than a few decades ago. And that is precisely the point, Waititi says: Now, especially now, is the time to remind younger generations of what happened more than 70 years ago. And what better tool, as Mel Brooks has posited, than humor? That’s his argument, anyway. PG-13 for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, violence and language. 108 minutes. Broadway Metro.
Jumanji: The Next Level
The creators of the latest “Jumanji” sequel have begun from an age-old premise — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And they’ve taken note of other successful franchises to adopt what must surely be a new Hollywood motto — just add more. So “Jumanji: The Next Level” brings together the same director, writers and actors who made the 2017 reboot so fun and then layers in more stars plus more locations and special effects. The result is a largely successful, if more unbalanced ride. It’s also oddly wistful and melancholic. PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content and some language. 123 minutes. Regal 15, Cinemark 17, City Lights Cinemas.
Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” unravels not just a good old-fashioned murder mystery but the very fabric of the whodunit, pulling at loose threads until it has intricately, devilishly woven together something new and exceedingly delightful. PG-13 for thematic content, some disturbing images and strong language. 126 minutes. Regal 15, Cinemark 17, City Lights Cinemas, Bijou Art Cinemas.
Enter “The Lighthouse ” at your own risk. This is a stark, moody, surreal and prolonged descent into seaside madness that will surely not be for everyone. But those who do choose to go on this black-and-white journey with Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe will ultimately find it a rewarding one, even if the blaring fog horn rings in your ears for days to come. Director Robert Eggers has made something truly visionary — stripped down and out of time — that asks the viewer to simply submit to his distinctive, strange, funny and haunting tale of a pair of “wickies” in 1890 New England tasked with keeping the lighthouse running. R for sexual content, nudity, violence, disturbing images and some language. 110 minutes. Broadway Metro.
“Marriage Story” takes the audience deep into this world, showing how two people fully invested in splitting amicably can get swept up so easily in animosity and legal challenges. And Noah Baumbach has written and cast the divorce lawyers brilliantly. But make no mistake, the film belongs to Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, two actors who get to really shine in ways audiences may have forgotten they could in the haze of their big franchises, or maybe have never even seen in this way before. Either way, both will make your heart ache. R for language throughout and sexual references. 136 minutes. Bijou Art Cinemas.
Pain and Glory
The emotional register of “Pain and Glory” is quiet. Antonio Banderas gives an unexpected performance, one that’s detailed, funny and contemplative, rueful but never regretful. Working with the legends of his long career to operationalize his past, Pedro Almodóvar crafts a singularly unique and medium-specific autobiography in which cinema is inextricably linked to his own story, to his heart, soul and body. R for drug use, some graphic nudity and language. 113 minutes. Broadway Metro, David Minor. In Spanish, with English subtitles.
“Parasite” is Bong Joon-ho’s most sophisticated film to date, expertly plotted with breathtaking reveals, and shot with a smooth, slippery sheen, each frame and camera movement communicating a subconscious plot twist or theme. Invisible machinations ripple the story along its inevitable path. The ensemble cast is outstanding, their performances both unexpected and deeply humane. The film is riotously funny and devastatingly topical, tugging at the issues of income and class inequality, which motivates everything the Kims do, while the wealthy Parks have the privilege to ignore it all. The operatic, bloody finale and solemn denouement draws the fantasy of escaping one’s own circumstances into a sharp relief, ultimately piercing the balloon of comedy, leaving tragedy in its wake, and the sheer triumph of Bong’s seventh feature film, his best yet. R for language, some violence and sexual content. 132 minutes. Broadway Metro. In Korean, with English subtitles.
The Peanut Butter Falcon
Is its story of individual freedom versus societal constraint heartwarming? Yes. “Falcon” is also about family: Zak (Zack Gottsagen), without friends or kin, and Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), who is haunted by the premature death of his older brother, gradually come to see that they need each other. They invent a secret handshake, split a jug of brown liquor and wrestle while wearing helmets carved from watermelon rinds. As they travel the river sitting shoulder to shoulder, a handful of breathtaking shots chart their literal and metaphorical voyage together. PG-13 for mature thematic material, strong language throughout, some violence and smoking. 98 minutes. David Minor.
The Polar Express
On Christmas Eve, a young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express, while learning about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas. G. 100 minutes. David Minor.
Queen & Slim
Whipsawing between hope and devastation, “Queen & Slim” speaks to this specific cultural moment. It’s not with a grounded realism, but with an almost operatic sense of melodrama, in the writing, performances and with Melina Matsouka’s daring cinematic style, where beauty and politics are inextricably intertwined. It’s an adrenaline shot right to the heart, and a bold declaration of a bright new auteur. R for violence, some strong sexuality, nudity, pervasive language, and brief drug use. 132 minutes. Cinemark 17.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
In the depths of the Korvatunturi mountains, 486 meters deep, lies the closest ever guarded secret of Christmas. The time has come to dig it up. R for some nudity and language. 84 minutes. Broadway Metro.
Despite some interesting performances, the whole film just makes you wonder what message Clint Eastwood might be trying to impart, with this film, in 2019, that essentially condemns the act of suspecting and investigating a young white man of domestic terrorism. When journalists are under physical and philosophical threat more than they ever have been, why paint them to be the true scourge, and not the actual terrorist, Eric Rudolph, who went on to claim more victims and who is completely absent from the film? No amount of Eastwood nostalgia can make the questionable message he tries to sell in “Richard Jewell” easier to accept. R for language including some sexual references, and brief bloody images. 129 minutes. Regal 15, Cinemark 17, City Lights Cinemas.
The Two Popes
The whole scenario is a work of imagination. There are few institutions with more private innerworkings than the Vatican. Usually, we get little more than a puff of white smoke. “The Two Popes” aims to go not just inside the Church but imagine a deep dialogue between the two pontiffs. “The Two Popes” is a fantasy of impossible intimacy. PG-13 for thematic content and some disturbing violent images. 126 minutes. Bijou Art Cinemas.
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