Movie Reviews

Posted October 12, 2018 at 12:00 am

The House With a Clock in Its Walls

Universal

After his parents are killed in an accident, a 10-year-old boy (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with his eccentric uncle (Jack Black), who turns out to be a warlock. Having mastered some of the rudiments of his new guardian’s craft, the lad assists him and his best friend (Cate Blanchett), a nice witch, in trying to locate and stop the timepiece of the title, a doomsday device with the capacity to turn the calendar back before the advent of humanity. For all its spells and incantations, director Eli Roth’s adaptation of the first in a series of books by John Bellairs lacks magic, though some of the humor works. Too scary for tots, the film is acceptable for most others, despite the quasi-profanities that occasionally and, given the target audience, needlessly crop up in Eric Kripke’s screenplay.

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    Movie Reviews

    The Nun

    Warner Bros.

    Made with a big budget, this fifth film in “The Conjuring” franchise pulls out all the stops in an attempt to rank as the “That’s Entertainment!” of Catholic-themed horror films. But a surfeit of questionable elements, including the tasteless treatment of a relic deserving the deepest possible reverence, makes this inappropriate for many. A creepy white-faced demon nun (Bonnie Aarons) skitters through catacomb tunnels and pops out of the darkness in an ancient, sprawling Romanian abbey

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    Movie Review

    Operation Finale

    MGM

    Directed by Chris Weitz, this movie offers a Jewish perspective not often found in World War II films. It follows a group of Israeli Mossad agents 15 years after World War II as they covertly infiltrate Buenos Aires in order to capture a high-ranking Nazi (Ben Kingsley) who has thus far escaped justice. As they struggle to get him to sign written consent to be tried in Israel, the group’s passionate leader (Oscar Isaac) strikes up an unlikely, and respectful, relationship with the prisoner, showing that even enemies deserve respect and dignity. The

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    Movie Reviews

    The Spy Who Dumped Me

    Lionsgate

    After discovering that her boyfriend (Justin Theroux) works for the CIA, then witnessing his murder at the hands of enemy operatives, an ordinary woman (Mila Kunis), together with her best friend (Kate McKinnon), becomes entangled in the world of espionage. Forced to go on the run, the pals must also figure out what to do with the vital flash drive the spy committed to his girlfriend’s care as he was dying. They’re chased by a British agent (Sam Heughan) who claims he wants to protect them but whose real motives

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    Movie Reviews

    Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation  

    Sony  

    Breezy second sequel to the 2012 original finds Dracula’s daughter (voice of Selena Gomez) arranging for her overworked father (voice of Adam Sandler) and the other friendly monsters who staff the hostelry of the title (the most prominent voiced by Kevin James, David Spade and Steve Buscemi) to take a cruise. But when widowed Dad falls for the ship’s captain (voice of Kathryn Hahn), he feels torn between romance and family responsibilities. He also fails to realize that

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    Movie Reviews

    Gotti

    Vertical Entertainment

    Low-budget crime saga about mobster John Gotti (John Travolta) who, director Kevin Connolly and screenwriters Lem Dobbs and Leo Rossi would have the viewer believe, was mostly a misunderstood family man, attentive  according to his own lights  to his wife (Kelly Preston) and two sons (Spencer Lofrano and Nico Bustamante). Other than the occasional murder, his first was in 1973, he might as well be any other striver on the corporate ladder, hoping to impress his mentor in the Gambino crime family (Stacy Keach) and earn a promotion. Impatient, he eventually

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    Movie Reviews

    Hereditary

    A24

    This subtly creepy horror tale keeps the audience guessing exactly what lies behind the string of macabre occurrences besetting a middle-aged couple (Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne), their high schooler son (Alex Wolff) and 13-year-old daughter (Milly Shapiro). An unusual blend of intense family drama and a foray into the occult, writer-director Ari Aster’s feature debut mostly pays patient viewers off with a resounding conclusion, and Collette is furiously intense throughout. But the gloomily atmospheric film, which initially goes easy on the gore, gets less restrained in that respect as it goes along. Black

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    Movie Reviews

    Adrift

    STX

    Fairly routine adventure, adapted by director Baltasar Kormakur from Tami Oldham Ashcraft’s (Shailene Woodley) memoir about surviving 41 days on a storm-wrecked yacht in the Pacific. A carefree California girl whose only ambition is to sail the world, in 1983 Tahiti she meets a handsome British yachtsman (Sam Claflin), and they’re soon inseparable and planning their wedding. A friend (Jeffrey Thomas) who has to fly to America for an emergency, asks them to sail his yacht to San Diego, a journey of 4,000 miles. In only a matter of days, they fall prey to

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    Movie Reviews

    Batman Ninja

    Warner Home Entertainment

    Produced in Japan in the “anime” style, with its distinctive settings, frantic action scenes and unique character design, this is a thrilling, confusing, gorgeous and bizarre straight-to-video film. A time machine built by a supervillain ape (voice of Fred Tatasciore) transports Batman (voice of Roger Craig Smith) as well as most of his usual supporting cast to feudal Japan sometime around the 16th century. As he battles Gotham’s nastiest (voices of Tom Kenny, Eric Bauza, Tara Strong, Tony Hale and Tatasciore) who have taken on the role of Japanese warlords, the Caped Crusader is

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    Movie Reviews

    Batman Ninja

    Warner Home Entertainment

    Produced in Japan in the “anime” style, with its distinctive settings, frantic action scenes and unique character design, this is a thrilling, confusing, gorgeous and bizarre straight-to-video film. A time machine built by a supervillain ape (voice of Fred Tatasciore) transports Batman (voice of Roger Craig Smith) as well as most of his usual supporting cast to feudal Japan sometime around the 16th century. As he battles Gotham’s nastiest (voices of Tom Kenny, Eric Bauza, Tara Strong, Tony Hale and Tatasciore) who have taken on the role of Japanese warlords, the Caped Crusader is

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    Movie Reviews

    Super Troopers 2

    Fox Searchlight

    Obnoxious ensemble comedy in which a shift in the border between the U.S. and Canada leads to an exchange of sophomoric practical jokes between a band of Vermont state troopers (Jay Chandrasekhar, who also directed, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske) and their Mountie counterparts (Will Sasso, Tyler Labine, and Hayes MacArthur). Presumably designed to make adolescent boys of all ages snicker, Chandrasekhar’s follow-up to the 2002 original, which he wrote in collaboration with the other four actors playing the Americans, crosses the line from crude to seamy with a sequence set in the

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    Movie Reviews

    Isle of Dogs  

    Fox Searchlight  

    This highly stylized stop-motion animation pushes the limits of writer-director Wes Anderson’s customary deadpan drollery, and the dark, lonely world he creates as its backdrop is most definitely not for small children. Feared as disease carriers, all dogs are banished from a Japanese city by its formidable and corrupt mayor (voice of Kunichi Nomura) and exiled to the aptly named Trash Island. There, surrounded by giant mountains of garbage, they compete for rotten food scraps. When the mayor’s 12-year-old

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    Movie Reviews

    Sherlock Gnomes  

    Paramount  

    Busy but flat animated adventure in which the hero (voice of James McAvoy) and heroine (voice of Emily Blunt) of 2011’s “Gnomeo and Juliet” team with the detective of the title (voice of Johnny Depp) and his sidekick, Dr. Watson (voice of Chiwetel Ejiofor), to stop a spate of garden gnome kidnappings taking place across London that they suspect may be the work of the sleuth’s arch-nemesis, Moriarty (voice of Jamie Demetriou). Easily satisfied kids may be willing to accept the

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    Movie Reviews

    Gringo

    Amazon Studios

    Moral dilemmas come fast and furious in this dark, but somehow not cynical, comedy about avarice and its near-instant consequences. Sent to Mexico by his corrupt bosses (Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron) to seal a crooked deal for his pharmaceutical company, a gullible executive (David Oyelowo), driven by financial desperation, instead pretends that he’s been kidnapped and held for ransom. This moment of raw greed sets numerous subplots in motion, including a drug cartel’s pursuit of the

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    Movie Reviews

    A Wrinkle in Time

    Disney 

    New Age-style bromides dominate the script of this often eye-pleasing adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel for young adults. Four years after the unexplained disappearance of her father (Chris Pine), a NASA scientist who, together with his physicist wife (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), had developed an unorthodox method of time and space travel, a middle-school student (Storm Reid) is still devastated by his absence. She gets help in searching for Dad from an unlikely source: a trio of celestial guides (Oprah

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    Movie Reviews

    Annihilation 

    Paramount 

    After her husband (Oscar Isaac) returns as the lone survivor of a secret Army mission and falls mysteriously and critically ill, a soldier-turned-biologist (Natalie Portman) volunteers to join an expedition into the remote area he and his team had been dispatched to explore, which is being affected by an unexplained and ever-growing atmospheric phenomenon. There she and the other researchers (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson and Tuva Novotny) on the trek discover bizarre animal and plant mutations by turns beautiful

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    Movie Review

    Batman and Harley Quinn

    Warner Bros. 

    Poorly conceived and produced as well as morally obtuse straight-to-video animated film from DC Comics. Tired of humans despoiling the environment, villains Poison Ivy (voice of Paget Brewster) and the Floronic Man (voice of Kevin Michael Richardson) team up to transform all animal life on earth into plant hybrids. After Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (voice of Loren Lester) turn to Harley Quinn (voice of Melissa Rauch), the madcap, motley-wearing former psychiatrist and sidekick to the

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    Movie Reviews

    Father Figures  

    Warner Bros.  

    Threadbare comedy about estranged fraternal twins (Owen Wilson and Ed Helms) who belatedly learn from their mother (Glenn Close) that the man she long ago told them was their deceased father was, in fact, just a friend of hers, and that their real dad may be alive though her promiscuous past makes it impossible for her to identify for sure which of many candidates he might be. This discovery launches the siblings on a road trip during which they

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    Movie Reviews

    A24 

    The eccentricities of a notorious self-funding filmmaker (James Franco, who also directed) and the story of the friendship (with Dave Franco) that led to the making of his famously bad 2003 movie “The Room” provide steady laughs but will also touch viewers’ hearts as the relationship at the center of this fact-based comedy endures through numerous strains. The humor occasionally goes astray, particularly in scenes playing male nakedness for laughs, and the dialogue is overstuffed with vulgarity. But adults willing to overlook such flaws will find this study

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    Movie Reviews

    Coco

    Disney

    A young Mexican lad’s (voice of Anthony Gonzalez) quest to follow in the footsteps of his hometown’s most famous son (voice of Benjamin Bratt) by becoming a world-renowned musician takes a supernatural turn on the Day of the Dead when he is mysteriously transported to the afterlife as depicted in the folklore associated with the pre-Columbian aspects of that celebration. There, a good-hearted but slippery character (voice of Gael Garcia Bernal) becomes his guide and agrees to help

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    Movie Reviews

    Daddy’s Home 2

    Paramount

    Silly slapstick predominates in this follow-up to the 2015 comedy about the blending pains of a post-divorce family. As the stepfather (Will Ferrell) and biological dad (Mark Wahlberg) whose rivalry fueled the first outing try to preserve the fragile harmony they’ve achieved during a Christmas visit by their own temperamentally contrasting fathers (sensitive John Lithgow and trouble-loving womanizer Mel Gibson), returning director and co-writer Sean Anders busies himself finding outlandish mishaps for Ferrell’s character to undergo. Although the film is

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    Movie Reviews

    A Bad Moms Christmas 

    STX 

    Aggressive vulgarity is the incongruous hallmark of this holiday-themed sequel. As the trio of mothers (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) featured in the 2016 original deal with the wholly unrealistic problems caused when their own moms (Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon) show up for Christmas, with or without an invitation, the only thing more tiresome than their sex-obsessed wisecracking is their self-important resolve to take the feast back and celebrate it in their own fashion.

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    Movie Reviews

    Geostorm 

    Warner Bros. 

    After a network of weather-controlling satellites designed to overcome the effects of global warming is sabotaged and begins causing a series of overwhelming natural disasters, its designer (Gerard Butler), his estranged brother (Jim Sturgess), a State Dept. official, and the bureaucrat’s live-in girlfriend (Abbie Cornish), a Secret Service agent, team to uncover and defeat the conspiracy. Armchair apocalypse fanciers may relish the ravaging of cities around the globe and the threat of the titular civilization-destroying phenomenon. But anyone looking for more

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    Movie Reviews

    Only the Brave  

    Columbia  

    Heartbreaking true story of the “Granite Mountain Hotshots,” the elite Arizona firefighting team which raced into a raging inferno in 2013 to save a neighboring town from destruction. Their leader (Josh Brolin) has honed his 20-member crew into a well-oiled machine with the assistance of his right-hand man (James Badge Dale). During a recruitment drive, an unlikely candidate (Miles Teller) appears, intent on turning away from a dissolute life to join the group. In adapting a magazine article by Sean

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    Movie Reviews

    A Question of Faith  

    Pure Flix  

    Sober religious drama in which a minister (Richard T. Jones) grapples with a tragedy involving his young son (Caleb T. Thomas) that shakes his fundamental beliefs. As he gradually discovers that the mishap has linked his family’s fate with those of several strangers, including a restaurant owner (Jaci Velasquez), her daughter (Karen Valero) and a cash-strapped contractor (C. Thomas Howell), the clergyman benefits from the steady support and guidance of his wise wife (Kim Fields). Director Kevan Otto

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    Movie Reviews

    American Assassin

    CBS Films  

    This adaptation of the 2010 novel by Vince Flynn, directed by Michael Cuesta, is a gory revenge fantasy that opens with a bang and proceeds at a breakneck pace, unleashing a veritable tsunami of bullets, bodies and blood as it goes. When his fiancee (Charlotte Vega) is gunned down by terrorists, a young man (Dylan O’Brien) seeks to avenge her death by transforming into a lean, mean, fighting machine. Recruited by a CIA official (Sanaa Lathan),

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    Movie on historic papal election to debut on Netflix

    Catholic News Service 

    VATICAN CITY – The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and subsequent election of Pope Francis will be the subject of a new film set to debut on Netflix.  

    According to a Sept. 6 report by entertainment news website Deadline, the film will star Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis and Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI.  

    Titled “The Pope,” the movie will depict events beginning

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    Movie Reviews

    Birth of the Dragon  

    BH Tilt  

    Fictional retelling of a real 1964 kung-fu confrontation between future martial arts legend Bruce Lee (Philip Ng) and an older Chinese master (Yu Xia). Set in San Francisco, and adapted from an article by Michael Dorgan, the film hits all the usual chopsocky notes, but dully. Director George Nolfi and screenwriters Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen J. Revele show Lee, who died at only 32 in a 1973 accident, as cocky and engaging. Most of the screen

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    Movie Reviews

    The Glass Castle  

    Lionsgate  

    Film version of Jeannette Walls’ 2005 memoir of her impoverished childhood tries to put a cheery gloss on everything, as if all the excruciating history was somehow not as bad as it seemed at the time. Together with her alcoholic, wannabe-engineer father (Woody Harrelson) and failed artist of a mother (Naomi Watts) as well as her three siblings Walls (Ella Anderson, mostly, as a child; Brie Larson from high school on) leads a peripatetic existence one step ahead

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    Movie Reviews

    The Dark Tower  

    Columbia  

    Dull sci-fi fantasy in which a psychic teen (Tom Taylor) first dreams about, then travels to a distant world where he gets caught up in the cosmic battle between a villainous wizard (Matthew McConaughey) and the lone remaining member (Idris Elba) of a group of Old West-style gunmen still resisting him. Their struggle concerns the supernatural structure of the title which somehow keeps the evil lurking at the edges of the universe at bay. Awash in such high-flown

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