At The Movies!

At The Movies!

Box office tallies, movie reviews, and more!

BOX OFFICE

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

1.Bad Boys for Life
2. 1917
3. Doolittle
4. Little Women
5. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
6. Just Mercy
7. Jumanji: The Next Level
8. Knives Out
9. Like a Boss
10. Underwater

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MOVIE REVIEWS

BAD BOYS FOR LIFE

★★

Starring Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens. Directed by Adil El Arbi &Bilali Fallah.  2hr4min  MPAA rating:  R (for strong bloody violence, language throughout, sexual references and brief drug use).

So much has happened since Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, in that order of billing, struck gold with director Michael Bay’s feature debut “Bad Boys” (1995) and its sequel, “Bad Boys II” (2003). Presidents came and went. “Green Book” won the Oscar. Our dog turned 14.

A lot goes on in between the natural life cycle of a two-movie phenomenon from another time, and an attempt to tack on a third and get it going again, this time with Smith getting top billing and Martin second.

“Bad Boys for Life” is that attempt. While I don’t like to guess financial outcomes, this time I think the financial outcome is pretty clear and pretty rosy. Aside from the bit about Lawrence being able to beat Smith in a foot race, the movie has very few unintentional laughs. It boasts a handful of cheap intentional ones, lots and lots of automatic gunfire and bleeding, and a nutty pileup of influences, from late-period “Fast & Furious” to “Mission: Impossible” to “21 Jump Street.”

Through it all, as directed by the Moroccan-born Belgian filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, “Bad Boys for Life” may be a frantic visual blur but it’s razor-sharp thematically. Its mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make a jaded 2020 audience glad to see these guys again. The movie’s not the point. The boys are the point.

“Original” being relative, the original “Bad Boys” told the story of how Tea Leoni nearly swiped a Martin Lawrence/Will Smith vehicle away from the headliners. “Bad Boys II,” a callous low point for early 21st century studio movies, told the story of how Jackie Chan’s far superior “Police Story” managed to wreck a hillside village inhabited by poverty-stricken extras for laughs, and succeeded. This led to director Bay ripping off the “Police Story” melee for his movie. Watching the destruction, all you could think about was the meanness of the joke’s premise.

“Bad Boys for Life” finds Lawrence’s Det. Marcus Burnett a proud grandpa and an eager retiree-to-be. The script’s main joke for his character involves Marcus still finding the prospect of “quality time” from his shrewish wife (Theresa Randle) a persistent drag on his ego. Who says they don’t write decent women’s roles in stuff like this?

In fact, there are other major female roles here, and only one of them is a ruthless drug lord she-beast bruja (Kate del Castillo, bringing it). She busts out of prison; assigns her ruthless yet vaguely conflicted assassin son (Jacob Scipio) to eliminate all the Miami bigwigs who made life difficult for her and her late drug lord husband. Det. Mike Lowery heads that list.

The movie lurches back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico, while the veteran Bad Boys struggle with new rules of conduct and cooperative policing, albeit policing with a delirious body count. Paola Nunez plays Rita, Lowery’s former lover and head of an elite special Miami police unit taking charge of the case involving the murdered Miami adversaries of the drug lords. But there’s all this sexual tension between Rita and Mike, at least we’re told there is. Mike mutters about the love of his life, once upon a time, which ended badly and closed him off emotionally. This figures into the plot, if you care about plot.

The movie doesn’t, and its major reveal is ridiculous bordering on insane. But “Bad Boys for Life” is the sort of shiny, energetic mess audiences won’t mind. It’s a lot less egregious than “Bad Boys II.” (Low bar.) Speaking of which: Michael Bay shows up here in a wedding sequence, making a toast. Cute cameo, destined to be lost on millions.

The chief marker of the years that have passed since 1995 can be crystallized by the visual attack of “Bad Boys” vs. this reboot. Bay’s greasy-smooth camera aesthetic has been replaced by the new directors’ frenzied, hand-held, even-quicker-cut approach. A weird amount of the action seems to be filmed at an accelerated, zazzed-up speed, when it’s not full-on body-doubling Smith and Lawrence, or digitally futzing in a supremely obvious way with the physical brawls. It’s no less tricked-up than Smith’s recent “Gemini Man” double act.

Unlike that movie, at least, this one makes time for a few trash-talk detours, and for Lawrence’s superb delivery of the phrase “thy own loins.” At one point, during a physics-defying motorcycle pursuit along nighttime Miami streets that look oddly like Atlanta, Marcus finds a huge cache of weapons in a storage compartment. The throwaway line “It’s like an angry white man’s basement in here!” got a nice juicy laugh, one that even angry white men with basements full of weapons should appreciate. And if they liked the old “Bad Boy” movies, they’ll probably like this one, too.  By Michael Phillips, Tribune Content Media

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DOOLITTLE

★1/2

Starring Robert Downey Jr, Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen. Directed by Stephen Gaghan  1hr46min  MPAA rating: PG (for some action, rude humor and brief language).

The new film “Dolittle” proves there’s more than one way to spell “Dolittle,” its preferred spelling being “J-u-m-a-n-j-i.”

In what feels like a corporate panic, co-writer and director Stephen Gaghan’s franchise hopeful trades charm for noise, and wit for a climactic dragon colonoscopy (don’t ask, don’t tell). Meantime, Robert Downey Jr. offers a determined Scottish burr as a replacement for the bored silken tones of Rex Harrison, star of the 1967 musical “Doctor Dolittle,” and Eddie Murphy, headliner of the disposable non-musical 1998 remake and its 2001 sequel.

The latest “Dolittle,” like the others, owes its inspiration to Hugh Lofting, whose fanciful letters home during World War I formed the genesis of the first Dolittle book published in 1920 with the subtitle “Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts.” So many Oscar winners have lent their voices to the menagerie here, from Emma Thompson (a macaw) to Rami Malek (a gorilla). So where’s the … oh, what’s the word … fun?

Even in a realm of corporate moviemaking dependent on digital effects and green screenery, you’d hope that a project co-written and directed by the same person, in this case “Syriana” filmmaker Stephen Gaghan, might retain some semblance of personality. Along with everything worth tossing — the quaint colonialist racism, for starters — Lofting’s adventures of the animal doctor conversant in myriad mammal, aquatic, insect and aviary languages offer plenty for reinvestigation. And Downey Jr., if you haven’t noticed or couldn’t recall, is a fine actor as well as huge star.

The once and future Iron Man, however, favors a blasé, throw-it-away delivery and demeanor that can easily lapse into a form of subtle heckling. The set-up in “Dolittle,” set in the mid-19th century: After his wife and fellow explorer dies in a shipwreck, Dr. D hides away, Howard Hughes-like, in his private, zoo-like house and grounds donated by Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley). Two young people coincidentally pay the doctor a visit at the same time, forcing him out of his hermit zone: a teen royal (Carmel Laniado), sent to fetch Dolittle to save the mysteriously ailing queen; and a tender local lad (Harry Collett) who has accidentally shot a squirrel and seeks emergency treatment.

The palace intrigue features Michael Sheen and Jim Broadbent, mugging and skulking (they’re like a Victorian law firm, Mugging and Skulking) as the queen’s enemies. Soon enough, a newly engaged Dolittle shakes off his grief and what appears to be agoraphobia and takes off across the seas in search of a magical potion to save Her Majesty.

The problems begin and end with the script, credited to three writers. “Dolittle” turns its title character into an eccentric and wearying blur of tics, tacked onto a character who comports himself like a bullying, egocentric A-lister rather than someone who, you know, actually enjoys the company of animals. The banter enjoys the benefit of genuine comic pros doing the voices, but the zingers remain low on zing, bordering on total zinglessness. “I’ve got a front row seat to Crazy Town!” goes one bit, reminiscent of an “Ice Age” movie.

Then “Dolittle” turns into a “Jumanji” sequel, or a “Pirates of the Caribbean” knockoff, with Antonio Banderas as a Jack Sparrow-influenced adversary. I won’t go into details regarding the dragon rectal exam, except to note that Gaghan doesn’t know if he should treat this development seriously or comically. He settles for a little bit of neither. As for Downey Jr.’s dialect: It’s thick. The synchronization is never quite right, so it never seems to be human speech coming out of a specific human’s mouth. All those digital and A-list millions don’t come to much in “Dolittle,” though I did appreciate Kumail Nanjiani’s vocal flourishes as the ostrich. I wouldn’t say I prefer the clunky 1967 musical to the frenetic mechanical bull of this version.  By Michael Phillips, Tribune Content Media

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JUST MERCY

★★1/2

Starring Brie Larson, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx.  Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.  Rated PG-13. Running time: 2hr.16min.

“Just Mercy” is solid, meat-and-potatoes docudrama filmmaking, if you don’t mind a first-rate story of systemic injustice undercut by second-rate dialogue. No character can go two sentences without clarifying a legal point for the audience’s benefit, or reiterating a tidy, just-so note of stirring idealism. By the time the movie arrives at its courtroom climax, however, there’s an easy way to determine whether film’s limitations are about to be overturned by its strengths: You do, in fact, hold your breath for a suspenseful, interminable 2.6-second interval before a judge’s final verdict. Call “Just Mercy” a split decision, or something like that.

The movie comes from a 2014 memoir by civil rights activist Bryan Stevenson, co-founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and a passionate advocate for Death Row inmates railroaded, to varying and outrageous degrees, by the justice and incarceration industry. Like the memoir, the film focuses on Stevenson, played by Michael B. Jordan, who also served as a producer. He’s a Harvard-educated Delaware native who arrives in Georgia in the late 1980s. The story soon moves to Monroeville, Ala., best known as the real-life inspiration for native daughter Harper Lee’s classic “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

One case in particular leaps out of a crowded pack: the 1987 arrest, on murder charges, of Walter McMillian, an African-American pulpwood business owner accused of killing an 18-year-old white woman. Soon enough, Stevenson realizes how faulty and selective the evidence against McMillian really was. The activist gradually convinces the prisoner’s family, and then McMillian himself, that he has a shot at redemption.

Jamie Foxx plays McMillian; in the script by director Destin Daniel Cretton (“Short Term 12”) and Andrew Lanham, he’s something of a supporting player in his own story, although in this fact-based story, and this movie, he’s not back-benched by a white savior figure. (Small favors.)

In dramatic terms, both Stevenson and McMillian have a hard time competing with two other characters, played by terrifically reliable actors. Rob Morgan, so good in “Mudbound,” “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” and, well, everything, portrays McMillian’s fellow Death Row inmate Herbert Richardson, a Vietnam veteran living with PTSD and dying, minute by minute, as he awaits his fate. The anguished subtlety Morgan brings to this man’s plight is heartrending.

In a very different key, Tim Blake Nelson goes to town as the prisoner whose contradictory testimony against McMillian has “put-up job” written all over it. We get half of what we need in the character’s behind-the-back establishing shot, as Nelson rolls down a prison hallway, his neck bobbing and weaving as if not quite attached properly; it’s a complicated physical performance, but Nelson never settles for mere externals.

Jordan, by contrast and like the rest of the picture, makes do with a standard-issue portrait of the activist-warrior at the center. (At one point he tells his mother: “You always taught me to fight for the people who need the help the most,” which sounds more like a speech than actual human speech.) As Stevenson’s colleague and friend, Brie Larson manages what she can, where she can. The film runs a little over two hours, and covers various compelling stories in and out of prison, yet the people end up feeling slightly surface-y.

What’s missing, I think, is a sense of human complication within an inhuman judicial sphere. While Foxx works wonders, especially in his scenes with Jordan, “Just Mercy” rarely gets under the skin or behind the eyes of McMillian. As is often the case in the movies, the script does its job, barely, leaving the actors to discover their own moments of introspection and revelation — often without saying a word. By Michael Phillips, Tribune Content Media.

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LIKE A BOSS

★1/2

Starring Salma Hayek, Rose Byrne, Tiffany Haddish.  Directed by Miguel Arteta.  Rated R. Running time: 1hr.22min.

Somewhere between the screenwriters’ pitch to Tiffany Haddish in 2017 and the film’s January 2020 release, “Like a Boss” sprang a leak and dribbled away all its comic possibilities. In the lobby the other night after a preview screening, one moviegoer put it well, speaking to her friend as they ventured out into the cold: “I thought it should’ve been funnier. Or whatever.”

“Whatever” is right. An air of that’ll get by, let’s move on hangs over “Like a Boss,” which may well get by with the public on the strength of its stars. But it’s frankly depressing to watch Haddish, along with Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek, bang their heads against a story calculated to celebrate sisterhood but playing into every possible stereotype. If Billy Porter weren’t around as the sassy gay colleague, I would’ve been tempted to slip out and see what was playing next door. At Walgreens.

Besties since middle school and housemates for years, Mia (Haddish) and Mel (Byrne) run an Atlanta beauty boutique, staffed by makeup wizard Barrett (Porter) and their colleague Sydney (Jennifer Coolidge, at least). Online sales have been good, but the salon is half-a-million in debt.

Their lifeline appears as an investment offer from a huge cosmetics conglomerate run by Claire Luna (Hayek, decked out with peculiar teeth and low-cut outfits that say “everything must GO!”). Screenwriters Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly leave no surprises lying around for the audience’s benefit. We know Claire is a conniving shark, out for blood and total control of the business. We know Mel and Mia will become temporary enemies before re-cementing their relationship. Haddish plays the impulsive, creative one; Byrne’s character, emotionally guarded and a chronic pleaser, has the head for business, we’re told, although she can’t work up the nerve to let her best friend know they’re going under.

Mainly what “Like a Boss” sells is raunch, with much foundation, and certainly no concealer. Conceived and developed shortly after Haddish scored, deservedly, with “Girls Trip,”” the movie is a mechanical series of witless yeast infection jokes, or thereabouts. While director Miguel Arteta has made some interesting work in the past, including “The Good Girl” and “Beatriz at Dinner,” his way with low physical comedy here is pretty artless. Promising running gags, such as the pesky drones flying around Clair’s corporate offices, go nowhere. A scene with Mel and Mia accidentally dropping a joint inside a baby’s playpen is a dubious idea, lamely executed.

On the plus side: Porter executes one amazing turn in the restaurant scene where the women must fire him, at Claire’s heartless orders. It’s a literal turn: Milking his self-proclaimed “tragic moment,” which takes up a good chunk of the movie’s trailer, he walks out in a hyper-theatrical manner, stops for a second, then turns halfway around again, with a stricken look on his face that busts up the audience. Finally, you think. A real laugh. The performers remain at the mercy of their material. Comedies really don’t have to settle for this level of whatever. By Michael Phillips, Tribune Content Media.

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STAR WARS:THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

★★★
Starring Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Issac, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels. Directed by JJAbrams. Rated PG-13. Running time: 2hr.21min.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” does the job. It wraps up the trio of trilogies begun in 1977 in a confident, soothingly predictable way, doing all that is cinematically possible to avoid poking the bear otherwise known as tradition-minded quadrants of the “Star Wars” fan base.

Thanks to Daisy Ridley, primarily, director and co-writer J.J. Abrams’ safety-first approach to rounding out this portion of Disney’s crucial income stream retains something like a human pulse. There’s nothing as cute as Baby Yoda or anything in “The Rise of Skywalker,” for the record. But I do like the droid BB-8 s new droid pal. So that’s one thing you can’t get at home on “The Mandalorian.”

It’s well-crafted and heavy on nostalgic cameos from familiar spirits goneby. It embraces and supercharges the serial cliffhanger tradition creator George Lucas loved enough to embark on a remake of “Flash Gordon” two generations ago. When he couldn’t secure the rights, Lucas went ahead and made his own “Flash Gordon.” And now our household has a half-dozen semi-operative lightsabers in the basement and a set of “Star Wars” sheets and pillowcases in the laundry basket.

In brief, because spoiler vigilantes roaming the internet come from the planet Touchy:

The first three words of the title crawl are: “The dead speak!” Somehow, somewhere, a phantom version of Emperor Palpatine, ruler of the First Galactic Empire, is sending a signal that he’s back in business. The Resistance now must face an adversary known as the Final Order. Ridley anchors a busy yet simple narrative as Rey, the “last hope of the Jedi,” who remains in psychic deadlock with Supreme Leader and bad boy Kylo Ren (Driver).

The gang introduced in large part by Abrams’ entertaining 2015 trilogy-starter, “The Force Awakens,” remains in prominent position here, and comports itself as more of a straightforward rooting interest than it was in the most recent and controversial “Star Wars” movie, “The Last Jedi” (2017). Finn (Boyega), dear old shambling shag-rug Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo, underneath it all) and take-charge Poe Dameron (Isaac, a dashing asset as always) are joined by various newcomers. The most notable is the bow-and-arrow huntress Jannah, played by the splendid Naomi Ackie. Where’s her movie? I want her movie!

As for poor, sidelined Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) … her radically reduced presence from “The Last Jedi” feels suspiciously like a bone thrown to the previous film’s myriad haters. Here she’s essentially “third anonymous female with a blaster on the left.” She has barely a dozen lines, most of them on the order of: “Where’s Finn?”

The script by Chris Terrio and director Abrams litters the narrative with clues and gadgets and chapter-enders: a Sith inscription on a knife here, a lengthy lightsaber battle on a storm-tossed spaceshipwreck there. The movie takes its sweet time revealing a standard-issue revelation regarding Rey’s ancestry. The cameos and victory-lap encores are the selling point in “The Rise of Skywalker.”

As stated in this review’s opening crawl: The movie does the job. Abrams keeps it on the straight and narrow. “The Rise of Skywalker” allows itself no risk, or any of that divisive “Last Jedi” mythology-bending, with its disillusioned, cynical Luke Skywalker, or some of the nuttier detours favored by that film’s writer-director, Rian Johnson.

My favorite bit in “The Rise of Skywalker” is a throwaway sight gag, involving the rise not of a Skywalker, but of a couple of Storm Troopers. In this film, they’re equipped with the equivalent of jet packs, in addition to hovercrafts and all the rest of the stuff now on sale at Target. “They fly now?” one of our heroes says. It’s not a memorable line. Then again, no one’s going to mount a feverish online boycott against it. By Michael Phillips, Tribune Content Media

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UNCUT GEMS

★★★

Starring Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel, LaKeith Stanfield. Directed by Benny & Josh Sadie. Rated R. Running time: 2hr.15min.

We’re in the diamond district of Manhattan. The year is 2012. Ratner (Adam Sandler), a compulsive gambler whose entire existence is a six-way parlay in one way or another, feels his luck is about to change. Inside the guts of a large fish packed in ice, a precious raw black opal embedded in rock is making its way to Howard. He hopes to get $300,000 at auction for uncut stones of the title. But his debts and obligations make smooth sailing impossible. Howard’s brother-in-law (Eric Bogosian) is a loan shark, and Howard owes him money. Idina Menzel plays Howard’s bitter, seething wife, threatening divorce; Julia Fox portrays Howard’s co-worker and Howard’s partner in bed, and in sheer nerve. The writing here feels a little stale; the script, in fact, has been around for a full decade, in various drafts, back to when Sandler was first approached about doing it. But throughout “Uncut Gems,” Sandler works in deft, even delicate counterpoint to the frenzy all around him. By Michael Phillips, Tribune Content Media.

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SPIES IN DISGUISE

★★1/2
Starring Will Smith, Tom Holland, Reba McEntire, Rachel Bresnahan, Rashida Jones. Directed by Nick Bruno & Troy Quane. Rated PG. Running time: 1hr.41min.

”Spies in Disguise” is a film that wonders if conflict could be cuddlier, and if lone wolves can work as a team, or perhaps, a flock. Will Smith voices the smooth Lance Sterling, super spy and the star of his agency, headed up by a tough talking Southern-twanged boss, Joy Jenkins (Reba McEntire). On a dangerous mission fighting a nefarious supervillain with a robotic hand (Ben Mendelsohn), he discovers that one of his exploding gadgets has been replaced with kitty holograms and glitter, which are surprisingly effective at incapacitating his would-be assassins, who are overcome with “awww.” Though Sterling emerges victorious, he seeks out the oddball tech who slipped him the kitty glitter, Walter (Tom Holland), and fires him. The tables are turned when the arrogant Sterling needs Walter’s help to go underground, finding himself at the center of an internal affairs investigation led by the hard-hitting Marcy (Rashida Jones), who has accused Sterling of theft and sabotage. At Walter’s home lab, Sterling gulps down a mysterious liquid and finds himself transformed into a pigeon. On the run from his own agency in avian form, Sterling’s going to have to learn to use his wings, and fast. By Katie Walsh, Tribune Content Media.

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CATS

ZERO STARS
Starring Francesca Hayward, Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson, Rebel Wilson, Ian McKellen, Jason Derulo.  Directed by Tom Hooper. Rated PG. Running time 1hr.50min.

In a world laden with movies dramatizing the serious, painful divisions threatening so much of the planet, along comes the film version of “Cats” with the express intention of ignoring all that. It’s just out for a little feline diversion, with enough calculated pathos for nine lives, never mind one. The songs you may know, at least “Memory”; they’re by Andrew Lloyd Webber and various lyricists, chiefly T.S. Eliot, whose volume of 1939 poetry “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” inspired the virtually plotless musical smash premiering in London in 1981. Now we have the film version, directed by Tom Hooper of “The King’s Speech” and “Les Miserables.” It presents your best and presumably final opportunity to witness Sir Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba and Taylor Swift in whiskers and digital fur. Is it the worst film of 2019, or simply the most recent misfire of 2019? Reader, I swear on a stack of pancakes: “Cats” cannot be beat for sheer folly and misjudgment and audience-reaction-to-“Springtime for Hitler”-in-“The Producers” stupefaction. By Michael Phillips, Tribune Content Media.

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LITTLE WOMEN

★★★★
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalet, Bob Odenkirk.  Directed by Greta Gerwig. Rated PG. Running time: 2hr15min.

With an established and frequently adapted classic, it’s useful to tip your hand and let the audience know what it’s in for straight away. The pacing and rhythm of this new version of “Little Women” reveals Greta Gerwig’s full-gallop approach to the four March sisters, their mother and their intertwining private lives during and after the Civil War. The way Gerwig handles them, the March family’s stories are treated as a disarming comedy of manners under serious, cloudy skies. She doesn’t stop there: By the end of this “Little Women,” freer visually as well as narratively compared to “Lady Bird,” Alcott’s story and Jo March’s story dovetail into a third, hybrid tale of one woman’s freedom from want. By Michael Phillips, Tribune Content Media.

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BOMBSHELL

★★1/2
Starring Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Allison Janney, Malcom McDowell, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton. Directed by Jay Roach.  Rated R. Running time: 1hr.48min.

”Bombshell” dramatizes a radioactive chunk of the very recent past. It’s set in 2015 and 2016, taking us behind the slick, panicky facade of Fox News. CEO Roger Ailes (played by John Lithgow), former Republican political operative, reigns as king of the hill, surrounded by his hand-picked cadre of trim, blonde, loyal on-air talent. Like many freely fictionalized docudramas, “Bombshell” creates a new character for audience-identification purposes: a bright if naïve Fox production assistant with ambitions named Kayla Pospisil. The cast is strong and wily enough to paper over every flaw, overstatement and simplification. Charlize Theron captures the demeanor, vocal timbre and unblinking intensity of Megyn Kelly like a boss. Nicole Kidman’s Gretchen Carlson is more of a stealth performance, clean and effective in her technique, dropping the mask, memorably, when no one’s around to see her rage. As Kayla, Margot Robbie enjoys the freedom of playing the film’s liveliest character, the one with the most radical change in temperament and direction. By Michael Phillips, Tribune Content Media.

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JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL

★★1/2

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Awkwafina, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Danny DeVito, Madison Iseman. Directed by Jake Kasdan. Rated PG-13. Running time: 2hr.3min.

In 2017, director Jake Kasdan rebooted the ’90s family adventure film “Jumanji” by plunking John Hughes-style teen characters into a wilderness-set video game. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” was a critical and commercial success, anchored by the charms of megastars Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black, and the unique pleasure of watching them all play against type. Kasdan and company (including co-writers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg) know a good formula when they see it. So the sequel, “Jumanji: The Next Level,” simply offers more and more of it: There’s more jaw-droppingly crazy video game hijinks, and especially, more stars playing personas vastly different from their own. By Katie Walsh, Tribune Content Media.