At The Movies!

At The Movies!

Box office tallies, movie reviews, and more!

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE

November 8-10, 2019
1. Midway
2. Doctor Sleep
3. Playing with Fire
4. Last Christmas
5. Terminator:Dark Fate
6. Joker
7. Maleficent:Mistress of Evil
8. Harriet
9. Zombieland:Double Tap
10. The Addams Family (2019)

FLASHBACK

November 4-6, 2016
1. Doctor Strange
2. Trolls
3. Hacksaw Ridge
4. Boo! A Madea Halloween
5. Inferno
6. The Accountant
7. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
8. Ouija: Origin of Evil
9. The Girl on the Train
10. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

MOVIE REVIEWS

DOCTOR SLEEP

★★1/2

Starring Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Zahn McClarnon. Directed by Mike Flanagan. Run time: 2hr31min. MPAA rating: R (for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, language, nudity and drug use).

What is the hold that “The Shining” has over us, culturally? It’s the popularity of Stephen King, indeed, but it’s also, specifically, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film. The surreal and disturbing imagery, the unforgettable performances, and the film’s hypnotic rhythms have woven their way into our collective unconscious and have gotten profoundly stuck there. The cultural grip of “The Shining” is such that it has a stranglehold on Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of “Doctor Sleep,” a sequel of sorts, that it nearly chokes the life out of it.

King’s take on what happened after “here’s Johnny” on that snowy mountain is a fascinating follow-up involving an alcoholic Danny Torrance learning to harness his “shine” for good, helping a young girl fight a terrifying death cult, the True Knot. That’s all present in Flanagan’s film, and it’s the most engrossing aspect, comprising the first two-thirds of this two and a half hour film. It’s when Flanagan’s “Doctor Sleep” is dragged back to the Overlook Hotel that this adaptation loses consciousness.

Ewan MacGregor stars as the grown-up Danny Torrance (Alex Essoeand Henry Thomas briefly play his parents, Wendy and Jack, or versions of them, and bear incredible resemblance to both Shelly Duvall and Jack Nicholson). Dan’s placed his demons in their mental lockboxes and hit the bottle hard, like dad. Disturbing psychic visions drive him to a small town in New Hampshire, where he seeks solace in Alcoholics Anonymous, and a new friend, Billy (Cliff Curtis).

Though his darker thoughts are quelled in sobriety, he can’t fully hide his “shine,” and working in hospice care, he and a psychic cat bring solace to patients at the end of their lives. But it’s when a young girl, Abra (Kyliegh Curran), with a powerful shine, reaches out to him that Dan is put to the test. She’s witnessed the True Knot abduct and torture a young boy (Jacob Tremblay), feeding off his “steam,” his psychic soul of sorts.

There’s such a rich vein of original mythology to be tapped with the True Knot, and Flanagan does flesh out their world with intriguing detail. Rebecca Ferguson is entrancing as cult leader Rose the Hat, drawing the most vulnerable, shiny, steamy prey into her trap. Their abduction and feeding rituals are disturbingly horrific and terrifying, especially considering the young victims. But Flanagan manages to build motivation and understanding (not empathy) for the True Knot, which makes the stakes that much more interesting and complex. Ferguson and Flanagan make Rose the Hat one of the best horror villains of recent years.

What makes “Doctor Sleep” so delightfully chewy are its many complex women, from Rose and her terrifying accomplice Snakebite (Emily Alyn Lind), to the powerful Abra, a girl with a shine so bright, she can astral project. Though “Doctor Sleep” takes its time ramping up and winding down, a climatic sequence with Abra and Rose facing off, climbing into each other’s minds, is fascinating, and Flanagan visually executes with creativity and clarity.

It’s just that when “Doctor Sleep” ends up back at the Overlook for another “Greatest Hits of The Shining” that the Ambien hits. For all the fresh originality of the first half, why do we have to retread Kubrick’s film again? Leashing the film adaptation so closely to Kubrick’s film is a missed opportunity for this story to realize the full mystical potential promised. By Katie Walsh, Tribune Media

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TERMINATOR:DARK FATE

★★★

Starring Linda Hamilton, Natalia Reyes, Mackenzie Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Luna. Directed by Tim Miller. Run time: 2hr8min. MPAA rating: R (for violence and action throughout, brief nudity, strong language).

For starters, you need to walk into “Terminator: Dark Fate” with a ‘Terminator-movie-mindset.’ Check your reality at the door, leave all your questions in the car and just sit back and enjoy this definitive summer popcorn movie (albeit in November). This film follows all the latest structures in Hollywood, recycles much of its own material, and allows little character development – but if you go in to this film knowing that and simply looking for a fun bad-guy-chases-good-guy film, then you will walk out of the theater a happy camper. Like every single one of the other films in the franchise, you must be ready to suspend your beliefs and not ask, “Well, why didn’t they just ___?” Don’t ask, just enjoy the ride.

The franchise has taken on the latest Hollywood trend of eliminating some films in the franchise from their timeline (see “Halloween,” “Predator,” “G.I. Joe,” and much of the DC universe). “Dark Fate” is a direct sequel to “Judgment Day” (1991), erasing the events of the enjoyable “Rise of the Machines” (2003), the interesting, yet flawed, “Salvation” (2009), and the regrettable “Genysis” (2015). Director Tim Miller (“Deadpool”) describes this film as occurring in an “alternative timeline” from the more recent three films.

Although I was not happy with “Genysis,” I was willing to give the franchise another shot. If the producers were willing to forget about that last film, I can too. I walked into this film with the words of the late, great film critic Jimmy Martin in my head: “Let’s see what you got.”

The film stars a trio of ladies who carry the weight of the film. We have MacKenzie Davis as Grace, a human soldier from the future, who has been cybernetically enhanced; Natalia Reyes as Danni, our young and naive character who needs protection; and the return of Sarah Connor herself (Linda Hamilton), who shines throughout the film at her ass-kicking finest. 

With three women in the lead roles, some viewers will undoubtedly see this film as a construction of the liberal media – combined with the scenes involving the immigration determent camps, and we will definitely hear people screaming from the rooftops about the “underlying subtext” in the film. It is true, this film does carry on the other current Hollywood trend of the fairer sex taking the center stage in many action film franchises (“Star Wars,” “Ghostbusters”). I am sure there will be many extremists on both sides either applauding or disavowing this film based on the gender choices alone. Personally, I couldn’t care less what gender or race someone is.  I think there is room enough for everyone to be a hero in our modern cinematic folk tales. And above, all I just want to see a good movie. 

So, that comes down to the big question: Is “Dark Fate” good? I am not exactly sure. It surely doesn’t break any new ground, it is a pretty much paint-by-numbers Terminator storyline – future characters arrive, they find the target, and its a 2-hour chase scene, then (spoiler) evil is overcome. But of course, they need to make everything even bigger and badder than before. If that was the goal they were looking for with “Dark Fate,” mission accomplished. 

And this movie moves quick – we know the drill, no need for any long explanation. Glowy ball, naked person, and 13 minutes into the film, the target (Reyes) is found by the Terminator and Grace and the chase begins. Sarah Connor is no cameo appearance here, she shows up early and she steals the film, being the exact incendiary firebrand we would expect her to be 28 years after “Judgment Day.” Davis and Reyes both shine in these roles, but they are just cannot compare to Hamilton’s grizzed and damaged Sarah Connor. It is her return that really captures the essence of the franchise – the first two films were successful because it was her story, and this continues her story in a manner which fits in with the Terminator world.

Like the first two films, this one has plenty of fast-forwards to a bleak and desolate future overcome by the apocalyptic robotic force. This is essential to see how Grace became “enhanced,” and also explains a few things that accelerate the plot. And like the past, they do not overstay their welcome, but provide a good perspective of this dreary future.

Back in the present day, our baddie this time is the Rev-9 model (played sufficiently enough by Gabriel Luna). This one can patch into the computer systems, form weapons out of his own liquid metal exoskeleton, and even split himself into two separate entities (and then you would ask, “Why not always be split in two?” –  Hey, what did I tell you about leaving your questions at the door!). The Rev-9 is also capable of mimicking human behavior much better than its predecessors, leading to some interesting interactions between the Rev-9 and its potential victims.

As we would expect, the chase never stops, but provides small breaks here and there. At one moment in the film, our heroes talk about a ‘contact’ whom they need to identify and meet with – they may as well wink right at the camera – we all know exactly who they are talking about. 

Diehard fans might be upset that we must wait until an hour into the film when we meet Carl, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. You might wonder how Arnold is back after his character seems to perish at the end of “T2,” they do answer that question for you. 

Much like “T2,” this film does have its moments of corny comedy – and that usually comes from Carl in this interlude. But it is delivered at just the right time in the film to be acceptable and I even did what the kids would call a lol irl!

As you could predict, the chase continues and has to get even bigger and more over the top that ever – and it does. If you have seen the trailer, you know that our cat and mouse chase takes to the skies in this one. The climax is completely unbelievable and over-exaggerated – one scene after another is just extravagant CG effects galore. Some people might say that sentence as an insult to this film, but really, with the Terminator, what would you expect? 

The franchise tried to do something different with “Salvation,” and it wasn’t liked, then they tried to change up the canon with “Genysis,” and that was liked even less. So should we be at all surprised that they are going back to the well with this one? If you walk into this movie expecting nothing too deep or sophisticated, and just want to see heroes fighting Terminators, you will not be disappointed. For better or for worse, “Dark Fate” is just what we want to see in a Terminator film.

By Jason Hedman

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HARRIET
★★★

Starring Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Clarke Peters. Directed by Kasi Lemmons. Run time: 2hr5min MPAA rating: PG-13 (mature thematic elements; violence and coarse language, including racial epithets).

Director and co-writer Kasi Lemmons give us a rousing biopic of the former slave who escaped alone and led many slaves to freedom as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. The incredible Harriet Tubman deserves this cinematic rendering of her phenomenal life, which goes beyond elementary school history books. Cynthia Erivo turns in a remarkable performance in the lead. Faith is what allows Tubman to press on during a harrowing journey to freedom that she undertakes alone, traveling 100 miles by foot from Maryland to Philadelphia. “Harriet” is a deeply spiritual film that asks the audience to take Harriet’s experience and religious beliefs at face value. By Katie Walsh, Tribune Media

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MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN
★★★

Starring Edward Norton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Willem Dafoe. Directed by Edward Norton. Run time: 2hr24min MPAA rating: R (for language including some sexual references, brief drug use and violence).

Edward Norton spent 20 years working to get his adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel to the screen, adding a few challenging and chewy elements to the oddball detective tale. Norton transposed the time period of the novel from 1999 to 1957. It’s a New York City of private eyes careening around the boroughs in heavy cars, Harlem jazz clubs and racial strife roiled by a housing crisis as a modern New York springs up under the hand of Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin), an avatar for Robert Moses, the “master builder” of the city. It’s an ambitious adaptation that expands the story, weaving a largely unknown history of Moses and his influence on the city into the story of Lionel Essrog (Norton), a Brooklyn gumshoe with Tourette’s syndrome. In the age of blockbuster superhero entertainment versus microbudget indie films, Norton has delivered a movie of another era: a sturdy, wordy, politically minded and wholly engaging whodunit. By Katie Walsh, Tribune Media

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COUNTDOWN
★1/2

Starring Elizabeth Lail, Jordan Calloway. Directed by Justin Dec. Run time: 1hr.30 min. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for terror, violence, bloody images, suggestive material, language and thematic elements).

Even the lowly jump scare can be a source of pleasure. But at its most mechanical, this least imaginative of stock devices in current horror cinema elicits less fright than annoyance. Ninety minutes of that feeling adds up to “Countdown,” a bombastically dumb new chiller. The premise is simple: A mystery app tells people when they’ll die — down to the number of remaining years, days, minutes and seconds — and also ensures they’ll be hounded by malevolent ghoulies if they try to escape that fate.  By Dennis Harvey, Tribune Media

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MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL
★★

Starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer. Directed by Joachim Ronning. Run time: 1hr58min. MPAA rating: PG (for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and brief scary images). 

The 2014 live-action stand-alone film “Maleficent” positioned the curse-bearing mistress of evil (Angelina Jolie) as a misunderstood guardian of the natural world and all the magic it contains. While “Maleficent” wasn’t exactly a great movie, Jolie was certainly fun to watch. In the follow-up, things turn kooky, as this wild, surreal and wacky escalation spins out of control and our leading lady fades to the background. Maleficent is forced out of the Moors and into war as her goddaughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning), plans to marry Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson), merging the fairy and human kingdoms. Of course there’s only one real problem: her future mother-in-law. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the icy Queen Ingrith, whose slinky side-eye line delivery screams that she’s up to something.  By Katie Walsh, Tribune Media

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ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP
★★1/2

Starring Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin. Directed by Reuben Fleischer. Run time: 1hr39min. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for violence and action throughout, and brief strong language). 

The original “Zombieland” didn’t try to change the world; it was just out for a few laughs and had the guts (literally) to proclaim itself a comedy first, rather than an action movie tarted up with a few wisecracks in between hackings. “Zombieland: Double Tap” has its moments, too. It’s still the zombie apocalypse, and our makeshift family of uninfected hero-survivors enjoys one day at a time, residing in what’s left of the White House, now tricked out with anti-zombie security measures. Fussy Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and sardonic Wichita (Stone) are now fully a thing, though his proposal of marriage sends her into gotta-go mode. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) remains the quasi-father figure, with Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) now a young woman and chafing at the quasi-parental oversight. The plot whisks the women away so the men can retrieve them before they’re besieged by a new strain of harder-to-kill zombies. As the story moves from D.C. to what’s left of Graceland, Rosario Dawson swaggers into frame as a new character, Nevada; Luke Wilson is Albuquerque; and Zoey Deutch joins the ensemble as Madison, a dizzy survivor bearing a lot of pink luggage.  By Michael Phillips, Tribune Media