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Four stars: superior. Three stars: good. Two stars: average. One star: poor. D (.

Four stars: superior. Three stars: good. Two stars: average. One star: poor. D (drug use), L (language), N (nudity), S (sexual situations, references), V (violence). Ratings by Film Critic Dann Gire, unless otherwise noted.

Picks

"BlacKkKlansman" -- Spike Lee's spot-on, politically prescient serio-comedy returns to theaters after being nominated for a best picture Oscar. It stars an affable but edgeless John David Washington as a real-life black Colorado Springs cop who infiltrates the local Ku Klux Klan, with the help of a Jewish cop played by Adam Driver. The result is Lee's most accessible, impassioned work since "Do the Right Thing." (R) L, S, V. 88 minutes. ? ? ? ?

"Bumblebee" -- This stand-alone "Transformers" origin story is a charming tale of Charlie (the gifted Hailee Steinfeld) and her adorable car-robot Bumblebee (voice of Dylan O'Brien), who have to outfox a pair of Decepticons, the U.S. Army (led by John Cena), and her distracted mom and stepdad. This version is smaller, quieter, more human and sweeter. Reviewed by Mark Kennedy, Associated Press. (PG-13) V. 119 minutes. ? ? ?

"Can You Ever Forgive Me?" -- Plainfield native (and Oscar nominee) Melissa McCarthy stars as real-life writer Lee Israel, an embittered, hard-drinking curmudgeon who turns to forging celebrity letters to pay the rent. With Richard E. Grant as her drinking buddy. Reviewed by Jake Coyle, Associated Press. (R) D, L, S. 107 minutes. ? ? ? 1/2

"Cold War" -- Writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski has drawn on his own parents' relationship for inspiration in this near-perfect film, a flawlessly acted meditation on love, memory and invented history set in post-World War II Poland. In Polish, French, German, Russian, Italian and Croatian with subtitles. Reviewed by Ann Hornaday, Washington Post. (R) L, N, S. 89 minutes. ? ? ? ?

"The Favourite" -- Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz star as cousins vying for the favor of the half-mad Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in Yorgos Lanthimos' deliciously diabolical comedy of ill manners and 18th-century palace intrigue. All three women shine in this wildly speculative, lusty tale. Reviewed by Ann Hornaday, Washington Post. (R) L, N, S. 121 minutes. ? ? ? 1/2

"First Man" -- Ryan Gosling gives an understated performance as quiet, stoic astronaut Neil Armstrong in Damien Chazelle's surprising, anti-epic, historical drama, a tightly coiled study of the first human to set foot on the moon. With Claire Foy and Jason Clarke. (PG-13) L. 141 minutes. ? ? ? 1/2

"Free Solo" -- The often breathtaking adventure documentary chronicles the exploits of champion climber Alex Honnold, who sets out to be the first person ever to solo climb El Capitan, a sheer, 3,000-foot-high rock face in Yosemite National Park. And he plans to do it without a harness. Reviewed by Ann Hornaday, Washington Post. (PG-13) L. 100 minutes. ? ? ? 1/2

"Green Book" -- Peter Farrelly's funny, heartwarming fact-based tale features great performances from Viggo Mortensen as a doltish bouncer and Mahershala Ali as a renowned black pianist in need of protection as he travels to concert engagements across the Deep South in 1962. Reviewed by Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press. (PG-13) L, S, V. 130 minutes. ? ? ? 1/2

"If Beale Street Could Talk" -- Barry Jenkins' exquisite adaptation of James Baldwin's novel is executed as a collection of impressions that feel almost theatrical in their lush formal beauty, as Tish (KiKi Layne) remembers the optimism of her early love affair with Fonny (Stephan James) and the event that put him behind bars. With Regina King. Reviewed by Ann Hornaday, Washington Post. (R) L, S. 119 minutes. ? ? ? ?

"The Kid Who Would Be King" -- A slightly dorky British schoolkid (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) sets off on a wild quest after discovering a sword in this modern, youthful spin on the Arthurian legend. It's a delightful film full of action, heart and a crazy-haired Patrick Stewart as "old" Merlin. Reviewed by Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press. (PG) 132 minutes. ? ? ?

"Mary Poppins Returns" -- Confident, chameleonic Emily Blunt gives a stellar performance as Mary Poppins in this stylish and spirited sequel in which the famous flying nanny returns to help the Banks family deal with a personal loss. Directed by Rob Marshall, this version doesn't quite live up to the original. Also starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dick Van Dyke, Meryl Streep and Angela Lansbury. (PG). 130 minutes. ? ? ?

"The Mule" -- Clint Eastwood directs and stars in a deeply, fascinatingly personal meditation based on the true story of an 87-year-old drug courier. In Eastwood's version, the title character is a famed horticulturalist estranged from his family who becomes a drug smuggler to help pay for his granddaughter's wedding. Reviewed by Jake Coyle, Associated Press. (R) L, N. S. 116 minutes. ? ? ?

"Ralph Breaks the Internet" -- Video game characters Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) learn that friendship is anything but a game in Disney's visually stunning sequel to "Wreck-It Ralph." Also stars the voices of Taraji P. Henson and Gal Gadot. Reviewed by Kristen Page-Kirby, Washington Post. (PG) 112 minutes. ? ? ?

"Roma" -- Alfonso Cuaron's hypnotic, neorealist masterpiece focuses on an observant nanny (Yalitza Aparicio) and the mother she works for (Marina de Tavira) in Mexico City in the 1970s. The result is a serene, transcendent experience that defies simple explanation. In Spanish with subtitles. Reviewed by Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press. (R) L, N. 135 minutes. ? ? ? ?

"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" -- Bitten by a radioactive spider, biracial Brooklyn teen Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) takes his turn in the Spidey suit -- and discovers other Spider-People in different dimensions -- in the fresh, trippy, superbly animated tale. Reviewed by Mark Kennedy, Associated Press. (PG) 117 minutes. ? ? ? 1/2

"Stan & Ollie" -- Steve Coogan stars as Laurel and John C. Reilly as Hardy in Jon S. Baird's understated but smartly told crowd-pleaser about the legendary comedy duo's last act. Brilliant performances and a surprisingly poignant script make the film well-worth seeing. Reviewed by Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press. (PG) 97 minutes. ? ? ? 1/2

"A Star is Born" -- In his moving directing debut, actor Bradley Cooper remakes a stodgy Hollywood classic, giving it gritty, relevant new life. He stars as a hard-drinking musician who discovers and falls for a young singer (a transporting Lady Gaga) whose career soars as his implodes. (R) D, L, N, S. 135 minutes. ? ? ? ?

"Vice" -- The chameleonic Christian Bale plays former Vice President Dick Cheney in a stunning, transformative performance. Adam McKay's bold, bonkers biopic is an engaging hybrid of journalism and comic drama, entertainment that tries to explain how things happened at the White House. With Sam Rockwell and Amy Adams. (R) L, V. 130 minutes. ? ? ? ?

"The Wife" -- Bjorn Runge's sublimely wrought drama captures the complex and contradictory nuances that accompany long-term marriages. Glenn Close stars as the wife of a celebrated author, creating an astonishing performance that won her a Golden Globe. (R) L, S. 100 minutes. ? ? ? 1/2

Passables

"Aquaman" -- Jason Momoa's charm elevates James Wan's effects-clogged, fitfully entertaining origin tale. Momoa stars as the DC Comics hero, drawn into a battle for the throne of the seven seas with his brother (Patrick Wilson), who is plotting war against "surface dwellers." Reviewed by Jake Coyle, Associated Press. (PG-13) L, V. 143 minutes. ? ?

"Bohemian Rhapsody" -- Rami Malek's sinuous, fully inhabited performance as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury is the best thing about this slavishly conventional, Golden Globe-winning rock biopic, a remarkably bland movie about a deliciously vibrant performer. Reviewed by Jake Coyle, Associated Press. (PG-13) D, L, S. 134 minutes. ? ?

"Creed II" -- Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) return in this less-inspired sequel that unfortunately feels like a compilation of greatest "Rocky" scenes climaxed by a ludicrous final match between Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) and Creed. (PG-13) L, S, V. 130 minutes. ? ? 1/2

"Destroyer" -- A barely recognizable Nicole Kidman transforms herself into an alcoholic police detective out for revenge in the seediest corners of L.A. But even her admirable commitment can't save this pulpy, outrageously violent whodunit, which continually goes too far for its own good. Reviewed by Ann Hornaday, Washington Post. (R) D, L, S, V. 120 minutes. ? ?

"A Dog's Way Home" -- Bryce Dallas Howard voices the canine star of this adventure, about a rescued dog on a mission to find her human master 400 miles away. Kids and dog lovers will lap up the cute tale, despite some of the cheapest, cheesiest CGI animation ever seen in a major studio release. (PG) 86 minutes. ? ? 1/2

"Escape Room" -- Six Chicago strangers competing for $10,000 in an escape room are forced to solve clues -- or die -- in a silly but not terrible horror film where the carnage is kept to tolerable PG-13 levels. Reviewed by Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press. (PG-13) L, S, V. 100 minutes. ? ?

"Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" -- Eddie Redmayne returns as "magizoologist" Newt Scamander in this second Harry Potter prequel, a mixed bag of wonders. On the one hand, it's an impressively dark and urgent parable of supremacist ideology. On the other, it suffers from a vastly overstuffed plot. Reviewed by Jake Coyle. (PG-13) V. 134 minutes. ? ? 1/2

"Glass" -- Bruce Willis, James McAvoy and Samuel L. Jackson star in M. Night Shyamalan's bold and weird sequel merging the strange superhero characters from "Unbreakable" (2000) and "Split" (2017). The result is a suspenseless yet strangely intriguing tale. (PG-13) L, V. 129 minutes. ? ?

"On the Basis of Sex" -- Felicity Jones stars as future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Mimi Leder's formulaic biopic, which never lives up to the accomplishments of its subject. With Armie Hammer, Sam Waterston, Justin Theroux and Kathy Bates. Reviewed by Mark Jenkins, Washington Post. (PG-13) L, S. 120 minutes. ? ?

Pits

"Serenity" -- Bad dialogue and cartoonish characters abound in Steven Knight's cheesy contemporary film noir, seemingly about a woman (Anne Hathaway) who asks her ex-husband (Matthew McConaughey) to kill her current one. But all is not what it seems in this failure of a film that packs a massive plot twist. Reviewed by Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post. (R) L, S, V. 103 minutes. One-half star.

"The Upside" -- A skirt-chasing ex-con (Kevin Hart) takes a job caring for a wealthy paraplegic (Bryan Cranston) in a cliche-ridden, exploitative odd couple tale that wastes the talents of its cast. Reviewed by Mark Kennedy, Associated Press. (PG-13) D, S. 125 minutes. One-half star.

Unpreviewed

"Dead Ant" -- Members of an '80s band on their way to a music festival encounter giant ants that threaten their lives and their comeback. (NR) 90 minutes.

"Dragon Ball Super: Broly" -- Goku and Vegeta face Broly in an animated tale of vengeance and destiny. (PG) 115 minutes.

"Second Act" -- A big box store worker (Jennifer Lopez) fights for her dreams and reinvents her life using determination and street smarts. (PG-13) L, S. 103 minutes.

Foreign language

"The Accidental Prime Minister" -- In Hindi

"F2 -- Fun and Frustration" -- In Telugu

"The Girl in the Orange Dress" -- In Tagalog

"Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi" -- In Hindi, Tamil and Telugu

"Mr. Manju" -- In Telugu

"Petta" -- In Tamil and Telugu

"Simmba" -- In Hindi

"Uri: The Surgical Strike" -- In Hindi
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Title Annotation:TimeOut
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Jan 25, 2019
Words:1813
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