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ma­te­rial in­clud­ing some dis­turb­ing im­ages, and lan­guage. — Katie Walsh, Tribune News Ser­vice ★★★ ½ Creed — Back in 1976, the na­tion yearned for a red, white and blue plate spe­cial piled high with corn. Then, up those Philadel­phia Mu­seum of Art steps, backed by the Bill Conti theme, that some­thing ar­rived. No­body went to the first “Rocky” for the fi­nesse of the film­mak­ing. They went for the un­der­dog root­ing, for Rocky and Adrian, for the un­ex­pected sweet­ness, for the re­demp­tion an­gle, for the re­con­sti­tuted box­ing movie cliches that tasted not new, but new-ish. It was sim­ply time for “Rocky,” writ­ten by and star­ring Sylvester Stal­lone, di­rected by John Avild­sen. So, “Creed,” a sev­enth “Rocky” movie? Apollo Creed, Rocky’s old neme­sis turned best friend, had a son who grows up a scrappy fighter in the Los An­ge­les foster care sys­tem? Moves to Philly, con­nects with Rocky, who’s tend­ing the restau­rant and still wear­ing that hat? Rocky trains him for a big fight? That’s how it goes, yes. And “Creed” is eas­ily the best “Rocky” movie since “Rocky.” 132 min. (PG-13) for vi­o­lence, lan­guage and some sen­su­al­ity. — Michael Phillips, Tribune News­pa­pers ★★★ Daddy’s Home— It’s OK if you’re skep­ti­cal about this Will Fer­rell vs. Mark Wahlberg ve­hi­cle. The trail­ers have show­cased ob­vi­ous, low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor hu­mor that doesn’t look too promis­ing. But the re­al­ity is that the film, di­rected by com­edy vet Sean Anders, is much fun­nier than it ap­pears. Fer­rell is at his best when he’s play­ing a buf­foon­ish naif. That’s ex­actly what “Daddy’s Home” de­liv­ers. The story is es­sen­tially a mas­culin­ity face-off be­tween step­dad Brad (Fer­rell) and bi­o­log­i­cal dad Dusty (Wahlberg). The film’s res­o­lu­tion comes when the two men fi­nally get over them­selves and come to­gether for the sake of the kids. It’s a joy­ful and heart-swelling mo­ment where ev­ery­one lets their guard down and gets a lit­tle silly. Sur­pris­ingly sweet and sneak­ily hi­lar­i­ous, “Daddy’s Home” will pleas­antly sur­prise you when it lets loose. 96 min. (PG-13) for the­matic el­e­ments, crude and sug­ges­tive ma­te­rial and for lan­guage. — Katie Walsh, Tribune News Ser­vice ★★★ ½ The Dan­ish Girl — Af­ter the pub­lic­ity mael­strom that sur­rounded Cait­lyn Jen­ner’s tran­si­tion, no con­tem­po­rary con­sumer of me­dia need be told what it means to be a trans­gen­der woman. In 1926, the sit­u­a­tion was very dif­fer­ent. That’s the year when “The Dan­ish Girl” be­gins its story of Ei­nar We­gener (Ed­die Red­mayne) and wife Gerda We­gener (Ali­cia Vikan­der). When Ei­nar be­gan to feel like a woman painfully con­fined in­side a man’s body and be­came pas­sion­ate about re­vers­ing that, the cou­ple’s sit­u­a­tion en­tered into com­pletely uncharted ter­ri­tory. The film is based on a novel by David Eber­shoff, which it­self was based on “Man Into Woman,” a1933 non­fic­tion book that de­tailed Ei­nar’s tran­si­tion into Lili Elbe, one of the first in­di­vid­u­als to re­ceive gen­der re­as­sign­ment surgery. “The Dan­ish Girl’s” di­rec­tor, Tom Hooper, uses con­ven­tional film­mak­ing tropes to tell a story that is any­thing but. 120 min. (R) for some sex­u­al­ity and full nu­dity. — Ken­neth Tu­ran, Tribune News­pa­pers Dirty Grandpa — An am­bi­tious man jeop­ar­dizes his up­com­ing mar­riage when he re­luc­tantly takes his trou­ble­mak­ing grand­fa­ther to spring break in Florida. With Zac Efron, Robert De Niro and Aubrey Plaza. Writ­ten by John Phillips. Di­rected by Dan Mazer. 102 min. (R) for crude sex­ual con­tent through­out, graphic nu­dity, lan­guage and drug use. The 5th Wave — Four deadly surges have left the world rav­aged and a teen must trust a mys­te­ri­ous young man to save her brother. With Chloe Grace Moretz and Nick Robin­son. Writ­ten by Su­san­nah Grant, Akiva Golds­man and Jeff Pinkner. Di­rected by J Blake­son. 112 min. (PG-13) for vi­o­lence and de­struc­tion, some sci-fi the­matic el­e­ments, lan­guage and brief teen par­ty­ing. (NR) The For­est — A young woman searches for her twin sis­ter in a Ja­panese for­est only to find her­self sur­rounded by para­nor­mal forces. Di­rected by Ja­son Zada. Writ­ten by Nick Antosca, Sarah Corn­well. Star­ring Natalie Dormer, Eoin Macken, Stephanie Vogt. 95 min. (PG-13) for dis­turb­ing the­matic con­tent and im­ages. ★★ The Good Di­nosaur — Work by mul­ti­ple writ­ers was cob­bled to­gether for this story of a world where the me­teor that hit the Earth and wiped out all di­nosaurs ac­tu­ally missed. The di­nosaurs have evolved to the point where they live in houses, plant crops and herd bi­son. For some rea­son, hu­mans have only pro­gressed slightly more than ca­nines. Pro­duc­tion was halted early in the process of mak­ing “The Good Di­nosaur” be­cause it had some di­nosaur-sized prob­lems. Peter Sohn was brought in as the new di­rec­tor and he started the process over two years ago. The se­cond at­tempt ends up so flat it would have been smart to scrap it and try a third time. The only as­pect wor­thy of high praise is the back­ground work, which is so stun­ning it keeps the movie from head­ing for a tar pit. Even Mother Na­ture can’t make a land­scape this amaz­ing. 100 min. (PG) for peril, ac­tion and the­matic el­e­ments. — Rick Bent­ley, Tribune News Ser­vice ★★ The Hate­ful Eight —“The Hate­ful Eight” is an ul­tra­w­ide bore. If you have the op­tion, and you’re com­mit­ted to see­ing the thing, you should see Quentin Taranti- no’s lat­est in one of its lim­it­e­drelease “road­show” screen­ings, pro­jected on film, com­plete with over­ture and run­ning three hours and eight min­utes in all. Wri­ter­di­rec­tor Tarantino has de­scribed his post-Civil War pic­ture, set largely in a Wy­oming road­house with a bliz­zard rag­ing out­side, as an Agatha Christie Western. It’s not so much a shoot-’em-up (though the vi­o­lence is out­landishly rough when it comes) as a guess-’em-up. I’m all for the old-school, 70 mil­lime­ter whomp of “The Hate­ful Eight.” I just wish the re­sults didn’t feel like 70 min­utes of vi­able story taffy­pulled out to a brazen length. Tarantino is a born writer, but he’s not a born self-editor of his own writerly blab. 67 min. (R) for strong bloody vi­o­lence, a scene of vi­o­lent sex­ual con­tent, lan­guage and some graphic nu­dity. — Michael Phillips, Tribune News­pa­pers (NR) IP Man3 —Mar­tial-arts mas­ter Ip Man takes on a crooked de­vel­oper and his gang of bru­tal thugs. With Don­nie Yen, Lynn Hung, Jin Zhang and Mike Tyson. Writ­ten by Lai-yin Le­ung, Chan Tai-Li and Ed­mond Wong. Di­rected by Wil­son Yip. In Can­tonese and English with English sub­ti­tles. 105 min. (PG-13) for se­quences of mar­tial arts vi­o­lence and brief strong lan­guage. ★★ Joy — The mar­ket­ing cam­paign for the new David O. Rus­sell film “Joy,” star­ring Jen­nifer Lawrence, has been ex­tremely ner­vous about bring­ing down the party with the word “mop.” Mops tra­di­tion­ally do not sell at the mul­ti­plex. Mops tra­di­tion­ally are what clean up the mul­ti­plex. But mops are cen­tral to the nar­ra­tive in “Joy,” and there’s no way around it. Mir­a­cle Mop in­ven­tor and en­tre­pre­neur Joy Mangano, a work­ing-class Long Is­land striver who is now a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire in the realm of Home Shop­ping Net­work in­fomer­cials, serves as the sub­ject of Rus­sell’s ninth fea­ture. Rus­sell’s pre­vi­ous three pic­tures, “The Fighter,” “Sil­ver Lin­ings Play­book” and “Amer­i­can Hus­tle,” con­sti­tute a re­mark­able string of films that were A) pop­u­lar; B) com­pet­i­tive in the awards sea­son; and C) re­ally good. “Joy” breaks the streak. 120 min. (PG-13) for brief strong lan­guage. — Michael Phillips, Tribune News­pa­pers ★★★ The Lady in the Van — Mag­gie Smith re-creates her stage tri­umph as a Cam­den Town vagabond who ends up park­ing her van for an ex­tended stay in Alan Ben­nett’s mem­oir. 103 min. PG-13. — Michael Phillips, Tribune news­pa­pers ★ ½ Norm of the North — An­i­mated tale about a talk­a­tive po­lar bear who trav­els to New York City to stop a greedy de­vel­oper from build­ing con­dos in the Arc­tic. With the voices of Rob Schneider, Heather Gra­ham and Ken Jeong. Writ­ten by Daniel Altiere, Steven Altiere and Mal- colm T. Gold­man. Di­rected by Trevor Wall. 93 min. (PG) for mild rude hu­mor and ac­tion. ★★ ½ The Revenant — The gor­geously bru­tal first hour of “The Revenant” marks the peak of di­rec­tor Ale­jan­dro G. Inar­ritu’s glit­ter­ing if not quite golden ca­reer. For a while his new movie’s re­ally some­thing. Then, as Leonardo DiCaprio crawls across miles of mighty pretty scenery filmed in Canada, Mon­tana and Ar­gentina, grad­u­ally it turns into not much of any­thing. Based on Michael Punke’s 2002 his­tor­i­cal novel “The Revenant,” the story’s set in 1823, fo­cus­ing on a true-life char­ac­ter, fron­tiers­man and tracker Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) who was left for dead by his co­horts fol­low­ing a near-fa­tal griz­zly at­tack. Mirac­u­lously, Glass sur­vived, and the movie delves fur­ther into the realm of bloody al­le­gory, where Amer­ica’s geno­ci­dal sins haunt the char­ac­ters’ ev­ery mile of his mis­sion of re­venge. 156 min. (R) for strong fron­tier com­bat and vi­o­lence in­clud­ing gory im­ages, a sex­ual as­sault, lan­guage and brief nu­dity. — Michael Phillips, Tribune News­pa­pers ★★ Ride Along 2 — The fur­ther mis­ad­ven­tures of two bick­er­ing brothers-in-law. With Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Ken Jeong, Ben­jamin Bratt, Olivia Munn and Bruce McGill. Writ­ten by Phil Hay and Matt Man­fredi. Di­rected by Tim Story. 102 min. (PG-13) for se­quences of vi­o­lence, sex­ual con­tent, lan­guage and some drug ma­te­rial. ★★ Sis­ters — A lot of very tal­ented and lik­able peo­ple came to­gether to make “Sis­ters.” Stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are much beloved for their iconic TV char­ac­ters, long­time “Satur­day Night Live” writer Paula Pell con­trib­utes the screen­play, and “Pitch Per­fect” di­rec­tor Ja­son Moore takes on helm­ing du­ties. It’s a shame then, that with all th­ese fine cre­ators, this scat­ter­shot com­edy just doesn’t gel in the way that it should. “Sis­ters” just doesn’t co­here as a con­sis­tent piece. It doesn’t com­mit to one thing or an­other, so it’s an odd mash-up of middle-aged lady hu­mor and “Neigh­bors” style rag­ing. It also over­stays its wel­come, stuffed with sub-plots and side char­ac­ters. It doesn’t know where and when to end, so it just keeps end­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, “Sis­ters” just isn’t wor­thy of all the tal­ent in­volved. 118 min. (R) for crude sex­ual con­tent and lan­guage through­out, and for drug use. — Katie Walsh, Tribune News Ser­vice ★★★ Spectre —“Spectre” cost nearly $300 mil­lion to make, and I sup­pose it was worth it. It’s a good Bond movie, which will be good enough for many mil­lions of fans. It’s also the long­est Bond movie in ex­is­tence, clock­ing in at just un­der two-and-a-half deca­dent, care­free, flam­boy­antly de­struc­tive hours. This time Ian Flem­ing’s well-dressed as­sas­sin changes clothes from Mex­ico City to Rome, from Lon­don to the Aus­trian moun­tains, from Tang­ier back to Lon­don, where ter­ror­ists-en­trepreneurs car­ry­ing the fa­mil­iar han­dle of Spectre are do­ing dirty work on a large scale. Of the Daniel Craig 007s, di­rec­tor Sam Men­des’ fol­low-up to “Sky­fall” is not quite up to “Sky­fall” or my fa­vorite, “Casino Royale.” But it’s a con­sid­er­ably bet­ter evil-quelling in­struc­tion man­ual than “Quan­tum of So­lace.” 150 min. (PG-13) for in­tense se­quences of ac­tion and vi­o­lence, some dis­turb­ing im­ages, sen­su­al­ity and lan­guage. — Michael Phillips, Tribune News­pa­pers ★★★★ Spot­light — Noth­ing in the su­perb new film “Spot­light” screams for at­ten­tion. It’s an or­di­nary film in its tech­nique, and it’s re­lent­lessly beige. It avoids fist-pound­ing, cru­sad­ing-reporter cliches al­most en­tirely, the ones the movies have loved since the first close-up of the front page rolling off the presses in high­speed repli­cate. The story is a big one, and the movie about how a hand­ful of Bos­ton Globe in­ves­tiga­tive re­porters got that story is thrillingly good. 128 min. (R) for some lan­guage in­clud­ing sex­ual ref­er­ences. — Michael Phillips, Tribune News­pa­pers ★★★ Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens — So: Where were we? Let’s skip past the pre­quel tril­ogy “The Phan­tom Men­ace,” “At­tack of the Clones” and “Re­venge of the Sith,” ap­par­ently writ­ten and di­rected by droids. In chrono­log­i­cal story terms we last saw Luke Sky­walker, Han Solo, princess-turned-queen Leia, Chew­bacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO whoop­ing it up at the Ewok luau back in 1983, in “Re­turn of the Jedi,” cel­e­brat­ing the mas­sive global pop­u­lar­ity and mer­chan­dis­ing sales of Ge­orge Lu­cas’ bright idea. The idea was sim­ple, and quaintly retro: The world, Lu­cas fig­ured, might en­joy a whiz-bang riff on the old “Flash Gor­don” se­ri­als. Now, mi­nus the Ewoks, the gang’s back. And it is good. Not great. But far bet­ter than “not bad.” Solidly, con­fi­dently good. Good is the most ac­cu­rate ad­jec­tive for this Dis­ney-owned prod­uct launch. 136 min. (PG-13) for sci-fi ac­tion vi­o­lence. — Michael Phillips, Tribune News­pa­pers ★★ ½ Trumbo — Bryan Cranston, in the role of black­listed Hol­ly­wood screen­writer Dal­ton Trumbo, hunches over a makeshift desk in the bath­tub, a tum­bler of scotch be­side him, a cig­a­rette holder clamped be­tween his teeth, the de­mented squint of a man on dead­line on his face. It’s one of a num­ber of won­der­fully hu­man mo­ments in the film “Trumbo” that paint an en­gag­ing por­trait of a left-wing cru­sader toil­ing in one of Hol­ly­wood’s most shame­ful eras, man­ag­ing to re-cre­ate both the glam­our and the op­pres­sive mood of post-World War II Amer­ica. Di­rected by Jay Roach, “Trumbo” is timely in its por­trayal of a mo­ment when political speech is dan­ger­ously charged, yet un­abashedly old-fash­ioned in the sin­cer­ity of its sto­ry­telling. 124 min. (R) for lan­guage in­clud­ing some sex­ual ref­er­ences. — Re­becca Kee­gan, Tribune News­pa­pers ★★ In the Heart of the Sea — This seago­ing tale isn’t a disas­ter, so we’ll have none of those “Thar she blows!” wise­cracks, thank you. Nor is it an ac­tual suc­cess. Di­rec­tor Ron Howard goes at this du­ti­ful adap­ta­tion of the Nathaniel Philbrick non­fic­tion best­seller like a film­maker as­signed, not ob­sessed. The re­sults tell us more about the state of dig­i­tal ef­fects and the price we’re pay­ing as movie­go­ers for an over­re­liance on this tech­nol­ogy, than they do about leviathans or the fear and won­der in des­per­ate men’s souls, brought about by a blub­ber-based econ­omy. In 1820, the Nan­tucket whal­ing ship Es­sex set off on a 2 1⁄2- year voy­age, manned by a crew of 21, un­der the com­mand of an in­se­cure, over­bear­ing green­horn of a cap­tain. Storm dam­age hob­bles the Es­sex but the crew presses on, in search of the lu­cra­tive whale oil they’ll bring back to Nan­tucket. But the ship was smashed by its prey, leav­ing sur­vivors, and can­ni­bal­ism. The ocean-go­ing se­quences rely on what we’ve come to ex­pect, or en­dure, in so many mod­ern epics: dig­i­tal ef­fects that never quit, plus a fran­tic, lurch­ing edit­ing rhythm that never es­tab­lishes a pleas­ing pace. It’s fair to say this of Howard’s film: You won’t be­lieve your eyes. That’s the prob­lem. It’s half­way to the realm of be­ing a dig­i­tally an­i­mated fea­ture. 122 min. (PG-13) for in­tense se­quences of ac­tion and peril, brief star­tling vi­o­lence, and the­matic ma­te­rial. — Michael Phillips, Tribune News­pa­pers ★★★ Room — The premise of di­rec­tor Lenny Abra­ham­son’s splen­didly acted, if ever-so-slightly dodgy, film ver­sion of the 2010 Emma Donoghue novel, is sim­ple and bru­tally con­fin­ing. A young woman known only as “Ma,” played by Brie Lar­son, lives with her newly 5-year-old son, Jack (Ja­cob Trem­blay). Or­di­nary peo­ple liv­ing or­di­nary lives. Yet theirs are be­ing lived in­side a10-by-10-foot gar­den shed. For a time, we watch in a state of dread and won­der. The par­ent/child re­la­tion­ship at the movie’sc ore is end­lessly fas­ci­nat­ing. And in a key scene, when the shock gives way to old re­crim­i­na­tions, the movie re­minds us that sto­ries such as th­ese can never end in the middle. 118 min. (R) for lan­guage. — Michael Phillips, Tribune News­pa­pers

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