Edmonton Sun - - SHOWBIZ - Rat­ings Out Of four


Abom­inable is about a Yeti nick­named Ever­est by the plucky young woman who finds him hid­ing out on the roof of her apart­ment build­ing in Shanghai. Ever­est has es­caped from a re­search in­sti­tu­tion, with a bad guy (Eddie Iz­zard) and his chief sci­en­tist (Sarah Paul­son) in pur­suit. When Yi (Chloe Ben­net) re­al­izes this, she makes it her mis­sion to get Ever­est back to the Hi­malayas. Abom­inable doesn’t re­ally push the en­ve­lope , but nei­ther does it feel sec­ond-rate. ***


In a mes­mer­iz­ing min­i­mal­ist per­for­mance, Brad Pitt forms the grav­i­ta­tional cen­tre of Ad As­tra as Space Com­mand Ma­jor Roy Mcbride (Pitt) who hur­tles through near-space while build­ing the world’s largest an­tenna on Earth. He’s as­signed to travel to Nep­tune to re­trieve a rogue as­tro­naut (Tommy Lee Jones), who just hap­pens to be his fa­ther. With so many ref­er­ences swirling around its at­mos­phere, Ad As­tra skirts dan­ger­ously close to be­ing de­riv­a­tive. But in the ca­pa­ble hands of writer-di­rec­tor James Gray, it be­comes its own sturdy, un­flashy ex­am­ple of spec­u­la­tive film­mak­ing that is less in­ter­ested in whiz-bang spe­cial ef­fects and oth­er­worldly crea­tures than in en­dur­ing philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions about what we take with us on the tech­no­log­i­cal and ex­is­ten­tial jour­neys we call progress. ***


Opens to­day.


Down­ton Abbey - the movie ver­sion of the tony Bri­tish soap opera - re­turns us to the aris­to­cratic Craw­ley fam­ily. The plot-heavy fea­ture film is mostly in­tel­li­gi­ble to Abbey vir­gins. The events of the movie are trig­gered by a let­ter, which in­forms Robert Craw­ley, Earl of Gran­tham (Hugh Bon­neville), that the king and queen of Eng­land (Si­mon Jones and Geral­dine James) are com­ing to visit Down­ton. This throws the en­tire house­hold into a tizzy of ex­cite­ment. There’s a lot of go­ings-on for one movie, but event­ful­ness and machi­na­tion have al­ways been the hall­mark of Down­ton Abbey, not act­ing. Down­ton Abbey is eye and ear candy of the high­est or­der: rich and de­li­cious, but not es­pe­cially nu­tri­tious. **


Opens to­day.


The Goldfinch tells the story of Theodore Decker, who, as a boy (played by Oakes Fe­g­ley), was caught up in a bomb­ing at the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art in New York. His mother was killed, but he es­caped with his life, a mys­te­ri­ous ring be­queathed to him by a dy­ing stranger, and The Goldfinch, a paint­ing by Dutch artist Carel Fabri­tius. Years later, we find Theo (Ansel Elgort) wracked with guilt over the theft, and de­ter­mined to put things right or die try­ing. The Goldfinch feels too caged, with un­likely co­in­ci­dences that leaves lit­tle for the viewer to con­nect. *


Jen­nifer Lopez plays Ra­mona in Hustlers, a dancer at a Man­hat­tan strip club who in 2007 takes a new­bie named Destiny (Con­stance Wu) un­der her pro­tec­tive wing. Ra­mona not only tu­tors her charge in how to per­form a proper pole dance but, even­tu­ally, in how to fleece priv­i­leged white guys whose im­punity and van­ity make them as vul­ner­a­ble as the most naive rubes from the sticks. Hustlers is a funny, naughty, enor­mously en­ter­tain­ing kick in the pants, promis­ing to be an East Coast Show­girls, only to wind up a girl­srule Good­fel­las, lead­ing view­ers into a vi­car­i­ously thrilling un­der­world ruled by money, drugs, se­duc­tion and a slid­ing moral scale dic­tated by ruth­less re­alpoli­tik. ***


The se­quel to the mon­ster hit adap­ta­tion of Stephen King’s book, It: Chap­ter Two takes place 27 years af­ter a group of kids sent Pen­ny­wise (Bill Skars­gard) back to what­ever par­al­lel di­men­sion “It” came from. Now these un­likely he­roes are called upon to make good on the blood oath they took as teens. Of the group, only Mike (Isa­iah Mustafa) has stuck around in Derry, Maine. Richie (Bill Hader) has be­come a standup comic, Eddie (James Ran­sone) is a nat­u­ral for a ca­reer in risk as­sess­ment and Bill (James Mcavoy) has found work in Hol­ly­wood. No longer the tomboy, Bev­erly (Jes­sica Chas­tain) mar­ried a rich creep, who knocks her around. And Ben (Jay Ryan) has hun­ked up. It: Chap­ter Two is much longer than it needs to be, but it builds to some­thing sig­nif­i­cant. ***


Not fully based on any one story, co-writer and di­rec­tor Todd Phillips casts Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a men­tally-ill street clown who will one day be­come one of the most fear­some comic book char­ac­ters ever cre­ated in Joker. Arthur is a man who quite lit­er­ally can’t fit in with the world around him, but har­bours hopes of launch­ing a ca­reer in stand-up com­edy. At night, he fix­ates on late-night talk­show host Mur­ray Franklin (Robert De Niro) as the barom­e­ter of his hoped-for suc­cess. Phoenix goes to a new level to chart the fall of a man and the rise of some­thing eerily new. His risky per­for­mance rein­vents a char­ac­ter who up un­til now has come to us fully formed. We don’t know how he be­came the way he is, but this ex­pla­na­tion is ter­ri­fy­ing and scar­ily pre­scient. ****


Judy is a sturdy, de­pend­able ve­hi­cle which, in this case, car­ries the pre­cious cargo of Re­nee Zell­weger in a daz­zling por­trayal of Judy Garland at the end of her life. Tough, vul­ner­a­ble, re­silient and wrecked, Zell­weger’s Garland both leans into the myth and slyly sub­verts it, with mo­ments of self­aware hu­mour. Zell­weger doesn’t de­liver an im­per­son­ation of Judy Garland as much as an in­ter­pre­ta­tion, ad­just­ing her own vo­cal reg­is­ter but never to the point of era­sure or mimicry. The re­sult is a rel­a­tively straight­for­ward sliceof-life biopic, bogged down with flash­backs and back­stage histri­on­ics, that none­the­less of­fers an ut­terly trans­fix­ing glimpse at the art of screen per­for­mance writ glo­ri­ously, glam­orously large. ***


In Rambo: Last Blood - the tired, now-sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian ac­tion fig­ure turns his no­to­ri­ous sense of loa­thethy-neigh­bour vengeance to­ward the Mex­i­can car­tels, who’ve kid­napped his col­lege­bound niece Gabrielle (Yvette Mon­real) and turned her into a smack-ad­dicted sex slave. Rambo: Last Blood is a racist, hor­ri­bly vi­o­lent re­venge film. *


Joaquin Phoenix stars in Joker.

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