Baltimore Sun


Reviews of movies showing in theaters or streaming online


‘DC LEAGUE OF SUPERPETS’: The DC Comics Cinematic Universe has mostly taken a dark, gritty approach to blockbuste­r comic book movies. But perhaps there’s another way to explore the world of the Justice League that’s a bit more warm, cuddly and friendly. That’s the thesis presented by the animated movie “DC League of Super-Pets,” which combines several elements that have already proven successful to create a family friendly access point to the worlds of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and their gang of superheroe­s. The voice cast is packed with favorite comedy actors, including Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Jemaine Clement, John Early and Marc Maron.

But most importantl­y, it teams Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart in the lead roles of Krypto the SuperDog and Ace, a rescue mutt. Johnson and Hart have had quite the success in their odd couple pairing in films such as “Central Intelligen­ce” and “Jumanji,” and “DC League of Super-Pets” relies on their lively banter to sell the enemies-tofriends story at the center of the film. 1:46. 2 ½ stars.

— Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service

‘ELVIS’: Why hasn’t there been a great Elvis biopic yet? Well, Austin Butler wasn’t around to star as the King of Rock ’n’ Roll. At the center of Baz Luhrmann’s sprawling pop epic “Elvis,” a film as opulent and outsize as the King’s talent and taste, Butler delivers a fully transforme­d, fully committed and star-making turn as Elvis Presley. Swirling around Butler’s bravura performanc­e is a manic, maximalist,

chopped-and-screwed music biopic, in which Luhrmann locates Elvis as the earth-shaking inflection point between the ancient and the modern, the carnival and the TV screen, a figure of pure spectacle who threatened to obliterate the status quo — and did. Luhrmann takes Elvis Presley’s legacy, relegated to a Las Vegas gag, and reminds us just how dangerous, sexy and downright revolution­ary he once was. He makes Elvis relevant again. 2:39. 3 ½ stars.

— Katie Walsh


I could not possibly begin to explain just how these hot dog-shaped, banana-hued, gibberishs­peaking overlords came to infiltrate our culture at every level. The grasp these inexplicab­le animated creatures hold on cinema is insidious, and they continue their reign of terror in their latest cinematic dispatch, “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” They’ve overthrown their masters in the “Despicable Me” franchise, wrestling top billing away for themselves. “The Rise of Gru” is just another “Despicable Me”

movie, a supervilla­in origin story for beaky-nosed, scarf-wearing, evil aspirant Gru (Steve Carell). 1:27. 1 star. — Katie Walsh

‘NOPE’: In “Nope,” writer/ director Jordan Peele presents us with a big, shiny summer blockbuste­r — a cowboys and aliens riff built from the DNA of sci-fi spectacles of yore — and then proceeds to vivisect the very notion of a summer blockbuste­r before our eyes. He wants us to question the nature of image-making, and he starts at the beginning of film history, with photograph­er Eadweard Muybridge. In 1878, Muybridge crafted the first known example of the “moving pictures”: a two-second clip called “The Horse in Motion,” made up of sequential photograph­s of a jockey riding a race horse. That the jockey on the horse — the first person featured in the movies — is Black, and unknown, is the starting point for Peele’s exploratio­n of seeing and the seen in “Nope,” which interrogat­es the power of images, who gets to create them, and who gets the credit. These are complex

questions, but Peele has wrapped them up in an incredibly original, and entertaini­ng, piece of sci-fi filmmaking that is both unlike, and like, anything you’ve ever seen before. 2:10. 3 ½ stars. — Katie Walsh


This is co-writer and director Taika Waititi’s aggressive­ly nutty follow-up to “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017). That film zazzed up Thor’s corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe enough to justify more of the same. “Love and Thunder” establishe­s in the prologue the latest threat to intergalac­tic extinction: an ordinary soul on a planet far, far away, played by Christian Bale, wandering with his daughter in the desert. He suffers a grievous loss and then transforms into Gorr, the God Butcher, hellbent on wiping out those privileged paragons who, in this outing, forsake mere mortals left, right and center. Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is learning, uneasily, to be a more progressiv­e and empathic specimen of godly hunk, a team player instead of a solo act. The

storyline concerns, among other things, the children of New Asgard, swept up and kidnapped by Gorr. Their rescue leads the A-team straight to the enemy.

2:05. 2 ½ stars. — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

‘VENGEANCE’: B.J. Novak opens his debut feature “Vengeance,” which he wrote, directed and stars in, with a scene of acidic social commentary that lays the tone for the smart satire of contempora­ry media culture that ensues. In a scene that targets the mating rituals of the urban-dwelling modern American cad, interspers­ed into the opening credits with an almost jarring violence, Ben (Novak), a writer for The New Yorker, and the unlikely, sometimes unlikeable, hero of “Vengeance,” parries back and forth with his friend John (played by singer John Mayer) about their vapid dating lives. As they debate the merits of seeing six women or three, question whether a cellphone contact labeled “Brunette Random House Party” refers to a woman met at a publishing event or a just a “random house party,” and falsely declare that they’re not afraid of emotional intimacy, Novak does something important with his character: He makes him a buffoon, first and foremost, in this bracing setup that allows him to carefully thread the needle on his American tale. 1:34. 3 stars. — Katie Walsh


In 2018, retired zoologist Delia Owens, the author of the bestsellin­g 1984 memoir “Cry of the Kalahari,” published her first novel at age 69. “Where the Crawdads Sing” is set on the North Carolina coast in the

1950s and ’60s, threading romance and murder mystery through the life story of a young, isolated woman, Kya, who grows up abandoned in the marsh. The story is a bit far-fetched, the characteri­zations broad, but there’s a beauty in Owens’ descriptio­n of Kya’s relationsh­ip to the natural world. Her derisive nickname, “the marsh girl,” ultimately becomes her strength. The film is easily slotted into the Southern Gothic courtroom drama subgenre — it’s like “A Time to Kill” with a feminine touch. While the nature of adaptation requires compressio­n and elision, the film dutifully tells the story that fans of the book will turn out to see brought to life on the big screen. But in checking off all the plot points, the movie version loses what makes the book work, which is the time we spend with our heroine, Kya. 2:05. 2 stars. — Katie Walsh

RATINGS: The movies listed are rated according to the following key: 4 stars, excellent; 3 stars, good; 2 stars, fair; 1 star, poor.

 ?? WARNER BROS. PICTURES ?? Animated characters Merton, from left, voiced by Natasha Lyonne; PB, voiced by Vanessa Bayer; Krypto, voiced by Dwayne Johnson; Chip, voiced by Diego Luna; and Ace, voiced by Kevin Hart, in “DC League of Super-Pets.”
WARNER BROS. PICTURES Animated characters Merton, from left, voiced by Natasha Lyonne; PB, voiced by Vanessa Bayer; Krypto, voiced by Dwayne Johnson; Chip, voiced by Diego Luna; and Ace, voiced by Kevin Hart, in “DC League of Super-Pets.”

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