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Reviews of movies showing in theaters or streaming online

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‘BLUE BAYOU’: Filmmaker Justin Chon has built an impressive oeuvre over the past six years. An actor who broke out in the “Twilight” franchise, he has since dedicated his craft to writing and directing slice-of-life indie gems that depict the Asian American experience. His latest, “Blue Bayou,” just might be Chon’s best yet. Chon wrote, directed and stars in “Blue Bayou.” Born and raised in Southern California, he melts into the easy lilt of a Cajun accent as Antonio LeBlanc, a Louisiana man adopted from Korea by a white family as a toddler. Yet his Southern demeanor and many tattoos can’t protect him from racist microaggre­ssions that take the form of questions like, “Where are you from? No, I mean where were you born?” Antonio exists in a liminal space, disconnect­ed from his Korean heritage, estranged from his adopted parents, viewed as an outsider in the only place he has called home. 1:52. 3 stars. — Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service

‘THE CARD COUNTER’:

Disappoint­ing news first: It sometimes feels like two ideas welded, uncertainl­y, together. One is bluntly polemical, dealing with America’s geopolitic­al sins in the years following Sept. 11. The other idea is a compelling simmer of a character study. Here’s the heartening news: As the title character — a profession­al gambler with a lot behind him, and not much impulse to dredge it up — Oscar Isaac makes for a magnetic sphinx indeed. His is not the only good performanc­e. But it’s the crucial one. William Tell is the name the Isaac character uses, Bill for short. In the movie’s present, Bill recently has wrapped up eight years in prison. In Iraq, assigned to the infamous Abu Ghraib detention center, he worked under the tutelage of a private contractor (Willem Dafoe) given free rein to conduct his “enhanced” interrogat­ions. (The setting, more a matter of allusion than statement, is real; the characters are fictional.) Bill was a dutiful soldier and took the fall. The brass, including Dafoe’s character, went free. After all that, a highly routinized life spent at the poker and blackjack tables in one casino after another is life enough for this man. “I stick to modest goals,” Bill tells La Linda, played by Tiffany Haddish. This equally sphinxy character wants Bill to join her stable of card players, staked by backers. There’s the promise of rich rewards — and, as Bill notes, the threat of steep debts if the cards fall the wrong way. 1:49. 3 stars. — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

‘COPSHOP’: “Copshop” is an enjoyable, slow-burn action movie featuring a smart script, sharp direction, strong cast — and the emergence of a possible star. In Gun Creek, Nevada, a sketchy dude gets himself arrested for assaulting a police officer. Soon after, a drunk driver gets himself clinked into the facing cell. The sketchy dude turns out to be Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo), a shady fixer trying to save his own life by weaseling his way into unwitting police protection. However, the “drunk” turns out to be Bob Viddick (Gerard Butler), an efficient contract killer closing in on Teddy. Between them — literally, for some time — is young, determined, coolas-the-other-side-of-thepillow rookie officer Valerie Young (Alexis Louder). As Young unravels what’s really going on with these mystery prisoners, betrayals and other killers on the bad guys’ payroll barrel toward them. 1:47. Not ranked. — Michael Ordoña,

Los Angeles Times

‘CRY MACHO’: This “macho thing,” says Clint Eastwood in his latest film, is “overrated.” Same with grit, he says. What? What is this, some sort of rickety, sweet-tempered road movie about an old man, a boy and a rooster? “Cry Macho” is exactly that, in addition to be a few other things. It is Eastwood’s 39th film as credited director. If you don’t count “The Mule,” his sidewindin­g, highly profitable 2018 drug-runner biopic that traveled similar backroads to those found here, it’s his first Western since “Unforgiven” nearly 30 years ago. His character, Mike Milo, is a retired rodeo rider; the love interest, as Old Male Hollywood used to call it, is a Mexican cantina owner played by Natalia Traven, who is nearly 40 years younger than Eastwood. He’s 91. And making movies. “Cry Macho” may be fond and foolish in equal measure, but it has a few grace notes to remember, in addition to a fine gallery of images of Eastwood in silhouette,

at dusk, against a big sky, alone with his thoughts. “Look where you’re going,” the cowboy tells the kid during a riding lesson, “and go where you’re looking.” It’s a throwaway moment. But it’s the quintessen­ce of Clint, and I’ll remember it awhile. 1:44. 2 ½ stars. In theaters and streaming on HBO Max — Michael Phillips

‘THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE’: If there’s an image that can signify American tabloid culture of the 1980s, it just might be the iconic eyelashes of Tammy Faye Bakker, a groundbrea­king televangel­ist and the wife of charismati­c preacher Jim Bakker. Tammy Faye was a pioneer in the world of televangel­ism, known for her puppets and powerful singing, but the Bakkers suffered a scandal-plagued fall from grace, thanks to Jim’s famous infideliti­es and schemes to defraud his audience. Tammy took the fall for standing by her man and was the butt of many jokes for her style of self-presentati­on. But in the past 20 years, there’s been an attempt to publicly

redeem her, most notably in Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s 2000 cult documentar­y, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” narrated by RuPaul. In a film based on that documentar­y, directed by Michael Showalter and written by Abe Silva, Jessica Chastain dons Tammy Faye’s famous falsies and finds a great deal of grace and strength in her story. 1:28. 2 ½ stars. — Katie Walsh ‘MALIGNANT’: Can a movie that’s deficient in just about every way be redeemed by an original twist? In the case of “Malignant,” the answer is ... sort of. The action kicks off with staff at a dubious hospital in an obvious CGI setting dealing with a murderous patient’s rampage. “Time to cut out the cancer,” says one doctor in what sounds like a stab at a tagline. Decades later, very pregnant Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is getting roughed up by her awful husband. One horrible murder later, Madison begins experienci­ng visions of grisly crimes that seem connected to that sinister and sketchy old institutio­n. Can Madison’s happy actress sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson) and suspicious­ly good-looking Detective Kekoa Shaw (George Young) unravel the mystery before more people meet gruesome ends? No, they can’t. There’s plenty of gruesome to go around. Which is not to say “Malignant,” which was not screened for review until the night before its release, succeeds as a scary movie — it does not. It’s not creepy, it relies on highly improbable decisions, and it throws jump scares and slider-happy sound design at the wall hoping something will stick. The direction feels uninspired, even wan. Slow push-in after slow push-in and other unmotivate­d camera moves, plus copious fog-machine work and a poorly deployed score stand in for atmosphere or tension. 1:51. Not ranked. In theaters and streaming on HBO Max. — Michael Ordoña

‘SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS’:

“Shang-Chi” follows a young Asian American man, Shaun (Simu Liu), as he learns to face his past and embrace his destiny as the superhero Shang-Chi. Shaun’s family has a long and mystical history, one he eventually has to explain to his best friend Katy (Awkwafina), on a transatlan­tic flight to Macau, after the two fight off a machete-limbed supersoldi­er on a San Francisco city bus. Dropping his Americaniz­ed name, Shang-Chi tells Katy about his father, Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), a centuries-old warlord and leader of the shadowy crime organizati­on the Ten Rings. 2:12. 3 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.

 ?? HBO MAX ?? Clint Eastwood, left, and Eduardo Minett in“Cry Macho,”which is Eastwood’s first Western since “Unforgiven” nearly 30 years ago.
HBO MAX Clint Eastwood, left, and Eduardo Minett in“Cry Macho,”which is Eastwood’s first Western since “Unforgiven” nearly 30 years ago.

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