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BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

Film­maker Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods) em­barks upon an­other locked-room mys­tery with this Tarantino-es­que noir ca­per set in 1969, as a group of strangers con­verge at the El Royale, a Lake Ta­hoe re­sort that has seen bet­ter days. Each guest has a se­cret: a priest (Jeff Bridges), a trav­el­ing sales­man (Jon Hamm), a backup singer (Cyn­thia Erivo), and a hip­pie chick (Dakota John­son). The mys­ter­ies un­ravel in stylish chap­ters as the death toll mounts, and the endgame is any­one’s guess. The film is hip, in­no­va­tive, and a lot of fun, with gen­uine sur­prises and scares, and briskly paced un­til the fi­nal act, when things be­gin to drag. Bridges ca­pa­bly car­ries the weight of the labyrinthine plot, but the real rev­e­la­tion here is Erivo, whose mes­mer­iz­ing face con­veys a steely dig­nity. With Nick Of­fer­man, Chris Hemsworth, and a sound­track filled with oldies gold, in­clud­ing the Ma­mas and the Pa­pas’ lit­tle-used “Twelve Thirty” and the Four Tops’ “Ber­nadette.” Rated R. 141 min­utes. Re­gal Sta­dium 14; Vi­o­let Crown. (Molly Boyle)

COLETTE

When French au­thor and pub­lisher Willy plucked the plucky Si­donie-Gabrielle Colette from an idyl­lic girl­hood in Bur­gundy and whisked her off to Paris in 1893, he had no idea he was mar­ry­ing the lit­er­ary wun­derkind who is still re­garded as one of the finest French writ­ers of the 20th cen­tury. This un­even biopic di­rected by Wash West­more­land stars Keira Knight­ley as the bud­ding novelist who pens sto­ries about her naughty school­girl ex­ploits to sup­port her hus­band’s busi­ness. Pub­lished un­der the name of Willy (Do­minic West), the sen­sual Clau­dine se­ries sells like hot crêpes, but Colette chafes against her hus­band’s dom­i­nance, pur­su­ing a the­ater ca­reer along with risqué af­fairs with other women, es­pe­cially the an­drog­y­nous Mar­quise de Bel­beuf (Denise Gough), with whom she shares the stage and scan­dal­izes Paris. Knight­ley is a ca­pa­ble and oc­ca­sion­ally cap­ti­vat­ing Colette, bar­ing her teeth in lusty de­fi­ance of the so­ci­etal yoke that is placed upon her. But the movie fails to flesh out any sin­gle char­ac­ter or con­tex­tu­al­ize the heady in­tel­lec­tual lib­er­tin­ism of fin-de-siè­cle Paris. Its plot runs thin, sag­ging in the mid­dle and never fully pick­ing up steam — some­thing Colette her­self would never have al­lowed. Rated R. 111 min­utes. Vi­o­let Crown. (Molly Boyle)

FIRST MAN

Di­rec­tor Damien Chazelle reteams with his La La

Land star Ryan Gosling on this Neil Arm­strong biopic, which shrugs off the li­on­iza­tion that the sub­ject in­vites. In­stead, it uses the 1962 death of Arm­strong’s two-year-old daugh­ter as the launch­pad to look at his psy­che in ad­di­tion to the in­cred­i­ble tech­ni­cal ac­com­plish­ment of the 1969 moon land­ing, and also fo­cuses on his wife Janet (Claire Foy), and the courage she sum­mons while con­fined within do­mes­tic spa­ces. Chazelle keeps the cam­eras tightly trained on the faces of Gosling and Foy, invit­ing au­di­ences to read deeply into their ex­pres­sions to dis­cover the emo­tional depth of the story. The ac­tors re­ward this trust with sub­tle, sub­lime per­for­mances. While this ap­proach leads to some overly sen­ti­men­tal mo­ments that don’t feel au­then­tic, it doesn’t di­min­ish the power of wit­ness­ing that decade as those two peo­ple might have. The scenes in­volv­ing the space pro­gram are crafted with ex­cep­tional film­mak­ing, and are by turns hor­ri­fy­ing and brac­ing. Chazelle’s af­fec­tion for mu­sic per­me­ates the film; how­ever, he shelves his love for jazz in fa­vor of a stri­dent, mil­i­tary-style march that builds sus­pense as the Apollo 11 mis­sion draws near, mak­ing the moon land­ing it­self into an awe-in­spir­ing se­quence of art­house cinema. Rated PG-13. 141 min­utes. Re­gal Sta­dium 14; Vi­o­let Crown. (Robert Ker)

FREE SOLO

Few peo­ple would ever think of climb­ing steep rock faces with­out a rope, sup­ports, a hel­met, or an­chors — “free solo­ing,” as the prac­tice is known. And yet that’s what thirty-three-year-old Alex Hon­nold has done in more than 1,000 solo climbs around the world. “I feel like any­one could con­ceiv­ably die on any given day,” Hon­nold says, which could ex­plain the risks he takes. Ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­men­tary

Free Solo, fewer than 1 per­cent of climbers at­tempt these feats. Pro­duced by Na­tional Geo­graphic Doc­u­men­tary Films and di­rected by E. Chai Vasarhe­lyi and Jimmy Chin, the film chron­i­cles Hon­nold’s 2017 as­cent of mighty El Cap­i­tan at Yosemite Na­tional Park. With all the peaks in the film it­self — watch­ing Hon­nold’s dex­ter­ity, the sheer artistry of his free-solo climb, and the ver­tigo-in­duc­ing im­ages of the thou­sand-plus-foot drops — most view­ers of Free Solo will ex­pe­ri­ence fear in a way that Hon­nold ap­pears not to. The fi­nal 20 min­utes will leave you speech­less. It’s won­der­ful to see how far one man has gone to live on the edge, where one false move could mean game over. He never bats an eye­lash. Not rated. 100 min­utes. Vi­o­let Crown. (Thomas M. Hill)

GOOSEBUMPS 2: HAUNTED HAL­LOWEEN

In the sec­ond movie based loosely on the young-adult hor­ror nov­els of R.L. Stine, two boys (Jeremy Ray Tay­lor and Caleel Har­ris) sneak into Stine’s for­mer house on Hal­loween, where they find a creepy ven­tril­o­quist dummy named Slappy (voiced by Jack Black, who also plays Stine in both films). When

the boys bring Slappy to life, the doll sum­mons mon­sters and an­i­mates Hal­loween dec­o­ra­tions to wreak havoc on the neigh­bor­hood. The movie takes a long time get­ting to that point, how­ever, and when it does it’s not nearly as mad­cap, imag­i­na­tive, or fun as it could have been; one de­light­ful se­quence, in which the boys face off against an army of Gummi Bears brought to life, is the ex­cep­tion that proves the rule. The bar for en­ter­tain­ing nondis­crim­i­nat­ing ten-year-olds with mild scares and mag­i­cal ad­ven­tures is low, and some­how, this tepid at­tempt fails to clear it. When Black fi­nally ap­pears to steal the show with a glo­ri­fied cameo, it only proves how des­per­ate the film is for any­one with a spark of charisma, en­ergy, or ideas. Rated PG. 90 min­utes. Re­gal Sta­dium 14. (Robert Ker)

THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS

Film­maker Eli Roth rose to promi­nence with pun­ish­ing hor­ror movies such as Hos­tel. Here, he tries his hand at cater­ing to the Goosebumps crowd, adapt­ing the 1973 novel by John Bel­lairs into a movie about a young or­phan named Lewis (Owen Vac­caro) who moves in with his un­cle Jonathan (Jack Black), and finds that his un­cle is a war­lock whose house has a tick­ing clock in its walls. When it counts down to zero, some­thing wicked this way comes. Un­sur­pris­ingly, Roth has a good feel for the frights, even with the PG rat­ing. He has less of a han­dle on the hu­mor and scenes that con­vey the char­ac­ters’ emo­tional arcs. What hurts mat­ters is that while Vac­caro ex­cels and Cate Blanchett is re­li­ably ex­quis­ite as the witch who lives next door, Black is oddly cast and never quite hits the right chord be­tween whimsy and grav­ity. Rated PG. 104 min­utes. Re­gal Sta­dium 14. (Robert Ker)

KUSAMA: IN­FIN­ITY

Di­rec­tor Heather Lenz’s doc­u­men­tary on Ja­pan­born artist Kusama grap­ples with a mul­ti­tude of top­ics in its ex­pert telling of the sculp­tor and in­stal­la­tion artist’s life and works. The film chron­i­cles Kusama’s abuse at the hands of her mother, her de­ter­mi­na­tion to make a name for her­self in New York’s thriv­ing art scene, her em­brace of the ’60s coun­ter­cul­ture and the hap­pen­ings she staged in op­po­si­tion to the Viet­nam War, her ex­u­ber­antly col­ored in­stal­la­tions filled with her sig­na­ture polka dots, and her rise to promi­nence in a male-dom­i­nated art world, which in­cluded her ideas be­ing ap­pro­pri­ated by other artists. Filmed when the artist was ap­proach­ing ninety, Kusama:

In­fin­ity is a story of bold de­ter­mi­na­tion de­spite the odds. Kusama suf­fered men­tal ill­ness, made sev­eral at­tempts at sui­cide, and was in and out of hos­pi­tals through­out her life, only to emerge tri­umphant. Lenz presents the ma­te­rial in a straight­for­ward man­ner. The por­trait that emerges is one of in­ner tur­moil coun­tered by out­ward ex­u­ber­ance. Not rated. 80 min­utes. Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts. (Michael Abatemarco)

NIGHT SCHOOL

Tiffany Had­dish re­unites with Girls Trip di­rec­tor Mal­colm D. Lee for an­other com­edy, this time set in school. When a gifted sales­man (Kevin Hart) is courted for a job as a stock­bro­ker, pro­vided he gets his GED, he en­rolls in night school. He and the scoundrels and trou­ble­mak­ers in the class butt heads with the teacher (Had­dish), and chaos en­sues. Rated PG-13. 111 min­utes. Re­gal Sta­dium 14. (Not re­viewed)

THE NUN

The pop­u­lar Con­jur­ing fran­chise hasn’t pro­duced a clas­sic hor­ror film, but sev­eral of its en­tries have of­fered some re­li­able scares and solid film­mak­ing. The Nun, a prequel based around the creepy nun who has pe­ri­od­i­cally ap­peared in other in­stall­ments, is not one of those films. It takes us back to a con­vent in 1950s Ro­ma­nia, where Fa­ther Burke (Demián Bichir) and Sis­ter Irene (Taissa Farmiga, sis­ter of se­ries star Vera Farmiga) travel to in­ves­ti­gate the ap­par­ent sui­cide of a young nun. They don’t find many peo­ple there, but soon dis­cover that some­thing evil is afoot and the de­mon Valak is re­spon­si­ble. Di­rec­tor Corin Hardy tries to pack the movie with scares for the full run­ning time, whereas most good hor­ror movies let view­ers spend much of the time in the nor­mal world while slowly in­tro­duc­ing the aw­ful into the ev­ery­day. A whole film of two peo­ple wan­der­ing a dark, empty monastery with a jump scare thrown in ev­ery cou­ple of min­utes gets bor­ing very quickly. Rated R. 96 min­utes. Re­gal Sta­dium 14. (Robert Ker)

THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN

Robert Red­ford plays For­rest Tucker, a man who has de­voted his long life to the art of rob­bing banks. His story is mostly true (adapted by writer-di­rec­tor David Low­ery from a New Yorker ar­ti­cle). Red­ford shares the screen with Sissy Spacek, and to­gether they ig­nite a chem­istry that could light the Rock­e­feller Cen­ter Christ­mas tree. She plays Jewel, a wid­owed rancher, and when these two sit and ban­ter in a cof­fee shop booth, you could watch and lis­ten to them all day. But you can’t, be­cause there are banks to rob. For­rest some­times works with a cou­ple of geri­atric bud­dies, played by Danny Glover and Tom Waits, and the trio be­comes known as the Over-the-Hill Gang. In dogged pur­suit is an af­fa­ble, low-key cop with the ap­pro­pri­ate name of John Hunt (Casey Af­fleck), who comes to ad­mire the man he’s track­ing. If this in fact proves to be Robert Red­ford’s farewell to movies, as he has in­di­cated, what a lovely way to go. But the door is al­ways open, Bob, and we’ll leave a light on in the win­dow. Rated PG-13. 93 min­utes. Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts; Vi­o­let Crown. (Jonathan Richards)

THE SIS­TERS BROTH­ERS

In this vi­o­lent Western set dur­ing the Cal­i­for­nia Gold Rush, John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix play the hit­men broth­ers Eli and Char­lie Sis­ters. They are as­signed to track down a chemist (Riz Ahmed) with a lu­cra­tive for­mula for prospect­ing gold, even as an­other de­tec­tive (Jake Gyl­len­haal) is also on his trail. When they meet, they de­cide they’d rather join the chemist than kill him. Based on the cult hit novel by Patrick deWitt, this is the first English-lan­guage film by renowned French di­rec­tor Jac­ques Au­di­ard (The Beat That My Heart Skipped). Rated R. 121 min­utes. Vi­o­let Crown. (Not re­viewed)

SMALL­FOOT

The Big­foot leg­end is turned on its head in this an­i­mated story about a Yeti sci­en­tist (voiced by Channing Tatum) who be­comes con­vinced that hu­mans, known to the Yeti clan as the myth­i­cal “Small­foot,” are real. His sus­pi­cions are con­firmed when he en­coun­ters a Small­foot in the form of a for­mer TV per­son­al­ity (James Cor­den), and he at­tempts to present ev­i­dence of his dis­cov­ery to the Small­foot Ev­i­den­tiary So­ci­ety (led by a sci­en­tist voiced by Zen­daya). Danny DeVito, Com­mon, and Le­Bron James also pro­vide voice­work. Rated PG. 96 min­utes. Screens in 2D only at Re­gal Sta­dium 14; Vi­o­let Crown. (Not re­viewed)

A STAR IS BORN

Big, gor­geous, and packed with ter­rific mu­sic and charis­matic star power, this fourth edi­tion of one of Hol­ly­wood’s most en­dur­ing ori­gin sto­ries starts off so well that its mo­men­tum al­most car­ries it through a some­what more la­bored fin­ish. Lady Gaga re­dis­cov­ers her in­ner Ste­fani Joanne An­gelina Ger­man­otta in cre­at­ing the ti­tle char­ac­ter, Ally, a big-hearted aspir­ing singer who cap­tures the heart of Jack­son Maine, a coun­try-rock su­per­star played soul­fully by Bradley Cooper (who also co-wrote and di­rected). The tale, best re­mem­bered in the clas­sic 1950 Judy Gar­land ver­sion, is fa­mil­iar, track­ing the op­po­site tra­jec­to­ries of the two stars — one blaz­ing up­ward, one blaz­ing out. Cooper’s pac­ing gets a lit­tle choppy, as if he’s afraid of be­ing caught in a lin­ear nar­ra­tive, but for the most part the film is as­sured and ef­fec­tive. The sup­port­ing cast is stocked with some­times sur­pris­ing choices, like An­drew Dice Clay as Ally’s dad, and Dave Chap­pelle as Jack­son’s friend. Sam El­liott is re­li­ably grav­elly as Jack­son’s much older brother. But the rev­e­la­tion is Lady Gaga, who nails the wide-eyed kid drawn into the world of su­per­star­dom, find­ing love and tragedy along the way. Rated PG. 96 min­utes. Screens in 2D at Re­gal Sta­dium 14; Vi­o­let Crown. (Jonathan Richards)

TEA WITH THE DAMES

This doc­u­men­tary in­vites view­ers to en­joy a spot of tea with four of the United King­dom’s most es­teemed ac­tresses: Dames Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Mag­gie Smith. The four long­time friends sit to­gether and ca­su­ally shoot the breeze and share in­sights into their crafts and ca­reers. Au­di­ences can en­joy an in­ti­mate glimpse of this con­ver­sa­tion cour­tesy of di­rec­tor Roger Michell (Not­ting Hill). Not rated. 84 min­utes. Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts; The Screen. (Not re­viewed)

VENOM

Spi­der-Man’s neme­sis Venom is a ridicu­lous char­ac­ter: a su­per-strong, bul­let­proof ver­sion of Spidey with large eyes, a long tongue, and an ap­petite for live flesh. But di­rec­tor Ruben Fleis­cher of­fers a sur­pris­ingly well-crafted B-movie, and ac­tors Tom Hardy and Michelle Wil­liams class the joint up. Hardy plays Ed­die Brock, a jour­nal­ist who in­ves­ti­gates the sus­pi­cious re­search go­ing on at the Life Foun­da­tion. When the com­pany’s founder (Riz Ahmed) strikes back, Brock loses his job and girl­friend (Wil­liams). He learns that the foun­da­tion is ex­per­i­ment­ing on an alien, which grafts it­self to his body, grant­ing him su­per­pow­ers and a nasty dis­po­si­tion. From there, he must sa­ti­ate the alien’s ap­petite, get re­venge, and some­how also save the world. The ac­tion and ef­fects are well done, but the movie works best when it leans into ab­sur­dist hu­mor rem­i­nis­cent of the 1980s work of John Car­pen­ter and Sam Raimi. You won’t be hear­ing the name Venom on Os­car night, but if you want to see Tom Hardy jump into a restau­rant’s lob­ster tank and be­gin bit­ing the heads off its oc­cu­pants, then you won’t be dis­ap­pointed. Rated PG-13. 112 min­utes. Screens in 2D at Re­gal Sta­dium 14; Vi­o­let Crown. (Robert Ker)

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