Movie list­ings

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Want to catch some­thing on the big screen this week­end? Here’s what’s in the­aters from block­busters to in­de­pen­dent films. Rat­ings key: ★★★★ ex­cel­lent;

★★★ good; ★★ fair; ★ poor.


A Dog’s Way Home Charles Martin Smith (“Never Cry Wolf ”) di­rects the tale of a dog who trav­els across the coun­try to re­unite with his owner. Of course, the ad­ven­tures he has on his jour­ney are the best part. With Bryce Dal­las Howard and Ash­ley Judd.

The Up­side In a re­make of the French film “Les In­touch­ables,” a quad­ri­plegic man (Bryan Cranston) hires a man (Kevin Hart) with a crim­i­nal his­tory to help take care of him.


Aqua­man ★ 1⁄ The DC Comics su­per­hero


Aqua­man takes cen­ter stage, on land and un­der the sea, in “Aqua­man.” The “Game of Thrones” ac­tor Ja­son Mo­moa’s great in close-up, surly and charis­matic, with eye­brows that sug­gest all sorts of fun. Screen­writ­ers David Les­lie John­son-McGoldrick and Will Beall stum­ble all over the place try­ing to set up sim­ple ori­gin-story ex­po­si­tion — how Arthur Curry, the light­house keeper’s son, was born to Queen At­lanna of At­lantis, and how he must pre­vent an apoca­lyp­tic sur­face war waged by Orm and as­so­ciates, while aqua­man­ning-up to claim a lead­er­ship role down where the fishies go. The film’s just sin­cere enough where it counts to float this soggy medi­ocrity for a global au­di­ence. — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tri­bune

Beau­ti­ful Boy ★★★ 1⁄ “Re­lapse is a part of

2 re­cov­ery,” a clinic worker says to a dis­traught David Sh­eff, played by Steve Carell in the new film “Beau­ti­ful Boy.” David’s bright, un­rav­el­ing son, Nic, played by Ti­mothee Cha­la­met, has be­gun to face his ad­dic­tions head-on. But on the road to suc­cess, fail­ures lurk around ev­ery cor­ner, along with chem­i­cal demons. It’s a tricky and largely suc­cess­ful back-and-forth. The sim­ple two-per­son scenes work best. Cha­la­met’s ter­rific through­out, ac­cess­ing and de­ploy­ing ev­ery kind of emo­tion in un­pre­dictable com­bi­na­tions. A lot of “Beau­ti­ful Boy” is nec­es­sar­ily hard to take, though the script soft­ens the rough­est of Nic’s tra­vails. Is this why the movie’s an­guish feels more in­di­cated than in­hab­ited? Still: You can’t fault the per­form­ers much. Or Cha­la­met, at all. — Michael Phillips

Ben Is Back ★★★ In its emo­tional peaks “Ben is Back,” the new drama from wri­ter­di­rec­tor Peter Hedges, af­fords Ju­lia Roberts the chance to go full-on “Steel Mag­no­lias” — de­liv­er­ing short, sud­den out­bursts of des­per­a­tion, anger and tough love. Get­ting to those peaks, how­ever, Hedges’ film doesn’t travel the ex­pected route. This ad­dic­tion drama is pri­mar­ily a show­case for its su­perb lead­ing per­form­ers, and in its com­pressed time frame (24 hours around Christ­mas) it feels like a well-made play more than a fully am­pli­fied fea­ture film. The act­ing is enough, though. — Michael Phillips

Boy Erased ★★ 1⁄ Seek­ing to sur­vive a

2 gay-con­ver­sion pro­gram, Jared (Lu­cas Hedges), the teenage hero of “Boy Erased,” is ad­vised by one of his peers to “fake it til you make it.” What the kid means is that Jared should play along un­til he fin­ishes the pur­ported re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. But Jared’s par­ents (Nicole Kid­man and Rus­sell Crowe) would pre­fer that their son fake it for the rest of his life — or at least the rest of theirs. Writer-di­rec­tor Joel Edger­ton plays Vic­tor Sykes, a self-styled ther­a­pist who runs the con­ver­sion cen­ter. A lit­er­a­ture stu­dent, Jared ends up in the pro­gram af­ter a sex­ual en­counter with a fel­low col­lege stu­dent who wrongs him in mul­ti­ple ways — in­clud­ing by out­ing Jared to his par­ents. “Boy Erased” is a show­case for Hedges. The film is finely crafted, yet short on sur­prises, ei­ther nar­ra­tive or emo­tional. — Mark Jenk­ins, The Wash­ing­ton Post Bum­ble­bee ★★ 1⁄ Down­siz­ing was the

2 only an­swer for the “Trans­form­ers” fran­chise af­ter 2017’s epic, sprawl­ing “Trans­form­ers: The Last Knight.” Para­mount de­cided to go home, par­ing the lat­est film back to an ori­gin story and get­ting at what makes this fran­chise tick: the friendly yel­low Trans­former known as Bum­ble­bee. Hailee Ste­in­feld stars as Char­lie, a mu­si­cob­sessed 18-year-old who. She’s mourn­ing the loss of her fa­ther, pour­ing her­self into work­ing on his clas­sic car. All she wants is her own set of wheels, so when a dusty yel­low VW Bee­tle shows up at the junk­yard, she fi­na­gles a way to take it home. Much to her sur­prise, the lit­tle beater morphs into a scared, quiv­er­ing, gi­ant robot, whom she dubs Bum­ble­bee. This pre­quel of­fers Bum­ble­bee a chance to shine, and you’ll come away with a new­found sense of af­fec­tion for the most lov­able alien ve­hi­cle in the uni­verse. — Katie Walsh, Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Creed II ★★ 1⁄ For starters, the way to

2 ap­pre­ci­ate the fairly en­joy­able, con­sis­tently pre­dictable “Creed II” is to ac­knowl­edge its su­pe­ri­or­ity to most of the first-round “Rocky” se­quels. Full credit goes to the easy charisma and emo­tional au­then­tic­ity of Michael B. Jordan as Ado­nis, son of the late Apollo, out to avenge his fa­ther’s death in the box­ing ring; Sylvester Stal­lone; and Tessa Thomp­son as Ado­nis’ part­ner Bianca, maker of mu­sic, con­tender with hear­ing loss, all-around dreamy Rock of Gi­bral­tar. The first of the two big cham­pi­onships in “Creed II” ar­rives at the 45minute mark, which then puts our hero, Ado­nis, in prime po­si­tion for soul-search­ing set­backs. By the end, the movie has be­come a shame­less and, yes, ef­fec­tive ode to fa­thers and sons ev­ery­where. — Michael Phillips

Es­cape Room ★★ In “Es­cape Room,” half a dozen ter­ri­fied strangers have signed on to com­pete in a game of ex­pe­ri­en­tial sur­vival. Can our he­roes fig­ure out the clue that will let them exit the room and move on to the next trip-wired cham­ber of hor­ror? “Es­cape Room,” which is like “Saw” remade as a PG-13 group date, jet­ti­sons the tor­ture but keeps the death. The con­tes­tants, who have to es­cape a linked se­ries of rooms, have signed on to win a pos­si­ble prize of $10,000. They don’t re­al­ize that the stakes of the game are real — i.e., their lives are truly on the line. The first part of the film gets some airy mo­men­tum go­ing. Then we learn the se­cret of what the char­ac­ters have in com­mon, and it gives you that slightly sink­ing feel­ing of one con­trivance too many. — Owen Gleiber­man, Va­ri­ety

The Favourite ★★★★ “The Favourite” would be worth see­ing if only for the sub­tle va­ri­eties of cut­ting re­join­der it of­fers its cen­tral trio of per­form­ers: Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and, as Queen Anne, early 18th cen­tury ruler of Eng­land, Ire­land and Scot­land, the heart­break­ingly funny Olivia Col­man. “The Favourite” de­picts a


Lu­cas (Jonah Hauer-King) and Bella (Am­ber) in Columbia Pic­tures’ ‘A Dog’s Way Home.’

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