MOVIES OPENING FRIDAY
Written and directed by Bart Layton, the film shifts between interviews with real people portrayed, and events performed by actors. In 2003, art student Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan), Warren Lipka (Evan Peters), Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) and Chas Allen (Blake Jenner) are four friends who live an ordinary existence in Kentucky. After a visit to Transylvania University, Lipka comes up with the idea to steal the rarest and most valuable books from the school's library.
R: Language, drug use and brief crude/sexual material — Alamo Drafthouse.
The Devil's Doorway
Late showings only. Northern Ireland, 1960: Father Thomas Riley (Lalor Roddy) and Father John Thornton (Ciaran Flynn) are dispatched by the Vatican to investigate reports of a miracle — a statue of the Virgin Mary weeping blood — at a remote Catholic asylum for “immoral” women. Armed with 16mm film cameras to record their findings, the priests instead discover a depraved horror show of sadistic nuns, satanism and demonic possession.
Not rated -- Alamo Drafthouse.
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (3-D/2-D)
Computer-animated comedy sequel. Monster family embarks aboard a monster cruise ship so Count Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) can take a summer vacation from providing everyone else's vacation at his hotel. It’s smooth sailing for Drac’s pack as the monsters indulge in shipboard fun, from monster volleyball to exotic excursions, and catching up on moon tans. But the dream vacation turns into a nightmare when Mavis (Selena Gomez) realizes Drac has fallen for a mysterious human captain, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), who hides a dangerous secret. Voice talents: Andy Samberg as human Johnny; Kevin James as Frankenstein; Fran Drescher as Eunice, Frankenstein's wife; David Spade as invisible man Griffin; Steve Buscemi as werewolf Wayne; Molly Shannon as Wanda, Wayne's werewolf wife; and Mel Brooks as Vlad, Dracula's vampire father.
PG: Action and rude humor -- Premiere Cinemas, Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17 (includes XD), Movies 16 (includes XD) and Stars & Stripes Drive-In.
Action film written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Dwayne Johnson leads cast as former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader and disabled U.S. war veteran Will Sawyer. Ten years after losing a leg during the war, he now assesses safety measures worldwide for skyscrapers. While on assignment in China, he lives with his family in the tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong It comes under attack by terrorists, and Sawyer is framed for setting this towering inferno ablaze. A wanted man on the run, Will must find those responsible, clear his name and rescue his family trapped near the top floor.
PG-13: Gun violence and action, and fstrong language — Premiere Cinemas, Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17, Movies 16 and Stars & Stripes Drive-In.
Sorry to Bother You
A wildly original science fiction comedy written and directed by Boots Riley. In an alternate reality of present-day Oakland, California, black telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) finds himself in a macabre universe after he discovers a magical key -- namely, a white voice supplied by David Cross -- that leads to material glory. As Green's career begins to take off, he loses sight of his morals while his friends and co-workers organize a protest against corporate oppression. The upswing in his career raises serious red flags with his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), a performance artist. Cassius falls under the spell of Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), a cocaine-snorting CEO who offers him a huge salary. But a mind-blowing ending reveals what he would have to sacrifice.
R: Pervasive language, strong sexual content, graphic nudity and drug use -- Alamo Drafthouse and Tinseltown 17.
Avid sailors Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin) agree to sail their friends' boat 4,000 miles across the Pacific to California in 1983, in exchange for $10,000 and airline tickets home, but neither anticipated sailing into a hurricane. Tami is knocked unconscious below deck. In the storm's aftermath, she awakens to find their boat in ruins and Richard badly injured and floating among debris.
PG-13: Injury images, peril, language, drug use, partial nudity and thematic elements -- Movies 16.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (3-D/2-D)
Kerns Rating: Two and one-half stars
Perhaps we should have, but just didn't, expect such a big surprise during the final credits sequence. It actually reinvests "Ant-Man and the Wasp" as Marvel Comics Universe citizens. Nevertheless, I don't buy the story's being kept so lightweight (i.e., boring) on purpose. It becomes reminiscent of Disney live action in the 1960s and '70s, hardly shining moments for non-animated Disney. Paul Rudd earns a few grins while under house arrest for his exploits during "Captain America, Civil War." Saddled with an ankle bracelet and a suspicious federal baby sitter, he does little more than learn closeup magic via online courses to keep his daughter amused. Ordered not to leave the premises, an incident of course brings him back in contact with a bitter Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) and her father, brilliant inventor Pym, again played by Michael Douglas. There follows repeated shrinkings of a huge laboratory to the size of carry-on, and easily stolen, luggage. Good Guys pull out a Hot Wheels carrying case when choosing getaway cars. Cue the cliched car crashes. Kudos to Michael Pena, who can make silliness work for him. On the heels of "Black Panther" and "Infinity Wars," however, this is Marvel for small children. At least until the final few seconds of an ending we dare not reveal.
PG-13: Sci-fi action violence -- Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17 (includes XD), Movies 16 (includes XD) and Stars & Stripes Drive-In.
A heartfelt comedy about four successful women in their 60s. Diane (Diane Keaton) is recently widowed after 40 years of marriage. Vivian (Jane Fonda) enjoys men with no strings attached. Sharon (Candice Bergen) is still working through her decades-old divorce, and Carol's (Mary Steenburgen) marriage is in a slump after 35 years. The lives of these four lifelong friends are turned upside down after reading British author E.L.James controversial and erotic "Fifty Shades of Grey" for their book club, catapulting them into a series of outrageous life choices.
PG-13: Sex-related material and language — Movies 16.
Kerns rating: Four stars
Josh Brolin makes a great Cable, his second super villain this year -- Deadpool even snaps, "Zip it, Thanos" -- and also look for a terrific performance by wonderful Zazie Beetz, who, as Domino, redefines "luck" as a superpower. In the midst of opening carnage, Ryan Reynolds' title character insists this is a "family movie." Indeed, this time he is a merc with not just a mouth, but a heart. Those who liked the original won't abandon ship.
R: Violence and language, sexual references and drug material — Premiere Cinemas.
The First Purge
The New Founding Fathers of America test a sociological theory that vents aggression for one night on Staten Island. They propose a "purge," making legal all crime, including murder, for one 12-hour period, from midnight to noon. This is the fourth "Purge" film, a prequel to "The Purge," 2013; "The Purge: Anarchy," 2014 and "The Purge: Election Year," 2016.
R: Violence, pervasive language, sexuality and drug use — Premiere Cinemas, Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17 and Movies 16.
Kerns rating: Four stars
Ari Aster deserves kudos for delivering an increasingly creepy, tension-packed and entertaining tale about a family never given an opportunity to escape its doom. The story is connected via a series of revealing tells, most of which must be kept secret so as not to become spoilers. Anchoring the film is another phenomenal performance by Toni Collette, cast as psychologically tortured artist Annie Graham. The ensemble is wonderful: Milly Shapiro as daughter Charlie, Alex Wolff as son Peter, Gabriel Byrne as husband Steve and Ann Dowd as a somewhat obvious Ruth Gordon-type, helping Annie deal with her grief. To his credit, Aster sidesteps expectations, even as he provides strong hints throughout, most ignored by audiences. A character's allergy is foreshadowing, but nothing prepares audiences for that person's fate, or for an unseen, chilling wail the next morning. We do know the dead matriarch took Charlie under her wing, the same child who scissors the head off a dead bird in the school yard. Aster hints at haunted houses and possessive spirits before detouring toward his own supernatural endgame, complete with subtle warnings. The disturbing, intense "Hereditary' will shock and satisfy most.
R: Horror violence, disturbing images, language, drug use and graphic nudity -- Movies 16.
Incredibles 2 (3-D/2-D)
Kerns rating: Three and one-half stars
Little comes across as incredibly new, but the movie is fun regardless. Three months after Syndrome's defeat, the Parr family -- Bob/Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner) and Jack-Jack -- continue operating under their collective superhero identity, The Incredibles. They do successfully prevent Underminer from robbing a bank -- but authorities are concerned about the level of damage. So their program is shut down, forcing superheroes to adhere once more to secret identities. Elastigirl takes part in a publicity stunt to regain the general public's support, only to fall victim to a rather predictable villain. Bob and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) also wind up brain-washed, so it's up to the Parr kids to save the day. Brad Bird again directs his own script. Entertaining, but one expected more after such a lengthy literal absence.
PG: Action sequences and mild language -- Premiere Cinemas (includes D-Box), Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17 and Stars & Stripes Drive-In.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (3-D/2-D)
Kerns rating: Three stars
Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are convinced to return to the fictitious island of Isla Nublar, near Costa Rica, to rescue remaining dinosaurs from an active volcano. The contrived opening also introduces beasts that are never again seen. The movie includes some fun dinosaur pursuits and narrow escapes, but, eventually, the beasts seem to be around just to set up the story for the next sequel. Regardless, the CGI is often incredible, and dinosaurs are what fans keep coming to see. Never mind a major secret revealed about one character, and then just dropped from the story.
PG-13: Sci-fi violence and peril -- Premiere Cinemas (includes IMAX and D-Box), Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17, Movies 16and Stars & Stripes Drive-In.
Life of the Party
Kerns rating: Two stars
Melissa McCarthy definitely should rethink working with husband Ben Falcone. Their most recent flop ranges between predictable made-for-TV storytelling and a cinematic party pooper. The opening finds Dan (Matt Walsh) wanting a quickie divorce from Deanna (McCarthy) so he can marry their realtor, Marcie (Julie Bowen). Deanna, who dropped out decades ago, opts to return to college. She winds up becoming daughter Maddie's (Molly Gordon) classmate and sorority sister. Awkward. Naturally, McCarthy is quick to engage in sexual liaisons on campus; never mind any age difference. Positives in this movie are few: maybe a plot twist and a throw-away line about math skills. Blink and you'll miss them. Parties outnumber classes, and even a pop star's performance is limited to one song, presumably for the soundtrack.
PG-13: Sexual material, drug content and partying — Movies 16.
A heist comedy directed as a spinoff from Steven Soderbergh's "Oceans's trilogy. Starring Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean, estranged sister of Danny Ocean (George Clooney). Inspired by Danny, Debbie devoted her years in prison to planning a huge robbery. Upon her release, she partners again with Lou Miller (Cate Blanchett) and, together, they recruit a crew of specialists: Amita (Mindy Kaling), the jeweler; street con Constance (Awkwafina); Tammy (Sarah Paulson), a suburban mom with skills; the hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna); and fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter). Debbie's plan is to rob the annual Metropolitan Museum of Art Gala in New York City, and she also has her eyes on a diamond necklace valued at more than $150 million, expected to be worn at the gala by celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway).
PG-13: Language, drug use and suggestive content -- Premiere Cinemas, Tinseltown 17 and Movies 16.
Kerns rating: Two stars
Dwayne Johnson has fun transforming science fiction stories into live action cartoons -- here, fighting a gigantic gorilla (his buddy, George), as well as an enormous wolf and crocodile. On the roof of a skyscraper, he decides to climb into a helicopter with no tail and "glide" down the building amid the rubble to the street when the building is leveled. Emerging, of course, without a scratch.
PG-13: Violence, action and destruction, language and crude gestures — Movies 16.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Kerns rating: Four and one-half stars
Cannot match the brilliance of the original 2015 "Sicario" -- but returning are gifted screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, along with dynamic co-stars Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro. Brutal action opens with the discovery of Mexico's powerful drug cartels now smuggling terrorists across the United States border. The CIA wants Matt Graver (Brolin) and former undercover operative Alejandro Gillick (del Toro) to eliminate the problem. Their strategy involves kidnapping Isabela Reyes (Isabela Moner), daughter of a drug cartel kingpin, in a false flag operation designed to incite war between rival cartels. But the mission goes awry when discovered by the Mexican government, resulting in Graver handed an order to view Reyes as collateral damage. Del Toro commands attention by refusing to get on board with killing a hostage he helped kidnap. The finale may be iffy, but drama remains intense.
R: Violence, bloody images, and language — Premiere Cinemas.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (3-D/2-D)
Kerns rating: Three and one-half stars
The cast elevates predictable writing and direction from Ron Howard, who evidently still was re-thinking characters and action while blocking scenes. Fans will be happy enough if they just walk in expecting more light-hearted action. Really, the only things writer Kasdan and his son Jonathan had to pull off were introducing Han to Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian, showing the Falcon changing hands in a card game, and revealing the Millenium Falcon making the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs. Alden Ehrenreich grows on viewers as the younger Han. All in all, "Solo" does not rank anywhere among the best, but works just fine as popcorn entertainment.
PG-13: Sci-fi action/violence — Movies 16.
Kerns rating: Two stars
Five guys, friends since age 9, try to stay young playing a children's game. Never mind their marriages, divorces, romantic regrets or demanding jobs requiring moves. As years pass, the annual game becomes not funnier, but more violent. Players plan vacations, travel cross-country, conceive disguises, commit crimes and suffer injuries, all in hopes of telling an elusive friend, "You're it." First-time director Jeff Tomsic can deliver only inconsistent laughs despite a committed cast.
R: Language, crude sexual content, drug use and nudity -- Premiere Cinemas and Tinseltown 17.
A sports comedy featuring former professional basketball players. Former manager Dax (Lil Rey Howery) is desperate to form a team and win the Rucker Classic street ball tournament in Harlem. He stumbles upon man, myth and legend Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) and convinces him to return to the basketball court. A road trip follows as the two try to prove certain retired players have not lost skills necessary to win a big game. Uncle Drew's old squad includes Big Fella (Shaquille O'Neal), now running a martial arts dojo; Preacher (Chris Webber), a church minister; Lights (Reggie Miller), assumed to be legally blind; Boots (Nate Robinson), found in a retirement home; and Betty Lou (Lisa Leslie), Preacher's wife. Making cameos for director Charles Stone III are retired NBA greats Earl Monroe, Chris Mullin, Bill Walton, George Gervin, Steve Nash, David Robinson, Jerry West and Dikembe Mutombo.
PG-13: Suggestive material, language and nudity — Premiere Cinemas and Tinseltown 17.
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Kerns rating: Four and one-half stars
The late Fred Rogers, who died at 74 in February 2003, was displeased with the way television and TV advertising manipulated children. Despite his lack of industry experience, he began developing low-budget programs, and his star rose in part because he treated children with respect, never talking down to them. This documentary from filmmaker Morgan Neville uses archival recordings and contemporary interviews to examine the life and guiding philosophy of Rogers, remembered as host of popular children's television show "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood." Those curious about the documentary's lack of a G rating will learn that Rogers also found it important to use his program to define racism, assassination and the concept of death, in ways that children could understand. This is an honest look at the legacy of a television pioneer whose work enriched generations.
PG-13: Thematic elements and language — Premiere Cinemas.
Ratings, from one to five stars, and reviews are by A-J Media film critic William Kerns.