William Kerns’ Movie Marquee — Weekend film choices

William Kerns' Movie Marquee - 3 movies open Friday in Lubbock ...

MOVIES OPENING FRIDAY

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Death Wish

Filmmaker Eli Roth’s re-imagining of the 1974 revenge fantasy starring Charles Bronson. Bruce Willis now stars as Chicago surgeon Paul Kersey, whose wife Lucy Rose (Elisabeth Shue) and college-age daughter Jordan (Camila Morrone) are attacked in their home. His wife is killed; his daughter survives. Burning for revenge, Kersey hunts for his family’s assailants. He wants justice. He takes the fight to other street criminals. Anonymous slayings grab media attention — asking if this unknown killer is a guardian angel or a grim reaper. Costars include Vincent D’Onofrio as Kersey’s younger brother Frank, Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise as detectives, and Beau Knapp as primary villain Knox.

R: Violence, language — Premiere Cinemas, Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17 and Movies 16.

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Red Sparrow

Francis Lawrence, who directed the last three “Hunger Games” films, reunites with star Jennifer Lawrence, introduced here as Bolshoi prima ballerina Dominika Egorova. She suffers a career-ending injury and has no choice but to become a Russian spy and train at Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service training candidates to use their minds and bodies as weapons. Matthew Schoenaerts portrays Ivan, who knows the former dancer will do anything to help her infirm mother Nina (Joely Richardson). Charlotte Rampling is the icy headmistress running the training school, and Jeremy Irons is Russian Gen. Vladimir Korchnoi, who knows just how far a Sparrow such as Dominika can be trusted. Eventually, it appears that Lawrence’s Sparrow is being convinced by CIA agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) to become a double agent. Mary-Louise Parker costars as a U.S. senator. Young/squeamish viewers should beware torture sequences.

R: Violence, torture, sexual content, language, graphic nudity — Premiere Cinemas, Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17, Movies 16 (includes XD) and the Stars and Stripes Drive-In.

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MOVIES CONTINUING

12 Strong

Kerns rating: Three and one-half stars

Danish director Nicolai Guglsig avoids waving Old Glory in front of cameras. His movie is an entertaining tale about little-known horse soldiers, the first American military allowed to take the fight to the Taliban and al-Qaida allies in Afghanistan, weeks after the 9/11/2001 attack. Based on declassified accounts and Doug Stanton’s 2009 book “The Horse Soldiers,” the film focuses on the Fifth Special Forces Group and Captain Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) who, though inexperienced, pledged to bring everyone home alive. Guglsig focuses on Hemsworth’s uneasy relationship with a Northern Alliance general (Abdul Rashid Dostum). Matters are helped by Nelson having been raised on a ranch and thus comfortable on horseback — because many battles must be waged while riding into battle, automatic weapons blazing. Nelson knows Dostum needs the American bombers hidden 30,000 feet high in the clouds, but trust issues are not solved immediately.

R: War violence, language — Movies 16.

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The 15:17 to Paris

Kerns rating: Three stars

A disappointment from director Clint Eastwood. The film follows three real American friends: Anthony Sadler; Alek Skarlatos, an Oregon National Guardsman; and U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone. Traveling together through Europe, they become heroes on Aug. 21, 2015, by stopping an attempted terrorist attack on a train bound for Paris. ISIS terrorist Ayoub El-Khazzani had boarded the same train from Brussels to Paris, armed with a Draco AK-47 assault rifle, a 9-millimeter Luger semiautomatic pistol and enough ammunition to kill every passenger.

PG-13: Bloody images, violence, suggestive material, drug references, language — Premiere Cinemas, Tinseltown 17 and the Stars & Stripes Drive-In.

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Annihilation

Kerns rating: Four stars

Alex Garland’s 2015 debut, “Ex Machina,” remains memorable. His science fiction followup “Annihilation” — admittedly not for everyone, and inspired by Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach Trilogy” — is helped mightily by an eerie original score and innovative visual effects. Phrased in nostalgic terms, it will blow a lot of minds. What, do I sound too old school? You might not think so after the movie. Audiences learn the military has tried repeatedly to cross a colorful barrier within the United States, aptly called the Shimmer, needing to discover how the land beyond, called Area X, has been affected. Only one soldier, Kane, returned alive, if not mentally whole, from a possible environmental disaster zone. Men failed, so the military has five female scientists try next. Biologist and former soldier Lena (Natalie Portman) wisely tells no one that Kane is her husband. Joining her: an anthropologist, psychologist, surveyor and linguist (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez and Tuva Novotny). Not all will return. What they discover defies laws of nature and includes mutated plants and dangerous animals that appear to borrow DNA from other species. Plus, there are mutations: Plants growing in human form, beautiful fawns with blossoms on antlers, and a threat of creation recognizing no boundaries. Don’t give too much away, although the film seems like one big spoiler. Could there be an alien, not necessarily extraterrestrial, whose weapon is molecular change — with intruders possibly internally consumed. Time is an unspoken factor; the Shimmer is approaching cities, and Area X expands daily. Good luck grasping it all. What role can one’s self-destructive, past transgressions play? Like all good science fiction, “Annihilation” asks questions. “Ex Machina” may be the better film, but I can’t wait to see what Garland does next.

R: Violence, bloody images, language, sexuality — Premiere Cinemas, Alamo Drafthouse and Tinseltown 17.

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Black Panther 3-D/2-D

Kerns rating: Four and one-half stars

Good films at times rely on villains. One example is Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), introduced in thrilling fashion: a distinguished American military hero, possible contender for the Wakanda king’s crown, at the top of his game when motivated by ignored global realities. Look for Eric to engage in battle more than once in dynamic, frightening fashion against new crown prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman). The intelligent script conjures thought and questions. Directing only his third feature-length film, Ryan Coogler makes some jaw-dropping decisions. Viewers will be awed by their introduction to the apparent Third World African country of Wakanda, which resisted being colonized by everyone who might discover its secret source of Vibranium. It was used ages ago to secretly create the world’s most advanced culture and civilization. Meanwhile, the film’s art direction, costumes and music are perfectly realized, as is the manner in which the nation’s women play vital roles. Not your ordinary superhero movie, to be sure. Don’t miss it.

PG-13: Action violence, rude gesture — Premiere Cinemas (includes IMAX), Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17 (includes XD) and the Stars & Stripes Drive-In.

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Darkest Hour

Kerns rating: Three stars

Best Picture nominee. Director Joe Wright’s film does provide more talk than action. It is written to train a huge spotlight on the achievements of British prime minister Winston Churchill. Gary Oldman stars, and literally commands the screen. “Darkest Hour” gives Oldman access to Churchill’s greatest speeches, and Oscar voters probably will agree it is time Oldman won an Academy Award. There is history in this island nation only gradually warming up to a prime minister who favors war with Nazi Germany over any pretense of a negotiated peace with Adolf Hitler.

PG-13: Thematic material — Movies 16.

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Den of Thieves

Low budget cops and robbers written and directed by Christian Gudegast. But Gerard Butler stars, and fans already have been promised a sequel.

R: Violence, language, sexuality — Movies 16 and Stars and Stripes Drive-In.

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Early Man

Stop motion animator Nick Park sets his story at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures roam the planet. The focus is on plucky cave man Dug (voiced by Eddie Redmayne) and his wild boar sidekick Hognob (Park).

PG: Rude humor, action — Tinseltown 17.

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Every Day

Michael Sucsy directs. Angourie Rice stars as a shy, 16-year-old named Rhiannon, who falls in love with a traveling soul named “A.” The latter wakes up every morning in a different body, living a different life each day. The more the couple falls for one another, the more the realities of loving someone who is a different person every 24 hours takes a toll.

PG-13: Thematic content, language, teen drinking, suggestive material — Premiere Cinemas and Tinseltown 17.

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Ferdinand (3-D/2-D)

Kerns rating: Three stars

Director Carlos Saldanha could not resist placing a bull in a china shop, with predictable results. Yet it remains an amusing tale, a loyal adaptation of 1936 children’s book “The Story of Ferdinand,” a story not seen on screen since the Disney cartoon in 1938. One cannot help but like Ferdinand (voiced by wrestler-turned-actor John Cena) — who is bullied as a youngster for preferring to smell flowers. Naturally, Ferdinand grows (and grows) and is mistaken for a prime opponent by an undefeated matador. Kate McKinnon is a hoot as wisecracking goat Lupe. With a number of vocal actors earning laughs as animals, the young at heart will smile throughout.

PG: Rude humor, action, thematic elements — Tinseltown 17.

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Fifty Shades Freed

Following “Fifty Shades of Grey” (2015) and “Fifty Shades Darker” (2017), the final installment of a film trilogy adapted from novels by author E.L. James. The films co-star Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson as billionaire entrepreneur Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, a couple finding happiness with a BDSM sexual relationship. Anastasia must adjust not only to married life, but to her new husband’s wealthy lifestyle and controlling nature. Just as they adapt to a life of luxury, sinister events — attempted murder and kidnapping, mistrust and blackmail — come to light. James Foley directs.

R: Erotic sexual content, graphic nudity, language — Premiere Cinemas, Tinseltown 17 and Movies 16.

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Forever My Girl

Liam Page (played by Alex Roe) left high school sweetheart Josie Preston (Jessica Rothe) at the altar. Years later, and now a country music star, Liam misses his small town roots and returns. No one is happy to see him, but Josie has saved a surprise for the day he returns.
PG: Thematic elements, drinking, language — Premiere Cinemas and Tinseltown 17.

Game Night

Kerns rating: Two and one-half stars

Comedy has not gotten any easier. This escapist fluff from co-directors John Francis Daly and Jonathan M. Goldstein avoids disaster because a couple ensemble members provide enough fun to help audiences forget how often Mark Perez’s inconsistent script slips off the tracks. On the other hand, one couple (Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury) is saddled with a boring “can’t let it go” subplot about a past affair. Just as bad: Unoriginal slapstick — some involving a shaking, blood-spattered dog, and more arriving with a valuable breakable being tossed around indoors like a football. Yawns are barely dodged. But co-stars Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman are well cast as married and mutually competitive game nerds who share charisma and inspire smiles. They are Annie and Max, whose couple’s game night is one-upped when Max’s richer, more popular brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) hires local company Murder We Wrote for a party at which guests win by solving a faux murder mystery. For the few who missed the trailer, fake thugs and federal agents are replaced by dangerous, real crooks. Pop culture humor disrespects Denzel Washington and Edward Norton; there is plenty of product placement and too many attempted plot twists.

R: Language, sexual references, violence — Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17, Movies 16 and Stars & Stripes Drive-In

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The Greatest Showman

Kerns rating: Three stars

Hugh Jackman impresses in his dream role of P.T. Barnum, but there is little story exposition between all the songs. Deserving applause is the choreography by Ashley Wallen, who reveals fantastic rapport with director Michael Gracey. Gracey and Wallen also create a sweet, mid-air romance (“Rewrite the Stars”) during which feelings are exchanged between playwright Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) and sexy trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya). Jackman and Efron are musical veterans, and it shows. Michelle Williams is tragically underused as Charity Barnum. Social statements blend into entertainment and, by the end, good gosh, even elephants seem to appear out of nowhere.

PG: Thematic elements, including brawl — Premiere Cinemas, Tinseltown 17 and Movies 16.

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Hostiles

Kerns rating: Five stars

Possibly final weekend to see film in Lubbock. Like Cline Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” in 1990, this drama from writer-director Scott Cooper proves the western is not dead — while taking a darker approach examining characters on the edge, affected by lives of brutal violence. The main characters, cavalry Capt. Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) and Northern Cheyenne war chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi), developed bitter hatred for one another over years of bloody battles, until the latter was captured and incarcerated. The story opens in 1892. Blocker nears retirement, even as Comanches continue to raid homesteads for scalps and horses. Recently, a mother (Rosamund Pike) survived, although broken emotionally, while her husband and daughters were murdered. Blocker receives his most distasteful assignment: to escort Yellow Hawk, who contracted cancer, and his family from a New Mexico fort to ancestral burial grasslands in Montana. Crossing paths with marauding Comanche, dangerous fur trappers and racist whites, their survival odds are slim. “Hostiles” is special, however, because of character arc and change; this western also deals openly with post traumatic stress. Bale is incredible as he questions his own humanity; . Bale learned to speak Northern Cheyenne, which grants enhanced authenticity to conversations with the brilliantly subtle Studi. Pike is outstanding, as are so many others in a drama working on varied levels. Filmed in New Mexico.

R: Strong violence, language — Movies 16.

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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (3-D/2-D)

Kerns rating: Three and one-half stars

Kudos to the writing, casting and performances. The story opens a la “The Breakfast Club,” with high school detention populated by types: skinny nerd Spencer (Alex Wolf); football jock Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), pretty-turned-vain selfie-taker Bethany (Madison Iseman), and shy bookworm Martha (Morgan Turner). They find a Jumanji game console and barely hear African drums before being sucked into the game and transformed into adult avatars. The nerd becomes a muscular adventurer (Dwayne Johnson), the jock is now a small whiner (Kevin Hart), a shy bookworm gives way to a Lara Croft-type (Karen Gillan), and sexy Bethany trades her body for that of middle-aged cartographer Jack Black. Adult avatars, however, maintain teenage personalities and fears. Ensemble work shines, despite Black stealing scenes.

PG-13: Action, suggestive content, language — Tinseltown 17, Movies 16 and Stars & Stripes Drive-In.

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Lady Bird

Kerns rating: Four stars

Best Picture nominee. One is easily attracted to Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut. Characters are introduced via familiar conflicts, be it teenage rebellion, or an early relationship with one or the other failing to adequately translate sexual signals. Saoirse Ronan, cast as unruly Catholic high school senior Christine McPherson, can be alternately funny and sweet, or aggravating and rude. She can be tough to like. Christine has, after all, dyed half her hair, nicknamed herself Lady Bird and, bored to tears with her Sacramento home, gripes about a need to attend an East Coast college. Two problems: Lady Bird’s grades are not strong enough and, more to the point, higher tuition is out of her working parents’ grasp. Elevating “Lady Bird” are verbal squabbles between equally strong-willed daughter and mother. Laurie Metcalf shines as the mom

R: Language, sexual content, graphic nudity, teen partying — Movies 16.

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Maze Runner: The Death Cure

The trilogy’s final chapter, following “The Maze Runner” in 2014 and “The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trial” in 2015. In director Wes Ball’s finale, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) again leads the escaped Gladers. To save friends, they break into the last city that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all.

PG-13: Sci-fi violence and action, language, some thematic elements — Premiere Cinemas and Movies 16.

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Oscar-nominated shorts

The Drafthouse presently has screens dedicated to showing Academy Award-nominated shorts: animated short subjects, documentary short subjects and live action short subjects. Call the theater for showtimes (documentaries are split on two screens) and ticket prices. One auditorium will show the Academy Awards at 6 p.m. Sunday at no charge.

Not rated — Alamo Drafthouse.

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Peter Rabbit 3-D/2-D

Peter Rabbit, the mischievous and adventurous hero who captivated generations of readers, stars in his own irreverent film comedy. Peter’s feud with farmer Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) escalates to greater heights as both rival for the affection of Bea (Rose Byrne), a sweet animal lover living next door. James Corden provides the voice of Peter.

PG: Some rude humor, action — Premiere Cinemas and Tinseltown 17.

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Phantom Thread

Kerns rating: Four stars

Best Picture nominee. Writer-director-cinematographer Paul Thomas Anderson’s oddly titled eighth movie is cold, elegant, often beautiful, and reunites him with actor Daniel Day-Lewis. The latter insists this is his farewell performance. Day-Lewis is introduced as Reynolds Woodcock, a fashion god dictating changes in haute couture in 1955 London. With hints of maternal issues, including hallucinations of his deceased mother, Woodcock may as well be married to his designs. He is not kind to the women who become lovers, although the House of Woodcock changes when he opens his door to working class Alma, played brilliantly by Vicky Krieps. Ignoring manipulation and cruelty, she fights for him, if strangely channeling “The Beguiled” at times.

R: Language — Movies 16.

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The Post

Kerns rating: Three and one-half stars

Best Picture nominee. Important on historical and cultural levels. Meryl Streep’s brilliant work as a shy Katharine Graham, who inherits the power of Washington Post publisher, is the actress’ most subtle and powerful work in years. Steven Spielberg introduces Graham as a role model for all women. “The Post” deals with the reality of 1971. It carries power as a story about men and women who risked lives and careers for freedom of the press and government accountability. Obtaining top secret documents, powers at the Post ask if the public’s right to know is worth defying President Richard Nixon. The film’s ending is a perfect choice.

PG-13: Language, brief war violence — Movies 16.

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Samson

Taylor James stars as long-haired Biblical hero Samson. As his brother mounts a tribal rebellion, only Samson’s relationship with a Philistine and his final surrender — both to the Philistines and to God — turn imprisonment and blindness into final victory. Caitlin Leahy is Delilah, the temptress who betrays him. Rutger Hauer and Lindsay Wagner play Samson’s father and mother.

PG-13: Violence, battle sequences — Premiere Cinemas and Tinseltown 17.

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The Shape of Water

Kerns rating: Five stars

Best Picture nominee. Sally Hawkins impresses as mute, lonely Eliza Esposito, who forges a relationship with the amphibian imprisoned in the government lab that she helps clean each night. Bookend narration by Richard Jenkins’ gay character, emphasizes imaginative filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s original fairy tale. A Cold War rages against the Russians, inspiring sadistic Col. Strickland (Michael Shannon) to drag an amphibian (Doug Jones) from a South American river. Torture gives way to a story about love, as Eliza secretly uses eggs, sign language and music to communicate. Cinematographer Dan Lausten finds amazing images in a flooded apartment.

R: Sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, language — Movies 16.

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Kerns rating: Five stars

Best Picture nominee. Frances McDormand is powerful as Mildred, a divorced mom whose daughter was raped and murdered seven months ago. Furious that the crime never was solved, the bitter McDormand wants justice — and provides cruel, accusatory reminders on billboards near town. The police chief may not be a bad guy, but that does not appease Mildred’s anger in the slightest. In the hands of writer-director Martin McDonagh, the film gains intensity throughout. The screenplay — like the film, its key performances and McDonagh’s unjustly ignored direction, all deserving of Oscar consideration — is a mixture of wrenching drama and dark comic moments constructed with jaw-dropping surprises and twists. Also super: Sam Rockwell’s supporting work as Officer Dixon, whose immaturity and anger issues lead to more violence.

R: Violence, language, sexual references — Movies 16.

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Winchester

Kerns rating: One star

Good luck figuring out why Helen Mirren stars in this horrid haunted house mess, co-directed by Michael and Peter Spierig.

PG-13: Violence, disturbing images, intense sequences — Tinseltown 17.

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Ratings, from one to five stars, and reviews are by A-J Media film critic William Kerns.

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