Capsule reviews of feature films

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Published in Entertainment News

BILAL: A NEW BREED OF HERO. 2 stars. Animated epic, imported form the United Arab Emirates, about historical figure Bilal ibn Rabah, who rose from slavery circa 630 AD to lead a revolt against corrupt aristocrats, and became an early follower of Muhammad. Uneven mix of beautiful vistas and awkwardly animated human figures, from a first-time animation studio. Featuring the voices of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Ian McShane. 1 hr. 47 PG-13 (violence) -- Gary Thompson

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. 3 stars. Handsome production set in 1983 Italy, where a professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) is hosting a handsome student (Armie Hammer) who becomes involved with the professor's son (Timothee Chalamet). Sensitively told, coming-of-age story that is well-acted by Chalamet and Hammer. Written by James Ivory, it recalls some of the quintessential Merchant Ivory movies of the 1990s, though it's directed by Luca Guadagnino. 2 hrs. 11 R (sex) -- Gary Thompson

COCO. 3 stars. In Mexico a fatherless boy crosses into the colorful land of the dead to learn more about his family, and to pursue his forbidden dream of being a musician. Steeped in the customs and rituals of the Day of the Dead celebration, which provide Pixar animators an opportunity to work with a new range of colors and visual ideas. The music is first-rate as well, even if the story sometimes sputters. Not in a class with Pixar's best animation, but way better than Cars 3. Featuring the voice of Benjamin Bratt. 1 hr. 40 PG -- Gary Thompson

DARKEST HOUR. 3 stars. Gary Oldman has great fun as Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour," and it's great fun to watch him play Britain's wartime prime minister, contending with political opposition while rallying his people and his king (Ben Mendelsohn) to the cause of opposing Germany, in the face of the dire events at Dunkirk. Joe Wright's showboating direction is a match for the heightened pitch of the performances, which include good work by Stephen Dillane, Kristen Scott Thomas and Lily James. 2 hrs. 5 PG-13 (language) -- Gary Thompson

DEN OF THIEVES. 2.5 stars. Gang of efficient and highly motivated bank robbers is shadowed and surveilled by a mirror-image group of law-enforcement officers. A knowing knock-off of Michael Mann's 'Heat' that invites the audience to enjoy the way it riffs on Mann's classic, sort of a bro-movie version of a Sound of Music singalong. Some of the plotting also filches from another famous genre picture. Which one? We're never tell. Starring Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber and O'Shea Jackson Jr. 2 hrs. R (violence) -- Gary Thompson

FILM STARS DON'T DIE IN LIVERPOOL. 2.5 stars. Based on the memoir of Peter Turner (Jamie Bell), an aspiring stage actor who had a brief affair with Hollywood star Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening). Offbeat romance with melancholoy tone, helped by first-rate performances from Bening and Bell, who has his most rewarding role since Billy Elliot. With Julie Walters, Vanessa Redgrave. 1 hr. 45 R (sex) -- Gary Thompson

THE FLORIDA PROJECT. 3 stars. Engaging slice-of-life look at residents of an Orlando motel, the adults living paycheck-to-paycheck, their free-range kids having an improbably wonderful time on the ragged fringe of the Magic Kingdom. Written and directed by Sean Baker. With Willem Dafoe, Brooklyn Prince. 1 hr. 45. R (language) -- Gary Thompson

FOREVER MY GIRL. 2 stars. Corny, twangy romance about a debauched country star (Alex Roe) who returns to his Louisiana hometown to get his life in order and to sort things out with the high school sweetheart (Jessica Rothe) he left at the altar seven years earlier. Wholesome and generic, but the country music actually pretty good, either performed by Roe or selected for the soundtrack. Travis Tritt sings in a cameo. 1 hr. 40. PG (drinking) -- Gary Thompson

I, TONYA. 3 stars. Margot Robbie produces and stars in this biography, told with elements of black comedy, of notorious figure skater Tonya Harding (Robbie), implicated in the conspiracy to injure competitive rival Nancy Kerrigan. The movie tells you things you probably didn't know about the scandal, and manages to build empathy for Harding, who saw skating as a refuge form a life of poverty and abuse. Allison Janney and Sebastian Stan are Harding's abusive mother and husband, Bobby Canavale a cynical tabloid TV reporter. 1 hr. 59 R (violence) -- Gary Thompson

IN THE FADE. 3 stars. Diane Kruger won the best actress award at the Cannes Film festival for her riveting turn here as a German woman (in subtitled German with some English) whose Turkish/German husband and son are killed in a terrorist bombing. Absorbing if excruciating portrait of grief and fury, and an offbeat spin on the response-to-terror scenario -- the targets are immigrants and the perpetrators are neo-Nazis. 1 hr. 40 R (violence) -- Gary Thompson

JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE. 3 stars. A complete reboot of the 1995 original. The magical board game is now a magical video game, where archetypal teens (jock, nerd, popular girl) find themselves inhabiting in-game avatars that are the opposite of the real-world personalities. The hulking football player becomes pint-sized Kevin Hart, the nerd becomes Dwayne Johnson, the pretty girl becomes Jack Black, and the actors have more fun that you might expect playing teens stuck . Co-starring Karen Gillen and Nick Jonas. Directed by Jake Kasdan. 2 hrs. 2 PG-13 (language) -- Gary Thompson

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LADY BIRD. 4 stars. Funny, touching coming-of-age story about a Sacramento high school senior (Saoirse Ronan) who quarrels with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) about her determination to leave California for a more sophisticated life at an Eastern college. Written and directed with great affection, wisdom and skill by Greta Gerwig. With Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein. 1 hr. 33 R (language, sexuality) -- Gary Thompson

THE MAZE RUNNER: DEATH CURE. 2 stars. Action-oriented conclusion to the saga of teens (Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scoladerio) battling an authoritarian figures (Patricia Clarkson, Aiden Gillen) who want to use their blood to develop a serum to combat a deadly plague. Director Wes Ball goes for spectacle over story, and allows many of his scenes to overstay their welcome. With Dexter Darden, Rosa Salazar, Barry Pepper and Giancarlo Esposito. 2 hrs. 23 PG-13 (violence) -- Gary Thompson

THE POST. 3.5 stars. Steven Spielberg directs a cast that includes Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in this true story of the Washington Post's fight to publish the Pentagon Papers. 1 hr. 55 PG-13 (profanity, brief war violence) -- Gary Thompson

THE SHAPE OF WATER. 3 stars. Adult fable from Guillermo del Toro, set Cold War Baltimore in 1962, about a lonely woman (Sally Hawkins) working on the cleaning staff in a government lab who falls in love for the amphibious creature (Doug Jones) brought there for study. Richard Jenkins and Olivia Spenser have charming roles as the woman's friends and co-conspirator in a plot to save the creature. Michael Shannon -- surprise -- is the heavy. Full of strange ideas and twists, unified by first-rate visual presentation that somehow maintains the movie's tone of enchantment. 2 hrs. 5 R (nudity) -- Gary Thompson

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI. 3 stars. Rian Johnson's competent, crowd-pleasing addition to the franchise, expanding on J.J. Abrams's reboot. Rey (Daisy Ridley) tries to recruit Luke (Mark Hamill) to join the beleaguered resistance led by his sister Leia (Carrie Fisher), threatened by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). A blend of the old and the new -- Finn (John Boyega) is off on a renegade mission of his own, introducing new characters like Rose (Kelly Marie Tran). 2 hrs. 35 PG-13 (violence) -- Gary Thompson

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI. 3.5 stars. From writer-director Martin McDonagh, a timely if scabrous story about a small-town woman (Frances McDormand) taunting the cops (Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell) who have failed to solve her daughter's murder. Contains the brutal violence, savage humor and surprising moments of warmth that comprise McDonagh's unique voice, and good performances as well -- from McDormand and Rockwell in difficult and complex roles, playing difficult and complex people. With Peter Dinklage, Lucas Hedges and John Hawkes. 1 hr. 55 R (violence, language) -- Gary Thompson

12 STRONG. 3 stars. Sturdy, fact -based account of Army special forces unit (led by Chris Hemsworth) inserted into Northern Afghanistan just weeks after 9-11 to assist Northern Alliance in an early battle to capture the key stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif from entrenched Taliban forces. The men (including Michael Pena and Michael Shannon) were lightly equipped and trained to work with local allies, which in this case meant making charges on horseback. Based on Doug Stanton's book ' The Horse Soldiers.' Co-starring Rob Riggle, a former Marine who actually served in Mazar-i-Sharif. 2 hrs. 10 R (violence) -- Gary Thompson

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