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Now playing: Your quickie weekly movie guide

By Dann Gire
Daily Herald News Service
Posted on 2/27/2017, 5:00 AM

Four stars: superior. Three stars: good. Two stars: average. One star: poor. D (drug use), L (language), N (nudity), S (sexual situations, references), V (violence). Ratings by Dann Gire, Daily Herald Film Critic, unless otherwise noted.


"A Dog's Purpose" -- Risky, bold translation of W. Bruce Cameron's books about a lovable puppy that lives through several reincarnations to find his purpose. With many canine POV shots, it's an amusing speculation on how a dog would react and think, although director Lasse Hallstrom needs to pull back on canine voice-over narration. With Peggy Lipton and Dennis Quaid. (PG) 120 minutes. (3 stars)

"The Founder" -- John Lee Hancock tries oh-so-hard to make McDonald's marketing man Ray Kroc (rendered with restrained obsession by Michael Keaton) a hero, but the best this handsomely mounted biopic can do is downplay his dishonesty in dealing with the original McDonald's brothers (a hilarious pairing of Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch). Northwest suburban Illinois locations have been replicated by Georgian sets. (PG-13) L. 115 minutes. (3 stars)

"Get Out" -- Jordan Peele's horror comedy about a black man's visit to the home of his white girlfriend's parents masks a sharp, timely analysis of racism in America. Funny, scary and thought-provoking. With Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener. (R) L, S, V. 103 minutes. (4 stars)

"The Girl With All the Gifts" -- Another zombie virus Armageddon with a twist. Remaining humans (led by a military buzz-cut Glenn Close) work to create an antidote before it's too late. The movie lacks the social and political subtext of a George Romero opus but offers surprises and a superlative performance from charismatic newcomer Sennia Nanua as a half-undead/half-living offspring. (R) L, V. 110 minutes. (3 stars)

"Hidden Figures" -- Up for the Best Picture Oscar. This bracing movie, about a group of brilliant African-American women whose scientific and mathematical skills helped NASA launch its space exploration program in the 1950s and 1960s, is a shot of distilled, exhilarating joy. Starring Taraji P. Henson and Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer. (PG) 127 minutes. (4 stars)

"John Wick: Chapter 2" -- A ballet of bullets awaits Keanu Reeves' retired Russian mob assassin in this beautifully designed, elegantly lighted, artistically orchestrated, paranoia-fueled action movie combining John Woo, "Enter the Dragon," "Lethal Weapon" and the 1960s TV series "The Prisoner." Reeves' hitman becomes the target of a $7 million bounty on his life. With Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne. (R) L, N, V. 122 minutes. (3 stars)

"La La Land" -- A record-tying 14 Oscar nods, including Picture, Director, Actor and Actress. A joyous reinvention of the American movie musical from "Whiplash" creator Damien Chazelle. Star-crossed lovers Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, as a wannabe actress and a jazz musician, struggle to achieve their dreams in a jazzy, snazzy tribute to 1940s Hollywood musicals. The song "City of Stars" will win the Oscar, by the way. (PG-13) L. 128 minutes. (4 stars)

"The Lego Batman Movie" -- Supersmart, super-quick, super-dense animated comedy that sends up movie cliches and human nature while the egomaniacal Caped Crusader (voiced by Will Arnett) decides if he should remain a stoic individual or become a member of a metaphorical family to raise his new stepson Dick Grayson (Michael Cera). So crammed with hilarious zingers, you'll need to see it twice. (PG) 90 minutes. (3 stars)

"Lion" -- Up for the Best Picture and five other Oscars. Gorgeous cinematography caps this interesting fact-based drama about a lost Indian boy who grows up to be an obsessed man (Oscar nominee Dev Patel) searching for his biological family after being adopted by an Australian couple, one of them played by Oscar nominee Nicole Kidman. Reviewed by Stephanie Merry, Washington Post. (PG-13) S. In English, Hindi and Bengali with subtitles. 118 minutes. (3 stars)

"Manchester By the Sea" -- Up for Best Picture and five other Oscars. Casey Affleck's tight, Oscar-nominated performance as a withdrawn handyman/janitor highlights Kenneth Lonergan's piercing character study of loss, grief and survival. He doesn't want custody of his teen nephew (Lucas Hedges), even though his deceased brother (Kyle Chandler) put it in his will. (R) L, S. 135 minutes. (3 stars)

"Moonlight" -- Eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress, went to this raw, yet gentle cutting-edge drama about an African-American kid in Florida glimpsed in three stages of life: as a shy boy, a troubled teen and a ripped drug dealer. An evocative tribute to the power of forgiveness from Oscar nominee Barry Jenkins. (NR) D, L, S, V. 110 minutes. (4 stars)

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" -- Oscar nominee for Visual Effects and Sound Mixing. Action sequences squelch the characters in Gareth Edwards' engaging prequel to "A New Hope." Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) leads a band of rebels (borrowed from "The Seven Samurai") to steal blueprints to the under-construction Imperial Death Star so that Episode IV can actually happen. (PG-13) V. 133 minutes. (3 stars)


"A Cure for Wellness" -- A New York stockbroker (Dane DeHaan) goes to Europe to pick up his boss from a health spa. But he can't seem to leave. Sinister stuff is afoot! Directed by the shaky Gore Verbinski. Reviewed by Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post. (R) L, N, S, V. 144 minutes. (2 stars)

"Rock Dog" -- Cute but superficial animated musical comedy about a Tibetan Mastiff dog (voiced by Luke Wilson) who goes to the big city to become a rock star like Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard). Nice-looking, but too cartoony for adults. (PG) 80 minutes. (2 stars)

"Sing" -- An energetic animated kids comedy relying on 85 sampled pop songs, flicker-fast shots and jokes to cover for a deficiency of anything to say beyond "follow your dreams." A koala (Matthew McConaughey) sponsors a singing competition to save his ailing theater. (PG) 108 minutes. (2)

"Split" -- M. Night Shyamalan directs and writes a meandering, suspense-diluted thriller about a man (the extremely versatile James McAvoy) possessed of 23 personalities, with the 24th about to hit, and he's a doozy. (PG-13) L, V. 116 minutes. (2 stars)

"A United Kingdom" -- Restrained, fact-based story of the 1948 interracial marriage of an African prince (David Oyelowo) and an English officer worker (Rosamund Pike) who incited two nations to try and break them up. Beautifully photographed, well-acted. But where are the passion and commitment that stood up against insane political pressures? (PG-13) L, S. 111 minutes. (2 stars)


"Bitter Harvest" -- Maudlin, heavy-handed, histrionic account of when Josef Stalin created the Holodomor, a manufactured famine that killed millions of Ukrainians during the 1930s. A cartoonish, unengaging telling of an undeniable tragedy. Reviewed by Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post. (R) V. 103 minutes. (1 stars)

"Fifty Shades Darker" -- It's more of a drag than the original "Fifty Shades of Grey," but it still caters to all kinds of fantasies. S&M master Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) reconcile. Cue two stalkers, a helicopter crash and two leads with limited range. Reviewed by Stephanie Merry, Washington Post. (R) L, N, S. 115 minutes. (1 stars)

"Fist Fight" -- Lame, disjointed and juvenile comedy about a timid high school English teacher (Charlie Day) who rats out an unstable instructor (Ice Cube), who in turn intends to whup his accuser in a fist fight after the last day of school. A waste of supporting talents Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell and Christina Hendricks. An inauspicious feature directorial debut of Highland Park native Richie Keen. (R) D, L, N, S. 91 minutes. (1 star)

"The Great Wall" -- Turns out China's Great Wall was actually built to stop hungry hordes of dragons from wiping out humanity every 60 years. Good thing Matt Damon's white savior figure is here! Stylish, bombastic visuals are sabotaged by poor acting and dumbed-down dialogue. With Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau and Zhang Hanyu fighting Industrial Light & Magic for screen time. (PG-13) V. 104 minutes. (1 stars)


"Collide" -- Action thriller about a guy (Nicholas Hoult) who hits the German highways to save his girlfriend ("Rogue One" star Felicity Jones) from a vengeful mob boss (Anthony Hopkins). (PG-13) D, L, S, V. 99 minutes.

"Everybody Loves Somebody" -- Romantic comedy about a Mexican OB-GYN who asks a co-worker to pose as her boyfriend when she returns home for a wedding -- only to have her real ex show up and try to make amends. In English and Spanish with subtitles. (PG-13) L, S. 100 minutes.