If it is local and useful, it is on en-us Copyright 2018 Palo Alto Online <![CDATA[Just add children]]> Let me first try to be nice to "Instant Family," a comedy-drama about foster care and adoption. The film's premise, "inspired by" co-writer/director Sean Anders' own family life as a husband and father, isn't a bad one for an innocuous family comedy with laughs and heart, a withering-to-wacky satire of misbegotten parenting, or a thoughtful, psychologically insightful look at the social work and family dynamics around adoption. But the tonal whiplash you'll get from the pileup crash of all three may have you wishing he picked a lane.]]> <![CDATA['Alter' boy]]> ]]> <![CDATA[Suburban safari]]> Richard Ford's 1990 novel "Wildlife" -- now a film directed and co-written by Paul Dano -- observes a family acting out of instinct as it weathers an existential crisis. Neither action nor introspection seems to help much, but the pull of nature persists.]]> <![CDATA[From first steps to 12 steps]]> Amazon Studios' "Beautiful Boy"-- starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet as father and drug-addicted son -- makes a good case for itself as the addiction movie America needs right now.]]> <![CDATA[Tricks and treats]]> Slasher films have become such a prominent feature of the American movie landscape that we take these movies -- and the knife-wielding, mask-wearing killers who star in them -- for granted. But one must remember that if "Psycho" blazed the first trail, John Carpenter's 1978 smash "Halloween" homesteaded the genre by mainstreaming the simple idea of a psychopathic serial killer stalking Rockwellian America until a teenage "scream queen" successfully fights him off.]]> <![CDATA['Man' up]]> "First Man" shows the behind-the-scenes life (and anxieties) of astronaut Neil Armstrong during the space-race years -- opening with a white-knuckle, "you-are-there" sequence of palpable intensity as Armstrong flies 140,000 feet above the Mojave Desert.]]> <![CDATA['Born' again]]> In the new iteration of "A Star is Born," a rock star and his protege fall for each other between two renderings of her song "Shallow," with its line "We're far from the shallow now." They're definitely "off the deep end" of love, but the movie they're in isn't as deep as it wants us to believe.]]> <![CDATA[You ain't seen nothin' Yeti]]> In 2015, a Pew Research Center study reported that the fastest growing category of religious belief is an absence of religion, with nearly a quarter of the U.S. population subscribing to no religion at all. And now, courtesy of Warner Animation Group, we have "Smallfoot," a PG-rated animated picture, clearly aimed at families, that depicts a civilization coming to terms with the fraudulence of its own closely-held religion.]]> <![CDATA[Dogged pursuits]]> There are two kinds of people in the world: people who hate dogs, and people who will love "Pick of the Litter," the dog-themed documentary sensation of the year that tracks five Labrador retriever puppy siblings as they train to become guide dogs.]]> <![CDATA[Oh what a tangled www...]]> John Cho plays a San Jose father who breaks into his 16-year-old daughter's laptop to search for online clues into her disappearance in the thriller "Searching."]]> <![CDATA[A louse and his spouse]]> Meg Wolitzer's 2003 novel "The Wife" -- now a cinematic showcase for the talents of Glenn Close -- turns that old chestnut "Behind every great man is a great woman" into a feminist fable of keeping up appearances to the point of exhaustion.]]> <![CDATA[Isn't it 'Rich'?]]> "Crazy Rich Asians" -- based on a trilogy of novels -- marks a long-overdue investment in Asian talent as the first major Hollywood release in 25 years to feature an all-Asian cast.]]> <![CDATA[Boyz in the hoods]]> "Do we always have to talk politics?" a man asks. "What's more important?" a woman replies. This exchange in the new Spike Lee joint "BlacKkKlansman" sums up the director's own sweet spot as an artist. No, he doesn't always have to talk politics, but at this moment, he's feeling the responsibility... and the anger.]]> <![CDATA[Tween heaven and hell]]> Pool parties and mall hangouts, first crushes and first dates. From the ridiculous to the sublime, being an eighth grader means more angst than one might recognize at first blush. Add the accelerant of social media -- with its illusions of perfection and demands for "likes" -- and it's a wonder a kid doesn't burn out before childhood fades away. Writer-director Bo Burnham keenly observes all of the above and more in his feature filmmaking debut, the comedy-drama "Eighth Grade."]]> <![CDATA[Fangs for nothing]]> It'll be the parents asking "Are we there yet?" at this year's middle-shelf animated sequel, "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation." Kids, as we know, are happy to be anywhere (with popcorn and soda), and there's no point in begrudging fans of this popular franchise another ride. ]]> <![CDATA[Scales of justice]]> Blockbuster movies have a tendency to "go big," but the most appealing current crop of big-screen superheroes has a tendency to go small. The 2015 screen debut of "Ant-Man" gave us a nimble, kid-friendly superhero comedy, from director Peyton Reed and the screenwriting dream teams of Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish and Adam McKay & Paul Rudd. Rudd returns as co-writer and star of "Ant-Man and the Wasp," reunited with Reed for a sequel that delivers on the promise of a romantic superhero partnership (times two).]]> <![CDATA[Cartel me a story]]> Action movies, even ultraviolent ones, tend toward the escapist, but screenwriter Taylor Sheridan specializes in the non-escapist action thriller in his latest movie, "Sicario: Day of the Soldado."]]> <![CDATA[A whole new 'World']]> Forty-three years after the launch of his blockbuster shark flick, Steven Spielberg's now-patented Spielbergian thrill ride is still all about the jaws. In the latest chapter of his dinosaur-themed franchise, director J.A. Bayona skillfully clones Spielberg through well-choreographed action and witty visual touches. Now if only he had a script worthy of his talents ...]]> <![CDATA[The family that saves together…]]> The long-awaited sequel "Incredibles 2" fails to reach the heights Pixar's best but remains impressive all the same. It's another big-scale adventure with full-throttle action sequences, a bit of mystery, and career complications testing the structural integrity of this nuclear family of superheroes.]]> <![CDATA[Cue the cool jazz]]> As the title suggests, "Ocean" is a spin off -- and also a sequel to -- Steven Soderbergh's 2000s trio of heist films: "Ocean's Eleven," "Ocean's Twelve" and "Ocean's Thirteen." But this time, the women are the masterminds. ]]> <![CDATA[Existential crisis]]> At 70, writer-director Paul Schrader, the foremost cinematic chronicler of dysfunctional American masculinity, has reached something like an apotheosis with his themes in "First Reformed," set in and around a small Dutch Reform church in upstate New York.]]> <![CDATA[Millennial Falcon?]]> Like estimations of how many parsecs it takes to make the Kessel Run, your mileage may vary when it comes to "Solo: A Star Wars Story." ]]> <![CDATA[Baby blues]]> The ennui of a white, middle-aged suburban mother gets the full treatment from screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman in the comedy-drama "Tully."]]> <![CDATA['Party' down]]> Comedian Melissa McCarthy and her director/co-writer husband, Ben Falcone, have produced another vehicle for her exceptional talents as a character-based comedic star. McCarthy and Falcone's previous efforts together -- "Tammy" and "The Boss" -- underwhelmed, which may explain why "Life of the Party" finds them aiming straight for the lowest common denominator and, sadly, hitting the bull's eye.]]> <![CDATA[Roam on the range]]> "The Rider" is based on Lakota saddle bronc rider and horse trainer Brady Jandreau, who must contemplate his life as a rodeo cowboy after suffering a near-fatal head injury.]]> <![CDATA[Throwing down the 'Gauntlet']]> Marvel Studios' new "Avengers: Infinity War" shows up DC Entertainment's "Justice League" in every respect: It's a truly epic adventure, spectacular and wildly entertaining, with impressive CG characters and a cast stocked with not six beloved superheroes but 20.]]> <![CDATA[A boy and his horse]]> "You can't get attached to the horse." This is sober advice spoken to 15-year-old Charley Thompson (Charlie Plummer) who befriends an aging racehorse while working for a horse trainer one summer in the powerful coming-of-age film "Lean on Pete."]]> <![CDATA[You aren't 'Here']]> In the often grisly "You Were Never Really Here," the protagonist's weapon of choice is a ball-peen hammer. In many ways, Lynne Ramsay's adaptation of Jonathan Ames' novel functions like that hammer, a blunt instrument used to righteous ends. The film tends to the lurid and horrifying, the brutal and harrowing, and yet Ramsay's limber direction and another phenomenal leading performance by Joaquin Phoenix lend the material an aching sensitivity and an arrhythmic but persistent heartbeat.]]> <![CDATA[War and silence]]> There's plenty in the new science-fiction thriller "A Quiet Place" that doesn't hold up to scrutiny and even more that feels conspicuously derivative. But tell that to your pants as you pee them.]]> <![CDATA[Don't hate the 'Player'...]]> It's not hard to see the appeal that Ernest Cline's best-selling novel "Ready Player One" held for Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros. Pictures. Cline's story proposes a virtual world populated with pop-culture figures from the 1950s to the 2010s. But darn it all: An echo chamber isn't as fun as it sounds, even when it's the only game in town.]]> <![CDATA['Stalin' for time]]> Setting a comedy circa Joseph Stalin's murderous regime in the Soviet Union might not seem appropriate to many, but with "The Death of Stalin," director Armando Iannucci isn't afraid to put on a high-wire act]]> <![CDATA['Tomb' much]]> It's easy to see the producers of "Tomb Raider" deciding what will make this reboot of the two-film 2001-2003 Angeline Jolie franchise click with audiences: big-scale action, a few familiar character actors and a hard sell on the ostensibly sexy, smart, strong heroine, now embodied by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander ("The Danish Girl"). ]]> <![CDATA[A 'Wrinkle' that rankles]]> From a distance, Disney's sci-fi fantasy "A Wrinkle in Time" appears to be a sure thing, but a closer look reveals a downright awkward kiddie blockbuster.]]> <![CDATA[Well played]]> Directors John Francis Daley (once the pint-sized star of "Freaks and Geeks") and Jonathan Goldstein demonstrate confident action chops and a thoughtful style in telling the story of a "murder mystery party" gone horrifyingly off the rails in "Game Night." Imagine David Fincher's "The Game" crossed with the duo's "Horrible Bosses" movies, and you have the idea.
As the primary scribes of "Horrible Bosses," Daley and Goldstein already have a track record with star Jason Bateman, who pairs nicely here with Rachel McAdams. The film's shadowy photography and an '80s thriller score lace the laughs with just enough creeping dread to give the nonsense a sense of stakes.]]>
<![CDATA[Wakanda Rising]]> Ten years ago, Marvel Studios launched its cinematic universe with "Iron Man" and struck gold with Robert Downey, Jr.'s bratty bad-boy take on the high-flying superhero. Other quippy fratboy-with-a-heart-of-gold types would follow, including Star-Lord, Ant-Man and Thor. But the latest Marvel superhero to take center stage adheres to the Captain America model: the titular hero of "Black Panther" -- picking up where his auspicious debut in "Captain America: Civil War" left off -- continues to be an earnest moral paragon challenged by political and personal entanglements.]]> <![CDATA[Hip to the hop]]> It's tempting to attack Sony's big-budget, animation-franchise launch of "Peter Rabbit" for adulterating its delicate source material. Beatrix Potter's beloved 1902-1912 series of children's books about a family of rabbits had a touch of edge about them, but they're remembered for a classical gentility, whereas Will Gluck's feature adaptation takes the tack of in-your-face brashness, goosed by high-energy pop music and literally winking self-referential humor.]]> <![CDATA[Nevertheless, she persisted]]> With Golden Globe wins for "Best Motion Picture -- Drama," "Best Screenplay," "Best Actress -- Drama" and "Best Supporting Actor -- Drama," and seven Oscar nominations, Martin McDonagh's "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" is among the most-talked about front-runners this Oscar season. ]]> <![CDATA[Fashion and passion]]> Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's "Phantom Thread" luxuriates in the world of fashion even as it plumbs the ever-darker depths of a mysteriously obsessive relationship.]]> <![CDATA[Ex 'Post' facto]]> ]]> <![CDATA[Gaming the system]]> Let's be clear: "Molly's Game" -- the directorial debut of Oscar and Emmy-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin -- isn't profound. In fact, it's pretty darn silly, never more so than when it's trying to make a point. And yet, this adventure in dubious capitalist ambition has an ace in the hole, its star Jessica Chastain.]]> <![CDATA[A whole new 'World']]> It's been said to never let the truth get in the way of a good story. "Inspired by true events," Ridley Scott's "All the Money in the World" tells the true-crime tale of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty's grandson in its broadest strokes and with a sprinkling of accurate details, but at least as much in it is invented or misrepresented. ]]> <![CDATA[The best for 'Last']]> Setting aside for the moment the spaceships and lightsabers and critters, "Star Wars" has always been about a few core ideas: the clash of evil empire and mobilized do-gooders; the existence of a power greater than ourselves; the wars within and without ourselves; and love and family. George Lucas' multi-billion-dollar franchise also has told story after story about it always being darkest (or Dark Side-est) before the dawn. Technically, J.J. Abrams' "Episode VII: The Force Awakens" was about all of the above as well, but it's writer-director Rian Johnson who, with "Episode VIII: The Last Jedi", better fulfills the promise of Lucas' first subtitle: "A New Hope."]]> <![CDATA[Local boys make bad]]> If it's true that nothing succeeds like success, it stands to reason that something succeeds like failure. The movies have produced some truly terrible specimens, but perhaps none so successful as "The Room," Tommy Wiseau's 2003 independent film that swiftly became notorious as one of the worst films ever made and, thereby, a cult "midnight movie" ]]> <![CDATA[Taking wing]]> Trapped in a small car on a college road trip, a 17-year-old girl and her mother come to the end of a 21-hour audiobook of “The Grapes of Wrath.” Asked to sit with what she’s heard, the girl laments, “I wish I could live through something.” Of course, she is, and she will. And her mother will be there, watching and fretting, as she does.]]> <![CDATA[Day of the Dead has its Day]]> "Coco" takes up Mexican cultural traditions within the Pixar tradition of working hard to get it right, whatever the current "it" may be. This time, it's Día de Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, dramatized in the story of a boy in search of himself by way of an ancestor.]]> <![CDATA[Justice lag]]> The thing about comic book cinematic universes is that they train audiences to see the forest for the the trees: "Trust us," say the bigwigs, "It's all a part of a bigger picture, so if this picture doesn't quite come into focus, just hang in there." But the best advice I can offer the legions of superhero fans heading into the hotly anticipated DC superhero team-up movie "Justice League" is this: Enjoy the trees.]]> <![CDATA[Daddy issues]]> "We're back! With more daddies!" This trailer-ready line gets spoken early in "Daddy's Home Two," a lazy family comedy sequel (and is there any other kind?). Along with co-writer/director Sean Anders, the cast of 2015's "Daddy's Home" returns, now enhanced by an elder generation of stars.]]> <![CDATA[Hammer down]]> Marvel successfully doubles down on the laughs in "Thor: Ragnarok" by mashing up Thor, Hulk and the "Guardians of the Galaxy" sensibility for a rollicking comedy.]]> <![CDATA['Columbus' Days]]> "Columbus" is a comedy about a Korean-born man who finds himself stuck in Columbus, Indiana, where his architect father is in a coma. ]]> <![CDATA[Cinematic 'replicant']]> A strange and beautiful beast indeed, "Blade Runner 2049" is a science-fiction epic for adults. This large-scale, 35-years-later sequel to Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" dreams big, with classically challenging science-fiction implications about our present and our rapidly approaching future.]]>