If it is local and useful, it is on en-us Copyright 2019 Palo Alto Online <![CDATA[Some assembly required]]> Count on gasps, applause, laughs and tears if you sit down to "Avengers: Endgame," the 22nd film in the unprecedented cinematic bonanza called the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie amounts to the biggest series finale ever. ]]> <![CDATA['Teen Spirit' smells familiar but has its charms]]> "Teen Spirit" serves mostly as a vehicle for star Elle Fanning, who provides her own vocals in her role as a pop star rising from obscurity. ]]> <![CDATA[Civil rights and wrongs]]> Seven-time Oscar nominee Mike Leigh ("Topsy-Turvy") makes no concession to the passive viewer with his new historical film "Peterloo."]]> <![CDATA['Shazam!' is a blast of superheroic fun]]> "Shazam!" brings the first superhero ever to appear in live action to the big screen 78 years later, and the break was worth the wait. The film is a family-friendly, comical comic-book adventure! ]]> <![CDATA['Dumbo' takes flight under Tim Burton]]> "Dumbo" is a strange beast, indeed. I don't mean the character of an elephant born with ears so big he can flap them and take flight. And I don't mean the 1941 Disney animated feature starring that elephant. No, I mean Disney's new live-action, CGI-heavy reimagining of "Dumbo," which turns out to be part bland kids-and-animals adventure and part Coen Brothers-esque period satire.]]> <![CDATA[Just the two of 'Us']]> What will surely be the single-most commonly cited moment of "Us" is when a dumbfounded American dad asks psychopathic home invaders, "What are you people?" and they answer: "We're Americans." It's a punchline and a promise of scary, but satirical, social commentary in Jordan Peele's follow-up to his smash success "Get Out."]]> <![CDATA[Bride's side]]> The new so-called thriller "The Wedding Guest" plods along with a minimum of character development and chemistry between its leads. ]]> <![CDATA[High-flying heroine]]> The 21st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same. "Captain Marvel" introduces Marvel Studios' first headlining female hero, but her origin story doesn't diverge far from Marvel's successful "house style" of sci-fi MacGuffins. Watching this obscure hero give rise to another franchise-building, smash-hit movie will leave viewers marveling at Marvel once again.]]> <![CDATA[Flying off into the sunset]]> DreamWorks' "How To Train Your Dragon" animation trilogy has always been something special, an out-of-left-field surprise that prioritized artfully telling a good story rather than bowing to the presumptions of what makes a hit animated family picture (talking animals, pop song and dance...). The third and final installment stays true to form, satisfactorily wrapping up the story of characters in whom audiences have become invested.]]> <![CDATA[Cyborg revival]]> When was the last time you heard an enthusiastic "Hi-yah!" in a movie not starring Miss Piggy? The martial-arts exclamation is just one indication of how unpretentious the new cyberpunk action film "Alita: Battle Angel" is. ]]> <![CDATA[On thin ice]]> Few films have ever kept it simpler -- in terms of plot and character -- than "Arctic," a calling card from Brazilian YouTube sensation and first-time feature filmmaker Joe Penna. Granted, the 19-day shoot in Iceland probably wasn't very simple, but this showcase for Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen features almost no dialogue in its single-minded focus on a trek toward survival.]]> <![CDATA[Another brick in the wall]]> If you have a kid who loved "The Lego Movie," it's certain they'll like "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part." And not just because kids like most any movie you put in front of them. Care has gone into making this sequel a worthy direct follow-up to the 2014 film that kicked off Lego as a film franchise.]]> <![CDATA[Another fine mess for 'Stan & Ollie']]> "Stan & Ollie" focuses on the classic comedy duo's tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland in the early 1950s during a time when their fame is in decline. Jeff Pope's script wisely begins by introducing beanpole Laurel (Coogan) and portly Hardy (Reilly) in their prime, on the set of 1937's "Way Out West." ]]> <![CDATA[All's fair in love and 'Cold War']]> As Hollywood awaits the annual presentation of the Academy Awards, two lushly photographed black-and-white foreign-language films have steadily found themselves in competition: Alfonso Cuaron's "Roma" and Pawel Pawlikowski's "Cold War," which picked up three Oscar nominations this week for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography and a surprise nod for Best Director. And now, as "Cold War" rolls out in theaters across the country, those wondering how the Polish would do "La La Land" have their chance to see for themselves.]]> <![CDATA[Brushstroke of genius]]> Few artists have held a greater fascination for dramatists than Vincent Van Gogh. He's been played on film by Kirk Douglas, John Hurt, Tim Roth and Martin Scorsese, and he's palled around with the Doctor on "Doctor Who."
At this late date, there would seem to be little new to dramatize -- or stylize -- about a man so often scrutinized on screen. But Julien Schnabel's "At Eternity's Gate" finds a filmmaker (and, not incidentally, a painter) in kinship with his subject.]]>
<![CDATA['Street' cred]]> There's a reason why the conspicuously picky James Baldwin estate trusted writer-director Barry Jenkins to adapt Baldwin's 1974 novel "If Beale Street Could Talk." It wasn't that Jenkins won an Oscar for co-writing Best Picture "Moonlight" -- that hadn't happened yet. The Baldwin estate looked at Jenkins' work to date and, most importantly, his screenplay for "Beale Street," which richly cultivates a novelistic tone and preserves Baldwin's voice in narration and dialogue.]]> <![CDATA[Hugs and drugs]]> The "twilight zone" of living with a family member in the grip of addiction serves as the existential setting of "Ben is Back." Sure, the literal setting is a rather quaint suburban New York town, made deceptively more charming by its choir-graced church and Christmas-goosed families. But the film's titular return of a teenager to his blended family on Christmas Eve spells 24 hours of secrets and lies.]]> <![CDATA[Forging ahead, falling behind]]> By the very definition of the word, most of us are "average," neither achieving the heights of greatness, fame and riches, nor falling into homelessness or a "crime-that-doesn't- pay" lifestyle. Averageness can be quantified: average height, average weight, average earnings -- but "ordinariness" is a state of mind.]]> <![CDATA[Along for the ride]]> Who woulda thunk that Peter Farrelly -- half of the "Farrelly Brothers" team behind movies like "Dumb and Dumber" and "There's Something About Mary"-- would make a film that finds itself in the Oscar conversation? But he has.]]> <![CDATA[Friends who click]]> "Life's complicated." Those words of wisdom sum up the best parts of "Ralph Breaks the Internet," a satisfying sequel to 2012's animated Disney feature "Wreck-It Ralph." ]]> <![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.]]>