by Wendy Schadewald
Special to Sun Thisweek-Dakota County Tribune
Rating system: (4=Don’t miss, 3=Good, 2=Worth a look, 1=Forget it)
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“A Dog’s Purpose” (PG) (3.5) [Thematic elements and some peril.] — A heart-tugging, heartbreaking, well-paced, family-oriented, 100-minute Lasse Hallström film adapted from W. Bruce Cameron’s novel with a high cute quotient in which a dog (voiceover by Josh Gad) learns to be man’s best friend through various incarnations and owners, including a lovable golden retriever that brings joy to an eight-year-old boy (Bryce Gheisar) living with his parents (Juliet Rylance and Luke Kirby) in the 1960s through his years as a teenage football player (J. K. Apa) smitten with a classmate (Britt Robertson), a German Shepherd that works with a lonely cop (John Ortiz) to save lives, a Corgi that brightens the life of an African-American student (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), and then comes full circle as an Australian Shepherd/St. Bernard that finds his original owner (Dennis Quaid) years later on his farm and reunites him with his true love (Peggy Lipton).
“Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” (G) (2) [DVD only] — The magic leaves early in this weak plot, ultimately disappointing, family-friendly film narrated by a young boy (Zach Mills) in which the 243-year-old eccentric owner (Dustin Hoffman) of a wondrous toy store hires a cynical, stuffy accountant (Jason Bateman) to get his books in order in preparation for handing the store over to his disillusioned, piano-playing manager (Natalie Portman).
“Neruda” (R) (3) [Sexuality/nudity and some language.] [Subtitled] — When President Gabriel González Videla (Alfredo Castro) instructs 300 policemen to find and imprison popular Noble laureate poet and Communist senator Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) after prohibiting the Communist Party in Chile in this critically acclaimed, thought-provoking, factually inspired, 108-minute political film dotted with Pablo Neruda’s poetry and terrific cinematography, he goes into hiding with his wife (Mercedes Morán) in 1948 with tenacious police inspector Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal).hot on his heels and eventually crosses the Andes Mountains into Argentina while continuing to write his “Canto General” collection of poems to inspire people in the underground movement who are against the Fascist government.
“No Country for Old Men” (R) (4) [Strong graphic violence and some language.] [DVD only] — An aging Texas sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) and his partner (Garrett Dillahunt) begin investigating a series of brutal, grisly murders in 1980 as a blood bath follows a ruthless, relentless, steely-eyed killer (Javier Bardem) in this suspenseful, unpredictable, captivating Coen brothers thriller after a gutsy and foolish welder (Josh Brolin) finds $2 million and a truck load of heroin near the Rio Grande and then tries to protect his wife (Kelly Macdonald) while trying to stay two steps ahead of the tenacious psychopath.
“Split” (PG-13) (3) [Disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence, and some language.] — An intense, intriguing, original, creepy, well-paced, unpredictable, 117-minute, M. Night Shyamalan thriller in which a dangerous patient (James McAboy), who is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder and is treated by a well-meaning psychiatrist (Betty Buckley), with twenty-four personalities kidnaps three teenage friends (Anya Taylor-Joy, Jessica Sula, and Haley Lu Richardson) and one-by-one reveals his increasingly scary personas.
“Toni Erdmann” (R) (3) [Strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language, and brief drug use.] [Partially subtitled] — A highly quirky, fascinating, overly long, 162-minute comedy about the dysfunctional relationship of an eccentric, oddball, lonely, retired German music teacher (Peter Simonischek) who goes to Bucharest, Romania, to try and reconnect with his controlling, bigwig oil industry consultant daughter (Sandra Huller) as she attempts to close a deal with the help of her assistant (Ingrid Bisu) and coworkers (Thomas Loibl, Trystan Putter, et al.).
“xXx: The Return of Xander Cage” (PG-13) (3) [Extended sequences of gunplay and violent action, and sexual material and language.] — After Philippine daredevils (Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, and Tony Jaa) steal a dangerous piece of equipment called Pandora’s Box that can disrupt worldwide communications and turn satellites into a weapon in this fast-paced, entertaining, bullet-riddled, star-studded (Samuel L. Jackson, Ice Cube, Nina Constantinova Dobreva, Tony Gonzalez, and Al Sapienza), 3D, 107-minute thriller highlighted by frenetic action and amazing stunts and choreography, a covert government operative (Vin Diesel) and his team (Ruby Rose, Rory McCann, and Kris Wu) are coerced by a duplicitous CIA bigwig (Toni Collette) to recover the dangerous, valuable weapon.
Wendy Schadewald is a Burnsville resident.