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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“The Amateurs” (R) (2.5) [Sexual content and language.] — A tongue-in-cheek, satirical, dark, cameo-filled (Eileen Brennan, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Isaiah Washington, Brad Garrett, et al.) comedy in which a job-hopping, divorced father (Jeff Bridges) searches for a meaningful career niche when he approaches his lifelong, small-town buddies (Joe Pantoliano, Ted Danson, Tim Blake Nelson, William Fichtner, and Patrick Fugit) to chip in $2,000 each to produce a pornographic film with the hopes of using local talent (Valerie Perrine, Glenn Headley, Lauren Graham, Dawn Didawick, et al.).
“The Boss Baby” (PG) (3) [Some mild rude humor.] — Tobey Maguire narrates this entertaining, creative, funny, family-orient4ed, animated, 97-minute comedy in which emotions run high and fragile for a 7-year-old boy (Miles Christopher Bakshi) when he learns that his parents (voiceovers by Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel), who are executives at a pet company, have brought home a talking, precocious, suit-wearing baby brother (voiceover by Alec Baldwin) with grownup capabilities, and eventually they join forces to stop the money-hungry Puppy Co. CEO (voiceover by Steve Buscemi) from fulfilling a dastardly scheme of selling puppies that will never die.
“CHIPS” (R) (2) [Crude sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, some violence, and drug use.] — A wacky, silly, pratfall, intermittently raunchy and funny, star-dotted (Kristen Bell, Adam Brody, Maya Rudolph, Richard T. Jones, Ben Falcone, Adam Rodriguez, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Jane Kaczmarek, Rose Salazar, Erik Estrada, and Jessica McNamee), 100-minute comedy based on the popular 1970s and 1980s television show in which a Miami FBI agent (Michael Peña) and a rookie cop (Dax Shepard) join the California Highway Patrol (CHIP) to investigate dirty cops (Vincent D’Onofrio, et al.) who are involved in a series of high-profile robberies and other crimes.
“The Great Debaters” (PG-13) (3.5) [Depiction of strong thematic material, including violence and disturbing images, and language and brief sexuality.] [DVD only] — While Texas professor Melvin B. Tolson (Denzel Washington) tries to help sharecroppers form a union in 1935 amidst political unrest, lynchings, and blatant racism in this intriguing, well-acted, and factually based film, he successfully mentors and polishes the debating skills of four bright Wiley college students (Nate Parker, Denzel Whitaker, Jurnee Smollett, and Jermaine Williams) who went on to compete in the national championship at Harvard.
“The Kite Runner” (PG-13) (4) [Partially subtitled] [DVD only] — A powerful, heartbreaking, compelling, controversial film about the privileged, timid son (Zekeria Ebrahimi) of a honorable Kabul businessman (Homayon Ershadi) who is forever changed when he witnesses a bully (Elham Ehsas) rape his best friend (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) in 1978 and years later returns as an adult (Khalid Abdalla) to Afghanistan to make amends to his friend after marrying the daughter (Atossa Leoni) of a general (Abdul Qadir Farookh).
“Life” (R) (3) [Language throughout, some sci-fi violence, and terror.] — An intense, suspenseful, entertaining, unpredictable, 103-minute sci-fi thriller in which six astronauts (Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, Huroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, and Olga Dihovichnaya) become trapped onboard the International Space Station when a life form they brought back from the Red Planet turns into a menacing, hungry alien and attacks them one by one.
“Power Rangers” (PG-13) (2) [Sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, language, and some crude humor.] — After five rebellious high school students (Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Ryder, Ludi Lin, and Becky G.) mysteriously are chosen to become warriors when they discover five powerful, colorful stone disks and begin training with the help of a robot (voiceover by Bill Hader) and the conscience of a power ranger (Bryan Cranston) trapped in a spaceship’s computer in this action-packed, wacky, kid-friendly, predictable, 124-minute film, they must prevent an evil, power-hungry, gold-loving witch (Elizabeth Banks) and her gigantic gold sidekick from obtaining a crystal that could destroy Earth.
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (R) (3.5) [Graphic bloody violence.] [DVD only] — Dismal atmosphere and copious blood drench Tim Burton’s grim, dark musical, which is based on the award-winning Broadway show and peppered with witty humor, about a vindictive, grieving barber (Johnny Depp) who returns to Victorian London from Australia after 15 years in exile and teams up with a conniving and amorous meat pie baker (Helen Bonham Carter) to exact a devious and unappetizing revenge against a villainous judge (Alan Rickman) and his despicable flunky (Timothy Spall) who were responsible for the his erroneous imprisonment, the loss of his wife (Laura Michelle Kelly), and the mistreatment of his captive daughter (Jayne Wisener).
“The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep” (PG) (4) [Some action/peril, mild language, and brief smoking.] [Opens Christmas Day] — Stunning Highland scenery dominates this delightfully charming, touching, family-friendly children’s fantasy adventure film in which an Army captain (David Morrissey) and his brigade take over a countryside home during WWII where a widowed Scottish housekeeper (Emily Watson) lives with her sad and withdrawn son (Alex Etel) who comes alive and finds new joy when he discovers an egg that hatches a mythical creature and with the aid of a battle-scarred handyman (Ben Chaplin) and his goodie-two-shoes sister (Christie) he secretly released the water horse into Loch Ness and thus perpetuating the legend of Nessie.
“The White Mane” (NR) (3) [DVD only] — Beautiful cinematography and minimal dialogue highlight this 40-minute, black-and-white 1953 film narrated by Frank Silvera in which a young French boy (Alain Emery) tames a wild white horse that roams the Camargue desert in the south of France and protects it from herdsmen.
“The Zookeeper’s Wife” (PG-13) (4) [Thematic elements, disturbing images, violence, brief sexuality, nudity, and smoking.] — A heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, factually based, inspirational, well-acted, intense, 124-minute film based on Diane Ackerman’s bestselling 2007 novel and adapted from Antonina Żabińska’s unpublished diary in which compassionate, heroic, and brave Polish zoologist Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh) and his wife (Jessica Chastain), who have a young son (Timothy Radford/Val Maloku), decide they were going to try and save more than 300 hundred Jews (Iddo Goldberg, Shira Haas, Martha Issová, et al.) with the help of some of their employees (Michael McElhatton, et al.) and resistance fighters by opening a pig farm at the zoo, by sneaking the Jews out of the Warsaw Ghetto using a garbage truck, and then by sheltering their “guests” right under the noses of smitten Nazi officer Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl).and his troops between 1939 and 1945 during WWII.
Wendy Schadewald is a Burnsville resident.