April 29, 2017
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NOW: 38°
HI 45 / LO 41
Local Theaters
Cinemark Tinseltown USA 7101 70th Court, Kenosha, 262-942-8537

Marcus Renaissance 10411 Washington Ave., Racine, 262-886-2900

Marcus Gurnee Mills 6144 Grand Ave., Gurnee, Ill., 847-855-9940

Antioch Theatre 378 Lake St., Antioch, Ill., 847-395-0425

Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 550 East Rollins Road, Round Lake Beach, Ill.
847-546-4983


Jacob Latimore appears as Bo in the film “Sleight.” ( sundance film festival photo )

‘Sleight’ fuses superhero story with a coming-of-age tale

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By day, Bo (Jacob Latimore) is a street magician, wowing passers-by with truly impressive sleight of hand for tips. By night, he slings party drugs in the clubs and on the streets of L.A. But all the time, he’s the protective guardian of his sister, Tina (Storm Reid), just two orphaned siblings against the world. In “Sleight,” co-writer/director J.D. Dillard and co-writer/producer Alex Theurer have created an unlikely superhero origin story, executed with the style, themes and budget of independent cinema.

The central conflict of “Sleight” revolves around Bo’s competing livelihoods. Magic is his passion, a calling so strong that he has subjected himself to physical extremes. Inspired by a Venice Beach illusionist he encountered as a kid who had carved a whole in his hand for an illusion, Bo believes that anyone can do a trick, but the person who’ll do anything is the true magician. A Houdini poster illustrates his inspiration to push himself to the limit for his craft.

But selling drugs pays the bills for Bo and Tina, a side hustle that has sucked him in far deeper than he ever imagined. His boss, Angelo (Dulé Hill), has started to rely on him in ways that test Bo’s morality and identity, and going against the boss is far more dangerous than even Bo wagers. Also, Bo recently met cute community college student/cupcake salesgirl Holly (Seychelle Gabriel), and he doesn’t suspect she wants to date the local drug dealer.

‘Born in China’ is breathtaking

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“Born in China” is the latest installment in the “Disneynature” documentary series. It’s “Planet Earth” aimed at younger audiences, but any nature lovers can find enjoyment here, especially in the stunning cinematography.

While other installments have focused on specific species and eco-systems, “Born in China,” directed by Lu Chuan, gets up close and personal with some of the unique species found in China — pandas, snow leopards, cranes, Chiru antelope, and golden monkeys. Chuan’s team follows these incredible animals through the seasons and throughout the circle of life while incorporating Chinese spiritual beliefs about life and death.

Love triangle undoes historical epic ‘The Promise’

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The Armenian Genocide is a curiously unexplored moment in our modern history, cinematically speaking. That fact alone makes director and co-writer Terry George’s “The Promise ” — opening Friday at the Marcus Gurnee Cinema in Gurnee, Ill. — intriguing enough. Historical fiction generally has it over documentaries in inspiring mass interest, especially when actors as appealing as Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale and Charlotte Le Bon are involved.

And indeed, “The Promise” is a sprawling and handsome epic set around the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey. But despite the best of intentions, the film fails to properly explain and contextualize both what led to that disgraceful episode, which Turkey to this day denies, and why it escalated as it did. Instead, “The Promise” chooses to focus in on an unsympathetic love triangle that manages to trivialize the film overall.

Love triangle undoes historical epic ‘The Promise’

1

The Armenian Genocide is a curiously unexplored moment in our modern history, cinematically speaking. That fact alone makes director and co-writer Terry George’s “The Promise ” — opening Friday at the Marcus Gurnee Cinema in Gurnee, Ill. — intriguing enough. Historical fiction generally has it over documentaries in inspiring mass interest, especially when actors as appealing as Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale and Charlotte Le Bon are involved.

And indeed, “The Promise” is a sprawling and handsome epic set around the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey. But despite the best of intentions, the film fails to properly explain and contextualize both what led to that disgraceful episode, which Turkey to this day denies, and why it escalated as it did. Instead, “The Promise” chooses to focus in on an unsympathetic love triangle that manages to trivialize the film overall.

More ‘Furious’ fun with the ‘Fast’ crew

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The films that make up “The Fast and the Furious” franchise — inexplicably on its eighth installment — are review-proof.

There is likely no Rotten Tomatoes score that could affect the box office take. But more than that, the often silly, always outrageous, comfortably formulaic films about fast cars and chosen family have a charm that manages to permeate the crusty exterior of even the most curmudgeonly of critics.

Math film ‘Gifted’ is less than the sum of its parts

There are several positive factors in the mixed equation that is “Gifted,” starring Chris Evans and the appealing 10-year-old Mckenna Grace. 1) A brilliant and precocious yet sweetly empathetic young girl. 2) A devoted and decidedly hunky father figure. 3) And then there’s math itself, presented not as a refuge for social misfits, but as an exciting and elegant pursuit.

Unfortunately, the movie about mathematical formulas — which opens Friday at Gurnee Mills Cinema in Gurnee, Ill. — relies way too much on moviemaking formula, and the result is less than the sum of its parts. Indeed, “Gifted,” directed by Marc Webb, often feels like the incomplete shell of a movie.

‘Smurfs: The Lost Village’ finds its own path

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In the first few minutes of the animated film “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” I couldn’t help but wonder if this was going to be a terribly long version of the 1980s TV cartoon series.

Fortunately, “Lost Village” found its own path and became a sweet story about Girl Power.

‘Boss Baby’ is fun for grown-ups

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“The Boss Baby” derives its premise from the notion that when new babies show up in the household, they render parents into slavishly devoted employees with their demands and fits. Babies are like bosses, but more satirically, bosses are like babies, right?

That metaphor is explored in Marla Frazee’s children’s book, with a boss baby outfitted in a suit, complete with buttoned bottom flap, and now that’s been transported to the screen with Alec Baldwin voicing the titular boss.

‘Power Rangers’ is more goofy than gritty

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Back in the ’90s, you probably knew them as “Mighty Morphin,” and these days they take the pre-fix “Saban’s,” but we all know them best as simply the “Power Rangers.” Executive producer Haim Saban discovered the “Super Sentai” series on Japanese television in the ’80s, and brought the concept of teens in colorful costumes fighting monsters to American audiences in the form of the somewhat silly, but much beloved, “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” series. Now, of course, we have the big screen reboot, for better or for worse.

Joseph Kahn’s “Power/Rangers” short film that popped up online in 2015 showed just what a truly dark Power Rangers project could look like, but this version of the “Power Rangers” is about as dark as a CW series: just enough to be taken (somewhat) seriously, but with enough of a sense of humor about itself to have some fun, too.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ can’t decide what it wants to be

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Disney’s live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast,” starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as, well, the beauty and the beast, feeds on the nostalgia audiences have for the 1991 animated feature. As exciting as it might be to watch actors inhabit this beloved story, the film itself, directed by Bill Condon, seems profoundly confused, and confusing.

The fairy tale was written in 18th century France, and the setting, culture and costumes are faithful to that period. But the film also has to wrangle a 1990s era girl power heroine, as well as the all-inclusive identity politics of our current times. The result is a bit of a mess, lacking a unique cinematic identity and cohesive internal reality. But then again, this is a film that features a singing candelabra and a barking ottoman, so it’s best to check disbelief at the door.

In ‘Skull Island,’ Kong is drafted into Vietnam

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Not since Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now” murmured of “the horror” has such a brooding beast lurked deep within a war-ravaged jungle as the King Kong of “Kong: Skull Island.”

Yes, the big ape is back, this time with a rollicking Vietnam War backdrop and the Creedence Clearwater-thumping soundtrack to match. The year is 1973, Nixon is pulling troops out of Vietnam and American explorer Bill Randa (John Goodman) has convinced a senator (Richard Jenkins) to bankroll a quick expedition on the way out to an uncharted South Pacific island where “myth and science meet.”

Emotional ‘Logan’ cuts like a knife

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Forget Batman vs. Superman or Captain America vs. Iron Man. In James Mangold’s moving tribute to X-Men’s Wolverine, “Logan,” it’s all Logan vs. Logan. He strips away the spandex, the posse and the chaos, distilling the story down to the essence of the man, Logan, also known as Wolverine, also known as James Howlett. What’s left is the agony and the ecstasy of mutanthood, which star Hugh Jackman expresses as physical and mental torture. Logan’s greatest opponent is, and always has been, himself.

In this near-distant future of 2029, Logan shuns his mutant abilities. He drives a limo, racked with a hacking cough and a craving for liquor. He seems to be disintegrating before our eyes; he’s grizzled and mangy and those adamantium claws don’t unfurl like they used to. He mostly uses them for fending off hubcap bandits anyway. He toils alongside Caliban (Stephen Merchant) at a secretive Mexican camp to care for Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whom they’re keeping drugged up to keep his apocalyptic seizures at bay. It’s not much of a life, or a legacy.

‘Before I Fall’ focuses on bonds between girls

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Boasting themes that are both cerebral and philosophical, “Before I Fall” is a young adult thriller that goes far beyond the surface level. Too often teenagers — girls, especially — are depicted on screen as superficial, obsessed with appearances and the happy-go-lucky lifestyle enabled by parental disposable income. But in “Before I Fall,” popularity contests are plagued by truly existential conundrums, with elevated stakes exacerbated by the fleeting nature of youth, and questions about the nature of life itself go hand in hand with the tricky maneuvering of high school politics.

There’s a supernatural-ish twist that kicks off all of this questioning. “Before I Fall” borrows a premise from “Groundhog Day,” in that our protagonist, Samantha (Zoey Deutch), must relive the same Friday, over and over, preceding a dangerous car crash. To make matters worse, it’s Cupid Day, wherein the entire high school celebrates Valentine’s Day with “val-o-grams,” rose deliveries that literally account for every student’s popularity points.

‘Rock Dog’ won’t have you howling for more

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The second Chinese-American co-production to hit U.S. theaters in as many weeks, animated feature “Rock Dog” arrives one week after the release of another prominent co-production, the fantasy adventure “The Great Wall.” Director Ash Brannon brings Pixar and Sony bona fides (he co-directed “Toy Story 2” and directed “Surf’s Up”) to this adaptation of rocker Zheng Jun’s graphic novel “Tibetan Rock Dog,” which mixes Tibetan culture with contemporary Brit-rock, and adds a splash of mob movies for kicks.

We start in a village on Snow Mountain, where a young mastiff, Bodi (Luke Wilson), and his dad, Khampa (J.K. Simmons), are tasked with guarding a bunch of ditzy, addled sheep from a pack of hungry wolves. An opening sequence, rendered in a hand-drawn style, nods to traditional Chinese art and music, and is folksily narrated by a mustachioed Yak, known as Fleetwood Yak, voiced by Sam Elliott.

Provocative, funny ‘Get Out’ is a horror film with a message

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Genre films — horror, comedy, fantasy, Westerns — have always been great vessels for social commentary. The pleasures of genre conventions allow such messaging to go down easy; the spoonful of cinematic sugar that helps the medicine go down. Actor/comedian Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, “Get Out,” is an expert example of the way this works, though it’s far more than just a trenchant cultural critique wrapped in an appealing package. In this horror film, the horror is us, our history, our own troubled relationship with race. It’s bold, provocative, funny, and an overdue tonic for a society and media saturated with archaic norms and images.

“Get Out” riffs on “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” as Rose (Allison Williams) brings her new boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) home to her lily-white, upper-crust community. While her neurosurgeon father (Bradley Whitford) and hypnotist/psychiatrist mother (Catherine Keener) welcome him with open arms, Chris can’t help but notice that the other black people he encounters there just aren’t acting quite right, and frankly, the white people seem a little too interested in him (and his physical qualities).

Horror film ‘A Cure for Wellness’ is masterful, but flawed

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Though Gore Verbinski has made a name for himself with large Hollywood studio pictures like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “The Lone Ranger,” he’s always had a weird streak; a “one for them, one for me” mentality, interspersing in films like “The Weather Man” and “Rango.” “A Cure for Wellness,” a horror film set at a spa in the Swiss Alps, is most definitely one for him.

Here, “wellness” could easily be a euphemism for “wealth.” A powerful Wall Street banker, Pembroke (Harry Groener), runs off to a Swiss spa and writes back to his comrades about truths that he can’t unsee and that he’s not returning. An upstart young banker, Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), is sent to retrieve him to stave off a business emergency, pressed into action by his superiors with threats of blackmail.

‘Fist Fight’ gets by on its stars’ chemistry

There’s a scene near the end of the comedy “Fist Fight” — not long before the altercation promised in the title — that more than makes up for whatever weak-sauce comedic sins have gone before. Let’s just say that the combo of Big Sean’s unprintable hit rap, star Charlie Day’s nebbishy physicality and a young girl’s school talent show is comedy gold.

If the rest of the film were as uproarious, “Fist Fight” would rank up there with the “Jump Street” reboots in the “funny movies featuring Ice Cube” category. As it stands, “Fist Fight” is a pleasantly foul-mouthed exercise that gets by on the chemistry of its two stars: Cube, with his NWA-trained death glare, and Day, who basically recycles his likably hapless yet inventive character from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” into a more responsible suburban dad.

‘LEGO Batman’ may be the best Batman movie ever

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One of the weaknesses of most Batman films is that they’re unwilling to question the nature of Batman himself, to interrogate the vigilante who patrols Gotham City single-handedly and anonymously. On paper, what Batman represents isn’t all that great — Bruce Wayne is a privileged one-percenter, an individualist who happily bypasses government programs to work alone and decide what’s best and who’s bad or not.

Which is why “The LEGO Batman Movie” is quite possibly the best Batman movie ever made, if not a close runner up to “Batman Returns.” Liberated from the constraints of “dark,” “edgy” or even “campy,” “LEGO Batman” is able to poke fun at the costumed gentleman hero, and really dig into the elements of Batman that make the character who he is, for better or for worse. Who’da thunk you’d get all that from the sequel to an adaptation of building blocks.

‘John Wick’ returns for more stylized violence

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If you didn’t catch 2014’s surprise action hit “John Wick,” launching Keanu Reeves right into a Liam Neeson-style career rebirth, it’s OK. Peter Stormare is here to explain “John Wick” to you at the beginning of “John Wick: Chapter 2.” Playing a Russian gangster, he serves as a connection to the prior film, wherein retired assassin Wick killed everyone in sight while avenging his dog. In fairness, the dog was really cute. Stormare serves as an audience proxy, a fan of Wick. “He killed three men in a bar with pencil!” Stormare exclaims. And in the way that every character recognizes him on sight, uttering “John Wick…,” it’s like they all saw the first movie too.

Writer Derek Kolstad and director Chad Stahelski are back for the sequel alongside Reeves, brewing up more of that uniquely Wickian magic. The screenplay is once again taciturn, nearly wordless; Wick speaks infrequently, in monosyllables (perfect for Reeves’ stoner intonation), and new co-star Ruby Rose doesn’t utter a word. But the film is noisy, speaking in the whine of motorcycles, rumbling engines, gunshots, knife swipes and text message alerts announcing a bounty on John Wick’s head.

‘The Space Between Us’ veers off-course

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Call it “The Unspectacular Now.”

“The Space Between Us” aims to be an epic story of young love on the level of “The Spectacular Now” or “The Fault in Our Stars.” The cinematography often is gorgeous and the score is full of teary uplift. But none of that matters when little about the film feels authentic.

‘The Comedian’ is tragically unfunny

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Tragically unfunny, “The Comedian” reminds us that not even great actors can knock one out of the park every time.

Despite a talent pool of A-list players accomplished in film, TV and stage, this crude, crass, lowbrow comedy has a title that seems bracketed by irony quotes. Burdened with a choppy, poorly conceived script, “The Comedian” is impossible to enjoy on any level whatsoever.

GO Kenosha

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