Movie Marquee: Three films open Friday in Lubbock movie theaters

Movies Opening Friday

 

The Disaster Artist

James Franco directs and co-stars with brother Dave Franco in a story that chronicles the making of Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 cult film, “The Room,” widely considered to be one of the worst movies ever produced. Franco’s film brings to life all that went wrong with “The Room.” James Franco also portrays Wiseau, and Dave Franco plays his friend Greg Sestero. The two met and became buddies in an acting class in San Francisco, hoping to achieve Hollywood stardom. Sestero moved to Los Angeles, where he was contracted to co-star in his friend’s movie. Financed with his own money, Wiseau wrote, directed and starred in “The Room.” The new picture’s supporting cast features Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson and Jacki Weaver.

R: Partial male nudity and language — Alamo Drafthouse and Movies 16.

Just Getting Started

An action-comedy from filmmaker Ron Shelton, who also wrote and directed “Bull Durham,” “White Men Can’t Jump” and “Tin Cup.” Tommy Lee Jones co-stars as retired FBI agent Leo, and Morgan Freeman plays Duke Diver, a former lawyer for dangerous Mafia killers who has not been keeping the lowest possible profile while in the Witness Protection Program. In fact, Diver has been living the high life as the freewheeling manager of a luxurious resort in Palm Strings, California. The mob catches up with him about the same time that he and Leo are competing for affection from the same woman (Rene Russo). She convinces them to set aside their petty rivalries on the golf course long enough for Leo to help Duke fend off an apparent mob hit. The film co-stars Elizabeth Ashley.

PG-13: Language, suggestive material and violence — Premiere Cinemas, Tinseltown 17 and Movies 16.

Thelma

A Norwegian supernatural horror-thriller film directed by Joachim Trier. Eili Harboe stars as Thelma, a shy student who leaves her religious family in a small Norwegian town to study at a university in Oslo. While at the library, she experiences a violent, unexpected seizure. Soon after, she finds herself intensely drawn toward Anja (Kaya Wilkins), a beautiful student who reciprocates Thelma’s powerful attraction. As the semester continues, Thelma becomes increasingly overwhelmed by intense feelings for Anja. Her seizures become more extreme. As it becomes clear that her seizures are a symptom of inexplicable, dangerous, supernatural abilities, Thelma is confronted with tragic secrets from her past, and terrifying implications of her powers.

R: Strong language, violence and sensuality — Alamo Drafthouse.

Movies Continuing This Week

A Bad Moms Christmas

Underappreciated and overburdened, Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) prefer to avoid the challenge of living up to Christmas expectations. After all, their own moms will be present, judging their every move. Co-directed by Scott Moore and Jon Lucas.

R: Crude sexual content and language and some drug use — Tinselown 17, Movies 16 and Stars &Stripes Drive-In.

Coco

3-D/2-D

Kerns rating: HHHHH

Not only a 100 percent lock to be named Best Animated Film, but, thanks to directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, one of 2017’s best feature films … period. This is that rare motion picture in which gorgeous, literally breathtaking animation is paired with a terrific, fun and unpredictable script. It is as close to flawless cinematic storytelling as we are apt to find, a tale and visuals that keep adults involved, and characters — yes, even those skeletons — that enchant younger viewers if their parents just give them a chance. Someone no doubt felt a statement could be made by setting the story around Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), calling for non-white characters. Big deal. Politics lie below the surface. The film’s working so well on an educational level, in terms of traditions — from family ofrendas to alebrijes, or animal spirit guides — is a bonus to its value as entertainment. Vive Jorge R. Gutierrez’s wonderful 2014 animated effort “The Book of Life” some credit for inspiration, but even it cannot compare to”Coco” and its vastly colorful land of the dead, or the faces of so many, including an elderly Coco, in the land of the living. “Coco” is a masterpiece easily ranking with Pixar’s four-year streak (2007 to 2010), which included “Ratatouille,” “Wall-e,” “Up” and “Toy Story 3.” If songs do not sell soundtracks as well as “Frozen,” they perfectly blend within the story of young Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), banned from playing guitar even as he dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove himself, and needing a guitar after family matriarch Imelda (Renee Victor) pulls a Pete Townshend with his. The coolest character may be charming trickster Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), at the heart of murder and mystery.

PG: Thematic elements — Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17, Movies 16 (includes XD) and Stars &Stripes Drive-In.

Daddy’s Home 2

The 2015 comedy “Daddy’s Home” focused on a rivalry between two fathers — Mark Wahlberg as Sara’s ex-husband, Dusty, and Will Ferrell as Sara’s husband, Brad — as they competed for the attention of children Dylan (Owen Varraro) and Megan (Scarlett Estevez). Linda Cardellini plays Sara. In the sequel, again set near Christmas, Ferrell’s Brad and Wahlberg’s Dusty are co-parenting the children — but now have to deal with their own jealous, competitive fathers visiting for the holidays. Mel Gibson plays Dusty’s macho dad, Kurt; John Lithgow is Brad’s gentle dad, Jonah. Dusty has remarried and is husband to Karen, played by Alessandra Ambrosio; and also making an appearance is Karen’s ex-husband, Roger, played by John Cena, Naturally, Karen and Roger had a child.

PG-13: Suggestive material and language — Premiere Cinemas, Tinseltown 17, Movies 16 and Stars &Stripes Drive-In.

Geostorm

3-D/2-D

Kerns rating: H

Dean Devlin probably could have requested a better script for his feature directorial debut. Then again, he wrote the one for “Geostorm,” and perhaps figured he could cover up mistakes with CGI. Unfortunately, the budget does not allow enough impressive computer-generated images. Gerard Butler stars as a heroic scientist who invents and helps build a weather-controlling space station. Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Andy Garcia and Ed Harris also take part. Unfortunately, corrupt politicians manage to transform the space station into a weapon that attacks varied countries with exaggerated weather conditions. Such as floods in the desert, the land boiling beneath Tokyo, a tsunami here, tornadoes there and even a few instances of flash-freezing that make instant Popsicles out of human beings who were running away just seconds beforehand.

PG-13: Destruction, action and violence — Movies 16.

Justice League

3-D/2-D

Kerns rating: HHH

Director Zack Snyder’s origin film may not deserve a higher rating. Nevertheless, this is one of the more entertaining three-star movies in recent memory — primarily because writers Joss Whedon and Chris Terrio have given great thought to each superhero, and supply an acceptable turnaround much needed after 2015’s abysmal “Batman v. Superman.” But since Earth’s population has lost its collective heart, confidence and loving spark without Superman patrolling skies, I doubt that anyone could even consider discussion of Superman in this movie as a spoiler. After all, darn it, the dirt moved when that 2015 disappointment concluded, right? Problems with “Justice League” are found in its disappointing villain, which relies on disappointing CG and a use of power-packed “boxes” that good guys never hid very well to begin with. Luckily, what works are all of the title characters. In fact, there are such lovely senses of camaraderie and humor throughout, aided by super performances. Yes, Grant Gustin is aces as television’s Flash, but Ezra Miller introduces a comfortable and hilarious big-screen Flash. All of his scenes work. Ben Affleck is surprisingly self-reflective as Batman, and Gal Gadot has not slipped an inch as Wonder Woman. Also paying dividends: Jason Momoa as an Aquaman with sarcastic rocker swagger, and Ray Fisher as an unpredictable Cyborg. Any number of characters — some expected (you know) and many connected to the film’s initial fantastic five — provide more fun. Naturally, future stories will be teased with scenes during and after final credits.

PG-13: ISci-fi action and violence — Premiere Cinemas (includes IMAX), Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17 (includes XD) and Stars &Stripes Drive-In.

Lady Bird

Kerns rating: HHHH

Directed by Greta Gerwig from her own screenplay, the film no doubt will garner nominations in multiple categories. Gerwig devoted a year to writing a 350-page script under working title “Mothers and Fathers.” She said, “Nothing in the movie literally happened in my life, but it has a core of truth that resonates with what I know.” Set in Northern California during the 2002-03 school year, the story focuses on high school senior Christine McPherson (who prefers the nickname Lady Bird), and her turbulent relationship with an overbearing mother. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf shine as Lady Bird and her mom. The latter is a nurse working tirelessly to keep the family afloat after Lady Bird’s father (Tracy Letts) loses his job. Meanwhile, Lady Bird hopes to leave Sacramento and applies to East Coast colleges behind her mom’s back. Lady Bird fights with her mother, unable to recognize qualities they share: wildly loving, deeply opinionated and strong-willed.

R: Language, sexual content, graphic nudity and teen partying — Movies 16.

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Kerns rating: HHH 1/2

A charming and pleasing peek at one writer’s creative process, as unlikely as that sounds. Dan Stevens is just mesmerizing as British author Charles Dickens, facing debt in October 1843 with a seemingly unrealistic plan — to write, illustrate and self-publish a new Christmas story in just six weeks. Aided by director Bharat Nalluri and a gifted ensemble, Stevens’ character engages in conversations and arguments with his own characters about chapters to come, including a risky ending. Dickens is only as popular as his last hit, and his was followed by three books ignored by the public. He needs a best seller, a book that practically sells itself. Observations of real people on England’s wintry streets guide him to a shorter piece, a novella, that he calls “A Christmas Carol.” However, after creating a humbug-spouting Ebenezer Scrooge (wonderful Christopher Plummer), the character simply will not leave the author alone. There also is the subject of Tiny Tim, which finds even Dickens’ book-loving chambermaid — awesome work by Anna Murphy — lecturing him about the mere thought of killing a crippled child. Never mind the logic of it all; Dickens is fighting a losing battle. The script by Susan Coyne, capturing a mixture of truth and exaggerations within Les Standiford’s novel, transports viewers to Victorian London and breathes visual life into imagination. Coyne has a jolly good time allowing Dickens to hear lines for his future book within street conversations. Not all is light and laughter, though, as Dickens’ personal worries and fears conjure nightmares of a harsh childhood and the father (Jonathan Pryce) who abandoned him during crucial years.

PG: Thematic elements and mild language — Movies 16.

Murder on the Orient Express

Kerns rating: HHH 1/2

One cannot help but admire the gorgeous mountains and snow-packed countrysides being passed by the title’s luxury train. Indeed, cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos is astounding, as are the 1930s art direction and several characters’ costumes. Even if you have read the Agatha Christie mystery or seen the superior 1974 film adaptation directed by Sidney Lumet, director Kenneth Branagh, who also stars as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, creates a compelling story in which almost every passenger aboard the train becomes a suspect during the investigation of an on-board murder. Little did any of the passengers, including the killer, know that Poirot would happen to be aboard the Orient Express, hoping for a few days of rest before his next case. Or that an avalanche would give him extra time to investigate. There is no shortage of stars and, while Poirot interviews each one, few really shine, least of all veterans Derek Jakobi and Judi Dench. Instead, Poirot slowly transforms his case from a “who did it” to “why did he do it,” giving extra attention to Christie’s mention of a sensational kidnapping and murder months earlier in America, which the author obviously modeled on the famous Lindbergh kidnapping case. Poirot is temporarily baffled when even those passengers who seemingly had motive also have alibis. More memorable suspects include the husband-hunting Michelle Pfeiffer and secretive governess Daisy Ridley. The ending leaves a door open for Branagh to return as Poirot.

PG-13: Violence and thematic elements — Premiere Cinemas, Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17 and Movies 16.

My Friend Dahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 men and boys in the Midwest between 1978 and 1991 before being captured and incarcerated. He became one of America’s most infamous serial killers, and this is the story before that story. Jeff Dahmer (Ross Lynch) is an awkward teen struggling to make it through high school with his family life in ruins. He collects roadkill, fixates on a neighborhood jogger (Vincent Kartheiser) and copes with an unstable mother (Anne Heche) and well-intentioned father (Dallas Roberts). He acts out at school, where goofball antics win over a group of band nerds who form The Dahmer Fan Club, headed by Derf Backderf (Alex Wolff). Camaraderie cannot mask his growing depravity. Approaching graduation, Jeff spirals more out of control and closer to madness. Written and directed by Marc Meyers, the film is based on a 2012 graphic novel by cartoonist John “Derf” Backderf, who was friends with Dahmer in high school in the 1970s, prior to his killing spree.

R: Disturbing images, language, teen drug use, drinking, sexual content and brief nudity — Alamo Drafthouse.

Roman J. Israel Esq.

Kerns rating: HH

Writer-director Dan Gilroy’s uninspired view of an overburdened Los Angeles criminal court system. Denzel Washington is the best part of a dull film, playing a once idealistic defense attorney whose life is upended when he lose a grasp on his own ethics after his mentor, a civil rights icon, dies. Recruited to join a firm led by cutthroat lawyer George Pierce (Colin Farrell), he begins a close friendship with an equal rights advocate (Carmen Ejogo). But when his life takes a downward turn, few viewers will care.

PG-13: Language and violence — Premiere Cinemas and Tinseltown 17.

The Star

A small but brave donkey named Bo (voiced by Steven Yeun) yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day he finds the courage to break free, and finally goes on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth (Aidy Bryan), a lovable sheep who has lost her flock and Dave (Keegan-Michael Key), a dove with lofty aspirations. Along with wisecracking camels (voiced by Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey) and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow the Star and become unlikely heroes in the greatest story ever told — the first Christmas. Directed by Timothy Reckart, the vocal cast also includes Zachary Levi as Joseph, Christopher Plummer as King Herod, Gina Rodriguez as Mary, Kristin Chenoweth as Abby the mouse, Ving Rhames as Thaddeus the dog, Gabriel Iglesias as Rufus the dog, Mariah Carey as Rebecca the hen, Patricia Heaton as Edith the cow,Kris Kristofferson as Old Donkey and Anthony Anderson as Zach the goat.

PG: Thematic elements — Tinseltown 17, Movies 16 and Stars &Stripes Drive-In.

Thor: Ragnarok (3-D/2-D)

Kerns rating: HHH

In the hands of New Zealand director Taika Waititi, who also provides the voice for scene-stealing CGI rock character Korg, the Marvel Universe takes a hard turn toward humor throughout “Thor: Ragnarok.” At some point, this will strike one as too much — probably somewhere between Stan Lee’s cameo cutting Thor’s hair, dictator Jeff Goldblum dubbing slaves “prisoners with jobs,” and our heroes’ sole option for escape involving something termed the Devil’s Anus. Chris Hemsworth, as Thor, at times masters comic bits, as when, hanging by chains, he can converse with fiery, horned demon Clancy Brown only as he circles back into eye contact. Not so funny: an attempt to explain how his hammer helped him fly. Still, with the movie’s many different characters and settings, one wishes Waititi had maintained a more straight dramatic approach throughout. Anchoring the story is Thor’s discovery that untrustworthy brother Loki doomed their father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), by imprisoning him on Earth, thus opening a door for the true Ragnarok — utter destruction of the Asgardian regime, and Odin’s sons — to be led by ruthless older sister Hela, once-imprisoned goddess of death. Don’t blink or you’ll miss Benedict Cumberbatch, as Doctor Strange, helping Thor before a charismatic new character, Tessa Thompson as a former Valkyrie warrior turned bounty hunter, delivers the title character to planet Sakaar. There, he must fight gladiatorial battles against former friend and Avenger, Hulk, who has pretty much been MIA since the end of “Age of Ultron.” Visual effects naturally fill the screen as Hela raises the dead and slaughters hundreds until all can be made right. Even disappointed Marvel fans know to keep their seats through the closing credits.

PG-13: Sci-fi violence and action, and suggestive material — Premiere Cinemas, Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17 and Stars &Stripes Drive-In.

Wonder

Kerns rating: HHH

Jacob Tremblay, the young co-star of “Room,” stars as August “Auggie” Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters the fifth grade, attending mainstream elementary school for the first time. Auggie’s facial disease is called mandibulofacial dystosis, also known as Treacher Collins syndrome. His parents Isabel and Nate, played by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, are there for him, even when he feels like pushing them away. Directed by Stephen Chbosky, from the novel by Raquel J. Palacio.

PG: Thematic elements including bullying, and mild language — Premiere Cinemas, Alamo Drafthouse, Tinseltown 17 and Movies 16.

Star ratings, reviews are by A-J Media film critic William Kerns.

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