Matthew McConaughey, Michael B. Jordan &

Robert Downey Jr. Take Over Theaters

By Chris Narloch

As we move closer to Academy Awards night (on Sunday, Feb. 9), theaters screens are filled with Oscar hopefuls from late 2019 such as “1917” and “Little Women,” as well as 2020 movies like “Dolittle” and “The Gentlemen” that aren’t likely to win any awards this year or next.

Read on for my reviews of what to see and what to flee at the movies.

 

 

The Gentlemen

Guy Ritchie returns with another of his testosterone-fueled “dude flicks.” Will the director ever make a fluffy rom-com “chick flick”? Would we want him to? Less obnoxious than some of Ritchie’s earlier films, “The Gentlemen” at least boasts a stellar cast that delivers the goods.

Michelle Dockery (a long way from “Downton Abbey”) gets the sole substantial female role here as the tough-talking wife of the hero (Matthew McConaughey), a London drug kingpin looking to sell several illegal pot farms, before the business gets legalized.

The good news for gay male moviegoers (and straight women) is that the film contains a host of fine performances by some of the best-looking men in movies.

In addition to Mr. McConaughey, we have Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Colin Farrell, and Hugh Grant (as an apparently gay blackmailer who offers to follow Mr. Hunnam to bed and, sadly, is turned down).

Most of the characters in the movie are a little too pretentiously “cool for school,” as is Ritchie’s direction and dialogue. That is the director’s hallmark, however, and if you enjoy his brand of violence, macho posturing and profanity then you might like “The Gentlemen.”

Just Mercy

Jamie Foxx gives his best performance since winning an Oscar for “Ray” in this moving and valuable portrait of the important work of Bryan Stevenson, a real-life Harvard lawyer who moved to Alabama after graduation to defend those wrongly incarcerated or not afforded proper representation.

Michael B. Jordan (“Creed” and “Black Panther”) gives a powerful, unfussy performance as Stevenson, and Foxx is riveting as Walter McMillian, who was sentenced to die in 1987 for the murder of an 18-year-old white girl, despite the fact that his entire extended family knew he could not have committed the crime.

Brie Larson and Tim Blake Nelson provide strong support as, respectively, Stevenson’s legal partner and the white trash scumbag who fingers McMillian for the murder.

If we needed any more evidence that racism and injustice are alive and well inside pockets of the American criminal justice system, “Just Mercy” is the shocking, scary proof.

Dolittle

Young kids will probably enjoy the talking CGI animals that populate this big-budget screen adaptation of Hugh Lofting’s classic children’s book about an English country doctor who can communicate with his menagerie of exotic beasts.

Adults, on the other hand, might be surprised that Robert Downey Jr. chose to follow up his successful run as Iron Man with a corny, retro project aimed at pre-teens.

The film’s voice cast for the animals is remarkable and includes such major actors as Marion Cotillard, Rami Malek and Emma Thompson. Downey Jr. is also a perfect fit as the wild-haired and eccentric doc, but my 56-year-old self was pretty bored by this mildly entertaining family film.

Like A Boss

This dreadful comedy was written by two men and directed by a third guy (who collectively have no clue how women think, act and behave in the 21st Century). Salma Hayek does have fun playing a villainous cosmetics tycoon who tries to take over a start-up run by two best friends (Rose Byrne and Tiffany Haddish). Byrne and Haddish are also funny together, but the script and direction are so lame that the up-with-women message of  “Like A Boss” gets buried underneath a pile of stupidity.

Weathering With You

Anime movie fans can see this beautiful animated film from Japan at half a dozen theaters in and around Sacramento. “Weathering With You” is a sweet sci-fi fantasy love story about a boy who runs away to Tokyo and befriends a girl who appears to be able to manipulate the weather.

Oscar Short Films

Beginning Sunday, Feb. 2 and continuing through Tuesday, Feb. 4, Sacramento’s Crest Theatre will showcase the short films that are nominated for Academy Awards this year. To see the schedule for the various categories of shorts, visit www.crestsacramento.com

Tower Theatre

In addition to “Parasite,” the superb Best Picture Oscar nominee from South Korea, Sacramento’s Tower Theatre is also showing “Clemency” (a powerful new drama about capital punishment starring the great Alfre Woodard) and “Les Miserables,” an acclaimed new drama set in Paris about police brutality and corruption in France that was selected as the French entry for the Best International Feature Film at this year’s Academy Awards. For Tower show times, visit www.readingcinemasus.com

Esquire IMAX

If you have yet to see the great WWI movie “1917,” it is now playing at Sacramento’s Esquire IMAX Theatre on K Street. Catch the Best Picture Oscar nominee on the really big screen through Feb. 6. For more information and to purchase tickets for “1917,” visit www.imax.com/theatres/esquire-imax

 

 

 

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