REVIEW: ‘Cats’ is crazy, but its music is catchy

Cats are not dogs. This is information the movie really wants an audience to know, so much so that Judi Dench turns directly to the camera to say it. That’s just one of the lessons one will learn over the course of the cinematic experience that is “Cats.” It truly is something to behold.

Based on the stage play of the same name, “Cats” is set in London and follows a group of felines who love to sing and dance. The main character we’re introduced at the start is Victoria (Francesca Hayward), who’s introduced to the Jellicle cats. The Jellicle cats all have their own traits, quirks, and even personalized songs that they sing.

Victoria meeting with the Jellicle cats happens to be a meeting of destiny, as it turns out it’s the night of the Jellicle ball, where a single cat is chosen to have their life thoroughly improved. Over the course of the film, different cats sing and perform with the hope of being the one.

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REVIEW: ‘The Two Popes’ has a pair of great performances, and not much else

“The Two Popes” combines two things that are supposed to be left off the table at family get-togethers: religion and politics. The two subjects are ripe for good acting performances, though, which is what this movie provides.

The movie mostly takes place in early 2013, just before Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) resigned and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) was elected to the position. The film explores how Benedict came to his decision to resign, the first pope to do so since 1415, and his conversations with Jorge, now Pope Francis.

The drama mostly comes from Francis and Benedict being on opposite sides of what direction the church should go. Francis leans more toward a liberal viewpoint, and therefore wants to reform the Catholic Church. Benedict, meanwhile, was pushing a more conservative view, with an agenda to keep church traditions. The two, though, eventually find common ground.

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REVIEW: ‘Bombshell’ has strong acting, but lacks extensive insight

Roger Ailes’ ouster from the media company he built is explored in this drama, but it only scratches the surface.

“Bombshell” tells the story of Ailes’ (John Lithgow) final months at Fox News by taking the perspective of anchors Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman). Additionally, brought into the middle of the situation is a reporter for Fox, Kayla (Margot Robbie) who’s representative of anonymous victims who worked at the company.

Aside from a few flashbacks, the film takes place over the course of the 2016 presidential election, with an emphasis on the Republican Primary. The focus on the primary comes as some at Fox News, such as Kelly, have issues with then candidate Donald Trump. The friction of the primary coincides with the building of a case against Ailes, who was accused by several women of sexual harassment and assault.

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REVIEW: Final ‘Star Wars’ falls, rather than rises

A person can say a lot about the “Star Wars” prequels. They certainly had their fair share of flaws. However, at the very least, it was a trilogy that had a clear blueprint for where it was supposed to go.

That, unfortunately, didn’t seem to be the case with this sequel trilogy.

“Rise of Skywalker” is the ninth film in the main “Star Wars” story, and 11th overall when including the spin-off features. Right from the opening crawl, viewers learn that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) survived the second Death Star’s destruction, has actually been pulling all the strings with the First Order and has (somehow) built like 90 new Star Destroyers that have planet killing cannons.

In response, a rather depleted resistance force explore their options to fight back. They determine the best course of action is to find out where Palpatine’s fleet is and launch an attack with help from across the galaxy. To find out the location, the new Jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley), former storm trooper-turned resistance warrior Finn (John Boyega) and ace pilot Poe (Oscar Isaac) begin a search for a dark side Sith artifact.

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REVIEW: ‘Richard Jewell’ is a strong entry in Eastwood’s filmography

News travels fast, and unfortunately it can lead to mishaps, mistakes and early announcements that are later debunked. That’s exactly what happened in “Richard Jewell,” and an innocent person was forced to deal with the negative results.

The movie follows the story of the title character, played here by Paul Walter Hauser. After some introduction scenes, the movie picks up with Jewell working security for AT&T events at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Jewell aspires to one day have a steady job in law enforcement, so he takes his work very seriously, much more so even than his colleagues in the security business. While he receives some jokes about his commitment to a seemingly safe concert area, his concerns, unfortunately, turn out to be valid.

One night during his shift, he comes across a suspicious backpack that happens to contain an explosive device that had been left there by a terrorist. The film captures the moment the bomb goes off after its discovery and how Jewell was initially seen as a hero for calling it in and reporting it to officers.

Sadly, as history tells us, Jewell was then made a suspect by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and a media firestorm erupts. In an effort to defend himself, Jewell hires a friend and lawyer from a former job, Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) and tries to survive as his life is investigated.

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REVIEW: Older characters make ‘Jumanji’ sequel a whole bunch of fun

Danny DeVito is a national treasure, so his presence alone gives this “Jumanji” sequel a boost.

“Jumanji: The Next Level,” also known as “Jumanji III” to those of us who like numbered sequels, carries on the stories of Bethany (Madison Iseman), Martha (Morgan Turner), Anthony, who goes by nickname Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and Spencer (Alex Wolff). The four remained friends after the events of the last “Jumanji” and are planning to meet up during their winter college break over the Christmas season.

Spencer, though, has had trouble adjusting to life at college and away from his friends. His long distance relationship with Martha has also been strained. As a result, Spencer decides to take a risk and enter the dangerous Jumanji video game again. When his trio of friends come looking for him, since he didn’t attend their meetup, they also reluctantly try to join him in the game.

This time, though, they end up bringing Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (DeVito) and Eddie’s former business partner Milo (Danny Glover). Once again the protagonists take the form of in game characters Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), Franklin Finbar (Kevin Hart) and Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), along with a few new allies, and this time they must go on a rescue mission through the dangerous game.

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REVIEW: Strong lead performance doesn’t sustain ‘Harriet’ biopic

The story of Harriet Tubman deserves to be told in an award caliber, fantastic movie. Unfortunately, this isn’t it.

As the title implies, the film follows the adult life of Tubman. Beginning with her time as a slave, the movie introduces the protagonist as Araminta, or Minty as she’s been nicknamed.

After finding out her slave owner won’t free her based on a previous agreement, Araminta opts to leave her current life behind and escape north. Her journey is dangerous and filled with hardship, but eventually, she crosses into the free state of Pennsylvania and finds her way to Philadelphia, where an anti-slavery organization is headquartered.

Upon her arrival, she’s able to choose a new name, and she selects Harriet Tubman. In the ensuing days, Tubman finds employment, a home and a free life. However, knowing that her family and others are still in the slave system of the south, she decides to help them come north. As history tells us, Tubman succeeded and continued her efforts, freeing more slaves from the south. Her work in doing so is shown on screen here.

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REVIEW: Film art legends deliver a powerful American odyssey

Now, we all know Jimmy Hoffa’s body was taken from beneath a stadium into a UFO by aliens, but I suppose it’s worth checking out what this film’s take is on what happened.

“The Irishman” refers to a nickname given to Frank Sheeran, played here by Robert De Niro. At the start of Director Martin Scorsese’s latest feature film, Sheeran is working as a truck driver in Philadelphia, who delivers meat and earns an honest living. However, after some time, he begins making some shipments to a local gangster, and from there he gets involved with mob boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci). Sheeran begins doing jobs for Russell and eventually becomes an enforcer for the crime syndicate.

Eventually, because of the ties between certain organized crime factions and some unions, Frank comes into contact with Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). The powerful Teamsters President takes a liking to Frank and eventually the two start working together. The work he does, though, is deadly and corrupt. As a result Frank’s life never really settles down.

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REVIEW: Despite great potential, ‘Waves’ sinks because of story execution issues

When there are waves, it usually means the waters aren’t calm, and that certainly becomes the case in this movie.

Directed by Trey Edward Shults, “Waves” is a film taking place in south Florida that follows a family of four. More specifically, though, the movie centers on the son, Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Tyler, at the movie’s onset, has a lot going for him. He’s a star athlete in the midst of the wrestling season, he has a loving family and he’s in a good relationship with his girlfriend.

However, as the movie gets going, cracks begin to form in Tyler’s life and these cracks eventually lead to the proverbial dam breaking. The film follows the issues the family goes through in the events that follow.

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REVIEW: ‘Dark Waters’ is a compelling journey into the depths of corporate greed

Actor Mark Ruffalo trades in his green look for a nice suit in his latest film.

In “Dark Waters,” Ruffalo plays Robert Bilott, a corporate defense attorney who works at an office in Cincinnati. At the movie’s beginning, Bilott and the firm he works for has established a solid working relationship with the DuPont company. That good working relationship begins to strain, though, when Bilott meets with a farmer in West Virginia, based on a referral from a family member, and uncovers an environmental disaster threatening livestock.

Upon the discovery, Bilott launches a case against the DuPont company with the hope that he can win a lawsuit and help the farmer, Wilbur (Bill Camp). However, the lawyer uncovers more and more details about DuPont’s “forever” chemicals and learns that the environmental disaster is much worse than initially thought.

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