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‘Bilal: A New Breed of Hero’ review: Violence, never-ending platitudes impede plot
BaltimoreSun.com / 1517569803

Dubai's first animated feature puts top-class artwork to use in a story designed to preach about the inclusive, non-discriminatory aspects of the Muslim faith to younger audiences. Loosely based on the life of Bilal ibn Rabah, a companion of the Prophet who was born a slave and became the first...

‘The Greatest Showman’ turns Hugh Jackman’s P.T. Barnum into a hero, and cons the audience in the pr
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513854602

In a more honest or at least more interesting version of “The Greatest Showman,” P.T. Barnum, famed American ringmaster and skilled exploiter of misfits and outcasts, would have been the villain rather than the hero. But where would be the fun, the uplift or the box-office potential in that? Like...

‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ review: Sequel drops body-swapped characters into the wild
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513854602

More than two decades after Robin Williams conquered that pesky board game, "Jumanji" has been resurrected with more and glossier stars (Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black), a comedy director and a "modern" twist. The result, "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," is a very sweet, and generally...

Joachim Trier’s supernatural thriller ‘Thelma’ takes an unsettling look at religion and
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513422602

“Thelma” begins in a remote stretch of wintry wilderness, where a man and his young daughter step gingerly across a frozen lake and into the woods nearby. The father has a rifle, presumably with the intention of shooting a fawn that pops into view. But after taking careful aim, he suddenly swings...

‘The Ballad of Lefty Brown’ review: Bill Pullman saddles up, gives one of his best performances
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513422602

Imagine a Western in which Walter Brennan goes gunning for the varmints who bushwhacked John Wayne. That's pretty much the logline for "The Ballad of Lefty Brown," writer-director Jared Moshé's solidly entertaining period drama, which can be enjoyed as both a straight-shooting homage to crotchety...

‘Wonder Wheel’ review: Woody Allen, enough. Enough.
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513422602

Set in 1950, which doesn’t stop one character from catching the 1933 movie “Flying Down to Rio” at the local bijou, Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel” is narrated by a budding dramatist working as a Coney Island lifeguard. Justin Timberlake plays our host, who sleeps with a needy, disillusioned clam...

‘Ferdinand’ review: A bull who dances to his own beat
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513422602

The beloved children's book "The Story of Ferdinand" by Munro Leaf, with illustrations by Robert Lawson, was published in 1936. But the simple, pacifist story about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight has resonated across generations. It's a natural progression that this favorite character...

‘The Shape of Water’ review: Del Toro’s fish tale is magical, romantic and dark
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513422602

“The Shape of Water” is a sexy, violent, preposterous, beautiful fantasy, co-writer and director Guillermo del Toro’s most vivid and fully formed achievement since “Pan’s Labyrinth” 11 years ago. Set in 1962, the story del Toro fleshed out with co-writer Vanessa Taylor marries “Creature from the...

‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ review: Rey and the Resistance prove irresistible
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513163403

Great fun, and a reminder that unpopular political leaders mock the Resistance in other galaxies, too, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” boasts a bald-faced lie of a subtitle — sorry, folks, last Jedi, no more “Star Wars” movies! — and special guest appearances from some old, familiar faces. The oldest...

‘The Nut Job 2’ review: A rote but radical sequel
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513077003

You never know where you're going to find the most radical ideas. Somehow, a sub-par animated film sequel intended to quiet the kids for a few hours on a weekend afternoon burns with a proletarian rage. You'd never expect that from "The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature," but somehow, it's true.

First,...

‘The Disaster Artist’ review: James Franco’s ode to a schlock auteur and his ‘so bad, it’s good’ flo
BaltimoreSun.com / Thu, 30 Nov 2017 04:00:00 PST

In 1998, aspiring actor Greg Sestero met another aspiring actor, Tommy Wiseau, in an acting class in San Francisco. Wiseau performed a bit of Stanley Kowalski from “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and Sestero had never seen anything like Wiseau’s raw anguish, unvarnished pain, chair-throwing abandon...

‘Bill Nye: Science Guy’ review: A happy warrior in the fight for science
BaltimoreSun.com / Thu, 23 Nov 2017 04:00:00 PST

"Bill Nye: Science Guy" is an efficiently thought-provoking study of what it means to be a rational and analytical advocate for science in an age when deniers of evolution and climate change often seem to have higher profiles, deeper pockets and louder voices. But it's even more interesting as...

Margot Robbie’s spirited performance almost skates past the queasy dark comedy of ‘I, Tonya’
BaltimoreSun.com / Thu, 7 Dec 2017 10:55:00 PST

It’s no spoiler to note that “I, Tonya” ends the way many Hollywood biopics end, with a quick glimpse of the real-life individual we have just seen skillfully impersonated for the past two hours — in this case, the disgraced former figure skater Tonya Harding, fiercely incarnated by the Australian...

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