Rating system: (4=Don't miss, 3=Good, 2=Worth a look, 1=Forget it)
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“Better Days” (NR) (4) [Subtitled] [Available March 26 on various VOD platforms.] — Awesome acting and cinematography dominate Derek Tsang’s gripping, gut-wrenching, Oscar-nominated, powerful, raw, dark, heartbreaking, unpredictable, 135-minute, 2019 romantic crime thriller adapted from Jiu Yuexi’s novel “In His Youth, In Her Beauty” in which a smart, bullied, resilient, Chinese high school student (Zhou Dongyu), whose irresponsible and neglectful mother (Wu Yue) sells illegal facial products, is dedicated to studying for the grueling, two-day college entrance exams that will influence her future and ends up connecting with a lonely, teenage street thug (Jackson Yee) who helps protect her when mean-spirited classmates begin to bully her relentlessly after she speaks with detectives (Yin Fang, Huang Jue, and Xie Xintong) about the suicide of another bullied student (Zhang Yifan) and eventually when another classmate (Zhou Yu) ends up dead, she and the petty criminal become prime suspects.
“French Exit” (R) (3) [Language and sexual French references.] [Opens April 2 in theaters.] — Azazel Jacobs’ quirky, unusual, surreal, entertaining, somber, star-dotted (Imogen Poots, Valerie Mahaffey, Danielle Macdonald, Isaac de Bankolé, Daniel di Tomasso, and Stéphane Boucher), 110-minute, 2020 comedy dominated by wacky characters and adapted from Patrick deWitt’s bestselling 2018 novel in which a broke, eccentric, cigarette-puffing, widowed, mentally unbalanced, cynical, 60-year-old Manhattan socialite (Michelle Pfeiffer) moves to Paris to live in an apartment owned by her best friend (Susan Coyne) with her aimless, anxiety-prone son (Lucas Hedges) and green-eyed feline companion who she believes embodies her deceased husband (Tracy Letts) and then proceeds to be even more reckless with her money.
“Opposing Force” (R) (2.5) [Intense violence, sexual nudity, and hard language.][DVD and VOD only] — A captivating, intense, powerful 1986 film in which an ambitious, headstrong lieutenant (Lisa Eichhorn), an Air Force major (Tom Skerritt), and eight other elite pilots (Robert Wightman, Paul Joynt, Ken Wright, Dan Hamilton, et al.) are subjected to inhuman, grueling, sadistic treatment by a mentally deranged colonel (Anthony Zerbe) and his burned-out team (Richard Roundtree, George Cheung, et al.) under the guise of preparing themselves for combat and capture by the enemy.
“Red Water” (R) (2) [Some Violence.] [DVD and VOD only] — While a hungry freshwater shark searches for food in a Louisiana river in this far-fetched, tension-filled, action-packed, predictable, 2003 thriller, a nearly broke fishing boat captain (Lou Diamond Phillips) and his first mate (Rob Boltin) help his scientist ex-wife (Kristy Swanson) and her oil company boss (Gideon Emery) search for riverbed samples while under the watchful eye of three unscrupulous men (Coolio, Jaimz Woolvett, and Langley Kirkwood) searching for missing loot for their drug dealing boss (Tumisho Masha) in the Virgin Islands.
“Seventh Moon” (R) (1) [Language and violence/terror.] [Partially subtitled] [DVD and VOD only] — Overly dark cinematography cripples this strange, tepid, 2008 horror film in which undead, ghoulish creatures terrorize a newly married couple (Tim Chiou and Amy Smart) in China when their taxi driver (Dennis Chan) abandons them in a remote village.
“The Special Relationship” (NR) (3) [DVD and VOD only] — A fascinating, well-acted, factually based, controversial, 2010 HBO film that examines the close relationship that developed between down-to-earth, likable Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), who won by a landslide in 1996, and popular President Bill Clinton (Dennis Quaid) as they both balance their public life with their marriages to their wives, Cheri Blair (Helen McCrory) and Hillary Clinton (Hope Davis), while handling various world crisis, including IRA murders in war-torn northern Ireland and NATO’s attack of Yugoslavia.
“Six Minutes to Midnight” (PG-13) (3) [Some violence.] [Available March 26 in theaters and various VOD platforms and played March 23 as part of AARP’s Movies for Grownups.] — After a British English teacher (Nigel Lindsay) suddenly goes missing from the private, seaside, Anglo-German Augusta-Victoria College finishing boarding school at Bexhill-on-Sea in the South of England run by a devoted headmistress (Dame Judi Dench) for teenage German daughters (Maria Dragus, Tijan Marei, Luisa-Céline Gaffron, et al.) of Nazi High Command officers in August 1939 in Andy Goddard’s engaging, gripping, factually inspired, suspenseful, 102-minute film highlighted by wonderful cinematography and musical score, a British spy (Eddie Izzard), who works with a British Secret Service colonel (David Schofield), turns up to take his place on the faculty and to prevent the duplicitous teacher/physical education instructor (Carla Juri) from aiding the Nazis in getting the students out of England on the eve of WWII, but when a murder occurs, he finds himself being surprisingly helped by the local bus driver (Jim Broadbent) when he is erroneously pursued by two government officers (James D’Arcy and Celyn Jones) while desperately trying to notify his superiors of valuable intel.
“Space Dogs: Tropical Adventure” (NR) (2.5) [Available April 2 in theaters and April 6 on various VOD platforms.] — After two heroic canine astronauts (voiceovers by Mauriett Chayeb and Maria Antonieta Monge) crash land in the Atlantic Ocean near Cuba upon returning from a mission to Saturn and are discovered by singing Rastafarian jellyfish on a pirate ship in Inna Evlannikova’s colorful, family-friendly, action-packed, intermittently funny, 80-minute, 2020 animated musical, which is final film in the trilogy following “Space Dogs” and “Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon,” they end up being sucked into a dangerous whirlpool and teaming up with a watch-loving rat, his cricket sidekick (voiceover by Rómulo Bernal), and a goddess-like rodent to help an alien lizard (voiceover by Paula Andrea Barros) and a hedgehog-elephant hybrid aboard a UFO who are furiously siphoning water from Earth to save their planet.
“TAN” (NR) (3.5) [Available March 24 on Amazon Prime Video platform.] — Adrian Younge’s surreal, black-and-white, powerful, eye-opening, poignant, timely, dark, well-written, creative, thought-provoking, 22-minute film, which is a companion piece to “The American Negro,” that explores racism and bigotry in America through gut-wrenching discussions among five damaged “souls” who have entered an eerie netherworld, including a young white woman (Jazlyn Sward) who blames herself for her failures, but identifies with the Blacks because she knows she will never be accepted by proper white society; the grille-wearing “gang banger” (Monte Bell) who realistically sees the world as being unfairly stacked against him, knowing he has no chance after dying by asphyxiation; the Black preacher (Dewitt Brown) who seems to be saying that Blacks are losers because they don’t adhere to his interpretation of the Bible, but ignores the fact that “all have sinned” and takes special pleasure in playing God; the Black gay guy (Darius Levante) who is hated by society for the two traits over which he had no control; and the white cop (Steven Bartlett) who takes out his internal anger and frustration by killing others because he cannot cope with the realities of his own life.
“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” (PG-13) (4) [Intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality.] [DVD and VOD only] — While a headstrong teenager (Kristen Stewart), who lives with her divorced police chief father (Billy Burke) in Washington, is torn between her love for a charismatic, cold-skinned vampire (Robert Pattinson) and a smitten, muscle-ripped werewolf (Taylor Lautner) in this engaging, imaginative, entertaining, action-packed, thrilling, romantic sequel filled with gorgeous scenery, a revenge-fueled, redheaded vampire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is building an army of powerful, newborn vampires (Xavier Samuel, et al.) in Seattle in an attempt to kill Edward and wipeout the Cullen family (Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, et al.) as the Volturi vampires (Dakota Fanning, et al.) look on.
Wendy Schadewald is a Burnsville resident.