Rating system: (4=Don't miss, 3=Good, 2=Worth a look, 1=Forget it)
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“American Gadfly” (NR) (2.5) [Available Jan. 4 on various VOD platforms.] — Skye Wallin’s engaging, insightful, behind-the-scenes, 96-minute political documentary that chronicles the 2020 presidential campaign of retired 89-year-old Alaskan U.S. senator Mike Gravel when ambitious and inspiring high school students, including operations director Elijah Emery, campaign manager David Oks, treasurer Henry Magowan, and chief of staff Henry Turner Williams, encourage him to run in order to highlight important issues that often get swept under the rug and work diligently to qualify him for the Democratic debates, and it consists of candid commentary by wife Whitney Stewart Gravel, journalists David Weigel and Jamie Keiles, senator Bernie Sanders, Henry William's mother Anne Williams, digital strategist Alex Chang, Sanders’ senior staffer Keane Bhatt, high school student Miranda Luiz, presidential candidates Tulsi Gabbard and author Marianne Williamson, Tulsi Gabbard supporter Niko House, presidential candidate and former tech executive Andrew Yang, and former senator Rick Santorum.
“Bobby Z” (R) (2) [Violence, some drug use, language, and brief nudity.] [DVD and VOD only] — Bullets fly and double-crosses ensue in this violent, unpredictable, cameo-dotted (Margo Martindale, Jason Flemyng, Olivia Wilde, and Josh Stewart) 2007 film in which a hardened convict (Paul Walker) ends up impersonating a powerful, legendary drug lord (Jason Lewis) when a corrupt DEA agent (Laurence Fishburne) makes a deal with him to let him out of prison and then finds himself on the run with a young boy trying to evade a vengeful Mexican drug dealer (Joaquim de Almeida), his henchmen (Keith Carradine, et al.), and an angry, tattooing biker (M.C,. Gainey) and his gang.
“Chronicles of Narina: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” (PG) (3.5) [Some frightening images and sequences of fantasy action.] [DVD and VOD only] — A delightfully entertaining, well-paced, action-packed, family oriented, cameo-dotted (Tilda Swinton, Liam Neeson, Simon Pegg, and Nathaniel Parker), 3-D fantasy adventure film in which two British siblings (Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley) and their whiny cousin (Will Poulter), who are living in war-torn England in the 1940s, are magically transported back to Narnia on board a naval ship to fight alongside Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) and his crew in an attempt to collect seven swords that will ultimately save the magical kingdom from a great evil that feeds on people’s fears.
“Don't Look Up” (R) (3.5) [Language throughout, some sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug content.] [Opened Dec. 10 in theaters and available Dec. 24 on Netflix.] — Adam McKay’s wacky, over-the-top, award-winning, hilarious, entertaining, satirical, well-paced, star-studded (Rob Morgan, Liev Schreiber, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Chris Evans, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Jon Glaser, Ariana Grande, Sarah Silverman, Scott Mescudi, Himesh Patel, Melanie Lynskey, Michael Chiklis, Tomer Sisley, Paul Guilfoyle, Robert Joy, Robert Radochia, Kid Cudi, Conor Sweeney, and Ross Partridge), 138-minute parody political thriller in which a pot-smoking Ph.D. astronomy student (Jennifer Lawrence) and her anxiety-prone astronomy professor (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Michigan try to rally the cigarette-smoking, apathetic U.S. president (Meryl Streep) to act immediately despite a slim chance of preventing the imminent destruction of Earth by a gargantuan, mineral-laden apocalyptic comet the size of Mount Everest in 6 months and 14 days, appear with two upbeat television talk show hosts (Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry) to spread the word along with social media, and then go on an extended media tour to warn the equally apathetic public of the planet’s demise.
“The Dry Land” (R) (3) [Pervasive language, sexual content, and disturbing violent situations.] [DVD and VOD only] — After a guilt-ridden, PTSD-afflicted American soldier (Ryan O'Nan) experiences memory loss when he is injured in Iraq, returns home to Texas to his wife (America Ferrera) and terminally-ill mother (Melissa Leo), and then has a fight with his wife and best friend (Jason Ritter) in this well-acted, down-to-Earth, 2010 film, he hits the road with a married Army buddy (Wilmer Valderrama) from his unit to visit an injured soldier at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
“An Exquisite Meal” (NR) (3) [Available Dec. 28 via digital and various VOD platforms.] — After an oddball, bragging, allegedly globetrotting, sex doll obsessed chef (Mike Jimerson) and his writer wife (Amrita Dhaliwal) invite guests (Emily Marso, Victoria Nugent, and Ross Magyar) to a high-end dinner party in Robert Bruce Carter’s satirical, quirky, violent, unpredictable, 61-minute comedic thriller, an uninvited “French” philosophy professor (Bassam Abdelfattah) and an electrician (Mark Pracht) who owns his own company show up and then the evening quickly descends into chaos as the nonexistent elaborate meal is delayed, guests begin to bicker and starve, a moped rider (Siddhartha Rajan) dies in an accident in front of their house, murder and sex ensue, and finally a delivery driver (Luke Johnson) arrives with takeout.
“The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain” (NR) (4) [Available on HBO MAX, via digital, and on various VOD platforms.] — When mentally disturbed, 70-year-old former Black Marine Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. (Frankie Faison), who had a heart condition and suffered from bipolar disorder, accidentally set off his medical alert alarm on Nov. 19, 2011, in White Plains, New York, in David Midell’s powerful, riveting, award-winning, factually based, well-acted, intense, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, star-dotted (Anika Noni Rose, Angela Peel, Tom McElroy, LaRoyce Hawkins, Christopher R. Ellis, Antonio Polk, Dexter Zollicoffer, Kelly Owens, Armando Reyes, Eunice Woods, Daniel Houle, Linda Bright Clay, Kate Black-Spence, Alexander Strong, and Nayeli Pagaza), 83-minute, 2019 film, three cops (Steve O’Connell, Enrico Natale, and Ben Marten) show up at his apartment door at 5 a.m. to do a welfare check and then recklessly escalate the situation when they decide to breach his steel door without just cause and a warrant with dire consequences.
“Kisses” (NR) (2.5) [DVD and VOD only] — A low-key, touching, 75-minute, 2008 film in which an asthmatic Irish student (Shane Curry) takes off for Dublin during Christmastime with a free spirited neighborhood girl (Kelly O’Neill) to find his estranged brother after his abusive father (Paul Roe) fights with his mother (Neili Conroy), and they end up on a shopping spree while looking for his older sibling.
“Love Ranch” (R) (1.5) [Sexual content, pervasive language, and some violence.] [DVD and VOD only] — A weird, absurd, factually inspired film in which an aging, cancer-stricken madam (Helen Mirren) manages prostitutes (Gina Gershon, Bai Ling, Scout Taylor-Compton, et al.) at her legalized brothel in Reno with her longtime husband (Joe Pesci) and then unexpectedly falls for an Argentinean boxer (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) when her husband asks her to be his manager.
“Love’s Abiding Joy” (PG) (2) [Mild thematic elements.][DVD and VOD only] — After the death of their infant daughter in 1885 in this sweet, family-friendly, predictable, 2006 film, which is the fourth adaptation in Janette Oke’s “Love Comes Softly” series, schoolteacher (Erin Cottrell) and her sheriff husband (Logan Bartholomew) are at odds with an unscrupulous mayor (John Laughlin), whose teenage daughter (Mae Whitman) is in love with their adopted son (Drew Tyler Bell), during the visit of her pious father (Dale Midkiff) to their ranch in the Old West.
“The Mercy” (NR) (3) [Available Jan. 1 on crackleplus.com.] — James Marsh’s intense, engaging, factually based, heartbreaking, star-studded (David Thewlis, Simon McBurney, Ken Stott, Mark Gatiss, Jonathan Bailey, Adrian Schiller, Oliver Maltman, Andrew Buchan, Greg Hicks, Sam Hoare, Geoff Bladon, Danny Jackson, and Clare Crowhurst), 141-minute, 2017 biographical film in which tenacious, ambitious, stubborn, amateur British yachtsman Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth), who has three children (Eleanor Stagg, Kit Connor, and Finn Elliot), ignores the advice of his concerned wife (Rachel Weisz) by entering the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in October 1968 and begins to chronicle his harrowing, dangerous, lonely journey in his custom-built Teignmouth Electron trimaran to circumnavigate the globe while sailing for more than seven months and 13,000 miles.
“Not Only But Always” (NR) (3) [DVD and VOD only] — A fascinating, award-winning, factually based, 2004 biographical film that examines the tumultuous friendship between the boozing, womanizing, impressionist comedian Peter Cook (Rhys Ifans) and the talented, funny, piano-playing Dudley Moore (Aidan McArdle) in 1960s England where they met as undergraduate classmates and went on to star with each other and Jonathan Miller (Jonathan Aris) and Alan Bennett (Alan Cox) in London on the comedy sketch show “Beyond the Fringe”.
“Sandra Brown’s Smoke Screen” (NR) (2.5) [DVD and VOD only] — After a comely, tenacious Charleston reporter (Jami Pressly) is drugged and accused of murdering a decorated detective (Martin Cummins) in this intriguing, unpredictable, 2010 film, she surprisingly teams up with a former arson investigator (Currie Graham), who had a similar experience, to investigate overlooked details from a police station fire five year earlier and the involvement of a retired detective, a gay cop (Brendan Fletcher), and a newly elected federal judge (Larissa Laskin) in that fire and other deaths.
“Something About Her” (NR) (3) [Available Dec. 21 on Blu-ray™, DVD, and various VOD platforms.] — When a divorced, depressed, angry, wealthy socialite (Cameron Richardson), who lives in a large mansion in Santa Barbara, Calif., and is dying from ALS, hires a feisty, inexperienced, wannabe-poet caretaker (Anna Diop) from Senegal with a young son (Dani Dare) in Carl Copaert’s engaging, down-to-earth, well-acted, somber, 90-minute film, a surprising relationship develops despite the objections of her manipulative ex-husband (Anthony Michael Hall) and concerned home nurse (Sherilyn Fenn).
“Two Yellow Lines” (NR) (3) [Available Nov. 9 via digital and on various VOD platforms.] — After a PTSD-afflicted, guilt-ridden, divorced, former smokejumping firefighter (Zac Titus), who is working as a logger in Washington for his boss (Grant Snow), picks up his estranged, 13-year-old daughter (Alexis Titus) at an astronomy camp in Wyoming, and then she deliberately misses her flight to Los Angeles to see her mother (Alicia Ziegler) in Derek Bauer’s compelling, moving, down-to-earth, realistic, well-acted, 96-minute, 2020 film dominated by gorgeous cinematography and scenery, they end up trying to reconnect on motorcycle road trip through Montana.
“The Warrior’s Way” (R) (2.5) [Pervasive strong language, some sexuality, and brief drug use.] [DVD and VOD only] — Beautiful cinematography and high-flying ninjas dominate this strange, arty, blood-soaked, violent film in which a skillful renegade Chinese swordsman (Dong-Kun Jang) ends up in an Old West town in the Badlands with an orphaned infant (Analin Rudd) in tow and helps defend the colorful locals (Geoffrey Rush, et al.) and circus performers (Kate Bosworth, Tony Cox, Christina Asher, et al.) from a sadistic, coldblooded, scarred gunslinger (Danny Huston) and his men while defending himself against hundreds of ninja assassins trying to kill him after he disobeyed orders from his mentor (Lung Ti).
“Will Ferrell: You’re Welcome America-A Final Night with George W. Bush” (NR) (3) [DVD and VOD only] — A hilarious, irreverent, satirical, entertaining, politically hard-hitting, critically acclaimed, smartly written, 95-minute, one-man Broadway show at the Cort Theater in which standup comedian and actor Will Ferrell, guarded by his “Secret Service agent” brother Patrick Ferrell, rehashes his over-the-top “Saturday Night Live” character by giving a malapropism-filled, dead-on impersonation of the 43rd president of the United States and covering everything from his life from growing up in Connecticut, his stint as governor of Texas, to his bumbling eight years in the White House.
Wendy Schadewald is a Burnsville resident.