"Just Mercy"

"Just Mercy" 

Rating system:  (4=Don't miss, 3=Good, 2=Worth a look, 1=Forget it)

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“1917” (R) (4) [Violence, some disturbing images, and language.] — Corpses litter Sam Mendes’ stunning, riveting, intense, factually inspired, well-acted, gritty, violent, well-paced, star-studded (Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Daniel Mays, and Adrian Scarborough), 117-minute film highlighted by gorgeous cinematography that follows a tenacious British lance corporal (George MacKay) and his map-expert soldier buddy (Dean-Charles Chapman) as they try to deliver vital orders nine miles behind enemy lines to a stubborn battalion colonel (Benedict Cumberbatch) on Apr. 6, 1917, in an attempt to stop the British army from walking into a well-planned German attack and to save more than 1,600 troops during WWI.

“Couples Retreat” (PG-13) (2.5) [Sexual content and language.] [DVD only] — A contrived plot and gorgeous seascapes dominate this well-paced, sporadically funny comedy about an unhappy, infertile couple (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell) who coerce three couples (Vince Vaughn/Malin Akerman, Jon Favreau/Kristin Davis, and Faizon Love/Kali Hawk) from Chicago to join them at a Bora Bora couples resort where a yoga instructor (Carlos Ponce) and a relationship guru (Jean Reno) give unsolicited advice.

“I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” (R) (.5) [Nudity, strong sexual content, including graphic dialogue throughout, language, and some crude material.] [DVD only] — An engaged law student (Dan) gets into trouble with his fiancée (Keri Lynn Pratt) and his soon-to-be mother-in-law (Meagen Fay) in this crude, unfunny, vulgar comedy, when he heads to a Salem strip joint with his foul-mouthed, narcissistic, immature best friend (Matt Czuchry) and another moody friend (Jesse Bradford) coming out of a bad relationship.

“Invisible Life” (R) (3.5) [Strong sexual content/graphic nudity, and some drug use.] [Subtitled] — When a free-spirited, disillusioned, beautiful Brazilian woman (Júlia Stockler) returns home pregnant during the 1950s after foolishly following a Greek sailor (Nikolas Antunes) to Greece and her traditional, strict, Portuguese baker father (António Fonseca) disowns her and her meek mother (Flávia Gusmão) does not stand up for her in Karim Aïnouz’s gorgeously photographed, award-winning, factually inspired, heartbreaking, moving, well-acted, 139-minute film based on Martha Batalha’s novel “The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmão,” she spends years desperately trying to find her piano-playing sister (Carol Durate) she now believes is studying at a music conservatory in Vienna when in fact she is still in Rio de Janeiro and living with her husband (Gregório Duvivier).

“Just Mercy” (PG-13) (4) [Thematic content, including some racial epithets.] — Terrific acting and pacing dominate this engaging, intense, gut-wrenching, factually based, ire-producing, thought-provoking, well-written, star-studded (Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Rob Morgan, and Michael Harding), 136-minute film based on Bryan Stevenson’s memoir “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” in which Harvard-educated, greenhorn lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) joins Alabama advocate Eva Ansley (Brie Larson) and the Equal Rights Initiative to fight for the exoneration and freedom of wrongly accused prisoners on death row and to take on in 1992 the blatantly trumped up case of railroaded, self-employed pulpwood contractor Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who is supported by his devoted wife (Karan Kendrick), three kids (C. J. LeBlanc, et al.), and a multitude of relatives and friends, after he was sentenced to be electrocuted for the heinous murder of an 18-year-old white girl at a dry cleaners in 1987.

“Like a Boss” (R) (2.5) [Language, crude sexual material, and drug use.] — When two tight, longtime best friends and business partners (Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne), who employ two loyal employees (Jennifer Coolidge and Billy Porter), are approached by a ruthless, manipulative cosmetics tycoon (Salma Hayek) who wants a controlling interest in their struggling cosmetics firm in this wacky, over-the-top, risqué, pratfall, intermittently funny and vulgar, star-dotted (Ari Gaynor, Lisa Kudrow, Ryan Hansen, Jessica St. Clair, Jimmy O. Yang, and Karan Soni), 83-minute chick flick comedy, their lifelong friendship is threatened, which is exactly what the cosmetics mogul planned and encouraged.

“Lymelife” (R) (2.5) [Language, some sexual content, violence, and drug use.] [DVD only] — While a bullied 15-year-old student (Rory Culkin), who lives with his unhappy parents (Alec Baldwin and Jill Hennessey) in Long Island during the 1970s, looks up to his older brother (Kieran Culkin) on leave from the Army in this somber, coming-of-age film, a comely teenage neighbor (Emma Roberts) lives with her adulterous mother (Cynthia Nixon) and her unemployed, deer-hunting father (Timothy Hutton) who is suffering from Lyme’s disease.

“The Song of Names” (PG-13) (3) [Some strong language, brief sexual material, thematic elements, and smoking.]  — When a talented 9-year-old Jewish violin prodigy (Luke Doyle/Jonah Hauer-King) from Warsaw is raised by a wealthy English couple (Stanley Townsend and Amy Sloan) in London during WWII and is eventually befriended by the couple’s jealous, piano-playing son (Misha Handley/Gerran Hall) but ends up mysteriously disappearing before the virtuoso was scheduled to perform in 1951 at a sold-out concert in this captivating, moving, heartbreaking, gorgeously photography, somber, star-dotted (Eddie Izzard, Richard Bremmer, and Saul Rubinek), 113-minute film based on Norman Lebrecht’s 2002 novel, thirty-five years later the curious British music examiner (Tim Roth) with the support of his wife (Catherine McCormack) searches throughout Europe for his childhood best friend (Clive Owen).

“Still Walking” (NR) (3) [Subtitled] [DVD only] A charming, insightful, touching, down-to-earth 2008 Japanese film in which an unemployed restoration painter (Hiroshi Abe) leaves Tokyo with his new wife (Yui Natsukawa) and young son (Shohei Tanaka) to commemorate with his still-traumatized and grieving parents (Kirin Kiki and Yoshio Harada), sister (Hotaru Nomoto), and other relatives (You, Kazuya Takahashi, Ryôga Hayashi, et al.) the death of his older brother in a drowning 15 years earlier.

“The Two Popes” (PG-13) (3.5) [Thematic content and some disturbing violent images.] [ Partially subtitled]  — A revealing, engaging, factually inspired, critically acclaimed, award-nominated, superbly acted, well-written, 126-minute biographical Netflix film told through flashbacks and adapted from Anthony McCarten’s 2017 play that gives a speculative, behind-the-scenes look at the often times heated interaction not only between two flawed human beings but two of the most important religious figures, German Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and liberal Argentinean Cardinal Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergiglio (Jonathan Pryce), in recent history and a look at one of the most significant transitions that the Catholic Church has seen in the last two millennium when the conservative pontiff shockingly resigned his papacy due to the pedophilia and corruption scandals and the former guilt-ridden Jesuit priest became Pope Francis when he was voted the Catholic Vatican leader in the 2013 conclave in Rome.

Wendy Schadewald is a Burnsville resident. 

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