By Tribune Content Agency’s Michael Phillips and Katie Walsh. RATINGS: The movies listed below are rated according to the following key: 4 stars -- excellent; 3 stars -- good; 2 stars - - fair; 1 star -- poor.
Adrift. This is the fact-based drama of what happened to Tami Oldham (now Tami Oldham Ashcraft) when she set sail in 1983 from Tahiti to San Diego with her fiance, Englishman Richard Sharp. Their craft was a 44-foot yacht; their adversary was Hurricane Raymond, which they met a few weeks into their planned 4,000-mile trek. Icelandic-born director Baltasar Kormakur's picture begins with an injured Tami jolted awake, the battered yacht now on calm seas. Richard is nowhere to be seen; soon enough, however, she spies him clinging to a dinghy, and rescues him. "Adrift" works on two timelines: As flashbacks move ever-closer to the hurricane itself, the present-tense action progresses, ticking off the days and weeks of the yacht adrift, ultimately revealing certain truths about Tami's predicament. It makes for a fairly gripping and refreshingly small-scale disaster movie. But there's a "but." The "but" is everything designed to get us interested in these two before the heavy weather. The breezy courtship sequences feel stiff; the writing's generic in the extreme. 2:00. 2.5 stars. -- M.P.
Avengers: Infinity War
"Avengers: Infinity War" is a lot of movie. You can hate it and still say that much with confidence. Its various, overlapping fan bases won't hold what they don't like against it, I bet. "A lot," though, doesn't mean it's much fun or even very good. The 19th Marvel Cinematic Universe installment is a little bit brave, a little bit cowardly. Its modest payoffs derive from the odd couples and foursomes and gang activities that come from smushing one clump of the Marvel roster into another. Such as? Chris Pratt's "Guardians of the Galaxy" Star-Lord, for example, confronting Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark for the first time. Or Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, rolling through Wakanda. Or Chris Hemsworth's Thor, last seen without his hammer, in the same movie as Benedict Cumberbatch's Dr. Strange (a standout here), or Dave Bautista's Drax (another standout). This isn't a movie. It's a marketing convergence seminar. 2:40. 2 stars. -- M.P.
Fonda. Bergen. Keaton. Steenburgen. "Book Club." Sure, "Avengers: Infinity War" came out a few weeks ago, but now this is the greatest crossover event in history. Four of the most iconic actresses of the 20th century come together for a film in which their book club reads "50 Shades of Grey"? Where can I line up? This movie is either in your wheelhouse or it's not, but for those looking forward to "Book Club," it delivers. For what it is -- a breezy bit of Nancy Meyers-like fantasy, featuring four beloved actresses talking about sex, baby -- it's exceedingly enjoyable. But beyond its shiny surface and real estate pornography, the picture, directed by Bill Holderman and co-written by Holderman and Erin Simms, is a way to talk about the dehumanizing ways older people are desexualized in our culture and a rallying cry against that trend. 1:43. 3 stars. -- K.W.
"Deadpool 2" is just like "Deadpool" only more so. It's actually a fair bit better -- funnier, more inventive than the 2016 smash, and more consistent in its chosen tone and style: ultraviolent screwball comedy. The movie offers a bracing corrective to the Marvel traffic management smash of the moment, "Avengers: Infinity War," which has sent millions of preteens into a collective, low-grade cloud of fatalism while proving to kids and adults, once again, that a superhero movie doesn't need rhythm or even interesting action scenes to fulfill its corporate directive. "Deadpool 2" isn't for your kids, at least those under 14 or 15. It's for the jaded, arrested-development adolescent lurking inside your adult self. 1:59. 3 stars. -- M.P.
FIRST REFORMED. "A life without despair is a life without hope," says the man at the center of Paul Schrader's "First Reformed." That paradox embraces the world as it is, and suggests a better world for the making. The movie it belongs to is an act of spiritual inquiry, a coolly assured example of cinematic scholarship in subtly deployed motion and one of the strongest pictures of 2018. You may not appreciate the direction it goes, ultimately, or make the leap alongside the story's protagonist, played by Ethan Hawke, at the unnerving close of a carefully calibrated crisis of faith. But it's a beautiful crisis to witness, and to argue with internally. 1:53. 3 1/2 stars. -- M.P.
Not everything in "Hereditary," director Ari Aster's fiendish feature debut, fits together; its rhythm is a little off in its second half, and it's clear Aster wanted to throw a little bit of everything, from seances to sleepwalking to malevolent specters of doom, at his devastated family unit in the center of his tale. Yet you may be too fraught watching the thing to bother over a few missteps. Working with a superb cast, a crafty, teasing musical score and a steady accumulation of wracked nerves, gathered image by carefully planned image, this movie promises a paradoxically bright future for its director. The story begins with an onscreen newspaper obituary noting the passing of a 78-year-old woman at her daughter's home, near the mountains. Toni Collette plays Annie, a driven, somewhat forbidding artist specializing in miniatures. At the funeral, early on, Annie speaks of her mother's "secretive and private" side. Later, when Annie reluctantly visits a grief-counseling group, she tells the strangers more about that secrecy, along with the streak of madness and loss that runs in her family. Annie's husband (Gabriel Byrne) is quiet sanity incarnate. He half-wonders if Annie should find a way to unblock her feelings toward her late, un-lamented mother. She does so in the worst possible way: We'll keep spoilers under wraps, but it's enough to say "Hereditary" makes Annie's children the playthings of the story's supernatural element. 3 1/2 stars. 2:07. -- M.P.
Apart from a few exteriors and some flashbacks, the pungent, eccentric "Hotel Artemis" confines its story to a single night, 10 years in the future, inside a beautiful ruin of a downtown Los Angeles hotel. Outside, the worst riots in the city's history rage on; Angelenos are thirsty, punished for their presumed sins by a near-total lack of access to LA's corporate-owned water supply. Like the assassin's den in "John Wick," the Artemis operates under a no-kill policy. Unlike the swank quarters in "John Wick," this one has been retrofitted as an emergency room facility for career killers, thugs and lowlifes. The Artemis may be owned by shadowy underworld figures, but The Nurse (Jodie Foster), as efficient as she is secretive, runs the place along with her mountain of an orderly, Everest (Dave Bautista). Writer-director Drew Pearce's story toggles between rooms and characters, all of whom are destined to not get along while they're hiding out and making plans. The movie's nicely packed yet spacious enough to let its characters talk a little in between killings. 1:37. 3 stars. -- M.P.
I Feel Pretty
In a 2015 sketch aired on Comedy Central's "Inside Amy Schumer," the one called "New Body," Schumer played a woman shopping for a wardrobe for the body she's always wanted. The clothing store clerk, thin and deadpan, is the perfect foil for Schumer's chipper, play-along reactions. With those two perfect minutes you don't realize the first time through how much Schumer and her writers are actually saying about the culture's omnipresent assault on female self-image. Take that sketch, add 105 minutes, and alter the tone from sly satire to droopy romantic seriocomedy, and you've got "I Feel Pretty." 1:47. 2 stars. -- M.P.
Life of the Party
The back-to-school genre of collegiate comedies has given us "Old School" (Will Ferrell), "Back to School" (Rodney Dangerfield) and "Horse Feathers" (the Marx Brothers), among others. Melissa McCarthy joins that class list in the ramshackle, amiable "Life of the Party," about a woman, freshly dumped by her husband, heading back to college 20 years after she dropped out with a kid on the way. Now a college senior, Maddie (Molly Gordon) runs a gamut of emotions when faced with sharing the same campus, and graduating class, with her unfailingly upbeat and smother-prone mother. But one of the better aspects of "Life of the Party" is the base-line affection these two have for each other. 1:45. 2 1/2 stars. -- M.P.
Haifaa al-Mansour's biopic of the writer, "Mary Shelley," starring Elle Fanning, attempts to make some sense out of Shelley's remarkable, wild life, tracing the upbringing and romantic foibles that led her to create Dr. Frankenstein, one of the most indelible fictional creatures of all time. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born ahead of her time. At 17, Mary ran away with her lover, the Romantic poet Percy Shelley, and the fraught love affair becomes the cornerstone of the script by Emma Jensen. As portrayed by the beautiful Douglas Booth, it's not hard to imagine falling for the poet, even though he reveals himself to be an emotionally manipulative narcissist, raving about "free love" while cheating on Mary with her stepsister, Claire (Bel Powley). The ethereal Fanning is excellent as always as the flushed, then fierce, Mary. The film is beautiful, a richly designed and photographed period piece. But where "Mary Shelley" falters is in its lack of focus and gratuitous need to overexplain everything. And for such a radical woman leading such a radical life, Al-Mansour and Jensen have trimmed too much. The film celebrates Mary Shelley for the trailblazing woman that she is, but hews far too close to convention to truly represent her life. 2:00. 2.5 stars. --K.W.
Some movies are more about parallel play than actual playground interaction, and despite a screenful of terrifically skillful talents, "Ocean's 8" never quite gets its ensemble act together. It's smooth, and far from inept. But it isn't much fun. That's all you want from a certain kind of heist picture, isn't it? Fun? Sandra Bullock takes the linchpin role of Debbie Ocean, sister of Danny, played by George Clooney in the three "Ocean's" movies of widely varying quality directed by Steven Soderbergh. Released from prison after being set up by her equally devious art-dealer lover (Richard Armitage), Debbie reunites with her partner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett), for a score somewhat larger than their bingo-money scams of old. The quarry: a Cartier diamond necklace worth $150 million. The jewels, on loan but closely guarded, dominate a swank wardrobe designed by has-been clothier (Helena Bonham Carter), who's in on the scheme, for an imperious movie star (Anne Hathaway) attending the annual Metropolitan Museum of Art fundraising gala in New York City. A jeweler (Mindy Kaling), a pickpocket (Awkwafina), a fence of stolen goods (Sarah Paulson) and the inevitable, all-important computer hacker (Rihanna) complete the circle. 1:50. 2 stars. -- M.P.
On Chesil Beach
"On Chesil Beach" would be an uncomfortable sit even if director Dominic Cooke's film version of the Ian McEwan novella had figured out an effective tone and style for these clammy little scenes from a repressed, thwarted marriage. What worked on the page, more or less, struggles on screen, however, even though (and maybe because) McEwan adapted his own 2007 story. It's set mostly in 1962, just as Britain's postwar era was about to give way to the Beatles and the new freedoms. We're along and near the Dorset beach where newlyweds Florence, played by Saoirse Ronan, and Edward, played by Billy Howle, are beginning their lives together. "On Chesil Beach" is built upon the fact of how quickly and definitively two people who love each other can run aground in a failure to communicate, to open up, to work through their demons. The ending is very different from the novella, and I was surprised at its shameless, ruthless emotional effectiveness. After so much discreet internal suffering, a direct attack on the tear ducts took me by surprise. The rest of the film never sticks with a given wavelength for very long, before nervously trying something else. 1:50. 2 stars. -- M.P.
A Quiet Place
Director John Krasinski's third feature, and by far his most accomplished, "A Quiet Place" is a pretty crafty small-scale thriller set a few years in the future, with minimal dialogue and maximal, human-eating monsters. The creatures' origin is never discussed or explained by way of the usual sheepish exposition about a meteor or some garden-variety bio-disaster. Produced by Michael Bay, the movie takes them for granted, and then goes about figuring a vanquishing plan. It's a survivalist's dream: living off the grid, close to the land, home-schooling the kids, no modern culture or digital distractions to corrupt anyone's wits. The prologue sets the stakes good and high. Mother Evelyn (top-billed Emily Blunt) has ventured into the decimated town with her husband, Lee (Krasinski, Blunt's husband in actual life) and their three children. A few minutes later, in a swift, violent flash, one is gone. I don't know if I'd call "A Quiet Place" enjoyable; it's more grueling than cathartic. But the upbeat, can-do shotgun-blasting climax gets the crowd going. 1:35. 2 1/2 stars. -- M.P.
"Rampage" is a drag. Three times during the thing, I wrote down the phrase "NO FUN," with increasingly impatient underlines. This could be me, not the movie. Maybe I'm the one who's no fun. But in general I like Dwayne Johnson, that smiling granite star, coupled with a tremendous amount of vehicular- or tsunami-based destruction. For all its cheese, "San Andreas" (2015), Johnson's previous collaboration with director Brad Peyton, was pretty diverting, thanks in part to Carla Gugino and Alexandra Daddario sprinting through the disaster picture, creating the effect of "Earthquake? What earthquake? There was an earthquake?" But "Rampage" is all pain and no gain. Its massive, "genetically edited" creatures include a 30-foot flying wolf and a very long crocodile with porcupine accessories, both purely malevolent, and in excruciating pain for large chunks of the movie. Primarily the film offers the incredible expanding silverback gorilla, George, friend and colleague of the San Diego primatologist played by Johnson. He also suffers throughout. This is a movie about suffering. 1:47. 1 1/2 stars. -- M.P.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Son-father screenwriters Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan answer a series of questions while poking around new corners of the George Lucas universe. How did Han Solo (played by Alden Ehrenreich) meet Chewbacca? We find out in clever, exciting fashion. What was Han's life before he became a rogue-for-hire at the helm of the freighter known as the Millennium Falcon? We spend some time in the prologue running with Han on the mean streets of Corellia, ruled by gangland factions in the time of the Galactic Civil War. How did Han and Lando Calrissian (a sprightly Donald Glover), gambler and scoundrel, come to know each other? We get that as well. This is Ron Howard's best film in a decade. 2:23. 3 stars. -- M.P.
The time is the near future. The place is a world of driverless cars and Siri-like communications and control systems designed to reassure the human population while undermining its autonomy in this forbidding vision of Earth as a hellhole of convenience. Our hero is an analog tough guy, Grey Trace, a mechanic who loves tinkering with late 20th century muscle cars. Writer-director Leigh Whannell gets right to it. Grey and his corporate drone wife, Asha (Melanie Vallejo), become victims of a brutal mugging that leaves Asha mortally wounded and Grey hanging on for dear life, while surveillance drones capture it all live. At death's door, Grey's saved by a complete artificial overhaul, including the smartbug critter invented by the tech genius with the sallow complexion (Harrison Gilbertson). This renders him superhumanly lethal and superDUPER fast with the knife and martial arts skills. Grey then pursues the thugs who offed his wife, with a lot of blood and viscera with the occasional witty rejoinder. 1:35. 2.5 stars. -- M.P.
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
"Won't You Be My Neighbor?" is a depressingly good documentary about a singularly empathetic television personality. Fred Rogers (1928-2003) knew what he was up against in a culture, and an economy, built on marketable aggression. Against long odds he prevailed. Now he belongs to another time. Can his spirit of gentle reassurance possibly be revived, in any form? Premiering in 1968, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" offered a reliable security blanket to millions of young viewers. The ordained Presbyterian minister, husband and father seemed so unapologetically sincere, everyone assumed he must be hiding something. Without undue fawning, Neville's moving portrait does a lovely job of presenting Rogers as two people, the public figure and the private one, sharing the same closet full of zip-up sweaters. 3 1/2 stars. 1:34. -- M.P.